Hey all, meet Alanna Whitestar from Etsy’s StarLadyEmbroidery! Alanna offers beautifully-embroidered canvas tote bags. Her rotating selection of seasonal designs are very creative, colorful, and especially festive this time of year. Check out her shop and her inspiring story below!
Alanna’s Etsy Shop Link: StarLadyEmbroidery
Hi Alanna, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your store
First of all, I’m a disabled Air Force veteran. My condition is bipolar disorder, and I am unable to work. Although medications keep me relatively stable, a work environment would tip me over the edge into instability. I volunteer with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I get the word out to many types of people about what it’s like to have a mental illness. I try and combat stigma by using my own story.
My store was conceived as a kind of offshoot of what I do for a hobby. I make science fiction and fantasy costumes based on books and my own imagination. This is different than cosplay, which are costumes based on TV, the movies, and comics. My last costume was called “Golden Apples of the Sun, Silver Apples of the Moon.” Next year I’m doing a Firebird, or phoenix. I present these costumes on stage for judges at science fiction and fantasy conventions here in the Baltimore area. I won numerous awards in the 80’s, took a 20 year hiatus, then competed and won last year.
My store grew out of envy for two very good friends of mine, who did matching costumes at a convention last year. They were just amazing, and heavily machine embroidered. My lust was immediate and correctable only by buying my own embroidery machine. This I did. Then one day I was looking through Embroidery Library, which is an online store selling tens of thousands of embroidery store. I saw them mention totes, and a lightbulb went off over my head. I could embroider totes and sell them on Etsy!
I knew about Etsy because I used to have another Etsy store, selling beaded jewelry, which didn’t do very well. I closed it down. But I started browsing on Etsy to see what others are doing about totes. There are a LOT of people doing monogrammed tote bags, but relatively few doing designs on one side and monograms on the other. So I felt I could fill a niche. I’ve been open less than a month, but already have a first sale. And that’s how my store got started.
Where can we find your work?
I’m to be found only at my Etsy store at the moment. I don’t do craft shows, because I have real problems with crowds. Plus, it’s just not financially feasible at this time. As to where I’m from, I live in Columbia, Maryland, which is about half way between Washington, DC and Baltimore. I was born in New Jersey and raised in New England.
What first got you interested in your craft?
I started doing embroidery at age 13, after my mother started taking a crewel embroidery class. I watched her sampler evolve as she learned about a hundred stitches, and I was entranced. She got me a starter kit, and I started off doing simple stitches. I’ve been doing more and more complicated pieces as the years went on. I still have a hand embroidered project or two to keep me busy.
Can you describe your creative process?
First, I buy the totes. I don’t make them, because, although I can and do sew, I can’t do straight stitching and top stitching to save my life! So I buy the totes. They’re all cotton canvas, which I prefer to polyester. Next, I haunt Embroidery Library for designs, as well as another site called Urban Threads. Many of my designs are holiday-oriented at the moment, although I’m busy making new designs for the New Year. A preview: I’m going to be adding a lot of dragons and Laurel Burch cats. I get the latter from Amazon.com, so there’s no copyright infringement.
Once I download a design, I have to go through and tweak the colors so they match the thread I have. I do this on the computer, using software I got with my embroidery machine which, BTW, is a Viking Husqvarna Topaz 30. I currently use Robison-Anton rayon embroidery thread to do the actual embroidery, although I plan to switch to Metro polyester thread in March. It’s far less expensive.
In addition to the designs listed in my store, I also add monogramming. There are three different styles; those photos are included in my listing. Or, I can do a person’s first name in a cursive font. Lots of sellers do this on Etsy, but I think my beautiful designs give me an edge.
Once I’ve embroidered the tote, I fold it into a small package so it’s easier to ship. Then I wrap it in tissue paper, affix some glttery tape, and put a Thank-you sticker on the front. I ship it in a colorful padded envelope, to the US and worldwide. I buy all my packaging and shipping supplies from Etsy sellers.
Apart from creating things, what do you enjoy doing?
What else do I like to do? Well, I’m a devout Star Trek fan, and I enjoy watching episodes on my Kindle Fire 8.9″ HD. Especially videos of my favorite of all Trek series, Deep Space Nine.
Since it’s the fall/almost winter, I also enjoy watching NFL football. I’m a big Baltimore Ravens fan.
In addition, I enjoy doing beaded necklaces. I do string and peyote stitch beading, and have done flat, fringe, cabochon, and loom beading on various costumes.