Etsy as a second income: Cruising and beyond

I’m coming up on two years now of having my etsy store up and running and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the numbers.  The idea was to have a small business that I could do while cruising to help slow the burn of savings.  I’ve been selling recycled sailcloth goods and small canvas pieces online and shipping them out all over the world.  I’m going to try to evaluate whether this could work while cruising based on a few basic criteria.

The Work:  When deciding whether the work could be done on a sailboat or not I need to divide the recycled sail work from the canvas work.  I think that if I had a choice I would not want to make recycled sailcloth bags on a boat.  The biggest obstacle with it is space.  The sail takes a lot of room to store before it is made into bags, and afterwards even more space.  The bags don’t sell quickly and the amount of inventory you would end up storing would make your life miserable.  The sail also takes a lot of space to clean and spread out for cutting up.  Sailbags also need hardware to make which takes additional storage.  The canvas work however would be very feasible on a boat.  If you chose a few limited colors and bought large rolls of sunbrella storage would be relatively easy.  Products would be made to order and would not need to be stored afterward.

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The Platform:  My experience with Etsy has been great and it’s only getting better.  They do a lot to advertise your products at no additional cost.  You can of course pay for more advertising, but I never have.  They make it extremely easy to manage your listings and to put your shop on vacation if you need more time.  They also have a built in shipping forms that make it extremely easy to print and ship things.  All of their stats are downloadable in excel and they really try to make them useful and easy to read.  Minimal fees.

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The $$:  So here is the real question.  In almost two years I have made a grand total of $4,486.01 profit on 98 orders.  That’s not counting the cash sales I have made locally. I haven’t spent any money on advertising either locally or online.  I also shut the site down for a bit this spring because of my regular job picking up.  Of all of my products listed most of the revenue came from my small canvas items.

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I think that doing canvas work both online and through etsy would be a viable option while cruising.  It’s definitely working out better than our music career did. While I wouldn’t suggest it as your only source of income I do think that the space and time that it takes in your life would be worth it for the money it brings in.  Having a sewing machine on the boat could also come in handy in a tight spot.

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A Sacrifice to the Sun god – replacing the Sunbrella on our jib

Since I have been exiled to life indoors while my face heals up, I’ve decided to put the time to good use and work on finishing our Sunbrella transformation.  So far we’ve replaced the sail cover, the bimini, and all of the small canvas items on the boat with new marine blue Sunbrella.   Only the jib Sunbrella and the dodger remain a moldy pacific blue.

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Sailrite has an excellent video describing the step-by-step process of adding sunbrella to your jib, but I wanted to add some little tricks I found along the way as well.

The first thing we did was spend several DAYS, not hours, removing the old sunbrella.   After breaking my seam ripper I got frustrated and googled “best seam ripper ever.”  This is when I learned that for ripping seams on heavy canvas an X-Acto knife works wonders.  This really sped up the process for us.

Once I had removed all the old Sunbrella, I started to cut the new panels of Sunbrella with a hot knife to prevent fraying.  I didn’t want to spend the extra money on the Sailrite hot knife, but I found this one at Hobby Lobby that worked very well. It also doubles as a wood and leather burner, and it has all kinds of stamp type attachments.  Pretty cool.  After using my coupon, it was only $13.

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If you’re installing panels onto a new sail, see the Sailrite video for exact measurements of panels, but if you’re re-covering a sail, it’s easier to use the old panels as a pattern.

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We set my sewing machine on the floor to keep the sail flat. This is really important when it comes to connecting the panels together.  There were a couple areas along the foot, where towards the end of the project I got tired and sloppy.  Just a small mistake can make for some very obvious bunching when the sail is up.  Next weekend I will be taking it all back down, seem ripping those seems and flattening it out.

If I was to do it again I would have done a lot more pinning.

All in all the finished product is not too bad.  It needs a bit of adjusting, like all of my projects so far, but at least it matches the rest of the canvas.

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Just for reference, the estimated cost for this project from one of our local sail lofts was $650. Although we did have to spend every evening for a week ripping stitches, our total out-of-pocket cost for the project was under $200.

Redoing Our Boat Canvas for Spring

When I bought our boat I thought it was very odd that the owner had done very bright blue canvas, and then a dark blue stripe that did not match at all.  Although I know now that the strip color is just how it was made, and the canvas color, Pacific Blue, is the most common on boats, it’s still always bothered me. redfish_island_09

Last year I went about making new lifeline covers, mast boot etc and chose to match our dodger color.  Well now this year thanks to a new sail our sail cover no longer fits, and our dodger is wearing thin.  The canvas on our jib is also coming off.  And as you can see in this picture our bimini is just some weird material we hang from the back stay. So since it looks like I will have to replace all the expensive pieces, I figured I might as well replace it all, and change the color while I’m at it. We had looked at sailrite kits, but I wasn’t convinced of the quality.  When we went to talk to the local sail loft, Banks Sails who did our mainsail, they offered to make us up a superior kit and match the Sailrite price!  They have also provided a lot of extra help along the way.  So then all we needed was the machine. I’ve really resisted purchasing a new sewing machine hoping that my Brother and old Singer could do the job, but they just weren’t heavy duty enough.

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My first impressions of the Sailrite is that it it very powerful and fast.  I’ve had a lot of trouble getting the tension just right, but I’ve read that is common.  When I was adjusting the bobbin tension I also busted the top off the screw.  Sailrite had one in the mail to me before I could even fully explain the problem to them.  Amazing customer service.  I’m hoping that after the machine and I get more used to each other we can be better friends.

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Our stackpack is the first step and it’s currently in progress, so I will keep you updated on the large canvas.  But in the mean time I have completed all of my small canvas projects.  Light blue is old, dark blue is new. I also changed the material from surlast to sunbrella.

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I need a little more practice on that hatch cover if anyone wants to volunteer.

Still on the list for our boat (besides the big things) winch covers, inside window covers, redoing the buttons on the cushions, and curtains.  Oh jeez it never ends.

Also available in my canvas shop if you’re looking to do a full set: Grill and winch covers

Buy a full new set for your own boat!