Make $1M a year selling your ‘knitting,’ or How to be a successful Etsy importer

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 12.05.14 PM

Source: Screen grab from Fast Company

Source: Screen grab from Fast Company

Etsy doesn’t have much in common with China-based online marketplace Alibaba. Except that it does, with more and more mass-produced goods competing with products that are legitimately handmade. But you wouldn’t know it from this Fast Company feature on Etsy seller Alicia Shaffer of Three Bird Nest, who apparently makes $1 million a year selling knit socks and scarves.

Looking at the former, extremely click bait-y headline, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the story.

Knitting socks, scarves, and headbands doesn’t have much in common with performing orthopedic surgery or governing a country. But this crafty hobby earns mother-of-three Alicia Shaffer’s business $80,000 a month, in part via her Etsy shop—which adds up to an annual revenue of $960,000, she claims. That’s about as much as top orthopedic surgeons make, and more than twice as much as the United States president makes.

I’m not going to even get into a business magazine comparing annual gross revenue to a yearly salary. But, the writer somehow decided to paint the picture of a woman churning out lacy scarves and cabled boot toppers, and making big profits, and then buried this little nugget:

Not all the items are entirely handmade by Shaffer’s team—many, like the knitted legwarmers, socks, and gloves, are sourced wholesale from India. “We finish them here, adding lace trimmings and buttons,” Shaffer says. The profit margin from such imported items is 65%.

Of course, they’re still categorized as “handmade” — and, more importantly, hand knit — on Etsy:

Source: Screen grab from Three Bird Nest on Etsy

Source: Screen grab from Three Bird Nest on Etsy

Source: Screen grab from Three Bird Nest on Etsy

Source: Screen grab from Three Bird Nest on Etsy

This has been the problem with Etsy since even before they decided to relax their rules on what’s considered handmade. People who actually produce things themselves — including dozens who are on the Indie Untangled Marketplace — are increasingly crowded out by sellers who buy items wholesale and pass them off as artisan made. Even if Shaffer was purchasing 100+ pairs of socks that were actually handknit in India, which could be possible, or was selling her own machine-knit designs, why isn’t she explicitly mentioning that in her listings? Obviously there’s a certain cache to being on Etsy, or else she would have completely decamped to her own website ages ago. And, another big question — is she really paying Etsy $35,000 a year in commission?

I really wish the writer of the Fast Company story had delved into this, instead of propagating a myth about making thousands of dollars selling hand knits (I could only imagine what the writer of the Yahoo story about insulting knitters would have to say about this). There’s also a ton of pretty good advice for selling on Etsy — which would probably come in handy if people actually selling what they knit didn’t have to compete against shops like Three Bird Nest.

Update on 8/26/15: I learned this morning via this blog post that Three Bird Nest was “taking a break” from Etsy, but it looks like, based on a press release, that the company has decided to leave for good:

The choice to leave Etsy’s marketplace wasn’t made lightly and took the company over a year to decide. “We want to focus on Three Bird Nest’s website growth and potentially explore other marketplaces that fit more in line with our core values as a company,” Shaffer continued, “Additionally one of our goals has always been to provide affordable bohemian fashion clothing and accessories to our customers which we now can realize by selling independantly.”

There’s so much to mull over about the changing face of handmade businesses and marketplaces. I’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming launch of Amazon Handmade (could that be the marketplace that Alicia’s referring to?) and how that might impact the landscape. But instead of reading my musings, I encourage you to head over to While She Naps, where blogger and podcaster Abby Glassenberg is preparing for an interview with two Etsy executives. She’s looking for some input, and I’m sure she’ll get it!

191 thoughts on “Make $1M a year selling your ‘knitting,’ or How to be a successful Etsy importer

  1. Thanks for writing this! I saw the original article circulating over the weekend and was gnashing my teeth a bit, so it was REALLY nice to wake up this morning and see your post. Well done!

    • You’re welcome! I was stewing about it for hours and was surprised no one had written anything. I’d actually originally seen it linked on Facebook by a crafting site that didn’t question it at all!

      • Yes – thank you Lisa! I have been stewing about this too! Especially when other sellers and people like Tim of Handmadeology (he even wrote a positive blog about her that got picked up by FOX) continue to promote her and her “handmade” items. Many of the items she sells are not even hand embellished either — just straight out of the wrapper from China or India.

        • The article says she takes a salary of 55k, and on that her husband was able to retire. I hate those fluff pieces. She doesn’t make 1 mil plain and simple.

      • I am one of those scammed customers. I am appalled at their customer service and just stumbled on their better business complaints and apparently I am far from the first unhappy customer. They sent me damaged items and items that are not what is pictured on the website. And I have been emailing back and forth for two weeks just trying to get a refund.

        • It seems to me that Walmart is a better place to buy junk…. If it isn’t handmade why pay handmade prices. Just wonderin.

          • I purchased from their online storefront not off of etsy so I was never under the impression anything was handmade. I did expect however to receive undamaged goods and the items I actually ordered.

      • I am another of the customers they screwed over. Then they screwed me over again TWICE more with the items I purchased with their “apology credit”. I do a lot of online shopping and I have never had issues like this. Customer service is disorganized and from what I can tell, they do not maintain correspondence from customers. Each time I would email, they would have no clue what I was talking about and each rep would tell me a totally different thing than the previous one.

    • Right?! (I realize I’m posting this over a year after the original article was published- ha!) When that article came out last year my dad texted it to me- with sort of a joke-y “What about you, Julie, why aren’t you making $80k a month!?” implication. (I make a pretty decent living from my Etsy shop making genuinely handmade jewelry- and it would be impossible for me to keep up with that sort of demand per month- that is a little under what I sell in 1 year- and stay busy with it!) It made me super pissed- not at my dad- but at the idea of this publicity for a shop so clearly not handmade. I was like- yeah dad- I knit and crochet and there is no way in HEL* anyone could hand make that $ worth of products. Like, NO. WAY. Super relieved that this article was written to call out the b.s. Glad to see 3BN is no longer selling on Etsy.

      • Indeed. I remember the month I had to make 12 georgeous “Martha” ponchos before Christmas — and still work full-time, and it kind of broke me. A month later I put my shop in vacation mode (2012) and haven’t been back. At the time I went on hiatus overall sales were dropping, and most of that was due to “getting lost in the crowd” amid all the resellers and other nonsense that was going on, and I didn’t have the time to do what needed to be done and be the main support of my family at the same time. When I joined Etsy I was generating sales every month without any kind of advertising outside of just being on Etsy. It was thrilling and I thought this is great, and was making plans to start advertising more — but it just became overwhelming. And then the proverbial “crap hit the fan” in my life at the same time.

        I also didn’t want to be like the crocheter who made $140,000 in a year, but literally crocheted 13 hours a day, and yet had quite a slick shop. I don’t doubt that, though, but how long would you keep that up before you burn out, or begin to hate the wonderful creatives gifts you’ve been given? And, yes, she was able to make this amount with smaller items, while I had listed georgeous shawls and other one-of-a-kind items that expressed my creativity to the hilt (not to mention very soul-satisfying) and really took time to make just one. I don’t know how she’s doing now and, I have to admit the that article made me depressed.

        But at the moment I’m glad this came out. I now have over 600 items in storage, georgeous and more gorgeous, and if I decide to re-open I will not do it under the “pressure to succeed” this time — use Facebook, Instagam, Pinterest and all the other neat little “helps” there are out there, and it will be what it will be. The right buyer will be there and they’ll be looking for beauty and uniqueness over price.

        So what I’m saying is that I am going to be like “David” and not be daunted by the “Goliaths” out there.

    • Wow! I’m just reading about this now. I am so glad to know that I was not losing my mind, and that my jewelry was not garbage. I put my heart into my creations, and my experiences with my former Etsy shop were disheartening and dismal. When week after week went by, and I got no where, I started to research. What I found was sickening. My prices were very reasonable, nothing above $20, most not more than $10. Anyone familiar with the cost of good supplies knows that my profit margin at those prices would have been minimal. I could not compete with what Etsy was allowing…shops putting the handmade statement on their jewelry that was actually being bought in bulk from other countries, and being resold at a price that wouldn’t even remotely cover their cost if they had actually handmade their products. I closed my shop after much discussion with my husband about how to proceed, and many tears. I have some physical health issues and had hoped my shop would be successful in giving us a second income. I didn’t aspire to become rich, just wanted to do something with my talent that would help us. Thank you for this blog. It brings to an end my remaining feelings about the whole situation!

  2. The problem is people like this ruin it for the truly handmade on Etsy! People would (probably) rather buy from a shop with such rich, professional photos, and thousands of sales and feedback. Its really sad, because the truly handmade are the only ones with the quality to match the price. They work really hard for what little money they earn up against the powerhouses. Its impossible to compete, which is so unfortunate. I wish Etsy would get a lot stricter about the rules, turn it back into a truly handmade marketplace. There aren’t any better marketplaces to sell handmade goods. Please give it back to the true handmade people, Etsy!

    • I agree! Etsy changing their rules was a big reason I started this site. There are some alternative marketplaces, like Zibbet, which Keya of Cedar Hill Farm Company recently switched to, and many dyers have used BigCartel.

      • Handmade Artists is a truly handmade only site. Traffic is building and the site is growing. It’s fair to the seller since it’s a flat fee per month of $5. No commissions of any kind.

        • I just checked it out and I am not keen on that website at all. Layout of the webpage, things offered and quality of photos and descriptions… It is like eBay/Craigslist mash up. I don’t see any jewelry that convinces me they are truly handmade.

          • i just looked in the clothing section… one seller has NO sales for 2 years, another has had 1 sale in 2 years and has had the same listing posted for 2 years. Doesn’t sound promising. Plus the site doesn’t look very professional, the front page is covered with t-shirts, holloween masks and baby “onsies” which is in violation of Gerber’s trademark. DUH.

    • They never will go back. They make more money when they allow people with mass produced items cause they will sell more.
      Sad but true.

      • True! I tried reporting this famous store POSH PEANUT and sent the Etsy team screenshots of Aliexpress and this store merchandise and showed them that every single one of their headbands are not handmade as they claim, they are from this China website and they did nothing about it, I was a fool to think they will take that store down, after seeing this brings them almost a million $$$ in profits, they dont care at all if they are handmade or not.

    • I always look for very small shops located in the US when I buy. Tiny shops with only a handful of sales. Those purchases make me feel good. If someone has 13k sales, I’m not buying, sorry!

    • Anne, I could not of said it better. I hand make every piece of jewelry I make and usually charge around 10 dollars for it and even offer free shipping, still I can’t compete with China. I’m thinking of leaving Etsy also. It started out great, then they got greedy, VERY GREEDY.

    • This was my concern as well. There are so many sweat shops which utilize child labor as well. I was so disappointed when etsy started allowing all of these items on their site. That is why I closed my shop even though it was doing well.

  3. This is such a breath of fresh air. I thought it was just me saying, “Wait…what? India?” I closed my Etsy shop last year and when Etsy asked why I explained they were flying too close to the sun, turning into a marketplace for the resource- and time-wealthy. Even with a professional photographer at home, I couldn’t compete with photos that featured gorgeous models (like TBN’s sister) or packaging that clearly cost more to buy/create than many of us charge for fair shipping. It was a losing proposition for someone like me–someone who also understands how to work hard for results–and, not to sound sour, but companies like TBN is why. Wholesaling from India, indeed…

    • Just for the record, the beautiful blonde on TBN’s website is probably not her sister, as the same model appears with the same makeup and hair on Alibaba’s website — Alibaba being one company that she uses as a source for her “handmade” items from China!

      • I am sure that is not the case. I have several team members on test that have had their photos used by Alibaba. The sellers on Alibaba have no qualms with stealing other people’s photos and recreating their items. As a seller of actually handmade items TBN frustrates me to know end. I want to be successful but not like that!

  4. Her items are beautiful ,too bad they are just inhanced by her. Not homemade. This is why I have decided not to sell on etsy or any other site,due to things being sold as handmade or not!! My items I make are all made by me. Not another country. Handmade in USA.

  5. If she’s adding the lace and button, then who is adding it to the exact same leg warmers and boot toppers that are selling in the boutique here?

    • So happy you wrote this … If only it catches the attention of the millions who read the bogus story that circulated all over the world. Huffington and Fox, among many others published this story as fact. I sell on Etsy, not handmade, but vintage. But this seller is an insult to all who sell legitimately on the venue. I wrote to them and reported the shop to Etsy. They said they would look into it. They won’t and don’t really care. They have no integrity. I have also has fellow Etsy sellers advise me not to rock the boat as Etsy can shut my shops down.

      • Oh no… not the old shut down the shop routine. The ETSY police are a fearsome bunch indeed. I’d like to see the true handmade artisans at handmadeartists.com

        • Take a peek at my shop. I am one of the founding members and this site is all about handmade only. 5 bux a month, no final value fees and it seems to be growing in leaps and bounds since Etsy changed their rules. https://handmadeartists.com/shop/tutreasures granted all the photos and such are not the absolute best, but you are guaranteed to not get lost in what I like to call the mass produced shuffle.

          • @JB they too are competeing against Etsy. My amount of sales is of no consequence here, the point is that it is a *handmade only* site, like Etsy claims to be, and I actually sold something that was made by me and so can you. It is not Etsy but nothing else ever will be. This site promises to keep it all handmade no matter what. I also hear that there is going to be a great makeover of the site come April.

      • I don’t really have a problem when they added collectibles and vintage, because honest sellers are honest sellers, and it’s known that the items are what they are. But you’re right about Etsy, especially in the forums. I used to read them and the fear of complaining about or reporting sellers (this was before Etsy changed their policies, too) was palpable … and frustrating. Ironically eBay did this very same thing circa 2004 when they decided change what was a site made up of “mom-and-pop” businesses — which is what gave eBay their claim to fame originally. But greed came in, in the form of Whitman and the rest, as they say, is history. Ebay became a “buyer and honest seller” beware site.

  6. Came across your article shared on a Facebook crocheting group. At first someone had shared the one stating “knitter earns almost $1million per yr”
    That first headline got my attention, so I bookmarked it to read later, thinking, wow maybe I can really learn something from this seller. Then I read this article, and I have to say as a made from scratch crafter, this Etsy success is a liar. Anybody can add lace to an item, or sew on a few buttons. Just irritates the heck out of me that this is allowed on a marketplace that used to be so focused on handmade & vintage.
    Who do you think ppl are going to buy from…People will generally go cheap, I’ve had ppl balk at the prices I quote for my items. But its like you want cheap, go to whatever Big Box store, their quality is crap but its cheap. And this Etsy millionaire can afford to sell cheap cuz these items are bought wholesale for probably cheaper than the little trims that are put on.

    • The really sad thing is that she’s not even doing that much! If you search the aliexpress website (direct wholesale from China) you can find the exact same items she sells, buttons, trims and all, for sale for pennies on the dollar. They even have use the same model/photos on her site that they use. You can also buy her “handknits” on the Walmart website, and Amazon.

      She’s an out-right liar, passing off mass produced, machine made goods as handmade, creating false expectations in her customers both in the quality and price of true handknit goods, but if you compare some of her listings to the commercial listings, she is misrepresenting the materials they are made out of too. Some of her listings show how little she even knows about what she is selling…

      In her Etsy post for the lace topped knee socks she claims: “Materials: Crafted from 100% hand-brushed acrylic yarn, yarn blend: 85% cotton + 10% nylon + 5% spandex” Which, I’ve been knitting for 16+ years and have never heard of hand-brushed acrylic yarn, but it can’t be 100% acrylic AND a cotton/nylon/spandex blend (https://www.etsy.com/listing/100723118/lace-boot-socks-ivory-lacey-trim-ruffle?ref=related-6)

      But, on Amazon it is listed as “95% Cotton, 5% Spandex” (http://www.amazon.com/Our-World-Boutique-Crochet-Buttons/dp/B00MMJUC5K/ref=pd_sim_a_28?ie=UTF8&refRID=0AS90TTK7AGD1QYP6D5B)

      And just for fun here’s the China wholesale listing (http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Women-Lace-Knit-Boot-Cuff-crochet-boot-topper-faux-legwarmers-sock-tops-knit-leg-warmers/32250508449.html)

      • Wow, these are the exact same socks, it really makes me sick she is getting away with this. I work my but off listing true handmade items and true vintage.

          • Its thru
            Al she does is just resale
            I read in her feedbacks that people complaining about “made in china” tags that she left on her products 🙂
            But no one cares.
            Etsy receives a huge profit from her sales – so why would they bother …
            It’s just really sad

    • It is possible that she is paying out $35,000 a year to Etsy in fees. Etsy charges a listing fee of .20 per item to list the item for 4 months. Then on each sale, Etsy gets a 3.5% fee. The fees alone on $960,000 are $33,600. If you add in the .20 per item, it could be very close to $35,000 if not more.

      That said, she is doing the same thing another store featured on Shark Tank is doing. But, she is playing by Ety’s rules. If people want to stop the imports on Etsy as being sold as handmade, they need to stop giving shops like this free promotion. Also, ask the seller if what they are making is created and handcrafted by them personally, in the country where they live (if you live in India, for example, your items should be made in India). If you do not like the answers, tell the seller and buy from someone else. If you want cheap imports, go to Walmart.

  7. Thank you for writing what many of us have been discussing privately, while rolling our eyes. Because Etsy welcomes manufacturing while still trying to live off the narrative of handmadeness, stories about shops like this will continue to be shadowed by stories like yours (and the muttering of many of us who actually try to make things for a living). Will that matter? So far, no, and their impending IPO seems to confirm that it never will. They are plowing forward into unmitigated greed and cognitive dissonance in a way that is impressive – if you are amoral and don’t think too hard. They certainly have done an admirable job crafting language that obscures what is sold there. It must be exhausting for them! Poor dears.

    I guess the part that surprises me is that after being mad at crap like this (let’s face it, for years now) I still want to love Etsy and want it to be better – not out of sentimentality for what it was in 2007, but because there is still such a core of amazing people selling fantastic things there that I can’t find elsewhere. After quitting and only selling on my website for a few years I’ve recently started selling in both places again and I’m oddly happy to be back among familiar faces there. I still feel connected to other makers there in a way that I don’t have on my own. The core of Etsy – or *my* Etsy anyway: having comraderie with other people who understand the creative making life – is still there, lurking under mountains of factory-made socks modeled by shiny white people. *mixedfeelinghands*

      • What community?!
        Here is a true handmade website with all the support you need for $5.00 a month.
        Handmadeartists.com.
        I was an etsy-er, never again…..

        • hi i am interested about this web site for 5.00 month how does it work thought about trying etsy but i read having second thougths any help would be appriated etsy does have beautiful items and patterns i like looking at some of there stuff any help be appriated thank you have a great day

    • I agree with everything you’re saying here, Helen.

      It’s not only the loss of innocence at Etsy that bothers me, it’s that so many honest, hard working people are being trampled in such an uncaring way, in cold pursuit of the all-mighty dollar.

  8. It’s like Walmart, on Etsy. No one can compete w/ that because a lot of us are 1 or 2 people selling what they make AT home, by HAND.

    It makes me sad. I did pretty well, in my mind, on Etsy last year, mostly during Sept thru December. I have 84 total sales. But I’m NOT a professional photographer. I don’t order my stuff in bulk and add a button. Each and every item is crocheted by ME and sewn together by me. Hell, I’m the only one that even goes and buys the yarn. It is all ME… which, when I joined Etsy, is what I thought is was.

  9. I read this article a few months ago on yahoo. I was appalled and furious. But that is Etsy now. If you make one seam on an item you can call it handmade. I think it should be called altered. But, you see, Etsy and other like sites make big money from these sellers and not from the legitimate handmade crafter.

    So, maybe we should go out and buy premade hats, gloves and socks from India and sew flowers and buttons on them and make a million too.

    Nah, I prefer living with myself and make my stuff by my own hands.

  10. Those boot socks she has listed there at $48usd is not cheap, plus she doesn’t add anything to them, I bought the same ones from my leggings lady for $20cad. Talk about a mark up.. plus I like Etsy for the handmade and unique items that I cannot find anywhere else..

      • I couldn’t find anywhere to leave my comment so I’m using this reply.

        Personally I see her success based solely on good pictures,on a pretty model using cheap imported products. her mark up is huge, hence her profit being so high/yearly income so high, so is ripping your customers off, what we should be aiming for, to be called ‘successful’. her customer service is below average, and her selling techniques are not something I would follow, ie: listing items in her store that are not even in stock, sending different colored items without checking the customer is ok with this. Why the media have jumped on this promoting the success is odd to me, this is clearly a re-seller, not a seller of handmade goods. which to all the hard working handmade artist in the world is an insult.

        Re: the images of the socks being all over ebay, alibaba, China is renowned for using sellers images, so they are likely her images, but deffinately not her handmade socks. not even a stitch on the button or lace, as a hand knitter,and sewer, I feel I have a good instinct for this, and saw her and many others on etsy just like her,

        I have a very successful handmade store on etsy, It takes me every waking hour to knit my orders, so I know -for instance- how long a hat of her style would take, she’d need way more than 15 employees, also saw a tv interview on her, she talked about her employees shipping, packing, taking pictures, no mention of them kitting, cutting, sewing, pinning, designing, sampling, sourcing new yarns/fabrics. you get what I’m saying ah. xx

  11. This is really infuriating to me, I have spent 3 years building my handmade business with my two hands and the fact that someone can just have stuff made in India, China or whatever and call it handmade is insane. At the very least they should say in order to claim it handmade it has to be made by an associate in your own town or state.

    • I researched her Etsy store and the numbers never added up when you look at her products. To make her seem like an “Etsy Handmade God” is completely infuriating to the hundreds of us that are making products with our “own” minds and “own” hands. Working 14 hours and up every day – to make my business by myself makes me angry that she has “junk” from china and india and calling it handmade. I am angry and disappointed that news reports of this mom of three making it all by herself, Why not report about true sellers making handmade items for sale. Anyone can make a bundle selling JUNK.

  12. First of all I want to thank you for writing this! It is so nice to know that I am not the only one who is infuriated by her.
    My sister had a pretty successful Etsy shop selling jewelry, but because she put “Chan Luu Style” in her tags she got shut down for copy write infringement.
    They didn’t even give her a chance to fix her listings and take the tags off… They just deleted her shop, and all the hard work she had put into it for 3+ years. She’s not even allowed to buy anything on Etsy anymore.. Not that I think she would.. Anyways my point is this, they recently changed their rules on Etsy that you CAN outsource now, but that wasn’t the case 1, 2, or even 3 years ago when 3bn started up, and I know other people besides me have turned her in for getting her items from China and India, but they never shut her down, and they never will because she makes them way too much money.
    And not only that, but she gets interviews with Fox news, and the Huffinton post for it…
    She gets 95% of her items from China (with the lace and buttons added I mind you! She doesn’t add any of that stuff… I doubt the women even knows how to sew!)
    She is no different than Walmart, or forever21… She just charges a lot more and makes you think that you’re getting something handmade…
    Okay… I have to stop now… I have so much more to say but I don’t know if I would stop if I kept going!
    I think she is an awful person for taking credit for all of these things were made in sweatshops by women and children… She’s a millionaire off of those poor peoples blood and sweat…
    I hope this blog goes viral and people stop buying her “made from the heart” goods…

    • This exact same thing happened to my mother. She makes every single one of her items from hand all by herself (and had earned quite a following!) Etsy shut her down for suggesting one of her items was a “Burberry Style” plaid. No warning, no nothing.. just gone and wouldn’t listen to anything she had to say.

  13. Yup. When I read the article a few weeks ago, I thought “How can she possibly be paying a group of people here in the USA to hand knit all of these items?!” I knew right away she was importing. As someone who has worked in the overseas apparel business, not only do the people in India making these things live at the poverty level but some of the working conditions are horrendous. Maybe she’s using one of the better factories but it’s unlikely. I would not consider these to be hand made items….many factories use electric powered hand knitting machinery to knit ( certainly not knitting needles) and consider that to be hand made. There’s a big difference. Also, her items have been sold several times on zulily, a discount merchandise subscriber site, so I don’t think all of her money is coming from etsy. If you’re selling on zuliliy, you’re trying to unload inventory. Why would you do that if your items are HAND MADE?! It’s misleading and sad for those of us who work to provide a completely hand made, quality product. I wish etsy had never bent the rules.

  14. This is an insult to those of us whose work is done entirely with our own two hands. I design the patterns, purchase the yarn, knit or crochet the items and place them for sale. I take photos with my phone and have no packaging at all. I ship as cheaply as I can but even then I am undercut by frauds. The few people that have purchased my items love them and I hope they spread the word next winter so I can continue my little online business. The only benefit I have received from having an Etsy store is that I can have a small 4 x 8 booth at the biggest craft fair in Victoria for a reduced price. Sales there were terrific so hopefully that will drive more customers to the store.

    • so, did you make that yarn yourself and grow and pick the cotton too? let me guess, you bought it from someone who bought it from someone else. you are acting like threebirdnest stole from you or your business. that sounds like jealousy pure and simple.

  15. I read the article and decided to check out that etsy.

    Found these:
    https://www.etsy.com/listing/88991185/best-selling-leg-warmers-button-up-socks?ref=shop_home_active_22
    and then found them here:
    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Ivory-Slouchy-Knee-High-Boot-Socks_1773603556.html

    Then, these:
    https://www.etsy.com/listing/199803622/leg-warmers-leather-trim-stocking?ref=shop_home_active_23
    and found here:
    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Leg-Warmers-Leather-Trim-Stocking-Stuffers_60075594746.html

    Do not know who is using what pictures, but they are identical. And both listings on etsy say hand made. There is nothing about “manufacturing”.

    • Just looked at that listing for the mint leg warmers. I have a boutique on Facebook and sell those for $10 each! (I paid more than 20 cents from AliBaba bc I ordered from someone here in the US) Apparently I should’ve been selling them on Etsy because the markup is way better! and I have this same picture from the supplier. wow….I doubted the validity of the article before but now I doubt the ethics of the shopowner. So sad.

    • For starters anyone that knits knows it would take a hell of a long time to knit one pair of those boot socks with that weight yarn, much less the 100 or more pair that 3BN sells per week. I don’t care if you have 50 employees, it would take a long time. You would need hundreds of overworked, severely underpaid, women and children working on knitting machines in crappy conditions, in third world countries to keep up with that kind of demand. Etsy isn’t about Handcrafted and Unique anymore, they are about the almighty dollar and Three Birds Nest gives them what the want.

    • As for the photos, her sister has a lot lighter skin than the model in India so you can see the Indian photos are being used.

  16. for those artists tired of fighting the Etsy free fall, you could also check out The CraftStar. Handmade, vintage, and supplies. You can have as money shops as you want…all for just $5.00 per month. You have one sign in ($5.00) and then unlimited shops and items. Plus tons of customer service, and shop promotions, and live shows on Google+
    I’m glad I switched.
    Debbi

  17. This is what we have to compete with. I have two shops, totally handmade. No employees. Very hard to compete against manufactured goods. Add to that, Etsy seems to direct traffic to the high sellers, translate as manufacturers, and I know that first million won’t come in my life time.

  18. Yes, I actually hand knit and sew what is in my shop. The fact that Etsy allows this type of thing and also that someone can now design and then have a manufacturer make the item is an insult to actual handmade. It is difficult to compete with this. Since these rules have changed I have seen a great decrease in my shop view and sales. But Etsy is out to make money and that is why they are also thinking of going public. Then they have to satisfy the stockholders. What is going to happen then?

  19. As soon as Etsy opened listings to countries where the majority of these items are made, it became an overnight problem. Once they allowed outside assistance from manufacturers the writing between the lines was “We’re not policing this anymore”.

    Since search was messed up for long term sellers back in September of 2014, I’ve been moving to other venues. Like many long term HANDMADE sellers, I’ve seen my sales drop to almost nothing as like others, I’m increasingly crowded out by mass produced junk masquerading as handmade at Walmart prices. .

  20. Thank you for bringing this information to light. I have a big problem with people passing off imported items as handmade! To me it’s a lie deliberately meant to deceive the consumer. My husband and I hand bead and knit or sew every single item in my shop and have a difficult time making a living wage because of this type of competition. I wish Etsy had not changed their rules to allow this type of vendor. I believe Etsy should be all handmade and vintage.

  21. The original lace-topped socks were actually designed by me – http://ilovelowie.com/collections/socks/products/mohair-lacy-knee-socks-navy

    Alicia actually emailed me a few months before she ‘designed’ these socks, asking for more details about sock construction. As my socks had been pinned so many times on Pinterest she knew she was onto a winner. She then proceeded to copy 4 more of my designs identically – lacy mohair fingerless gloves and scarf, crochet scarf with a velvet bow and some crochet fingerless with a velvet bow. I feel flattered that she copied my designs however perhaps she shouldn’t claim to have designed them herself.

    • Bronwyn, you should report her for copyright infringement to Etsy. I have handpainted glasses for years and sold them on Etsy, very successfully. I had a bride ask me to paint a design similar to one she had seen elsewhere (I’m in Canada and the seller didn’t ship here from USA). The glasses were a hit and I sold hundreds of them, and referred customers to the original artist if I couldn’t fulfill an order. She was booked 6 months in advance and couldn’t take more orders. I listed a few of them on Etsy She reported me to Etsy for copyright infringement, they arbitrarily removed all listings that were similar to hers (even glasses I had been designing and selling years ago before ever seeing her work), and threatened to close down my shop. I wrote a rebuttal but couldn’t be bothered to send it to Etsy Legal, as I didn’t want to incur any more of their wrath. But one of these days I will figure out how to pull the date stamp of my original photos and show them that I was painting some these before she was even in business. And this woman is allowed to copy your work outright and they promote the crap out of her shop?

      • I did report her for copying to both Etsy, Paypal and facebook. They all ruled in my favour and she took the items off for a few days, renamed them and then created a new product name with new URL – smart!! We spent a week gathering evidence and deemed it not worth our time (or money) to go any further but I have my eye on her.

        • Gee, I should try that, relist my items with new photos and titles …. except she watches my shop like a hawk and it’s not worth the hassle to fight it, I have enough business You must be SO frustrated. I can’t believe Etsy doesn’t support you on this. And that she is so brazen about it.

  22. The Q is : why is she selling this much of this “crap”
    Why ? People like “china stuff”, majority of people DO NOT like real handmade, artistic and one of the king items – that is the saddest part in it all.

    • You’re right most people look at price first, whatever is cheaper. Etsy being built on the foundation of “handmade” it’s sad to see them making such a change. It may have already been mentioned but this chick doesn’t even sew lace or buttons onto those legwarmers they’re also available on eBay too: http://m.ebay.com/itm/151472409547?nav=SEARCH
      sad:-(

      • You’re right, Kora. Most people look at the price and pay whatever is cheaper. There are a few people though (like me!) who know what things are worth, and know that you cannot produce a good quality handknit product for that cheap. I know with it costs me to make excellent quality products, so I would never purchase something so cheap because I would be suspicious that it was mass produced. I really do think this is where some artisans have issues – they lower their prices to be competitive, but then people question whether or not it’s genuine. It’s tough to get ahead!

    • She sells so much of this “crap” because no one really values the hard work that we put into our art. I don’t know about the rest, but it takes me weeks to finish a small baby blanket and if I’ve tried to sell them people complain they cost too much. The yarn alone cost more then most want to pay. It’s sad that they want the artistry but don’t want to value the art or the artist.

  23. I read most of the comments, sorry, I don’t have time to read each one but I feel your pain. Perhaps there needs to be a mass exodus away from etsy to get their attention. Not sure they would really care anyway. I know how hard I work and can appreciate how hard all of you work as well. It is insulting to us when we work so hard to make each piece and have some scam artist pretend to be an artist when all she does is use cheap labor, adds a button here and there, then proclaims “Look what I made!”

    • I so agree with you. Mass exodus to a different site that respects the integrity of handmade is the only way to accomplish what you as artists do. I was just thinking about opening an etsy shop when I ran across this discussion and info on this vendor. Now I won’t open one there.
      Sandra Drake

  24. Lisa, thanks for much for publishing this. Just wish more people could see it. Wish we could get it on Huffington Post of somewhere. 🙂

  25. I really wish that Etsy would examine closer the handmade claims. People go to Etsy thinking that they’re supporting an artist and purchasing handcrafted items. It seems like Etsy has become more about capitalism (greed) and less about the art and the artist. Perhaps it’s always been.

  26. I’ve made the attempt to sell on etsy. The best luck I had was in reselling supplies to other jewellery makers. It was nice to have a little, precious little, extra income. However, it is extremely difficult to compete with only my handmade products. Then, just when i started making headway they changed the way we promote our items, effectively endingy sales. For this reason, I’m out.

  27. From what I read here, most people think the drop in sales and views is caused by resellers and they certainly do impact our bottom line. However, Etsy set this up a few years ago with a new feed allowing them to direct traffic to the high selling shops. I have a feeling, like Ebay, they cap our sales as well. This is how they keep the high selling resellers from leaving Etsy. Then, to add insult to injury, we are expected to help promote those very shops that are burying handmade in a sea of sweat shop merchandise.

  28. While I dont condone resellers passing things off as homemade or rule breakers on Etsy… AT ALL…

    BUT.

    Do you think it makes us any better ripping apart this shop all over Etsy and this blog. Or any other ranting post? This isnt the first…

    There are things I dont like either but, complaining all over the net wont hep my business just like Im sure its Not helping yours.

    Do you think calling out this seller and picking her apart going to help Your sales?

    Do you think complaining all the time how Etsy has changed is going to help your sales?

    Stop complaining and take action, leave Etsy, drive your own traffic, start a website, something. Do what you need to do for your business. Etsy will NEVER be what it was, Ever. Accept it if you choose to stay on Etsy. The sooner you mind Your business, the better off you will be.

    • All of this is precisely why I closed my Etsy shop years ago. the writing was on the wall. I am now at Handmade Artists, a small but growing marketplace for handmade only. No, we don’t have the traffic that Etsy does, but we do have the integrity they seem to be lacking.

    • Threads like this raise awareness and spread the word so YES! I think it is important and productive. Just ignoring or leaving etsy just enables her to continue to do this. Regardless of etsy changing their rules and loosening them, she is STILL LYING about the materials used, that they are handmade and not disclosing where they are made. I still believe that’s against Etsy rules even to this day.

  29. Wow. One of my friends posted the story on my fb wall.. At first I felt like a failure because I’ve been trying to sell since 2010 and I haven’t reached 100 sales yet. But then when I read that she buys wholesale from India and I changed my mind! I actually opened up my own online shop in mind to sell ONLY handmade items. Right now I have only my own items up, since I had to get my website unhacked. I also sell yarn and I try to get as much from local dyers across North America. I would love to have a shop filled with items that women made..

  30. while I’m not in the hand knit category, I see the same thing happening in my business competition. She clearly is not being transparent. And she clearly needs Etsy’s platform to succeed, or she would have clearly had a better profit margin with out paying the etsy fees by launching a website.
    Fact: items are not handmade, rather sourced and embellished.
    Fact: she is a savvy social media gal.
    Fact: 1000’s other shops sell close to the same product.
    Fact: this business NEEDS the appeal of Etsy to successfully sell, other than I have seen all similar items on discount sights like Jane, Zulily ect.

    • She does have a website also, with a shop! She also offers wholesale accounts, and has retailers across the country carrying her merchandise!

  31. Artists and crafters have been fighting this Irritating Issue for years as long as I can remember and in working shows over 40 years. Where vendors would set up in local art shows selling their “art” made over seas by their relatives? and to a point a lot of it has been squelched …but it is still out there and this makes this even more distasteful that a company making money off of us who are following the rules…working hard to get our art made , photographed and listed for a price that will allow it to sell so we can support ourselves… And someone is allowed to come in and blatantly misuse the venue by lying to the customers and the venue. (Although I am sure Etsy knows, but likes the $$$) We have enough difficulties to deal with and the fact I have only had 36 sales in the time I have had my shop , and I admit most of my fault . The last year I have worked my tush off to market the shop , bought the advertising, tweet multiples every day and more…I am about ready to shut it down .and hire someone to manage the website I bought but not had time to figure it all out. Etsy is easy , even now with the new listings manager and once I got my smart phone I could do it all, quickly, But alas no more sales than when I wasn’t busting it … and this Person just makes a bad taste for all of us .. She may be taking in $960,000 but she has employees, employee taxes , building , electric, merchandise, import fees and more then the fees she pays to Etsy… she might as well sell in a store front and call her what she is a retail resale boutique .

  32. Lots of talk about her on the Etsy fora…and subsequently shutdown by the admins. I doubt Etsy’s going to cut her loose any time soon. Other articles of this same shop were claiming she sold 3,000 items a month, and that’s raking in Etsy $600 on listing fees alone. Also all the (pro) articles about her can be advertising for Etsy as “on a whim, you struggling mothers out there can make millions too on Etsy!” I didn’t know these types of clothing items were so in demand.

  33. I have mixed feelings about this shop, as well as all the free PR which TBN is receiving. Negative PR is still free advertising for the shop, and Alicia has probably made more than a few sales to readers of this type of article.

    If you look at the Indian-made socks, etc. as supplies (which they are), how is that any different from the fabric that I use which is most likely made in the same part of the world? Alicia doesn’t knit her own socks any more than I weave my own fabric. The main difference is that what I make with my fabric is considerably more labor-intensive than what she makes with her socks!

    • I didn’t write this to generate negative PR for TBN, or Etsy, but because it bugged me, as a knitter and a journalist, seeing stories stating without question that the products were handmade, and not even exploring the new dynamic on Etsy, even after mentioning that many items were sourced overseas. How do you leave that out of a business story? And then I saw people — and even other crafting sites! — sharing the stories with other knitters and saying, “You too can do this if you work hard enough.” That really got to me.

      And yes, the average consumer wouldn’t be surprised that a seamstress doesn’t weave her own fabric. But they’re apparently not aware of how long it takes to hand knit something!

  34. This is honestly so frustrating for me, and everyone else who organically makes excellent quality handmade products and sells via etsy. I’ve always wondered how these handmade companies make it big. I’ve told myself over and over again that it’s work – hard work. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Well apparently I missed the memo. It is easy. Just order your product from some mass produced, overseas company and change your conscious status from etsy artisan to etsy importer. I guess if you can sleep at night, great. For the rest of us hard working artisans, it’s extremely discouraging.

  35. This series of articles plays right into the “Quit you day job” get rich quick aspect of Etsy. Honestly, this has always bothered me. Who likes their day job? Most of us want to escape and be our own boss. So they pull out a few shining examples, who btw aren’t really handmade and show it off to draw in more new shops who all think that success on Etsy is easy.

  36. I have been wanting to open a second shop for my art show jewelry. (I removed it from my Artfire site in order to leave the beaded jewelry there.). I have been torn between giving Etsy another try, since I have learned a lot since my earlier failed attempt, or trying Aftcra. Aftcra is strictly handmade in the USA, but they don’t get the traffic Etsy does. After reading this, I’m thinking I need to go with Aftcra.

    I think the problem is that a handmade venue may have good intentions, but when it comes down to policing it, they don’t have the resources or expertise to do it. Although if anyone had the resources to do it, Etsy should.

  37. Funny that her boot cuffs are from Aliexpress and she even uses the same pictures. What a scammer. Shame on her for pretending to be handmade.

  38. How sad to see Etsy coming to this. The article just confirms what many of us already know. When I saw that Etsy changed their categories listing the other day it became apparent that “handmade” is no longer one of their core values. There is no reference at all to handmade items. The listings take most of the key words out for those of us who want to drive the customers to our shops using words that describe our home made, handmade, one-of-a-kind products.

    Etsy is stepping on the folks that made their website successful in lieu of assisting those who buy cheap goods, touch them by repackaging them and placing their label on them and calling them “Made in America” or “Handmade”. Even Etsy’s new promotional settings is just set up to making them more money, and our return on investment is nil. As a small business I take offense to this. Etsy is not in the business of assisting small, struggling art and crafts type businesses as it once was. Eventually I can see them setting up an IPO on the stock market. It is just a matter of time.

    Those of us who actually make our product really need to find another venue. One that cares about the small art and craft business people. I’m so very sad, because this is the way the whole world seems to be headed. Quality and price do not seem to have anything to do with each other. Art is not in the eye of many in the general population these days. True artists will continue to create just because it is in our soul, but trying to find a venue to sell it will continue to be a challenge.

    🙁 ……..

      • Thanks Lisa, I’ll check it out!! After hearing that Etsy is now going public and will be issuing stock soon I’m really motivated to do something else. This is one company I won’t be investing in or participating as a seller. It will just take some time to transition. I hope others will do the same. We just need to start a movement!!

        • Teresa….I’ve checked out the handmadeartists.com site and it looks great! I look forward to transitioning to a new venue. Thanks so much for the suggestion. Just hope that others will follow. This site looks like it have been in business for at least five years, has the infrastructure and would be a good choice. Now we handcrafters just need to help it out!!

          • Cammyann They have been around for awhile. They are very intentional on not growing so big that they turn out like so many other sites. The owners are former Etsy sellers as well, so they know. They are currently working on the site updates. I love that they ALWAYS keep us in the loop about stuff, ask opinions, etc. Be sure and join the forum. You will see that the whole atmosphere is worlds away from Etsy.

  39. If this California-based store is purchasing products from alibaba and, on some goods selling unaltered to the consumer, yet is claiming they make every item and/or not disclosing it was purchased from a supplier, could that possibly violate California’s law against false advertising claims?

    Specifically (for any unaltered good advertised as handmade by their store, but, in fact, purchased from alibaba) Section 17505:
    No person shall state, in an advertisement of his goods, that he is a producer, manufacturer, processor, wholesaler, or importer, or that he owns or controls a factory or other source of supply of goods when such is not the fact, and no person shall in any other manner misrepresent the character, extent, volume, or type of his business.

    • This is what I was wondering. Does she relabel it with a Made in the USA label? That is highly illegal as that phrase must meet a particular standard and has a specific meaning. Does she cut the labels out that say where the garment is made? Also very illegal. If the garment manufacturing board or the import board found out about this, her licenses would be revoked and she would be fined. Etsy is trying to promote her for their IPO and it may be the worst thing that happens to her.

      The people who say she steals their designs could report her if they don’t feel like suing. What she is doing is very, very unethical.

    • etsy doesnt care she is giving them plenty of $$$ with her sales, I tried reporting this store by sending them screenshots of the “handmade” items she sells and the exact same items that Aliexpress sells for a fraction of the price, and they did and wont do anything about it, its sad and frustrating.

  40. This is not anything new. Every single time I purchase “handmade” items anywhere I have learned to question the shop owner very carefully. I can’t count the number of times I have been told that an item I am interested in has really been “handmade in Mexico.” Whether I am browsing Etsy or a real store, if buying something handmade matters, I ask a lot of questions. And I often ask for customized items on Etsy anyway, shame Etsy had to get rid of Alchemy…

  41. I sell repurposed glass products on there and even I compete with companies that claim they hand make their items, which I’ve found isn’t actually true. Then to find out how massive an issue this really is quite upsetting. It really isn’t much different than ebay, is it? I use to fight people on this, but how can I argue it now? I wonder if this becomes big enough, if they will consider adding some policies…or is it too late because they now rely on those revenues?

  42. A few years back, before the etsy wholesale thing… I saw this shop featured. I noticed she had 3 “employees” … and i could see how many things were selling. I figured, with the 3 women, knitting and sewing 24/7 each… they would be making an item every 7 minutes or so… it was then that I figured something else was going on here. Then Etsy came up with the etsy wholesale thing….a bit upsetting… just as upsetting as all of the trending items from Alibaba.com… that are at the top of the trending lists… the glow necklaces… where the photos are actually taken right off of the Alibaba.com site… same exact… or the shop who shows their “process” of injecting the neon glow juice… to create the EXACT item you find on alibaba… it is a huge problem and a mask… but the almighty dollar prevails. The CEO could care less. Rob was a true visionary and his vision was blurred when the new order took over and never looked back!

  43. What someone said above is true, everyone loves to buy into the “Anyone can become a success if you just work hard enough”. Like Steinbeck said, the problem with this country is that everyone thinks of themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”.

    I am a new dyer and decided to bypass the Etsy stage entirely and build my own brand from the beginning. Sites like Indie Untangled make it easy for fans of true indie artists to buy without having to visit a marketplace or follow each individual marketplace. This is it’s big appeal to me. It’s almost like a indie fiber artist marketplace portal where you can see what’s up and then click through the individual artist’s shop (whether it be on Etsy or independent).

    Yes, these kind of article are discouraging and make me sad. But I’ve just stopped paying attention in hopes to re-direct my energy towards supporting the people who are doing the right thing: Indie Untangled, Custommade, Zibbet, Handmadeartists, felt.co.nz, madeit.co.au, daWanda.com and others I like.

  44. so rather than whinging on a blog why not figure on what to do? She got venues to carry her story, try that, or something…anything. Get together as a collective and talk about what can be done!

  45. It’s funny bc those SAME EXACT socks can be bought on Rosegal for under$5 right now! Smh! Making it hard for those of is that ACTUALLY hand make our items and try to sell them on Etsy.

  46. I have read every single comment here and I can sympathize with all of you and I definitely share your frustration with the situation as a whole. I ponder though in the fact that she is making $960,000 a year for her to only take in $55,000? Yes, she is being dishonest in her listings and based on the reviews, the customer service is subpar and the quality is nothing to write home about. She will either continue to thrive by selling cheap knock offs or her selling model (or lack thereof) will be her demise in the future. Personally, if she is working as hard as she say she is, I would not want to buy into this nonsense. And living in CA, the cost of living is high and so are the taxes. I don’t know what her husbands retirement is nor is it my business because it really has nothing to do with the situation at hand-The article just happened to mention that he retired which has piqued my curiosity. Perhaps he is helping with the business as well. There appears to be a lot of overhead that is eating into her profits big time. I am not a rocket scientist but anyone with some business knowledge can see that this is not really a great way to make a living, if she is telling the truth. Something does NOT seem right about her pay. And many of her customers are not happy. Others are just happy because they got something cheap and really do not know any better. I know we can sit here and talk about this until the cows come home but it is not going to change Etys stance on the matter nor is it going to stop this woman from selling. Etsy has succumb to greed and Alicia is deceiving people into believing these are her designs/handmade. All we can do is continue to do what is right and find other venues to sell on and use social media (after all, it is free) to show the world our truly HANDMADE fares. Bottom line, yes, it is all dishonest, frustrating, and sad but at the same time, when looking at the numbers, I would not want to be in Alicia’s position if she is truly taking home what she said she is. I don’t care if you are a millionaire but please, do it honestly and respectfully. Help others to achieve to achieve greatness and don’t forget your roots. I wish you all the best and don’t let this story impede your efforts!

  47. Because the numbers don’t really add up, today i watched the sales in her Etsy shop and she’s had 11 (eleven) sales in 11+ hours. That’s 11 more than I’ve had today, but not the 3000 claimed.

  48. I’ve just passed my one year anniversary on Etsy, and I have been very happy with the year- learning if I enjoyed working in business, developing an artisan practice (hand dyed yarns) that I feel proud of, having the freedom to explore and grow without having to manage the infrastructure Etsy takes care of.

    The point I think is interesting is why have we all gone glassy-eyed at this article title? The lure of the money, of course! You, too, can be a millionaire! And blonde, and your husband takes care of the kids! (I laughed out loud when reading that part and knew it was a fairy tale!) But think a minute- would you want that sort of business? With that volume?

    I hope she has the business she wants to have- what I love about the marketplace is she can have that business, importing and reselling, adding buttons, and I can have the business I want. Can you imagine how boring, how mind numbing? The stress of sending that many packages, managing orders, tracking lost boot toppers?

    Now I can have the business I want to have. I can play around with bison and aloo yarn if I want. I can throw an extra skein in a package to say thanks to a new customer. I can take about stitches and needles to someone who loves needlework the way I do. This is the model that I choose- small, everything managed by me, room to experiment and be creative and grow a craft practice as an artisan. I think quality and creativity- the ideas and the work- will always win out in the end. And by win out- success- I don’t mean money. That is not the only metric we should be using to measure a successful business- real artisans, craftsmen- the work is the joy, and success still comes. It’s just not her type of success. Thanks goodness.

    • That’s a good point and a great attitude to have, Sarah. Very well said. It’s a nice feeling to have customers who you can be sure know the value of a product that you worked on yourself.

  49. If her stuff is so wonderful why is she selling on Etsy why not her own shop?
    Anyone that has ever picked up a ball of yarn whether to knit or crochet knows that there is no way you can produce that much product “handmade” in that time frame. Anyone with any common sense can see that. People should boycott rip-off shops like that .People don’t care, with the internet and technology out there they want everything instantly ,with no regard to price or quality as long as they get the thing. Many are brain washed with Wal-mart mentality, “why should I buy a hand made scarf for $60 when I can get one for half that at Wal-mart.” They do not appreciate the handcrafters skills, time and quality of a finished item which is the downfall of todays society.

    • Laura you are EXACTLY right! I make jewelry but on my own website, and no body wants to wait for a custom made item, they want it now! and the cheaper the better!

      “People don’t care, with the internet and technology out there they want everything instantly ,with no regard to price or quality as long as they get the thing. Many are brain washed with Wal-mart mentality, “why should I buy a hand made scarf for $60 when I can get one for half that at Wal-mart.” They do not appreciate the handcrafters skills, time and quality of a finished item which is the downfall of todays society.”

    • I saw the story first hand this morning and was appalled to say the least. They obviously just jumped on the band wagon and didn’t do any research first before airing this in my opinion.

  50. I agree with most of the posts. It’s a shame the journalist didn’t exercise critical thinking. There’s a big difference between citing her salary as less than $90,000, and ” earning” a million dollars. And the uninformed opinion of what constitutes hand made perpetuates ignorance. Thanks for Indie Untangled. Let’s all resolve to keep craftspeople and consumers alike informed about Etsy’s limitations.

  51. Pingback: Top Ten Least Favorite Knitting Myths - Take TwoPatty Lyons | Knitting Teacher

  52. I have read all the comments and agree with the disgusting,misleading attraction of this shop. The bottom line is $$$ and always has been. The listing fees and commissions are all Etsy cares about. Yes, I have an Etsy shop ( since 2006) and a Zibbet shop and combined over 1000 sales. With little promotion, I get Etsy business. Why? Etsy is a brand now- “Buy it on Etsy” or “Found on Etsy” is written all over…not shop names but ETSY. Sadly the general public is not aware of the issues and doesn’t care. I hand make everything, alone, and will not sell out & travel the path she has chosen. I don’t lie or scam. She may sleep at night but she doesn’t get my admiration or respect. I also don’t have any respect for the “journalists” who obviously didn’t do any fact checking.

  53. Lisa,

    I am FROM India and I must say THANK YOU VERY MUCH for writing this!

    Its appalling that folks import items from here and pass them off as “handmade” by them / “handmade” in America…believe you me, the original workers who would have crafted the items that the lady in question, Alicia Shaffer, is purportedly selling as her own, would have received an absolute pittance for their hard work.

    On top of that, to effectively not even be credited for all their efforts when it is rightfully due to them, is beyond abysmal.

    The only solution in my opinion – which I am sure most fellow American readers here would readily agree with me on, would be NOT to buy from her, and also to aggressively spread the word about her deception.

  54. First of all an orthopedic surgeon gets to keep all of that $960 k per year. If you knew anything about running a business you would know its EXPENSIVE!!! I bet she doesn’t even make an eighth of what she grosses. And I say good for her!! Someone has to be on top.

  55. If everyone reported her shop as being misleading or even fraudulent (her site does not say that the items are embellished only) Etsy might feel shamed into action………

  56. She actually does not add a thing. I found nearly ALL her “handmade” items on Alibaba. It is amazing to me that Etsy is a handmade marketplace. How can they not police their own website? She in all rights, should not be allowed to turn over a knitted hat that was purchased oversea’s and can be bought with 50 pc min buy at 2.75 each. She turns them on Etsy for around $36.00, quite a nice profit for not doing much of anything. This is a complete fraud and scams innocent people who believe they are purchasing handmade goods.

    • I´m agree with you, handmade starts when you going to the store and choose and buy the fabric, I really do not understand how she can say her items are handmade!

  57. Hi! Very interesting article! I really found that Etsy truly needs to review their handmade policies, but in the end its really up to the buyer. Of course Etsy profits from this success seller, and also from the handmade image that they sell with their work. But please, understand that machine knitting is also a handmade and craft work, i do it, at home with a human powered machine that takes hours (sometimes days) to finish a piece of garment, the all process is made by me and by hand! Please take some quick time to look at videos os people making things on knitting machine on youtube, i’m sure you’ll realize what i’m i saying 🙂 I think that here the discussion is more on the handmade/homemade/personal vs. industrial/no ethics/ mass consumption issue, because on buying things that may be handmade but are from China or India where people have very poor labor conditions that is what handmade movement really wants to fight and also people like this girl beyond that shop are not doing

  58. ThreeBirdNest owner claimed on a story the other day on Good Morning America that she started out making hand made items. I doubted it because all she could show the news team was that she could hit something with a mallot. So I checked out her “sold” file. The truth is she started off her shop by ripping off Sanrio’s copyrighted “Hello Kitty” name to sell cheap Chinese plastic sunglasses. Etsy and this woman have no ethics whatsoever.
    Link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThreeBirdNest/sold?page=4125

  59. Pingback: Million Dollar Etsy Seller? | The Red Scorpio

  60. Hello, I want to say something, in december 2011, when I see the first TBN headbands I knew that the items were not handmade, during these years I watched TBN store trying to learn how she sells so much, is true that she made a lot of publicity and PR but we all at etsy try to do it and we all have hard time to make a sale, anyway I just want to say that TBN is making a big mistake, is true, they are making a lot of money, enjoy! but universe will make then pay in one way or another, people who is not honest and lie to clients as soon or later will pay the bill.
    sometimes not only with money, can be health, love, personal peace of mind, other problems, etc,
    Last thing that I would like to say, will be a great idea to challenge Alicia to make, knit, crochet or sew one item, the challenge will be from another seller and both can knit the item and demostrate how to do it, will be kind of Challenge DIY, will be so simple! and this way maybe she can clean all the bad PR that is on the internet.
    Thank you
    Lilia Vanini

  61. Of course Etsy doesn’t care, they are highly profiting from this venture. Why would they fight making a lot of money, whereas the real sellers of handmade hardly making any money and having to work very hard at it, are still paying the listing fees, commissions, now promote listings(just found out it’s automatic, unless you deactivate it) and barely cutting even. Of course it is easier for someone to buy mass products from overseas at 10 cents an items and sell for $10 and claim it’s handmade. It seems Etsy makes the rules ,but doesn’t follow them, since they want the money. If this is fact why doesn’t they seller mention the products are from overseas?

  62. Good for her if she’s making that much money. She had a great idea, and worked on it !
    What’s everyone mad at her.

  63. The owner of tbn is a smart and saavy business woman. She also started the peanut shell, copied a bunch of infant slings on stay, made a robust business out of it then sold it right when the baby sling controversy surfaced. Later she started tbn.

    True she has a record of copy chatting and blurred lines when it comes to her story of how she produces her goods, but still a saavy business woman no doubt.

    It’s called hiring a PR firm, they immediately bump up all social media including likes and favorites on all sites, schedule media appearances etc. Branding that not one stay at home mom can do on her own.

    Again, a saavy business woman.

    What upsets me is the image that these local news stories or tv shows are portraying of her story without actually validating any of it.

    No, a stay at home mom is not simply sitting in her little art studio CREATING and producing her products and making 1mm a year. There’s more to this story, why not tell it?

  64. If one were to look up twisted headbands on Aliexpress they would find pictures of Alicia Shaffer’s so called sister “Alexa Gill” being advertised in the exact same photos, wearing the exact “handmade headbands” not only on one chinese exporters store but on many many different stores. Most of these items can be imported for pennies not dollars and be shipped to you for free. We might all be able to sell a million dollars a year if we wanted to, however I believe the front woman for this Easy shop is only that, a frontman and getting paid for her part. I think it is the actual manufactures or exporters are behind all this and the rest is just lies. This is not the only shop doing this, check out Pink Paisley Bowtique or Think Pink Bows. No one could possibly be making and selling that much junk. It is sad that so many people are being taken and buying from these shops. This is too lucrative for Etsy. It will never go back.

    • Think Pink Bows opened in 2010 and has 162,000 sales! Holy crap. That poor woman must never sleep! Whipping up all those headbands, packing them up and shipping them out, where DOES she find the time? Oh wait, there are 14 of them, all mommies doing what they love. Yeah right. Off to check out Pink Paisley next….

  65. ThinkPinkBows should be right up there as well! I’ve seen ALL of their items over Alibaba and they also claim to have had their pictures “stolen”. I think it’s a bunch of crap. The only reason the companies are using their pictures is because they made the products! They probably have an inside deal with them. There’s no way they’re buying, sewing, and putting together all of those products in 2-3 days. It’s all from China.

    • I just had to reply to this comment. Chinese manufacturers had been stealing pictures from etsy sellers for years now – it’s a serious problem. How do I know? Well our own pictures were stolen and then put on alibaba, thankfully another etsy seller spotted our products and let us know. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw it, they even removed our watermarks. We did manage to get the pictures off the site at the end, but the whole situation was very unpleasant to say the least. So please don’t jump to conclusions so fast – pictures do get stolen all the time.

  66. Now, if someone could just kindly expose the straight from China shop: Posh Peanut Kids
    Simply defeats the purpose of purchasing items that have size tags from shops on Ali Express or Ali Baba. And she claims to do it all herself- sells over 200 listings per day. How is it physically possible to make, pack, ship, list, reslist so many items per day.

    • Ordered 4 headbands from POSH PEANUT, only to find out the following week they get all of their headbands from Aliexpress, went online to confirm this was true, and found every single headband they are selling as “handmade”, in this China origin website for half the price, I was so upset I contacted Poshpeanut and sent them screenshots of their headband and prices and the ones from Aliexpress and they never answer me…. I tried to report it to the etsy team, and they did nothing about it, then I realized I was too silly to think they would take down a store thats giving them more than a million per year, good job etsy, dont believe in your “handmade” legacy anymore….go and fool someone else with it.

  67. You realize the fact her stuff is on Chinese websites does not mean she is sourcing from them. In fact they are more likely seeing what she sells and copying it. The model she uses is a US based model and an official spokesperson for her company so when pics of her show up on Asian websites it just shows they are ripping her off. A lot of her stuff is made in India. Heck she said it right there in the article but they do seem to be her designs and she has great ratings from buyers so they don’t seem to think it is cheap crap.

  68. Grace and lace does the same thing as she does with her own story and she even had barbara from shark tank as a partner . She use the same leg warmers etc. from china. She has few million dollars company now because of marketig with barbara. It started with lies but now they make money .

  69. David, check out her latest reviews. It seems like Etsy is allowing TBN’s owner to delete the negative reviews or they are being deleted by Etsy itself. We see negative ratings for a day or two, then they get deleted
    If you go to http://www.howetsyrapedamerica.com and read the comments on the very first post of that blog, someone actually posted a copy of a Bill of Lading showing the name of the manufacturer in China where she got the items from, the quantities, description, etc.

  70. No one can handcraft that many items and have 175 in stock of everything in an Etsy shop without a lot of help ie mass production from “globally sourced” vendors. I create very similar items (head wraps, leg warmers, fun accessories that are one-size-fits-most) and can only have 1 or 2 or maybe 5 in stock at a time because there are only so many hours in a day and I want a variety in my shop, but I am proud to say they are my designs and I made them (I get help from my daughters, but they are part of our shop so I feel great about that.) Along with creation, there is a business to run, a family to tend to and new designs to be drawn out. I work all the time trying to keep up. I don’t hate Alicia for making her shop amazingly profitable, hooray for her for success, but I do have to say I am saddened that she buys most of her things from overseas vendors and only really makes a few of the pony binder clips and is sucking business from others. I’m not a hater at all, she is doing very well and she should be commended. But it is hard to compete when Etsy is supposed to be handmade. I will keep doing what we do best and someday My shop may be there too with 90k a month…but I won’t be on Etsy if I didn’t make it myself.

  71. When my sister told me about this I did the math. To earn $70 -$ 80k/wk. This lady and her “8 woman” crew would have to knit and decorate 12 pairs of boot cuffs (@ $30) a day for 30 days straight to make that kind of money. To qccomplish the fabled $1 million/ yr. They would have to crank out an astounding 95 pairs a day. Sweat shop? Carpal tunnel anyone? Numbers don’t lie, but people do.

    • Poor thing. $60,000 a month…. she’s probably taking a rest, her arms must be so tired from counting all that money she, her little team, and her family makes. Hopefully Etsy pushed them out the door.

  72. As an Etsy seller of almost 9 years, score one for handmade! This seller was a joke, and I’m sure many of us reported her. I know the difference between hand and machine knit. She had the worst feedback, lying to her customers about shipping and bad quality. Why would anyone buy from a shop with that horrible feedback.

    Good riddance!

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  76. I live in Australia and with my daughter have just started a handmade little girls dress line. We have been sourcing sites other than Ebay including Etsy. But after seeing so many items which are sold on the China site Aliexpress (for practically nothing) listed on Etsy as “handmade” . We have decided to stay with Ebay and local markets. No person making really handmade items can compete with China, we all just have to hope buyers will like our one off’s rather than just being one of the crowd.

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  78. You guys are really clueless on here, but love to complain about other people’s success. You don’t know their story (regarding Three Bird Nest), you just make a lot of assumptions. There are enough customers out there for everyone, you just don’t know how to run your business yet if you aren’t getting them. Don’t blame someone else for your lack of success. Oh and the beautiful “model” that someone was complaining about on TBN isn’t from Alibaba, that is the owner’s daughter. Alibaba must have stole their pics to make their own sales with their products. Happens all the time. IF YOU HAD DONE YOUR RESEARCH you would have seen that was the case. I don’t know her at all, but was curious myself. But I didn’t some research, unlike most of you complainers. There are a ton if items out there that aren’t completely handmade. People just put their little extra touch on them and call it that. Go get a life, and do something good, instead of spending your day on the internet being negative towards others and creating more hatred in the world. People like you drove her off of Etsy because she was one of the more successful ones, but what about all the others. If they kicked all of them off, there would be no Etsy. So is it ok for the person making 10.00 a year by selling questionable handmade items, you don’t know for sure who is making what handmade no matter what it is….you still don’t know if they made it or had someone else, what’s the difference. I know the answer you will give to that. As far as the people feeling ripped off, give me a break. You got what you paid for. One last thing, if a company becomes that successful, do you think they can continue to HAND MAKE a legwarmer or scarf themselves out of their home or wherever…. NO they would have to have someone help them produce it. It doesn’t mean just because they got it from a company that goes through Alibaba, that it wasn’t handmade. Do you know, did you ask her, did you find out or did you just compare on the two websites and make your negative assumption to the world that, that MUST be what she is doing. Grow up!

  79. Good Day,

    I live in South Africa, and was thinking of putting my hand knitted items on Etsy. Not anymore after people can have all their items on site, that are not completely hand knitted. It’s a joke how some people defend her.

    Regards
    Sheila

  80. I love articles like this. I am still on Etsy, I hand make every single one of my items by hand am am serioulsy sick and tired of all these shops selling mass-produced items.
    Even reporting them does nothing. I am not even allowed in the forums because I have spoken my mind too many times. Now after all these years, I cannot stress this enough.. still hanging in there but building my stand alone site with a passion

  81. I’m just curious….why does anyone care how much she makes? If anything, be glad that someone IS making money. What does it have to do with YOU personally? Why do you sit and figure out what she is making and how much per hour/day/month/year??…if you spent that much time on YOUR shop, maybe YOU might be more successful…sorry, but most of you sound like a bunch of sour grapes…it’s not YOU making the 80K a month, so let’s all stone her, because she IS…too bad, so sad, stop wasting your time, reading this and get to work on YOUR shop, so you can bring in some bucks! Now get to it!

    • The outrage is not about money or jealousy.

      Imagine this with me:

      There is a store at the local mall which sells original, local, handmade goods, I go there to find a unique gift for a loved one. I look around and find many suitable gifts whose tags say “homemade.” I purchase an adorable knit hat (“handmade with love” according to the sign). I didn’t mind paying $20 for it, because it’s handmade and certainly unique! I go home and look online at knit hats to see what a great deal I got and compare it to all the “plain old knit hats” online. But then I see it!!! My “handmade” knit hat on Alibaba for 0.75 cents!!!! Immediately I feel taken advantage of and ripped off.

      Now I ask you, do you think I would EVER go back to a store that allowed imported Chinese bulk goods to be sold as “handmade?” No. It doesn’t matter how nice everything else is…I have no way of telling what is a lie and what is really handmade, and I refuse to support a store who allows such lies and does nothing!!!

      This is the crux of the problem and outrage. This Etsy store and others like it sullies the name of stores which sell true handmade goods. A small number of buyers know your store name. When asked, most people will say, “I bought this from Etsy.”

      • I’m taking time away from posting and MY store, but I will answer this….again, MOUNTAIN out of molehill….so the answer is simple….don’t buy there!!!!!

        back to posting and minding MY OWN store 🙂

        hope you got the true meaning in this message, but I highly doubt it.

      • Same here! Ordered 4 headbands from this famous store on etsy called POSH PEANUT, only to find out the following week they get all of their headbands from Aliexpress, went online to confirm this was true, and found every single headband they are selling as “handmade”, in this China origin website for half the price, I was so upset I contacted Poshpeanut and sent them screenshots of their headband and prices and the ones from Aliexpress and they never answer me…. I tried to report it to the etsy team, and they did nothing about it, then I realized I was too silly to think they would take down a store thats giving them more than a million per year, good job etsy, dont believe in your “handmade” legacy anymore….go and fool someone else with it.

  82. I know an Etsy employee who will tell you that Etsy kicked TBN off their site. The pres that TBN were getting backfired and hurt Etsy. Etsy tried to work with TBN, but finally just gave up. The amount of money being made was a tad exaggerated, but TBN had a great publicist.

    Etsy was only a stepping stone to garner more traffic to their own site. Which is should be. But they were looking to be a #1 on Etsy kind of PR. Etsy is much more difficult to sell on, than in its first years. But the traffic and agreements with Google still make it valuable.

  83. Ordered 4 headbands from POSH PEANUT, only to find out the following week they get all of their headbands from Aliexpress, went online to confirm this was true, and found every single headband they are selling as “handmade”, in this China origin website for half the price, I was so upset I contacted Poshpeanut and sent them screenshots of their headband and prices and the ones from Aliexpress and they never answer me…. I tried to report it to the etsy team, and they did nothing about it, then I realized I was too silly to think they would take down a store thats giving them more than a million per year, good job etsy, dont believe in your “handmade” legacy anymore….go and fool someone else with it.

  84. It’s really frustrating how the definition of handmade is being convoluted. I’ve been looking at this hard today on Etsy and Amazon Handmade. It’s so frustrating to see the mass produced goods being sold as handmade. Are buyers really so stupid? I think this is going to make me take a longer look at what I am making and really try to focus on the truly handmade – metalsmith – and lampwork items that I sell.

  85. What ever Alicia does, and wherever she gets her raw material, she is one smart lady to get this business going, having 3 kids… Fair play to her.

  86. @leila I pretty sure you are not fully understanding the situation. Homegirl from Three Bird was buying the product from China/india, for pennies on the dollar, and selling them AS IS on Etsy. I was not simply raw material. She lied and deceived everyone.

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