The story of The Dainty Squid // part one

As part of my new blogging series, today I’m going to start sharing the story of how The Dainty Squid came to be what it is today. I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while now but the time finally feels right and it fits perfectly into this very important series. This story starts quite a few years back…

Around my junior year of high school I started an etsy shop. My passion at the time was making monsters. I was just sewing up these weird little creatures out of felt, and fabric. I gave them names and little back stories. For some reason people were pretty into them. I sold nearly every one of them that I listed within no time. I was tickled pink that someone would actually pay money for something I made. I even sold some to a few customers overseas which just seemed crazy to this teenager from a tiny little town in Ohio. I don’t think I really made too much money off them, and probably ate tons of money in shipping costs but it was fun.

My sewing skills were beginning to improve and I started making zipper pouches which people liked even more than the monsters. I was making a sale or two per week which was big for me. I didn’t realize that it was something I could do as a career or that I could possibly ever make enough money to support myself with it. It didn’t matter, I loved it anyway. I was flattered by the thought that people liked the things I was making and making some extra shopping money was super cool.

one of my first few zipper pouches. Pretty nice if I do say so myself.

While everyone else at school was talking about what college they were thinking of attending I was kind of freaking out because I knew that college wasn’t for me. Every single college representative who came in to speak with us basically told us it was college or you’re poor for the rest of your life. They put this incredible pressure on you to commit which is insane. I have to ask to use the restroom but I’m required to make life altering decisions RIGHT NOW? I feel like I owe a lot to my AP English teacher, Mrs. Britton, who was the only person in my school to support and be more than willing to talk to me about the fact that not going to college is an option. There are other things out there. She helped build my confidence in my decision to not come back to school the next year, while others only suggested going to college and just figuring it all out later. I only needed one more credit to graduate. In hind sight I should have considered this sophomore year, taken the extra English class as junior and graduated a year early. Of course, like any regular high school student I wasn’t thinking like that though. I ended up taking my final year of English through a home school program.

Even though it’s not exactly the complete truth I like to say that I was home-schooled my senior year so that I could work on my business. If I had gone to back to public school that last year things probably would have ended up a lot differently. Truth is it was hardly a business at that point, I was still selling things once a week or so but not having to go to school gave me lots of time to hone my skills and work on making my etsy shop, called “kaylah7” at the time, a bonafide business.

Over the next year or so I perfected my pouches, I stockpiled supplies and I sewed my butt off. My etsy shop was gaining momentum and I was a feeling like a full fledged business. I was selling these pouches to people all over the world. I had regular customers who came back and bought nearly every new fabric and style I came out with. Eventually I was even beginning to be contacted by brick and mortar stores. These pouches, made in a little corner of my parent’s house, were HOT.

I’m not sure how it even happened honestly. I don’t think I could do it again so beautifully if I tried. I kind of want to credit myspace with a lot of my business’ early success. At the height of myspace’s popularity I was a bit of an addict. I spent lots of time working on snazzy new layouts, had thousands and thousands of friends and I was using “bulletins” to promote my etsy shop like crazy. Around this time I was also pretty well rooted in the flickr community so I was also promoting my products over there. I was queen of shameless self promotion. I’m honestly super embarrassed now to think about how many myspace bulletins I posted about my products but hey, it worked!

I was starting to see the full potential of my sewing business and all it could be. What could I do to make it bigger? How could I show more people what I was making? It seemed simple, I would start a blog.


Find part two here.

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  • Great post!
    I haven't been following you that long and it's so lovely to hear the back story. Can't wait to read the rest of the series.

    Plus, I would so buy alllll those things now! Larry is my spirit animal!



    • Hahaha, thanks! While I was going back through all my sold orders I was dying laughing at all the hilarious descriptions I wrote. It's kind of really embarrassing.

  • Maybe I'm wrong, but Mrs. Britton sounds about the epitome of an awful teacher. "She helped build my confidence in my decision to not come back to school the next year" Are you serious? To tell a 17 year old to not go back to school to focus sewing pouches? My senior year of high school, I was busy every day out of school with band, cheer leading, dance class, piano lessons, a boyfriend to occupy my time, and a job. And this woman convinced you that you needed to sew instead of getting an education?

    • That’s great that your senior year was so full of extracurricular activities, mine wasn’t. I did not thrive in that environment. Some kids are great in public school, others aren’t. While I got great grades, I hated being there. Going back to school to take one single class, and then sit around the rest of the day is absolutely a waste of time. Not going back was 110% the right decision for me, that shouldn’t even be a debate.

      She didn’t “convince” me to “sew instead of getting an education”, she reassured me it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t want to go to college and that if I felt I would do better not coming back and sitting around all day then homeschooling was an option. I wasn’t missing out on an education.

      I honestly don’t understand your need to be so negative, I feel like you’re just looking for things to pick on. Everyone has different ways of doing things, and different paths to success, just because someones is different than yours doesn't mean it's wrong.

    • I completely agree with you (Kaylah) and I wish I had a guidance counselor like that. I completely relate to the college thing. We were hassled SO much every year in high school to hurry up and figure out what we wanted to be and where we wanted to go to school. I felt so rushed and like if I didn't make a decision, I'd be a homeless person or something. So I did. I went to Purdue University. And I hated every second of it. I ended up dropping out of college with no degree and thousands of dollars in student loan debt. I realized I didn't like college at all and I would rather work for myself at home. I'm SO happy I did that. College isn't for everyone! I really feel like high school counselors make you so terrified that you end up making rash decisions. And look at you now! Successful and practically famous! 😉 The amount of followers you have online is crazy amazing! You're an inspiration in so many ways to so many girls, including myself! And that, is definitely a win in my book!! Loved this post! Thanks so much for sharing!! 🙂

    • Telling people that college is the only way to be happy or successful is not always the best advice either. Not everyone has or needs the same experiences and that's ok too.

  • I remember when you made those super cute pouches, but never knew you made monsters, those are freaking adorable! I really enjoyed this post, I'm always interested in people's back stories.

  • Um, wow, I LOVE that you are sharing this back story with us, thank you!! I'm happy I have a couple of your sweet pouches and can I just say that I soooo wish there would've been a Mrs. Britton in my life during high school! Looking forward to the rest of this series 🙂

  • I LOVED reading this and can't wait for the next one! Mrs. Britton sounds like a great teacher. Is there a way that you can still get in touch with her and show her what a success you have become (if you haven't already) I'm sure she would love to see who you have become!
    Pretty Lovely

    • Thanks, Jordyn. She's actually my facebook friend but I'd feel so silly contacting her to tell her this. I feel like she was one of those teachers that really impacted a TON of people.

  • Oh kaylah not fair! I wanna read the whole story now, gotta wait until thursday? =) your teacher was amazing, really. Probably she was open minded and understood your needs, I'm glad she was in your life that time. I went to college by choice and was kinda shocked that 2 of my friends didn't want to go. By that time I thought that was tne only choice because society and my parents told me so. In my first college year I understood that you can have sucess in your career without college gradution since a lot of my friends where doing better money then people that studied for 5 years. With this world economic crisis doesn't make much sense to go to uni to have the best jobs anymore.

    Can you post the other part of the story tomorrow? 😀

    • Haha! Thanks Marta!

      It really is scary how hard college is pushed on kids. Some people go to college, and it's perfect for them but that's absolutely not the case for everyone.

  • I love hearing your story! Thanks for sharing. Your monsters were so cute and I love how you named them and gave them a story. Those pouches are amazing! Love the fabrics you found. No wonder people went nuts over them!

  • I'm a new reader (I actually found you because I just got braces….at 30! and your blog popped up when I was researching) but it was really interesting to read your story. I home school my kids and I love the idea that when they are older they will have the time and opportunity to, learn, work, create, etc., instead of being stuck in school all day. Good for you for taking that opportunity and making it into a career. And btw, my 8-year-old loves trying new hair colors (just temporary for now) and she thinks yours is awesome 😉

  • this is fun to read! thanks for sharing the back story for those of us who found you more recently.
    i wish i would have known you back when you made that squirrel pouch. or anything with that fabric. so cute! i would have snapped that up in a heartbeat!

    • …Wait, have you not been around for long? That sounds weird but your sweet comments always stick out in my mind so I kind of feel like you've been around for a while. 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing your story! Although I'm not anywhere near as successful as you with my Etsy store, I have a very similar background of not going to college and completing high school through independent study. Although I've been following your blog for quite some time, it's cool to get the full story of how you started out!

    I can't even believe that people are viewing your decision to not go to college (and having others encourage you to do the same) negatively. It obviously worked out very well for you. And, well, even if it didn't, who cares? Haha 🙂

  • I can't wait to read the rest, so inspiring!! I got your postcard today and it made my DAY!!! Its all grey and rainy and that card was totally the bright spot in my day!! I'm stoked you enjoyed the teeth and I must say I'm terribly jealous of your fantastic handwriting! So little and pretty!! Have a fantastic evening!

  • Hey me neither on the college boat! It can be a bit disheartening sometimes with all the pestering and pushing in that direction. I became a yoga instructor my junior year of high school and was home schooled my senior year. What a funny coincidence. Anyway, darling monsters and cute pouches! I'm excited to read the rest of the story.


  • Wow Myspace. This brought me back. You lucked into such a perfect career; pretty damn awesome 🙂

    I can see why your pouches were hot, by the way – they look incredible. And the fact that you literally handmade each one is I'm sure part of the reason why people were so obsessed with them.

    Can't wait to hear the rest! 🙂

  • I had one of your pouches! It was this amazing fox fabric and I used it to keep little bits and pieces from floating around in my handbag. Unfortunately my handbag was apparently extremely filthy and eventually it was far too dirty for me to feel comfortable enough to pull it out of my bag in public haha. My bad! I really want to buy one of your new ones though so I hope you can stock more soon 🙂

  • Those monsters and pouches are ace. This has been an interesting read and I look forward to part 2. It's annoying how schools push towards students going to college. Mine was the same and I ended up going to study a degree it turned out I wasn't interested in at all. I wished someone had just told me to take a year out and figure out what I wanted to do.

  • Hey, Kaylah! I'm glad you started this series about blogging; I've been reading yours since you were making pouches, but the variety of subjects you wrote about (and beautiful photos) keep bringing me back! You actually inspired me to start collecting and pinning insects. 🙂

    I never went to college either, and sometimes I daydream of the experience, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the field (there are many people with jobs that are unrelated to the subject they studied). I see it more as an alternative way to get your foot in the door. Especially considering the arts industry, with dedication and perseverance, it is possible to become your own teacher. It's not easy, but it proves initiation and dedication, and sometimes that's better or even preferred in the long run.

    That's the amazing thing about the interwebs these days: blogging, social media, sites like Etsy and Kickstarter, make it easier and possible to start your own business and do what you love, no matter how obscure it may seem. It's a great time to be an entrepreneur.

    Anyway, enough rambling… I'm looking forward to future posts on the subject!

    Take care,

    Sasha B.

  • Yay! 🙂 wow. I am so super excited about this series! I have wanted sooo many of my fave bloggers to tell me how they got started. I am constantly befuddled by how you actually make money from blogging though, so I can't wait for that. Anyway thank you for your inspirations, I am sorry that you have to be putting up with people's small mindedness as to your profession. Looking most forward to your as always 🙂 🙂

  • Aw, I remember your zippered pouch days so this was a lovely read. I'd not seen the monsters before but they're super cute! And, personally, I find it refreshing that your teacher was so supportive in not taking the expected route. When I was at school, there was so much pressure on everyone to go onto university. Given the chance over, or a bit more time to figure out what I really wanted to do, I don't think I would've gone down the same route.

  • some of those pouches are so cute that if you were selling them right now I'd be placing an order. I -LOVE- the skeleton in the chair and the rulers.

  • I can't wait to hear more of your story. I'm really glad your English teacher supported the option of not going to college. I wish people wouldn't feel like college is their only option. Often times it's just a debt trap.

  • This post is gold. I've been following your blog for quite a few years, but this post dates your story before my time. I'm so glad you decided to share this with us, as I had always wondered exactly how you got your start. I can't wait for the rest of this series! Good work!

  • I have read your blog for years now!And it is one of my favorites, no doubt. I can remember when you made the pouches,still fun to read your full story like this! great idea!

  • You are so talented! I wish I could sew. Maybe I'll learn some day because this is truly inspiring. Love your creations and I'm not suprised that others loved them when you first started 🙂

  • Besides this being a fascinating insight into your blog (it feels like you very own superhero origin story) it's also such a fun read! Looking forward to part two already 🙂

  • I've been following you for very long now, but I never had any idea that this was how it all started! Really loved reading this, and looking forward to part 2. 🙂