hand dyed yarn by lichen and lace
Clover Cottage and Wildflower Whimsy are mini skeins dyed by Megan Ingman and named by ChatGPT.

Photo courtesy of Megan Ingman.

Generative AI is the new hot topic in tech. You’ve likely seen it mentioned all over the place, and perhaps you’ve had a chance to play with ChatGPT, the natural language processing tool from OpenAI.  We were curious to see how craft business owners are putting this new tool to work to increase efficiencies in their businesses. 

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is “generative AI,” meaning it’s a chatbot that allows you to have very human-like conversations with original text that it writes on the spot. ChatGPT is a large language model that was trained on the vast amount of text available on the internet. Accessing ChatGPT is free. You set up an account and then begin using it right away. Once you enter a prompt and read its answer, you can further refine it as many times as you’d like to get closer to what you’re looking for.

ChatGPT has gotten so much attention because it’s remarkably capable of generating original content, and while we wouldn’t recommend it replace human writers, there are practical applications for this new technology. Craft business owners have already begun to find many ways to incorporate ChatpGPT in their workflows. Here are six use cases to consider.

A starting point for writing

Writing tasks are part of running a business. From ecommerce listings to Instagram captions, to email newsletters, we all have to compose our thoughts on the page at some point, but facing a computer screen makes it hard to get started. ChatGPT is a great way to generate some copy to kick things off.

“I love to write but I have trouble getting started because there is always something that needs doing that takes less brain power,” says yarn shop owner LeeAnn Petropoulos who has used ChatGPT to help her begin writing tasks. “Although I do really extensive editing to fill in gaps and add my voice, it gives me a starting point so I don’t procrastinate for so long. Rather than start from scratch, I prompt ChatGPT to write a draft for me, then take it from there.”

Remember, you can refine your prompt to make the paragraphs ChatGPT generates more specific and better matched to what you’re aiming for, then begin editing and adding your own unique touches.

A way to generate responses to customer service queries

As a craft business owner, you are often on the receiving end of customer inquiries and sometimes those customers are frustrated or rude. When you’re working hard on your business, getting these sorts of messages can take an emotional toll, making you feel angry or defeated. Rather than struggling to come up with a graceful response when you’re upset, copy and paste the angry email into ChatGPT and ask it to generate a graceful response. After all, ChatGPT is a bot. It’s totally removed from the situation and can help you find a way to reply to your angry customer without involving your own emotions.

ChatGPT can also be used to examine your customer service inquiries en masse to determine frequently asked questions and come up with ways to respond to address them. “Friends in my mastermind are using ChatGPT to organize customer feedback given on social media,” says Amy Small, the owner of the yarn company Knit Collage. “For example, asking it to summarize the top pain points for my customers based on all of these Facebook comments. Then use that to create an email subject line that answers their top pain point. Powerful stuff!”

A way to create rough drafts for longer pieces of writing

If English is not your first language or if you’re simply not confident in your writing skills, consider having ChatGPT write the rough draft of longer pieces of writing for you. These might include blog posts, answers to Q&As you’ve been asked to write, or long captions for social media. You can even ask ChatGPT to write your bio and the text on your about page.

Another approach is to write a draft of the text yourself and then paste it into ChatGPT and ask it to rewrite it for you, tweaking the tone, for example.

“For people like me who have problems with writing it has been a big help,” says designer Wendy Sloan. “I have been held back for a very long time because of embarrassment about my written communication. I have found that it helps a lot to correct run-on sentences and organizes repetitive and scattered statements. I never ask it to just generate something from scratch. I always phrase it: ‘rewrite this text for a sign’ and then paste what I already wrote. What comes back is my own ideas and words organized in a way that makes sense.”

A powerful brainstorming tool

ChatGPT can also be a useful brainstorming tool. Consider it to be like a colleague that has a different set of ideas that you might not have thought about. When researching an idea, rather than using Google and getting pages and pages of articles to choose from, consider using ChatGPT as a refined search engine that gives you exactly what you asked for.

If you’re sitting in front of your computer thinking, “How many ways are there to describe a sock?” ChatGPT can get you unstuck

“I used ChatGPT to come up with course names and outlines, course email copy, Facebook ad copy, and more. It’s not perfect but better than staring at a white page,” says Small. “It jumpstarts the creative process.”

Stephanie Carswell, the owner of UK-based craft kit company Hawthorn Handmade, has also used ChatGPT as a brainstorming tool. “I’ve used it to help with product descriptions, slogans, and social media. I’ve been careful to edit it to keep things in my voice, and I often get it to rewrite something I’ve written quickly (and pretty scrappily!) I give it prompts to be more quirky, fun, creative, etc. which helps a lot. It’s helped me get out of writing blocks and sped things up so much for new product launches.”

A name generator

Even creative people run out of ideas sometimes. When it comes to naming new colorways, for example, our creative wells can run dry. ChatGPT can help!

Indie dyer Megan Ingman gave it a try for naming a mini skein set of yarn she’s dyed. She ended up choosing nine of the potential names it suggested including Wildflower Whimsy, Lilac Retreat, Amethyst Isle, Peony Mews, Clover Cottage, Wild Rose Haven, Goldenrod Forest, Meadow of Lilies, and Buttercup Cove. Inman says so far Wildflower Whimsy has been the most popular from this release.

A way to write patterns and other kinds of technical instructions

Perhaps one of the most surprising tasks ChatGPT is capable of is writing technical instructions for things like knitting and crochet patterns. While they’re not perfect, and there have been some hilarious videos demonstrating their flaws, the patterns it writes are actually a solid starting point according to several designers we spoke with.

“I asked it to write a top down yoke style pattern in our yarn, a specific gauge, and for a set finished size. It did it in less than a minute,” says Small. “Then I asked it to grade the sweater into 5 sizes, it did it again in seconds. I think I could have gotten more specific about formatting by giving it our style sheet that we use to create a better end result.”

Ruth Brasch is a technical editor for knit and crochet patterns. She asked ChatGPT to write a pattern for a double crochet worsted weight hat and it was remarkably good. She says ChatGPT could be a useful tool for designers when it comes to doing the math involved in pattern writing. “Grading garments is a learned skill and to be honest ChatGPT feels like cheating,” she says. That being said, it does make mistakes and someone who is inexperienced may not know enough to spot them. “Don’t start with ChatGPT as a pattern writer if you’re new to the industry,” she advises.

Caveats: Watch out and edit

While AI-generated copy can be useful in these and other ways, it’s still vital to read over and edit the text it generates to edit out inaccuracies and infuse your own unique voice. “I feel that it really falls short on storytelling, capturing the voice of a brand and other compelling elements that build engagement, trust, and ultimately loyalty to a brand,” says Leanne Pressly, owner and president of craft marketing firm Stitchcraft Marketing. “I think real, creative people are still going to have to bring that ‘sparkle’ to their marketing in order to be really successful.”

Integrations are everywhere

ChatGPT and other large language generative AI models are popping up all over the place as integrations into many of the apps craft business owners use all the time. Shopify has launched “Shopify Magic” which uses AI to write product descriptions. It’s also now part of Canva, Notion, Slack, and soon Google and even Etsy.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities for Generative AI,” Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said in the company’s most recent earnings call. “One is in search, no doubt. You might see it in the seller experience and making it easier for sellers to make listings. You might see it in the member services experience and having a better opportunity to get customer support. Our developers may be able to use it to make themselves more productive. So there’s lots of opportunity. We have a working group looking at all of it.”

As this technology increasingly becomes part of our day-to-day lives and business operations, new use cases will certainly pop up. Have you tried ChatGPT yet? How are you using it successfully?

Abby Glassenberg

Abby Glassenberg


Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

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