Editor’s note: This post is a continuation of our series How I Got That Gig, where craft industry professionals tell us the story behind a great commission, job, freelance opportunity, or contract.In this installment, Susan Rodgers explains how her handmade Christmas stocking ended up on the International Space Station.
I’ve been selling my handmade sewn items online for seven years and every year I wonder if I should leave holiday items listed in my Etsy storefront past the end of December. Who could possibly need a Santa-themed dress in June? Or a Christmas stocking in July? In 2022 I decided to let the listings renew and see if there was any interest in Christmas items past the holiday season. I ended up selling only one holiday item in the off season.
As it turns out however, that one holiday sale was the most meaningful and amazing experience to ever happen to my small, handmade business.
A Custom Holiday Request in the Summer
In the summer of 2022 I received a message from a customer inquiring about a space-themed Christmas stocking I had listed in my shop. She was very interested in the item but had some specific customization requests. During a normal holiday season I wouldn’t be able to accommodate many requests but since this was July, and my slowest month of the year, I went ahead and decided to take the order.
The listing was for a standard sized stocking with a space theme. She made it very clear that the stocking had to meet certain dimensions and fabric content. The dimensions were much smaller than a normal stocking and required me to adjust my pattern. I was curious as to why she was so adamant that the stocking be a certain size and material, but I’ve made it a habit of not asking too many personal questions with my customers. I respect their privacy and simply let them know whether or not I can handle their requests. In this case, the answer was “sure why not!” I assumed the item was for some sort of “Christmas in Summer” gift exchange at a workplace, or among friends. I really did not think much of it except that the customer seemed very friendly.
Her last request was that I include a name on the stocking, a service I’ve never offered before, but because she was so nice during our conversations I decided to find a way to make it happen. I don’t embroider so that wasn’t an option, and fabric pens are too unreliable, so I ended up using a trick to print directly onto the fabric using my inkjet printer. The name she requested on the stocking was “Duke” and when I told her I would do it her appreciation was clear.
I finished up the stocking and mailed it off in early August. Shortly after it was delivered I received a lovely 5 star review from the customer. I then proceeded to completely forget about it and move on to prepping for the rest of the year’s business.
Do You See What I See?
Fast forward to December. It is just a few days before Christmas and I’ve finished up the last of my holiday rush. I’ve switched gears into making sure everything is ready for my family’s Christmas. I was at home, in my room wrapping presents when I received a message on Etsy. It was from the summer Christmas stocking customer! All she says is “Do you see what I see?” and then sends me this picture:
Susan made and shipped the stocking to the customer in the summer and had completely forgotten about it until this photo turned up in her inbox.
It took a moment for my brain to process what I was seeing. These are astronauts, in space, and that is the stocking I made hanging behind them!! I was stunned. I immediately replied, “Is this is real?” to which she went on to explain that her sister is an astronaut and she took the stocking up to the International Space Station!!
It is hard to fully describe the shock, joy, and honor I felt on being told something I MADE was now hanging in outer space and bringing holiday cheer to our astronauts. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Happy Holidays From The International Space Station
I shared the news with family and friends and everyone was absolutely thrilled. Never would I have ever imagined my small business, which I operate out of a small room in my home, would contribute to something at the International Space Station. I let the customer know how meaningful it was that she chose to trust me with such an important item. Again, she was so nice and shared a video with me from the astronauts sending a holiday greeting to the world where they mention the stocking:
A video holiday greeting from the International Space Station that gives mention to the stocking Susan made.
As of the writing of this article, the video has been viewed over 27,000 times. Incredible! The day after I received those messages I was in my kitchen listening to NPR and they shared an audio clip from the video and described my stocking. I was standing there, listening to the radio as they casually mentioned something I made. Absolutely surreal.
On Christmas Day the customer reached out once more to send me a “Merry Christmas” message from her sister, Nicole “Duke” Victoria Aunapu Mann, and some more photos of the stocking in space:
The custom stocking Susan Rodgers made hanging in the International Space Station. Susan printed “Duke”, astronaut Victoria Aunapu Mann’s nickname onto the space-themed stocking.
It has been the experience of a lifetime and reminded me that a handmade, small business, can do amazing things.
I will never forget, and will be forever thankful, that I was trusted with this order. As I told this story to friends and family during our holidays the joke was made again and again that my stocking was truly “out of this world.” Honestly, I think that describes the whole experience very well.
Susan Rodgers lives in San Diego CA where she enjoys the nice weather with her family. Susan has been sewing for years and loves making items for little ones to enjoy. She has two children who are her inspiration for everything. Check out her shop at www.shoplidora.com