Assorted buttons from Katrinkles.

Photo courtesy of Katrinkles.

Rulers and needle gauges have always had a big role in fiber crafting, but Katy Westcott of the handmade accessories company Katrinkles has managed to turn standard wooden tools into a recognizable handmade brand.

Westcott, who has a background as a fine jewelry designer, started her line of laser-cut and etched tools, buttons, and jewelry etched with illustrations for knitters, crocheters, and sewists, as a hobby. Over the past seven years, she has scaled it up to a direct-to-consumer retail operation with a custom and wholesale business that employs six people in addition to herself.

Making for fun

Katrinkles started much like many craft businesses: After Westcott took a workshop in laser cutting at a local makerspace in Providence, Rhode Island, she started making wooden buttons for herself and others, setting up an Etsy shop in 2012 after years of friends and family encouraging her to sell her work.

“My background is in fine jewelry, and I was knitting and crocheting for fun while working in the jewelry industry, so buttons are a natural intersection of those interests,” Westcott says of her focus on fiber-related products.

Westcott initially made all her products using a laser cutter at the makerspace. As her wholesale business grew, she took out a loan in 2014 to purchase her first laser cutting machine.

Katy Westcott.

Photo courtesy of Katrinkles.

“Having my own machine-made product development and manufacturing easier and faster.” Westcott has three laser cutters from a company in Connecticut called Jamieson Laser and her newest machine is an Epilog, which is made in the U.S.

“For me the best way to try out the different machines was to go to a trade show where manufacturers were demo-ing them,” Westcott says. “I chose based on what felt most intuitive. In my experience, each laser machine has its unique quirks regardless of manufacturer.”

In 2016, Westcott moved her business from the corner of her loft apartment in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to an 800-square-foot studio downstairs, with a second laser machine and her first two employees. In January of 2018, Katrinkles expanded to the space next door and then, after the building was sold, it moved to its current home, a 2,200-square-foot space located, fittingly, in a former textile mill in Providence.

“My two industries, jewelry and textiles, have a long history here in Rhode Island,” Westcott says. “My family has a long history in those industries and I am so proud to continue this legacy with my own small business.”

The laser cutter at Katrinkles headquarters.

Photo courtesy of Katrinkles.

Sock stitchmarkers just after being cut.

Photo courtesy of Katrinkles.

Some of the Katinkles team at Vogue Knitting Live 2019.

Photo courtesy of Katrinkles.

From creator to creative

 Westcott started out doing all of the designing, cutting, finishing, shipping, and customer service for Katrinkles herself. While she still does some of the woodworking, these days she’s mainly the creative force, drawing most of the animals and images by hand, before converting them to digital versions that are etched by the laser machines.

The Katrinkles line has expanded significantly from buttons and needle gauges — used to determine the size of a knitting needle when the numbers are hard to see — to stitch markers, project bag tags, and magnetic needle minders.

“I’m a knitter and spinner, so most of our products are dreamt up as I’m knitting,” Westcott says.

For her logo, Westcott initially used a photo of Katrinkles buttons stitched in red yarn over a laser cut “knit” background as her logo, and stickers of the stitched heart buttons sealed all of her packages.

“It felt very handmade, which I liked at the time,” she says. “I started using my official logo in 2017.”

This year, Westcott registered Katrinkles as an S-Corporation and also started offering her employees health and retirement benefits.

“When I took the leap and left my full-time job in 2014, it was largely due to the Affordable Care Act,” Westcott says. “I was no longer bound to working full time in order to have health insurance. … I’m proud to be able to offer those benefits to my employees and it feels like I’ve come full circle.”

Katrinkles product in action.

Photo by Jody Mckinley Photography. 

Balancing act

 While Katrinkles is a familiar brand at fiber events, such as Vogue Knitting Live and Indie Untangled (which, full disclosure, I organize), custom wholesale for customers such as yarn shops and indie dyers, is a much larger part of the business than retail.

Technology is a big part of how Westcott and her staffers organize the two divisions. The team uses the list-making application Trello for project management, assigning retail orders a green label which helps keep them separate from the wholesale orders, and Shipstation to streamline the shipping of orders from their Etsy shop, katrinkles.com, and katrinkleswholesale.com.

Westcott started out with a shop on Etsy and still has a small presence there because the shop still receives traffic and sales, though “each listing clearly states that the prices are lower on my own website so I’m surprised anyone still purchases through my Etsy shop.” She uses Shopify for her wholesale website and Squarespace for retail.

“Originally my website was Squarespace and I kind of hacked it to have a secret wholesale website behind a password-protected wall,” Westcott explains. “It worked pretty well, but since I wasn’t using it in the way it was intended to be used there were some loopholes that created issues. I decided the best fix was to move wholesale to katrinkleswholesale.com so the wholesale and retail shops would be completely separate. Using Shopify instead of Squarespace for this was mostly so I could try out the features in a different platform that I’ve heard so many good things about.”

“Learn anything you can”

While Westcott had some formal business training by managing the wholesale accounts for a goldsmith in New York and later creating collections of custom costume jewelry for retailers, she has had to learn new skills, such as marketing and which outlets are worthwhile for advertising.

She primarily reaches customers through Instagram and the knitting social network Ravelry. “The Ravelry ads generate a lot of traffic to my website,” Westcott says.

She believes in continuing education and encourages craft business owners to take workshops and find free or low-cost government-run programs.

“Learn anything you can and take advantage of every opportunity you can find,” Westcott says. “There are a lot of resources available for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In Rhode Island we have CommerceRI and local chapters of the Small Business Administration and the Center for Women and Enterprise. … I also recently started working with a business mentor through a government program called SCORE. I’m so thankful for all that I’ve learned through these programs.”

Lisa Chamoff

Lisa Chamoff


Lisa is a freelance journalist in the New York Metro area who specializes in home design, real estate and healthcare. When she’s not writing, or knitting shawls and sweaters, Lisa runs Indie Untangled (www.indieuntangled.com), a marketplace and blog that promotes the work of yarn dyers, pattern designers and crafters of knitting-related accessories.

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