Post by Mary Callie Gisler. Photo (c) Hanna Paal.
Do-it-yourself writing is a unique niche in both the writing and blogging communities. I had the pleasure of interviewing blogger Hanna Paal, music student and part-time nanny and Esty shop owner based in Estonia. Paal also is the voice behind Pearls and Scissors, a do-it-yourself blog dedicated to “ideas and inspiration for a handmade life and style.” It’s also a personal favorite of mine. Here is what Paal had to say about her sewing, her blogging, and her do-it-yourself lifestyle:
How did you decide you wanted to start your own DIY blog? What were some of your biggest motivating factors?
I started blogging about 5 years ago. I knew there was a big community of Estonian crafters online on a site called isetegija.net where all the users could set up their own blog. I new very little about blogging back then, but I really wanted to be a part of that community and share my sewing with other like-minded people. After a year or so I felt the need to grow my blog. I had discovered do many wonderful do-it-yourself blogs in English and I new I wanted to be a part of a bigger community. So, I started my first blogger blog, which was focused on eco-friendly sewing.
I had just discovered refashioning and it became my main passion in sewing (still is). My blogging was rather sporadic and mostly just sharing my creations. Last summer I realized I wanted more from blogging, that simply sharing what I did wasn’t enough. That’s when I created Pearls & Scissors, a blog that aims to inspire more people to start creating a handmade life and style for themselves.
What are some of the goals you have for Pearls and Scissors? Where would you like to see your blog go in the future?
My main goal is to inspire people to be more creative in their lives and their personal style, and to enrich their lives with handmade things. I love sharing ideas and inspiration! I had a friend in high school, who really encouraged and inspired me to start sewing. I didn’t know if I could do it, and she kept cheering me on and telling me it was just a matter of practice. I’m so grateful to her, and I want to pass on that enthusiasm. I want to be that friend to somebody else, even if it is in a virtual form.
I’m not sure how the blog will evolve. I’ve really enjoyed the first 6 months of Pearls & Scissors, and I’m already planning some changes to take it to the next level. I want it to be a place to get inspired and to meet other creative souls. I’d like to see this little blog grow into a small community. I’m hoping I can share even more projects, tutorials and inspiration. These are my hopes and dreams, but we’ll see.. Sometimes life has it’s own plans, and they might even be better that I can imagine.
What do you enjoy most about blogging and managing Pearls and Scissors? What are some of the biggest challenges?
I love creating all the content. I keep a notebook with me to jot down post ideas and future projects, and it’s full of ideas I haven’t gotten around to yet. I really enjoy creating, so making stuff to post about is the most fun. I also love interacting with my readers. I try to answer all the comments and e-mails I get. The positive feedback is what makes it all worthwhile.
I would say that photography has been a challenge so far. I didn’t know anything about photography or photo editing when I started, and it was hard at the beginning. I’ve gotten much better at it, but I’ve still got a lot to learn. Also, taking pictures is a pain in the you-know-what during wintertime, since we only have a few hours of grim daylight. It’s hard to schedule school, and documenting blog posts into those few hours.
Another major challenge for me has been self-promotion. I’m the worst at marketing myself! I’d love to reach more people, but I find it hard to put myself out there and get my blog in front of more people.
Which one of your projects or posts has been your personal favorite?
This is the toughest question yet! Obviously I like everything I create, but if I had to choose, I’d say my favorites are the upcycled sweater socks, the chocolate box jewelry holder, and the blouse I made out of sleeves. Oh, and I love my very first wardrobe reinvention.
How do friends and family react when you tell them you are a DIY blogger?
As I said, I’m the worst at marketing my blog, and I’m also very shy about it in real life. It doesn’t come up often. All my close friends support my blog and my family also. From time to time somebody will come up to me and say they love my blog. It always makes me happy and even more motivated to grow my blog.
Your blog features some great photography! Do you take your own photos? What equipment do you use? How important do you think photography is to the success of a blogger and her website?
First of all, thank you so much for the compliment. Photography has been one of the areas I’ve needed to grow in the most. I really have to thank my boyfriend for taking most of the pictures, although I do take some of the pictures myself when he’s out of town. Sometimes I ask his sister to model for me, so I can create the visual I want. I also have a very good friend who I can put behind the camera when I need a couple of outfit shots. Currently I’m using my brother’s old Canon 400D with the kit lens, and I also have a 50mm lens. I edit all my photos in Photoshop CS5.
I’m a very visual person by nature, so photography is important to me. I love reading blogs with a clear and beautiful visual side, so naturally I strive for that on my own blog as well. Photography is one important factor when creating a successful blog, but the degree of importance varies depending on the type of the blog, whether you are telling the story in pictures or in words. All in all, great content is what makes a blog successful, and good photography is a bonus.
What piece of advice would you offer someone who wants to start a blog?
I’m not sure I’m the right person to give advice to others, but speaking from my own experience, I’d say that passion is the first thing you need to have. You have to be passionate about whatever you want to blog about. There will be challenges and difficulties along the way, and the passion is what will make you keep going. I’d also recommend gathering ideas and inspiration before starting. We all have those days when the creative juices are simply not flowing, and that’s when those ideas come in handy.
My final piece of advice would be: plan, plan, plan! Blogging takes a lot of time, so be sure you have enough time to create the type of blog you want, and plan all the blogging into your daily life. I started carrying my camera to school sometimes to take outfit posts, planning my sewing and photoshoots on weekends when I can do them in daylight, I do my style posts on weekends when I’m visiting my parents and don’t have my sewing machines with me, and so on. Good planning is what will keep your blog up and running even if you’re juggling a million things at ones.