UCLA student tailors creative outlet into embroidery business
Third-year communication and psychology student Andrea Karkafi holds hoops from her business, Los Angeles Embroidery. Started because of boredom and a need to channel her creative expression, she said she hopes to eventually turn the hobby into a part-time job. (Harold Lee/Daily Bruin)
Oct. 30, 2021 7:41 p.m.
This post was updated Oct. 31 at 9:55 p.m.
Andrea Karkafi is stitching her way to success.
The third-year communication and psychology student created her business, Los Angeles Embroidery, during the pandemic out of boredom and an eagerness to find a hobby that channeled her creative expression, she said. After learning how to stitch over the course of five months, Karkafi said she began selling embroidery hoops, tote bags and wallets through Etsy and Instagram. Now, she said her business mainly focuses on embroidery hoops for wall decor that she can create with a couple of tools.
“I wanted a hobby that was … something I could really take and be really creative with,” Karkafi said. “I’m not an artist – I don’t draw or paint or play musical instruments, so (embroidery) is really something that allowed me to be super creative and get my ideas out there.”
Karkafi’s business journey began when she was inspired by her family to learn how to embroider, particularly when she frequently drove from Los Angeles to Texas to practice stitching with her aunt and grandma, she said. For details such as basic stitches, Karkafi said she used YouTube and Pinterest for practice and inspiration. Once she felt ready, Karkafi said she began sketching her own designs, such as her home collection and her best-selling zodiac car charms.
The process begins with designing an idea on the app Notability using her iPad. She said she finds her inspiration from current trends or large fanbases. She said she then places the design in a wooden hoop and uses cotton fabric as well as string to embroider it all together in a process that can range from a couple of days to a week. The product is finished once she creates a backing for the hoop, which has her logo and name on it, Karkafi said.
Her newest project, a home collection, is a special interior design set that she is currently creating to put in different rooms throughout the house, such as one of a living room with a TV and a sofa, she said. Karkafi’s favorite work so far, however, has been her zodiac car charms, which she said are also the only items that are made to order on her Etsy.
“(Customers) can choose their zodiac sign and I embroider it onto a small three-inch-diameter hoop,” Karkafi said. “It’s a constellation and then I put little stars around it on black fabric.”
While creating the hoops is fun for Karkafi, one hurdle she had to overcome was branding her business, she said. When starting out, Karkafi said she did extensive research on marketing and found that spreading her business through word-of-mouth was most effective. Her cousin Muriel Lussier was someone Karkafi went to often for advice on styling her account, she said. Lussier, who works in media relations and communications in New York City, said a key aspect for Karkafi to focus on was making sure she was consistent with how she told her story online.
“A lot of the stuff that we talked about was around making sure she was consistent with the look and feel of her Instagram – the way she talks about the products and the customization that she does,” Lussier said.
Another customer who has been Karkafi’s supporter is her friend, Isis Doss-Wassily, a third-year human biology and society student. Doss-Wassily had bought a hoop from Karkafi before she had her Etsy store set up, and she said the process was professional despite the two being close friends.
“She treated me as she would any other customer,” Doss-Wassily said. “She put so much effort into it, and I still have the laminated thank-you card.”
From starting on Instagram to transitioning to Etsy, Karkafi said she is excited to see where her business can go from here. She said she has seen plenty of embroidery artists who use their talent to create full-time jobs for themselves, and she would also appreciate having her hobby as a part-time job in the future. Karkafi is excited to keep improving her artwork, she said, specifically through stitching more intricate and complex details.
“It’s been really fun,” Karkafi said. “Making something out of nothing is the coolest part for me – making something before when it didn’t exist, and then I created it.”