Inspiration hour: Q&A with Sonia Lyne of Dandelyne

Ever wanted to just quit your day job and start living your dream? Well, that’s exactly what Sonia Lyne of Dandelyne did, and she couldn’t be happier.

Live Well

Ever wanted to just quit your day job and start living your dream? Well, that’s exactly what Sonia Lyne of Dandelyne did, and she couldn’t be happier.

If you’d told Sonia Lyne what her career would be 10 years ago, she wouldn’t have believed it. Working the nine-to-five with a long commute and very little time for creativity, she was constantly on the search for a spark of inspiration.

Five different career changes and several not-so-successful attempts later she finally found a winner. Now thanks to her creativity, persistence and hard work, she’s the woman behind a worldwide mini embroidery movement, plus one of Australia’s most successful Etsy crafting stores – Dandelyne, which sells mini embroidery hoops to stitchers and businesses all over the globe.

Tell us about your journey. How did it all start?

I started out in primary teaching, so the avenue I’m in now is completely different to where I started. I actually ended up working in London for five years, and while I was over there I was teaching and loving it, but dreaming about something more. I’ve always been crafty, ever since I was a little girl jumping on the sewing machine!

How did you get the idea for Dandelyne itself?

It wasn’t until after the birth of my third son and we wanted to get a family portrait done that I had an inkling of an idea. I didn’t want a normal photograph, I wanted to do something a bit different so I thought maybe I could make something. Of course, my head always goes to making something out of anything! I decided to hand stitch a quirky little cartoon portrait of us, so I hit the haberdashery aisle at Spotlight and found their embroidery supplies.

I stitched up my family, so to speak! As I was doing it I was wondering how I to make this a full time job.

I started doing portraits for friends and a few small designs. I was stitching and thinking, imagine if there was little miniature embroidery hoop so you could wear what you’ve stitched. I designed my first hoop and my husband helped me to laser-cut it. So it started there.

What inspired you to take your idea to the world?

At that point, I had been going through the whole craft world online. I’d tuned into Pip Lincolne of Meet Me At Mike’s and followed a few different crafters. Plus, Mollie Makes magazine had started coming out, so I was getting all inspired. It was the beginning of the craft revolution that’s hit the world by storm.

I found Etsy too, so I started listing a few things on there. I didn’t actually sell any of my designs but I got so many questions: ‘Where did you get the hoop? Where did you get the hoop?’ So we made more, and from there my business has really organically blossomed and with a lot of hard work, that’s where I’ve found myself.

Now I supply miniature embroidery hoops for stitchers and artists all over the world. I’ve got stockists in ten different countries and I’ve got stitchers all over the world who use my hoops to frame their own designs and then they sell them on so I’m enabling other beautiful women and men to start up their own businesses or expand the skills that they have within their stitchwork, handiwork and needlework and extend their product line. We’re doing smaller things to make it a more accessible pricepoint for people because, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of work involved when you’re stitching so being able to sell it at a pricepoint people can afford is important.

What do you love about running this business and crafting from home?

I don’t think there’s a negative! Because I’m a mum, once I’d had bubba number three, I didn’t really want to go back to a nine-to-five job. I wanted to be present, which I knew would mean quite a lot of sacrifice. It was hard work at first because I was doing everything at once, but it’s meant that we’re eternally happy because we’re doing what we love and modeling that to our kids. I feel the reason people always say I look so happy has to do with choosing to do what lights my internal fire and not giving up. I’ve had about seven career changes so there have been a lot of unhappy moments searching, but I never gave up.

Working at home, and being your own boss, is pretty fantastic. I love being able to have that freedom to go, you know what, I want to just duck out and have a coffee. And I can! Social media is just the most valuable tool for my business too, and I can do that from anywhere. I can be working from absolutely anywhere because I have the whole exposure of social media to keep my business running and keep sharing my passion.

What drives you?

For me, it’s teaching stitching and sewing. I’ve worked as a teacher and I’ve always wanted to make sure I’m helping people in some capacity. It was really weird for me to head down the embroidery road as initially I felt like I was being quite selfish because it was me enjoying what I was doing all on my own. I thought, ‘how is this going to be giving back at any point?’ But it’s turned out that by sharing my passion I have been able to give back. For me, the key to happiness is: do what you love and others will love it too. So it’s started a whole butterfly effect where I’m creating a happiness that other people want to join. It’s fantastic. Now I can teach people to stitch and that’s so rewarding. You can see they get their mojo and it’s so good! My whole business is helping other men and women start up their businesses. I receive really beautiful emails from other makers who are so grateful that the little hoops enable them to start up a business of their own and that melts my heart. I didn’t realise how much my business would give back because, initially, I thought it was a selfish choice, but it’s turned out to be not at all.

Do you have any advice for people who are starting out?

Never give up on what you’re doing. For me personally, I remember starting with that portrait and thinking that although it was quite cute and sweet no one anyone else would like it, but it turns out that just through a little bit of sharing, there were other kindred spirits. There’s always going to be other people who don’t like what you do and there’s always going to be people who love what you do, but as long as you’re doing what you love there will be people who want to come on board and follow that journey with you.

I think for me the biggest thing is to never give up until you find what sort of medium or tool it is that makes your heart sing. For me, generally sewing was my biggest love and I hadn’t thought about the various tangents. It was always just on a machine. But once I started exploring crochet and knitting and weaving and dabbling in lots of different things, I realised there was so much more to it. Then I picked up embroidery and went, ‘this is the one that lights my fire’! So I would definitely say keep exploring and trying and not giving up until you find it and then it may change again! But I don’t think so. The fire’s lit.