Behind the Scenes of my new 50 States Collection!

I am so excited to be launching my newest shirt collection, my Retro States collection, into my Etsy shop!

Since this collection is unlike anything I’ve ever done before, I wanted to give a little bit of background and talk about my inspiration and where I got the ideas from, and even little bit about even the process behind creating the products.

The Inspiration

The inspiration for this new collection started last month when my husband and I took our daughter to Michigan. (It was the first time any of us of ever been there and it was UH MAY ZING!)

While we were there, I noticed that a lot of people were purchasing and wearing items that said Michigan, Great Lakes, and Mackinac Island. Even I, who rarely buys new clothes, bought myself a Mackinac Island sweatshirt.

I tucked that observation into the back of my mind: people like to wear things with destinations on them.

Fast forward a few weeks. I was browsing Pinterest and I was noticing all these retro items: retro colors, retro shirts, retro pictures, retro fonts, and I thought, ‘Retro is super popular right now‘ and then it just kind of hit me – what if I combined these two observations I had, and did a retro style travel collection? I had some serious hesitations- it’s not my style, it doesn’t really make sense for my shop, I would have to choose a bunch of destinations… excuse after excuse, ya know what I mean?

And then I thought, ‘What if I did all 50 states?’ and I suppose you can guess what happened next!

The Process

This collection is unlike anything I’ve ever done before, so it took a lot of prep before diving in! To make my vision come to life, I ended up designing an entire font of these retro-style letters to pull from. I looked at a lot of retro style fonts, both 60s and 70s styles, then I combined elements from a bunch of different fonts to create the one I ended up using for the shirts. These are tall, bulbous letters with curves and a lot of attitude. They remind me of platform shoes!!

I had a full alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase, and copied and pasted the letters to spell out the names of the states. I was working in the app Procreate (which is what I use to make all of my designs) which made it incredibly easy to copy and paste, moving between layers as needed.

So, for example, I grabbed the uppercase A and then lowercase l-a-b-a-m-a (some letters I had a copy a couple of times) and then I put them on a different layer than the alphabet. I arranged them, erasing any pieces that I didn’t need, and then I would save it and then move onto the next state.

After I got done with all of the state names, the really fun part* began! I went back through and resized the state names so they were all approximately the same size, and then I colored them using palette using colors I pulled from retro photos on Pinterest. I decided on a dusty rose color scheme- muted oranges and purples and browns and yellows.

This part was definitely the most tedious- going through and coloring in each individual letter. I actually had to redo some of them because when transferred them to my laptop and placed the image on the T-shirt mockups, some of the lighter-colored letters disappeared underneath the soft cream color. I had to go back to my iPad and edit some of the colors before re-transferring the files and trying again.

*it was fun the first time, but more on that later šŸ˜‰

The Release

Between designing the font, doing all 50 State names, resizing them, coloring them, and transferring (and then re-coloring and re-transferring them), I had already invested a lot of time in this collection, more time than I had ever spent on anything else in my shop, but there was still much more to do! I still needed to place the designs on the shirts, make individual listings (including titles, descriptions, and search tags) for each shirt, design the mockups, and then publish.

This was a big task and quite overwhelming, so I decided to stagger the launch of the shirts and release a few at a time. The plan was to begin on a Monday, list 5 per day, and have the collection completely listed by the following Friday.

Monday began great- I got Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, and California completed, mocked up, and listed. I got a great response from my Facebook page fans and was excited and motivated to keep going!

Tuesday was much the same. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, and Georgia were all completed and listed. I was so happy to be 20% done! I was getting into a flow and only spending about an hour per day on the listings.

The Problems

And then… Wednesday.

On Wednesday, I woke up early to get the next 5 states listed and mocked up. I had just finished Hawaii on my dropshipping site and hit “Submit” to push it to my Etsy drafts when I got an error message. I thought, That’s annoying, the site must be down. So I waited a few minutes and tried again. I didn’t have any trouble placing the design, adding the title and description, or inserting my prices, but I got another error message when I tried to submit it.

So I tried again, and again.

To make a long (and very dramatic) story short- the dropshipping site I use made the decision to stop accepting new apparel designs because they were so backed up with orders. Things like mugs and phone cases were still available to use for new designs, but all shirts, sweatshirts, leggings, etc. were completely disabled.

In hindsight, I can see that it was a great business decision for them (as this was in late July and I still had orders from mid-June being completed); however, at the time, I was completely devastated and had no idea what to do. Should I pull the plug? Should I just wait it out? Should I switch to a new site? I couldn’t decide and reached out to my business coach in a blind panic.

(I left her a voice message sprinkled with sniffles and voice cracks because I couldn’t stop crying.)

She immediately got back to me and encouraged me to reframe my thinking. She is the one who enabled me to see that this was actually a good business decision and that they weren’t intentionally doing it to screw with me. She recommended a few print fulfillment sites that she had used and encouraged me to look into them. I felt much better after hearing back from her and spent the rest of the day looking at the sites she had recommended.

I chose one early the next morning (Thursday) and placed a sample order. The shirts were coming from two different fulfillment centers with one being in Canada, so I updated my Instagram community and let them know that the rest of the collection might be delayed by a few weeks. I didn’t want to work with a new site without getting samples, and I didn’t know how delayed they would be in getting to me.

Well, the samples got to me on Monday. That’s four days, as opposed to 6-8 weeks with the other site I had been using! The problem of long shipping times was solved, and the print quality was great!

The Problems (continued)

Unfortunately, I noticed that the lettering on the cream colored shirt was blending into the shirt. The colors I had used for the letters were too muted… which means that even though I knew I would be listing my shirts with this site, I needed to go through and darken the colors on all 50 shirt designs to make sure that the colors popped against the background. I also resized the images by blowing up and tracing over the originals so they would be as sharp as possible on the shirts.

So, I essentially had to redo everything. Resize, trace, recolor, re-transfer, re-mockup, relist. It took many hours of focused work (about 13 hours after I found the new supplier, who-knows-how-long before that!) but it felt so good when I hit Publish on Wyoming, the last state I listed.

The Happy Ending

All in all, I am thrilled with this new collection and truly hope that it’s a hit! This is definitely the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent on a single line of items, but I definitely think it was worth the time and effort. I am getting tons of new traffic to my Etsy shop and believe that these shirts will be really popular around the holidays.

If you want to check out and shop the new collection, you can find it right here!