Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fall Finishes that weren't for the Craft Fairs

During my hectic craft fair preparation, I made a commitment not to work on craft fair stuff on Sundays.  My religious faith places great emphasis on not "working" on Sundays (when possible, we all know there are many professions that need to be available 24/7) and reserving that day for worship, service, rest, and family time.  I'll admit it was tempting to break that commitment because I felt so overwhelmed and like I had so much to do... but it was important that I took a break.  Most of the time, I didn't sew at all on Sundays but I made one exception when I decided to make the baby's Halloween Trick or Treat bag:

Man my bag making skills have really improved since I made the first Trick or Treat bag about six years ago ;)

And just after the craft fairs finished, I wanted to challenge my brain after so much monotonous sewing and make something a bit challenging for me: a knit dress in a pattern I never tried before.  I made the Me Hearties dress by Patterns for Pirates in a 5T out of "Cattitude" in plum by Lizzy House.

This dress was surprisingly easy and Charlotte adores it!  She has been wearing it every chance she gets.

She has a thing for this print by Lizzy House.  I made the Oliver and S Rollerskate dress out of the same print in quilting cotton about two years ago and she LOVED it.  It now fits her like a tunic and it's still cute.  It's so fun that Andover fabrics re-released this print on knit.

Aahh... this post makes my heart happy.  I really do sew for the love and joy of it....  I don't know if I could ever only focus on making things to sell...........

Monday, November 28, 2016

Craft Fair Part III: The Shows

 Well, I have had some rough spots over this weekend and insomnia is the result: I am pretty sure I left my handmade Aragon Echino diaper bag in a parking lot on Friday and tonight I sliced my thumb bad enough to necessitate five stitches.  I can't sleep and need to distract myself from online Black Friday fabric shopping, so it's time to talk more about my recent experiences selling at craft fairs.

Originally, I just signed up to participate in a craft fair at my son's school, but I soon became unsure of putting so much effort into making for just one craft fair.  It was very late in the season to start applying to lots of craft fairs, all of the ones I researched were no longer accepting applications.  I saw a flyer at Joann's for Sunnyside Christian Church and was able to get on the waitlist.  Two weeks before the Sunnyside craft fair, I was informed that I was off of the waitlist and had a spot.  I have since learned that being accepted to shows very late into the season is a big red flag, it probably means that there is not a big demand to vend within them and there is desperation to fill all of the spots.  Luckily for me, I was very satisfied with my experience there, so I guess I really lucked out.

On that note and somewhat curiously, the folks at Sunnyside gave me a really nice spot to vend- right by the main entrance where everyone entering the fair came in.  The stream of customers was quite steady and I made my first sales within a few minutes of the craft fair starting.

Here's my setup.  Since this church is only about a mile from where we live, it was easy for me to have Nick bring all of my stuff in and I came later to arrange it all the day before the show.

These next few pictures were taken at the end of the day and show how everything became a bit disheveled.  This rack was an awesome yard sale find from the summer, just $3.  On the 8" long table, it didn't take over like it might have on a shorter table.

The patchwork dish towels were some of my best sellers, I sold nearly one dozen and this is what I had leftover:

I used clothespins to hang the many hoop Christmas ornaments for display on a bathroom shelving unit.  Most customers didn't seem to pay much attention to them and I sold none.

The policy of this craft fair was that vendors must set up the day before.  I brought Charlotte with me to do the setup and she had the great idea of hooking the bibs to the poles of this stand instead of setting them inside the shelves like I had planned.  Genius!

The whole day of vending at Sunnyside was fun, exhilarating, and exhausting.  I was very stressed with the poor wifi signal that made accepting credit cards on my Square reader very slow and frustrating.  I am definitely more of an introvert personality and found the task of interacting with so many people to be very tiring- I mean, there's a reason why some of my greatest happiness is being in my sewing room, sewing away in solitude!  I also had fun because the sales were very steady and it was so validating.  I was so tired from so many late nights of sewing but to see people appreciating and purchasing my work was simply awesome.

So I should explain that one reason why the Sunnyside fair went so well is because I many friends personally came by to the fair to purchase from me.  They knew I was going to be there because I posted about it, with pictures of my items, on Facebook.  I'd say about one third of my sales were to friends.  I honestly have to admit that I did not expect this.  My main motivation for posting on FB about the fair was to get feedback about what people like to buy and get advice about selling; I received a lot of helpful feedback from friends who have had experience with vending at shows.  I also have to admit, on a personal note, that it was a big confidence boost to have friends make the point to come by and say hi- several didn't purchase from me and that was absolutely fine- it really meant a lot to receive that kind of support and really made me feel loved.  I've written on here before about how lonely and rejected I've often felt here in Colorado but having so many be so kind was a big boost.

The RMCA (Rocky Mountain Classical Academy) Market Day was the following weekend after Sunnyside.  I spent that week making more items of my bestsellers from the previous show: reusable snack bags, dish towels, and bibs.  I also added a new item: the chalkboard travel rolls (which didn't sell at all).

I setup my booth the day of the fair, arriving there around 7 in the morning.  It took quite a while to carry it all in and set it up by myself, but I was ready by the time it started at 9.  I had a little more room to setup than I had at Sunnyside, so I brought along a borrowed clothes drying rack (shown right) to display lots of bibs.

So this fair was a big disappointment compared to my experience at Sunnyside.  I already had confidence in my items and prices since I had done so well previously.  I knew what the big problem was: there were so few customers.  It was not a popular fair to attend.  Apparently it was the sixth year they've hosted one, but I swear, the show felt like a ghost town!  At Sunnyside, I didn't dare leave to go to the bathroom- it was so busy!  (Well, I did once, of course).  But at RMCA, I was bored and there wasn't much of a need to be strictly at my booth the entire time.  I saw some people come into the vendor area who didn't bother to walk around and check out all of the booths; there simply weren't many "serious shoppers."

My biggest customers at RMCA were other vendors: two women nearby came by and bought bibs.  It's kind of sad if nearly half your sales are from other vendors- sales like that should be a "bonus," not the majority of one's profits.  The day was depressing and boring.  I brought cross-stitch to work on and chatted a lot with the girl seated behind me (this was her first fair ever and her items were adorable and impeccable! I tried to assure her that the slow day was not due to her awesome and gorgeous stuff).

The fair organizer checked in with me at the end of the day and asked me how it went, when I told her my sales were nearly quadruple more the previous week, she was a little defensive.  It was awkward for me because I didn't want to be rude or ungrateful; but I really think anyone would've noticed how empty the whole day was, it was SO slow.

At Sunnyside, the fair organizers asked all vendors to donate 10% of their proceeds to the church.  I made $369 there and donated $37 as requested. The RMCA was a $40 flat fee, I made $101.  Most of the money went back into the family bank account to cover the many costs I had accrued.  I do plan to use some of the money to clean and service my machine, which has seen so much use that it is once again sewing on it's own and acting a little crazy.  I have also used some of the money to indulge in some fabric shopping; shocking, I know.

In my next post about the craft fairs, now that I've covered a lot of the logistics, I will try to go more into my thoughts and feelings about the whole experience as well as future plans for selling handmade items.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Craft Fair Part II: Cost of Materials

I think it's important to talk about the cost of the materials I had to purchase to make all of my craft fair items.  It is true that making is not cheap and I made a lot of items that required more than my fabric stash.

My favorite purchase was the KAMSnap Setter Starter Pack, I purchased it on Amazon with 100 sets of snaps for about $18; I ended up buying more snaps after I'd used so many.  I am very happy to have this tool and would recommend it to everyone.  I will never use velcro again and have already removed the velcro off of our family bibs and applied the snaps to the older bibs.  

Also pictured below is a whole bunch of colorful ribbon.  I got a set of about 20 spools for $7.50.

I really like the Dritz "Quick Turn" set I bought at Joann's for about $5- perfect for the small tubes of fabric one uses to make the Chapstick key rings.  I also used a fair amount of 1/4" washable tape instead of pins for positioning the chalkboard fabric squares within their fabric frame.

Other items I bought for the craft fair:

  • A set of business cards printed from VistaPrint, $15 shipped.
  • a box of 150 "Thank You" shopping bags for customer purchases: $14
  • Display racks to showcase my items: my thrifting really paid off and I gathered these items now and then at yard sales over the summer.  I spent about $10 on all of them and look forward to using them repeatedly.  I'll share my displays in the next post.  
  • Essex Linen for the large pouches and Christmas fabrics for the towels and ornaments (ordered off of Hawthorne Threads and Etsy, still have quite a bit leftover)
  • PUL and Blackboard fabrics ($6.50-3.49 per yard)
  • Pocket pack tissues, which I included with the purchase of a pocket pack cover (8 for $1)
  • Dish Towels ($5.99 for 3), tea towel set (12 for $18)
  • 4" wooden embroidery hoops (I found that the Amazon ones were of much better quality than the set I ordered on eBay- the prices were approximately $14 for a dozen)
  • wool felt and red pom poms
  • thread
Items I had in my stash that I used:
  • zippers
  • interfacing
  • batting scraps
  • fabric, fabric scraps
  • ribbon
  • circular split rings
  • vintage ric rac
  • wool felt
  • thread
As you can see from these lists, I really had to buy a lot of things!  It definitely cuts into your profits.  But the old adage is true: you definitely have to spend money to make money.  

I am embarrassed to admit that I really did not do a good job at keeping track of my expenses, which is Business for Dummies 101, right?!  I just got into so much of a frenzy of trying to order my supplies in a timely manner and I grabbed things at Joanns whenever I had the chance, I ordered some things online... it was all a bit chaotic!  Going forward, I vow to do a better job at keeping track of all of this.

Now, just for fun.  I will share the items I bought at the craft fairs where I was a vendor.  At RMCA, my son's first grade teacher was selling handmade items out of wood and got this steal of a deal for $10:

At the other fair, I spied this vintage embroidery piece when I was setting up the day before.  It was $14.  It obviously needs some TLC but I couldn't even buy the vintage kit for that price!  If you have any words of wisdom regarding removing stains from vintage needlework, please share!

Thanks for reading.  I'll be back soon to share my specific experiences with selling at the two craft fairs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Craft Fair Part I: What I Made

Brace yourselves for a LONG post!  

I am slowly recovering from the craft fairs I participated in and I think I am finally ready to blog about it all.  I will break up my "review" in several parts.  Today, I am going to share what I made.  There are a lot of pictures and I hope you enjoy all of the color.  Uploading all of these photos just makes me tired, let alone thinking about all that I made!  I will definitely admit that I accomplished far more than I thought I would be able to in a relatively short amount of time.  Here's how:
  • I stayed up really late most nights.  I didn't go to bed before 1 on most evenings for many weeks.  This wasn't ideal and I wouldn't have done this if it hadn't been for my tight timeline.  
  • I relied on my husband for lots of help and he pitched in with the kids, errands, and meal preparation.  He's always very helpful, so this wasn't too much out of the routine but I do think he did a whole lot more than normal and I give him a lot of credit for his help.
  • On a related note to that above, my husband has had lots of days off lately thanks to an adjusted work schedule that has given him many Fridays off lately.  We also had his dad visit just before Halloween and I sewed a lot while they did things with the kids and I stayed home with the baby (who is a champion napper).  
  • Did I mentioned my baby is a good sleeper?  My 18 month old always naps while my daughter is at preschool, this equals almost 9 full hours of sewing time each week.
  • We had a lot of illness leading up to the craft fairs and it was difficult.  There were many times where I just sat with my kids while they rested and they wanted mom nearby.  There were other times, however, where they slept and I sewed.  
  • I gave up a lot of other personal pursuits: exercising in the morning, leisure reading, time on social media, and some socializing with friends.  I still participated in church and church activities, my MOPS group, book club, and even went to Denver to met Liesl Gibson.  I tried to not completely abandon other priorities but I'll admit that I didn't initiate play-dates and get-togethers as often as I normally try to do.  This wasn't ideal and I couldn't have sustained this long term.  
One last note before all of my pictures; I did end up participating in two craft fairs, as opposed to just doing the one I initially signed up for for November 12.  Two weeks prior, I got off of the waitlist for the November 5 Sunnyside Christian Church craft fair (which proved to be a huge blessing, as I did really well there and the 12th was a bit of a disappointment).  More on all of that on another post.....

On to my "makes".....  

Reusable snack bags.  A few friends suggested I make these and they proved to be my bestseller.  They also might be my least favorite sew out of all the craft fair projects, as they are quite mindless and a bit tedious:

I lined these bags with PUL.  I sold these for $8 each.  It is a simple zip-bag, but the higher price reflects the difficulty and annoyance of working with the slippery lining fabric.

I really focused a lot on making patchwork dish towels, as a friend told me she completely sold out of these at a craft fair.  I thought it was a good idea because everyone has a kitchen, not everyone has a baby or child to shop for.

I bought these nice quality, large kitchen towels at Marshall's and TJ Maxx in 3-pack sets for $5.99.  I embellished each one with strips of 2" finished patchwork.

These were big sellers at the first craft fair, which compelled me to make more for the next one.  I sold them for $9 each or 3 for $25.

My chosen method of patchwork proved to be too time-consuming for the profit I made on each towel (about $7).  It would've been better if I added patchwork to these towels in a more time-efficient manner.  It might have been wise if I had kept my receipts for the towels, returned them, and moved on to another project, but I really did enjoy making them (especially choosing the "perfect" fabric combinations).  I will use them in my own kitchen and use them as gifts as well.  And like almost all of my "leftovers," I can bring them to another craft fair to sell.  I've also come to learn that $2 per towel is a good price and I'd really have a hard time finding a lower price.

These towels are similar but more scrappy and the style of towel is more of a "tea towel."  I purchased a pack of 12 on Amazon, they ran a little under $2 per towel.

Bibs, bibs, and more bibs.  These were quite popular at both fairs.  I learned that I needed more girl bibs and a few more "gender neutral" options as well.  I think I more heavily made boy-ish bibs because I have more boy-themed fabrics thanks to over-buying when I had my first baby.

I sold these for $8 each or 3 for $21.

In hindsight, I should've emphasized that they're reversible:

Crayon Wallets!  I priced these at $12 each and sold four.  I came prepared to offer people crayons and paper (at cost) so that they could leave with a "complete gift," but no one was interested in that option.

Chapstick key rings.  I priced these at $4 each, $5 if you wanted it with a chapstick.  These were decently popular but surprisingly a bit of a pain to make.  My machine did not like the combination of bulk+small size and wanted to "eat" the edges of them as I began top-stitching the sides to make the "pocket."  Still, they are a great scrap buster and they sold well enough that I would make them again.

I made lots of these ornaments last year and figured I'd try selling them this year and use the leftovers for gifts.  I made much more than I originally planned because an eBay seller of the 4" hoops sent me 3 defective hoops and sent me 15 more as replacements.  Great customer service for sure but it did compel me to make much more than I'd planned.

These are a ball to make and definitely made my sewing room look like a bomb went off: practically all of my scrap bins were opened and bursting onto the floor everywhere.  Unfortunately, these did not sell well at all.  At the first fair I priced them for $8 each.  I figured that's about what you would pay at Kohl's for a decent ornament and mine are handmade and better quality.  No one bought any at the first fair and I only sold two at the next one (and I lowered the price to $6).  I'm okay with it though, it's become a little tradition for me to gift handmade ornaments every Christmas and now I am really stocked up.

I sold these tissue covers for $4 each, with a "special" of buy 3, get 1 free.  These were quite popular at the first fair, I don't think anyone looked at them at the next fair.

A kind friend, Melissa from my guild, suggested I try selling "folded hexagon coasters" and she offered to let me use her Accu-Quilt cutter to cut the hexagons.  I came to her house and cut a TON of hexagons, after spending the previous evening cutting a TON of 5" squares from my stash.  I didn't make the time to make all of the coasters that I pre-cut fabrics for, but I managed to finish six sets of four coasters out of Brambleberry Ridge fabrics.  I only sold one set.

On November 11, I was really ahead of schedule with all of my making.  I decided I could allow myself to make one more project to add to my stock.  A friend on Facebook told me about a "travel chalkboard roll-up" she'd received as a gift for her two year old daughter.  Lots of my friends on FB commented that they loved the idea and would buy some if I made them.  I was intimidated because I had no idea how to source the chalkboard fabric and I didn't know how to make one.... well, I figured it out (Blackboard fabric at Joanns is in the utility section and only came to about $3.40 per yard with a coupon) and made ten.

The last craft fair was a bomb and I didn't sell any of these!  But I did sell three to a friend on FB and my kids were super happy to get their own as well.  My pricing for these was $12 each or 3 for $30.

Thanks for reading if you've stayed with me this far.  On my next post, I'll share pictures of my craft fair set-up and displays and give you more detail about my experiences selling.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Scraptastic Link Up: Guild Scrap Pillow Swap

I am happy to be back to the blog today.  I finished my last craft fair yesterday and almost our whole household has been under the weather.  I am feeling pretty exhausted.  I plan to do several posts about my craft fairs, but since that's all I've eating, breathing, and sleeping, I wanted to take the opportunity to focus on something else for this post: the FRMQG scrap pillow swap I participated in, all in the midst of the craft fairs.  

Participants were asked to submit a small parcel of scraps and stash for another member to make them a pillow.  It was a "blind" swap where we didn't choose our partners.  In August, I won a prize in the Scraptastic Tuesday monthly linkup: a pack of Blueberry Park scraps from the designer, Karen Lewis.  I love this fabric line but haven't had the opportunity to purchase these fabrics.  One of my favorite friends from the guild received me as a partner and this is what she made me:

I love everything about it!  She did a great job.  You've got to take in the amazing quilting, it's a technique she's been practicing from the new book by Jacquie Gering Walk: Master Machine Quilting with Your Walking Foot.

From my partner, Melissa, I received a half yard of Kona white with a note basically asking that I "sew anything I want, just nothing Christmas themed."  That's very broad!  I definitely had a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted.  I decided it would be fun to do some paper piecing; a time consuming/challenging technique that was quite the opposite to the mass-producing/easy sewing projects that consumed me for the craft fairs recently.

I already had a copy of the Forest Abstractions pattern by Violet Craft and decided to make a bunny:

Melissa loves everything "rainbow" and "color order" and I considered making a rainbow bunny, but I decided against that idea because I feared it might become too "Lisa Frank" and I didn't have a lot of confidence in my ability to place the fabrics in the right order.

Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday!  I'll be back soon with all of my craft fair adventures.