Monday, 18 October 2010

Crushed Walnuts? No ... I always walk like this!

I was asked a couple of weeks ago if I would take a table at the parents christmas shopping event at school in mid November.  It sounded a fair way off at the time so I said yes!  Now I am wondering what on earth I was thinking.  Making stock for a sales table takes a lot longer than you might first think, and that's assuming you have identified what the parents would like to buy and how much they want to pay. In all honesty I haven't had a tremendous amount of luck or joy selling my 'stuff' in the past  so I am not expecting miracles this time but it is for the school so I am happy to support it.

Pricing 'bazaar' type items is such a difficult thing. In the past it's been my experience that most people love what I make but don't love what I charge, and quite often I don't even ask full wack.  Last year for example I've had a guy who bulked at paying £40 for a cot sized quilt  - pieced, longarm quilted and hand bound!  He loved the quilt and kept saying how nice it would look in his kitchen (he was a farmer and the quilt was farm yard animals). He asked the price ... I said it was on sale at £40 and he said "oh" and put it down and walked away.  He was about the 3rd person that had done this so I decided enough was enough... I needed to understand why they thought it was expensive.  I explained how it was handmade in England and how much time it took ... blah blah... and he looked mortified.  He was terribly sorry that he had insulted my work and that he had not appreciated what was involved. Did he buy it ... No !  Why ... because he thought it was a lot to pay for a textile item!   Shame but thats the story .. textiles don't get the acclaim they deserve and most people associate handmade with homemade and that means CHEAP.

Actually I could rant on about pricing handmade items for ages and I get very cross when I see textiles undersold on Folksy or Etsy for example But I do understand why its done and its quite simple .. the market won't pay more because we (the hand crafters) are competing with foreign imports. Add to this the inflated cost of fabric and other craft materials compared with the States (for example) AND higher minimum wages we (British crafters) stand little to no chance of competing. Personally I think we need a two prong attack, with the Government doing their bit as well as the hand crafters doing theirs by pricing correctly  .. and by that I mean making sure they cost for all materials and overheads and include labour rates ...that are at least minimum wage. (Hear that ... AT LEAST minimum wage ... thats £5.93 an hour now)  Sorry was I shouting?

So you see .. its with this in mind that I have decided to make only penny items for the table this time... well around 500 pennies actually. I am thinking a fiver is probably a sum that people would not bulk at parting with. But what can I make for fiver?  Answer ... not a lot really.
So if you can think of anything please let me know.

I have started with pincushions though. I have some lovely russian dolly fabric that is perfect for  pincushions or tree decorations.  The ladies stand about 5" tall by 3" and are quite simply to sew up. Stuffing was another matter of course!  I had some wool stuffing left over from another project which was lovely. The ladies smell all lanolin-ny .. if you like that kind of thing and the pins glide in and out but then I ran out!  Drat ... so I spent ages .. and I mean ages trying to find Crushed Walnut Shells for the stuffing.  Why?  Well I'd read it was supposed to be good for pincushions.  Could I find any in the UK .. no!  I tried every pet shop known to man ... every reptile house .... and every bird santuary. (all supposedly supply sources for walnut shells on sewing forums in the States).  In the end after exhaustive detective work I tracked some down and have a MEGA supply now.  I'll sum it up for you too.. ITS GOOD STUFF!
So please if you want to make pincushions .... give me a shout for the filling.  I've put it up on my online shopping site here (or  you can get it at my Folksy or Etsy shops too).

So crushed nuts guys?  (No.. I always walk like this)


  1. I SO agree with you about the pricing of textile work and how it is perceived by the public. I don't know what we can do to ever change this - but I do know we can't compete. Depressing isn't it?

  2. I have to agree with you -- even if things are less expensive for materials in the US, people still do not want to pay what an item is really worth. My husband is a jeweler and has stopped going to shows because of the lack of sales. his stuff if reqlly nice, too! How about small things like key chains, book marks, Christmas (or other holiday) ornaments? Jan in Virginia

  3. Drink coasters are easy to make and don't take much fabric. You can make sets of four and that way if people want more they can mix and match or match completely.

    Square potmits take about the same amount of time (or less depending on how simple) but cost a bit more because of the batting.

    I love your little pin cushion dolls. Don't forget to show them to the little girls walking by as well. They look like they can be dolls for playing with.

  4. Those dolls are delightful. Now Tracey- take this suggestion with a grain of salt because I don't sew but... Could you make some simple shaped animals? I agree those dolls look like little toys and though maybe a dog, cat or simple shaped bear might be nice too.

  5. I agree with you whole heartedly. People are always on at me to sell my quilts. When I mention the price I would have to charge they go a funny colour. That's why I rarely make for others now. I take a deposit first as many a time minds have been changed half way through when they realise they can get shop bought for less than half the price.
    My BIL & SIL said that they would rather buy quilts for their babies than have me hand make a set as a present as they didn't want any handmade in their house, they only wanted shop bought quality. What they bought was terrible though. My quilts are far superior to shop bought mass produced rubbish. Unfortunately though, as you said, shop bought equals good and hand made equals shoddy in some people's eyes.
    Stepping off the soap box now as it's far too early in the morning and I need a coffee

    Love and hugs Gina xxx

  6. Hello - been given your link and glad to meet a fellow crafter - hope you'll stop by my blog soon. I can so relate to your pricing guide and I have given up trying to justify my work at small craft-fairs and now aim to only sell at huge fairs that have been well advertised and get a minimum of 20,000 customers through the door. Aim for a high-end market in high-end places, people generally will pay anything for something unusual and well-made and have a bit more respect for the time spent on them. Good luck though.

  7. Hi - thank you for your recent comments on my blog. I stopped selling my work about two years ago for the same reasons you are experiencing. If you can get hold of nice cheap buttons you could make button bracelets, I made some of these for the Scout Autumn fair, selling for £4.50 and they all sold out. Good luck for the actual day.

  8. There ARE people who appreciate the work in handmade items and will pay the price - finding them is the problem. I agree you won't find them at a school bazaar. I wonder if you had some of your more expensive items on 'show' but 'not for sale', whether interest would be heightened. You could always 'do them a favour' by selling them if they insisted heh heh!
    Teresa x

  9. If only more people would actually listen to WHY things are so expensive - handmade IS quality! I with you all the way with the rant! As for things to sell, your little purses are adorable, how about loading a piece and quilting it, and then cutting it down for penny purses for the girlies. Even cards or postcards, they sell well. Love the russion lady pincushions, I'd bag one of those for sure!

  10. hi Tracey!
    I agree with you too! I donated a twin size quilt for silent auction for a great cause, but all people would think is it wasn't worth the price for the next bid!
    Maybe think of your audience and the time of year? This is my suggestion...
    Esther has a cute set of Christmas Decorations which are freebies, I think the beginning sets were still on line, but you may know someone who downloaded it already.
    or fleece scarves, hats, pot holders, appliqued dishtowels, like for Christmas are always people catchers and easy gifts for children to give to parents.
    Take care, Leslie

  11. Love it .... but Christmas again ... it is just too near for my liking!

  12. Tracey -- I am SO with you on the subject of trying to justify the price of your work. People definitely don't want to pay for textiles -- even here in the States. And shoppers at craft fairs are, indeed, looking for lower-priced items.

    I have some thoughts: coasters (fuse the pieces, stitch them with raw edges, put them in decorative boxes); note cards (fuse pieces of fabric directly onto the cards); bookmarks (construct the same way as the coasters. These all make good stocking stuffers and are likely to sell at a small price with enough for you to make a profit.

    Good luck -- I'll be rooting for you!



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