Thank you for all your lovely comments on my craft fair tips post. The winner of The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin is….
It’s Pendle Stitches! Congratulations and your book is on its way.
It’s a busy work time for me, so haven’t sewn any clothes for ages, but I have been knitting. So much quicker to knit a tiny thing for a tiny girl than make something for me!
This is my niece, Greta, and her hat is from the Fall/Winter 2012 Debbie Bliss magazine.
It would be easy to convert any hat pattern to ‘panda’. Just add two black semi circles above the eyes and two pom poms for ears. These are 4cm across. I have a request from my sister for a matching hat for her, so they can be pandas together!
I found this tiny panda button in my button tin. I love being able to put old buttons to good use.
The Christmas craft fair season is here again – my fourth as a stall holder. I’ve had a few conversations with other bloggers recently about selling crafts, so thought I’d pass on some of the things I’ve learned. I’m not an expert, but this is what I do, and (mostly) it works ok!
How to choose a fair
When I started, I took every opportunity that came along, and found the more I did, the more I was approached to do. I think this is the best way to find out what works for you. Now, I stick to larger fairs, mainly at National Trust houses, and local country fairs. Although I also go on instinct. One of the best fairs I’ve done was at a local village hall, which was brilliantly organised and promoted using social media. School and church fairs don’t work well for me, but they do for others, so the only way to know is to give it a go. I pay between £40 and £70 a day for a table at a large fair. £10 – £20 is usual for a small one.
Your product range
I sell fabric covered notebooks and colouring rolls and find having a wide range of prices works well – mine go from £1.50 (for a fabric flower hairgrip) to £18.
Having something inexpensive is good to attract attention, which keeps you busy, which in turn is attractive to other shoppers. And it’s surprising how those small sales add up. I also sell bags of fabric scraps which patchworkers love – only £2.50 a time, but every little helps. I know a potter who sells tiny pottery mice, a jeweller with beaded flower brooches, a ceramic artist with Christmas decorations – all for a few pounds.
Lots of trial and error here, and worth visiting a few craft fairs to get some ideas. I find a range of heights is good. Some things are flat on the table, some on bookshelves, and also in baskets. I experiment all the time. It’s nice to use something other than a white table cloth, which tends to show crease marks and dirt. I used to use a pale green spotted laminated cotton cover, and now use striped French table cloths which set off the colourful fabrics well. I’ve also seen striped ticking used as a cloth, which was lovely.
I put my business cards on my table for people to pick up, and also have a notice with my ‘Handmade by Dottie Doodle’ logo. Before I did this, some customers didn’t realise I make everything myself.
Stand up, sit down
So what to do when you’re behind your stand and the public arrive? I’m most comfortable with a relaxed approach, rather than a hard sell. I tend to stay standing and say hello to people. I can often tell just by the way they respond if they’d like me to tell them about what I make, or just be left alone to browse.
Sometimes I’ll sit and sew (those hairgrips!) and just look up with a friendly hello when someone approaches. People like to see crafters making what they are selling, and it can start a conversation.
I’m often behind my stand for hours, so my aim is to look interested and approachable, not like I’m losing the will to live!
The dark side
Generally, people are lovely at craft fairs – encouraging, interested, thrilled to find something unusual that they want to buy. I love getting feedback on my products and the fabrics I’ve chosen. However… I’ve had a few rude or patronising comments (we all have). Don’t let them get to you. Another stall holder suggested at the weekend that we have a competition for the worst comment received. This was inspired, we were all jumping up and down with delight when someone was horrible!
What else to take
It’s great to have some kind of internet shop which you can promote on your business cards. I’ve often sold things online to my craft fair customers. Folksy (UK) and Etsy (everywhere) are both very good and inexpensive to use.
For another view and more tips, Handmade Jane has a great article here.
And finally, I have a copy of The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin to give away. To enter, leave a comment on this post and I will draw a winner at random on 1 December.
I’ve been thinking about stuff recently – having too much of it. I took part in the Seamless challenge for 18 months, and also got rid of loads of things, but still felt overwhelmed. Then I read The Joy of Less, by Francine Jay. The book is about the reasons why we hoard, as well as being a practical guide to decluttering.
Several ideas in the book particularly inspired me.
Pretend you are moving in to your house. Take everything out of the cupboard, drawer, or room you are decluttering, so you are making a decision to keep something, rather than trying to decide what to get rid of. We have a cupboard full of glass jugs, bowls and wineglasses. A large box full of these have now gone to the charity shop (8 martini glasses used once in 10 years? No, we don’t need them!).
I took a deep breath and emptied my wardrobe and now all my not-quite-right clothes have gone. That dress in a beautiful colour, but so clingy I only wore it once, the gorgeous green skirt that was too short…. I can’t even remember the rest, so I obviously don’t need them. It is so nice to look in my wardrobe and only see things I can wear.
Store similar things together
I put all my unfinished knitting projects and yarn in one drawer. I’m much less tempted to buy more yarn when I can see I have a scarf and two baby cardigans to finish. Makes things easier to find too – I’m still cross that I had to buy new sunglasses last year because I couldn’t find the old ones. Now they are stored with my scarves and gloves.
I can have a fabric stash, but I’ve decided it has to fit in one drawer (don’t worry, it’s a big drawer!). Not only does this limit my fabric buying, but I’ve stopped stressing about having too much. As long as I’m within my limit, that’s fine.
Decluttering has made me think about the things I want to keep, but don’t use. For example, I have a beautiful handbag which I didn’t use – probably because I didn’t want to ruin it. Thinking that I ought to use it or sell it (and I couldn’t bear to sell it), I’ve made it my everyday bag. Leather looks good used, doesn’t it?!
I’ve also realised that the majority of the excess stuff is mine. Mr D decluttered his wardrobe too. 20 minutes later, no angst, and two large bags filled for the charity shop – job done!
And how about the youngest member of the family?
She’s a great example of being happy without any possessions, and those she has fit into one basket!
I’ve just created a page showing the clothes I have made, and which have remained in my wardrobe. Sadly, some didn’t stay for long!
I started sewing clothes again 18 months ago and my plan is to stop buying clothes and make everything I wear. So far this year I have bought a pair of jeans, a bikini (couldn’t make), a dress (lovely fabric), two vest tops and four t shirts (should have made but ran out of time). Not bad, but will try to do better!
It’s been interesting to look back and see what has worked best for me. I’ve chosen patterns from independent pattern designers, mainly, which I think shows the influence of reading sewing blogs. I can see that I like to try new things, but also enjoy making a pattern several times.
My favourites? The Simplicity 2152 skirt is my ideal everyday skirt (I’m wearing the navy cord version as I write this) and the Vogue silk dress.
You can see more by clicking the handmade wardrobe page link at the top of this page.
I’ve signed up for a Pay it Forward at Shush I’m Quilting. Would you like to join in?
Here are the “rules”:
1. I will create a crafty gift for each of the first three people who comment to this post. This is a surprise, and will arrive to you anytime within the next year.
2. In signing up for PIF, you are committing yourself to the project…someone pays it forward to you, so you pay it forward to others! Just post this, or something similar so others can get involved. Basically you will create your own post where you create gifts for 3 people as well.
3. You need to have an active blog of your own… (or some way to post up your PIF info like a flickr, pinterest, or Facebook account. You’ll need a place to announce your own PIF and to post some pics of the process.)
I will email you asking for your mailing address and the online address where you are posting your PIF info.
Do let me know your favourite colours to help me decide what to make. I like making gifts for children, so if you’d prefer me to make something for a child, please say so in your comment.
I’d like to introduce my tiniest niece, Greta, who is wearing her baby shower gift! Isn’t she beautiful?
The pattern is from Wacky Baby Knits, which is brilliant. Fancy an Elvis wig hat, motorcycle jacket or ballerina costume, or maybe a weeny cow onesie for a baby you know? This book has it all.
The pattern was well written too. Although I did agree with Jo (my sister) that a zip would be more practical than 17 small buttons! That was an easy modification to make, and the pattern otherwise was quite straightforward. The only unusual stitch was to make the warty bobbles on the arms, and they were fun to do. I made the newborn size which was too big, but now fits, at 5 months. She wears it every day for the school run.
I made a matching frog toy for her with a pattern from Knitted Toy Tales by Laura Long. Another lovely book, packed with quirky toys. I especially like the rag doll, with her choice of dresses.
I haven’t done much sewing for Greta yet because she is growing so fast. I think I’ll start sewing for her in April, when she’ll be one. Do you have any favourite sewing patterns for girls? It’s new territory for me!
I’ve had some vintage pale blue brushed cotton in my stash for a while. I had pyjamas in mind, but couldn’t decide on the top. The colour could be a bit hospital scrubs-y in a t-shirt. Then I made my green polka dot Maria Denmark Edith blouse, and a plan formed.
Pairing a fitted blouse with wide legged Tofino trousers looks rather elegant, I think. They were lovely to wear on holiday, especially when I wanted to sit on the balcony in my pjs, without scaring anyone!
I omitted the waist darts on the top to give a looser fit, and didn’t use interfacing on the collar. I also didn’t make the tie belt for the trousers. It looked lovely tied in a bow on my last pair when I made them, but soon became a twisted mess. Was that just me?! Anyway, I like them plain, and it was a quicker make.
The only problem is the fabric creases – as you can see from the pic. But they are so comfortable and cozy, I don’t mind!
I’ve linked this to Starcross Sewing’s A Year in Indie Patterns Challenge. Stephanie chooses a different company each month (Maria Denmark this month) and anyone can sew along and add links. I’ve really liked the indie patterns I’ve made so far, so hoping this will spur me on to try some different ones.
Cost: nothing! The fabric was a gift, I’ve used the patterns before, and everything else came from my stash.
PS Thank you all so much for your lovely comments on my last post – still blushing…
I finished my posh frock for the Exeter Museum dinner I mentioned back in August, and it was a success! I made two versions in the end. The navy silk (above) for the dinner, and a shorter practice dress in black linen/viscose to wear on holiday (below). I wanted to wear a version of the dress before cutting into the silk – especially because I’ve not sewn silk before.
I’m so pleased with both of them. They’re very comfortable and the wrap at the front is flattering and feels so glamourous. The wrap is a separate piece with a pencil skirt underneath.
It wasn’t a difficult make, much easier than I thought it would be. The bodice gathers fit into the bottom half of the side panel, which is very neat. I did sew the side panel on upside down at one stage – having no printed markings on the pattern pieces is confusing. I marked the waist edges on my traced pieces in the end, which really helped.
The pleating on the skirt confused me at first, but I took it slowly and used tailor tacks in three different colours for the different symbols. There are pleats within pleats!
This pattern was in the right bust size for me, which I recommend if you are tackling a vintage pattern. I’ve just read Mad Women by Jane Maas . She was a real life Peggy Olsen and is in her eighties now. It’s very entertaining and fascinating to read the truth behind the myths – actually, most of the myths are true. She says that one of the things she remembers most about fashion of the time is how uncomfortable the underpinnings were. So I decide to forego authenticity and increase the waist and hip measurements!
I used my serger to finish the seams. How you would finish the waist seam with all those pleats is beyond me. I decided not to bone the bodice and don’t feel it needs extra support.
I have plans for another dress using this pattern for next summer, with a modified skirt. Single layer, with a few pleats instead of the over skirt, to make more of a day time dress.
Total for both dresses: £78
Have you been enjoying the Sew Weekly Reunion? There are some gorgeous pics in the Flickr group. The challenge was to use colours from the Pantone autumn palette, and I already had this vintage Laura Ashley fabric with two of the colours – emerald and vivacious.
The pattern is Simplicity 2644, which I won during Sew Grateful Week from Ellin at Ellikitty - thanks again Ellin!
Sadly, I’m not in love with this dress. It’s a lovely shape, and I will make the pattern again, but I think the fabric is wrong. It’s too thin and strange creases appear. I also had to do a lot of unpicking due to stupid mistakes, which doesn’t help the way I feel about it!
I have quite a bit of this fabric left, so I think I’ll recycle the dress and make something else out of it. Ah well, it’s a learning experience this sewing lark!
Fabric: vintage Laura Ashley cotton. Green cotton lining recycled from old dress.
Notions: zip, thread
Pantone Challenge colors: emerald and vivacious
Pattern: Simplicity 2644
Time to complete: 2 days
First worn: 31 August
Wear again? Hmm….no.
Total Cost: £15