During the redesign of my website and goal setting for 2015, I found myself more focused on what I want my business and this website to be. The phrase Sustainable Sewing seems to sum it up perfectly. What do I mean by that?
To me, sustainable sewing is using sustainable fabrics produced ethically while creating little to no waste in the process. It's a response to fast fashion that is a complete disaster for our environment, whether polyester dresses, vinyl handbags or single use plastic shopping bags. My products follow this principle, as do my sewing patterns. I would like to do more of this in my personal wardrobe this year, and invite you to do the same.
My hope for this website is to be a resource for you for sustainable sewing. I will share my projects, recommend indie designer patterns, continue offering free sewing tutorials and helpful tips, provide a list of helpful books, plus maintain a list of recommended sources for finding things like organic cotton knit fabric.
This will not be a blog about sewing solely with hemp! In fact, I've never sewn with hemp. We won't be making feed sack depression-era dresses. Think beautiful materials, stylish modern patterns, and ways to use the leftovers from a project without having to throw them in the trash. Clothing, accessories, home decor, even some quilting with tee shirts and scrap fabric.
I'll be posting my projects to Instagram (dancingthreadsri), flagging them with #sustainablesewing. What I will NOT do is affiliate marketing or paid advertising. Any recommendations you see here are completely and wholly my own. I do not accept ads, and I do not accept free product in exchange for reviews. You can trust that everything I publish here has been purchased by me and personally vetted first.
To give you a sneak peek, here is a project I have planned, but haven't yet purchased the supplies:
This is the Marianne Dress from Christine Haynes. (photo source: www.christine haynes.com). Isn't it lovely? Classic, but modern at the same time. I hope to make it from an organic knit fabric with a white yoke and navy/white striped body. Can't you just picture anchor buttons on the cuffs? I have high hopes that this will be a summer staple dress for me that will last for many years to come, without going out of style.
Let's make a difference through our sewing. Increase your confidence. Choose sustainable fabric over polyester. Support independent designers, and look fabulous while doing it! Will you join me?
In a creative business, you're gonna have flop products from time to time. Those, for me, tend to come about when I listen to well-meaning folks at fairs and festivals who say something like, "You know what you should sell???" Here's a prime example.
Three years ago, I wasn't quite sure *what* to sew and sell. So I made a few of everything I could think of. Back then, e-reader cases were hot. Now I know that hot means the entire heard is already making it better and cheaper, and that I can't compete by the time I enter the market. I also couldn't keep up with the immense variety of readers, each with a different set of dimensions, changing every few months.
Last week I entered the 21st century and got an iPad. I have to say I did just fine without one, but now that I have my very own....I looooove it!
Guess what unsold product I had in a bin in the attic that just happens to fit perfectly???
You can tell the case older because I didn't use cream thread to attach the Dancing Threads RI label. What a rookie.
I've ordered a hard case from an Etsy seller that is made from bamboo. It will protect the tablet and act as a stand as well. Bonus that this soft, padded sleeve should still fit perfectly when it's in the hard case.
I've always loved this fabric, from Ikea several years ago. It has long been discontinued, but I didn't know that until after I only had small pieces left. A second happy accident that my one and only remaining e-reader case is made from one of my favorite fabrics. Life can be funny sometimes!
How much is enough? I've been grappling with this concept a lot lately. Does success equal continuous growth? An ever-increasing profit? When is it finally enough?
This blog post by Plain and Joyful Living got me thinking and thinking and thinking. How do I define success? For Dancing Threads RI, for myself, for my family?
The business concept that if you're not growing, you are failing, is so amazingly wrong to me. When you hear market reports about XX company *only* grew by 5% last year, presented as if that was a horrible failure--I don't think I ever want to play that game. Growing a business just to grow is certainly not my style. Advice articles and blogs implying that handmade artisans such as myself must follow suit in order to be successful can be found everywhere.
I'm not a corporation, nor do I ever want to become one. I'm not interested in having a product picked up and mass-produced by Target. I don't want to take on debt to expand the business.
I have goals and new ideas, but I mostly want to maintain my current business plan. It's going well. Really well. I'm meeting my financial goals, and that is fantastic! Bonus that I'm having fun doing all of this. I feel extremely successful. The profit may not be a lot, according to <insert random metric>, but it is more than enough for me.
If I were to grow, that would mean more stress, more hours, more juggling, less flexibility for things like snow days/sick kids/cooking meals from scratch, in order to *maybe* have more profit.
Dancing Threads RI is doing exactly what I hoped it would do at this point: channel my creative expression while contributing to the budget and allowing flexibility to be available for my family when I am needed. That is more than enough. It is also success!
How do you define success for yourself? What is enough? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Buying that item at the artisan fair may have felt like an expensive splurge. I'm going to give you a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at common overhead costs that add up quickly for a small artisan, but must be factored into a retail price.
Running a shop online is great! Flexibility, work in your PJs, set your own hours, and reach a global audience. Assuming everyone is aware that there are costs for fabric, thread, zippers, labels, shipping envelopes, packaging, price tags, and *maybe* labor, let me show you some of the "others" I have encountered the past 3 years.
Depending how you purchase your item via Etsy (direct checkout with a credit card or PayPal), I am charged $0.92 or $1.24 to sell the $12 crayon roll).
Other costs that you may not have thought apply to a tiny business owner such as myself:
As you can see, there are many costs associated with running a small handmade business. It's important to factor all of these items into the price of your wares, or else you will never break even, let alone see a profit! I think this is why many small businesses don't survive. Certainly the hobbyists who are only charging enough to cover their raw materials are likely losing money at the end of the year.
Kind of makes you want to pay cash and say, "Keep the change," the next time you buy something from an artisan, doesn't it? At the very least, don't ask for a discount!
What do you think of the cost of handmade? Is it worth it?
Sewing books can be a wonderful reference. I'm pretty picky about which books I buy. Usually I try them out first through the library before purchasing. The book has to do one or more of the following to be worth the investment:
Here are my favorites, grouped by general ability levels, plus one fantastic reference book.
Beginner Books--I refer to these books regularly. They may have all the information needed to get started in sewing, but they also are great references.
The best sewing reference I've ever come across: The Sewing Machine Classroom by Charlene Phillips. It can be quite technical at times, but it's very accessible. You don't have to be a mechanical engineer to keep your sewing machine running smoothly, and this book will give you that confidence.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into my sewing library! Do you have a book that you absolutely adore, but I didn't mention here? Please tell me in the comments!
It's cold today. 9 degrees at the bus stop cold. My garden gnome doesn't look too happy in this picture. How can you stay warm without cranking the thermostat? Here's what I'm doing to have a comfortable, productive and enjoyable day.
Drink lots of hot tea.
Layers. Wool socks are a must. Pair them with slippers and I'm downright toasty.
Quilting. Having this beauty on your lap while hand quilting and binding will definitely keep you warm.
Grow something! My amaryllis, strategically located on my cutting table, holds the promise of warmer days.
Plan this year's garden. I need to place my order for seeds soon. Flipping through a seed catalog is my definition of hope in February.
A steam iron will keep you warm as you work.
How do you keep warm on a cold snowy day?
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.