Preparing for a craft show, for me, starts months in advance. Since I only have so many hours in the week to dedicate full time to my business, being ready for a big show requires so...much...planning. It's a lot of work for an 8 hour show, but the idea is that I will earn enough income to cover the 6-8 weeks of time that went into it. Unless it rains, of course, then no shoppers show up!
Today I want to show you some behind-the-scenes work as I prepare for a craft fair scheduled for May 18th. I'm deep in the trenches of work for this show, and have been planning for at least 2 months now. Maybe when I'm more experienced and the kids are both in school full time, I can pull it off in less time. For now, here's how I [try to] do it.
Starting to stage my table display for the booth. How much product do I need? How do I arrange it well? Will it all fit in my car??
Crayon rolls in progress. Assembly-line work means large piles of semi-finished things which won't really look finished until closer to the show date. I group things by color to minimize changing out the thread on my sewing machine.
Will I finish everything on my inventory wish list?
Branding is very important if I want to even think about getting repeat business from someone.
Production has moved from my upstairs studio to the kitchen table. Not ideal, but it means I can sneak in a seam here and there while kids get ready for school, while I make dinner, and even while I have a friend for coffee. A work-from-home Mama's gotta do what she's gotta do to get it all done!
Free gifts for Etsy sales--still have to keep up with the other facets of my business while prepping for the show on a limited schedule. There are wholesale orders, Etsy sales, and even some Mother's Day custom orders, Mother's Day gifts for my mother and mother-in-law, not to mention a birthday party coming up in two weeks. I need to give a huge thank you to my intern (not sure what to call the lovely gal who helps me sew during really busy times). She made the tissue packs and did the tedious work on the crayon rolls. Thank you Maddie!!
Some of the aftermath from all the products I'm hoping to finish.
Price tags and ribbon zipper pull tabs. All put on by hand after the products are finished. This is where family becomes a HUGE help.
Mesh produce/beach combing bags waiting for drawstrings.
Zippered Pouches in progress.
Last, but not least, final packaging must be cute. I like to use recycled kraft paper handled bags at craft fairs. It's not plastic, and the handles seem to really make a difference. I put a sticker with my contact info on the outside, tie a scrap fabric bow on the handle and make sure to include a business card. So...much...still...to...do!!!!! May 18th will be here before I know it. Having limited time to sew, a limited time to work uninterrupted, getting up at 5am to get a jump on some of this before children need attention, all means that I will most likely NOT have much time to blog in the next month.
The next time you are at a craft or artisan fair, I hope that you take a moment to appreciate all that went into that artist having a lovely booth setup! Ask them a question about their creative process. Buy something from them. Or at least sign their mailing list for heaven's sake!
Lots of bags being sewn around here lately. I've actually forgotten to take photos of all the things I made during vacation week last week! I'll catch up with photos eventually. Blogging is taking a back seat for now. I'm so thankful to be so busy right now!!
Here are some of the things that I am working on this week. Not shown is all the craft fair planning, the extremely helpful feedback from product testers (thank you so very much!!), wholesale order planning, and what takes a large chunk of time this part of the year: my garden. Most crafty types seem to also appreciate good, healthy food, so I don't think I'm alone in having a large vegetable garden. We managed to have quite a productive plot last year, but this year I am expanding even more. Digging is my main source of exercise these days!
Mesh Produce Bags (mermaids would be great for beachcombing)
Product Design--circular knitting needle case?? In this photo I'm figuring out how to make an accordion-style fold.
Wet Bags (and a fire truck crayon roll)
Teapot Cozy--special gift
There are a few things I've shown as works-in-progress in past posts that I have not yet finished. When a customer order comes in, that gets top priority and I often stop craft fair/design production. There are many gifts that have gotten shelved (never made the bunny bowling game, but there's always next year), or are on hold while I figure things out or fill orders. I tend to procrastinate gifts, but I almost always (bunnies being the exception so far this year) finish them on time. I won't work late at night on business sewing, but I've been known to stay up late finishing a gift the day before it's given. I never claimed that my process made sense, but maybe you're able to appreciate the lack of inventory in my Etsy shop or my inability right now to have inventory on my shelves to offer through Facebook. There's a lot of juggling going on over here, so if you like something or want a product, but in a fabric you don't see, just holler. You'll be added to the queue, for sure. Have a wonderful Wednesday!
Most of what I made this past week:
Wet Bag and coordinating Changing Pad for a custom new-Mom order.
Close Up of the Changing Pad
Custom Order: 2 wallets, grocery bag, snack bags, a knitting needle case and I threw in some reusable Swiffer pads (the brown paw prints; I like to keep my best customers happy and coming back for more!)
Close up of the Swiffer Pad. This isn't something I sell, more like something I made for myself that a friend requested for herself after seeing mine.
There were a few things I worked on that I can't show just yet, but trust me that I will eventually. I'm prepping for an upcoming craft show in May which is ever so time consuming, but I don't have a lot of finished product to show yet. Design work is messy midstream. Ugly, even, especially since I use my least expensive or most expendable fabric while I play and figure things out. I'll wait to show the finished pretties.
It's 70 degrees and sunny outside--time to abandon the computer and go dig in the garden!
How do I love thee? Let's just say a lot. Plastic bags are so Twentieth Century. We all know what to answer when the grocery clerk asks, "Paper or plastic?" So many people answer, "Neither, I brought my own reusable bags!" Towns are getting serious with the stragglers who still bag with plastic and banning the things altogether.
As a person who is building a business around "Hand-sewn alternatives to plastic," I am thrilled with the bags I now offer in my shop that mimic the typical plastic grocery bag. I'm not just the president of this reduce-plastic club, I'm a member too. I thought I would show you what these babies can handle, based on a recent grocery run. This is now my go-to bag that I tuck inside my purse for all those small errands: craft store, library, mid-week grocery stops, CSA pickup, pharmacy, hardware store, garden center, you name it. If you're doing a week's worth of grocery shopping, bring a few.
Look how cute it is! This one is made from organic cotton fabrics ($28). The interior is the pink handle fabric.
This is what the one bag held at the grocery store: 2 cartons chicken stock, 1 jar pasta sauce, 1 quart half and half, small bag of pecans, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, one large can crushed pineapple, 1.5 pounds of stew meat and 1.5 pounds of shaved steak--for cheesesteaks, yum... (I packed the bag, baggers and clerks can still be a bit grouchy when you bring your own bags. Too bad!)
The bag is lined, reversible and super sturdy. Your arm will give out before the bag when you stuff it full.
Several options--vegetable prints, pretty floral prints, even some upcycled fabrics. Don't see something you love? Tell me what you would like and I can make it for you.
All too often I see this picture around town as I go about my day. (a plastic grocery bag from Stop n Shop)
This was my view just this morning on a walk. Plastic shopping bags strewn throughout a field overlooking the river. At $22/bag, it's well worth the investment to help prevent the above picture.
It makes me sad, angry and frustrated at the same time. We've only been using plastic for a couple of decades. I saw a great tidbit a while back (and forget where it came from to properly cite), that went something like this: "We were able to win WWII without the use of any plastic." How has this modern convenience gotten so out of control?
I hope that you will start using reusable bags. Today. I don't even care if you buy them from me or from someone else (just please don't buy those vinyl snack bags in the Target $1 bin!). My snack bags are for sale at Clements Market in Portsmouth, my grocery bags are available in my shop, or send me an email since I love working with you to find the right fabric so that you love your bags so much you can't help but use them all the time.
Time. Don't we all wish we had more of it? I'm a little late on the show and tell, but since I'm the only one holding me accountable so far, I'm cutting myself some slack.
I *did* manage to finish the sewing I set out to finish last week, 4 sundresses and 3 knitting needle cases. All still need buttons attached, but I see it as a win. I managed to sew an extra dress that is a demo/model for a sewing workshop I'm holding tomorrow. I am so very excited to give some tips and pointers for reading through a pattern to make a girls' dress! It can be intimidating with so many options out there--I know I struggle at times with the way some patterns are written.
There is a lot going on, so I will get right to the photos.
Knitting Needle Cases
Sundresses, Custom Order for Cousins
Example Dress for Sewing Workshop
As usual, I have quite a few things planned for the coming week. Right now, most are plans and fabric on bolts, but I'll show off the pretty fabric anyway.
Lobster Knitting Case
I have a post in the works about grocery bags later this week. Happy Wednesday!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.