Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My week on Instagram

For anyone not on Instagram, here's my second weekly round up of my week on Instagram where I'm @lilysquilts.  So first up this week is a quilt which was in Love Patchwork & Quilting last month made from Anna Maria Horner's Pretty Potent line.

A close up photo shows the quilting which was straight lines either side of the seams using a bright pink Aurifil 50wt for extra bada boom.  

Second up was this Lone Star Circle quilt I made for Krista Hennebury's new book, Make It, Take It which contains loads of lovely projects for you to make on retreat or take to retreat and will be coming out next month.


And finally there is a little sneak peek of a quilt I made this week using Suffolk Garden by Brie Harrison for Dashwood Studio.  I was showing the different effects you can get on a quilt by denser or looser quilting.  Looser quilting, shown on the left, makes for a softer, smooshier quilt whereas denser quilting gives a more structured, stiffer but, I think, more professional finish.  But really it's just a matter of personal taste! 

As last week, please let me know if you're on Instagram and what your name is over there so I can go and find your photo stream.  

Monday, 26 January 2015

Oakshott giveaway

Today we have an Oakshott giveaway on the blog.  Here is your chance to win this beautiful Oakshott Lakes Fat Quarter Bundle worth £79.  Made from 100% cotton and ethically woven in Kerala, India, each colour has a blue warp and a different colour on the weft giving the beautiful "shot" effect where the fabrics change colour as you look at them from different angles.

For a chance to win this bundle, sign up to the Oakshott newsletter and let me know in a comment below that you have or that you are already signed up.  You will find the sign up box half way down the right hand side of the Oakshott website homepage.  A winner will be drawn a week from today.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

My week on Instagram

I don't know about you but, as time has gone by, I've moved my main focus of attention around different social media - sometimes the blog, sometimes, twitter, sometimes Facebook, sometimes Flickr.  I've never really got into Pinterest although I know so many people adore it.  My current favourite is Instagram because it's so quick - kind of social media instant gratification.  If you're not on Instagram, it's a really fun place to follow quilters, fabric designers, quilt shops and quilt fabric manufacturers.  So I though I'd start a new weekly post called My Week On Instagram giving a round-up of what I've been doing over there which so often gets missed from the blog.  If you want to follow me over there, I'm @lilysquilts.  Firstly I worked on a Gardenvale project (the new line by Jen Kingwell for Moda).  I drew the design for the quilt up in Touchdraw.

There are three cheater prints in Gardenvale which lend themselves perfectly to a scrappy binding. 

The photos below show close-ups of the quilt starting to grow.  You really need to squint to start to see the pattern emerging.  

Later on in the week, I drew up this quilt for a new line from Makower.  That's 320 HSTs which took me less time than you'd think as I used the paper method where eight HSTs (or more if you're making smaller ones) are made in one go.  There is no trimming involved making this system perfect for me as I find trimming to be a right royal pain in the a***.  

I also started work on a couple of projects for a new Makower Christmas line.  This is the panel from the line which forms the centre of a wall hanging I'm making.  Too soon to be starting on Christmas?!

The fabrics from Suffolk Garden (by Brie Harrison for Dashwood Studio) also came in this week.  I've made the top for this project but it's not yet quilted so I'll save the photo session for when that's done unless we get serious snow tomorrow in which case I will photograph ALL THE QUILTS because everything looks amazing in the snow! 

And what about you, what have you been up to this week?!  And are you on Instagram yet?  If so, what's your username?!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Turn your hobby into a business - part 3

Today we have the final part of a three part series running last week and today on the blog entitled "Turn your hobby into a business".  This was brought to the blog by Fiona Pullen from The Sewing Directory who is also the author of Craft a Creative Business which came out last week in the US and is already out in the UK (UK readers click here, US readers find it here) and you can find my review of the book here.

Part 3 – Pricing 

This is the tricky bit, get this wrong and you could be working very long hours for very little money or struggling to sell your products because they are priced too high. Before I discuss my pricing formula I want to warn you that there is no guarantee that one set formula will work for all industries or all products, use a pricing formula as a starting point but use common sense too. 

Take a look at your competitors’ prices, and how well their products sell at that price. Most markets have a natural price bracket where most products sell, that’s not to say you can’t sell higher than that price but you may need a justification as to why to help convince buyers to buy your more expensive product rather than a cheaper version. Something like using only organic or fair trade materials could help justify a higher price for example. 

Do bear in mind that there are some ‘hobby’ sellers out there who sell at a low price to just cover materials so they can buy more supplies and carry on sewing. They don’t run as a business or factor in the time taken to make their products. Don’t attempt to compete with them price wise or you will find your business unsustainable. 

So onto the formula: 

Production costs + time + profit = your retail price 

Production costs - You need to know what it costs you to make your product to get your production costs. So for a quilt for example don’t just count the fabric and wadding for your quilts but the thread, quilt label and binding too. You also need to account for the electric you use, items you have to replace on a regular basis like sewing machine needles and rotary cutter blades. Your website, any payment processing fees or other selling costs and the packaging too. You may add postage and packing as an extra cost, but if offering it for free it needs to be factored into your production costs. 

Time – You need to time yourself to make sure you are paying yourself for all time spent making the item. Not just the actual sewing but the cutting out, time spent discussing the design with the customer or designing/researching ideas, time spent packaging and shipping the item etc. You also need to know what you expect to be paid for each hour’s work. Are you happy with minimum wage? Do you want a skilled worker wage? 

You also need to weigh up the hourly rate you want to earn v the realistic sale price of your product. We’d all love to earn £50 an hour but most of us would struggle to sell any item costed on that basis! 

Profit – This like the hourly wage will vary from person to person. It will also help if you have done your competition research at this point as you’ll then have an idea of what overall price you can charge, so once you have your costs & time figure you’ll be able to see how much profit you can add on top. From what I’ve seen most crafters seem to add 15-30% profit on but this will depend upon your market. 

Now you can see why selling a quilt leads to a rather high retail price. By the time you take in account all the materials used, time spent and then add a profit on top you are generally into the hundreds. 

If you plan to craft as a business you want to set wholesale accounts up as soon as possible, buying your supplies at around 50% of the retail price will make a huge difference to your profit. I have a list of fabric wholesalers on my site plus a guide to finding craft wholesale suppliers

You may also want to see if you could produce your products in batches to help save time. There’s a useful post on that topic on Sew Mama Sew

There are also some interesting posts on selling quilts here and here

There is also a lot more information on setting up a handmade business, pricing your products and reaching your target audience in my book. You can find the book on Amazon UK here and Amazon UK here. Plus Lynne did a lovely review of the book here. 

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts, you can find more free business guides on Fiona's website: www.craftacreativebusiness.co.uk or find her on Twitter @craftabiz or @sewingdirectory

Best of luck with your creative enterprise.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Turn your hobby into a business - part 2

Today we have part two of a three part series running this week and next week on the blog entitled "Turn your hobby into a business".  This brought to the blog by Fiona Pullen from The Sewing Directory who is also the author of Craft a Creative Business which came out this week in the US and is already out in the UK (UK readers click here, US readers find it here).

Part 2 – Research and Planning 

Now if you’ve read part one, and think that running your own business is for you the next stage is to research and plan your business idea. Many crafters kind of fall into running a business, people offer to buy what they make so they start selling it without ever having properly thought it through.

Most of them haven’t costed it out, haven’t researched which products to sell or planned where they want their business to go. They start selling a few items to friends and family, which goes well so they decided to start selling at craft fairs or online. Before they know it they are running a business with no idea of what they actually want, or need from that business.

Even if you are already at that stage there is nothing to stop you from taking a step back and doing your research and planning now. Nothing is set in stone, if you research tells you that you should be doing something a little different then you can do it. If it shows you there is no way to make a profit carrying on as you are then you can adapt.

So where do you start? Grab a pen and paper (or a computer if you prefer) and start writing down what you want to do. What do you want to make, how do you want to spend your days. Close your eyes and envisage a shop of your products, what products would they be? What would they be made from, how would they be presented. Draw it in your mind and note down the finer details.

This is your starting point, the dream! Now you need to look into how you could make it a reality. Firstly you want to see what competition there is. Is anyone else doing what you do, if so how can you differentiate yourself? You don’t want to be seen as a copy of another business, you want to be offering something unique. If there is no one else doing it all you need to investigate why not. Have people tried it and found there was no market? Or do you have something really unique?

Even if people have tried it and failed it doesn’t mean you will, you need to study what they did and see if you could identify where it went wrong, and what you could do differently to make it succeed. Speak to people in the industry and get feedback, research online, look on blogs/sites/forums to see what other people said about the businesses that failed. This could help you identify how to do it successfully.

If others are already doing something similar to what you want to do you want to study them and assess their strengths and weaknesses so you can learn from them. How will you do it differently? How can you improve on what they offer? How will your products stand out amongst all the others? Is there too much competition already or space for another business such as yours? Do their products seem to be selling well? Are their customers happy?

Another thing you want to research is where best to sell your products. Visit local craft fairs and see what sells well and what doesn’t. Weigh up the pros and cons of the various online market places. Look at options for setting up your own website and think about how you could market it. You need to decide what is the best option for you to get your product in front of your potential customers. 

Competitor analysis is an essential part of business, but I want to emphasise here that you want to learn from them, be inspired by them but do not copy them. Apart from that fact that breaching someone else’s copyright is illegal, you will also lose the respect of industry peers, and your customers if they see you copying someone else. It would be very hard to re-build that trust should that happen.
As well as researching your competitors you also need to research your customers. Who are the type of people that would buy your product? You need to narrow it down as much as possible, don’t just say all women would love what you make because that isn’t true. Not everyone will, so what differentiates those who will like it from those who won’t? What will make people buy it as opposed to just looking at it and admiring it?

The more precisely you can identify your customer the easier it will be to target them with your marketing. You want to have an idea of what sex they are, roughly what age they are, where they shop, what they read, where they hang out, how much they spend... All of these things will help you plan your marketing strategy. If you don’t know the answer try conducting marketing research surveys to find the answers.
Let’s face it if you are talking full size quilts you are looking at people with fairly big budgets. Quilts are not cheap to produce and take a lot of hours to make therefore making your costs high, so someone buying a large quilt is going to have a very different budget from the kind of person that would buy some quilted mug rugs.

In part 3 on Monday 19 January we will look at pricing your products to make sure you make a profit.