Fabric Storage

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In honor of September’s National Sewing Month, I thought I would share my favorite methods of fabric storage.

To store my lovely fabric stash of quilt cottons, I recently purchased some white glass front shelves from Ikea. The glass doors help protect the fabric from dust and my kitties. But the best part is that you can easily see just what you need, without digging through a stack of fabric. And to be honest, I just love looking at them all neatly folded and color sorted. It’s like a nicely organized bookshelf, except there is fabric instead of books!

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I have all of my scrap or small yardage quilt cottons, that I typically use for my quilt block beds, stored in small canvas bins on Elfa shelving from the Container Store. These little canvas bins are available in different sizes, and are nicely accommodated on different shelf depths. They also come with a clear plastic label area. Again I have them color sorted, but rather than type out what colors are in what bins, I just used the fabrics themselves for the label fronts, so that I know which bin to grab on my next project.

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For bulky fabrics, like my minky fabrics, I have found that nothing works better than these large canvas pop-up laundry bags I found at the Container Store. They are wide enough, and deep enough, to hold quite a few yards of the fabric. Since I stock 37 colors, I purchased several bags for color sorting.  And, in my case, the bags fit beautifully underneath my large sewing table. An extra bonus!!

My utility fabrics (canvas/muslin/batting) are stored in large clear plastic tubs with lids that I got at my local Target store. I do have some unwashed bolts in the room, but like to transfer the fabric to these tubs once washed. Choosing clear containers lets me quickly keep track of my inventory of fabrics washed and ready for cutting.

Thanks to Lucy for assisting with the photography.

How do you store your fabrics? I would love to know!

Moo Ahh

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Box of Goodies from Moo

Moo Ahh – a new descriptive term for what you say when opening a package from Moo, Inc.

This is just the most amazing advertising company.  As they say in their logo, “We love to print”.  Well I’m certainly a believer!  I came across this company quite by accident, in an internet search for an online company that could print some new tags for my products.

This is something I have been thinking about doing for quite some time.  And within just days after finding this company online, I saw a notice in an Etsy Success newsletter that they were offering a 30% off sale on any and all products ordered by Sunday, September 8th via the Etsy link provided.  So I spent the better part of that weekend working in Photoshop to format my photos in the correct size and resolution for printing, and placed my order.  Moo has excellent online instructions for submission of your order.  The best part is that they can even pull your photos directly from your Etsy site, although I preferred to rework mine so that they were saved in a higher resolution for print.  The one piece of advice I have here is to allow Moo’s system to “enhance” your photos.  It provides better contrast and brighter colors for any photos you are using.

Final-Moo-2-DSC05236Moo Mini Cards

This is just the neatest company.  Not only are they are able to print in full color on both sides of the card, but they have a technology called Printfinity that gives the option to print a different image or design on every business card, mini card, sticker, etc.  Truly amazing!  Just think about that for a minute – you can showcase your entire portfolio of products on your cards.  Explore Moo’s “inspiration” tab on their website to get loads of great ideas and a feel for what your order will look like.

Not only are my new cards beautiful, but they arrived within one week, and were wonderfully packaged.  Opening the package was like opening a lovely gift, with each of my sets of new mini cards and business cards stored in the prettiest little boxes with colorful wraps.  It was like opening a rainbow!

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Tyler wonders why Lucy is on my business card

I am so excited to be able to offer these new tags and business cards when shipping my products.  They will definitely boost the professional appearance of everything I create.  If you have ANY need for superior advertising, I would definitely check this company out!  They received an all paws up in this pet household!!

 

Sewing the Seeds

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Beautiful Fabrics

Have you ever flirted with the idea of turning your sewing hobby into a profitable business?   If so you aren’t alone.  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small enterprises account for 52% of all U.S. workers!  However before you take the entrepreneurial plunge, you might want to consider:

The Value of Time

Creating items for yourself or family/friends on your own schedule is fun, but what about receiving orders from customers that need to be filled on a strict schedule?  Running a business is great in that you can take breaks to run an errand, or you can choose to work late in the evening as opposed to working early in the morning.  Unlike your typical 8-5 desk job, you have a great deal of flexibility, but with that you also have a lot of responsibility.  You will find that time is no longer your own in a different kind of way.  It’s true that when you own a business you actually work more hours than if you work 40 hours a week for someone else.  So be careful what you wish for, and be sure to discuss this time commitment with others in your household.

Financial Commitment

Do you have the initial funds that will be necessary for you to start your business?  If not are you able to borrow the money?  Try to make a list of the costs that will be necessary, and develop a financial plan.  Some costs will be up front, while others can be spread over a period of time.  If you need more expensive items like equipment, find out if these items can be purchased and paid for over a set period with no interest charges, to save on the initial start-up costs of your business.  All businesses take time to grow, so don’t plan on turning a profit too soon.

Getting Creative

So you have decided you have the time/money and still want to start a sewing business.  Do you know what type of business you want?  There are so many choices.  Do you want a retail store or would you like to sell online?  Do you want to sell sewing supplies or actually create items for sell?  Are you great at altering clothing?  Maybe you love making patterns and would consider selling those to others?   Would you like to write books for people that sew?  Or maybe you would like to teach sewing classes.  The point here is to think through all the possibilities and choose one that best meets your own time, financial, and creative needs.  Find a niche and fill it!

Business Savvy

Once you have decided on the type of sewing business you would like to have, start thinking of a good business name.  Do searches, by going to a website for domain name registrations, to see if the name you like has already been chosen by someone.  You definitely want a unique name.  Even if you won’t be selling online you will eventually need an online presence, so choose your name wisely. You should also search the US Patent and Trademark office to see if the name you have chosen is trademarked.  You might also check to see if your chosen business name is being used in social media – on a Facebook Page (this is different than a personal Facebook site), on Twitter, on Pinterest, and on any other social media you might use.  Once you find an available name you like go ahead and register it as a domain name now (about $10).

It would also be a good idea to register this name as a dba (doing business as) name with your local county and perhaps your state.  Most states should have an online website for this type of information.  You will also need to register with your state comptroller’s office if you will be filing a sales tax return.  Find an attorney or tax accountant to help you with the decision on what type of business you want to have – a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.  All have different legal and tax implications.

Finding a Mentor (or two or three)

Find as many good mentors for your business as possible.  Bounce ideas off of friends and family.  In business areas where you are weak find someone who can assist you.  One friend that really helped me was a serious quilter, and she gave me “shortcuts” for sewing.  She also happened to have a master’s degree in business!  Read, read, read, and watch online videos.  There are so many online resources out there now to help those wanting to start their own business.  The Small Business Administration has a great website.  I sell online with Etsy, and they have a remarkable network of resources for folks starting creative businesses.  If you will be selling online, also check out other sites like Craftsy, MadeIt, and Big Cartel to see what online stores might work best for you.

The Big Learning Curve

So now that you have many of your business plans firmed up, it’s time to get busy and LEARN!  This means completion of everything you need to do prior to hanging up your “Open” sign.  If you have new equipment learn how to properly use it.  Take lessons if necessary.  If you are selling items learn about branding and pricing, and how to source materials.  If you want an online business you will have to learn how to set up an online store(s), and will need to make enough items, or purchase enough supplies, to stock a store.  You will also need to learn the ins and outs of shipping.  Learn all you can about advertising and photography.  Learn how to make use of social media to assist in advertising your business.  For some it’s a sharper learning curve than for others, but if you just make a list and tackle things one at a time it will help.  Determine what you need to learn first and start there.  Oh, and be sure to enjoy the process along the way!

Trust me the rewards of all your hard work will be worthwhile, and in ways you can’t even imagine.  There really is nothing like owning your own business.  It is still the American dream and definitely an accomplishment to be proud of!

Craft Fairs

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Antique Booth at the 2012 Country Living Fair in Austin, Texas

I am delighted to announce that I have signed up to be an exhibitor at the 2014 Austin Pet Expo event.  The 2013 expo is held this year on Saturday, August 3rd.  As this event was already full I got a head start on next year!  I will also be attending the expo in Austin in two weeks, and taking lots of photos, so if you are in the area I hope to see you there.

Even though it’s a full year away, I am excited because this is the first fair I’ve signed up to attend, although I am thinking I need to go to a couple of smaller venues prior to next summer just to gain experience.  Here are two things you probably don’t know about me: 1) I have professionally recruited through my work at The University of Texas at career fairs, and 2) over 10 years ago I had an antique business and rented space at a “brick and mortar” location.  These unique experiences will give me a head start on retail/craft fairs.  From my UT experience I know about setting up/taking down booth spaces, and how to relate to people.  From my antique business I also know about how to best display products that you sell.

In fact, I know that a craft type fair is hard WORK.  I will need to put some real effort into designing and organizing my space to attract customers.  I will have to pack my car with everything I need for the day, spend the day on my feet, and then pack the car again after the fair is over for the ride home.  Selling online is very different than selling directly to people.   One of the things I love most about direct selling is the ability to meet your potential customers and talk with them, find out what works for them and what doesn’t.  Honestly I think I will come away from this experience with more great ideas for product changes or new products.  A wonderful, wonderful benefit!  And of course folks will have their pets with them, and that always makes me happy!

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Beautiful Shelties at the 2012 Dogtoberfest in Austin

And I have to admit I absolutely LOVE the thought of creating a space (in this case a 10′ x 10′ space) to sell my pet products.  My mind is already in creative gear, and I even set up a new Pinterest “Fair and Craft Shows Display” board to have a place to pin any great ideas I see online.  I also have to work on my product branding for this fair, and learn how to use a point-of-sale credit card device on my smart phone.

Just this morning I read an interview on the Jane’s Apple blog of Etsy artist Allison, creator of Sweater Doll.  In it she was asked to share her number one tip for selling handmade online.  I found her answer quite eye-opening.  Here it is in its entirety:

“Make REAL relationships in your local community. Don’t depend on online networking. Even the guy who invented coffee cup jackets can sustain an online business now only because he walked into cafes and created a business with real people first. Get out there – wear your own handmade jewelry, clothes, and accessories, give your own handmade creations as gifts, give your items to charities regularly, ask shops if they can use your items in their window displays, teach classes at local libraries or craft shops. Most people do not buy handmade online sight unseen. iPads? Sure. Handmade clothing, not nearly as much. People want to see, hold, revel in goods. Handmade goods are a relationship not just a commodity. My dolls sell a little online, but they become magnetic when someone picks one up! But the online shop keeps me available to people outside of my area which is a real blessing. Selling handmade online is usually part of a business, not the whole business.”

All I can say is WOW.  Really gives those of us who are online sellers a LOT to think about!  Do you have any thoughts or tips for setting up a display booth, or just getting organized for a craft fair.  If so I would love to hear your ideas!

Sew Colorful

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There’s just something about color in thread and fabric that really gets me drooling.  Those of you who sew will totally know what I am talking about!  When I saw this new line of Aurifil cotton thread that the Hawthorne Threads website started carrying this past week, I got pretty excited.

252 colors.

252 glorious colors! 

And all viewable online.  And then of course there is the chart you can purchase.

Thread Card

Oh my.  I think the Kona cotton color chart I currently have is in need of a colorful thread chart for a friend.  And if you are trying to match specific thread colors to your fabrics, this is the way to do it.  Yes it may be a little more money up front  (this thread chart sells for $29.50), but it’s the only way to go if you are going to order products online.  And it certainly beats standing in long lines at your local brick-and-mortar store, your sample fabrics in hand, to purchase your thread.

In my shop I had a need to match all of the 37 minky colors I carry to a same color Kona cotton.  To start with I ordered many swatches of minky fabrics from several different online companies.  I did this both to check the quality of the fabrics and their color. Then I purchased my Kona color chart online through Purl Soho.  Here is a photo of that chart.  Yum!

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I then matched up my minky fabrics to the closest shade of Kona cottons, and created an Excel spreadsheet showing my color names (used in my own shop), and the product number/color listed for the corresponding fabric in several online shops.  A somewhat exhausting task but worthwhile once complete, as it saves me time when I need to place a new fabric order online.

Here is an example from that chart.

Excel Color Chart 2

I do a lot of my online ordering for both my Kona cottons and minky fabrics through Fabric.com.  So far I’ve experienced great customer service from them, and if your order is over $35 – which mine almost always is – shipping is free.  The chart above only shows nine of the 37 colors I carry.  As you can see, this chart allows me to quickly determine the correct product to purchase from each specific company.  The Kona cottons always carry the same name/number, even if purchased through someone other than Fabric.com.  In fact the highlighted rows above quickly indicate the colors that Fabric.com does not carry, and those products I purchase elsewhere.

For others who sew, or have a sewing business, I hope the process by which I select my products/colors is of some help.  I would also love to hear how you make your fabric color choices!