Bustle And Sew Magazine

Ask the Bunny ….. Pricing

by Helen on September 5, 2014

A little while ago I invited people to “Ask the Bunny” here on my blog, and by far the largest number of questions related to pricing your handmade goodies for sale. This is definitely the thorniest of areas and there is no real right or wrong … or is there?

Although I personally don’t make to sell any more, I’ve attended plenty of craft fairs in the past (as DevonBear Designs), and sold handmade items both on my website and through Etsy. Like so many people I have always struggled to put a value on my work. I wonder if that’s perhaps because we’re taught from a very early age to be modest and self-deprecating about our achievements? This then translates to us feeling uncomfortable about asking what we think is too much for our handmade creations – perhaps feeling that this is a bit like showing off about how good they are.

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In some ways I think under-pricing is a worse “sin” if you’ll forgive the word, than over-pricing. Let’s face it, it’s easy to reduce your prices if something isn’t selling, but nobody has ever (in my experience anyway) suggested paying more than your asking price. I’ve been told I wasn’t charging enough, but wasn’t offered more hard cash to make up for it! And if you under-price you may be only just covering your costs (or not) and by undercutting other sellers making it harder for them to charge a realistic price for their work. But before I go off on one about this (as Rosie would say), I think it’s worth having a look at how much it actually costs to make your softie/bag/cushion or anything else…..

When you’re working out your cost price then there are various elements you need to consider:

  • Cost of supplies – self explanatory
  • Time taken/your hourly rate – what is a basic living wage where you are?
  • Hidden costs – promotion, packaging, utilities, costs of attending shows, website costs, PayPal fees etc

Many makers are happy with the first element and price to cover those costs, but forget all about paying themselves and all the other costs incurred in making something. If you’re serious about selling your makes and achieving a profit, no matter how tiny, then you simply can’t ignore these second two elements. If you’re going to give your time away for free then you will never develop a successful crafting business. Instead of lowering your product price to compete with others – especially hobbyists who only sell to cover material costs – you will need to think of ways in which you can develop a strong brand with a good reputation, making sure that customers will see your items as special and desirable, especially if you’re not the cheapest in the marketplace.

An added complication is that your pricing should also be appropriate to your target market, and where you’re selling your products. If you’re selling at local craft fairs then you’ll almost certainly find that you have to charge less than you would online for your products to sell. People go to these events for “a nice day out” and to “pick up a bargain” whereas online there is much more awareness, thanks at least in part to sites such as Etsy and Not on the High Street, of what a fair price should be.

Charlie Barlee Studio makes my Fabric Deer Head design to sell and credits Bustle & Sew on her FaceBook. That’s absolutely fine, and her deer heads are lovely. 

And finally … don’t forget to consider copyright when you’re making to sell. I know that Disney, for example, are very tough on people selling Disney-themed items without their consent.  Many pattern writers also don’t allow commercial use of their designs unless you purchase a special licence, which again you will also need to build into the cost of making each item. As I don’t sell myself, I’m more than happy for you to make items from my patterns to sell – provided you have made them yourself and that you credit Bustle & Sew with the design – I think that’s only fair, don’t you?



A closer look – Christmas Woodland Friends

by Helen on September 1, 2014

It’s September!  I can hardly believe it – where did the summer go?  And for me, like so many other stitchers I’m certain, September sees the beginning of my Christmas stitching.  In this month’s issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine you’ll find my first Christmas patterns for 2014.  One of these is the first part of my set of Woodland Friends …. little animals peeping out of 3″ hoops …..

The first three designs feature an owl in ear muffs, robin in a hat and a cute reindeer with Christmas baubles dangling from his antlers.  I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at the materials I’ve used to create these little friends – especially if you’re planning to make your own set for Christmas.

It was important to me that the friends would very clearly be a set so I used the same background fabric for them all (and will continue for the second three friends coming in October’s issue).  I like a medium weight fabric – rather like a Cath Kidston cotton duck for applique work as it’s nice and substantial to take all the stitching – and any loose ends won’t show through.  For these friends I chose Blue Dotty from Clarke & Clarke.  I thought it looked a bit like a snowy sky perhaps?  Above you can see the beginnings of the applique.  I’ve transferred my designs to the fabric and marked where the hoop will be with my temporary fabric marker pen.  I love these pens and personally haven’t experienced any problems with erased lines reappearing, though I know others have reported this on their blogs.

Here’s a closer look at the reindeer beginning to take shape.  I’ve used scraps of vintage linen for all the animal bodies – again this will help the feeling that they belong together – and some tiny pieces of Tilda fabric for the deer’s head marking, owl’s wings and the branch the robin is perching on.  Similarly the owl’s eyes and robin’s hat are the same green – only the robin’s red breast is a unique fabric to that particular hoop. I ALWAYS work with natural fibres – and must admit I’m even a bit sniffy about mixes such as poly-cottons.  I think natural fibres simply look and feel nicer and are much easier to work with too.  Just look at the texture of the linen in the deer’s head below.

Although natural fibres can be more expensive, you only need very small quantities for these designs, and may well find you have suitable scraps left over from other projects.  You can save a little too when mounting them as there’s no need to purchase the more expensive Elbessee hoops to mount your work – cheap craft hoops will work absolutely fine.  I painted my hoops with some leftover chalk paint as I thought this worked well for a light – possibly feeling a bit snowy, Christmassy feel.

I’ve used the same colours of embroidery floss for all three animals for a harmonious set of designs.  I simply can’t stress enough how important it is to choose a good quality floss for your work.  You just won’t achieve nice results with that awful cheap floss that gets sold in huge quantities on eBay or similar.  It tangles and breaks and is incredibly frustrating to work with.  I always use DMC or Anchor flosses, both of which are widely available internationally.   I hope you like my little animals and be sure to look out for the final three Woodland Friends in the October issue of the Magazine!

And finally … I nearly forgot to mention – the September issue is now available in paperback from Amazon.

CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon.co.uk and CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon.com


Less than 24 hours to wait

by Helen on August 27, 2014

I am so VERY excited!!  Tomorrow is publication day for the September issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.  With all these projects ….

And lots more inside as well.  Rosie and I have been working very hard on the look and feel of the magazine, adding some new features too..  Below is a preview of the contents and I really hope you’ll approve of the changes we’re making….

And if you were considering subscribing to the magazine then please don’t delay.  This is your final chance to subscribe at the current price of $6.50 per month (bargain!).  The price to new subscribers will rise to $7.50 per month on 1 September. (if you’re already a subscriber, then don’t worry your price will remain unchanged forever)

I’m really sorry about the price rise for new subscribers from September, caused by rising costs and a strong pound.  But I do hope you’ll agree that the Bustle & Sew Magazine is still great value for money!


A most enjoyable morning

by Helen on August 21, 2014

Yesterday I was very busy all day working hard on the September Magazine.  It’s coming along very nicely and I’m particularly pleased with the cover – featuring my new 21st century Bustle & Sew bunny ….

But while I was very happily occupied, somebody else was feeling a little bored and fed up with the lack of attention….

“Come and play, or what about a lovely walk, come on … puhleeese Muuuummm …..”  

So today I took them both on one of their favourite expeditions – down to the River Avon at Loddiswell.  The river runs clear and cold down from Dartmoor and there’s a beautiful path through woodland alongside, perfect for a gentle relaxing stroll.  But have I ever experienced a gentle relaxing stroll along this path? No.  I have not.  This is because I am towed along by two over-excited, impatient-to-get-in-the water Newfoundlands rather faster than I would choose to travel!  I can’t let them run loose too early as the river banks are very steep and although they’d get into the water absolutely fine, I am not at all sure they’d be able to get out again very easily.  But eventually we reach the wide curve in the river where there’s a lovely shallow shingle beach.   Leads come off and there’s a mad dash for the water …..

River Avon at Loddiswell, Devon

If you’d like to see the image above in a larger format, then please just click on it to view in Flickr.  I wanted to show you how beautiful the river is so took a whizzy panoramic shot on my phone.  I don’t know if you can make out the Newfies – Ben is on the left digging for river stones, while Daisy is paddling around looking for sticks.

As you can see, he’s quite back to his usual self again… collecting some really very large stones – almost too heavy for me to easily pick up.  I took a shot of his collection (he likes to arrange them neatly on the shoreline) next to my feet so you could see their size …

All those large rocks are the stones Ben has retrieved from the river bed!  Hope he doesn’t break another tooth.  Then home for a little sewing. …

This time for Rosie.  She’s asked for a new dress and chosen the Camber Dress from Merchant & Mills.  I’m really enjoying this pattern – there is a most interesting yoke construction and set in sleeves, so lots to think about while the Newfies slumber after their walk.