Sunday, June 24, 2012

You Ought To Sell That

Sooner or later everyone who has successfully sewn for herself hears, "You ought to sell that," or "I bet you could get real money for stuff like that on eBay or Etsy." I'm not persuaded that it is true. There's a special mindset needed  for selling online, and a lot of skills. You don't just get to sit home and craft. You have to be a photo stylist, photographer, and photo editor; copywriter, bookkeeper and marketing person as well. Instead of making whatever pleases you or a special item for a special person, you have to make multiples, hoping your choice will please people you don't even know. If you decide to sell at local markets and craft fairs, you have to think about displays, schlep the stuff, and be charming to people. Charming is a skill I lack.

I look at what things sell for and what people are willing to pay. I used to make teddy bears. A good bear takes the better part of 2 days to make, and takes special joints and a certain kind of plastic eyes. By the time I'd totaled the costs, I'd invested $20 in a bear that with luck, I could sell for $25. And table rent, gasoline and incidentals weren't factored in. I decided that bear making was not for me, because I couldn't imagine a customer who would be willing to spent $75 on a 14-inch bear. After the first bear, it wasn't a lot of fun, anyway.

Online prices for doll clothing can be depressing.  I refined a pattern for years before I could reliably turn out successful doll dresses from it. Similar dresses are sold for $8, and I'm not willing to sell mine for that.  A person with a long track record gets $20 for hers. The fit is visibly better on the $20 sheath dress, and it looks pretty much like the ones I make. $20 is a fair price for a tiny dress that can take 90 minutes to make, and that does not include the intangibles such as the time and experience it took, finding the right fabric for the scale of the doll, or presenting it for sale online. Considering the cost of materials and the time it would take me to make something similar, I'd be earning a negative wage if I started at the bottom. 

I tend to research things to death. I helped out at several craft fairs and learned that a good display sells mediocre merchandise, a low price deters buyers, and a strong back is essential. A combination dog wash and spring festival is not a good venue to sell jewelry unless your jewelry is dog-oriented. Selling felt masks and Halloween themed jewelry at a gourd festival just before Halloween flopped. A felt mask that took 3 hours to make was too costly at $18, because people came to the fair looking for bargain pumpkins. Elaborately painted and carved gourds were admired but not purchased.

Manning a booth at a craft fair demands a strong back. Sometimes there are wheeled carts and onsite helpers. More often, you schlep things yourself. A low rate for space rental is offset by your needing to provide table, tent or umbrella, and more. If you are serious, you will buy or concoct display racks and stands. You'll devise displays that lift from their storage containers to the tabletop without needing to be put together. 

Feedback from lookers and potential customers is stimulating. I found that necklaces I made for myself because I loved them were appreciated. After years of being told that my taste was too sophisticated and that no one would buy my stuff, I found positive feedback delicious.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

P H D -- Piled Higher and Deeper

When I called Bulk Waste Pickup the instructions were precise: If you intend to put out more, call us and say so or it won't be picked up.
The person on the other end of the phone line wanted to know the types of items, sizes, metal or wood.  How much metal, how much wood. How much does it weigh? Is it painted?

I had a stack of old  window screens. I hadn't counted them, and wouldn't until I had to move them. I told Bulk Waste I had 10.There was a pause, as if I should have included measurements. I was clearing my garage, but Bulk Waste made me think that I needed permission to get rid of things, and I only put out the screens.

Several weeks after I called to get my name on the list, I carried screens to the curb and stacked them neatly. There were 14, not 10. Would they leave 4 on the ground? I put them out mid afternoon, when I had time and energy, not at 9 PM as instructed. I am not fool enough to tote unwieldy screens down 120 feet of driveway in the dark.

Does each piece of garbage needed a pedigree? Should I list the number of screens with plastic mesh as opposed to those with metal mesh, and the total square inches of each? Did I have a linear foot count of the wood? Did I need to count the metal screen hangers and screw hooks and eyes as well?

Six weeks in advance, I don't even know precisely what I OWN. I'm sorting. I will keep things, give things to friends, donate what I can.

Dealing with Bulk Waste Pickup, I began to have sympathy for folks who move away and leave towers of garbage on their tree lawns. They HAD to, because Bulk Waste Pickup wanted to know what would be put out long before the people knew what they would be keeping. 

Deciding what to keep and what to jettison is the easy part. Old TVs, clothing  and computers go to Goodwill, building materials go to ReStore. Books go to the Planned Parenthood book sale. Fabric in lengths of a yard or more goes to one church. Smaller bits go to an organization that makes quilts. Plastic takeaway containers go in the recycle bin only if they have the right codes on the bottoms, and the list of the right codes has changed several times in 15 years.  Once upon a time I knew that Bulk Pickup would haul away anything that was left after I had found new homes for  as much as I could.

 At 7 PM  I passed an occasional house with vast piles of assorted non-food rubbish. How had they answered Bulk Waste? In the past I've seen these piles and been certain that Bulk Waste would deal with it. Now, I'm not at all sure. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Street Legal

So much of my life is like walking uphill. I drove to a store I'll call Kroger Universe, to differentiate it from a regular Kroger store. Kroger stores helped put Mom & Pop bookstores, toy stores and drug stores out of business by including entire aisles of nonfood items. Kroger Universe would like us to buy dishes, pots and pans, furniture and oodles of toys. Plants and gasoline too. They'd like us to live there. There are tables and free newspapers next to the deli counter. The magazine rack is next to a Starbucks kiosk. The aisles  are wide enough that even a woman with 4 children can't block one entirely. It is well lit. There's no feeling of impending crushing by towering shelves. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Packing and Sorting Books

I awoke to the dulcet tones of a weedwhacker. It was 8 am. Promptly at 9, the racket ceased.  I have sympathy and understanding for the person who wanted to get chores done while the day was cool.  The weedwhacker alarm clock has a future, I think. No matter how much trouble you've had getting to sleep, you will not sleep through the weedwhacker.

I'm making progress with book sorting. Some of the Keep boxes, organized by alphabetically by the first letter of the author's last name ( No need to get too finicky) filled quickly. M is overflowing. I thought about having M1 and M2, but it seems somehow related to British crime fictions and I may find this confusing in the future.

Bending over and sorting books is a stop and start occupation for a person with sinus problems living in the Miami Valley of Ohio. When dizzy, stop and do something else.  When you fall on your face, roll over and read.

The boxed books to keep stay in the dining room. The ones to donate are in the living room. Not trusting this system, I've also written Keep and Donate on the appropriate boxes. I think that is clear enough, but helpers have confused things in the past, and so have I. An entire box of Rae Foley mysteries went to the library by mistake. I hope they enjoyed them, because I still miss them 15 years later.

Sorting books for more than an hour at a time makes me indiscriminate. Some books that landed in the Keep boxes are just competently written, not particularly wonderful or fraught with nostalgic meaning for me. Some authors get inveigled into writing series and then get tired of the characters. Others start new series at the drop of a hat. It doesn't matter that much to me. If an author writes well, I'll keep buying and reading. If the author hates the character and writes kiss offs, I stop buying. There are some very well known authors I would not buy on a bet. They'll never miss me, either. Such is life.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

UFO Sewing

In summer, I want to feel the wind whistling through my clothing, if there is any wind to be had. By that I mean I like very loose clothing. I sewed  two UFO's today that may work, a T shirt that was complete except for a hem, and a pair of shorts that needed elastic, or a zipper and darts.

The T-shirt had apparently been designed for a very tall or very busty person. Before cutting it, I shortened the body length, but when I tried it on, it hung low enough to be considered a tunic. What the heck, a 2 1/2-inch hem never hurt anyone. The neckline would not be considered too low on Pamela Anderson, but I'm less than thrilled. This T-shirt may never be worn, as the cream background looks pretty awful with my skin tones. I bought the fabric because it was all cotton, had small blue paisleys painted on it, and was forty cents. Perhaps it needs blue ribbing at the neck. Hmmm. Okay, this one is NOT complete.

Pants and shorts that I cut from a pattern always need major alteration. Invariably, even if they are simple drawstring dealies. Imagine my delight when they seemed to fit. Imagine my shock when there was enough fabric to fold over elastic. They were loose but not too loose, short but not too short. I did not have to add a crescent to the back to accommodate my behind. Something had gone wonderfully right.

My pants projects tend to hang around forever in varying stages of completion because I am demoralized by all the refitting, recutting and twiddling that usually needs to be done. Wasting no time, I cut out and sewed on patch pockets, only to find that every seam would have to be resewn because, after all, the thing was BASTED together. Loosely. Sigh. In protest, I used magenta thread on the blue denim shorts, but I finished them. The elastic is encased, the pockets are on, and hems are done. I cheated by adding bias tape to the bottoms because I like longish shorts and losing nearly 2 inches to a hem would kill my soul. I MUST make a pattern from these. I want at least three pairs of loose pull-on shorts for gardening.

Something about having a project come together quickly without needing major alterations is enabling. Perhaps I can use a newish pattern, one printed in the past 5 years. I may even pay full price for cotton knit fabric to make boxy T-shirts that contain no spandex whatsoever and are not the color of an eggplant that has been around way too long. 

Have you ever noticed that the only all-cotton knits that show up in the remnant bin are in colors you wouldn't, couldn't, and shouldn't wear? Check it out. If you want spandex/latex/rubber in your cotton knit, the colors are divine but the stuff is clingy and disobedient when you try to cut it. I am not a fan of clingy, or of cotton/spandex Ts that become form-fitting wet things the instant the temperature hits 85 degrees. I hate trying to peel myself out of form-fitting soggy spandex T-shirts at any temperature. I wish to feel comfortable, and I am comfortable when the shirt is loose enough for a passing breeze to make it billow.