Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Monday in Beadland

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 4:37 pm on Monday, August 29, 2005

I hardly beaded all weekend. Now that I’ve established a concept of working M-F as a blogger, I’m applying that to my crafts – to a degree, anyway.

I did make about a dozen more sets of beaded stitch markers on Saturday.

I also discovered, through CraftLilly’s blog, a new resource for us to sell our handcrafted items online with. Etsy, which opened in June, offers crafters the opportunity to put up listings for their finished pieces and sell online. It’s not an auction – rather, you put up a listing, note how many pieces you have in stock, and set a price and shipping options. Compare it to the “Buy It Now” option over at eBay, and you’ll have the idea.

Etsy is still officially in beta, until their official opening in November. But they seem to be having great success already. They had been around barely two months before recording their 500th sale. And to look at the forums, there are at least a few artists who are experiencing pretty good sales figures already.

The main type of goods for sale at Etsy are handcrafted (or hand-altered) goods, made by the person who is selling them. There are also categories for craft supplies, however, as well as patterns, and vintage items.

I had begun putting up listings on eBay last week, but I may be switching over. Most of what I have to offer at this time is either finished handcrafts, or crafting supplies. Etsy isn’t charging anything for listings while they’re in beta, and even when they do begin charging in November, they’ll be cheaper than listing at eBay.

Check them out when you have a chance. I imagine I’ll try to get my first listing up before the end of the week.

On a related subject – if you’re going to sell your crafts, you need to have some idea of how to price them. I have written a couple of posts over at Folkcat’s Fiber Crafts on that subject. I won’t copy them here, but will provide these links:

  1. How I Price Finished Crafts
  2. More About Pricing

Pricing can be one of the most intimidating parts of the process for a crafter just starting to sell their pieces. I hope my discussions about how I handle it will be of some help.

And the Winner is….; also, More About Pricing

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 4:21 pm on Monday, August 29, 2005

…danserz!

Congratulations, Bonnie! Please take another look at the pictures here, and make your selection of any two of the sets shown. Send me e-mail through the link on the right under “Want to Contact Me?”, and let me know your choices, and the snail mail address to send your prize to.

Many thanks to all who participated! As you must have guessed, this contest amounted to a bit of market survey for me. Since I’ve never bought beaded stitch markers, I had no idea what price a nicely made set could get.

I have a lot of experience in pricing my finished bead work, but as I explained in Friday’s post, the final step always requires a reality check. This means matching up the price you think you have to get against the reality of “Will people actually pay that?” Ultimately, if your materials and labor add up, to pluck a number out of the air, to $10, but the item is usually readily available to the public for $7, you’re going to have trouble selling any.

There are several things you need to do in this case. First, make absolutely sure your technique is good. The overall appearance of the finished piece must look as though it’s worth what you’re asking. If your wrapped loops are uneven, if your beads are supposed to be round and they’re misshapen, if your pliers have scratched up the wire – they will look poorly, and people won’t be willing to pay as much. If everything looks like perfection, though, people may pay more for an obviously better looking product.

Next, see if you can refine your technique to work more quickly, reducing the labor cost. The only way to do this is practice, practice, practice. If the technique is wrapped loops, as for the beaded stitch markers, get a bunch of cheap wire and make loops until you can turn them out almost without thinking. By the time I was done with the first ten sets of beaded stitch markers, I had my technique perfected to where I could turn out a set of five in about six minutes. Labor cost, at my standard rate of $15/hour – $1.50.

Finally, do what you can to reduce the cost of materials. Choose the best quality of materials you can afford, and find ways to purchase them less expensively. Most mail-order bead vendors offer significant discounts if you purchase in multiples. If you have beading friends, consider pooling an order and sharing the savings.

Once you’ve taken these steps, re-calculate your base price for your product again.

(Materials * 2) + Labor = base price.

In the case of my beaded stitch markers, if I make a set of five using beads and findings comparable to what I’ve used so far, that comes out to:

($0.75*2) + $1.50 = $3.00

And here’s where the reality check comes in. I think we can all agree that, even for a wholesale price for a complete set of 5 markers, $3.00 is a little low. I’ll probably mark that up to $5 wholesale – which allows retailers to do a standard mark-up and sell them for $10.00.

Keep in mind that I’ll be adding in some sort of packaging, too – at least a small zip-top bag and maybe a printed card topper. That cost has to be added in to the final figure. In my example of beaded stitch markers, marking the wholesale price to $5 not only covers packaging materials well, but I clearly have some wiggle room to work a deal for quantity purchases, and still make a profit.

Given all this, if I were to sell these on eBay, I’d probably set a base price for bidding at $6.00, that being a price that gives me a comfortable profit, but can still give a bidder a nice bargain over retail. If I sell directly to someone at retail, I’ll likely go for $9 – $12, depending on the market. If I were to use more expensive beads, such as Swarovski crystals, or vintage Czech, then prices go up accordingly. But that will already have been accounted for in my basic formula.

Keep in mind that you always want to set both a wholesale and a retail price for your goods. If you only have one basic price, and you sell to a craft gallery at that price, they’ll be marking your product up to re-sell it at a profit. They’re not going to want to learn that they marked the earrings they bought from you at $10 (or sometimes more, depending on their policies), but that you sold direct to the public at craft fairs for the same $5 price they paid. Consumers are smart; they won’t buy from the gallery if they know they can get the item direct from you for cheaper. And you’ll lock yourself out of the possibility of gallery sales.

The same is true if you put your crafts in a consignment-based gallery. You never want the portion that you get from the sale to be less than the wholesale price you have set. If you are asked to set the final selling price for the piece, be sure to check that you’ll get that much after the gallery takes their percentage.

There are other factors that can be considered, too – for instance, if the price you set is too low when compared to the going market, even if you’re making a fair profit at that level, people may perceive your pieces as cheap, even if they’re not. You never want to leave the consumer wondering that the price is so low, it may have been made in a sweatshop in a Third World country.

The examples I’ve used here are for pricing beadwork, but the same principles will work for any handcraft. All it takes to apply them is to 1) perfect your technique, 2) know your materials (and shop carefully for them!) and 3) know your market.

I hope this little guide to pricing – and my first post about it, here – have been of some help. Pricing is often intimidating to crafters who are trying to break into selling their goods, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little information and thought, there’s no need to ever worry that you’re undervaluing – or overpricing – the work of your hands.

Entries are now closed

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 12:22 am on Monday, August 29, 2005

By my clock, it’s now about 12:19 a.m. Eastern time, Monday morning. Entries in the beaded stitch marker give-away are now closed.

Thanks for all your input – I’ll discuss it in more detail later when I also announce the winner. But you’ve all been very helpful, and given me a lot of information that I couldn’t have come up with on my own. It is appreciated.

Keep watching – this was enough fun that I may do more contests! I just have to come up with more ideas….

Oh, and One More Thing…

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 10:18 pm on Friday, August 26, 2005

…I’m doing a give-away over on my fiber blog. If you liked those dozen sets of beaded stitch markers I made yesterday, the winner will get to choose two (count’em, two) of those sets for their very own.

Visit this entry, and follow the instructions to leave a comment. Enter before midnight, Sunday night (Eastern time). I’ll select randomly from all entries on Monday, and will announce the winner that day.

Thanks again, and good luck!

Not So Beady a Day

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 10:13 pm on Friday, August 26, 2005

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It’s Not Usually This Bad

Now isn’t that a stylish-looking way to start a blog post?

That’s my bed in the picture. Unmade. I really never make it. I figure, who’s going to see it except Gryphon, and he’d darn well better have something else in mind than “gee, the bed isn’t made” – right?

I decided, after enjoying making the beaded stitch markers so much, that I should look through the findings I had left after closing the store and assess what I really have to work with. That’s what you see, all over the bed.

Findings. Mostly goldplate, because the silver went like wildfire.

Actually, it’s pretty amazing that the small pile you’re looking at is all that was left when we finished the “Going Out of Business” sale. Word spread fast, and people came in droves to stock up while they could.

Still, it’s something to work with. I’ve got eyepins, and some styles of clasps, and I’ve got lots of crimp tubes.

And some of this stuff is surplus, or styles that I just don’t work with personally. Which is what finally spurred me to set up my first listing to sell on eBay.

Nothing fancy – just some of the good quality safety pins we sold at the store. In fact, here’s the picture.safety pin assortment.jpg
Safety Pins – 2 Sizes, 2 Finishes

Safety pins, you’re saying? At a bead store?

Yes, well….it all started when I bought some Xena, Warrior Princess costume pieces on eBay. Specifically, beaded objects that I could display at the bead store as a tie-in with the Wilton Film Festival.

One of the pieces was this safety-pin bracelet.
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Authentic Wardrobe from Xena

Yes, safety pins. In a fantasy show that takes place somewhere around the first few decades after Christ’s birth.

Think “low-budget”. Think “hundreds of extras”. Think “cheap”. Think “good enough for the camera”.

That final point was the main one I discussed in my store’s newsletter when I wrote about the bracelet. It’s a point about television and movie costuming that a lot of people don’t really understand, or are even aware of. Sometimes, shortcuts are taken when it’s not something that’s going to be very visible on screen.

In the case of the safety pin bracelet, I figure that, on an extra’s arm in the background somewhere, this probably looked like crude silver inset with amethyst.

Good enough for the camera.

I never got around to creating a project sheet to tell people how to make their own version of the Warrior Princess Safety Pin Bracelet. But if anyone’s interested, I could probably work out the instructions well enough to post here. Just let me know.

Whew….”not so beady a day,” she said. Just goes to show that a beader can always find a way to talk about beads if they give themselves half a chance!

Thanks for visiting!

Books/Fiber/Knitting/How-To: Stitch ‘n Bitch, The Knitter’s Handbook

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 9:27 pm on Friday, August 26, 2005

Title: Stitch ‘n Bitch, The Knitter’s Handbook
Author: Stoller, Debbie
Publisher: Workman Publishing
Copyright: 2003

Additional Category: Books/Fiber/Knitting/Patterns

Yes, it’s true – even though I’ve been knitting since the late 60’s, I own a copy of Stitch ‘N Bitch.

This book was so on the leading edge of the explosion of knitting as “hip” and “trendy” a couple years ago that – well, heck, it defined the edge. And yet, as an experienced knitter (“I was knitty when knitty wasn’t cool”), I still found that I could learn things from Stoller’s explanations.

The author has accomplished something that most knitters who set out to teach someone the craft never manage to do. She has noticed all the little things that we never think about in our knitting anymore, that can trip up a newbie knitter badly and make them give up. Like making sure when you turn your work, that you carry your yarn around the correct side of it, lest you wind up with something that looks like two stitches on the needle where there is only one. And she has illustrations for all these things, and she explains not just the differences but why things are different, and how to make it look like it should when it doesn’t.

Stoller’s own knitting is based on a long-standing family tradition, and she leads us into the knitting adventure by giving her own knitting history. It serves as a stepping-off point for understanding the place of knitting in women’s history, and how women in the post-feminist age are reclaiming it for their own.

Between the tutorials, and the anecdotes, and the knit-witty sidebars, this book is packed with good, solid, information. Add a hefty selection of patterns by multiple designers that range from cute, to trendy, to “hey wow, how’d you do that?” – with a good dose of the traditional basics – and Stitch ‘N Bitch becomes a real winner.

Recommended for any knitter, of any skill level. In fact, if for some reason you can only have one book in your knitting library, you wouldn’t go far wrong making it this one.

P.S.: Just for the record, the term “Stitch ‘N Bitch” has been around for decades. Among other uses, it has long been a traditional term applied by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism to any gathering of needleworkers, seamstresses, and tailors, especially if they’re female (though not exclusively). No one owns it, and anyone who claims they do is pulling your chain.

Contest Continues; How I Price Finished Crafts; a Reality Check; and, Half a Hug

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 9:14 pm on Friday, August 26, 2005

Many thanks to everyone who has commented so far in answer to my questions on yesterday’s post! The advice you are offering about “how many stitch markers make a set?” and “what would you be willing to pay for a set?” is helping me a great deal.

The answers to the first question are enlightening. 5 seems to be popular, with the reasoning being “4 corners and a beginning marker.” Makes sense to me! It seems that, in that case, you’d want a set of 5 where they all coordinate, but one was a little different so you could tell it from the others. Hmm….something to think about!

The second question is meant to provide what I call a “reality check” for the concept of pricing. I’ve got a fair bit of experience with pricing my finished beadwork – I made most of the finished jewelry we sold in my bead store.

The process of pricing, as I go about it, includes two calculations, and a reality check. The first calculation is to add up the cost of all your materials. I then usually double that – we’re presuming you purchased the materials at wholesale quantities.

The second requires you to have decided on an hourly wage for your labor – and remember, if you’re a crafter, we’re talking skilled labor. I usually use a figure of $15/hour. So, start by adding together the cost of your materials, and the cost of your labor.

The final step is the most important – the reality check. This requires some knowledge of the market. What you have to do is ask yourself – and as many people as you can – “How much would you pay for this?”

Let’s say that you are making something with a small amount of inexpensive materials that takes you about 5 minutes to make, yet is an elegant item in much demand. Your materials cost may be under $1, doubling to $2; your labor cost in this case is $1.25. If you based your final price on materials and cost alone, you’d be selling this item for $3.25.

This is why the reality check is so important. Let’s say that most of the similar items in this category sell in the market for between $7-$15 dollars. Compared to that reality, you’d be grossly underselling yourself if you stuck with that $3.25 price point. It would make a decent wholesale price – you could even mark up a little more for that – but not a good price if you’re selling directly to the end consumer.

And thus, I get to the reason why I asked all of you that second question – “How much would you be willing to pay?” I haven’t shopped for beaded stitch markers before. I think my LYS recently started carrying them, but I’ve been too broke to even spend the gas to get there lately. So my personal knowledge of applicable “reality” in this case is sorely lacking.

Based on my eBay research, the answers you’ve been kindly offering are right on the mark. And that makes me feel pretty good about the prospects of it being a reasonable business proposition to try to sell these stitch markers.

I’ll hold my final decision about what number to put in the sets for a little longer. After all, you’ve got until midnight Sunday night (Eastern time) to continuing adding comments to the contest!

Oh, yes – the Half a Hug. That’s the progress I’ve made on Wearable Hug 11 – I’ve reached the halfway point! There must be an impending need for this one, it’s urging me to finish in record time!

Thanks for reading, and thanks so much for your input! Be watching Monday when I’ll announce the winner, and keep adding your comments until midnight Sunday!

Finding Findings, Processing Pickles, and My eBay debut

Filed under: Retired - The Life & Times of a Winged Cat — folkcat at 6:36 pm on Friday, August 26, 2005

Today was a quiet day spent at home. Quiet, that is, if you assume that doing lots of stuff can still qualify as “quiet”. So far, the day has been driven by activities that build on things that happened yesterday.

Gryphon knew bloody well that if I was going to turn yesterday’s vast bounty of vegetables into pickles for him, he ought to help by cutting it all up into the sizes and shapes he thought pickles should be. That’s only right, since he’s the only one who’ll be eating them.
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Gryphon in the Kitchen

Luckily, he is fond of the result when I cook, and he is willing to do what’s needed to help me with the process. He even washes dishes and cleans the kitchen afterward.

Back off, ladies, he’s mine!

I really enjoyed making beaded stitch markers for my knitting yesterday, and I was prompted to figure out what other findings I have left from the bead store to work with. That led to sorting out this box of goods into “keep it” and “sell it”.
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Findings, Found

That’s a queen-size bed, to give you some idea of the size of the piles. The stuff in the box is the “sell it” pile.

Which took me to a major step, something that we’ve been thinking of for a long time, and have never gotten around to.

I put up my first listing on eBay. Nothing fancy – just a set of 4 bags of safety pins. But it’s left-over stock from the bead store that I really don’t need a gazillion of.

What’s most special about this is the simple fact that we’ve now gotten past the hump of getting started. I’ve been an eBay buyer for several years, but never started selling until now.

Now that I’ve seen how easy it is to start a listing, it will be easy for me to keep this going. We have a lot of surplus items that I can help us make some cash from this way.

And that’s a good thing.

Books/Fiber/Quilting/Patterns: Patchwork Puzzle Balls

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 9:03 pm on Thursday, August 25, 2005

Patchwork Puzzle BallsTitle: Patchwork Puzzle Balls
Author: Beyer, Jinny
Publisher: Breckling Press
Copyright: 2005

I have always considered myself a multi-crafter, but for years I would say that there was one craft I wasn’t likely to do – quilting.

Nevertheless, I watch quilting and sewing shows on television, mostly because creativity is creativity, no matter where you find it. Ideas come from everywhere, and I like to be informed about every craft I can so I can be all the better at the ones I do.

One day, I saw author and quilter Jinny Beyer on a quilting show. She was demonstrating the Patchwork Puzzle Balls that are the subject of this book. I watched her put together a set of squares and hexagons to make a sphere, and I was hooked.

Okay, so I’m slow to get moving. I have pieced the two halves of my sphere, but I haven’t yet sewn it together and stuffed it. But I’ll get there, I promise.

This book offers 9 different patterns that make patchwork balls of different levels of complexity. She offers a full set of instructions for piecing each, with diagrams that show where the parts have to go together. There is also a section for the math enthusiast that shows how to draft your own pattenr pieces, but fret not – it’s not essential to your participation in this book if you don’t want to go there.

Patchwork Puzzle Balls can be made in a variety of sizes, and have many uses – children’s toys, holiday decorations, home decor. I’m looking forward to exploring this one more.

And of all things, it got this non-quilter to pick up a little quilting. There must be something to it!

A Folkcat First – a Contest!

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 8:53 pm on Thursday, August 25, 2005

No pictures today. I’ve been knitting, yes. But do you really need a picture to see that Wearable Hug 11 is now 1/3 done? Or that I’ve done 4 more rows of the “Wings of the Cat” shawl, making a total of 9 rows completed?

I think not.

So the main news is that I continue to steadily progress on both projects. I’m also considering casting on for the second sock of Sock Experiment 4 (SE4), so that eventually I’ll have a second complete pair of socks I knit for myself to wear. It would also be something that works on needles smaller than the broomsticks (size 13) I use for the Wearable Hugs, and something not as complex as the lacy maze that is “Wings of the Cat”.

In a cross-crafting story, I was so pleased with my beaded stitch markers that I sat down to make a couple more today.

I may start selling these stitch markers. Anyone have any thoughts as to the number to put in a set? I’ve been making sets of 4, which seems reasonable to me. But as long as I have the beads, I can make sets any size I like.

Oooh, I know…I can make this a contest! Submit your comments answering the following questions:

  1. How many stitch markers make a set?
  2. What would be a fair price to charge for that set?

The contest will run until….let’s say, midnight Sunday. Only one entry per person, please – if you comment more than once, it will only count as one. And only entries made via the comment screen will count. If you e-mail me your answers, I’ll still appreciate the input, but no one else can benefit from the discussion then.

On Monday, I’ll draw randomly from the entries. The winner will get to pick two sets of bead markers from the dozen sets shown here:

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The Prize Pool

There are closer looks at the sets here.

If you have any other thoughts to add about what makes a set of beaded stitch markers something that you would buy, feel free to add those to your comment.

I haven’t conducted a contest on any of my blogs before. This is going to be fun! Thanks for reading here, and thanks in advance for your input!

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