So, the initial question on that Yahoo! forum was "how do I price my quilted placemats, wallhangings, etc. so that they sell," but what really jumped out at me was her explanation that "DH (Dear Husband) is complaining about all the fabric purchases coming in... and not selling any of the stuff I make."
When You Turn Your Hobby Into a Business, You LOSE Your HobbyNow, I want to be clear that I have nothing at all against the many women and men who have sewing and craft related businesses. However, I can tell you from personal experience that when you turn your hobby into a business you totally LOSE your hobby. And this is not just me telling you this -- I hear this over and over again from professional longarm quilters, pattern designers, quilting teachers and authors, that they spend so much time and energy working on customer projects, class samples, and scrambling to meet magazine deadlines that they rarely have time to make anything for themselves anymore. When it's a hobby, there are no deadlines. You make whatever you want to make, using colors and patterns that appeal to you, exploring new techniques that intrigue you, without worrying about whether you're making something that has mass appeal to potential customers. If you get bored or frustrated with a project, you can set it aside and work on something else instead. If you make a mistake, it can be a "creative opportunity" because you aren't bound by a contract to make something that looks exactly like the drawing or pattern that your customer signed off on. If you make a really big, disastrous mistake and it's your hobby, you can chalk it up to a learning experience and move on, without having to worry about what you'll tell the customer, or all of your profits going down the drain.
Successful Businesses Don't PRICE Items to Sell, They MAKE Items to Sell
In order to have a successful business sewing handmade items, it's not just a question of PRICING items to sell, but MAKING items to sell -- that is, evaluating the current trends and fashions in home design and making things that people are wanting to buy right now even if these projects are boring as heck and do not appeal to us personally. Take placemats for example, since that was one of the projects the quilter in the forum had enjoyed making but had difficulty selling at the craft fair: The quilted placemats in Ballard Designs, Williams Sonoma, and Pottery Barn are pretty boring, muted solid color fabrics in beige, white, sage green, maybe a pale yellow. Maybe a red holly print at Christmas and a brick orange/rust for Thanksgiving, but that's about the extent of the excitement:
|Williams Sonoma Vine Floral Boutis Quilted Placemat, Set of Four for $59.95|
You might be able to sell more interesting projects if you concentrate on baby/children's items or holiday decorations, such as baby quilts, Christmas tree skirts, etc. But even then, you run into the problem of non-quilting customers' unrealistic price expectations based on the artificially low price of cheap imported goods in stores. They'll buy the Santa Claus Christmas tree skirt at Pottery Barn in the end because it cost less than the fabric for your handmade tree skirt Several quilters have told me that they stopped participating in craft fairs and bazaars because most of the "customers" who stopped at their booth confessed that they were "just looking for ideas."
|Craft Businesses Make What Customers Want to Buy, Not Necessarily What They Want to Make|
If the quilts and table runners and wall hangings that we labor over and invest so much of our disposable income, time, and energy making don't sell at the craft fair, does that mean all that money we spent on fabric was wasted?
I think it's healthier to think of our quilts and other handmade projects as BYPRODUCTS of a creative hobby that confers many health benefits. Our hobby is relaxing. It lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, anxiety and depression, and the ongoing learning and problem-solving that is so much a part of sewing and quilting keeps our minds sharp and wards off cognitive decline, especially as we get older. It gets us out of the house to go to quilt shows, to take classes, or to go fabric shopping. It fosters social connections with other quilters. Creative hobbies are also cathartic, helping us work through painful emotions of grief and trauma. A recent study found that people who spend 2 hours per day on a hobby were a whopping 21% less likely to die prematurely than those who did not have a hobby. SO... All that money you are spending on fabric is ACTUALLY a wise investment in your health and well-being.
The money you are spending on fabric is only a fraction of what would otherwise be spent on high blood pressure medication, antidepressants/anti anxiety meds, psychotherapy, or needing nursing home care sooner due to to cognitive decline and memory problems. You are investing in a couple extra years to live, and abetter quality of life for more of those years than you would otherwise have. You are investing in being around for a couple more family weddings, a few more graduations and birthdays, the chance to hold another great-grandchild in your arms. What price can you put on that?
If your hobby was golf or fly fishing, you would get many of the same benefits that you get from sewing and quilting, and you would probably spend just as much money (or more!) on fly fishing equipment, golf clubs, club memberships and greens fees, but you would have nothing at all to show for your hobby except a shelf full of Hole In One trophies and photos from the day you caught the biggest fish.
|The "Quilts" of a Golf Hobby|
|Can You Spot the Golf Trophy Table At the Craft Bazaar? Neither Can I!|
I think we women can be particularly hard on ourselves about investing in our own self care. I don't think I have ever heard a male quilter talk about Quilt Guilt the way women quilters do. We have this ideal of the Selfless Mother to live up to, the Giving Tree who gives up her leaves, fruit, limbs and trunk for her family until there is nothing left of her but a stump (SERIOUSLY, Shel Silverstein??!!).
|The Ideal Wife and Mother Is a TREE STUMP|
Happy stitching, everyone!
I'm linking up with:
- · Whoop Whoop Fridays at
- · Finished Or Not Friday at