Craft Fair and other stories

oh my, am i going to have to get better at blogging regularly! It has been 20 days since my last confession, I mean blog post. And the sewing machine’s been firing, there have been babies to make for, and commissions from the craft fair have already started 🙂 Too busy sewing to talk apparently… now there’s a first 😉

So the Craft Fair was so much fun! It was in the gardens of beautiful Winton House; I borrowed tables from one of my neighbours and a gazebo from another, inclement weather being a notable feature of Scottish villages… And hijacked my 3 year old’s blackboard too, for which I had to bribe him with chocolate stars. They learn fast these days.

here goes first picture:

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That’s me and my friend Ana, who was helping me all day… we are well wrapped as though it didn’t rain (just) it was FREEZING! we both had 2 pairs socks, legwarmers, a gazillion jumpers and thick downy coats – we both look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man… but that’s the first tip – dress for the weather, as you are just standing around all day! Though not glamourous admittedly…

And that carefully written blackboard was turned into a “monster going through a bush” pretty fast on reentering the house!

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That’s a bit of a closer view. Although I didn’t have any bunting for sale, it was nice to have my own banner, and I think helped draw folk in. I can’t believe I’ve done so many little bunting names for children and my sis-in-law’s business, and this is the first time I made some for myself! I know bunting is everywhere now, but it is so pretty.

Sales-wise I was thrilled. I priced my items pretty low, not enough to make a living wage from time-wise, but enough to cover costs and a bit more to add to the “feeding fabric addiction” pot. The dull and very cold weather reduced numbers, but there was still a reasonable turnout – helped by the activities for children – bouncy castle, dancing displays, face painting by the amazing Shirley of Pink Tiger Face Painting – I don’t think Ana’s daughter ever wanted to wash her face again! It could have gone either way, noone interested in the craft stalls, but actually I think the “day out” feel helped draw in the crowd, despite the weather! In itself I don’t think a craft fair outside, in April, in Scotland would be enough to pull you from your sofa…

Everything sold quite well, I sold about half of what I had. As expected people did tend to go for smaller items especially ones which would be good as a gift (like the washbags) or purses, so I had had fun making those, rather than my main love which is quilts.

Actually, the quilts got a lot of interest, which I was surprised at. Although I do suspect people thought they would cost more than I was selling them for, again because I wasn’t charging living wage for my time, I just needed some pocket money for fabric. I’m sure the low pricing strategy helped with number of sales, although is it better to sell 3 things for £4 each or 2 things for £6 each? I think that’s a decision each stall holder has to make!

So for anyone contemplating a craft fair… in Scotland… outside… in April… what are you crazy?? Anyway here’s what I learned about surviving the day:

1. Be organised! this blog post really helped me work out what I needed:

http://handmadejane.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/craft-fair-tips.html

2. Dress for the weather!

3. Bring tea/ coffee in flasks and a packed lunch and snacks. I had a constant stream of customers and never made it away from the stall. I had to grab bites of sandwich in between customers! We took tea over to the face painter who kept going all day. Although I think the organisers intended to bring refreshments over, it never happened, everyone was just too busy.

4. I made a simple list of all my items, just using a “Word” table, and Ana and I ticked them off as we sold them. This kept us straight even though 2 of us were serving customers at the same time. I did have a receipt book as suggested by craftyjane, but didn’t need it.

4. A Float. I struggled a bit with this. I chose a £50 float with £30 in coins, 2x £5 and £10. We were just about OK with that. but next time I would take more £10 notes. It clearly depends on what you are selling and for how much, but almost everything we had was under £10, and lots of folk had come with a £20. I kept prices to either a whole number of pounds or ending in 50p so that it would be easier to do the maths. That was definitely a good idea, especially when there was a rush on!

5. Smile and say hi – when we did, people who were hovering suddenly came closer, smiled and started looking. But I think people were less likely to approach if we were talking amongst ourselves, I guess noone likes to feel they are intruding even if it’s a shop! I hate hard sells, so didn’t start talking whilst folk were browsing, I tried to emanate a comfortable companiable silence 😉 and waited until they were interested or started talking to me themselves. We had lots of lovely chatty people which was great!

6. Have a demonstration of things which people don’t know about. The travel chalkboards all sold, mainly because I had one out, and asked children to leave us a little picture, even if the parents didn’t buy anything. Once people saw them in action, and kids wanted to add their own art, it generated a lot of interest!

7. Try and have an interesting colourful display. The colours drew folk to our stall (or so they said!) Once there, most people bought something small. I had baskets and tried to vary the height a bit. My neighbour lent me a white wire tree from which I hung all the pendants – it did look pretty!

8. Put a price tag on everything. Everything. Once People pick something up, they might not want to engage in conversation, so it’s good if they can see the prices straightaway. It was nice to see folk looking at the tag of a purse, then picking up a couple of purses to buy and looking harder at some of the other items on display. I got luggage label tags and my 3 year old and I stamped a design on them – they looked quite nice I thought! I wrote a description and care instructions on the back or the labels.

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8. Get some cheap paper bulk carrier bags from amazon. For about £4 I got 50 paper bags – only good for lightweight items, but that’s what I was selling!

9. My “business cards” went really well, especially as it got too cold for folk to browse. I popped one into each bag too. Sadly I am not really a business, just a blog (oh yeah, with 2 posts!) and a flickr stream, so i felt a bit sheepish that so many folk were taking a card. Still, hopefully soon I’ll have a gallery and some items for sale/ commission!

10. Above all be sure why you are going and ensure you fulfill that need. I wouldn’t have done this fair if it were in Edinburgh, even though only half an hour away, the return would not have been enough for the effort. This village fair was a community event I wanted to be part of. It was great that lots of folk I knew from the village could see my hobby and not many people knew I sewed, let alone for so long! The table fee was 10% of takings, which was fine for my profit margins and good in that I didn’t lose money if nothing sold – because you just don’t know what people will be looking for on the day. Some of the other stalls had gorgeous stuff which didn’t sell. It’s luck of the draw. So you don’t go to something like this village event to make a lot of money. I was hoping for £50, and did much better than than. I told myself not to be disappointed if I didn’t get that. Ana and I had fun because we were together, it would have been a different experience alone; not only is it physically easier with two people (a consideration for me personally for various reasons) but it is definitely more fun, and you encourage each other, even when it’s freezing! I am pretty sure that if I did this again, I’d make sure I took a buddy again!

11. Prepare to be very tired afterwards, so be nice to yourself! My husband and little son were amazing and hung out exploring the gardens and playing from 10.30 till 4pm. Neill put up and took down the gazebo and unloaded and reloaded the car with everything. By evening, we were both exhausted and so we spent some of my takings on a takeaway! And it was gooooooood. And I didn’t touch my sewing machine for 4 days – a record in this house! 😉

Well it’s time for bed. And back to dreaming about my real sewing loves – bags and quilts. And anything for my little boy! Meanwhile I’ll leave you with some pics of a U-Handbag pattern I tried recently for my neighbours daughter:

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will share pattern details next time. Till then night night xx

Poppy

p.s. you can contact me via poppy@cuckooblue.co.uk especially if you were at the craft fair!

or visit my flickr stream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/

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