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COGS and COSTS

img_4652-1I was recently presented with the opportunity to sell some of my amigurumi’ s and children’s clothes and blankets at a farmer’s market. Most of the venders at the market were selling produce but there were a few craft vendors so I decided to join them. I would like to tell you about my selling experience and what I learned from selling my wares.

First off, I do not want to start a crafting or sewing business. Crocheting and sewing is my hobby. It’s what I do with my down time to relax. But, with that said, supplies are expensive. Yarn and fabric cost money. So, I decided that I could sell some of my amigurumi’s and children’s clothes to help pay for the supplies to make more.

img_4645I have thought several times before about selling some of the items that I have made, but every time I looked into the cost of doing so, I stopped there. I could set up an online Etsy store, but with the many amigurumi’s already being sold on Etsy, would I ever sell anything? Plus if I did sell something could I charge enough to make enough money to cover the cost of the store and shipping costs along with the cost of supplies to make the items? I could sell my items on eBay, but once again, after paying eBay and PayPal fees plus the cost of supplies would I make any money doing that?

Over the years, I have thought about selling some items at craft fairs, but once again, the cost of the booths stops me. When I asked how much a booth would cost at most craft shows, I was quoted between $75.00 and $125.00. That was too much for me. I did not believe that I would sell enough items to even cover the cost of the booth at those prices, let alone the cost of supplies.

img_5484You will notice that I never include the cost of my labor to make the items in my questions above. I learned long ago if you make around 50 cents an hour for your labor to make your crafts, you are doing quite well. Because of that I didn’t bother trying to include the labor portion of my cost of goods sold into the equations above.

When I talked to the manager of the farmer’s market, she said the cost would be $10.00 for the spot for the season plus 12% of my profits. That did not seem like too much to me, plus rather than laying out money up front, the cost was based on what I sold.

img_4647If I sold only a little, then they only got a little of what I sold. This sounded great, but, of course, there was a catch. I had to have my own tables and a canopy. I did not already have these things, so I would have to purchase them to be able sell at the farmer’s market. Luckily, I found both folding tables and a canopy on sale, but the cost was still about $100.00.

This initial startup cost almost stopped me from selling at the farmer’s market but after some thought, I decided that these were useful purchases, and could be used for other purposes other than for selling at the farmer’s market. Folding tables are always useful and nice to have on hand, and the canopy could be used in the back yard for holidays and family events. Plus, if I sold multiple weeks at the market, that $100.00 cost could be spread out over several weeks of selling.

img_4648Of course purchasing the tables and canopy was only the first step in getting ready to sell at the farmer’s market. Next, I had to figure out my COGS or the Cost Of the Goods I was selling, and then based on that number determine what I wanted to sell each item for. I decided to price my amigurumi’s based on size, complexity, and cost to replace the supplies to make the same amigurumi again. The clothes and blankets were harder to price but eventually, they were priced based on style, embroidery, and size.

Since this is my hobby, I did not calculate the cost of my time to make the amigurumi or the clothes. If I had added the cost of my time into the price, I would have priced myself out of the market and no one could have afforded what I was selling. So, luckily, I was not expecting a wage from my wares.

img_4649Selling at the farmer’s market was not easy or fun for me. I knew that I could not just sit on a chair by my tables of goods and people would walk by and throw money at me. I knew I had to sell my items which meant selling me, the creator.

Why would some one pay good money for what I had made?

I had to show and tell them why they would. I had to tell stories about my item’s creation. I had to express my love and concern that each of my amigurumi have a good home. I had to make small talk and entertain my potential customers and hope that my efforts were not in vain, and that someone would be interested and buy my goods.

img_4650This was very difficult for me. I had purposely over priced my items a little so that I could bargain a little with people, because everyone loves a deal! So, when it came time for people to get out some money to pay me or they seemed to not really be interested in what I was selling, I would offer them a lower price. This ended up not being a good selling practice, and it did cost me some money.

I really struggled with this, especially before I had made the first sell of the day, or when too many people had walked by without showing any interest in my goods. I can’t say that my selling techniques improved much over time, but luckily the husband was with me and he helped to keep me in check as well as to help with the selling of my items, especially on the rare occasion that I had multiple customers at the same time.

img_4651I learned very quickly that my amigurumi’s caught people’s attention and they would stop and look and sometimes buy, but that they had no interest in my handmade children’s clothing and baby blankets. In all the weeks that I sold at the farmer’s market, I only sold one blanket and one child’s shirt (which was sold at a deep discount).

I sold at the farmer’s market for a couple of weeks, and each week I sold a few items, but I decided that it was not for me. First, people did not come to the farmer’s market to buy a teddy bear or a little girl’s dress. They were there to spend their money on fresh tomatoes and peaches. What I was selling was an after thought for them. Next, I had to spend my precious days off selling my items at the market.

It was a full day event since I had to be there early enough to set up the canopy, tables and my goods before the market opened and I had to be there until the market closed. Then I had to carefully pack back up my goods and take down my tables and the canopy and haul it all back to the car. It ended up taking the whole day. The day off that I needed to take care of other things was spent trying to sell a few items. I was a little discouraged by this experience and did not think that I ever wanted to sell my items again.

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But wouldn’t you know it, opportunity knocked again…

I was asked to be the monthly featured artist at an art walk for one of the downtown stores in old town. It was just one evening for a couple of hours so I decided to do it. I arrived at the store an hour before the art walk started, and I set up my tables and displayed my wares on the sidewalk in front of the store. I was not really in the mood to sell to people, but I knew once again that if I wanted anyone to buy my items, I had to hawk my wares.

img_6541This time though, I did not cut any prices quickly and I did not care if I sold anything since there was no cost involved other than my time. At first, no one seemed to be interested in my items and I hadn’t sold a thing. After an hour or so, I commented to the husband that I doubted that I would sell anything this evening.

But shortly after I made my comment things started to change. More people started to arrive at the art walk and more people were interested in my amigurumi’s (Once again though, no one even looked at the children’s clothes and blankets. I did sell one child’s shirt, but this time not at a deep discount.)

img_6539I once again talked to the people who stopped to look and I sold my items, but this time I let them fall in love with my amigurumi’s and pay me my asking price. I did bargain with a few people but I felt better about these sales than I did at the farmer’s market. I believe it was because I had a better and more receptive audience for selling at the art walk. The people who had come to the art walk were interesting in seeing something fun and unique. Plus, I was much more relaxed about selling.

img_6540When the night was done, I had sold more in the couple of hours at the art walk than I had the several weeks at the farmer’s market. I felt better about the experience and I decided that I could sell my wares again but I would be very selective as to where and when.

But, before I can sell anymore amigurumi’s, I have got to get some more made. Between what I sold at the farmer’s market and what I sold at the art walk, my collection of amigurumi’s is now quite small. I would not feel comfortable doing another display of my wares until I get some more amigurumi’s made.

So, with that being said I had better get crocheting! Stay tuned to see what fun things I make next!

Until then, sew and crochet forth and sell on!

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A Snake In The Grass

IMG_4459I have been eyeing this snake pattern for a long time. It looked like a quick, but fun project. So, when it was time to pick another amigurumi project, this snake popped to the top of my to do list.

IMG_4463As I dug through the yarn stash looking for just the right colors for the snake’s body and stripes, I found four colors that I really liked together that would work great for the snake’s body, but I only needed three colors to make the pattern. But which three colors should I pick? Undecided, I asked the husband which three colors he thought would look best for the snake’s body and stripes. He said I should use all four colors. After a long pause to see it in my minds eye, I decided that yes I could use all four colors. I would subtract one round for the color that was used the most in the snake’s stripe and replace that round with the fourth color. With the colors planned out, it was time to start crocheting.

IMG_4466The crocheting of the snake’s body started with the tail. I crocheted the tip of the tail and then the first 3 color stripe. It looked great. Since it was not too many rounds until the next stripe, I decided to carry the 3 yarns of the stripe as I crocheted. After the third stripe, though, I noticed that the 4 yarns that I was carrying instead of cutting and tying off with each color change, were getting very twisted and hard to manage.

Maybe I should be cutting and tying each color change to prevent this twisting mess?

IMG_4338But, I knew it would not be easy to cut and tie each color change in a 10 single crochet round, especially with the number of color changes this snake’s body had. So, I had to decide which I wanted to do, take the time to untwist the 4 carried yarns as I crocheted or cut and tie off each color change. I decided to carry and untwist the yarn as I crocheted.

IMG_4336It wasn’t difficult to untwist the yarn as I crocheted, but it was time consuming. I still think it was less time consuming and trouble to carry and untwist the yarns than to cut and tie each of the color changes. Once I had completed the ninth stripe of the snakes body, I really liked the results and I was very pleased that I took the time and effort to use the extra color. I crocheted the snake’s head next, and soon I had the two pieces of the snake crocheted up and ready to stitch together.

IMG_4461The pattern said to stuff only the snake’s upper body and his head which I did. I then stitched the head and body together. The next step was the tricky step. I had to twist the snake’s body tightly enough so that it supported the snake’s head and made the snake stand upright like a cobra. After several twisting attempts and some fiddling and fussing, I got the snakes body twisted and his head positioned just right. I grabbed my pins and pinned everything in place. Then, with some small unseen stitches, I tacked the twists and head in place.

IMG_4465After some thought, this snake was named Snape.

Snape is very cute and definitely would not scary anyone as he slithers through the grass. He was a fun project but not quite as quick of a project as I thought it would be. I do hope to make more snakes some day as they were a lot of fun!

Until then, crochet forth and slither and twist on!

Derek The Dimetrodon

Do you remember yarn dye lots? If you do, you might be as old as a dinosaur! (Pun Intended)IMG_3391

But, seriously, I remember the phrase “and make sure it is the same dye lot” from my childhood. Every time I was sent to the store to buy yarn for my mother or grandmother this phase was spoken to me, and I took it seriously and made sure to purchase the same dye lots if I could.

I remember the matching issues my mother and grandmother faced when they ran out of a color of yarn of a specific dye lot in the middle of a project. It was a real problem back in the day, and it took a lot of thought in designing and matching yarns to complete a project when they ran out of a color of a specific dye lot.

IMG_3906For my younger readers, let me quickly explain what a dye lot is. 15 years or so ago yarn manufacturers would dye or color a specific batch of yarn in a specific factory and they would give that batch a specific dye lot number indicating that all those skeins were dyed together and so the color variations would be little to nonexistent.

The next batch they made in that color would have a different dye lot number, and although they would dye with the same dye formula, there might be a slightly different coloration of the yarn depending on how the yarn took the dye. The batches would basically be using the same color but the yarns color would come out different enough that if used in the same project you could see the differences.

IMG_3904Today, because of more modern manufacturing processes, the manufacturers of yarn have the yarn color dyeing process more perfected and so there is really no need to give each color batch a lot number. Because of that, the variations in todays dyed batches of yarn colors is not really noticeable when making something and skeins from different batches are used in the same project.

So, today when you purchase a skein of Red Heart “Buff” brown yarn on Monday and another skein from a different store on Monday five years from now, you don’t have to worry about when these skeins were dyed or if they can be used in the same project. They can. Unless you are using very old yarn that still has dye lots listed on the labels anyway.
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So, what does all this have to do with my latest amigurumi project, Derek the dimetrodon? You see, when I started to crochet the pieces for Derek, rather than digging through my box of green yarn for a new skein of Red Heart Spring Green, I simple grabbed the remainder of a skein from my yarn basket and got crocheting.

I was able to crochet all of Derek’s pieces with this partial skein except for one foot.

No problem. Since there should not be a worry about dye lots, I simply went to my box of green yarn, pulled out another skein of Spring Green and crocheted the last foot.
IMG_3392But as I started to sew Derek’s pieces together, I noticed right away that the fourth leg from the new skein was smaller in size than the other legs.

Had I possibly pulled my tensions tighter as I crocheted the last leg? I decided to crochet another leg and see what size it turned out.

Upon completing the leg, it measured the same size as the 4th leg I had crocheted from the same skein of yarn. So, even though I did not have to worry about the color of the yarn, i.e. the dye lot, the yarn from the two skeins were different somehow and they were crocheting differently.

DSCN4302That is very Interesting I thought to myself. I guess that in using some older yarn and some newer yarn together in the same project together they had been manufactured in slightly different widths or perhaps a slightly tighter twist? I guess that is another question to figure out at a later time. In any case I will do some testing on a few future projects to find out what went wrong.

DSCN4304Luckily, this was a quick fix that did not take a lot of thought or redesigning or matching. I simply used the two smaller legs as the front legs and the two larger legs as the hind legs.

Once all the legs were sewn to the body, it was hard to see the different sizes. Unfortunately, I now have one extra leg from this project. Does anyone out there need a spare dimetrodon leg? If so I have one!

In the end Derek the dimetrodon turned out very cute, even with his smaller front legs. Derek is now looking for a good home and a good friend to play with him!

Until then, crochet forth and dye lot on!

Rocket the Raccoon

DSCN4107What happened to Red Hearts light gray yarn? It just seemed to disappear from store shelves all of a sudden!

The colors for my latest amigurumi project, Rocket the raccoon, were simple, light gray, dark gray, a touch of white and a touch of black. But, when I went to pull the light gray yarn from the yarn stash, I was shocked and amazed by what I saw.

Upon looking in my gray yarn stash box, I found several skeins of dark gray yarn, medium gray yarn, speckled gray yarn, variegated gray yarn but only one skein of light gray yarn.

DSCN4111As I pulled the light gray skien of yarn from the box, I made a mental note to purchase more light gray yarn the next time yarn was on sale at Joann’s. But, as I held my last skein of light gray yarn in my hands, I was shocked by what I saw on it! A Walmart clearance sticker right on top of the Red Heart Brand Label!

Was Red Heart no longer going to make light gray yarn? No, that couldn’t be! Certainly Red Heart would not discontinue making a basic color like light gray. Maybe light gray was just not a popular enough color for Walmart to continue to carry? Maybe, but how could light gray be an unpopular color?

DSCN4109For my amigurumi making, light gray is essential, elephants, mice, raccoons, baby penguins and so on. Spooked just a little by these thoughts, I put the skien of light gray yarn down, and picked up a skein of medium gray Red Heart Love yarn that I purchased last month and a black skein of yarn for the main colors for my raccoon.

As I crocheted the pieces of this amigurumi, I simply used the medium gray yarn instead of the light gray yarn and black yarn instead of the dark gray yarn that the pattern had called for. All the pieces were crocheting up nicely until it came to the eyes. As I crocheted the eye patches from the the black yarn, I quickly determined that my black safety eyes would be lost in the patch of black yarn. So I picked out some blue, green and yellow eyes from my bag of eyes but I just did not like the look of these colors, so I decided to add a white patch of felt behind the black safety eyes to separate the eyes from the black eye patches.

DSCN4114That worked out too well! The bright white between the black eye and the black patch made the raccoon look like he was staring into headlights, so I picked a cream color felt instead of the white felt to tone down the contrast and that worked out fine.

As I attached the eyes to the head, I ran into another issue. By the time I put the eye stem through the felt, the black patch and the head, there was no stem left to attach the safety back to. So, I decided to only attach the eyes to the felt and eye patch and I left the stitching on of the patch be how the eyes are permanently attached to the head. This worked out great!

DSCN4113I also changed from white yarn to cream yarn for the muzzle and the accent around the ears. The cream colored yarn blended better with the medium gray and black yarn and matched the cream felt of the eyes.

It took some time to stitch Rocket together. His legs are attached by thread joints but his arms are just stitched on. And I ended up trying several different smiles both on and off the muzzle for Rocket. I even considered leaving him without a smile but finally decided on the tiny black smile on his muzzle.

Rocket turned out to be a very cute raccoon even in the darker colors. I am pleased with the end results. It is now time for Rocket to find a good home and someone to play with.

Until then, crochet forth and gray on!

Creative Determining – Part 2

DSCN3986DSCN3987To begin the the sewing process of the Snoopy peplum top I started with the peplum first.

Since I was not going to line the peplum, I wanted to hide all the seams as much as possible, so I sewed French seams to piece the peplum together.

 

This was not difficult, just time consuming with a lot of ironing in between seams. I did a simple 1/2 inch hem at the bottom of the peplum to complete it.

Sewing the bodice was next. I decided at the last minute to add the yellow sleeves to the top. I like the yellow sleeves but as I snipped the curve of one of the sleeves I caught the lining and so I had to do a little mending. Luckily, the mended spot is on the inside of the top and cannot be seen from the outside. It should not affect the wearing of the top.

DSCN3998DSCN3989After gathering the peplum, I sewed the peplum to the bodice, making sure to line up the seams as much as possible. I serged this seam to finish it, rather than covering the seam with the lining and doing the stitch in the ditch seam.

The serged seam looks fine and saved me the headache of doing the stitch in the ditch seam.

 

I probably could have used the practice sewing the stitch in the ditch seam on this top, but sometimes just sewing the easy and simple way is fun too. And it’s much less stressful too!

With that, the little girl’s peplum top from the leftover Snoopy fabric scraps was completed!

DSCN3995DSCN3994The top is just adorable and the multiple seams in the peplum are really not that noticeable with the gathers.

This was a fun sew.

It is always fun to make something from nothing and to let the creative side flow to make it work.

Unfortunately, now that I have used up all the Snoopy scraps, I have at least a hundred projects that have raced through my mind that I could have made using the scraps.

Having said that though, I am not disappointed at all that I used these Snoopy scraps to make this top and at least they were put to good use!

Until then, sew forth and determine on!

Creative Determining – Part 1

DSCN3986There was no way that I was going to throw away any of the precious Snoopy fabric scraps left over from my new Snoopy shirt. The scraps really were not large enough to make anything with, not even for a child, but I just could not bear to throw them away. So, what to do with these scraps beside stack them on the edge of the cutting table and stare at them?

Recently, I have seen several little girls peplum tops that are just adorable and I have wanted to make one. So, looking at the Snoopy fabric scraps, I decided to see if I could squeeze a little girl’s peplum top out of the pieces. The size of top I would make would be determined by the dimensions of the scraps.

DSCN3813I didn’t really have a pattern so I turned to the internet for ideas. The first style of peplum top I found had a circular peplum. This was out of the question. The scraps I had to work with were absolutely too small to cut a circular peplum from. The second style I found was a gathered peplum. Hmmm. I might be able to make this work with the scraps.

DSCN3985Now, how long should the peplum be versus the length of the bodice? I saw a variety of bodice and peplum lengths from long bodices with short peplums to short bodices with long peplums and many hi/low peplums in between while I was searching. Once again, I would need to let the dimensions of the scraps determine the length of the peplum and the bodice and the scraps would also determine how full the gathered peplum would be.

DSCN3999Still not having a pattern, I pulled out my favorite little girls dress pattern as a guide. Based on the size of the largest scrap, I determined that I could get a size 4 bodice front and back from the scraps as well as have a few pieces left over for the peplum. I quickly picked some yellow cotton from the stash that matched Woodstock for the lining of the bodice.

To make the peplum, I squared the remaining scraps of Snoopy fabric I had and found that I had two pieces approximately 6 inches tall by 12 inches wide and 4 pieces that were 6 inches tall by 6 inches wide. (Actually, one of the 6 by 6 inches pieces was only DSCN39965 inches wide, but I could work with that.) With a lot of seam work, I determined that I could make these scraps work out for the peplum. I would sew the two 12 wide pieces together for the front of the peplum and sew the 6 inches pieces together for the back or the peplum.

I would not be matching any of the designs in the Snoopy fabric. There was certainly not enough scraps for that, but luckily with a gathered peplum, the non-matching designs as well as the many seams that I would be sewing would just be gathered in.

Excitement for this project grew, as I saw my almost useless scraps become a little girls peplum top!

Stay tuned for the sewing of the little girl’s Snoopy peplum top.

Until then, sew forth and scrap on!