I love the craft fairs and being a vendor at them. They’re fun, and I get to meet lots of different people. But one issue I run in to is that I don’t sell many smaller items. Much of my inventory is higher priced, so I’m learning what shows work for me.
Lots of folks will come by and oohhh and aaaahhh, but if they aren’t bothering to look at price tags, they didn’t come prepared to shop. And if you’re selling larger priced items, you need to find shows where people are prepared to shop. Shows that are focused on something else and have thrown vendors in as an aside don’t often do well for larger-priced items.
So I’ve found that Spring shows haven’t done well for me in the past. Let’s face it – quilts don’t sell well in warm weather. I’d sworn I wasn’t going to do anymore Spring shows, but two came up that I just couldn’t resist giving a try.
One is the Riley Day event, April 27th, hosted by the fine people over at the Amanda Riley Foundation. All proceeds from that show go to support families as they deal with childhood cancer, and the more I learn about the Riley family the more I want to support them. So I figure it’s a win no matter what, and the fact that it would reach my niche client group is a major bonus.
The other event is my biggest event yet – the Vintage Market Days of Greater Atlanta, May 31-June 2. Vintage Market Days specializes in antiques, recycled and up-cycled art and decor, and they have shows all over the USA. My daughter and I went on a reconnaissance visit to the Christmas one, and I thought I might do alright at it. My daughter gave her 8 year’s wisdom and agreed that it was worth a shot. Again, the people attending looked like they might be in my niche client group – folks who liked sentimental items, especially re-purposed ones. So I don’t know how my ready-made items will do, but I’m thinking my t-shirt quilt commissions will fair well.
Since the big event is also inside, I’m trying something new with my booth layout, and I’ll use the Riley Day event to test it out. So here’s hoping the new layout pays off.
Alrighty, so I’m all finished with my craft fairs as of last weekend. I decided that no one was going to buy quilts during the spring, so I shifted all my focus to fall shows, undertaking four shows in six weeks. This wouldn’t sound like much to someone who does shows all the time, but as a teacher with two small kids – it’s a lot. My kids were begging me not to go by the 3rd show.
I’ve placed any quilts that haven’t sold up on my Etsy store, so feel free to take a look.
Here’s what I learned as a seller of quilts at shows.
You can tell within the first two hours what kind of a day you’re going to have. Plenty of people will stop and “oooh” and “ahhh”, but if they aren’t actually looking at the price tags then don’t get your hopes up.
Gender-neutral or “boy” quilts sell faster. Not sure why. Maybe because many quilts look decidedly “girly”?
When you sell one quilt the entire show, it’ll be both good and bad. You’ll think, “Yay, I made my booth fee back and then some!” You’ll also realize, “Well, after my booth fee I basically made $40. I sat there for 8+ hours for $40?”
Commissions are a delayed gratification for doing these shows. So while you may not sell the ready-made stuff, the commissions later on do add up and make it worthwhile.
People love to share stories of how their family members were also quilters. They’ll tell you all about them while standing in the middle of your booth, blocking other people from seeing in.
Be sweet to your booth neighbor, especially if you’re in your booth alone. You may need that person to stand between booths so you can run to the bathroom.
Outside craft fairs are havoc for crafts that involve fabric. I was downwind from a BBQ vendor one show. My quilts smelled like BBQ afterwards. This could be cool for a bit, but in the end it involved me tumbling them in the dryer with dryer sheets in an attempt to get rid of the smell. I’ve heard of other vendors experiencing the same thing with kettle corn booths nearby as well.
There was also the issue of smokers at outdoor shows. I had folks smoke near my stuff, and one cigarette came within an inch of my personal t-shirt quilt that I use at shows. I panicked. I also had one show begin a fire pit a few feet from my booth, and I finally agreed to move my booth mid-show to another spot. It still didn’t work, and I had to, once again, air out and tumble my product in an attempt to get the smell out.
Some people can be quite passive aggressive about prices, and it isn’t cute.
It’s a special feeling when you meet someone who has the same sense of humor and/or interest as you. I loved talking about Dr. Who and Star Wars with folks.
People seem more inclined to come in and shop around if you’re reading a magazine or book. Maybe there’s less pressure? They don’t feel like they’re being scrutinized?
There is such a feeling of accomplishment when someone says your quilt is “perfect” for someone they know as they buy it. Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
There was also the issue of my role as vendor vs artist, but that’s for another post. Stay tuned.
Hey everyone, I’ve been busy on my other pages, but this one has been still for a bit because I haven’t finished any projects. That doesn’t mean I’m not working on them because…boy oh boy…I am swamped!
I was able to finish my t-shirt quilt commission and baby Flash quilt commission right when school started. Now, I’m on to another undisclosed project, a bookshelf quilt for a church retreat, a Star Wars quilt (or two) for the upcoming craft fairs, finishing my comic book quilt and second guitar quilt. I also have a partially begun other undisclosed project as well as a promised project that hasn’t even been started. Oh, and there’s another t-shirt quilt waiting to be started, but the timeline is very generous, so it’ll be a while before I start it.
One thing I love about the quilting community is that we love to “talk shop”. When I’m at my booth at craft fairs, I always have at least a couple of quilters come up. It feels good when they admire my work, and we chat about patterns, etc.
This past weekend I had a quilter walk up and say hi. She commented to me that I was under-priced. The truth is…she’s right. And I know it. I looked at her and nodded. All I could say was, “You know, those who don’t know about quilts think I’m over-priced. Those who understand quilts know that I’m under-priced. What can you do?” I’ve been lucky for the most part in that most folks will quietly look at a price tag and walk off if it’s too high for their expectations. I’ve only had one person gasp and comment about how high it was. I didn’t even argue. I’ve become very good at shrugging.
Basic economics provides an understanding of price points. You have to find the lowest you can go without sacrificing profits while also going as high as your customer is willing to pay. It’s get tough, though, when store quilts come into the picture. A quick search for “quilts” at Target.com turned up exactly what I mean. Take a look. Some pretty quilts…not a single one above $150 in price. This is the starting price for a t-shirt lap quilt for me. That same lap quilt that other quilters have commented was under-priced. So you see my struggle.
So I’d like to take a moment and let you in on the world of store-bought quilts. I’d like to start off by saying that I have absolutely no issue with owning them. I have one my grandmother gave me for college, and it is precious to me. What I DO have a problem with is folks who expect store prices for handmade quilts. I’ve seen charts and stuff floating around the internet, but I decided to go upstairs to my own store quilt and show you what I mean.
Firstly – quilts are supposed to have 1/4 inch seams. That is standard. And at first glance, you’ll notice that this seam is 1/4 inch. This is a double-wedding ring style quilt, and the 1/4 inch seams were where the multi-colored fabric was joined to the white fabric.
However, if I looked a little closer at other parts, I noticed something different. My ruler is set to 1/4 inch for reference.
Yup, you’re seeing correctly. That is about a 1/8 inch seam. I love this quilt, but I did notice certain parts of it came apart rather quickly. This is one of the biggest differences between the store quilts and the handmade ones. You can see in this picture where my pretty store quilt has come apart at the seams in a couple of places.
Another difference is the batting. For those who don’t speak “quilt”, the batting is the inside of the quilt. It’s sandwiched between the top and bottom fabric. It’s what helps to give the quilt its weight and warmth. Now some folks are picky about their quilts in specific areas. Some only use the highest quality fabric and would most certainly give me the stink-eye for shopping at JoAnn’s fabric store. Some are picky about their binding (the sides of the quilt) and only hand-sew it, disdaining anything done by machines for finishing elements. For me, I’m picky about my batting. I’ve seen some mighty pretty quilts that I felt weren’t quite “right” because they had polyester batting in them. That being said, it’s the quilter’s choice, and I would never criticize someone else’s quilting choices, mine being up for scrutiny in return. It’s simply my personal preference to use cotton batting. In store-bought quilts, you’re almost always getting sub-par batting. My store quilt is nowhere near as heavy or warm as the ones I’ve made for my family or to sell.
For those playing along at home, my preference is the Warm and Natural Company 100% Cotton Batting. It’s warm without being bulky (aka low “loft”). I like my quilts thinner but warm, so cotton batting is ideal. Polyester batting is what you want when you’re going for a puffy look.
As for the process, I documented my steps in making a t-shirt quilt for my cousin. Here’s the link to my Facebook page photo album. In it, you’ll see all of the steps. Here it is.
So if you’re new to the whole quilting deal or are looking to buy one and are getting overwhelmed by the prices, then consider what I’ve told you. If you would like even more insight, take a look at this article. It is a goldmine of information on pricing, etc.
*Side note: the featured image quilt costs chart is not my design. I do not know the original creator of it. I do think it’s a bit of a hyperbole, but I like it as an example of the differing costs that many don’t consider.
I decided to participate in my first craft show in November of 2016. It was a school show, and I enjoyed myself. That being said, I didn’t have any ready-made items, and I never did receive any orders. I was already full on Christmas orders, and I didn’t have time to take on any more. I figured I would get my orders from that school once graduation season came around.
But it was so much fun I decided to try again in the Spring at a craft fair that was much closer to home. I did have ready-made items this time – the stadium quilts. Well, it turns out folks don’t want to buy flannel-backed quilts in weather that is in the upper 80’s F. I ended up getting only one order from that show – many months later.
But the fairs themselves were awesome! It’s an ego boost because I get to hear people gush over my work and talk about my love of quilting for a whole day! This in mind, I decided to give it one more go. There was a huge show in the fall, and I decided to try it. I would use this show as the gauge on whether or not I would keep on doing these. As fun as they were, they weren’t paying off.
Well the fall one was a completely different experience. People bought stuff! I sold three quilts along with wallets and casserole carriers! I. Was. Stoked. I’d also squeezed in another smaller show that fall, and I managed to sell the Braves quilt! So yeah, I was pretty jazzed that the fall ones had paid off after all. And the BEST part was that for both of the fall shows I had a t-shirt quilt order placed within 24 hours of the show.
This past weekend I tried another spring show, and I was floored at how well I did, especially considering the crowd was mostly my fellow church members. I wanted to cry I was so happy and honored and flattered.
Next weekend I’m going to give a craft fair another try – the same one that was so hot the year before. I have new items and am hoping that I do well. Wish me luck!
A while back I wanted to use up some of my blue fabric from my fabric stash since the drawer was overflowing. My son had recently asked for a Star Wars quilt, so I decided to take care of both challenges at the same time.
Fast forward to the fall of that year, and I am participating in a rather large craft fair – one of the largest I’d done. I find out my booth is on the corner, and I panic because I simply can’t have the side of my booth be the backs of the quilts hanging up on the inside. I needed something to hang on the outside of the booth, but I’d sold a couple of quilts on Etsy that would have done the job. I ran upstairs and asked my little buddy if I could borrow his Star Wars quilt for the show. He’s such a good sport and didn’t hesitate to agree. I placed it on the outside, and the visibility was excellent.
When I placed his quilt up, I expected it to gain some attention, but I wasn’t prepared for how much attention it would garner. My booth neighbor behind me said that everyone who passed by her booth was talking about the Star Wars quilt. I had several people ask about what it would cost to make one for them since I had a “Not for Sale” tag on my son’s. I joked that if he wasn’t in charge of my end-of-life decisions I could have sold that quilt three times that day. So it seemed a no-brainer that I would make one to sell after that show.
It didn’t hurt that I still had a lot of blue fabric left over from previous projects, gifted to me, or rescued from remnant bins. The first thing I did was to get out all the blue fabric I intended on using and placed it in the order I wanted.
After that, I cut them all into 3.5″ strips.
From there, I sewed the strips end-to-end and rolled them up on an empty tissue holder. The final radius of that roll was 4.25″.
There’s not much new in the quilting world in regards to techniques, but I *might* be the first person I know of to use what I call the “chair technique”. I had my husband video the beginning of the process.
From here, I sewed together the strips into pairs so as to make organizing easier.
It was here I realized I had much more than the original twin-size quilt goal. In fact, I had exactly enough strips cut to make TWO twin-sized quilts. I laid everything out and then picked up every other strip segment; this helped in that my strips were still going in order from lightest to darkest, allowing the silhouettes to be mostly in the lighter fabric.
I decided that I would make one with the original Luke and Darth Vader silhouettes like I had for my son, but the second one would be linked to the newest film and feature Rey and Kylo Ren.