Friday, 18 July 2014

Making a Living From Your Craft

Over the years I have often thought wouldn't it be lovely to be able to stay at  home and make craft to sell.  But then the words of my mother come back to me, my mother was a trained tailor and dressmaker, she started making clothes out of necessity as her family had little money, and then the war meant there wasn't much available anyway.  She started work in a tailors shop when she was 14 and learned her trade.  As a child she made all my clothes, not appreciated by me at the time,   I used to beg for 'bought clothes' like my friends.  She also made and altered clothes for paying customers.  She would work at her job during the day and then in the evening people would come to our house for fittings.  I remember hearing the sewing machine humming away late into the night as I lay in bed.  For her, dressmaking became a chore, something she had to do to make money.  She wasn't making things she wanted to make, she was making things she had to make.  She lost that pleasure in making clothes that she had since childhood.

When I was younger I didn't want anything to do with sewing AT ALL!!  I couldn't even sew on a button.  I have been know to use a paper stapler to staple up the hem on my jeans,  (I was a punk before punks!) yes I was that bad.  I would just hand everything over to my mother to do.  After she died, my dad gave me her sewing machine.  I attempted to make a top for myself, which of course was a complete failure.  However, one day I found out about a local quilting group and from then on I was hooked.  I do not try to achieve show standards, I don't have the patience for things to be perfect, and I like things to be a little 'wonky'.  However they are made with love and are unique.

A few years ago, when hospital appointments and regular stays in hospital with my son made it too difficult and stressful to work full time I thought I would try making a few things to sell.  I made a few bags out of recycled fabric, I never got around to doing anything with them, they have remained in a drawer ever since.  I soon realised that I would never get the money for the hours put in.  There are many very talented people out there who through sheer hard work do manage to make a living.  However for every one of them, there are 100's of talented people who just can't make the sums add up.

Anyway, getting to the point of this post, my neighbour having retired is going down the path of trying to make money from her craft.  She is renting a little craft stall for a year and asked me if there is anything I would like her to put on her stall, she will take 20% to cover her costs.  I had also thought in the past of renting a little shop in a village nearby that became available and inviting local crafters to sell their goods there.  Again the maths didn't add up, I would be giving up a part time guaranteed wage job for a full time not guaranteed living.  All my summer would be spent sitting in a shop staring out at the beach.  I'm not sure I would have lasted long, and like everyone else, I have bills to pay and a mortgage to keep a roof over our heads.

So I have dug out the bags I made years ago and I am trying to decide what price to ask for them.  I have no idea.  If I charged for the hours I put in I would never sell them.  People often suggest I sell my quilts, but for the amount of hours that go into them, I would never be able to charge enough, and I'm damned if I am going to devalue the love and care that goes into each one.  So they are made for my family, friends and my home.

I will go on line and see what bags are going for, if they sell....great, if they don't.... they will go back in the drawer.  I will try to think of little things that don't take too long to make, as it would be a shame to miss this opportunity.  I do not want to make the same things over and over, or make things to order, that would take all enjoyment out of it for me.   Now I had better put my thinking cap on!

When I retire, it may be something I reconsider, but for now it will remain something I love to do for pleasure.

I would love to hear your thoughts on trying to make a living doing something you love.

Chickpea xx

My thoughts today are with all those who have lost loved ones through acts of terrorism where ever they are in the world


  1. If nothing is ventured, nothing is gained, so I definitely think that this is worth a go. You already have the bags and they aren't doing anything sitting at home with you, so even if your friend takes 20% you will have made more than if you do nothing! Also, do not charge too little. I think that you will find that people value things more if they are not cheap, otherwise they might assume that they are actually mass produced trying to appear handcrafted, your things are handcrafted and the price should reflect that. You can always come down in price, but you can't go up! I think that all the bags are delightful, and if these are "not perfect" then I have no idea what perfect is because they look wonderful to me!! I wish you all the best and hope that it goes really well. xx

  2. It is very difficult putting a price on handcrafted items, what might take you an hour to make, may well take some-one else 3 hours, so an hourly rate for work cannot do it justice, before I had the shop I used to work the craft fair circuit and I had a formula for working out a fair price if it cost me £3 in materials to make an item I would then charge £7.50 for the item basically 1 and half times the cost, I didnt compare my prices to others I worked with my own pricing, I found making things to sell after several years the fun went out of it, it became more of a chore constantly making enough stock all the time, In the craft shop we get people coming in and asking the same question how do I work out a price, I would give them the same formula, some wanted to charge by the hour when I explained to do that you would have to time yourself start stop, they would show me some of there work and to be honest if they were going to be charging £50 for some of the things they showed me they didnt stand a chance of selling it, I did many of a time point out wonky seams, messy work and such like, if you want to make things to sell you have to be totally honest with your self and ask would the standard of work make you want to buy it, your work I have seen looks lovely and I am sure you will sell your items, your bags are very cute and different. Good luck with your venture.

  3. A friend of mine's mother makes lovely bags too and now sells them as a hobby. She is a retired teacher and it doesn't bother her what she earns with the bags - no pressure, just fun, and every extra buck is nice. Perhaps that's the most relaxed way to approach it...? There is definitely a market for your bags, so no worries there xxx

  4. Thank you Amy, Dawn and Isabelle your comments are really helpful, as you say I have nothing to lose. Having a formula is a really good way to work out the pricing Dawn, I think that is the way I will go. I will try a few things and see how they go. I don't want it to become a chore, and it has to fit in around work so I will just do what I feel comfortable with. I will let you know how I get on. xx

  5. Agree with Amy too: don't price them too cheap. People actually like paying money for a unique item. I was recently reading an interesting article about how, if luxury items were cheap, no-one would buy them! You goods are unique and hand-made with love and care - so be sure not to undercharge. x

  6. Thank you Isabelle x

    I have heard that before in terms of 'conspicuous consumption' Don't get it myself never having been into 'designer' stuff!

  7. As someone who sort of makes a living selling my work I can confirm it is not an easy path and I have to teach my craft to actually earn a living. But I do enjoy what I do and you can't beat that. Good luck with selling your lovely bags.

  8. Thank you Gina, your work is beautiful. I won't be giving up my day job any time soon!

  9. It is so difficult as people are so used to cheap mass produced stuff. I have sold some of my bags really cheaply in the past but now tend to think no! I will give them as gifts instead like you said.

  10. Your bags are lovely sewing green lady, good luck with selling x


I love reading your comments and will try to reply to all you lovely people xx Spam will be deleted so don't even bother!