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Author: tracey2008

Selling at Craft Fairs

Selling at Craft Fairs

Last year I attended two crafts fairs as a seller, my first since I began wet felting, and I would like to share with you a few of the tips that I believe have helped me enormously.  You have put a lot of time and hard work into making your pieces, so why wouldn’t you want to show them to their full potential?

Is your stall coherent, does it have a theme ?

This advice for me at least is key.  What are you selling ? Whatever it is, wool, glass, wood etc, I firmly believe that if a customer has to stand in front of your stall and try to fathom what it is you are selling, their interest will wane very quickly and they will move on, I would.  They are there to have a pleasant relaxing browse, not to have to work things out.  This was the case at one of the fairs I attended, a fellow stall holder and friend came and said their takings were non existent for the day, and in her words she thought this was down to their stall being a ‘jumble’ of different things.

Here is a view of my stall.  I would have loved to put the picture easel you can see on the left at the back, to the side of my table, but space didn’t allow.  It is rather large but a great display stand (salvaged free from a shop that was throwing it away!)  It was still visible enough to happily sell both of the pictures shown though.  I just tried not to stand in front of it!  I was lucky to be able to suction cup my wall hangings onto the windows too, and I sold three.

CRAFT STALL ONE

Does your stall have variations in height?

This is also very important in my opinion.  If I stood in front of a craft stall and saw a flat table, my eyes would skim over it all in seconds.  Height adds interest and variety, your gaze will linger longer due to the different sections of the table, and then in case you have missed something, you will look over it all again.   I covered a long wooden box with a cream bed sheet and staple gunned it taught.  This was extra useful as it was left open at the back and this is where I stored bags, sellotape, scissors etc.  This can be seen in the next picture, with the tea cosies standing on it.   I also had the loan of a table top easel for my canvas wall hangings, this was just perfect and looked good.  I am lucky enough to have a card stand too, which displays the cards better than if they were in a box on the table.   One person can rummage in a card box, two or three people can explore a card stand, at the same height they are.   Alongside all of that I had a table top stand that I hung my bags on, creating more height too.

CRAFT STALL TWO

The use of cake stands will add height too, and also look pretty and be a little different.  These two were used for my felted soaps and pincushions.  I have since swapped my cake stands for glass only ones as I think they show the product better than a ceramic plate.  You learn as you go along.

SOAPS CAKE STAND

PINCUSIONS

Picnic baskets create height and also look good.  You could lay one flat and closed on the table with the other open on top with your wares.  A great option if you are going for a rustic look.

FELTED SOAPS

Table coverings

I am guessing,  but on the whole I think a lot people would automatically go for a brilliant white or cream tablecloth.  Think about this carefully in relation to your display.  I knew white would not enhance my felt pieces at all, perhaps making the colours appear flat.  I already had a wonderfully rich plum/burgundy coloured tablecloth, and this set everything off really well.  At the second fair, the venue had already provided a cream tablecloth for everyone, so this was a good way to be different, stand out from the crowd!  I made a length of bunting out of a failed project and appliqued fabric shapes on it, nothing fancy but hopefully it will never come under scrutiny!   Bunting can make a stall look very appealing, you have made an effort with your stall, it invites the customer to want to see more.

BUNTING

Think outside the box

Try and think how best to present your work to its best advantage.  At my first fair, my bags were hanging on the small wooden coat stand, and I didn’t sell any.  I then had a light bulb moment just before fair two, and thought I should show my bags as bags and not as a piece of felt hanging up.  So I stuffed them with bubble wrap and stood them on my stall, propped up, and I sold one to a lady organizer before the fair even opened.  Another tip, as she was happy to collect it at the end of the fair, I put a SOLD ticket on it and left it on display.  This gives confidence to customers that other people are buying from you, and they may wish to explore further.  At fair one I had two notebook covers for sale, and no one hardly gave them a glance.  At fair two I simply added an extra tag saying ‘writing journal with a wool jacket, ideal gift’ and sold one pretty quickly.  A friend of mine said a strange but very valid point in my opinion, she said customers do not want to look stupid.  Nudge them in the direction of ‘this is what it is, and this is what it’s uses are’.  Think about it, it is so true.

Engaging with customers

No one likes to be pounced on! Conversely, no one likes to be ignored.  I was lucky enough to have a friend helping me for both fairs.  If we were chatting, (who am I kidding – ‘if ‘ we were chatting !), when someone approached, I would stop talking with my friend and make eye contact with the customers.   I would then say just hello or good morning/afternoon.  If they then showed an interest in something such as my felted soaps, I would tell them more about the product, very often making a sale.  Give them enough time to look, but try not to let them slip away without some attempt at a gentle sales pitch!

I hope you find some of these suggestions useful.  I wish you every success with your fairs, and above all I hope you have fun!

Flowers For A Gallery

Flowers For A Gallery

I was lucky enough to be accepted into a lovely gallery last year and they told me they were taking new work in, so could I submit more.

I am drawn to a vase of flowers as a subject for felting.   Maybe this is because you could create something calm and understated such as a few sweet peas in a jar, or go all out and produce a bouquet in a vase.   I created a piece depicting anemones and lilacs and I wanted to share the process of it coming to life with FME (Free Motion Embroidery), and a little hand stitching.

Here is the piece felted.  It is backed with iron on interfacing as this helps to stabilise the stitching, and also helps it to glide better on your machine plate.

VASE OF FLOWERS BEFORE

I use a metal open toed darning foot to do my stitching, for some machines you can get a see through plastic foot for better visibility.  On the whole I like it, but it has one annoying  drawback, it can certainly snag!  Mine will often scoop up some of the thicker felt, and it definitely has a liking to errant nepps, and a total love affair with curly locks! So you have to keep an eye that nothing has caught whilst stitching.  There are different types of darning feet, it totally depends on your machine.  A closed toe darning foot is available to purchase (I couldn’t for my machine), but maybe the visibility of the stitches would be diminished.   I have to work with what I have, quirks and all!

DARNING FOOT

So now it is ready to bring to life.  I really enjoy this part of creating a piece.  Out of habit I seem to start stitching any leaves first.   Leaves can have just an outline, or you can put a middle line down the length of the leaf , or add a few veins, the interpretation is down to you.

Here is a stitched leaf and an unstitched leaf, can you see what a difference it makes?

LEAF UNSTITCHED AND STITCHED

If any part of the piece has become wavy and lost it’s definition during the felting process, you can needle felt it into shape.

NEEDLE FELTING SIDE OF VASE

I decided to machine stitch the sides of the vase to give a little more definition too.  Be cautious about stitching absolutely everything, some parts look better as a suggestion, blending into the background.

STITCHED SIDE

I then turned my attention to the final part of the piece for machine decoration, the flowers.  I stitched around them and into the centre, using purple and off white threads.  There’s those nepps to watch out for!  It would make life easier to just not use them, but they are far too gorgeous not to.

FREE MOTION ONE

FREE MOTION TWO

Lastly I added a few French knots around the centre of the flowers to make them pop a little more.

FRENCH KNOTS

Now that my pictures are hanging in galleries, I have started using a professional framing service.   I was lucky enough to be given the whole spectrum of sample coloured corner ‘L’ mounts that they show the public to keep, as they were getting new ones, how lucky was that?  So I can decide at my leisure what colour suits the finished piece.  I chose the colour ‘Royal Navy’ because it actually has a purplish tinge, not the deep blue you may expect.  Here it is finished.   I am showing it to you unglazed to cut out any glare.

FINISHED

I hope it catches someone’s eye in the gallery soon!

A Sweater Story…..Can You Help?

A Sweater Story…..Can You Help?

At the start of February last year I posted that I had had a go at felting a sweater with designs on turning it into a bag.  I had purchased it in a charity shop for the princely sum of £1.  It had a lovely cable pattern to it, and it reminded me of the sweaters my Mom used to knit for people for some extra money.  I remember being in awe that she could complete a sweater within a week,  not being a knitter I assume now that this is not really an awe inspiring thing after all……..the wonderful innocence of youth!  When they were finished she would put them under the seat cushions on the sofa for us to sit on and ‘press’.  She tried to teach me to knit but I don’t know whether it just didn’t sink in or I was too young to be bothered, I think it was probably the latter…….

The sweater went in on a 40 degree wash, just to be cautious, and it didn’t felt enough, so I did a second wash at 60, still not good enough, so it went in again at 90, luckily it had felted sufficiently at that point as I didn’t really have anywhere to go from there!

So then I had a felted sweater and I couldn’t figure out how to re-figure it into a bag shape.  Luckily I have a friend who is more of a sewer than me and she helped at this point, by cutting it in the correct places to maintain the pattern in a symmetrical way, and sewing it up using un-ravelled wool from the arms.  She also made a clever deep internal pocket by utilising one of the cuffs.  I am sure I would have just hacked at it randomly, she thinks deeper and in a more practical way than me.

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I wanted the bag to be an over the shoulder, sitting on your hip type of length and unfortunately the arms were of no use for this.  I came up with the idea of a bead/felted ball type of handle and sourced these lovely wooden beads online, and made forty felted balls, I think I used Corriedale wool.

BEADS AND BALLS

I had made the balls pretty tight, so it was a bit of a struggle to push a long, strong needle through them all, using wool salvaged from the sweater.  I didn’t line it as I wanted to see the cable pattern on the inside too.  Here is the outcome.

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Or I should say, it was the outcome for a short while…………I used it a couple of times then one day I had just arrived at a car park, I put the bag over my shoulder and SNAP! one of the lengths of wool sewing all the beads and balls together broke, and there I was scuttling around the car park trying to retrieve my wooden beads that were rolling in every direction! laugh? nearly!!

Now this is a sweater that has felted beautifully and I do want it to live life as a bag so Plan B is necessary.

I did like the felted balls with the addition of the beads.  However, if I am being really honest, the design didn’t sit the best on my shoulder……I really wanted a handle to compliment the soft, natural colour and pattern of the bag.

I thought maybe of producing a length of felt and encasing it in a pretty fabric, as I did here for my flower meadow bag that I made a while back.

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Or perhaps I could use a twisted cord such as these but in a much better colour.  These examples are white with a blue fleck, black and a nice cobalt blue.  Or maybe two twisted together for thickness ?

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If I could knit, one solution would be to buy more wool and create some handles that way,  but this is not an option unfortunately as I do not have the desire to learn.

Those are the only ideas that I have come up with this far, so it’s over to you please, do you have any bright ideas to make my ex-bag into a loved bag again?

What would you do?

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