Many years ago my husband and I owned a baby shop called “Bundle of Joy”.
We sold prams, buggies, bottles, cots, baby clothes, blankets and a million other goodies that a baby needs.
As I was a crocheter I started to create baby blankets to sell in the store.
They did well.
I made crochet baby blankies in white, pink and blue. But never pink and blue together in one blanket.
I made granny squared ones and row on row ones. it was a perfect time of running a business and crocheting at the same time.
I then tried baby yellow and baby green blankets. But they never sold. I could only sell pink or blue blankets.
Our shop attracted customers who were grannies, aunts and mothers of new babies. Over time we got to know the clientele and they would pop in to say “hello” when the went for their groceries at the supermarket in the mall.
During our time at the baby store we were lucky enough to welcome our own bundle of joy and our daughter was born.
So we had a real live baby prop in the store and this too attracted customers.
They would come into our shop and ask, “Do you only have pink or blue blankets?”
To which I responded, “How about this lovely baby mint green or pale lemon?”
Everyone then said, “Oh, I’ll take the pink for my new daughter,” or, “I’ll take the blue because my baby is a boy.”
So even though we could offer a selection of colors, the customers only ever bought the two traditional colours of baby pink and baby blue blankets.
Moms want to clearly define the sex of their baby. If anyone sees a pink or blue blanket in a buggy or pram it is immediately clear that the child is a boy or girl.
In the three years we had the shops we never sold a yellow or a green blanket but, by having them as a selection to offer our customers, the awkward colored yellow and green blankets helped us sell the pink and blue ones, by them being offered as a choice to our customers.
You can read more on the meaning of colours, selecting colours for your crochet work and soft furnishings.
by Lynn King
Kate sewed. She loved sewing.
She made sweat pants for the six month to two year age group.
She sewed up her samples and took orders from her friends and a small order from local kids clothing shop.
It was small potatoes but she kept going. She enjoyed working with her hands.
Kate was retired and had the time to give to her sewing. She only sat at her machine in the day and only when the light was good. She started sewing at 10am and worked until 3pm each day from Monday to Friday.
At first she sewed in the colour and with the cloth she liked. As time went on she took orders for ten blue and ten red sweat pants. these were the popular colours for the pants.
The sweet spot
By buying the cloth in bulk (and getting a little discount from the draper), and making ten blue and red size small, all in one sitting she reached her sweet spot where she could not be any more efficient.
At this stage she could make 19 pants a week. This was not that many really but more than she made as a hobby.
This was how her production was; cutting out on Monday, sewing the main seams on Tuesday, finishing off the garments on Wednesday, pressing the pants on Thursday and packaging and posting her finished items on Friday.
Week in and week out.
It was a case of no work and no pay.
Now whilst this is good in the short term (six months) there comes a time when you can’t keep up with the orders.
The kid’s shop that took ten a week had a branch in another city and wanted ten for that shop as well.
What to do?
If Kate got sick she couldn’t sew.
She was turning over $40 and making $160 each week at full tilt.
But 19 was all she could make. She could only make nineteen sweatpants a week. If she took a day off she made less money.
Time and money
The realization eventually came to her that she could never make more money – only make less.
That no matter how hard she tried there was a physical limit to how much she could do each week and it all depended on her doing it.
With no one else to help and no more time she could do no more and earn no more money.
And, the sweat pants kept her so busy she couldn’t do the creative wrk that had drawn her to sewing in the first place.
It is a challenge faced by many crafters between earning some money, which is important, and being creative and enjoying what you do.
This is known as piece work when you are paid by the item. If there are no items to sell there is no pay for you.
But piecework is an entry into having an independent micro business and this is what attracts many people every year – freedom.
Piecework has its place and can be sustained indefinitely. It is what I recommend to crafters to get them going. Take the plunge and put you crafts out there.
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by Alison Stapleton
One morning there was an advert in the local newspaper it read,
“Crocheters wanted, meet me at the Table View Mall café at 12 noon on Saturday, Jenny.”
As a crocheter clearly this ad was for me. Wasn’t it?
I duly arrived at the café on the appointed time to find that I was not the only one who could crochet.
There were twenty-five to thirty women chatting and drinking coffee and waiting for noon.
Jenny arrived all suntanned and long blonde hair. She had a bag of little squiggly items and dropped one in front of each of the crocheters.
Then she passed around a little ball of shirring elastic in a variety of colours and gave everyone ten little beads.
The squiggly thing turned out to be a foot ornament worn on the beach with bare feet. It looped over your big toe and then around your ankle. There was assorted African beads on the top as decoration. It was a fun item for summer.
Jenny said to us all, “Make me a sample just like this one and see me back here next Friday at the same time.”
There was a lot of chatter amongst the crocheters and off they went. I went home clutching the sample, elastic and beads.
The pattern was easy to replicate, but the difficult part was working with the shirring elastic. It stretched and I had to try many different sizes of hooks to get the tension just right.
After several attempts, I made what I thought was a good copy of the sample she gave me. I was ready to show my creation to her. I wondered how the other women had got on.
Friday arrived and I was there early with my coffee in front of me waiting for the rush of crocheters.
No one came.
Jenny arrived at five past twelve she saw me and came over to my table. I showed her my work. She liked it. Another woman arrived with her attempt and that too was good.
We were the only ones to bring a sample of our work and the others did not bother.
So it began, we would be paid $50 for ten pairs of barefoot sandals which Jenny would sell the at her flea market stall at the Green Market Square for $25 each.
I worked every moment I had spare to get my ten pairs done on time. Not that I had much time with a six month old baby, a toddler of two years and two children aged eight and eleven at school.
On top of this we were renovating the house and had the kitchen in disrepair for months. But I pressed on.
Friday came I met her at the café and she gave me the cash and I gave her the now called “barefoot sandals”.
All this kept going week after week, for six months as the summer wore on.
Jenny’s original designs and her sandy feet were featured in Cosmopolitan magazine and here is a photo of the barefoot sandals I made from the magazine.
This easy casual work eventually ended but it was a good summer for me and the piece work crochet.
What I learnt about piece work
- Piece work is good while it lasts
- You need the skill to do the work.
- You need the time to do the work