Thursday, 24 February 2011

Craft Fair Tips

After a smattering of interest following my last crafty post, I’ve come up with a few pointers for those of you thinking of selling your handmade goods at a craft fair.  I must stress, these tips are only things that have worked in my own personal experience (which is not really that extensive). My tips won’t guarantee you enormous sales or overnight craft stardom, but hopefully they will give you a good place to start if you’re thinking about selling the lovely things you’ve made.  

First of all, I’ll hold my hands up and say the one thing I’ve been rubbish at is taking good pictures of my stall at the craft fairs I’ve sold at.  I find it always helps to see a few pics for this kind of post, so Louise from Sew scrumptious has very kindly let me show some pictures of her craft stall. Louise uses lovely fabrics for her handmade goods, and it was seeing a picture of her stall that made me first thing about selling my own stuff.  She’s also chipped in with a few invaluable tips of her own.  So here goes...

How to find a craft fair
This all depends on where you live.  I’ve only got experience of local events, specific to my area of West London.  Look in your local paper or keep your eyes peeled for posters advertising this type of thing.  Schools are quite good places to enquire too, but a lot depends on the demographics of the parents.  With regards to schools, I find I do better at specific craft shopping evenings rather than school fairs.  My theory is that at school fairs, parents have quite a lot of other things to spend their money on (entrance fees, games, raffles, rides, food etc) and so may not have that bit extra to spend on a handmade purse, no matter how beautifully made. 

What should I make and how much?
This is the million dollar question and one I couldn’t find an answer to before my first craft fair.  Having now done the rounds of a few, I can understand why.  It’s like saying how long is a piece of string? It also depends how long the fair lasts, is it held in the evening, afternoon, all day, on a weekday, weekend, near Christmas? The list of variables is enormous. I would err on the side of caution and make more than you think you’ll need, you can always use the extra for your next fair.  Make enough stock to allow for a nice looking stand, plus a few extras just in case.

What you make is all down to personal taste and what you like/are able to make.  I seem to make lots of things that are square shaped (cushions, lavender bags, purses, drawstring bags etc) as I find it a lot easier than sewing curves.  If you find zips a bit scary, don’t make things with zips!  I’ve got a zipped make-up bag I make but only in smallish quantities (6 or so) because they’re so time consuming. I find it works to have three or four smaller, lower priced items in higher quantities (15 to 20), three or four medium priced items in medium quantities (6 to 10) and a handful of maybe two higher priced items.  There’s no point slaving away making a stall full of higher priced items that may not suit your clientele – give them a choice of some lower priced items as well and you may find they’ll be drawn to buy more. Here's what I sell at craft fairs.  
Lower priced items:
Lavender bags
Purses

Mobile phone holders
Mid priced items:

Small cushions (I get my cushion inserts for 69p each from Ikea which means I can keep the price quite low)
Drawstring bags
Child sized tote bags
Make-up bags
Children’s aprons
I haven’t yet sold any of my tooth fairy cushions at fairs but Louise has, with some success, so definitely worth thinking about.

Higher priced items:
1950's half aprons
Reversible shopping bags
With the higher priced items, I never make more than three or four of each. At one craft fair I sold all my 1950’s aprons within minutes, at another I didn’t sell any, it just depends on who’s buying.  

EDIT: For additional ideas of what to sell, see this post.

I’d say one of my selling points is the fabric I use, so try to offer a selection of unusual fabrics in a range of colours.  Once you’ve done one or two fairs, you’ll see a pattern developing of which fabrics are the most popular, which is really useful for future planning. Without doubt, the most popular fabric I’ve ever used has been this 1970’s retro owl print.  


Sadly, it’s out of print now - I bought the last stock I could get my hands on from Fabricworm (about 4m) and I’ve used every scrap of it.  Every single thing I’ve ever made from it has sold out almost immediately.  If anybody sees any of this fabric anywhere, PLEASE let me know, or if you have some and want to get rid of it, I’ll buy it from you and throw in a handmade purse or something for your troubles!

The finishing touch!
Having conducted a straw poll amongst my friends, they all agree that having a label on your product gives it a definite edge. Labels don’t have to cost a fortune, I just use school nametapes from here, and they work out at £3.99 for 72. It’s a definite talking point and people often comment on how professional a label makes your stock look.

Your stall
If it’s not on your booking form, contact the organisers and find out the size of your table beforehand.  It’s definitely worth having a practice and setting out your stock, so you know how much room you have to play with.  If your kitchen table isn’t that long, just measure out the dimensions on your bed.  Tables are generally about 6ft long and vary in depth.  A plain tablecloth or a couple of metres of hemmed, cheap white cotton fabric make a good backdrop.  

Now we come to how to set it all out.  Get there early so you're not panicking about time. A good rule of thumb is don’t try and squeeze everything on to the stall as there’s a danger of it looking like a jumble sale. Sometimes less is more and people need to be able to see things properly!

Don't put everything on the stall at once, make sure people can see everything
It’s generally a good idea to try and introduce a bit of height to your stall. Try to find interesting things to display stock on.  I plunder my kid’s bedrooms and use their child-sized chairs, but anything that you can put things on and hang things off will work: a little stool, a mug tree, those things you hang necklaces from, even shoeboxes would work. Louise has some really cute little children’s suitcases she uses which can be stacked up to give some height.  She also found a child’s coat stand in the shape of a pencil in a charity shop, which is great for displaying aprons and things. You can be inventive! Keep extra stock under your table and you can replenish your displays when items sell (which they will!)

Mini suitcases, boxes and stands add height and interest
How to display prices?
It’s entirely up to you if you want to label everything with an individual price or not.  I tend to label things separately if there aren’t many of them or if they’re hanging from a display.  For smaller items in boxes, I tend to just put a little sign on the front of the box. Little pegs with animals/butterflies on etc to peg prices onto things come in useful here. These are really cheap in pound shops. Another thing I do is have a small price list of everything for sale so buyers can see at a glance how much things are.  I display this in a photo frame so it’s nice and clear and add a little sentence at the bottom, stating that I can make up bespoke items if customers wish. 

Business Cards
It’s worth getting some cheap ones made up as customers will ask for them.  Vistaprint are cheap as chips and have tons of designs.  Give out as many cards as you can, I put one in the bag with each sale too.  People will come back to you to order things, sometimes months later.

Checklist
Stock!
Stock list.  Make a list of what stock you’ve taken so you can reconcile stock quantities at the end of the day
Tablecloth/white cloth
Chairs/boxes for display purposes
Boxes/baskets for smaller items
Bum bag or hands free bag – and don’t forget your float!
Business cards 
Price tags and/or price cards to peg to items
Packed lunch/water If you’re there by yourself as you may not get a chance to leave your stall
Brown carriers/small bags. I get mine from eBay  
Boxes to put extra stock in underneath the table
Notepad and pen.  Write down everything you sell, you’ll feel all smug seeing it in writing and it will help balance your stock at the end of the fair
Bulldog clips If you have a tablecloth that won’t behave itself, pin some of it out of trouble’s way
Sellotape/Blutak/scissors. 
Duplicate receipt book As well as being able to give customers a receipt if they want one, I use mine as a record for orders.  Write the order in full in the receipt book, including all details and the price paid, then give the top copy to the customer and keep the bottom copy. It’s always best to get payment up front for bespoke orders, that way you both know exactly what’s been ordered and paid for


Selling
I can’t give much advice about selling, as it’s something I’m pretty rubbish at!  But I like talking to people, especially about sewing and fabric, and that’s generally all it takes a lot of the time. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t sell much, especially if it’s your first fair.  You’ll find people will come back to you at a later date when they have a birthday to buy for, or if your fair is around Christmas.  I had quite a lot of Christmas orders from people contacting me after the event.


I’m sure I’ve left plenty of vital information out, but hopefully this is a good starting place.  Good luck, enjoy yourself and brace yourself for the feeling after that first sale.  Somebody has actually spent money on something you’ve put time and effort into making – it’s a good feeling!

42 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this Jane - it's a great resource for nervous newbies like me! It's very kind of you to share your research and tips :) Time to get the sewing machine out...

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  2. Hi Jane,

    That's a really interesting and useful post. I'm nowhere near the stage of making things to sell, but it's sounds a lot less scary now, and will be something I consider in the future.

    That owl print is totally ace btw.

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  3. Jane, How kind of you to share all your hard-earned lessons! I looked for your fabric and found it here in America. On ebay, it was for sale from Australia.
    http://www.fabric.com/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=80f1b48e-3be1-4d84-9c90-1347b5b949d1

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  4. Oh thank you so much J.K. you've made my day! I've just placed a giant order. How come that site never came up when I looked?!! I just hope all the owl themed things I'm about to make sell now! x

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  5. Ha ha, I was just about to give you the same details, lol. I found some in the UK as well but it's £10.99 per metre.
    Is that a good price from fabric.com? Have you bought from them before and are you likely to get stung for customs charges?
    Oh, and what do you make with this magical fabric?!

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  6. Uber useful post! Thank you. I've printed it out, it's that good! If you don't mind me asking, how much do you charge for your cushions? I do patchwork ones and am thinking of doing a craft fair down here on the south coast!
    Ceri

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  7. Hi Wandafish, it's cheaper than I paid at Fabricworm, I haven't bought from there before and if I get stung for customs charges I don't care, I just want that fabric! I mostly make cushions with it but I have made a few make-up bags and drawstring bags which have all sold well.
    Ceri, I'm so delighted this post has been useful! Re: the cushions, I charge £6. The inserts are only 69p and they are very quickly made with an envelope back. I suspect that price is on the low side (probably why they fly off the stall!) I would definitely charge more for your patchwork ones just because of the extra work involved. Would love to know how you get on with your craft stall. x

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  8. Thank you for your great post. I haven't done a craft fair yet but people keep telling me to get on with it. 69p is a heck of a lot cheaper than John Lewis for a cushion insert, I think I'm owed a trip to Ikea!

    Kate

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  9. Wow, thanks very useful, good luck in your future fairs.

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  10. Thank you so much for generously sharing these tips Jane, instead of acting within your well-earned rights to guard them. Really appreciate it! I may also try and snap up some of that owl fabric if you don't object...that's if there's any left after you placed your order ;o) It's so cool!

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  11. Great post. I'm very flattered that you used my photos too. Thanks! I love that owl fabric by the way. I might have to get some too! Rocket Rascals by Michael Miller is my equivalent fabric. I always sell anything made in that fabric. Didn't realise that you could get cushions so cheaply at IKEA. What a bargain!!!

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  12. Fantastic thank you Jane, really useful. On the business card front I really recommend a look at moo.com. They're not the cheapest but you can upload your own photo's, design the cards - business cards, mini cards and postcards - and have as many different pictures as you like for no extra cost. People always comment on how nice they are. (I'm not on a commission by the way!!)
    Will be interested to see how other people do at fairs, I've yet to be brave and try one.

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  13. I agree about Moo cards - they look amazing and I've been pining for them from afar for a while now. I'm trying to be good and use up all my cheapo ones first before I venture into Moo territory. It won't be long though, it's amazing how quickly you can get through 500 cards! x

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  14. Hi Jane, thanks for a fantastic post with some great tips! I am nowhere near the stage where i am considering selling at a craft fair just yet, but you have definatly inspired me that it's something to think about in the future. I was wondering how you go about working out how much to charge for your items? I have been asked to do my first commissioned order (woop woop!) but am totally clueless of what to charge. Any tips you or anyone else can give me would be greatly appreciated :) Ooooh and i also love the owl fabric...as an avid collector of anything owly since i was small, i shall certainly be getting me some of that!! x

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  15. Hi Kat, sorry I've only just seen your comment. I'll e-mail you with some thoughts about pricing - it's a difficult one to get right though and I still think I've got some of my prices wrong. x

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    Replies
    1. This is my first craft fair. I've made lots of Christmas cushions and Gingermen for Christmas tree, kiddies hats, stockings, kiddies aprons n large apron etc not sure about pricing. Help

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  16. Jane - thank you for the great post! Surprisingly there isn't a lot of information out there on "Tips to a Craft Fair". I've been to plenty of craft fairs but have reserved a table at a fair next week. I'm worried that I won't have enough stock but agree with your thoughts on having more of the less expensive items and less of the higher priced items.
    Keeping my fingers crossed that I sell something!
    Jess
    jbeedelightful.blogspot.com

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  17. Thank you so much for the excellent advice, Jane!

    My mother is organising a craft fair to help raise money for her local women's clue (my suggestion of the 'traditional' naked calendar didn't go down too well!!)
    I have agreed to share a stall with my sister (who does glass painting and a little sewing) so these tips will be most helpful.

    What section of Ikea do you get the inserts from? (Just had a quick look online but couldn't find them straight away... so impatient!) I have some old cushion filling at the moment but I know it won't be enough...

    Now I just have to improve my sewing skills!
    Xx

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  18. HI Catherine, glad the post was helpful to you. Here's the link to the cushion inserts online http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/20072213, I see they've increased their price since I wrote the post and they're now asking an outrageous 70p per cushion! They're usually in the cushion/rug section in stores, in a huge kind of cage thing! Best of luck with the craft fair, would love to know how you get on. x

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  19. Jane -
    I'll keep you posted on my craft fair. I did just mention your post in my blog - hopefully it will help out others!
    http://jbeedelightful.blogspot.com/2011/03/hey-jess-whatcha-doing.html

    Jess
    jbeedelightful.blogspot.com

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  20. Would love to republish this on our website, CraftCritique.com during Crafty Business Week! Great info for our readers and increased exposure for you. Please email me if you would like more information. Thanks!

    Simone Collins
    Executive Editor
    Craft Critique
    simone@craftcritique.com

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  21. Hey!
    Great post! Found it very useful and thanks for sharing. I do more painting than fabric crafts. And I'm really wanting to have a stall to make some money for my travels! I know theres a local Country Fair on the last saturday of every month, so I'm aiming to have one at some point this year.
    I just really need to get off my backside to get it going! Do you have tips on continuing the motivation before the big day?! I get easily distracted!
    Thanks again :) - Kerri

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  22. What a brilliant blog! So much useful information Thankyou! x

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  23. This is a fantastic blog and answers questions I have spent quite sometime looking online for the answers for! I was wondering about health and safety regs though. How does it work with the cushions and fire safety, do you have to put a label on? Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, so sorry I've only just spotted your comment. I don't put a label on the cushion covers, as far as I know it's the cushion pads that have to be fire safety compliant. The ones I buy from Ikea have a fire regulation label already sewn in. Hope that helps

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  24. These are THE things I needed to know! Thanks! I am doing my first craft fair after selling by word of mouth and Facebook for a couple of years now. Excited and nervous. :)

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  25. doing my first craft show on the 10th,finally I have trouble paying $100.and knowing if I will sell enough ,this one is only $25 and for the grace project.Your advice is the best I have found and the only one so far that talks about sewed things.thanks for the help I am so going to be ready now

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    Replies
    1. So glad my advice was helpful. Best of luck with your craft show. x

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  26. Jane, this is so weird... after meeting you on Saturday at the fair today i found your blog!! it's great! i am looking forward to reading more of it.

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    Replies
    1. Oh wow, that's wonderful Eileen, I can't believe it! Lovely to have met you and please do read more of my blog! We should meet up again for a coffee or something and talk sewing! x

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  27. Wonderful site and huge information. The information present here is helpful for the readers I'll come back to this blog for sure!
    Craft Supplies

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  28. Another owl design again! I’m starting to fall in love with owls! Kidding aside, I think I just need to be a little more creative so that I can make such beautiful handmade crafts. The more unique your items are, the more it’ll catch the eye of potential buyers.

    -Rhonda Munoz

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  29. loved this article Jane - first sewing blog i found on google and read!

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  30. Excellent resource Jane, this is full of useful information for selling sewing products online at trade-shows. I will keep an eye out on the owl print fabric :)

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  31. This post is really incredible, one of the most helpful I have ever read, indeed. Maya With Sail Boat

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  32. Great list I especially like how you have given real advice on
    Selling Handmade at the craft fair. Just have the confidence and start talking to your customers.

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  33. As a person moving towards crafting possibly to earn some money -previously just a hobby- I find this advice so invaluable thank you!

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  34. Jane, I have the owl fabric, but on a black background. If interested please contact me at grantsninnie@aol.com

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  35. Hi Jane for the owl fabric and other really cool designs try
    www.grimsbysewingandknitting.com
    They are a little pricey but have some of the nicest fabric I've found
    Am in the middle of starting my own business making clothes and other craft items an found your advice more than helpful :)

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  36. Hi Jane for the owl fabric and other really cool designs try
    www.grimsbysewingandknitting.com
    They are a little pricey but have some of the nicest fabric I've found
    Am in the middle of starting my own business making clothes and other craft items an found your advice more than helpful :)

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  37. I like your Craft Fair Tips which very informative for me. Thanks for sharing.

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