– – -✂ – – – a day on the sewing machine – – -✂ – – –

a day with the machine

I started out by hand-stitching my next batch of patchwork journals, but just had to give it up: funds are very low these days, and my day job place will be closed till March for major renovations. That means no income, however small, for months. *sigh* I have a tendency to overdo the handwork on things, and it can take as many as three days to put one of these journals together. At that rate, I can’t make these fast enough (and there’s no way I could charge three days’ worth of work for one book!)

I finished the rest of the patchwork pieces using a decorative stitch on my vintage sewing machine, hoping that they are still pretty enough. It still takes a long time, but a fraction of what it would if I hand-embroidered every book.

Been wracking my brains for some sort of acceptable compromise between quality handmade things, and a product that makes financial sense. Yes, I love what I do, and I love it when others love my items, too…but at the rate I’ve been going, I’ll never manage to “give up my day job,” the way so many of those amazing ETSY sellers featured on their blog have. I’ve tried before, and ended up living on boiled rice with soy sauce.

On the same note, I wonder if online craft makers like ETSY sellers are pricing their work realistically. Sometimes I suspect they are only charging for material, and not for the time it takes to make the things. I’ve come across journals similar to mine that are within the price range of machined, mass-produced, made in China journals and notebooks. Some are cheaper than Moleskines! It makes it hard for a maker like me to keep up my quality work. It puts me under pressure to find cheaper, quicker, ultimately less special alternatives. Why anyone would underprice their work when they make special, laborious, one-of-a-kind items is beyond me. Is it just to get shop ratings up? Is it to become popular, at any price? Shouldn’t we help raise the standards and public awareness of how time-consuming a handmade item is by setting a realistic price that takes some of our time into account? We all stand to gain from increased value, I think.

Do you have an online shop for your handmade items? Do you charge for your time? Is it working out? Have you been able to “quit your day job”? I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this.

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* photo effects were created on Rollip *

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11 thoughts on “– – -✂ – – – a day on the sewing machine – – -✂ – – –

  1. I, too, struggle with charging for my time. I have to keep reminding myself that I’d be getting paid an hourly wage at any other ‘job’ I was employed at. Seems like a no-brainer concept, but it’s not how my brain wants to work. I’ve learned how to streamline my production of handmade greeting cards, which helps keep their price reasonable, but needlework is a different craft altogether.

    Whenever I see a beautifully hand stitched or hand quilted work, the first thing I think (after the initial “So gorgeous!”) is “I could never do something like that” or “That would take me forEVER to make.” Those thoughts are the ones that make the work very desirable to me. Thus, I am more than happy to pay more than the mass-production price for the privilege of owning a gorgeous piece of handmade art that didn’t require me to learn a new skill or spend innumerable hours making it.

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    1. Ms Coyote, thank you for taking the time to answer me on this post! I’ve thought about this some more, and I am starting to see that there are a few areas that I could certainly improve on, before I even get to whining and wringing my hands together about the problems of doing good work for Kmart prices. 😉 I could, for instance, manage my time better. Focus. Do a few repeats of something good, rather than approach every single journal from scratch, another mountain to climb. I will let you know how I go. Thanks, again, for visiting! Good luck to us crafters, eh?

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  2. I struggle with this too – especially with my quilting. I sway between, ugh, I just need to move this product, any amount is fine, since I enjoyed making it and I need the money, and, I don’t want to sell myself short. I do usually charge an hourly rate of some sort, and keep track of my hours per item, though I find this can lead to less thoughtful production which is disappointing to me. Like, I could do this in a more interesting and stimulating way, but I’ll choose the faster way I’m already familiar with. Anyway, thoughtful post, I love your stuff!

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    1. Thank you, Dana, for commenting on this. I’ve thought it over some more, and I realize that I am missing the forest for the trees. There’s nothing wrong with the labour intensive side of my craft…but I need to learn more about organizing a system whereby I do get more work done. Right now, the “make a cup of coffee, dance to some music, stare at the horizon, have a cigarette, wait for inspiration, and then go and do 30 minutes of inspired work” is probably more to blame than any vagaries about “the market” or laws of supply and demand. I’m just muck around too much! And I need to understand the dollars and cents part of it. I never keep receipts, I never clock hours, I’m an accountant’s nightmare.

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  3. do not underprice Nat! it makes me sick seeing so many etsians competing for the cheapest price and acting like customers are gods to be served and worshipped – add to that uninspired tweets every other minute and social media mayhem. ok, maybe it works for some, just not for me and I think with the quality of work that you do and the love/passion you put into it, its not to be ranked beside mass-produced ass-kissing products. ahh but money is an issue always.. I still shrug when asked. hmmm… from observation a lot of successful independent creatives are either in an established or hip indie network of similar creatives where they just have to submit their work and someone else does the marketing and selling for them and some build on a great story that goes viral and then the rest is history. over the net appearances seem to be everything, making a point with just one look – or getting people curious enough to keep looking. your work and your story are real treasures and I do believe you can make a living out of your art. have you tried selling also in local shops? you could leave your call card with your items so people can follow you and keep updated with your new work 🙂

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  4. I feel that beautiful hand made items need attention to the fives senses… and perhaps you could have a ‘party’ with your friends to share your beautiful creations and perhaps they would be interested in buying them, they could also invite friends. Then you could take the community approach and look for markets where you could set up a stall, using your unique style to set it up, and have brochures ready that show how you made them, their usefulness and quality of material and design. Then look into giving workshops, maybe at local places such as libraries and community centers? After you ‘tested’ the interest and have recommendations, then set a page up yourself… maybe start up with a stock and have limited pieces or uniquely one of each. ?Is my advice helpful? I would love one of those covers for one of my poetry books… you could approach poetry lovers too. 🙂

    You could also try the international market, and also go to Op shops, and look for bargains, and reuse once loved material that people normal think of ‘throwing away’. This would make economic sense too. I’m excited because I love your work!

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  5. Would it make sense if you actually charge more and make less? Make more one off pieces and charge an arm and a leg (or auction it at the highest bid). Maybe it just takes time but selling your work at a premium might actually create more demand.

    What I noticed (at least here in the Philippines) a lot of demand is actually manufactured. Branding, hype and advertising sells as much as quality does. Since your work is an honest piece of artwork, might as well use the tools of selling/marketing that art galleries do. Maybe someone can do the marketing for you so you can have more time for your craft. Like what Dr. Cuanang does for the Saling Pusa art group.

    I guess it’s a question of going the mass production route versus the art gallery route. Your work is definitely art.

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  6. I just looked at your Etsy shop and I don’t think your journals are overpriced. They’re handmade; what does one expect, anyway??? I’ve seen journals at B&N that are definetely NOT handmade and just as expensive. I’d choose yours over theirs any day. But then I’m just one person….What IS overpriced is shipping! I’m in the US and the shipping would about kill me. But that’s not something you or I can do anything about. Love those patchwork covers, BTW.

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  7. This economy is so rough . . . I wish I had the money to purchase some of your items and therefore encourage you with actual sales, but I don’t (right now — I hope for better times in the future); however, I would encourage you not to undervalue your work. When YOU spend time piecing and embroidering, whether all by hand or with use of your vintage machine, you are creating a one of a kind product and your time should be included in the cost. You may not be able to quit your day job soon, but when you do, you should be able to live on more than rice. I think many of us undervalue what we do and that it is part of what’s wrong with our society as a whole. Perhaps you could continue to make your beautiful journals and sell them at an appropriate price and also find some items that are quicker to produce? I would love some buttons or bunting in your style.

    I will light a candle with you in mind in the hopes that you will find the guidance and support you need. You, and your work, are beautiful.

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