Survival Tactics For the Bleak Mid-Winter

February 14th, 2014 by Alice

The bone-chilling cold and leaden gray skies are a soul-sapping  reality as we hunker down into February. It seems like everywhere we look, our eyes are inundated with varying shades of gray (way more than 50!).
Personally, when the days are short and the terrain is drab and I am aching for a ray of sun, I have certain special rituals that help me make it through.  I know I am not alone in my dreams of sunshine and flowers- many of my friends tell me they feel the same, and to that end we take special pleasure in planning our gardens for the sunny spring.  Even a seed catalog can be just that extra bit of inspiration to bolster me against the oppressive chill and clouds.  Another activity I relish during this time of year is to fortify my fabric stash. Your stash is your palette, your textile garden, as it were.  The main thing to remember is to buy what you love, even if you don’t have a plan for it.

Fabric manufacturers generally produce specific colors and tones each year so if you don’t buy a little bit and keep it on hand, you may not be able to find that perfect shade when you do need it. Think about value (the lightness or darkness of the fabric in comparison to the other fabrics you’ll be using with it). The combination of light and dark is what gives a quilt depth and interest. it’s good to select a balance of light and dark fabrics, but low-value quilts can be quite beautiful  too. Be sure to add a broad spectrum of values to your stash.

Here at Alice in Stitches we have a fresh array of gorgeous Hoffman batiks in subtle shades as well as a plethora of elegant asian-inspired fabrics that really provide the darker values in a luxurious way.  We also have a new shipment of lighthearted and whimsical fabrics and panels from Blend that feel buoyant and springlike and are inspiring in this dark time of year.

Hang in there! Look at colorful fabrics and plan a cheerful project that will give you the fortitude to face the cold!!  (and Happy Valentine’s Day to you!!)

Posted in What's New | 92 Comments »

Vintage Yukata Hand Dyed Kimono fabric

July 2nd, 2011 by Alice

Bold Vintage Yukata

Bold Vintage Yukata

Are you looking for that unique print for your Asian quilt?  Vintage Yukata cottons really caught my eye when I was recently introduced to them by local expert, Patricia Belyea.  These lovely one of a kind designs are from the Showa period ranging from approx. WWII to 1989.  Bold large scale florals in bright colors contrast with traditional indigo blue and white geometric designs. 

The bolts average approx. 13-14″ wide and are approx. 12 yards long, which makes a full kimono.  Yukata translates to “bathing clothes” in Japanese and the term also refers to summer cotton kimono.  These kimonos were traditionally worn to the community bath house.

We are teaming up with Okanarts to bring a unique collection of Yukata cottons for a limited summer run.  We’ll be returning the collection at the end of August, so if you love a piece, grab it now!

Yukata cottons make easy tablerunners - just seam the ends!  Cut up the large designs for lovely feature blocks in your asian quilts.  Try incorporating the prints into tote bags, pillows and jackets.  Have fun collecting your own unique collection to make your projects really stand out.

Posted in What's New | 106 Comments »

Taking Comfort in Handmade Crafts During Hard Times

June 9th, 2009 by Alice

We all gravitate towards things that give us comfort during times of stress.  Whether it be “comfort foods”, your stash of carefully gathered fabric, or a pile of soft yarn and a set of knitting needles, it’s those little pleasures that sooth our souls.  During these difficult economic times, we’re looking for a simpler way of life, a way to slow down and relax without spending a lot of money.

We seek out our history in the creation of a quilt, a connection with a grandmother or aunt, and begin to create our own traditions.  Is there a special quilt that is begging to be made for each new baby arrival?  Does a friend or loved one need a little extra comfort that only a hand made quilt can provide?  Perhaps you warm those around you with a cozy handknit sweater or afghan.  As the world rages around us, we find our own peace with a creative hand and a return to simplicity.

So this year, if your pocketbook doesn’t quite stretch to cover that exotic vacation, perhaps a few yards of fabric and a wonderful pattern will fit the bill.  And, who says you can’t have a Margarita or two in the backyard while you contemplate your next project?

Posted in What's New | 94 Comments »

Defining Your Artistic Quilting Style

May 22nd, 2009 by Alice

As you set out to create a business from your craft or to better yourself as a quilter, you may decide it’s time to define an artistic style or personality for your work.  Many artists are instantly recognized and identified by their body of work.

Defining your style can be much easier said then done.  Most often your style will evolve over time and grow from your interests and passions.  Sometimes it can be difficult to move beyond recreating patterns from other artists and begin to see yourself as a creative artist with unique ideas.

Here are a few suggestions to begin finding your personal style:

  • Take a standard pattern and make three of your own changes to it
  • Look at the colors and themes of your own personal home decor
  • Think about the artist’s quilt patterns that you most admire
  • Are you more traditional and conservative in nature, or a wild spirit?
  • Are you drawn to funky novelty fabrics, the beautiful Asian fabrics or traditional floral prints?
  • Go to quilt shows and make note of the quilts you are most drawn to
  • Take some classes to broaden your expertise in your favorite area
  • Invest in books from your favorite artists
  • Experiment with color and technique
  • Get a design wall (pellon fleece) to be able to stand back and observe your work in progress
  • Use a camera - photograph nature, citylife, people and more for inspiration

When looking for your style, be true to yourself.  You’ll have a difficult time becoming a contemporary artist if deep down your passions are rooted in the historical or traditional.   Look for colors and styles that excite you and then set about experimenting to make them unique and special to you.

While it’s great to study other quilt artists, be sure not to copy.  You’ll get inspiration, ideas, and you will be able to grow from each new study.

If you are marketing your products, you may also want to consider the trends and interests of your marketplace.  Does your part of the country tend towards conservative or contemporary?  Are there popular color trends or home decor trends that you want to follow?  Go to your local shops, street fairs, galleries, etc. and take it all in.

Enjoy your journey!

Posted in Free Quilting Tips and Tricks | 79 Comments »

Find the best venue to sell your crafts

May 12th, 2009 by Alice

After you decided to start your craft business, the next step is to figure out where to sell it for the best profit.  Your options are broader than they once were, with unlimited venues on the internet.  However, is that the best market for a handmade item?

Points to consider:

  • Who are the clientele that may be interested in your product?
  • Local access to customers - Do you live in a highly populated area?
  • Is your creation a low cost craft, or high priced art piece?
  • Does your product photograph well or is it best viewed in person?
  • Are you comfortable in dealing with the public?
  • Are you interested in setting up an online store and learning the best marketing practices?

Marketing Online

Many crafts people have their fingers in a number of pies at a time!  A good mix might be to set up a website for yourself, list some products on Etsy or Ebay , sign up for a few art festivals, and place your items in some local shops. has made a good name for itself as an online niche marketplace for handmade creations.  Some people are successful on Ebay with handmade items, but I found the final prices to be too low for the products that I was selling.

You may also want to join online groups and sites dedicated to promoting the type of art or craft that you create.  You’ll receive good exposure and new connections that you may not know about.

Whether you plan to do most of your selling online or not, you should create a professional website for yourself.  This can consist of a single page with a few samples, your contact info and a short bio, or it can be a full shopping cart site.  Everyone expects a web presence from a commercial enterprise and you’ll find it can really boost your worldwide exposure.

Selling at Art Festivals

If you live in a larger metropolitan area, chances are you have access to many summer street festivals, art fairs and markets.  If not, perhaps you are willing to travel to a promising destination.  A good guide to check out to get a feel for the fairs is the Crafts Fair Guide.  It gives reviews, pricing, jury info, attendance info and more.  To attend most of the larger fairs, you will need some basic equipment, such as a sturdy booth (EZ Up is good!), display tables and furnishings, good lighting, etc.  If you want to get a feel for this marketplace, it is possible to rent most of the equipment to try it out. 

In my experience, the arts and crafts fairs provided the best sales venue for my products (quilts and tablerunners).   My items were best viewed in person rather than online.  I did careful research on the type of fairs that reached the demographic I was after for my product. 

Jurying into street fairs can be a stressful process.  You do need to be ready for the jurying process approx. 6 months in advance of the fair (sometimes longer).  That means having quality photos to submit, turning in your application and fee on time and then waiting for a reply.  Not all fairs require jurying, but those that don’t are often not worth the effort.  An un-juried fair usually is a mix of imports, new junky products, and low cost crafts.

Selling Wholesale to Shops

Another option for selling your product is to market to local shops specializing in similar items.  Some shops may be willing to take your items on consignment or may purchase them outright.  Be prepared, however, that a shop owner will usually take half of the selling price.  If your item is popular it may also be difficult to keep up on demand from a shop (a good problem to have!).  To get started, put together a professional photo portfolio of your products, along with a couple of samples and hit the streets to do some calling.  I was able to set up a great relationship with a local quilt shop owner and we did a lot of business over the years.

Good luck with your endeavors!

Posted in Free Quilting Tips and Tricks | 86 Comments »

Pricing your craft for the street fair market

May 3rd, 2009 by Alice

Once you’ve chosen the product or collection of products that you plan to sell, the next step is to figure out how much it will cost you to produce it and how you should price your product.  There is often a fine line between pricing yourself out of the market and working for nothing!   As a general rule of thumb, the more unique and one of a kind your item is, the more liberty you will be able to take in pricing it.  If you are planning to sew an item that is more widely available at low cost, the less you will be able to play with the pricing.

Points to consider when pricing your craft:

  • Figure the total cost of all components in your product
  • Time yourself when making this item
  • Can your product be made production style, thereby cutting down the time?
  • How much would you like to be making per hour?
  • Do you plan to sell wholesale or retail only?

After you have figured in your total cost and time per hour, you will want to try to add at least another 50% if not more to cover such costs as fair fees and commissions, your workspace overhead and other miscellaneous costs.

As I mentioned before, if you are making potholders or children’s clothing, you will have less leeway to adjust your pricing and will need to stay within certain price margin for customers to buy from you.  If, however, you create a more one of a kind textile art, you will be able to add in that “art” factor when figuring your pricing and will be able to test the waters to see what price your work may bear.

Before deciding your final pricing structure for your products, go out to your local street fairs and check out your competiion.  You may want to aim for somewhere in the ballpark of similar items that are available to the public. 

Be sure that you will be able to make a decent profit on your crafts before settling on the product that you want to make.  You don’t want to put in a lot of work and find you can’t make any money on it!

Posted in Free Quilting Tips and Tricks | 69 Comments »

Starting your sewing crafts business

April 30th, 2009 by Alice

So you have your product idea and you’re ready to get started sewing!  Here are a few thoughts on what you should have in place before you get to work.

  1. Get your state business license: This is an easy process but often a scary step for new entreprenuers.  It involves choosing your business name, your business structure and paying the fee of approx. $25.  For this you will be registered to do business in your state and receive a UBI number that you will be able to use to buy your supplies wholesale and tax free.
  2. Get your city business license:  The rules vary from city to city, so you will need to check on the requirements where you live.  Generally if you do any business within the city you live, you will need a license there and pay an annual fee (in Seattle, mine is $90 for a year).  If you only sell at street fairs for a portion of the year, you may qualify for a reduced rate.   The city officials do check out the fairs and if you don’t have your license, you’ll eventually receive a letter letting you know that you’re overdue!
  3. Apply to street fairs:  Assuming you have a product in mind and you’re ready to start turning it out, you’ll want to apply for fairs approx. six to nine months in advance.  Get on the mailing lists of the local fairs that you would like to participate in, so you will receive the applications as soon as the come out.  The good fairs have a specific “jurying” requirement, such as photos they require, dates you need to appy by, etc.  They often fill quickly and you’ll be out of luck if you miss the deadline.  The fairs usually have a jury fee of approx. $25 each, may require slides of your products or digital photos to be submitted online.  You must have great photos to stand out from the crowd!  You may want to start small the first year, if you may not have enough product to fill a booth.  An option is trying out some local church bazaars before jumping into a large fair (not as much up front cost and commitment, but also not as high earning potential).
  4. Set up a Website:  Even if you don’t plan to sell online, it’s great to set up a simple web page to tell about yourself, your work and how to contact you.  When you get your fairs lined up, be sure to list them online.
  5. Get your business cards:  Take your new business name and get some cards made up right away!  I like to use Vista Print - you can get free cards with their designs, or design your own logo and pay for some cards.  No matter how small you are, you should get cards to give to people who like your work.
  6. Find your wholesale suppliers:  With your UBI #, you’ll be able to buy supplies for your product wholesale.  Sometimes this will be the best option.  Sometimes, you may decide to buy retail if the wholesale minimums are too large for you while just getting started.  You can research suppliers in your local community or online.  If you decide not to purchase wholesale, your UBI # will allow you to purchase tax free (if you live in a sales tax state).
  7. Set a work schedule:  When you work at home, you’ll control your productivity.  The distractions of everyday life will easily disrupt your plans so it’s essential that your work time become a priority in your schedule.  Pick a time that you will most likely to work uninterrupted for a period of time.  Even if you only have a short time, if you stick with it on a daily basis, you’ll soon build a supply of your crafts to sell.
  8. Set a dedicated work space:  If at all possible, find a place in your home that you can use for your business.  It your space is in the general living area, you’ll find you spend more time setting up and taking down your work area, then you do on the actual sewing.  It’s wonderful if you have a spare bedroom where you can just leave your work mess, close the door and come back to it easily.  Check that your sewing machine and quilting tools are in good working order.
  9. Perfect your craft:  You will be competing with a lot of people for the customers sales dollars.  If you need to brush up on your sewing techniques, learn new quilting skills, embellishing ideas, and so on, you should invest in yourself.  Take classes at a local quilt shop or the larger fabric stores.  You products should be professionally made, original and creative to attract the eyes of potential customers and to secure a spot at a craft fair.
  10. Set up your online social networking presence:  Begin looking at Facebook, Twitter, blogging, My Space, YouTube and more with an eye towards establishing yourself as a business, introducing yourself and gaining a following.
  11. Sew up a few sample products:  Create a few of the products that you plan to sell so that you can photograph them to submit for crafts festivals.  You should take special care with the items you plan to submit for judging.  They should show your unique style and your skill.  Your photos should be close ups without any background clutter.  Many shows have very specific instructions for the photos that they need.  The photos should be well lit and show detail.  If your photos are not up to par, you may want to consider investing in a professional photographer.

Now you’re ready to set up shop and hang out your shingle!  Good luck with your new sewing career.  I’ll be posting additional tips about sewing for profit in my blog.

Posted in Free Quilting Tips and Tricks | 105 Comments »

Turn your sewing to profit - finding your niche

April 29th, 2009 by Alice

So you’re ready to start!  Now what?  An important step to talking that big leap into starting your own business, whether it is a home based crafts business or any other, is to research your market. 

Questions to ask yourself when researching your niche:

  • How do you plan to sell your product (crafts fair, store, online, etc.)?
  • Is your idea unique?  If not, how can you differentiate your product?
  • Who is your competition (everywhere)?
  • Is your product an item that is already mass produced and available at low cost?
  • How much would it cost in materials to product your product?
  • How long would each item take to produce?
  • Would you be able to compete in price and still make a decent profit?
  • Would you make the items yourself?
  • Would your product sell well online (check out sites like Etsy and Ebay)?
  • What kind of licenses would you need in your area to start a business?
  • What age group will your product be directed at?
  • Does your product fit into a current trend?
  • Where would you purchase your supplies?
  • Is it your passion?

If you are thinking about selling your products at local arts and crafts fairs, I would highly suggest that you visit as many of the fairs in your area as you can.  Make note of anyone selling similar items and talk to them.  Many crafters are happy to talk about their business and you can get some great tips on the business.   Visit the booths a number of times and take note of how much interest there is from customers, how many sales they are getting, etc.  How can you do it better?

Fairs and festivals are definitely not all created equal!  There are some great publications that help you sort out the duds from the standouts.  In general, the fairs that you need to “jury” into will draw higher quality items and hopefully, a following of clientele who come to spend money.  Those without the “jury” process tend to be full of imports, and low quality crafts.  To “jury” into a crafts fair means that you submit slides and an application and will receive a letter letting you know if you are accepted.

Posted in Free Quilting Tips and Tricks | 99 Comments »

Sewing and Quilting for Profit

April 28th, 2009 by Alice

Wouldn’t everyone like to make money at something they truly love doing?  While my kids were growing up, I was a stay at home mom who did just that!  I wanted to be there for them and still make some money.  My kids are now 17 and 21 and I’ve moved into a more full time online career, but for those earlier years quilting was perfect!  Check out my street fair booth in Seattle .

My business began with making windsocks and selling them at local bazaars and smaller venues.  I evolved into an art quilter, selling my work at local art fairs, summer street fairs and a local quilt shop.  In these times of unemployment and uncertainty, it may pay to take a look at the kind of business you might create from home.  My advice is to start small, research your idea/market carefully, get a business license and find your unique niche.

strip quilting,landscape quilt

Southwest Strip Pieced Landscape Quilt, By Alice Rudolph

You’ll probably find your work will evolve over time until you find an artistic look that you’ll be identified with and you develop a following.  Take your time to play, find inspiration, take classes and grow as an artist.  I’ll do a series of posts on various aspects of starting a small crafting business to discuss in detail some of the concerns involved.

Posted in Free Quilting Tips and Tricks | 72 Comments »

Michael Miller Fairy Fabric Collection - Art from Cicely Mary Barker

April 27th, 2009 by Alice

Fairy lovers unite!  The beautiful art from the estate of Cicely Mary Barker has been transferred to fabric in Michael Miller’s Fairy Collection for every season.   Each season, a new collection of fabrics is released, including a panel of blocks to use for soft books or quilts, a large panel and many companion pieces.  We just recently took delivery of spring bolts, summer, fall and Christmas.

Fairy Fabric,Michael Miller,fairies

If you were not previously familiar with Cicely Mary Barker, she was an artist in England in the early 1900’s who published beautiful fairy books for children, as well as greeting cards and postcards.  Ms. Barker used children to model for her flower fairies and tryed to match their personalities to the flowers, which she was careful to portray botanically correct.

Posted in What's New | 1 Comment »

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