Small Business Supply Sourcing – An Opus in Two Parts. (Part 1)

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Hey guys,

I decided to write about something a little different today. I want to do a small writeup on sourcing supplies for businesses that are of a manufacturing sort.  This is probably one of the things that you really don’t think about when you’re excited and planning to start a new business but will very quickly become an expensive problem that can be a lot bigger than  you would think. The supplies that you use to make whatever it is you’re making are extremely important. They are the raw ore that you need to make something beautiful. So, where and how do you find these things?

 

Do you know what all these tools are? Then how do you know if you don’t need them?

 

1. Knowing what you need to get the job done.

Thinking back on my personal experience, I know that I had a heck of a time finding the right places with the quality that I needed.  The first thing to remember is that you often cannot trust what you buy until you have had a chance to try it on more than a couple pieces. I’ll use my own business as an example for these to give you an idea.  I make corsets for Absynthetika, as some of you may already know, and there are many different types of supplies and tools needed for the job.  There are some of the obvious things like fabric and thread, scissors and needles. Then there are some things that are a little more complicated, like boning – what type of boning should I use, in what format should I order it, and how much work am I willing to do to prepare it?  These are all questions that will impact where you order something from.  My first piece of advice for those of you in small business manufacturing is to make a list of all the supplies that you’re going to need and from that list, I would note where you plan to get them and what you have worked with before and know is a good quality.  Some of what you need may be easy to find, but some of it may not be. You need to know where to spend your research energy, and start from there. There’s nothing worse than starting something and finding all the surprises of supplies that you will need, as this gets very expensive and very frustrating very quickly.

 

2. What work are you willing to do yourself?

This may seem like an odd question as if you’re planning on making things to sell, you may feel like you’re doing everything yourself.  This is not in fact the case. For corsets, for example, you need boning. Are you going to use plastic, that’s easy to cut, pre-cut steel, steel that you need to cut yourself?  These may seem like small questions but the answers will change where you’re getting your product.  Plastic/rigilene boning you can buy locally in a regular sewing store, whereas precut boning you’ll have to order from a costume supply shop.  Precut boning is more expensive than a spool of boning, but the spool requires more work to make usable.  Though it requires more work, it gives you more flexibility, and so which one will you choose? Ultimately, it is up to how much work you’re willing to put into the prepwork. This, of course, doesn’t only apply to corsetmaking, but to any manufacturing business.  The more work you’re willing to do yourself, the more money you will save on the prep that you don’t need to pay a company to do.  This also lets you closer control the quality of your product.  Do you need to have a cotton bias? Are you going to buy it or make it yourself?  Should you order specific jewelry findings to your exact measurements or will you just cut them to size yourself to save the money?

            

Two options for making bias tape and the option for buying it. Which one is worth the time/money for your business?

 

You need to be a little careful that you don’t get stuck in the permanent “if I make it, it will be cheaper”.  A great comparison is clothing shopping.  I am never willing to make jeans for myself because I can buy them for 10-20 dollars a pair, which wouldn’t even cover my labour for making them.  A simple skirt that’s only one layer think being sold for 30 dollars?  This is something I would make with better quality stitching for a lower cost.   Remember that your time is money and if you are going to do this type of work yourself, that you need to be considering how much time you’re using and is it worth it either for money saving or for quality control. Remember, your supplies should balance your time and your money so that you can maximize your quality without sacrificing too much time.

 

 

I will continue with a few more topics in next week’s blog getting into online suppliers and making the most of your supplies.  Where people who have been in this industry for a while may see this as common sense, it isn’t quite so common when you’re just starting out and don’t have a baseline to work from.

 

~Megan


Photography Hacks: DIY your own studio

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We’ve discussed basic tips to getting better photos, and then we talked about simple composition tricks. One of the pieces advice given was to watch what ends up in your backgrounds. Making certain that you don’t end up with a stray foot/mess/stray threads in your photo frame can save you time and aggravation later on.

A step up from just ensuring you have no random extras in the background is to create a background that your item will look good on. This does not mean you need to get yourself expensive camera equipment. With a little ingenuity and elbow grease, anyone can create a photo background that will make their photographs look more professional. This is particularly useful when photographing anything that you intend to sell or display.

What makes a background look professional? Generally, for items that are destined to be sold this means a background that isn’t busy, usually plain one color, and possibly like there’s no background at all. The easiest background to manufacture is a white one. This may be easier with smaller items, but the principle can be done with anything.

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My makeshift photography booth- three pieces of paper, my sewing machine cover, and a box.

All you need for this is paper. It doesn’t even have to be big paper. Just paper out of your printer will do as long as it is clean and flat. Then simply put your item on top of the paper, prop more paper around the item, and voila! Homemade photography booth.

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Even a simple photo can be cleaned up with just white paper underneath.

Obviously, the standard piece of paper won’t work for all creations- particularly the larger ones! One option is to layer your white paper, creating a collage of white for your items to sit on. This works quite well I’ve found.

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This is me testing out a different white background- an old hamper. Its not perfect, but see next photo!

Alternatively, when your items are larger than a standard piece of paper, almost any white backgrounds will do. Poster board, mat board, card stock- whatever you can find that is flat and white. I’ve seen a number of people use white sheets and this works as long as you make certain that you iron them well. Wrinkles in your sheet will translate into your photograph and show up!

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Same photo as above, with simple exposure change. All of the white messiness can be fixed easily when its all one color.

Want to capture your light, but don’t want to go outside? You can prop your homemade backgrounds onto a windowsill or at a doorway for good effect too! This way you get the bonus of good lighting as well as the nice clean background.

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A nice clean photo from my paper booth.

 

Just doing something like this can radically adjust how people view your photographs. A white background looks clean and professional. Black can also be used, but it may change the way the lighting hits your objects.

With just this knowledge, you can upgrade your photos one step further- making your photographs interesting, professional, and inviting.

Practice makes perfect, on photography as well as crafting. Happy shooting!

~ eliste


DIY Display Risers

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As convention season for most of us artist is starting to rev up, I thought I’d share a great little tutorial that I personally used to help my table display improve drastically. Make your own display risers.

If you’re like me and need a long multi-tier display for your products, then you’ll know how frustrating it can be to actually find one that fits with not just your table layout, but also displays your work appropriately. Most professional made items will of course look better, but I’ve found these foam core displays to be light weight, easy to create and perfectly serviceable until you can afford something better. If you already have a hot glue gun, a long ruler and a X-acto type knife then your cost for this project shouldn’t be more then $2-10 as you will only need to buy the amount of foam core needed to create your new display. I personally bought 3 huge 3ft sheets of it on sale for only $5. Now the designer took it a step beyond and added bulletin board paper for a more neutral feel, but I would only do it if you feel a solid color like white/black will be too distracting/clash with your current table layout.

Now that I’ve been using a foam core display for the past 6 months or so, I feel comfortable enough in their performance and usage to whole heartily recommend using the medium. They make great, professional looking displays (provided you take your time and make your cuts/gluing clean of course) and cost considerably less than those plastic ones that always shatter if they fall off onto the floor. >.< Any Craft Hackers Members that need help assembling their own risers or designing them can of course feel free to contact me in the forums and I’ll be happy to help them out. 🙂

~Nicole


Alternative Perler Decoration

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After going to cons for so many years, I love to be proven wrong about a medium I may have written off due to over exposure. One such medium for me are perler beads, so I was pleasently surprised when I came across taytaym2‘s work.

Metroid Badge by taytaym2

Metroid Switch Plate

Even though these examples are still pixel based like most perler art, I hadn’t seen anyone use them in such a unique way before. The light switch especially is a great idea for all those geeky parents wanting a special glowing decoration in their child’s room. 😀

While taytaym2 only seems to have a few of these perler creations online, I hope they continue to design more as I would love to see perlers continued to be used as a decorative but also functional medium. 🙂

~Nicole


Kid-Friendly Doodle Craft

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I doodle a lot, and have folders of some of my favourite sketches that I drew during completely appropriate times (*ahem* university lectures). I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with any of them until the other day when I came across an old frame: it was a bit beat up but the glass was good and sturdy, and it dawned on me that I could use this to showcase a little bit of my bizz-art.

This fun, crafty project can be done with just about anything, from personal doodles, colouring-book art, and photos. Whatever little thing that you’d like to be kept on display!

What you need: A frame with glass, Mod Podge of your choice, applicator, the art you want displayed, and, optionally, glitter and/or paint (I used glitter nail polish because that’s how I roll). Please be careful with the glass: keep it on a flat surface and make sure to monitor your little ones as they do the glass portion of this craft.

The doodle had originally been done in black ink, so I decided to give it a bit more visual impact by filling it in with bright colours. After you have chosen your doodle and made sure it will fit into the frame, cut it out completely. I chose to keep a small border around the sketch but is your choice whether or not you’d like to cut right along the lines of your work.

After deciding on the position that you’d like your doodle to be, clean the glass and then apply the Mod Podge to one side. It’s important to note that the Mod Podge tends to leave streaks on glass, so I used a straight vertical stroke to keep it even, although you could opt to get fancy with it and make a wavy pattern. Carefully apply the picture face-first into the mod-podged glass and use a flat, plastic card to get out any air bubbles. Please be careful on this step as too much movement of the picture could possibly lead to colour blurring/leaking. While this dried I decided to give the frame a bit of a face-lift, so I painted it with a sparkly black nail lacquer that I had sitting around. Feel free to add your own touches to the frame to give it a new life and tie it in with your doodle!

Everything dries fairy quickly, and after this point it is all about building on your personal aesthetic, or letting your kids express their own creativity. Whether it is painting small designs onto the frame or adding a colour to the clear parts of the glass, the great thing about this project is that you make it entirely your own. Personally I wanted more shine so I opted to add a shimmering border to my fairy-thing (I really should name it). If you decide to do this as well be sure to put your glitter on the outer glass face as the Mod Podge and glass will diffuse some of the sparkle.

In all, this is a fun, quick, and creative way of showcasing those little pieces of art that would otherwise get lost in a pile, or forgotten in a folder.

-Shalyn


Pi Day – Week 4

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Saturday March 14th was the ultimate Pi day.  Pi is of course 3.14159.  I was at the Indiana Comic Con and decided to celebrate Pi day by spreading the love with miniature pies.

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I shared these miniature pies with all of the amazing crafty people I found at the Indiana Comic Con.  Every Saturday in April I am going to share pictures and give you information about these crafty people.

I think I saved the best for last with Patterns Optional.  When I first walked by their table on Friday I saw one of the most amazing dresses.

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So of course I had to share some pie with them!

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I immediately asked if they could make me a few custom skirts to go with the custom corsets I was having Megan (our new Thursday blogger from Absynthetika) make me.  They said yes and I am excited to unveil my first outfit today at C2E2.

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I LOVE the skirt they made me and can’t wait to get more.  What you don’t see in the picture is the awesome Batman embroidery on the skirt.  You can find their website here full of custom dresses they have created.  Check out the Craft Hacker Facebook to see the amazing dress they made me that I wore yesterday.

-Toni


Meet the Hackers: C2E2

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Today is the start of C2E2, Chicago’s Pop Culture Event. We are very excited here at Craft Hackers as this is the first time we have had a presence at this convention! Yay! The Craft Hacker group will be located at Booth 1357, near the center.

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When visiting our booth you will see handmade goods from three different artist this weekend. Toni is bringing Quiltoni with her custom made quilts and pillows.  Nicole -from Craftigurumi– is bringing her dolls, plush, and -of course- her always fun hackesac pokeballs. Our third artist is a new member, Special Edition Soaps, who will be displaying her beautiful and aromatic soap creations.  We will of course have plenty of information on Craft Hackers with us as well. 😉

There won’t be a Crafty Thinking panel, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask us questions about growing your own business! Toni will be around most of the convention to answer any questions that you may have wanted to ask at one of our panels. Feel free to come on over and chat!


Some Corsetmaker on Corsetmaker Action.

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Hey there folks!

You might be wondering what that title is all about. It sounds sexy, doesn’t it? Well it is, but maybe not in the way you might be thinking.  As you may remember, I am the corsetmaker behind Absynthetika.  In my travels, I have met many clothingmakers and of course, within that group, I’ve met my share of corsetmakers, especially at the various cons that I attend. I always try to walk around at these cons and get to know the other vendors. I have my regular group of buddies that I look forward to seeing every year, and in one of my con wanderings years ago I ran into Heather.  We got to talking, about business and about sort of being competitors – since she also makes corsets – and we realized that we have a fair bit in common.  We kind of became friends, and we root for each other to do well at our cons. We present different things to our clients and so we felt our competition wasn’t so much with each other but with some other people out there.

corsetHeather is the owner of Apollonie. She does make corsets. Very well in fact. Though my focus for this post isn’t going to be  her corsetry – for a reason other than our not so competitive competition –  as where I think she really shows her amazing skill is in her cosplay and historical garment making.  I want to showcase this amazing seamstress.  I’d like to give you a little history on Heather as I think this really helps to show that she knows her stuff.  She attended George Brown College which is a fine institution of learning.  At this hallowed place she took courses in fashion design and techniques and millinery (which is hatmaking, for those who may not know).  Where I am one who certainly believes that you can learn from experience, this background has lent an ease and professionalism to her craft that you don’t always see in independent clothing makers.

 

Another thing worth mentioning, and this is something I found personally endearing, was that she is a stickler for quality workmanship. Like myself, Heather doesn’t have patience or sympathy for those who like to cut corners and do things cheaply which means that anything she makes you is going to be a quality product.  Which is important. I know we are so used to living in a disposable culture, but let’s take back quality. When we buy things that will last, it means that we’ll come back for more. I know that if I find a great pair of shoes that last forever and are beautiful, I will go back to that store to find more. It may not be big bucks brought in super fast, but it does ensure client longevity and a solid business relationship. This is something that you often get with handmade items and doubly so when you have someone who pays attention to the details in their work.

 

One of the first pieces of work that I saw of hers was a cosplay costume that she did for a character I hope all of you recognize:

Loki

She did some fabulous leather and metal work of amazing quality to create a cosplay of stunning proportions.  I can’t express how I love this piece.  I love that it looks cinema quality, and you can see so many of the tiny details that were added on.

 

Next comes the historical garment making.  This is a difficult one as you really need to have someone who can do some fantastic pattern drafting. Making a historical garment wearable for the modern woman is not as easy as it sounds, and trust me when I say, anyone who asks me about this kind of costuming gets a referral to her. Take  a look at these gorgeous pieces.

 

Ladies        Lady
Take it from someone who makes clothing and who also makes corsets, this type of historical costuming is not easy.  It is not easy and it also takes a heck of a lot of time, energy, and attention to detail. From the fabrics that she chooses to the designs, these are such great examples of what I want to highlight about Heather.  I should note as well that she also does bridal sewing so if you’re looking to do a cosplay or themed wedding and want to have someone with experience and skill make you what you want…. Heather’s your lady.

 

~Megan

 


Photography De-mystified: Simple Composition Tricks

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Last week we discussed some tips that can instantly help you make your photos better. This week, I’m going to do the same, but in a more artsy fartsy way.

Photo composition is something that can be as easy or as difficult as you choose to make it. The same photo taken by two different people standing at the same place can look entirely different, all because of the composition they choose to give their photo. So what is composition? This term can be used in other art as well, so some of you may know it already. Simply put, it is the layout of a photograph.

What makes good photographic compositions? Well, this can depend on the effect you’re trying to achieve, the purpose of your photo, and how you choose to aim or crop your photo. (Cropping, btw, is totally a skill that everyone should learn, but will happen in a much later post).

Before I go into the how, let me tell you the why. I learned this naturally- by watching my father and his photographs growing up, but I’ve also done a bit of research since hitting my adulthood. What I’ve found is that photos become more “interesting” depending on your composition. Its about balancing the focus of your photograph, and drawing the eye of your viewer to where you want it to be.

The rule of thirds is something you’ll hear kicked around when you go researching photography, but you don’t particularly need to know the background behind it, although if you understand the Golden Ratio you may find its history interesting.

A photo with the rule of thirds applied to it. See how the photo balances the bottom third as pavement, interest in the middle, sky in the top. The intersection of lines at the girl's feet draw your eyes there.

A simple photo with the rule of thirds applied to it. See how the photo balances the bottom third as pavement, interest in the middle, sky in the top. The intersection of lines at the girl’s feet draw your eyes there.

What you do need to know is that this trick works. If you line up the subject or focal point of your photo at one of the crosses in a grid like this, your photo will draw people in to look at it in more depth. You create “interest” just through the composition of your photo.

A more complex use of the rule of thirds. Opposing intersections draw your eye to the figure and the flame.

Simply put your focal point at one of the intersections of the lines, and your photograph will automatically be more visually appealing to most people. There are 4 focal points to choose from, and they will all give different effects to your photos. This grid works for all of types of photos no matter what the final shape of the picture- square, rectangle, etc. Your grid may shift slightly, but the principle remains the same.

When you’re starting out, I highly recommend trying out this technique, and trying to aim for the 4 different focal points. You will end up with different looks, feels, and you can always pick which you like best. Eventually, you’ll get a feel for the grid and you’ll be able to shoot it instinctively, but when you’re starting out that may not be the case.

Don’t think you can handle that and the camera? Well, there’s plenty of help these days. A lot of cameras will automatically add a grid like this for you if you set them up to. iPhones can turn on a grid with their standard camera and a number of apps will do it too. Android phones have the capability of doing this as well (and some users may find it comes up as default), although again you can find a number of apps that will do this amongst other things. Even Instagram’s camera will automatically add in your lines for you. DSLRs sometimes won’t do this as they assume you have an idea of what you’re at…

What happens if you shoot and don’t have your composition right? Well, today technology provides us with all sorts of options. First option, of course, is to take the picture again. With digital prints, your capacity to shoot is only limited by your memory, and plenty of photographers take more photos than are needed and use the best ones.

However, there’s also the easy way out. Almost every photo editing software that I have used, whether it was on a full computer or just an app on a device, will automatically provide you with this grid when you use the Crop function (which is what is happening the first picture). It becomes easy to alter the composition of your photo into something better by cropping so that you use the rule of thirds.

But wait!!

Not all photographs need or should use this rule. If you are trying to show off an item to potential customers, then you want to ensure they have a good idea of all of its features and can fully see what is going on. While it might artistically look good to use the rule of thirds, it may not suit your purposes.

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Food happens to look pretty good when shot straight on, but notice my faux pas with the glass in the corner! Watch your backgrounds!

This is why I said at the beginning that good composition can really depend on what you are trying to do with your photograph. Having said that, even showing off items can be made better with small tricks.

Angling your camera or the item in question so that it is not squared up to the photograph can be enough. This trick may mean you need to provide more than one photo of an item to show all sides, but once you get the hang of it, it isn’t that difficult.

By angling the camera, you create distance and perspective in this quilt which draws the viewer’s eye.

With just this knowledge, you can upgrade your photos one step further- making your photographs interesting, professional, and inviting.

Practice makes perfect, on photography as well as crafting. Happy shooting!

UPDATE: This video below explains things in even easier to understand ways. Enjoy!

~ eliste


Happy Birthday to Us!!

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*throws confetti* Hooray! It’s our one year anniversary today! 😀

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Man, what a crazy year it’s been. When Toni approached me about starting this up with her, I really had no idea where it would take us.We’d been running the convention circuit for a few years already and from the moment she said we would be helping other artists succeed, I knew I was sold. Encouragement wasn’t found for my crafting passion when I was growing up so it means the world to me to be able to tell people you can do. You can take what you love and share it with the world and I’m gonna help you do it.

We’ve met so many amazingly talented artists and people this last year, and made several new friends as well! With big cons like C2E2, GenCon, and the various Wizard World cons coming up soon, I can’t wait to see what this year will bring. ^_^

~Nicole


 

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I am so happy to be celebrating our one year anniversary.  It was a bit rough the first few months because it was mostly just Nicole and I, and I wasn’t sure what direction the blog would really go.  After all of the support and love from readers and members we’ve slowly developed into what you see today.  I am very proud of the finished product we have and am sure there will be a lot of growth and change in the future.

I couldn’t have done this without Nicole.  She is my idea generator, second pair of eyes, and support for everything we do.  I don’t think we would have been successful without her.  I also owe my thanks to my bloggers who think of so many wonderful things that are craft related for you.  And of course I owe my thanks to readers and members.  Our members are slowly turning into successful businesses and I am proud to showcase them at conventions this Summer.

Here’s to many more anniversaries!

-Toni

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