So here is the stunning conclusion to the cliffhanger of last week’s post. Well. It’s an ending anyway. So I talked a lot about supplies from a small business perspective, but I’m going to turn it a little back to the crafty side of things and how it all applies to both.
3. Supplies: Testing and Acquisition
So once you have decided on what you’re going to make – whether it be craft related, business related, or even cooking related (really… this can be applied to anything), you need to actually do it. It sounds obvious, right? Though how often have you made a new meal for a party? I know that I normally don’t because I don’t know how it could turn out. Who knows, those puff pastry brie bites might not be as delicious as the theory shows. It’s the same with supplies. You do really need to do some test runs, whether it be for a small business or just for yourself. One of the very easy ways to do this is trial and error. Which is just testing the waters to see what you like. Maybe a yarn that doesn’t work well for a scarf will work extremely well for a sweater or shawl. Maybe that fabric you bought is no good for pants even though you thought it would be. It doesn’t mean you shall walk around pantless nor in very silly pants, no no. You shall buy other material to make other pants! Or go buy some at the store to eliminate the hassle. The reality is, you won’t always get your materials right on the first go round, so you need to get creative.
If your in store purchases don’t work out as well as you’d like, where do you turn? I know where I turn. I turn to the good old interweb. From there you can order from outside of Canada which obviously means more options, but how do you know if something will work for you? You don’t. Not until you try it. A good way to minimize the unwearable home made pairs of pants around your house is to ask around. Not just to your friends. I’m talking about striking up a conversation with someone who does handmade things. You will probably get suggestions for reliable sites, reliable brands and if you’re trying to figure out what will work for your project, they can tell you what has worked for them and why. If you’re looking for a yarn that will knit and purl in a specific way, you can ask someone who has done it before and they can at least point you in the right direction. I’ve found a few suppliers this way and have given that information over.
For those of you who aren’t making pants, but something a little smaller or maybe doing crafts with kids, a really good resource are shops that have swatch booklets. These can be for fabric or wallpaper or anything else that offers something tactile for the customer to touch. It’s really worth asking stores that use these what they do when these books are out of season. Many just go in the garbage. There’s a great plethora of projects you can do with these small squares of joy, especially when you need small pieces for large groups. Another good resource is an “ends” bin. In most fabric stores, there’s an end of the roll section, or sometimes there’s a discount for finishing off a roll like at Lens Mills stores, though you may have to ask directly about it. When you go to a fabulous bazaar or a handmade market, talk to the small business owners if you see something you like, and you can find out where you can get it and if it will actually work for you. Don’t be afraid about asking as anyone who makes something won’t tell you trade secrets, but often are happy to help those who are starting their own projects.
4. Online Ordering: How do you know?!?!
Here’s something I love to talk about as I do a lot of my own ordering online, but it can very quickly become a very mysterious and expensive endeavour. There’s a lot of really great websites out there, but it’s hard to know that you’re getting both what you want and what you expect. Have you ever made a purchase on Ebay or Amazon and when it arrived you realized that it was a waste of money? I have! Whether you are a crafter or a small business owner, none of us need to be wasting our money on less than quality products. So how can you avoid buying the lemon of the crafting world? I will refer you back to a point I made above. Advice from other artisans, creators and crafters. This stuff is invaluable and us artisans love talking about what we make and sharing these wonderful resources. I will lay out one website that I love to order from. It’s a website dedicated to making things yourself – from costumes to hats. They have recently added all kinds of different departments and even sell kits to help make things easier for people who don’t do sewing and crafting as their daily grind.
So how do you know if something works for you before you buy it? You don’t, unless you have a friend who has shown you the quality that comes from that particular website. Text batches become so important when doing these online orders as there’s nothing worse than drowning in something that you can’t use, can’t get rid of, and can’t get your money back for. Though you may be taking a chance, remember to email the company and ask them any questions you have, even if what you’re thinking of would be right for the project you’d like to do. If it’s a small business that doesn’t have a 24 hour helpdesk, you will probably be in contact with someone in the store or warehouse who knows the product.
Lastly, don’t feel that companies and corporations are the only places to get patterns and supplies. Etsy is a fantastic resource for finding alternatives to what is in the big stores and usually you’re purchasing from a small business owner who can answer your questions and help you decide on what you need. Etsy doesn’t only sell hand made items but they sell unique fabrics, hand drafted patterns, and even kits to help even the inexperienced crafter make something beautiful.
Don’t be discouraged if you want to try something a little out of your box and get swallowed up in rabbit holes trying to find what you need to do it. There’s a lot of different resources out there that can help make it all a lot less intimidating. For those of you reading this – and I applaud you for getting to the end – remember, the Craft Hacker’s forums are a great place to ask these kinds of questions, and knowing some of the Craft Hackers themselves, there’s a number of people in the membership who have a lot of expansive experience. Go! Get crafting! Do something with your hands and make something beautiful!