Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Upcycled Life - school carnival stall report

Last weekend was our annual school fair - The Coconut Carnival.
I've spent the past few months upcycling clothes into things to sell at the carnival.

What was I doing?

I wanted to show a way to create things from the resources we have to use as a fundraiser at the carnival - an alternative to buying plastic trinkets and sweets for the lucky dip or bottle stall! And it was a way to promote upcycling in general!

I've had enormous fun creating things over the course of the year from this pile of clothes I got that were left over from last year's carnival stall. Go here for more details of things I made.

I've shared what I've made here on the blog and on my Facebook page - also creating and sharing many new tutorials to help others upcycle clothes too. So before the carnival even started I feel like I've already achieved a lot!

School carnival day, and my stall

I set up my stall and was really pleased with the finished look. I had over 150 items for sale (someone did ask!) ranging in price from $2 to $30. 

Plus all the gorgeous unique wrist cuffs that the kids helped to create.

The Coconut Carnival is a huge affair each year - with so much going on. I had a lovely view from my stall.

I could see the rides and the helicopter taking off and landing!

But back to my stall...


Things sold slowly and steadily throughout the day and I had plenty people coming over to comment on things and show an interest.

In the end I made $150 profit for the school, which I think it pretty good from a bunch of old clothes! 
I've done a few market stalls over the years and think this was actually the best I've ever done in one day!

Reflections and thoughts after the day

Overall, I'm glad I did this upcycled clothes stall for the school. I learned a lot and am really pleased with what I produced and that I could help raise some funds for the school.

However, I won't be doing the same next year. 

I want to make a difference, but I don't think an upcycled handmade stall at the school carnival is the way.
I will continue to upcycle clothes, and this week will be opening an etsy shop stocked with all these upcycled goodies I now have!

But at the carnival, watching and listening to people I found that - there were those who commented that my things were overpriced, as you get often with people looking at handmade goods. They cannot compare in price with things churned out from factories in China for example.
I totally get this. I mean why buy a handmade soft toy at my stall, when round the corner you can go to the white elephant stall and find decent donated cuddly toys for $1?  
People want a bargain - and when kids are buying things themselves with their pocket money - of course a $1 bear is going to be their choice rather than a $15 handmade turtle, or sock monkey.

I was also asked as the evening wore on, when I was going to start reducing my prices, to clear things out. Well I didn't. For a start it's not fair to those who have just paid full price, but it also devalues what I and others have spent time and effort making.

As I mentioned, this carnival is a huge affair. Sadly - I was only too aware of the waste produced by it - not just the endless food and drink containers and bottles that are just discarded and not recycled, but also the huge amount of plastic toys, glow sticks and other plastic fantastic won in games and bought for a dollar or two.

People come to the carnival to have fun, play games, go on the rides and eat and drink. I don't believe it's the ideal place for a handmade stall. People don't really come to 'shop'.

So what's next?

So I shall have to get my thinking cap on for next year. Something that fits the bill better, but is still eco-friendly and has some upcycling in there somewhere. Any suggestions welcomed!

For now - I shall continue to share on my blog my upcycled and sewing creations, tutorials and ideas. It's always rewarding to have comments and emails from people who have used my tutorials or been inspired by what I do to upcycle their clothes!

An encouraging story

One of the best comments I had at the carnival stall was from a friend whose daughter did some pattern testing for me recently of my new 

The other day her daughter had come out of her wardrobe carrying the old pair of jeans that still fit her Mum, asking if she could cut them up to sew with! Needless to say Mum said no, but took her to the charity shop where she bought an enormous pair for $1 and is now looking forward to making lots of things with them!

It's nice to know I am inspiring others to "Use What You've Got", which is really what I'm passionate about and feel that society as a whole needs to do more of and move away from constantly buying new and spending money. We need to make full use of the resources we already have, rather than using them once and then discarding them.

Thank you if you've read to the end of this post, and to those who have followed this clothes upcycling challenge of mine this year.  It's been a lot of fun and certainly a huge learning experience.

Now it's time to set myself some new goals and challenges!
I shall leave you with a picture of the fireworks that ended the night at the school carnival - and ended my clothes upcycling challenge for 2015!


  1. I have found the same as you - school fairs are not the best place to sell handmade goods now days, whether new or recycled. Going back to the late 80s / early 90s, some of the most profitable stalls at our school fetes, were the ones selling handmade goods. Times have changed, I suppose. Good on you for not bringing the prices down and all the best with the Etsy store.

    1. Thanks Pam. I knew not to expect too much going into it - but had still hoped to sell more. Still, I'm happy with what I did sell and that I spread the upcycling word a little more too!

  2. Well I think you deserve massive kudos on the whole endeavor! You raised money and taught yourself, the kids and all of US out here a lot. 150 items!!! That's so impressive. No suggestions in the old brain box right this minute but will let you know. Congratulations, Jill - a huge effort and i'm proud of you!

    1. Thanks Michelle! I've been waiting for your comment - always so nice to have your support!

      It's all about learning right? and there was certainly lots of that going on!
      I've been spending today sorting through the left over clothes and bits and pieces - plus my fabric stash in general and I've already got heaps of new ideas spinning around in my head!
      Next year's going to be another good one I think!!

  3. Congrats on finishing your sewing challenge. Hope the sale went well.

  4. This is such a great idea! How fun!

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  5. Wow! What a great job you did- yes people undervalue the work and care in a handcrafted item- have eagerly followed your posts and tutorials for this- well done. A great example for us to follow. I just want to use up all my scraps that I've saved for years as my form of recycling. And lately I'm using special birthday cards from years ago to recycle into needle holders for my daughters and grand daughters.

    1. Thank you! It's so nice to hear feedback from those who have followed along with my challenge this year. And what a great idea to use old cards for needle holders!!

  6. I was so happy to read your update and hear it went well.

    I think it is hard to convince people about the value of handmade and quality items, unless they see a financial benefit.
    I had a friend ask last week why I bother to make pajamas for my kids, when I can just buy a cheap pair at the supermarket. But I hope I am raising my girls to understand the value of handmade items, and they love their custom jammies.

    My favorite tutorial of your was the drink bottle holder.
    Both girls now have one, and they love them - customized to their individual tastes, as it was quite hard to source a 'blue, koala' bottle holder here in Switzerland!

    I can't wait to read about your new projects in the coming year.

    1. Thanks so much Fiona. I hope the same for my girls - that they grow up understanding the real value of things not just look at the price tag. And I'd love to see a picture of your drink bottle holders!!

  7. I love the theme for your stall! What a great example to kids that items aren't necessarily one-use...just creativity and POOF! Congrats on helping out the school, I bet they appreciated it!

    1. Thank you Audra! It was great to show the kids what upcycling is - and what you can make out of things you already have. I'm looking forward to building on that foundation with the school some more!

  8. Good on you for staying positive and making a difference. The school is lucky you helped them make $150!

    Best wishes for the online store too!

    Thanks so much for sharing at #sundaysdownunder.

  9. Wow! I applaud your efforts and your philosophy. I, too, have had little luck with a school fair. If you still want to try it, think about offering less variety. You would probably do better with fewer more focused items. Things that they can use that day. I read somewhere that people part with their money when it offers an opportunity or solves a problem. Find a problem these people would have and solve it with a product. And price what you want. People will say it's too much and others will think it's a bargain. Don't undersell or undervalue yourself. You are not Walmart, they are not your competition. Good luck with next year.

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate your comments and kind words! I think it was just the wrong choice of stall for the school fair where everyone is there for the rides and the food! Still, it was a good experience, I did sell some things and at least people are more aware of what I do now! I'm still working on ideas for next year!


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