It's not about the money!

A few days ago, I had an email from a reader of my blog asking if I would mind if my patterns and tutorials were used to make things to sell on Etsy or in other market places. My reply was that I don't mind at all.

I don't claim that any of my tutorials are original ideas or exclusive in any way. 

There are hundreds and thousands of sewing tutorials available all over the place - for many of the same things. I've simply written tutorials for things I've wanted to make - in my own style. I am a teacher and I love teaching - writing and sharing sewing tutorials is just that - a form of teaching. 
To know I've helped people understand how to make something and encourage and enable others to make things too is something I find very rewarding.
I love when I get emails and messages from people who have used my tutorials to make things and proudly show me pictures of the resulting finished item.

Selling Hand Made

As far as making things to sell goes, I give kudos to anyone who can manage to create and hand make things and sell them. I have tried - not very successfully to make and sell my own hand made items.

I started out with a market stall trying to sell 'Bubba Rugs' which I'd made. These rugs were baby rugs with pictures and designs on them made with lots of different textured fabrics. 
Admittedly I only did one market stall with these and only sold two rugs - they were to two ladies who thought their dogs might like them!
I did sell some more of these rugs through word of mouth, but mostly I gave them as gifts to friends.

A few years later I tried again, with a market stall selling things I'd handmade with a friend . Our stall was called Jembellish (this is where my blog name came from!). I really enjoyed our monthly market stalls as we always had a lovely day chatting and catching up together. We only ever really sold enough to cover our costs and after a couple of years stopped our stall.

I  had an online Madeit store for a while and sold a few items from it.

 But 'selling' and promoting things for sale isn't something I enjoy or am good at. I find pricing my items difficult. Since I upcycle and largely 'use what I've got' in terms of supplies, my materials cost next to nothing and so it is just my designs and my time I'm charging for. How do I put a price on that?
The things I had for sale in my Madeit shop were priced inclusive of postage. Postage in Australia is very expensive, and I didn't want people to purchase something from my shop only to find that it costs more to post the item to them than the item itself cost. This again reduced the profit for me significantly.
In short - I don't feel it's worthwhile me making things to sell as I don't believe people will pay a high enough price to make it profitable.

Anything that I make, you can probably buy a cheaper version of the same thing in the shops for just a few dollars. Made overseas from cheap plastic, bright and colourful and does the job.  
How do you persuade people to pay significantly more for a handmade version?  Those who hand-make things themselves understand the time and effort involved and so the value of the finished product - but then those people are also the ones who can make things for themselves rather than buy them!

There are people who successfully hand make things and sell them for a decent profit and make a living. Hats off to them. I truly admire these people but that is not the direction I have gone in, nor want to go in.

I'm much happier trying to inspire and encourage people to make things for themselves or use things they already have instead of continuing to buy cheap manufactured things from abroad and perpetuate these industries.

It's not about the money

 I don't want to be always looking for the cheapest version of things, the cheapest way to do things, or what will make me the most money. I don't want my focus to be on money, and it isn't.

I've recently made a few teddy bears from old school and sports uniforms. I made one as a school trophy and another as a sporting team mascot. 
The others I made for my daughters and a friend as a gift.  
The teddy bears were so well received and appreciated and I have had requests for more to be made - and people telling me I should make them to sell.  However, when I point out the hours it takes for me to make each bear, and if I even just made minimum wage for my time and nothing else to cover materials, the cost of the bear would be more than people would be willing to pay.

I'm happy to make things for people as gifts, or to help out, but making things to sell isn't what I want to do or feel comfortable doing.

So what does that say about me when I'll happily sit for a few hours and make a teddy bear to give to someone at no cost to them, but I won't spend that same time making a teddy bear to sell?  I like that people appreciate the things that I make - and money doesn't come into it as a factor. There's no need to listen to anyone saying things are overpriced. I'm sure they would for a $100+ teddy bear that's made out of an old uniform!
I like that the things I make have a value that isn't counted in money.

But I do need money
Although I don't sew and blog for the financial reward - the fact does remain that I do need to make money. We need to pay the bills, buy food, support our kids and be able to afford to do the things we want to do in life.  I would dearly love to be able to do this by means of my blog and doing what I love doing and feel passionate about.  I feel like I'm achieving something worthwhile with this blog. I'm teaching people to sew and create, inspiring others to upcycle and 'use what you've got' - saving money and the environment in doing so.

By doing what I do personally I know I'm making a small difference in the world and by sharing and spreading the word via my blog, hopefully that small difference will be magnified and spread further and wider in turn making a bigger and bigger difference.

I have spent a few years now, building up my blog, the free sewing tutorials and upcycling inspiration. I've put countless hours into this with no real (as yet) financial reward.  I know I can't put this much time and effort into my blog indefinitely without making some money. But I don't want to make money from sponsored posts - selling things for big companies and promoting products, when my whole ethos is to 'use what you've got' rather than just buying things! 
I shall have to rely on other means to make money.

What I am selling

Although I am not focusing on selling my physical creations, I have created two e-books which I hope will inspire people and create change in the world.  Although all my sewing tutorials here on my blog are available for free, I have put a small price on my e-books to try and cover the costs of running my blog and to see if it is possible for me to sell a concept and idea rather than just 'things'.  

 My first e-book is a complete set of sewing tutorials for making a set of Eco-Friendly shopping bags, that all fit inside a stylish, upcycled handbag, so that you will never forget your reusable shopping bags again, and never need to use a plastic bag again.

The cost of this e-book is just the cost of a cup of coffee 
AU$5. I priced this book low and affordable in the hope that lots of people will buy it and make the bags - again helping to make a bigger difference in the world!
I have been asked if I would make a set of these bags for someone and they would pay me for it. However, when I pointed out the time it would take me to make the set and the cost of my time - even at just minimum wage levels - people aren't willing to buy at that price. Which is why I encourage people to make things for themselves - at a cost of nothing other than their time.
The tutorials I make are as detailed, clear and simple as I can possibly make them, and I truly believe that anyone with basic sewing skills, a machine and a little patience can make these bags themselves.
To read more about this e-book, and 'share a cup of coffee with me"  go here!

My second e-book is one I have been requested several times over the years to create, and finally did. It's a book to teach your kids to sew.  

But I wanted it to be different and to teach and encourage more than just the 'sewing' itself, so this e-book shows how to 
"Teach your kids to sew with a pair of jeans". It details how to upcycle jeans, use the fabric and various 'parts' of the jeans to sew and create. Teaching the value of 'using what you've got' and that you can create things you need and want from the resources we have available on hand. The answer is not always to just spend money and buy things.

This book is priced a little higher than the first at AU$10, but I still believe it provides great value for money and is more than just a collection of sewing tutorials.
To learn more about this book or even purchase a copy - go here!

Making millions?

Nope - not yet anyway!  I sell a couple of books a month, and I have Google ads on my blog. Some months I do better than others, but mostly I do little more than cover costs.  I've chosen to stick with a Blogger blog which is free.

I do have a dream that one day, I'll find that one post - or the right person will stumble across my blog and send it viral, causing a clicking frenzy on my e-books for sale, and the small amount of advertising I do have on my blog.

I firmly believe it is possible for me to make a living from my blog, which encourages people to 'do things themselves' and 'not spend money'!
I have put hours of my time and effort into building this blog - creating content, and trying to inspire, encourage and motivate.  But I know I'm really trying to 'Create my way to Success'  in an unconventional way.
I will get there one day, somehow!

This is me!

So returning to the original question that sparked my musings about what I do - YES, please do use my tutorials and patterns to make things to sell. And if you manage to do this and make a living or even a little extra money from it, do let me know and I'll be the first to cheer you on and support you!

Teaching is what I'm trained to do. I teach casually - both English as a foreign language, and now also learn to swim classes.
I find teaching rewarding in the sense that I can help people learn how to do things for themselves and how to continue learning beyond my teaching.

This blog is another use of my teaching skills and I love it.
Hopefully, that magic viral post will happen soon and I can continue to spend my time motivating, inspiring, teaching sewing and the principals of 'use what you've got' !

How about you?

What do you do? and why do you do it? I'd love to hear your stories and thoughts too.

Crochet Dishcloths and a new page

I've been doing a little crochet practice lately - just straight lines, and made a couple of dishcloths.

Although they were both just to practise straight lines, I did them slightly differently, The yellow one I crocheted in just one of the top loops, but the red one I put my hook under both top loops for each stitch.  The result was a slightly different look and one softer yellow cloth and a rougher red one!

I was really happy with the yellow one. I just chained as many as looked wide enough for a dishcloth, then carried on adding rows until it was about square.

The red one however, I started to crochet one night after a couple of glasses of wine, and this happened!

I think my chain at the start was tighter than my subsequent rows!

Then when I continued it the next day, I managed to drop a couple of stitches here and there - so I have a kind of step at one corner and a couple of wiggly bits in other places!

Still - it's more like a square then my first attempt at a dishcloth last year - the smaller one on the right!

I'm really happy with my woolly dishcloths. They are just the right size and abrasive enough to clean my non-stick pans without scratching!

I might make another couple of these in different colours, since dishcloths do get used daily and I could do with a few spare!

A new page

Since I'm learning to crochet at the moment - I thought I'd create a crochet page for this blog to keep all my crochet posts and creations together and easy to find. I often want to look back and find which tutorial I used for something, or what it was that I learned from a project....and have subsequently forgotten!

So all my crochet learning and projects can now be found on my crochet page here.

If you are a crocheter - please do let me know if you have any recommended tutorials to try out or things to make as I continue my learning. I'm having fun learning this new skill and am willing to give anything a go!

I shall be linking this post to many of the fabulous linky parties whose pretty buttons and direct links can be found on my linky party page.

My Pincushion Swap

This year I joined in with my first ever 'swap'. I've seen them mentioned here and there but never really looked into them.  Then this Pincushion Swap with The Scrappy Girls Club popped up and I was inspired to join in!

I've only ever made a couple of pincushions but have been pinning lots on my Pincushions Pinterest Board as there are so many cute ones out there!

I was matched up with a lovely lady called Jenny right here in Australia.  We had filled out a form detailing what colours and fabrics we liked and had been matched up by the Scrappy Girls Club. 

I browsed through lots of Pincushion patterns, eventually settling on this one for a Mini Pouf Pincushion.
Mine didn't turn out quite the same as the picture from the original tutorial.

And when I tested it out with some pins - I felt bad that poor Humpty Dumpty was spiked so much!!

So had to move the pins a little!

I packaged the mini poof pincushion up with a few extra goodies.

A set of fabric coasters I made using scraps of 'Great Barrier Reef' Fabric I was given by a friend.

A small but cute Zip-itself coin purse, which I learned how to make last year.

And then a couple of upcycled denim goodies - because that's just 'me'!
An elephant keychain..

And a boxy denim zipped pouch.

In return, I received the most wonderful package from Jenny.

With not one but TWO gorgeous pincushions!

A beautiful Selvedge Zippered Pouch,

AND some beautiful fabric too!

And all the little details - buttons, zips and tags were just lovely!

I think it's such a lovely idea to connect with other crafters and exchange handmade gifts. It was so exciting to receive my package and I hope my swap partner likes hers too. Hopefully it has arrived now!

I'll definitely be joining in another swap - maybe next year's Pincushion swap - but want to practice making Pincushions before then, so I can come up with a fabulous one to send next time!

Have you ever joined in a swap? What did you swap? And what extra goodies did you send or receive? I would love to hear other swap stories!

Upright Zip-It-Up Pencil Case Tutorial

This upright pencil case is one I first saw earlier this year in a store in Japan and loved the design. Then last week I found this tutorial online to try making one. While this was a great tutorial to get me started, I failed in making the pencil case! But I hate to be beaten and then spent the next few days trying again and again to figure it out so I could understand how to make one. On my 7th attempt I finally got it!  I took lots of photos and copious notes, so thought I'd share my version of how to make this cute 
Upright Zip-it-up Pencil Case. 

I've added all the small details and instructions that I need when sewing, with photos of EVERY step - it may seem like overkill in explanations to some, but I'd like to be able to come back to this tutorial at any time in the future and be able to make it without having to 'remember' anything! I changed a few things and added a lot more detail than the original tutorial. I'm hopeless at binding so changed that, and also made the pencil case smaller, as that was more like the one I was looking at and had wanted to make originally. I also took out the padding, to avoid the thick layers to sew through. The plastic sheet holds the shape of the pencil case well, and some of the fabrics I chose were very thin and still worked. It depends what you're looking for. 

So here's my tutorial, as simple and straightforward as I could make it!

Materials you will need:
Outer and inner fabric. I'm all for sewing with whatever fabrics take your fancy - but I found here that one of your fabrics needs to be reasonably firm to help the case hold its shape. I used denim from an old pair of jeans and this seemed to work fine. Also the fabric you use for the base of the bag needs to be fairly thin, as you'll end up sewing through a lot of layers. I tried a double denim layer for the base and broke 2 machine needles sewing just a few inches of it!
1 Zip - at least 40 cm (16") long. Longer is fine, you can cut it at the end.
Plastic - I used a piece from an old kids plastic placemat, you could also use an old plastic folder or book cover, or buy a piece of thin flexible plastic from a craft shop.
I haven't used templates to make this pencil case - just measurements and simple cuts to curve the edges where needed! Trying to keep it all as simple as possible.

1 Piece Outer and 1 Inner Fabric 20 x 22 cm (8 x 8.75")
1 Piece Inner or Outer Fabric for plastic sheet pocket, 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4")
2 Pieces of your thinner fabric for the base 8 x 16 cm (3.25 x 6.25")
1 Piece of either fabric for small pocket on base 7 x 8 cm (2.75 x 3.25")
1 Piece thin flexible plastic 8 x 17 cm (3.25 x 6.75")
1 Zip minimum 40 cm (16")
1 Scrap fabric for zipper pull tab

The main pouch
First take your plastic pouch pocket piece (20 x 10 cm (8 x 4"))
Fold it in half lengthways.

Then measure down 2 cm (0.75") from the top left corner - the open end. And lightly draw and arch up to the top folded corner like this.

Then cut along your line.

And open out flat.

Now take your piece of plastic.
Mark on either short side 1 cm (0.5") down from the top, and also mark the centre top of the long edge. Then draw a curve from side point to side point, through the top centre mark.

Cut your plastic curve. These two pieces are now ready to use!

Putting it together
Lay your main inner fabric piece face up with the longer sides on the left and right. Place your pocket piece on top of this lining up the bottom edges. Pin along the bottom and sides, but only to within about 2 cm (0.75") of the top of the sides of the pocket.

Stitch where you have pinned. I used small 2/8" seams when sewing this pencil case. I found that smaller seams worked better to keep the fabric layers out of the way of the zip. Now it's ready to slide your plastic piece in.

The plastic piece should fit in the pocket easily with room to spare around all sides. This is important,  I found if I kept the plastic smaller, then I could always 'push' it aside when stitching so I never stitched through it and added it to the layers to stitch through. 
Fold the top of the pocket under and pin to hide the raw edge.

Stitch across the curved top and the remaining top side parts of the pocket.

The Zip
Now it's time to add the zip!  Open your zip up and lay it facing upwards on either side of your inner piece with pocket like this.

Notice the pin in the top centre of the inner pink piece in the above picture?  This is marking the centre of the top. To find the centre, just fold your piece in half and pop in a pin.

Now to start pinning your zip. Start at one of the bottom corners. Place your zip with its outer edge in line with the edge of your inner fabric piece and place the bottom metal zip end about 1 cm (0.5") up from the bottom edge of your inner pocket piece.

Then continue to pin the zip along the edge up towards the top.

Curve your zip around the corner and towards the centre of the top where you marked with your pin. Place your last pin about 1 cm (0.5") before the zip. This is where you will stop stitching.

Now turn your fabric piece around and repeat to pin the other side of the zip in the same way.

You need to make sure that both metal zip ends are the same distance up from the bottom so they match up when you zip up your pencil case!

And the other end of your zip - make sure you've left about a 2.5cm (1") gap in the middle where you don't stitch!

Now stitch around the 3 edges where you just pinned, remembering to leave that gap in the top centre.  Stitch as close to the edge as you can, this is just to hold the zip in place before you add your outer fabric.

At this stage, you can zip up your pencil case to make sure everything lines up. This is how it should look so far.

Now open it out again.
You need to tuck the end of your zip out of the way. Put your hand through the gap in the zip at the top and pull the end through and down so the zip lies flat down the centre of your inner piece. Make sure the zip still lines up with your central pin to keep things nice and even.

 Place your outer fabric face down on top of this piece, matching up the edges.

Pin around the sides and top and just a little on either side of the bottom seam.
When you get to the bottom edges of the zip, fold them out of the way like this when you pin the two pieces together.

Now you are ready to stitch the main inner and outer fabric pieces together - remembering to leave most of the bottom edge open to turn it right sides out after stitching.

When you stitch, keep your seam as small as possible again - about 2/8" if you can. The further away from the zip teeth as you can go the better to keep the fabric back from the teeth and also to allow space for you to attach the base afterwards without it getting to close to the zip and obstructing it from opening and closing (I did that on one of my attempts at this pencil case!).

Once you have finished this stitching, clip the corners,

then turn right sides out carefully through the gap in the bottom. This does take a little manipulating of the plastic piece, so just go slow and careful.

You can press with an iron now if you like, then turn the bottom edges in on themselves and pin.

Now topstitch around all 4 edges of this piece. Here's what it now should look like from the front and back.

The Base
Now take your 2 base pieces and small pocket piece.
Place the two main base pieces on top of each other. 

Fold in half widthways.

Then slightly round the open edges by cutting in a curve from the folded corner to the open outer edges.

Open your pieces out. They should now both have the same rounded edge like this.

Now take your small pocket piece.
You need to finish off the top edge (one of the longer sides). To do this, double fold the top edge and stitch.

 Place this little pocket face up on one of your base pieces, near the top, straight edge like this. Leave enough space at the top for your seam.

Now flip the pocket down and over.

Until it's flat once again but facing down.

Slide it up very slightly and pin into place.

Stitch across where you have pinned, then flip the pocket back up into place. Pin along the sides, then stitch.

Now place your other base piece on top of this one, so both right sides are together.  Pin around the edges, leaving a gap so you can turn it right sides out after stitching.

Stitch where you have pinned, once again using a small 2/8" seam. Then clip the corners, 

And turn right sides out. Make sure and push the seams out flat all around. Press if you need to. Pin your gap closed with the raw edges turned inwards.

Then top-stitch around all the edges. Your two pieces are now ready to join together.

Joining the base to the main part
Find the centre points of both your main case part and your base curved edge, Mark with pins and match up as shown in the picture below. The small pocket on your base section should be facing upwards.

The layers are now too thick to pin comfortably, and it's actually easier to just try and manipulate the pieces together as you sew them slowly.
The base needs to wrap around the corner kind of like this.

Place your matching centre pieces under your machine foot and make a couple of stitches to start and secure. I found it best to use a denim needle for this as there are a lot of layers to sew through!

Now just stitch slowly just a few stitches at a time, turning and lining up the base piece on top of your main piece as you go. Try to stitch on top of the line of stitching already there to keep things neat. This will also mean your thick layers of fabric are kept away from the zip teeth so they won't obstruct the zip when it opens and closes.

Your base should finish at around the top of your plastic pocket on your inner fabric. 

If you lift it up, you can see the 3D base taking shape now.

Now to stitch the other side.  This time start from the top end, matching it with the top of your plastic pocket just as your other side matched so that they are even.

Then carefully stitch the first couple of stitches with your machine to hold. Slowly stitch the remaining part of the base to the main piece, turning and matching the fabric as you go and again following the lines of stitching. Keep checking you aren't pulling or stretching your fabric, so that when you reach the centre point you don't have any folds or creases! The last part you stitch will be very curved as you can see in this picture!

That's your upright pencil case almost finished!

Adding a zipper tab
All that remains now is to finish the zip off and add a pretty tab.
First cut your zip about 5 cm (2") from the top of the pencil case.

Take your scrap of fabric for the zipper tab. This should be a rectangle wider than the zip and a little more than twice as long as you want your tab.

Using your iron, fold the edges over and press,

 then fold the sides in and press to make it the same width as your zip.

Then press in half lengthways to complete your tab.

Slide your zip into one side of the tab so that you can't see the edges of the zip.

Then pin into place

And top-stitch around all four edges.


You now have an Upright Zip-it-up Pencil Case of your very own!

Well done!  This is one of the trickiest things I've made. I hope you found the tutorial clear and detailed enough and you managed to make one for yourself successfully!

Here you can see the three usable pencil cases I ended up with after all my trials and many errors! A mixture of fabrics on the insides and outsides

For the free downloadable PDF version of this tutorial, click here

If you liked this tutorial, I have over 100 more FREE sewing tutorials for all levels of sewing ability and for making all manner of things, from bags to pencil cases, a Penguin costume, some clothes and some interesting novelty gifts.
Do go take a look on my Free Sewing Tutorials Page.

Thanks for reading, and do let me know if you make one of these pencil cases, or if you have any questions!