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.


  1. I don't sell my handmade items, nor my patterns for exactly the same reason as you.
    It doesn't really sell and it it's much more fun to create for the pleasure of creating, then to create one thing, copy it a thousand times and then sell it. Or creating something the way it sells best, instead of just the way I like it. It wouldn't be my passion anymore in that case.
    So I agree, Jill, and I think you're doing a good job!
    Really, I'm truely glad I discovered your blog last year, and I'm a big fan of your creations.
    Have a nice day,

    1. Thank you Sigrid! :) You're so right that creating things because they sell is never going to be as much fun as creating exactly what you want to create! I'm glad you found my blog too - your crochet creations always inspire me!!

  2. Beautiful, Jill! You're spreading a lot of love and creativity, and I know it'll come back sevenfold. Maybe a hundredfold. Great to read your thoughts on the subject.

  3. Great post jill. I hear you, loud and clear. I'm the same. How can I promote frugal living but then advertise a big company or product that doesn't fit into my way of life? I just can't do it. That's why I sometimes i promote a product that I might buy and I get the product for free but no money. It helps a little but I don't get money for it. Get one of your patterns made in Asia for 50 cents for item and sell it at kmart for $10 and everyone will buy it. Its a sad state of affairs, that's for sure. Love what you do. Keep going. I think you're great. Anne xx

  4. What a great post. :)

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  5. Lovely post Jill. Yo make the best things! Thanks for sharing at Creative Mondays

  6. So true, everything! I always think that if I don't need it - let someone else have it. I also think that if I do something nice I get it back somehow someday. There is enough negative thinking around, I want to spread positive thoughts. There is also enough self-centered idealism without me sharing it too. So I understand what you mean by giving a permission to use your tutorials for someone who needs them to try and make their living out of selling crafts.

    I also understand what you write about making money with your blog. I would like to get some extra income from something I actually like to do - while helping people. The text could have been written by me. Sponsored posts aren't the way for me either and too much advertising doesn't fit to the theme I have chosen to my blog. Also I find it rather irritating when I see an interesting blog post for example about sewing technique, click it, and find that is "just" one more sponsored post. There are some good and useful ones, but that's very rare. More often you can see that they are written mostly for the money and in worst scenarios don't even have anything new to offer or don't quite fit to the blogger's style. :( If I did a sponsored post, it would be only if they were for example about sewing tools that I have already been using for a while.

    I too have been thinking some e-books, that might be the way for me. :)

    1. It's great to have so many like-minded people around to share things with! You should definitely give the e-books a go!

  7. Great post, Jill. There will always be cheaper versions of quality, handmade items. Sadly, most people won't pay for quality, even though the cheap item most probably won't last long and will have to be replaced in no time at all.

    1. Thanks Pam! Hopefully people are starting to realise that about buying cheap things and will see the quality in hand made!


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