Thursday, 30 June 2011

Nadine's Etsy 101 (Guest blog post)

(reversible Quilt-as-you-go-Quilt)


First of all I’d like to thank Lynne for allowing me to plaster my ramblings on this blog, cos let’s face it, that’s what I do. I ramble on Twitter on Facebook and of course on the blog and send it out into the ether hoping somebody will read my often chocolate-tainted (sugar high!!) "wisdom", oh and more importantly, praise my creations, leave a comment and tell me, yes, it was worth spending my time on this quilt that almost broke my back when basting it and that cost me a fortune in the making.


So please come and find me on my blog and read some more ramblings or critique my quilts and I’ll love you forever. http://quiltedbliss.blogspot.com/ If that isn’t enough incentive then maybe a GIVEAWAY is? I am currently hosting a giveaway on the blog to celebrate my new ODD OWL collection which I have just added to my Etsy shop. http://www.etsy.com/shop/QuiltedBlissByNadine



A collection of personalized plush baby taggy toys. I had the idea for those after one of my friends who is a new mum told me her daughter always turns clothes inside out to play with the tags. So I had a whole lot of fun making these Odd Owls and added them to Etsy in an attempt to sell cheaper items that might sell better on Etsy than expensive quilts.


And that brings me to my biggest rant of the day: ETSY.


I have joined Etsy on 15 May in an attempt to find good new homes for my quilts and other items. … that, and (let’s be honest here!) to help with my horrendously out of hand fabric addiction and space issues. Our flat is simply too small to host all these lovely quilts and we only have one bed, one couch and no armchair and it hurts me deeply to see the lovely quilts wait patiently to find a new adoptive family (all friends and family already have quilts so giving them as gifts is not an option anymore, not that many anyway). So I took the plunge and listed a whole lot of them on Etsy.


Most of my quilts are entirely hand sewn (I didn’t own a sewing machine until Christmas, yes it was my Xmas present from the other half :) and all of my quilts are reversible, why make one when you can make two, ha?.


This is a hand sewn reversible quilt:


This one is called Amy's Bridges on the top and Fassett Bridges on the back, also hand sewn:


I make a lot of reversible Quilt-as-you-go-Quilts and it took me a while to figure out how to do that properly on the sewing machine. But I managed it in the end. (The quilt at the top is my first successful machine made reversible QAYG quilt.)


This is a hand sewn reversible QAYG quilt:


So you can imagine the quilts are of course not the cheapest items, because I can’t get myself to give them away for nothing. Especially when I have spent several months making them and I paid A LOT for the materials, because those are just so much more expensive in the UK compared to the US.


Na├»ve as I was, I thought Etsy would be the solution to all my problems, but as it happens in life I am still waiting to sell my first quilt, and it can be very frustrating and disappointing and maybe even demotivating to keep waiting for that validating first sale. I know, I shouldn’t care so much about what other people think, if they like my quilts and if they see their value as I do, because it is what I do and I enjoy it tremendously. But when you wait almost 2 months and still no quilt sold you start to question it.


So Etsy is not that miracle online market where you can sell all your lovely creations and make some money, not unless you're very lucky. As I mentioned earlier it is much more expensive for us Brits to make quilts and I don’t think we could afford to sell our quilts for £35 or £50 like some American sellers do unless we the cost of fabric and the time and effort it took to make something.


90% of buyers on Etsy are Americans, most of my friends and family, even the ones who are crafters and into art, had never even heard of Etsy. In fact, the only people who actually knew what I was talking about when I mentioned my Etsy shop were Americans, so maybe it just isn’t quite as know in the UK and EU. But the problem is, most Americans will shy away from making larger purchases from abroad because of shipping costs and customs charges and if they also get quilts cheaper from US sellers why would they buy from the UK?


So I also try to sell smaller and cheaper items, such as placemats, pencil rolls and fabric baskets:




But Etsy is saturated with fellow artists and crafters and the general public, the customers we need to find to sell our wares, might shop elsewhere, possibly on ebay? If somebody wants to buy a quilt they might not know that they will find loads on Etsy. They might google ‘quilts’ to find something they can buy online, so for Etsy sellers it is crucial that they work on their SEO, Search Engine Optimisation. If google can’t find you, you depend on internal Etsy business and that is fairly thin. So Etsy sellers need to work hard on their marketing: these days I spend more time trying to market my Etsy shop on Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the blog of course than I spend on making things.


So let me do just that, shameless self-promotion: Please come find me on the blog and enter my GIVEAWAY for an Odd Owl with a letter of your choice. You can find the instructions here: http://quiltedbliss.blogspot.com/2011/06/giveaway-win-odd-owl.html


And please come and mingle, that’s what all these social networks are about, sharing ideas, having a rant together and also helping each other out. You can do that on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Quilted-Bliss-by-Nadine/204707436234824 and on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/nadinesaupeart and if you want to see more you can also find me on Flickr and Pinterest if you check my profiles.


My latest (machine sewn) baby quilts on Etsy, I made 2 of those to sell as twin quilts with free personalization in case somebody needs quilts for twins:



Now I am coming to the end and I feel the urge to share a nasty secret with you, and I think if you actually stuck to this and read the whole rant you deserve a nasty secret.


So here it is: … I started quilting because of Winona Ryder (*blushes and ducks in shame*). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really like Winona Ryder, but I fell in love with the quilts shown in her film ‘An American Quilt’ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113347/ and I thought, I NEED TO TRY THIS. So that’s what got me into quilting. There, the skeleton if out of the closet. I had never even seen a quilt before that. So unfortunately, unlike some of you (I presume), I didn’t have a grandmother or mother ... who taught me to sew when I was little.


Actually, I’d love to know what got you into quilting. How did you start?


Sorry for the ramblings everyone, but I did warn you, didn’t I?


Lots of Love,

Nadine xx


26 comments:

  1. Great guest post and interesting insight into Etsy selling. I have contemplated it but thought that it would be hard to stand out in such a large crowd. Thanks for your ramblings.

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  2. I stuck it out until the end...
    Nadine, great post. I

    feel for you and hope that you find your piece of the Etsy pie. I think selling quilts is a challenging business. First, the materials cost something. Second, there is labor involved--lots and lots of labor in your case since you have hand sewn yours. And then there's the attachment issue.

    I struggle myself because I have amassed a large assortment of I Spy fabrics which I started to collect to make quilts for my boys. I did but now I have loads of leftovers. Consequently, I have started making small I Spy quilts for baby gifts. I love them and they go together fairly quickly but they are not a five minute gift. They take a good chunk of time. I have been toying with the idea of opening an etsy shop to get them out into the world both because I'd love to share them with others and also because I'd like to use what I have so I can also make room in my sewing space.

    I have been doing some research on pricing but more importantly I'm coming to understand that there is a specific market for our kinds of handcrafted items. When a friend saw one of my quilts, she said, "Oh, I bet people would pay $25 for that" I felt like the wind had gotten knocked out of me. Seriously? Really? I could do nothing but stand there and try to catch my breath. She obviously knows little about what is involved in these projects but there are people who do. The right people will find our wares, appreciate them and pay fair market value for them.

    Keep your chin up, keep spouting off about your etsy shop and hold strong to your dream. Good luck!

    (PS. Sorry for such a long comment!)

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  3. Have you heard of http://folksy.com/? As I understand it, it's etsy for Brits. I've not been an etsy seller myself, although friends have encouraged me. I can understand your frustration. I don't think a price on any quilt could truly reflect the love, thought and time gone into it. Personally, I make quilts with people in mind--either as recipients, or as additions to my hope chest (for my future children and grandchildren)--and this helps me justify the expense. When acquaintances ask about commissioning pieces, I often tell them they can't afford to pay me what my work is worth. (Here's a beautiful children's book on that theme: http://www.quiltmakersgift.com/)

    Hmm, seems you're not the only one to ramble! Apologies if my thoughts seem disjointed. I wish you the best and am grateful for your perspective!

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  4. I stuck it out to the end and I just wanted to say that I love that movie and I was interested in quilting because of it as well. I didn't start because of it, but it definitely got me thinking about quilting. I love how everyone made a block that had a story associated with it and they were all put together and became part of Finn's story. Anyways, we share that nasty secret! :)

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  5. I love reading your blog . I love your quilts even more because I love colour . I love your backing . After all we own both sides of the quilt .

    At present I,m making flannelette quilts . I bought a worn and washed jelly roll at Malvern . A roll of 5" wide strips will make a quilt 50"x 60" £45 . Reasonable if you are keeping it , not so if you want to sell .

    Perhaps you could try a craft stall or a craft shop that sells on the premise of leave it with me and see what happens

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  6. Thanks for a great post - I'm currently making a quilt that I'd like to sell and have been wondering about the best way to go about it...I'm sorry that you haven't sold any of your quilts yet, I'm sure you will as they're lovely. I started quilting when I was off sick and wanted something to do that I could just pick up for 5 minutes and then put down - I've always liked making things but nothing is quite as addictive as quilting!

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  7. Great post Nadine, and your reversible quilts are absolutely wonderful. Wow what a lot of beautiful work.

    One of the ways to get luckier on Etsy is to make connections with other sellers, it's like following in blogger. Everyone can see who you follow ... people find you by accident but in a related way ... worth a go?

    folksy is ok too ... I have a couple of friends who sell on it.

    There's something cool and new coming soon for us Brits, but if I told you I'd have to kill you ... keep em peeled, as Shaw Taylor used to say.

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  8. Great post Nadine! I too had disappointing experiences trying to sell a couple of quilts on Etsy. In the end, I decided that I would rather enjoy them than leave them boxed up, waiting to sell! If I get the urge to sell stuff again, I'll probably try local fairs and craft shows, where I (hopefully!) wont have to compete with someone selling quilts for $50!

    I took up quilting when I gave up smoking, and have not regretted it a day since! Despite it being just as addictive and expensive!

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  9. I have an etsy shop, too . . . and I'm American, AND my items are vintage glassware/pottery, so nowhere near the cost of quilts. That said, I have whole months where I don't make a single sale. I admit, I'm lazy and I only keep about 15 listings at a time, but I get the etsy emails which tell me what to do to make selling more likely. I just don't generally follow their advice (like I said, I'm lazy). But the #1 thing that all the other etsy-ans give (and I'm talking the successful ones here) say is that your pictures MUST be good, MUST be interesting -- and that you need to list things frequently (i.e., not all at once) so you can keep your shop "fresh", since that's the feature that a lot of folks use to see what's new. :)

    AND I'm glad you don't sell your quilts too cheaply . . . it's a huge complaint that there are a few artisans that try to undersell everyone else, making buyers think they are shopping at Wal-Mart, and that's not the case. Etsy is for artists and handmaid, one of a kind or small production type goods.

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  10. I hear you on the etsy thing. Seems like most quilters that make sales on etsy do it through patterns or kits, or vintage sheet precut bundles. I've dreamed of being an etsy goddess for well over a year now, but haven't taken the plunge due to the issues you mentioned. I think I might try selling my quilts at my local church auctions. when its for a good cause people tend to spend more, and as long as my costs are covered, i'm good with letting the profits go to charity. good luck with your shop!

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  11. Repeat the references to Folksy as a Brist style Etsy- the interface is not as good- the search is poor but people do sell- smaller items are more affordable and tend to sell better at craft stalls/online etc. I know what you are saying with the price of materials. Maybe offering a personalised element to the quilts would have appeal?

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  12. What a great read - and I shall be heading over to your blog after writing this. So many people have no idea of the work that goes in to making a quilt, which is a real shame. I made one for a friend a couple of years ago and she looked at it like she didn't know what it was, put it on the top of a laundry pile and I have never seen it since. I want to ask for it back!! Anyway, persevere and your quilts will find a loving home

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  13. Nadine, I understand and empathize with you. We all want and probably need validation, but sometimes we have to feel good just knowing that we did our best and created something beautiful. Many people may love your quilts, but don't feel that they can justify the purchase in this weak economy.

    Your owls are very cute!

    Hang in there!

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  14. Hi Nadine, I loved your rambling!
    Especially the bit how you started quilting.
    I love your work.
    If the quilts don't sell, have you thought of selling your wonderful patterns & choice of fabric. Because I just love those colours!
    You do stand out in all of Etsy!!

    How I started quilting: my mum dragged me along 20 years ago.
    Then I had to work, had children and I couldn't find the time: It was me: I was very unhappy.
    Now I've stopped working, nearly all the kids have flown out.
    So immediately I went back to my old love: got everything from the attic (it moved with me only 5 times from attic to attic) and started sewing and taking courses.
    My health is not so good, so I can't sew as much as I'd like. But I'm happy and having FUN.

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  15. Wow, Winona? My grandparents stopped quilting long before I came around. I started quilting because I wanted to make a photo keepsake of my child's first year for grandparents that lived far away. I've gone from being a painter with a color habit to a quilter with a color habit. It's a sickness.

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  16. I saw that movie several times and it is one of my favorites. This was a great post. I started quilting, after going through nearly every other creative phase, because it is actually part of my heritage. And I feel connected to my past because of the quilting, so it just felt like the right thing to be doing.

    Etsy is a toughie. I wish I knew the secrets too!

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  17. I've always admired quilts but never thought I could make one. About 2-1/2 years ago I took a free quilting class at a Viking Super Center. I was like, wow, I can do this! And I've never looked back, been quilting obsessively ever since!

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  18. Great post Nadine and great commenters too! Your quilts are fabulous and it's nice to know my concerns on Etsy and Folksy are no different to other Brit quilters. Sarah needs to spill the beans! :)))))

    I started quiltin thanks to an American colleague, I was dressmaking and she showed me a copy of Keepsake Quilting catalogue - OMG! That was over 20 years ago and boy do I have a stash of quilts as well as fabric! LOL Thanks for ranting, it's always good for the soul!

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  19. Nice to meet you Nadine. I am totally impressed that you made those quilts by hand!! I'm sorry Etsy has been tough for you. I have purchased several hand-crafted items as well as fabric from Etsy. Consider that it's likely your blog readers are also quilters and therefore unlikely to buy quilts from you. You need to reach a different audience: those who don't quilt themselves! I probably wouldn't buy a quilt made by someone else (unless it is an art quilt, like the one I bought from a friend). I am proud of you that you're being realistic about pricing. Seeing bed size quilts sell for less than fabric value really irks me and undermines the value of women's work in a significant way. Another venue for selling quilts is at a market of fair, typically frequented by non-sewists/quilters. At my quilt guild's bi-annual show we tend to sell several quilts to visitors; perhaps there is a guild in your area that you could join?

    Good luck!!

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  20. I started quilting to have an activity with other women while my children were young and eventually it became an engrossing hobby and combats the 'empty nest' syndrome. I just love that movie too. Must get a new copy on DVD (the old VHS is worn out and the machine now gone - changing times...)

    Your best bet at selling your goods is local markets. And it is very disappointing that generally people don't want to pay anything near what the item is worth - they don't appreciate the time involved...

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  21. I am so glad you mentioned SEO. My full time job is entirely focused around SEO and the web and I was shocked when I hadn't heard more quilters and quilt bloggers discussing the topic. However, since quilting and SEO (and maybe some cleaning) are pretty much my entire life, I was sooo happy to have you mention it!

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  22. I love your post....A couple of people I know make and sell things on e-bay. They hadn't heard of etsy and do well on e-bay. I started quilting twelve years ago after I saw an ad in the local paper for a quilt group that was starting nearby. The only craft I did at the time was cross stitch and thought I could incorporate the two....I never did....but have expanded my crafting dramatically! lol

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  23. I started quilting when my Grandma taught me when I was in middle school. I didn't do anything for years, and then I picked up a quilt kit at a garage sale. I did it, gave it as a gift and went from there. I just dabble mostly. I mostly make clothes for my daughters. But, I love to look. There is so much inspiration on the web!!

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  24. Hi Nadine thanks for sharing your views on selling.
    I am also in that quandry of wanting to make quilts to sell but not knowing if anyone will pay a price that will make me any profit.

    I'm heading over to yours now.

    Clare

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  25. nadine keep your chin up girl! I love the idea of double quilting, why make a back that is plain when you you can have 2 canvases (spelled right?) anyhow, handmade is worth more than a generic store bought quilt, yours has love and pride and tears sown into it, and yours will be a piece of pride for someone for years to come whereas a generic store bought will belong to the dogs in a few short years.
    I don't think your secret is nasty at all, I think it is a mark of bravery to strike out in a different direction than one you are stated out on. I truly envy the ones who are raised in a quilting family but it is wonderful to start out on that path because of passion on your part. You have created the road for your own family to follow, that is a beautiful thing. You will be the one teaching your little ones how to create with fabric and to make heirlooms that have bits of yourself woven throughout them! many thanks for the great ideas Nadine and keep on : )

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