Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Money, Money, Money

I've been thinking about writing this post in ages but I wasn't sure there was an appetite for reading it.  There have been some posts I've read on social media in recent weeks that have made me feel otherwise   Not everyone wants to talk about income.  I remember going to a thirty-something dinner party with my husband a few years back when the conversation was about mortgages and babies as that was the life stage we were all at.  Everyone was happy to talk about their interest rates, household costs and sleepiness nights with babies, then Damian mentioned income and the room fell silent,  no one wanted to talk about what they earned, it was taboo.

I don't earn a lot and I am self employed so it varies annually depending on how successful the year has been financially. I live a modest life, one car, small house, not much in the way of holidays.  The majority of my income comes from running music classes for children 0-5 years.  Its a rewarding job- I love teaching, music and working with babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  It is also a tiring job- imagine throwing a children's party multiple times each week and welcome to my world.  A small percentage of my income comes from sewing and blog related activities:  book contributions,  magazine work, a little teaching, and Sew-Ichigo PDF patterns.  In addition I do sewing related work that is unpaid- general goodwill in return for goods that I like or just goodwill.  I am just prepping my accounts for my self- assessment deadline in January 2015 so it is a good time to examine how I earn money through sewing, and how much I earn.

Writing a book
When Lynne and I wrote 500 Quilt Blocks it started as a publisher's commission and Lynne asked me to write with her.  The title was part of a series of 500 books.  We got to tweak the format a little but were bound by the book size and layout and worked within those limitations.  We were paid a fixed fee split into three instalments rather than by royalties.   We wrote it in a very short space of time- three months to write and sew everything in the book.  Time limits like this can be the worst aspect of writing a book.  The deadlines are decided in advance by the publisher: photographers  are already booked, the first print run has been timetabled, shipping dates have been arranged so creativity has to work to these strict limits.  After the writing, we had a tortuous three months of proofing when there is a constant back and forth of long PDF documents to work through and correct and strange questions and requests to deal with.  We gave up a lot of family time- the twenty projects had to be made first and they were made in four weeks over Christmas whilst also getting started on the 500 blocks. The amount we earned was modest but overall it was worth it.  I like collaborating and Lynne was great to work with. We kept our sanity during a stressful time because we had each other to turn to, get a reality check and let off steam.  Ultimately, there is nothing quite like opening a package with your own book inside.  Would I write another book?  It would take a lot for me to do it alone but with someone else, possibly.  You need to be prepared for some big sacrifices in terms of family time when you write and I am not sure that is something I want to give up at the moment.  Being paid fixed fee meant that once the book was written our duties were complete:  we didn't have to worry about publicity, blog hops and royalties and that was a relief.

Contributing to a Book
Its always an exciting and ego-boosting day when an email arrives telling you how great your work is and would you like to be in someone else book.  Compared to writing your own book there are many pluses to being a contributor to someone else's.  Usually, you contribute a single project so the time commitment is a lot less. However the payment value is low.  For me it has always been paid by a fixed fee and at around £100 per project and that you have to pay for your own materials.  I like to chose my own mix of fabrics but you could choose to approach a supportive shop and ask them supply the fabrics in return for a mention.  If you are in the UK or Europe where quilting fabric is £12-£16 a metre, the cost of making a project, especially a quilt adds up.  If you have a quilt professional quilted by a long armer, you could easily end up with a project that cost you more to make that you are being paid.  I've worked with American publishers and had to pay my own mailing costs are £20 or more.  The exchange rate can work against you and you usually end up been paid via Paypal and so more money is lost in changing currency and receiving money.  The time scale for the whole process is long.  The last book I contributed to has not been published and I completed the work at the start of this year.   There is usually the bonus of receiving a few copies of the finished book which you can give to friends and family or sell to others to boost your contributor income.  I contribute to books when I feel I am a good fit for the book concept or I have an appropriate project idea very quickly that I would like to see through and make. There are times when I've turned down contributing to a book because I don't feel like its a good fit- I may not know the author, editor or publishing house, the style might be too basic and beginner focused for the sort of project I like to work on, it might be with a restricted range of fabrics or the timeline is tight or during school holidays.

Writing for Magazines
There's been a huge growth in UK sewing magazines in the last year or so, this has become a handy way to earn money and see your work in print.  The turn around is  relatively quick: I am currently working on something now that will come out in April.  Payment comes once the magazine is published.  Magazines will agree a price with you and in my opinion they pay fairly and can be negotiated with, although if you make a quilt, your costs are always going to be high when offset against the project fee.  The downside is the magazine itself only lasts a month so your content has a limited life span.  I have written for Love Patchwork and Quilting and Quilt Now and I have something in the pipeline for another magazine.  I try not to do projects too frequently for any particular title- I don't want people to tire of my style or ideas and I don't have a huge amount of time to play and develop ideas.  Magazines are hungry for content, every month they have 100 pages to fill.  You need to be able to deliver:  this means writing to deadlines and the specified format,  finishing everything on time, taking quality photographs and designing an aspirational project that others will want to make.

Although I started off as a primary teacher, I have limited experience of teaching regular sewing classes.  There is a saturated market for teaching sewing classes locally and they tend to be taught by shop owners and their employees.   I also don't want to work in the evening which is when most people want a sewing class.  I have taught for Fat Quarterly Retreat and been paid for it: ultimately this usually goes towards the costs of travelling to London and accommodation.  They pay what they can afford and I always have a great time at retreat.

Selling PDF Patterns
Penny and I design and sell Sew-Ichgio patterns together through Craftsy, our blog shop and Etsy.  We have both had other commitments over the last year or so with book writing and the pattern sets take a long time to complete but it is an ongoing endeavour and we are grateful for a steady stream of people buying our patterns through the different outlets.  This is one of my most reliable income streams when I look at it spread over a financial year.  New material is coming next year.

Available in Sew-Ichigo shop!
I limit my sponsors to three at the moment.  I want to enjoy what I write and three sponsor posts a month is enough for me and I am guessing for you too.  Each post takes around 2-3 hours to collate, write and edit and in addition to the post I need to keep an eye on my stats and ensure that my blog is an active, regularly visited place for the sponsors.   I have a good relationship with each of my sponsors and huge respect for the work and investment that they put into their shops.   I tend to be paid by goods.  It means that I can sew more and I get to experience the shops as a consumer. I could opt for a money payment and have more sponsors but the income is limited and I don't consider it worthwhile: I do not want to become just a market place.  I have an affiliate income from Craftsy.  I have enjoyed all the Craftsy classes I have taken so I am happy to endorse what I have used.  They pay in dollars so I have to pay £10 conversion on each payment that they send out.  I don't tend to use other affiliates.  I have yet to earn any money through Amazon affiliate links so  I only do add them when I can be bothered!

318 Patchwork Blocks Sewn for Quilt Now magazine  issue 5
All other work is unpaid.  Blog hops sometimes involve a freebie- a book, some fabric, and some don't.  Why do I do them?  I chose the ones I like and fit with my style.  Sometimes it is supporting a friend like Lori Holt and her books for Sew Emma.   Or it might be patterns for Fat Quarterly because I consider Brioni, Tacha and Lynne as friends and I respect what they do.  I've worked with Fat Quarter shop and Oakshott a few times- they ask nicely, have lovely products and are generous with what they send.  I do get a lot of blog emails from companies that don't ask so nicely, want to send things I am not so keen on or think that blog traffic is sufficient benefit for me to give up hours of my free time to promote them.  I always respond to requests but I don't always say yes.  Blog traffic is good.  If you have sponsors, you need to keep a consistent level of clicks and visits to your blog.  However, the balance has to be right, especially if I am working for free.  I confess, I need to think more carefully before committing to unpaid work.  The fear of being left out of the loop is too bigger factor in my saying yes and for the sake of my own creativity I need to overcome this.

Tutorial designed for Oakshott Fabrics
So what does all this add up to?  I've still got to tot up my sewing income for this financial year as it has a few months left but it has been a typical income year so far where I've contributed to a book, sold Sew-Ichigo PDF patterns and was commissioned for four magazine projects.  I would be surprised if it was much over £1000-£1200 net. Once the outgoings of fabric, patterns, notions and equipment come out of that, maybe there will be £750 left?  Its a lot of time for little money.  The previous financial year was higher because it included 500 Quilt Blocks, but that was the exception.  I spend many of my weekends meeting deadlines for paid and unpaid work, with more unpaid than paid.  Paid work often needs to be sought out.  You need to develop ideas and present them to magazines, publishers etc Blogging is time consuming and is often quietly received.  I could post a pretty picture on Instagram and get lots of likes, comments and instant gratification, or I can write a blog post and many might read it but only a handful will comment- such is the way of blog consumption,  and the restrictions of tablets and smart phones.  I am hugely grateful for those of you who jump through the hoops of your device and manage to leave a comment.  Why do I do all of it?  I do it because I love sewing, I enjoy engagement with others in the sewing world.   A hard look at the figures has made me think I need to spend less time sewing for free/return for goods as this takes up most of my time at the moment.  Instead I need to work on Sew-Ichigo more!

I don't have a magic solution.  There are other ways to earn money like making and selling goods through craft fairs or Etsy. They take time and organisation and you need to consider your market carefully.  You need to produce what people want to buy which is not always an easy thing to discern. I never planned an income in sewing.  My blog was not a strategic book pitch and sewing is first and foremost my hobby and I love it.  I have turned away some money opportunities because I don't want to become an entirely commercially focused blog- it just does not interest me and the rewards are not sufficient.   If you do want to be published, it certainly helps to specialise. I am not a single issue sewer- I make lots of things, quilting and clothing which is not really what a publisher wants, I am not an instant package or an easy brand to instantly pitch. I am not criticising the path of others, just explaining my own choices.  There is no easy or guaranteed way to earn money in sewing and craft.  I don't know where the big money is or if there is big money for an individual to earn in the sewing industry.  I know a lot of people working very hard, often on multiple enterprises, for a modest amount- that's the reality.  

To read open debate on income and sewing as a business, I thoroughly recommend Abby Glassenberg's blog, 'While She Naps'
Abby Glassenberg: Working for Free

Discussion on the financial realities of writing a craft book:
Crafty Pod:  Is it Worth it to Write a Craft book?

A blog series on Craft Books and Publishing including:
Part 1: Behind the Scenes in the Craft Book Industry
Part 2: Budgets and Marketing: Interviews with craft book publishers

To read about how copying in fabric designs can impact elsewhere read Anna's (Eternal Maker) on Copying and Fabric Design

With all the above posts, the comments are well worth reading and give a range of thoughts and opinions.

What are your thoughts?

sib blog

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Go Read: Spot the Difference

The blog is not dead, in fact, some of the most intelligent discussions about the sewing world that I have read for a long time are taking place right now.  Instagram is great for eye candy and quick flick through whilst you eat your brekkie but you can't beat the space that blogs give to expand an idea and investigate further.  You may already have read Abby Glassenberg's  recent post, 'An Inside Look at How Much Fabric Designer's Earn'.  If you haven't, go read it now, its an eye opener.  I knew some of this but not so explicitly.  Anna at Eternal Maker has written a fascinating and equally eye popping post from the perspective of the conscientious fabric shop owner on copying in fabric design.

Anna's picture from her blog post

She knows I am sharing this here and wants as many people to read this as possible.
The photo above is Anna's.  Go look!  It makes for thoughtful reading and props (as the kidz say) to her for writing it.

sib blog

Thursday, 13 November 2014

318 Patchwork Patterns Quilt-along: Dog and Bone

The release of 318 Patchwork Patterns in English has brought a flurry of block making from the book making and in addition to the blog hop that I was part of a few weeks ago, Al at A Thousand Needles is hosting a 318QAL.  For each week of the quilt-along, she's making 4 blocks which will be part of a 318 Patchwork Patterns mini quilt.  She's choosing most of the blocks and having special guests- so far  Brenda from Pink Castle Fabrics and Penny from Sew take a hike and this week it's me! I love the animal blocks in this book, so I chose #136 dog and bone block.  I was so enamoured with the design that I didn't notice the million Y seams involved!  Apologies to Al who is making this block too!

I've marked the Y seams and some of the sections below.  I tried to plan this but I ended up being a very careful slow sewer and using the techniques covered here- precision is everything with so many Y seams! I did the ears, feet and tail actions first.  Then the head and bone.  Next the body and the final part was joining everything together.  The Y seams are marked in blue- there were so many and I had not think about how I was doing this too much and rely on instinct as it did get a bit confusing!  You could always add extra lines in to simplify the shape and construction as Penny did with her block.

I made the 6" block into a quilt as you go hot water bottle cover for our dog Lottie.  As the weather gets cooler, she loves a hottie to cuddle up with overnight.

It's a simple pattern adapted from Suzuko Koseki's Patchwork Style.  I lined it on the inside too with some cotton lawn to make it a thick cover that would insulate well and survive a lot of washes. 

Let's just say it was well received!

You can find the 318QAL schedule here, week one here, and week two here.  You can link up with Al by posting picks of at least 2 blocks you've made from the book and win a prize- see her posts for details.
sib blog

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Plush Addict Giveaway Winners

Thankyou for all the entries for the Plush Addict Giveaway, and I hope you enjoyed your look around Plush Addict- I have found some amazing stuff including wool coating fabrics and slipper grip both of which I am rather randomly in need of!  I checked the comments, deleted any outside of UK and Europe and made sure there was a maximum of up to three entries per person. 

The Flurry winner is comment 40, Mae Long.

The £25 voucher to spend at Plush Addict was won on Instagram by Veronica Ferguson.

I have sent emails out, congratulations Veronica and Mae!

sib blog

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Boat neck top: Winter wardrobe basics

You'd be forgiven for thinking that anyone who makes many of their own clothes spends their life in a series of dresses and beautiful shoes.  The reality is that my day job involves a work t shirt, hoodie and Nike air dry track pants and when I come home from work, especially in colder weather, I change into jersey tops and skirts or yoga pants.  I have a few Uniqlo tops with a boat neck shape that work well for me and I wanted to replicate the same neck line.  I think I've cracked it.

This is the much used and loved Meg McElwee scoop neck long sleeve T from her Cratsy Sewing with Knits Class  I've mentioned this class many times here.  It is frequently on offer in the Craftsy sales and promo emails and I love the fit.  The simple shape makes it a great base for other knit styles and I have the confidence now to play with it a little.   I redrew the pattern and redrew the neck on the front and back with a  ¼" seam allowance to turn for the neck edge.

 The fabric is a wonderfully easy- to-use interlock from The Village Haberdashery.  There are lots of colour options and if you are new to sewing with knits, this is a great fabric to start with as it lies flat when you are cutting out (unlike single jersey which curls up) and is straightforward to pin an sew.  You can read about different kinds of knit fabrics on Rachel's blog.

The back shoulders have knit stay tape pressed on to stop any stretching before the shoulder seams are overlocked.  I use my overlocker for all the seams and my usual sewing machine with a twin needle for all the hems.  I took a lot of care sewing the neck as I didn't want it to stretch out of shape.  The fabric is quite thick so I lowered my foot pressure to 1 (the highest is 7) when sewing the hem with the twin needle and used a long stitch.  I have some tips on hemming knits here.

I softened the lower hem with a little inward curve at the side seams.   The only way to match the stripes is to pin every stripe.  I use Prym ballpoint pins.

Hurrah for a winter basics!  Inevitably, more are planned.

sib blog

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Plush Addict: New Sponsor, Massive Giveaway and more!

I am happy to announce a new sponsor, Plush Addict.  I limit my sponsors to three and I like a mix of quilting and dressmaking and Plush Addict definitely ticks both those boxes with an enormous selection of both.  And there's more with waterproof, absorbent and many other different fabrics for many purposes (remember the bamboo towelling I used for Kiss Me Quick?) plus patterns,  haberdashery and more.  It's always good to start a sponsorship with an in depth visit to the business and the people behind it and a giveaway helps too- in this case a hefty bundle of Flurry by Dear Stella worth over £50 as well as a voucher to be won over on my Instagram.  I am handing over to Kellie for the introductions, I'll see you at the end for the giveaway!

"I always describe the start of Plush Addict as a “happy accident”. To cut a long story short I found myself unemployed and pregnant and with too much time on my hands I dusted off the sewing machine to make pretty cloth nappies for our baby-to-be. It was hard to get modern cloth nappy making supplies in the UK from one place so I decided to plug that gap and the idea took off from day one. These days we sell oodles of different types of fabrics, haberdashery and patterns online based out of a warehouse in sunny Kent."

"Although we started off with some very niche fabrics, today we have a huge variety of quilting and fashion fabrics and haberdashery. We stock over 2,500 quilt weight cottons including the entire Kona Cotton range (that’s 303 colours!) and we have one of the best flannel selections in the country. We also carry a huge range of Shannon’s Cuddle range plush fabrics (you might know it as “minky”) and have recently added some extra wide 90” which makes the most buttery soft quilt backing you ever did feel.  For dressmakers we have a fantastic range of needlecord, denim, interlock, jersey, ponte roma, chambray, wool, double gauze, cotton lawn and lots more besides (I’m hoping to keep expanding the dressmaking range so if you have any requests then please let me know.)"

"I used to manage a customer service team for a software company so offering the best customer service I can has always been part of my make up and is really important to me. We offer a generous loyalty scheme called “Plush Points”, same day dispatch and free UK postage for orders over £40. I know from experience how difficult it can be to buy fabric online so we’ve made requesting a colour match really easy – just leave us a note in a special box at check out and we also offer a no quibble free UK returns service.  The readers of Sew magazine have recently nominated us in three categories in the 2014 British Sewing Awards and I couldn’t be more thrilled. We’re up for Best Online Retailer, Best for Customer Service and Best Sewing Blog (although I’m sure there are more far deserving winners of the blog category than myself, ahem!)"

We have a brilliant team of local ladies that help get our customer orders out of the door quickly and I have managed to rope lot of my family in too! My mum is our chief remnant officer (we don’t mess with her remnant corner, it’s sacred) and she double checks orders before they leave us to help pick up any mistakes. My sister in law looks after most of our customer queries and she also does a grand job of our accounts.   My husband Jon has a technical background so he manages the website side of things.  I am third in from the left in the staff pic below!"

"We’re hoping to take office space above our warehouse (fingers crossed for January) so we can offer workshops and classes. People keep asking us to open up a shop, which we’re flirting with at the moment. We are an online only business 99% of the time but you can make an appointment to come and have a wander in the warehouse and we hold regular open days which now have quite a following. We always lay on tea and cake for the weekend events and there’s a calendar published on our website. Our next open day is on  December 6th and I’m absolutely delighted that Katy Jones from I'm A Ginger Monkey and Editor of Quilt Now magazine will be joining us with her new Priory Square fabric line for Art Gallery Fabrics. We'll be adding mulled wine to the usual tea/cake refreshments to help welcome in the festive spirit so come and meet Katy and start the Christmas festivities!"

(Here's a peek at the GIVEAWAY prize!) 

"I’m absolutely delighted and flattered to be sponsoring Kerry’s blog, I’ve been an avid reader for a while now. As a celebration and thank you we’re offering a great giveaway here and on Kerry's Instagram @verykerryberry along with a 15% discount from 1st-8th November inclusive with the code VKB15 for Kerry’s readers on everything across the site. Do  drop me a line if you have any suggestions of things you’d like to see us stock, or have any questions."

Kellie has a bumper givweaway prize on offer for you: a massive Flurry 18 Fat Quarter Bundle!   To enter the Flurry giveaway, visit Plush Addict, look around the website and comment below which item or items you would buy right now.  What do you need? Christmas supplies, dressmaking pattern and fabric, kit to give for a Christmas gift? Leave a comment and tell me!  You have from  1st-8th November inclusive.  Open to UK and Europe only (discount code is open worldwide). 
Extra entries:  Have an extra entry if you follow Plush addict via their newsletter,  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest or Kellie's blog.  
Have an extra entry if you follow me via Twitter, Instagram or here.

You have up to three chances to win this enormous stack of Flurry worth over £50! 
I must be able to contact you so I need to be able to find your email via your comment.  Winner will be notified by email and also announced here Nov 9th.  Good luck!

And there's more, Go to my IG account @verykerryberry for a further giveaway to win a £25 voucher to spend at Plush Addict.  

sib blog

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Liesl+Co Cinema Dress: with Queen Sue's Laura Ashley fabric

As soon as I saw the Cinema Dress come up as a new pattern release in Liesl Gibson's Instagram feed, I knew I was going to make it.  I love long dresses and here was a pattern with a long hem, a gentle princess line seam over the chest (easy to adjust for a small bust) an a line skirt, and a yoke- I love a yoke!  It is at the higher price end for a PDF pattern but it is extremely well designed and well written, and having made a lot of PDF independent designer patterns, I could really see the difference especially in the instructions.

Every detail is covered including all the seam finishing for each and every seam.  When pockets are fitted into a seam, I always have to think carefully how they will be finished- what will be enclosed and at which stage; some bits need finishing before they are sewn, some after- but no worries with this pattern as Liesl tells you what to do and when to do it.    

I did reduce the curved seam over the bust by a small amount.   I didn't make a tester dress, I was confident this was going to work and that there would be enough room in the seams to tweak the sizing.  I had seen Daniela's version at Ivy Arch and checked her sizing and it confirmed my hunch that I would be a size 2 on the upper body and size 4 at the waist and hips.  Like her, I omitted the notch.  I don't like to wear low cut styles- not a great look for me.  The alteration is a cinch to do- you just keep sewing along the curved seam rather than creating the notch.  I didn't make any further alterations.  I made the longer version, view B.

The contrast material is a gorgeous piece of mid 1970s  Laura Ashley cotton with a print reminiscent of the wonderful Bath costume museum exhibition from last summer.    I won it rather fortuitously at the very first Sewing Directory Exeter meet up and donated by Queen Sue- she knows who she is.   I've been saving it for something special and this is exactly the right dress for it.

The blue fabric is Robert Kaufman Interweave Chambray in Royal.  It is heavier than many of the floaty RK indigo chambrays around at the moment but still soft and a great weight for cooler weather; easy to work with too.

I even conquered the crappy buttonhole setting on my Janome by using a rounded end buttonhole and foot pressure reduced to 1 so the fabric didn't get stuck and mess the sensor up- for anyone with a Janome with an automatic buttonhole, I hope that makes sense.

I have slight reservations about the welt pocket placement- you know what I'm saying, but they are neat and useful so I'll take my thoughts out of the gutter.  There's a strong 1970s vibe with this dress, especially with the fabric choices, and maybe a touch of the Prairie too, and you know that all adds up to an aesthetic that I feel very comfortable with.
You can find a Sew- along for the dress here.  Liesl's pattern has its origin in the girl's version of this style, 'Hide and Seek Dress'.   Thankyou to my daughter as ever for using her GCSE iArt/photography skills with the pics, taken a few weeks back xxx

sib blog