Monday, October 2, 2017

The Etsy vs. Shopify Experiment: What I Learned

Those of you who follow Stitches & Snippets on social media may have noticed that I recently took a brief hiatus from Etsy to try out the Shopify platform. I have since returned to Etsy, but it was an interesting and worthwhile experiment and I'd like to take the time to share some of my thoughts with you.

Shopify Pros
We'll start with the pros of Shopify, as those are what drew me to it initially. Shopify allows you to list your items through Facebook and/or your own personal website, like this blog. It also has several add-on apps to allow for expanded features, such as selling through Instagram. They offer a free swipe and chip card reader for in-person sales, as well as more high-tech paid versions. I actually received mine in the mail right as I had decided to cancel my Shopify subscription, which was pretty fast considering I still haven't received a card reader for Etsy that  I requested many months prior. (Though I haven't taken any credit/debit card payments in person yet and I believe people who are already doing this get first priority on the Etsy card readers, which really is fair.) For those of you who have a higher level of computer skills than I, Shopify is also very customizable and offers options at a variety of price points. This brings me to the cost, which is actually a pro and a con. I used the lite version, which has slightly fewer features and costs $9/month, and there are several other options going up in price from there. Shopify does not charge listing fees, which is one of the big things that drew me in, but in my case it never really balanced out in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Shopify Cons 
The main cons of Shopify in my opinion are cost and visibility. While I do think the monthly prices are reasonable and offer decent options, unless you add several new listings per month it may not balance out as Etsy charges $0.20 per listing and it would take 45 listings to hit $9. I would have been OK with this if I was seeing significantly more views to my listings or selling more items, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Some of this is definitely affected by consistency of my marketing, but I think there were other factors as well. I was curious if people would be more likely to view and buy if, when they saw the items on Facebook, they could purchase them right there rather than being directed to another site (like Etsy). While I think this idea has potential, I think another aspect to this is that, while both Etsy and Shopify use secure checkout methods, many people (including myself) may perceive Etsy as being a safer buying experience than Facebook. I have no evidence to say this is accurate, but it may be the perception of some. Another related factor is that the only people who will see your items listed on Shopify are people who follow or find you on Facebook or other social media, or people who just stumble upon your shop. If you predominantly market to people that you know, or if your social media game is really strong this may not be an issue, but for many the community of Etsy is very helpful for traffic and views.

Etsy Pros
This brings me to the pros of Etsy. Etsy really is a community. Not only will the people to whom you directly advertise your items see them, but people who search for similar items on Etsy will also see your shop. Etsy is also a good fit for me because, unfortunately, my making and listing of new items is not always consistent. This is something I am working on personally, but with a full-time job and other committments the Etsy shop isn't always the top priority. With Shopify I paid each month, whether I listed new items or advertised at all or not. On Etsy, where you pay a fee per listing, I can list several items one month, and if I don't have any new items the next month then I don't pay anything more until I do. You have to keep in mind that a listing only lasts 4 months, and if it doesn't sell you will have to pay the listing fee again, but for me it is still cheaper in the long run. I also really like the current look of the Etsy shops and, for an extra cost, they do offer the option of a unique website for your shop that is more customizable.

Etsy Cons
One con of Etsy for me is that I still have not received my card reader. I have not done any craft shows recently, but I hope to soon and it would be nice to know I can offer that option when I do. I've been on the waiting list for several months so I am curious to see when I will receive one. Initially I felt that the per listing fee structure was a con because it somewhat dissuaded me from adding too many listings; but seeing how many I get for less than the monthly cost of Shopify has changed my outlook on that somewhat. One thing that can be frustrating is if I list an item and pay the fee, and then later decide to give it as a gift or keep it for myself, I'm out that money. Even still, that can usually be avoided outside of rare occasions.

And there you have it! I really think that both Etsy and Shopify are good options for selling online. I don't feel strongly that one is inherently better than the other. Now that I think about it, the specific type of item you want to sell might make a difference as to which platform works better for you. For me, as someone who sells handmade items on the side with some level of inconsistency as to the amount of time I can devote to making and marketing my items, Etsy comes out on top. I'm very pleased to be back selling on Etsy, but I would love to hear about others' experiences with either platform. Feel free to comment below if you have tried Etsy or Shopify (or another online selling platform!) and what you thought. If you have any questions about my experiences with Etsy and/or Shopify, feel free to comment them below also. Thanks for stopping by!
Rachel

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Back at the Farm: Another Quilty Photo Shoot

Last week I made another trip to Harlinsdale Farms (my favorite local quilty photo location) to photograph some of my more recent quilts. All of the quilts, excluding the grey and yellow triangle quilt, are available on the Etsy Shop as of the time of this post.

This first quilt was a very special custom order and has already made its way to its new owner. Triangle quilts can sometimes be tricky, but I love the final result! This one was fun because the purchaser selected all of the fabric and mailed it to me, so it was kind of like a surprise for me in the beginning and for when it was finished.

I really like the way the rustic buildings complement a brand new quilt, and triangles always photograph so nicely. It's also nice to have a little breeze to get a peek of the backing fabric.This particular day there was more than just a slight breeze, and I had to keep an eye on the other quilts to make sure they weren't blowing away!

I tend to make more "girly" baby quilts than boyish ones so, while this quilt really could be gender neutral, it was an attempt at a baby boy option. The prints and colors made me think of spiffy little boy clothes.
 I liked the farm look for this quilt... 


...and look how lush that green grass is!

This last baby quilt is about as girly as they come. This fabric was gifted to me a couple of years ago and I have been waiting to figure out the perfect project for it. Initially I planned to do a different quilt pattern, but when it came down to it these prints just wanted to be sweet simple patchwork. 
I love how the sun hits it in this second photo. The fabrics in this quilt are just bright enough while still feeling tranquil and cozy. 

Finally, the big quilt! This one is a throw-sized quilt made of fabric from one of my favorite designers, Amy Butler. The main line of fabric used in this quilt is called Dreamweaver, the border is a print from her Bright Heart collection, and the back is a coordinating print of multicolored mandalas.
The quilt pattern is a version of a fence rail quilt (fitting given the scene of the photographs!) which is a great, not-too-busy way to show off all of the prints in this gorgeous line. 

I'm so glad I was able to get some photos to highlight the prints, shapes, and colors in all of these quilts. I enjoy taking the photos (it makes me feel kind of artsy!) and it's especially nice to have good photos when my handmade quilts go off to a new home. If you would like to be that new home for one of these quilts, check out the Etsy Shop for more information. Thanks!
Rachel

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Where I Buy My Fabric

Buying fabric- it's the best and the worst part of sewing! I shop for my fabrics from a variety of different sources, depending on the project. I have compiled a list of some of my favorites, in no particular order.

Joann Fabric: Joann has a wide variety in terms of price, quality, and patterns. I mostly do quilting-type projects, but they also carry home dec, apparel fabrics, fat quarters, precuts, and batting, making it a one stop shop! If you sign up with your email address they send out great coupons.

Hobby Lobby: I actually think the quality of the mid-range priced fabric at Hobby Lobby is better than similarly priced fabrics from Joann. They just have a softer feel and better colors I think. Most of the quilting fabric is always 30% off, and some categories of fabric will be discounted up to 40% off. My local Hobby Lobby has slightly less variety than the local Joann, but I really like their selection.

Local Quilt Shops: These are best for quality designer fabrics when you can't wait for shipping, want to see the prints in person, or just want to support the local quilting community. I really enjoy going to local quilt shops and seeing the precuts and designer lines. If you are planning a quilt cut from yardage it makes a big difference to see the fabrics in person. The downside is they tend to be more expensive than some of the online options.

Walmart: Not prime quality fabrics, but they often have some cute stuff and good deals. They carry Pellon fusible fleece and interfacing (same brand as Joann and Hobby Lobby) and usually for better prices. 

Amazon: This one is hit or miss. I've found some good deals on precuts of lines with which I'm already familiar, but I have never really tried ordering yardage or unfamiliar fabrics.

Craftsy: This is my favorite online fabric retailer. However, they are currently going through some ownership changes, so I hope that doesn't have a negative effect on the selection. Craftsy has pretty good prices regularly, but their sales are where it's at. I get the emails so I know when to shop and I check back for new fabrics and price drops on my favorite fabrics every once in a while. You have to spend a decent amount to get free shipping, but it's great for large orders and, honestly, even smaller orders are often worth the shipping when you consider how much the fabric itself is discounted. I have also had good experiences with their customer service.

Etsy: As an Etsy seller I definitely can't leave them out. I don't think I have ever actually purchased fabric through Etsy but I do often look, especially if I want a particular precut bundle. I have several saved in my favorites and I like the idea of supporting other Etsy sellers.

This pretty much covers my favorite fabric sources. There are many others I have browsed and others recommend, such as Southern Fabrics, Fabric.com, or Pink Castle Fabrics, but I have yet to make any purchases. For now, for the sake of frugality and space, I will try to focus my fabric search in my own stash. Here's to hoping for restraint or the strength to block those emails full of coupons, sales, and great deals! Thanks for stopping by.
Rachel

Friday, May 19, 2017

My Sewing Story, Part 2: The Why

Now that you've heard (well, technically read...) the story of how I got into sewing, there is another important aspect of my story. The why. There are several things that I love about sewing/quilting. For one, it is an amazing tradition through history. I remember going to Old Threshers in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and learning about the history of quilting, and it is truly amazing. That should probably be a post in and of itself, but until then, the random fact that I remember most about that demonstration was that if you pricked yourself with a needle or pin and go t blood on your quilt you could get it out using your own saliva! Kind of gross, but maybe that's why it was so memorable. Not only is our collective history rich with quilting traditions, but it has such a strong history in my own family specifically. I have always treasured those old quilts made by Mema and her mama. There is nothing like a quilt to pass down through a family- especially one made with fabric from handmade clothes and all of the stories that come with it. Even just knowing that my relatives before me did this same thing, albeit in a slightly different way, makes me feel connected to my roots.
The creativity aspect is another important part of it for me also. I really enjoy coming up with design ideas and making things myself. There is nothing like the satisfaction of designing and creating something from scratch and then seeing the successful end result. Sewing isn't the only way I have been able to experience this, but it's definitely one of my favorites. It's very relaxing for me (most of the time, when I'm not rushed or picking out stitches from mistakes!) and very therapeutic. I love all of the different colors, patterns, and textures that come together to make something both beautiful and useful.
That brings me to the third reason- I LOVE quilts! There is just something that draws me to them for myself and the thought of making them as a gift for others. I like that they combine art and beauty with practicality. Also I tend to be cold, so they are especially practical for me. It seems obvious to say, but it's really important to be pleased with what you make and for it to be something that makes you smile, or brings you comfort in some way, and quilts surely do that for me!
I am also a believer that everyone needs a hobby. Maybe it's sewing for you and maybe it's not, but we all need something that we like to do, that challenges our minds and bodies, and gives us purposeful work to do in our free time. One thing I am challenging us all to consider is how we can use our hobbies, that already benefit ourselves, to benefit others. Maybe we can make things to give or donate, donate our time, teach someone else our craft, or sell our products and donate the profits. Whatever it is, let's not close ourselves up in our comfortable homes and work on our hobbies alone. Let's reach out! I'd love to hear your stories, ideas or suggestions in the comments section here or on social media. {Instgram @stitchesnsnippets or The Stitches & Snippets Facebook Page}

My Sewing Story, Part 1: The How

Over the past few years sewing has become one of my primary hobbies, so I thought it might be fun to look back over how I learned to sew and how I got here. 
The first thing I will say about sewing is that I was exposed to it from a very young age. My grandmother made me some beautiful dresses when I was a child, my mom made some darling outfits, and I was surrounded by quilts made from fabric/clothing belonging to various relatives. When I was little I used to ask my mom to tell me the stories of the different fabrics in the quilt on my bed. Some of the fabrics were from her own outfits that Mema had made her and some were from clothing that others in our family wore. I loved imagining the outfits and stories behind all of the patchwork pieces. I used to want to sew, but I was a little intimidated by the sewing machine, so I would do most of it by hand at first. I remember one year for Christmas I received this big panel of knit fabric that had the outlines of doll clothes on it. You would cut around the outlines and then sew certain parts together and it made all of these little outfits! I think I may have learned some of that on the machine. My mom, however, knew someone who had sewn through her finger on a sewing machine and that used to freak me out!
For a while I got more into crochet and would make scrunchies, scarves, mittens, etc., and I didn't do as much sewing. My 8th grade year I took Family Consumer Sciences and we learned to sew on basic sewing machines and made a drawstring bag. Then, in late high school, my mom bought me a sewing machine for either Christmas or my birthday. I bought a pattern for some baby bibs and tried working on those one summer in college, but I was sort of overwhelmed by the bias binding and sadly I didn't get very far. (Word for the wise: Your first pattern probably shouldn't require bias binding.)
All this being said, I really didn't get seriously into sewing until after college. One of my best friends (and blogger over at Whit's Running Stitch) was really into quilting and it kind of sparked that creative vibe in me as well. I decided to try some quilting projects and soon I was hooked! I made hot pads and smaller items at first and then I started making rag quilts. My husband and I were gifted a lovely handmade rag quilt for our wedding and I thought "I could do this too!" It was a great place to start for me because it was a bigger project, and turned out very pretty and useful, but it was a little less overwhelming without the type of basting and quilting that goes into a traditional quilt. I made a few of these quilts as baby quilts or lap quilts, and then I tried a couple traditional baby-sized quilts before I made my first adult-sized traditional quilt.

I think this arrow quilt will always be one of my favorites. I felt so proud of myself when I completed it; partially because it was a successful attempt, but also because I had made up the design/pattern myself and I just loved how it turned out. It was also really satisfying that all of the fabric I used for the front of it had been scraps that I already had from other projects or that had been given to me, so I only had to purchase the backing, batting, and binding fabric- keeping the whole quilt budget under $30. That's especially nice when you have no idea how it will even turn out! At this point I was I was really hooked and I started making items like baby quilts, zipper pouches, and small purses. Once I could see that it was more than a passing hobby I also purchased a new computerized sewing machine and got up the courage to open the Etsy Shop. I mostly made things for gifts, but I did sell a few smaller items on Etsy, in live craft shows, and to people I knew.
This went on for a couple of years, and then we made the move to Tennessee. I continued to sew a lot of gifts and experimental items, but I also picked up a few custom orders (t-shirt quilts and baby quilts mostly), which was fun! It's encouraging to make with purpose, knowing someone is going to purchase or use (in the case of a gift) the completed item, rather than just making things that you then accumulate in your apartment. (Still made a lot of that stuff too though! Whoops!) For quite a while I had my eye on a new sewing machine, but I always talked myself out of it because of the price. For Christmas 2016 my husband surprised me with my absolute dream sewing machine!! (Juki TL-2010Q) I've been on cloud 9 with that puppy! This pretty much brings us to the present.
I have recently been thinking more and more about my future sewing and creative goals and I am bouncing several ideas around. I know I love to create and no matter what direction I go, I think sewing will be a lifelong hobby for me. I guess the question is, will it be more than a hobby? Who can ever tell what the future holds, but I am excited to see. :)

*Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, which talks more about the why I love to sew.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Charm Packs, Layer Cakes, Jelly Rolls, Fat Quarter Bundles, and the Whole 9 Yards!

If you have been quilting for any amount of time you have likely heard about "pre-cut fabrics". I would categorize them as a fun convenience- you definitely don't need them, but they are pretty fantastic!

So now that we have discussed how great they are, let's get into exactly what each common pre-cut is and some project ideas for each. The names I used in the title are mostly used by Moda Fabrics and I will mention some other common names used by other fabric companies.




Charm Pack: a stack of 5" squares, usually 42
  • basic patchwork baby quilts (uses ~2 packs)
  • HST (half-square triangle) patterns, for example: This HST/pinwheel baby quilt is one of my favorites. The patterned fabrics are from a charm pack and the white was cut from yardage. It went together pretty quickly and I loved the result!



 Layer Cake: "10 square", stack of 10" squares, usually 42
  • throw-sized HST quilt (like these, for example!)
  •  cut into smaller patchwork squares
Giant star quilt, made from one layer cake.




Jelly Roll: "roll-up", roll of 2.5 x 42 inch strips
  • striped quilt
  • table cloths (like these!)
  • fence rail quilt pattern
  • small patchwork squares
  • log cabin pattern

Jelly rolls are perfect for fence rail patterns like these!
Fat Quarter Bundle: bundle of ~18"x21" pieces, usually one from each fabric in a line
  • ANYTHING!, but more specifically...
  • purses
  • quilt patterns with varying sizes of pieces
  • zipper pouches
  • equilateral triangle quilts  

Now I suppose the question is, Why are they so great? Well for starters, NO CUTTING! I mean honestly do we have to go beyond that? Decreasing the cutting significantly decreases the prep time for most projects. Another pro is that you can get a little bit of a whole line without having to go through and purchase each fabric separately, thus making it easier to make a quilt (or other project) with more variety in the fabric. And finally, there are several patterns out there that are designed specifically with pre-cuts in mind, taking the guesswork and some of the design aspects out of the project for those who are intimidated by that part of the making process. Just knowing that all of the fabrics will automatically "go together" is super convenient!

There are several places you can purchase pre-cut fabric bundles. Big box stores such as Joann, Hobby Lobby, and even Walmart carry some of these cuts. When it comes to designer pre-cuts I have found Craftsy to be the best option. They can also be found at places like Fabric.com, independent Etsy shops, local quilt shops and other online retailers.

So there you have it- pre-cuts in a nutshell. I hope you found this informative and inspiring. I find pre-cuts very inspiring in general, with all of their coordinating colors and cute packaging. (Sometimes it's hard to convince myself to even open them!) It's also worth mentioning that, while pre-cuts may make for quick quilt tops and smaller projects, you will still need yardage for the backing, binding, lining, etc. So whatever cut of fabric you have, get out there and MAKE!

-Rachel


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What's New in the Shop!

To follow up on my recent Instagram post, there are some changes coming to the shop! As you may already know, I currently offer handmade quilted items on Etsy and occasionally via in-person craft shows. I have recently been doing some research and will be implementing the additional option of offering items for sale on my Stitches & Snippets Facebook page as well as here on the blog (under the "Shop" tab) via Shopify. I hope that this will make the listings more directly accessible, especially to those who do not already have an Etsy account. Shopify offers secure transactions directly from Facebook or a personal blog/website, and does not require a user account.

At this time I plan to keep the Etsy shop open, and would appreciate feedback as to the pros and cons of either shopping experience. From my point of view I see benefits to both. Shopify allows for a more convenient and individualized selling experience, while Etsy is a great community of makers, offering support as well as directing traffic to the shop via browsing and search options. As new listings are advertised (primarily via Instagram and Facebook) I will include direct links as there may be different listings in each shop to avoid any confusion in terms of inventory.

I am excited to see the impact that these changes will make on the shop this year, and I plan to start offering more content in the way of blog posts, as well as item listings. Stay tuned! :-)