Thursday, January 31, 2013

A small piece of linen

Here's a simple piece of 100% hemp linen I've finished sewing.

When sewing the petals, I started at the outside ring, sewed to the middle and came back to the outside. Each petal is sewn independently. You want to keep the areas you stitch fairly small. That will make pulling the threads easier.  I'll pull the stitching on the outer ring last. 

I might add some tied marbles outside the ring, to make a ground that the motif will rest on. Or, after pulling the threads and tying them tight, I could pole wrap this piece, for some extra texture in the background. Hmm I like that idea.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taking Stock

An important first step in figuring out what to charge for your art is to figure out what it costs you to make it.

That seems pretty straightforward, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do it. They price their art arbitrarily, based on what they see selling elsewhere or they just pick a number.

So what goes into making your art?  The first step is to track the supplies you use.

For me, keeping track of my supplies is easy. I just keep a folder and shove receipts in it when I buy fabric, dye, wax, thickener, and so forth. But that doesn't tell you what your real cost per item is. That's what you need to get a handle on.

What I've done over time is create several master spreadsheets that help me keep track of costs and calculate what it costs to make everything I have for sale. If you are just using yarn and a crochet needle, that's pretty simple. My work uses far more supplies than that, but it's still not that complicated. 

This can be an eye-opening experience. You might get a shock when you realize what the real cost is. Think of everything you use. Don't say "oh that's not very expensive, I won't include that in my calculations". You will be surprised how it all adds up!  And of course, your supplies aren't your only business expense. So, tracking supplies is just the first step in the process.

Here's a screenshot of a simple spreadsheet I set up, populated with dummy numbers. 

Sample Costs Spreadsheet

You get the idea.  I know how many grams of dye I use for every yard I make, it's a pretty easy process to figure out its cost. Since dye or paint or yard prices may vary by color, just take an average price per ounce or gram or use a price that reflects the most expensive color you use. This way, you know you are covered. 

When you plug in your numbers, don't forget to include shipping. So, if it cost you $200 plus $35.00 shipping to order 20 yards of fabric, your cost is 11.75 a yard, not $10 a yard. You paid for the item to be sent to you and that cost must be calculated into your analysis. Shipping costs are high these days, especially for heavier items like fabrics. It's best if you figure out what your costs are for a unit that you sell. For me, that's yards of fabric. That will make it easier to figure out what it costs you to make everything you sell, if the items are multiples (or divisibles) of a unit. Next time, I'll show you how I use this per unit price to create another spreadsheet that lists every item in inventory and all costs associated with it, including transaction fees and shipping.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I love itajime for its bare geometric simplicity. I clamped simple shapes on a fold of cotton hemp. Some of the color penetrated the fold to make a line between the mirror images. I've signed up for Jude's What if Diaries and will hope to use these for stitching in her class. 

I think itajime is best suited for one dark color. I'm not a big fan of technicolor itajime. If you're looking for a monochromatic scheme, use a pure dye, not a mixture. That way, you won't get funky colors or halos. For this half yard, I used ProChem's Deep Navy 414 at about a 6% depth of shade. I used a tub dye method.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Are you Running a Business or Enjoying a Hobby?

When I first started designing fabric and selling it, I really didn't think about what I was doing in terms of a business. I think most creative people don't like to think in terms of balance sheets, profits and losses. Most of us want to practice our art without sullying our minds with thoughts of money.  We worry that our creative energy will be diminished by the exchange of dollars and cents. Some folks can practice their art and sell it for pleasure, selling at a loss, but not minding, because they can afford not to mind. Most of us aren't that fortunate.

I have been taking a hard look at what making money creating art entails. Yes, it involves a creative process that can be a wonderful stress reducer and outlet for nervous energy. It can be a means of self development and growth not attainable through other avenues. But, if you need or want to make money from your art, you have take a hard, unemotional look at what you do and how you do it. You have to be as hard as flint.  

The first step is to cast an unvarnished eye on what you do and determine if you are creating the best product you can that is worth people giving up their hard earned dollars to own.

You are probably thinking: "of course my art is quality! I make it, don't I?" Well, no, it might not be.

Evaluate your artistic product in terms of the competition. Ugh, that ugly word! You might be tempted to think you don't have to think about the stinkin' competition because you are making ART! My advice: don't be afraid to look. Check out what others are doing. You might learn a few things, and you might well come away feeling proud of the knowledge, skills and talent you do have. But it always bears asking yourself: Have you advanced your skills to a high level? Can you learn more? Would you be considered an expert in your area? If you aren't, you should strive to be. If that means attaining greater technical or artistic skill, make the investment of time and/or money to attain those advanced skills. Often this won't involve an outlay of funds, but many hours reading and practicing. Find a support or educational forum where you can ask questions and get advice. There are no shortcuts in getting better at what you do. Your investment of hours will pay you back many times over in satisfaction and productivity.

Ask your friends and relatives to look at your craft and tell you what they would pay for it. Ask them how it could be improved. Don't be afraid to listen to and follow their advice. 

Once you've taken this critical step, you can start the process of determining the monetary value of your highly qualified creative output. That sounds easy, but it is not. Most of us devalue ourselves and our output. You have to keep telling yourself that your creative time and grunt time is worth someone else's dollar. And there's always grunt time. Not everything I do when creating fabric is fun. Some of it is repetitive and boring. But you can and should place a price on it if you want to earn money practicing your art. Notice I haven't said "earning a living" here! I'm just talking about having someone pay you fairly for the art you create, even it it's just so you can pay for music lessons or tutoring or college for your kids.

So how do you go about figuring out how to price your work, i.e., your creative output?

In my next couple of posts, you can come along with me as I walk you through my own process, still in refinement.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Confluence of Hues

Over the last few months I've been working on creating palettes from primaries and complementary pairs. This is a great way to expand your "paintbox" exponentially. Why limit yourself to proprietary colors developed by ProChem and Dharma? Proprietary colors can vary from dyelot to dyelot. Also, if you get hooked on a proprietary hue and it is discontinued, what then? The major primaries are rarely discontinued and are much more consistent.

I glue my swatches onto card stock and record my "formula" on the back of the card, so I can replicate it over and over.  Here's a yard of cotton hemp fabric that I dyed using two hues from two different palettes. A deep bronze combined with dark teal.  Sometimes I add a color in the middle, but for this piece I decided to allow a little of the natural color of the hemp to remain to give my eye a little respite from the saturated color.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Experiments on a frigid day

The temperatures have dropped here. The first really cold weather we have had all year. Fortunately my studio is a warm spot for dribbling dye over cloth. In this case, a yard of silk hemp, folded and scrunched. 

My favorite part of dyeing is the rinsing. That's when you get a sense of how the dye has moved through the cloth and left its mark.

You really have to give up a sense of control when you are dyeing this way. It is what it is. And it is beautiful.