First of all, I’ll hold my hands up and say the one thing I’ve been rubbish at is taking good pictures of my stall at the craft fairs I’ve sold at. I find it always helps to see a few pics for this kind of post, so Louise from Sew scrumptious has very kindly let me show some pictures of her craft stall. Louise uses lovely fabrics for her handmade goods, and it was seeing a picture of her stall that made me first thing about selling my own stuff. She’s also chipped in with a few invaluable tips of her own. So here goes...
How to find a craft fair
This all depends on where you live. I’ve only got experience of local events, specific to my area of West London. Look in your local paper or keep your eyes peeled for posters advertising this type of thing. Schools are quite good places to enquire too, but a lot depends on the demographics of the parents. With regards to schools, I find I do better at specific craft shopping evenings rather than school fairs. My theory is that at school fairs, parents have quite a lot of other things to spend their money on (entrance fees, games, raffles, rides, food etc) and so may not have that bit extra to spend on a handmade purse, no matter how beautifully made.
What should I make and how much?
This is the million dollar question and one I couldn’t find an answer to before my first craft fair. Having now done the rounds of a few, I can understand why. It’s like saying how long is a piece of string? It also depends how long the fair lasts, is it held in the evening, afternoon, all day, on a weekday, weekend, near Christmas? The list of variables is enormous. I would err on the side of caution and make more than you think you’ll need, you can always use the extra for your next fair. Make enough stock to allow for a nice looking stand, plus a few extras just in case.
What you make is all down to personal taste and what you like/are able to make. I seem to make lots of things that are square shaped (cushions, lavender bags, purses, drawstring bags etc) as I find it a lot easier than sewing curves. If you find zips a bit scary, don’t make things with zips! I’ve got a zipped make-up bag I make but only in smallish quantities (6 or so) because they’re so time consuming. I find it works to have three or four smaller, lower priced items in higher quantities (15 to 20), three or four medium priced items in medium quantities (6 to 10) and a handful of maybe two higher priced items. There’s no point slaving away making a stall full of higher priced items that may not suit your clientele – give them a choice of some lower priced items as well and you may find they’ll be drawn to buy more. Here's what I sell at craft fairs.
Lower priced items:
|Mobile phone holders|
Mid priced items:
Small cushions (I get my cushion inserts for 69p each from Ikea which means I can keep the price quite low)
Child sized tote bags
I haven’t yet sold any of my tooth fairy cushions at fairs but Louise has, with some success, so definitely worth thinking about.
Higher priced items:
|1950's half aprons|
|Reversible shopping bags|
With the higher priced items, I never make more than three or four of each. At one craft fair I sold all my 1950’s aprons within minutes, at another I didn’t sell any, it just depends on who’s buying.
I’d say one of my selling points is the fabric I use, so try to offer a selection of unusual fabrics in a range of colours. Once you’ve done one or two fairs, you’ll see a pattern developing of which fabrics are the most popular, which is really useful for future planning. Without doubt, the most popular fabric I’ve ever used has been this 1970’s retro owl print.
Sadly, it’s out of print now - I bought the last stock I could get my hands on from Fabricworm (about 4m) and I’ve used every scrap of it. Every single thing I’ve ever made from it has sold out almost immediately. If anybody sees any of this fabric anywhere, PLEASE let me know, or if you have some and want to get rid of it, I’ll buy it from you and throw in a handmade purse or something for your troubles!
The finishing touch!
Having conducted a straw poll amongst my friends, they all agree that having a label on your product gives it a definite edge. Labels don’t have to cost a fortune, I just use school nametapes from here, and they work out at £3.99 for 72. It’s a definite talking point and people often comment on how professional a label makes your stock look.
If it’s not on your booking form, contact the organisers and find out the size of your table beforehand. It’s definitely worth having a practice and setting out your stock, so you know how much room you have to play with. If your kitchen table isn’t that long, just measure out the dimensions on your bed. Tables are generally about 6ft long and vary in depth. A plain tablecloth or a couple of metres of hemmed, cheap white cotton fabric make a good backdrop.
Now we come to how to set it all out. Get there early so you're not panicking about time. A good rule of thumb is don’t try and squeeze everything on to the stall as there’s a danger of it looking like a jumble sale. Sometimes less is more and people need to be able to see things properly!
|Don't put everything on the stall at once, make sure people can see everything|
It’s generally a good idea to try and introduce a bit of height to your stall. Try to find interesting things to display stock on. I plunder my kid’s bedrooms and use their child-sized chairs, but anything that you can put things on and hang things off will work: a little stool, a mug tree, those things you hang necklaces from, even shoeboxes would work. Louise has some really cute little children’s suitcases she uses which can be stacked up to give some height. She also found a child’s coat stand in the shape of a pencil in a charity shop, which is great for displaying aprons and things. You can be inventive! Keep extra stock under your table and you can replenish your displays when items sell (which they will!)
|Mini suitcases, boxes and stands add height and interest|
How to display prices?
It’s entirely up to you if you want to label everything with an individual price or not. I tend to label things separately if there aren’t many of them or if they’re hanging from a display. For smaller items in boxes, I tend to just put a little sign on the front of the box. Little pegs with animals/butterflies on etc to peg prices onto things come in useful here. These are really cheap in pound shops. Another thing I do is have a small price list of everything for sale so buyers can see at a glance how much things are. I display this in a photo frame so it’s nice and clear and add a little sentence at the bottom, stating that I can make up bespoke items if customers wish.
It’s worth getting some cheap ones made up as customers will ask for them. Vistaprint are cheap as chips and have tons of designs. Give out as many cards as you can, I put one in the bag with each sale too. People will come back to you to order things, sometimes months later.
Stock list. Make a list of what stock you’ve taken so you can reconcile stock quantities at the end of the day
Chairs/boxes for display purposes
Boxes/baskets for smaller items
Bum bag or hands free bag – and don’t forget your float!
Price tags and/or price cards to peg to items
Packed lunch/water If you’re there by yourself as you may not get a chance to leave your stall
Brown carriers/small bags. I get mine from eBay
Boxes to put extra stock in underneath the table
Notepad and pen. Write down everything you sell, you’ll feel all smug seeing it in writing and it will help balance your stock at the end of the fair
Bulldog clips If you have a tablecloth that won’t behave itself, pin some of it out of trouble’s way
Duplicate receipt book As well as being able to give customers a receipt if they want one, I use mine as a record for orders. Write the order in full in the receipt book, including all details and the price paid, then give the top copy to the customer and keep the bottom copy. It’s always best to get payment up front for bespoke orders, that way you both know exactly what’s been ordered and paid for
I can’t give much advice about selling, as it’s something I’m pretty rubbish at! But I like talking to people, especially about sewing and fabric, and that’s generally all it takes a lot of the time. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t sell much, especially if it’s your first fair. You’ll find people will come back to you at a later date when they have a birthday to buy for, or if your fair is around Christmas. I had quite a lot of Christmas orders from people contacting me after the event.
I’m sure I’ve left plenty of vital information out, but hopefully this is a good starting place. Good luck, enjoy yourself and brace yourself for the feeling after that first sale. Somebody has actually spent money on something you’ve put time and effort into making – it’s a good feeling!