As I'm contemplating new directions for my art for the coming year I thought I'd take a trip back down memory lane and create a record of something I used to get up to to fund the ever increasing kindy fees.
Being a home-sewer, through necessity as a poor student and later as a skint parent, I was always making things for my kids including their fleece beanies with appliquéd stars. I would get so many comments from people such as "You should so sell those! I'd buy one!" So, when the kindy fees went up another notch, biting into our ever-stretched household income, I decided I'd see how serious people were about their compliments.
I didn't tell hubby what I was up to when I was found sitting on the lounge floor amongst a pile of fleece scraps. He was used to me always making stuff anyway and I thought if I told him he might pour cold-water on my hair-brained scheme. I had enough scraps to start by making an assortment of 40 beanies of various designs, colours and sizes. I figured that I didn't need to spend any money initially because I had heaps of scraps of fleece and a whole assortment of felt scraps squirrelled away from various craft projects. If people showed an interest and actually bought my beanies, then I'd buy fabric as required however, because a beanie takes such a small amount of fabric it wasn't going to need to be a big outlay. The biggest cost would be in time. And actually, having to sit still in the evenings to hand-stitch the appliquéd designs was a good way to get me to slow down a little. It's a very therapeutic past-time, as I'm sure lots of other crafty people will agree.
Initially I would take my carrier bag of hats along to coffee groups. Sales were promising and comments were always very encouraging so I thought I'd step up the action and booked a stall at the Titirangi Market for a once-a -month spot. It took a bit of effort but the whole family got involved on the day and again there was little needed outlay. I'd been given a folding pergola, we made a folding table by cutting an old door in half and hingeing it, and for windy days, we had a collection of milk bottles that we filled with water to stop the pergola blowing away.
Sales went well, earning me enough to pay for more than a few kindy sessions and a bit more besides. Over time I had repeat customers and my range grew to include adult sizes too. It was so satisfying to have such delighted, and delightful, customers. The beanie with the skull and cross bones was particularly popular with men! It was fun coming up with ideas for new designs. I also branched out a little and made a small collection of dress up hoods, some pixie hats (or Robin Hood hats depending on your point of view) and soft brimmed hats for those of us who look a little too bleak in a beanie.
Lubi-Lids kept me busy for a good couple of years and it was so much fun meeting other creative and entrepreneurial people at the markets. As my kids got older, my focus changed to new pursuits and I guess, as cheap imports were becoming more available, it was hard to keep prices competitive and to not rip myself off in the process. This was well before the internet and on-line market places were mainstream such as felt.co.nz. It was also prior to the current "Hand made" renaissance and comments like "I could get a hat at the Warehouse for cheaper than that" were quite laughable. (I priced my hats initially at $8 then rose to $12 for the simple beanies. The more complicated designs such as the Pukeko, the Gecko and the Frog with the spiraling tongue were a little more, to reflect the extra time involved but still my profits weremarginal.) I realised I needed to make a decision whether it was time to either rev up the production or to move on to other things when I was approached by a Kiwi who was visiting from the UK. She was sourcing NZ stock for a market in London and wanted to place an order of 20 hats, ready for delivery within the week, and could I give her a wholesale price?!
Yeah, nah, actually, nice compliment, sort of, but it was time to move on.