Sewing to sell - Handbags and Home


Hey everyone,
What a treat I've got for you today, I'm interviewing Heidi, from Handbags and Home as part of our Sewing to sell series! Heidi is another Brit and has the experience of selling at craft shows as well as on Facebook and Etsy.

How did you get into sewing & what do you make?
I'd always been into crafty stuff, but I was in the RAF as a photographer I lived in barracks, and travelled extensively so I had no room to get a sewing machine, and needed small portable projects to feed my crafty bug like knitting and cross stitch.

When I got married in 2010, and moved into a house, on a whim had a look on eBay and spotted a gorgeous duck egg blue Brother sewing machine from the 1950s (I think!) which was due to end, so bid on it and won it for a bargain! It's solid cast iron, so weighs a ton, but I love it! When I got it home I had no idea what I was going to make with it, so found a simple lined tote bag pattern and chopped up an old pair of jeans to make a patchwork bag, and loved it!

I love making bags and purses, although also enjoy appliquéd cushions and the odd bit of dressmaking for myself. (I now have a more modern, lighter machine but still have my Brother packed away as I can't bear to part with it!)

What made you decide to sell your sewn items?
I sewed for a few years, just making bags for myself and gifts, and people kept telling me I should sell them, although I didn't think anyone would actually be interested in stuff I made. In 2012 I left the RAF and set up my photography business, giving me more time to make bags for myself! After sharing pictures of my bags on Facebook I started to get a few enquiries, so decided to give it a go and set up "Handbags and Home" about a year ago.
I started out with a Facebook page and slowly but surely it's building up quite a following, and in the run up to Christmas last year I was inundated!

How do you decide on your selling price?
I work out my selling price by looking at a number of things  - the cost of materials, and how long it takes me to make it, and then I'll look at the prices of similar handmade products online to price it at a similar rate.
When I started out I pretty much only charged for the raw materials but now my skills are pretty good and its become a business I try to ensure that I take my hours into the equation as I don't want to be working for less than minimum wage!

It saddens me when handcrafters don't charge what they and their products are worth, it's the same in the photography business - people charge silly low rates, and that's a quick route to destroying any plans they have of running a viable business. Handcrafted items are not mass produced cheapo items and shouldn't be priced to match.  Buyers who appreciate the work that has gone into an item will pay what it's worth.

Do you factor in trade discounts (i.e. for selling wholesale to a retail store)?
I've not really going wholesale as such yet so not really. (Although I do offer military discounts :-))

What makes customers part with their cash for your sewn items?
I think people like the personal service, a lot of my sales are custom orders, someone wants  a particular style of bag in a particular colour or pattern, and they seem to like my attention to detail and the work I put in to source the right fabrics or pattern for them.
Also I think the variety of fabrics I use works well, a mix of cottons, canvas, linens, faux leather, woollens, Harris Tweed and I've just started working with cork fabric that I bought on a recent trip to Portugal, such an unusual fabric.

What do you wish you could tell yourself back when you were starting out?
I wish I could tell myself to have more confidence in my sewing and start selling bags sooner!

Heidi is a British hand crafter living in Weston-Super-Mare (or Weston Super Vegas as I like to call it). You can find her current makes on her facebook page Handbags and Home, or on Etsy. She also has a website, but the main action is on her facebook page!

Thanks for letting us get a glimpse of your business Heidi! We wish you well with your makes and love seeing what you sew to sell!

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