8.31.2009

see you there



I'll be at the Grand Opening of Hello Bluebird this Thursday from 5-9pm and hope you'll stop by if you're in the area. Not only does this event celebrate the shop's opening and coincide with West Reading's First Thursday, but it's also the opening reception for their first gallery exhibition, Show and Tell, featuring works that combine illustration and the written word. There will be handmade giveaways, refreshments, and the chance to meet and chat with some of your favorite artists.

Where: Hello Bluebird, 609 Penn Avenue, West Reading, Pennsylvania
When: Thursday, September 3, 2009. 5pm-9pm

8.28.2009

we have a winner

I threw all the names into a hat (no fancy number generators for me) and the winner is Lynsey! It was nice to hear from so many cat lovers, embroidery lovers, and people who haven't commented before. If there's one way to generate comments it's having a giveaway - got 'ya!

Even if you didn't win this time, I've got something for you. Click on the groovy 1960s kitty picture below and you can download a pdf copy from my website. Print out the pattern, transfer it to fabric, and start embroidering. It's a little more complicated than the stamped embroidery cats but nothing you can't handle. Mostly outline/stem and straight stitches with lots of lazy-daisies, some satin stitch (eyes, nose, mouth), and just a few French knots. You can save them for last just like I do :)

groovy cat

And speaking of cats, I'm still working on that set of kitty baby bibs. I've been so busy sewing sachets, wallets, and bags for orders that I haven't had any time for embroidery. I hate that! I definitely want to show them to you all and then get started on that apron. Several people asked if I'd show photos of it finished and I will. Promise.

Lynsey, send me your address (janet@primrosedesign.com) and I'll get your kitties on their way.

8.25.2009

giveaway

It's been ages since I've done a giveaway and my anniversary month (which is almost over already-yikes) is a good time to do it. I bought a box lot of vintage stamped-for-embroidery quilt blocks on Ebay this spring and there were lots of repeats. Like these kitty-themed quilt blocks. Cute designs and relatively easy to embroider—even for a beginner. Mostly straight and outline/stem stitches with a few French knots and lazy daisy flowers.

block1

The storybook cat block is from the 1960s, the cat scratching the tree is older, possibly 1940s but probably 1950s. Either would make a super cute pillow, framed picture, or the central block of a small doll-size quilt.

block2

So, if you're interested in possibly winning this pair of cute kitty blocks, leave a comment. I'll take entries until Thursday evening and announce a winner on Friday. International shipping can be a problem with some items but I can fit both of these in a standard envelope and mail it first-class international (it may take a while to arrive but it will get there eventually). So, I'm opening this up to everyone, no matter where you live. Yay!

Just a note that I moderate comments, so don't panic if you don't see yours go up right away. And I'm still not getting email notification about comments so have to log in to get them. Not sure what's up with that.

8.24.2009

the best for last

My best find from last weekend isn't quite as spectacular as the quilt top I found last year but still pretty cool.

apron

It's a Progress No. 2623-4 unbleached muslin apron with colorful binding stripes in yellow, orange, and brown and featuring stamping for embroidered flowers on the waistband corners and body. It's very clean and crisp and someone stored it carefully since it's creation in 1938!

binding stripes

It includes the original instruction sheet (that's how I know the date) and the flowers are to be embroidered in yellows, oranges, and browns (to match the stripes) with a little green thrown in for the leaves and stems.

pattern sheet
You can click on this picture to see a larger version on my Flickr page. I've also included the colors that correspond to the numbers in case you want to reproduce the flowers for one of your own projects.

See the long stitches at the end of the flower petals? These are to be worked in a different color than the petals so they'll look like the two-tone flowers shown near the end of my Stitch School lazy daisy post. I'm going to try making the long stitches first, then looping the second color through like I mentioned here.

apron flowers

I bought this apron for an unbelievable $6! I spotted it underneath a pile of other things and it wasn't marked with a price. Luckily I had some other things already picked out and they totalled $14. The seller looked at it for a minute, then rounded my total up to $20. Sold!

apron waistband detail

I might have to do this project next, right after the set of baby bibs I'm finishing up now.

8.23.2009

more feedsacks

A couple more finds from the show—

blue floral feedsack
Blue floral—big roses? mums? I'm not sure what they are!

butterfly feedsack
This feedsack has the best colors ever! I've also seen it in another colorway—hot pink, periwinkle blue, and lime green butterflies on a light blue patterned background.

butterfly feedsack
A close up view

8.22.2009

wholesale

Head Bitch in Charge asks about wholesale—

I'm finally growing my business to the point where I need to focus more on wholesale. I'm overwhelmed with all the options I have and choices to make. Mostly with things like minimum orders, how to bundle things (sets of 2 or assortments of 6?) and the best way for retailers to contact me and order. How have you handled growth and what were some unexpected hurdles you faced?

I'm probably as overwhelmed with the subject of wholesale as you are. Most of my non-retail sales have been (and still are) consignment, although I do have some wholesale accounts. One of the problems I have is that most of my products are one-of-a-kind and that can be a hard sell to shop owners who need to know exactly what they're getting. I can sell them two dozen zippered bags, for example, but I can't say exactly what the fabrics will be. Although, if they wanted all florals or stripes or whatever, I can tailor my fabric choices to fit. All of this involves a certain amount of trust and flexibility.

Minimum order amounts are what feels right to you. I'm OK with a dozen of my smaller items—wallets, tissue cozies, zippered bags—although I find most shops will order two dozen at a time. Shop owners know that small items look best grouped together—like a basketful of tissue cozies. I sew them in multiples anyway because it's easier and faster, so this works out perfectly. For pillows, my minimum order is around six—but I'm not very strict about it.

I have a one-page folded paper catalog that I print out myself and mail to prospective buyers. The items shown in it are examples of styles and I'm clear that what they'll get will be slightly different. Because of this one-of-a-kind thing I don't have my website set up for wholesale sales like some shops do. Shop owners either call or email and we discuss details.

The biggest issue you need to think about with wholesale is pricing. People often start out selling on Etsy or their own site and have very low prices. Honestly, sometimes so low that I wonder how they're even covering the costs of their materials let alone the time spent making the item. But, when you sell wholesale, you only get half of the retail price. Can you still make a profit? If the answer is no, then you need to rethink your pricing. Or find a way to lower your materials cost, although you should be doing that anyway. Make sure your prices allow you to make a profit at wholesale. Then, if you sell on consignment, you'll make a little more profit (usually it's a 60/40 split), and if you sell retail you'll make still more!

One problem you may encounter is a shop owner who won't buy from you because you also sell retail. The concern being that you might undersell brick-and-mortar stores. If shoppers can buy more cheaply from your website, why would they shop at a retail store? So, you need to keep your prices consistent everywhere you sell.

I haven't been very aggressive with finding more wholesale accounts for a couple of reasons. If I'm saying that my products are one-of-a-kind and handmade then I want that to be true. I don't want to contract out my sewing. So, I don't want to get orders that are so large I can't handle them myself. And, because I use vintage materials which are limited in supply, if I get too big it's going to be harder and harder to make that work. I'll have to use more modern material (and I already do somewhat) and I'll lose the vintage charm of my products. I do admit that I may need to rethink this position in the future—we'll see.

Hopefully, this answers some of your questions. There aren't really any hard and fast rules—you have to do what works for you!

8.18.2009

feedsacks

I spent some time yesterday washing my fabric-related purchases from the weekend. I did not iron anything, however, because it's was 90 degrees in my house! We're finally getting some hot weather here and it actually feels like summer... and then some :)

Here's one of the feedsacks I found at the show. I love the lime green flowers and I think I may have buttons that match them exactly so it's going to be fun to work with. If I can cut it, that is.

bag_outside

You see, this feedsack is still in bag form. In five years of collecting them I've only come across two or three that are still intact and I really have to think about whether I want to cut this. But it does provide a rare opportunity to show you what a feedsack originally looked like.

bag_top

bag_corner

Each sack was made by folding the fabric in half with right sides together and then sewing (with heavy string) along the open side and curving around to the bottom. The sack shown here measures 37" x 21-1/2" so, when opened up, it will be 43" wide. When removed, the braid-like stitching leaves a row of small holes all around the edge. And that's one way to determine whether something is a feedsack —look for that rows of holes.

stitching holes

Here's another one from my collection that's quite small—about the size of a 10-pound bag of flour. It has the same stitching.

small feedbag

stitching detail

Feedsacks also have a unique texture and feel to the cloth. Once you see and handle them enough you can usually spot them pretty easily. And I love how some still have that clean, sweet farm smell—like hay—from the grains they once held. Sometimes that doesn't wash out—I have several feedsacks that, when ironed, release the scent again and again.

8.16.2009

and we're back

It was a long and tiring day yesterday. Lots of walking (which I'm paying for today with some hip pain) and very bright and hot (although there was a slight breeze which helped a lot). I set out with a mental shopping list of fabrics and buttons and found lots of both, including several feedsack fabrics for great prices. I'll show you some of my purchases over the next few days but overall I didn't go crazy and actually came home with half the cash I brought. I passed up several great items that were just too overpriced. One thing you learn with vintage shopping is that there are always more great things down the line. That's not to say that if you really fall in love with something that you shouldn't buy it, though.

Like this appliqued and embroidered hanky that I paid $10 for.

cat and dog hanky

The workmanship is exquisite and you all know how much I love things with cats :) Here are a few more closeups of the details.

cat closeup

Look at those tiny stitches and the appliqued border continues all around the edge.

dog closeup

I love how much personality they have—all with a few tiny shapes in fabric and thread!

8.15.2009

we're off

Gas in the car—check
Maps printed out (we're trying a different route to avoid construction on I81)—check
Coffee and scones for the drive up—check
Sandwiches and drinks in the cooler for lunch—check
Comfy shoes—check
Large bag for stowing purchases—check
Lots of small cash for acquiring those purchases—check

And we're off to the Bouckville show. Hopefully I'll have lots of great stuff to show you tomorrow :)

8.10.2009

pretty feedsacks

Don't forget the Madison-Bouckville Outdoors Antique Show is this coming weekend in upstate New York (Bouckville is located on Route 20, roughly halfway between Syracuse and Utica). This will be my fourth year and I always find great stuff—with 1000 dealers how could I not? The weather is looking good so far, which is great. There are very few indoor booths (some large tents) and, believe me, it can be pretty miserable if it rains. The very high humidity we had one year wasn't much fun either. I'm hoping to find some great vintage fabrics this year.

I've been doing lots of updating to the Primrose Design website lately. There's now a fourth page of vintage plastic buttons, a few new pillows (including some smaller handkerchief designs), and lots of new trims (including shell braid in five colors and rick rack in the package and off-the-bolt). Remember the discount code (CUPCAKE) for 20% off your order!

feedsack

Illustrating this post are some new feedsacks I won last week on Ebay. I've added the pictures to the Flickr Feedsack Group, which is a great place to view gorgeous feedsacks uploaded by members. We're always looking for new members, too, so feel free to join and start posting your own photos. There are almost 500 so far!

feedsack

8.09.2009

a nice article

that interviews Tara Gentile from Handmade in PA about the crafts movement in Pennsylvania and features photos of she and Alex McCarty taken at Hello Bluebird:

Handmade in PA Pulls Artisans Together Online

Those are some of my pillows in the last photo on the bench with Alex :)

8.05.2009

fun facts

Some fun facts about Primrose—

• I ship the most orders to California (by a very wide margin), followed by Texas and New York who are neck and neck for second place. I've shipped to every state except South Dakota.

• The farthest away that I've shipped an order is to Australia, or maybe Japan—I'm not sure which is farthest in miles. The closest are the ones I don't ship at all—like when friends come to my house to buy or I deliver orders to local shops.

• An item I sell consistently is the package of duck diaper pins. They aren't vintage but look like they might be. But people don't buy them for diapering. Women buy them to decorate baby shower invitations, sports coaches buy them for their teams, one woman bought them because she says they're the best thing to separate clumps from mascara, who knew?

8.03.2009

rick rack on etsy

I don't know why I never thought to look for rick rack on Etsy before. I use the large size to trim my tea towels and I'm always looking for the 100% cotton kind in fun, bright colors. I bought a bunch last week from three different sellers.

When you search for rick rack you get all sorts of interesting listings besides packages and off-the-bolt yardage. Here are some cool things I found while looking (clicking on the photos will take you to the etsy listing).


vintage yellow crocheted pillowcase edging with rick rack woven through the top, $4 (backthroughtime)


A vintage blue tablecloth trimmed with a triple row of white rick rack attached with black and white embroidery floss, $12 (IndulgeYourShelf)


A 1950s rockabilly jade green circle skirt trimmed with rows and rows of colorful rick rack and braided trims, $28 (VintageJubilee)


Yellow cotton tatting with beige rickrack attached to the bottom edge, $5.50 (SalvageNation)


And finally, an amazing pair of clip-back earrings fashioned from pink rick rack and beads (jackandjoey). Don’t go looking for these—they're already sold—to me!

8.02.2009

reason to celebrate

Primrose Design is five years old this month! Actually I started before that on a part-time basis, but 2004 is when I got my resale license and my website went live in August of that year. So, this month I'll be posting a little about business issues, what I've learned along the way, etc. If you have any questions you'd like to ask me, now's your chance. Leave a comment here and I'll try to answer. Nothing too personal, please, and don't ask for detailed instructions on how I make things—I'm not giving away all my secrets!

I'm also having a special sale all month—



In case it's too hard to read on the photo (a smaller version of the postcard I sent to my past customer mailing list) the important part is "Use coupon code CUPCAKE for 20% off during August".

The only thing the discount doesn't apply to are custom orders and wholesale, everything else is fair game. I've added some of the baby things I mentioned earlier and tons of great buttons. And I'll be adding more zippered bags and tissue cozies this coming week. You won't find a lot of pillows at the moment because most went to Hello Bluebird last week but I have several more on my work table in various stages of completion. They're on the way!

8.01.2009

say hello...

...to Hello Bluebird! I mentioned the other day that I was going to deliver a bunch of product to a new shop on Thursday. I didn't want to say too much about the shop without first asking the owner if it was OK. It won't be opening officially for several weeks and then just for a soft opening. The Grand Opening is scheduled for September 3rd to coincide with West Reading's First Thursday and the opening of their first gallery show. Titled Show and Tell, it will showcase works combining art and the written word.

Owner Alex McCarty, who you may recognize from her online shop Blossom Boutique, describes her new venture as an indie boutique and gallery. Located in an old row house in the historic business district of West Reading, PA, the shop has original architectural details with tons of vintage charm, wood floors, and walls painted with gorgeous saturated colors—bluebird blue (of course) in the first room, with a fruit-punchy raspberry on the back and staircase walls. The remaining rooms, which flow from one to the other (shotgun style) will get a similar treatment in the coming weeks.


Display of cards against the raspberry-colored wall.


Newly arrived bags artfully arranged on hooks. Isn't this wall color perfect?


Little journals and picture frame magnetic boards covered with vintage fabric and with matching fabric-covered magnets—love these!


Tiny lampshades with storybook animals and ball fringe trim, jars of chunky wooden beads for stringing, and children's dresses made from fun fabric combinations.

I got to meet Tara Gentile from scoutie girl and Handmade in PA who was helping out for the day and several other local consignors who were dropping off items. Everything beautiful and well-made—you're going to love shopping here.

I hope you'll stop by for the opening to welcome Alex to the neighborhood, meet some of the artists, and browse the gallery show. If you hate crowds (too many people—ack!), skip the opening and stop by when things have quieted down a bit and you can browse in a more leisurely fashion. It's not too early to think about starting your holiday shopping and you might just find everything you're looking for here!

Hello Bluebird, 609 Penn Avenue, West Reading, PA 19611