Take Flight

I’ve actually been busy doing more sewing than usual, so I’ve not really been in a bloggy/chatty mood lately. I’m taking a break from laundry folding and figured it’s about time I shared this finish which was the third one that I had completed for some Facebook Showcases. I actually had this one available in two because it didn’t sell in the first one. It didn’t sell in the second either (none of my quilts sold). I don’t think many people had much luck in the showcases anyway, so it wasn’t just me. The photos for this quilt also suffered from “camera being difficult” like the last couple I shared which I tried to fix as much as I could in Photoshop; I haven’t actually gotten around to retaking photos since.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Figures HRT (indoors)

I started the quilt in May, and had a top finished by early June. It sat around because I never knew what to quilt on it! I pulled it out to prepare for the Showcases as I eventually had an idea: Orange Peels! I used my walking foot for them which I found easier than with my free motion foot, as when I use it I end up with banana peels. It was a little tricky at first to get the right rhythm and movement to make the curves but I picked it up quickly.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Figures HRT (outdoors)

I used the Orange Peel tutorial from Petit Design Co.’s 31 days of Walking Foot series to get an idea of how to work out how to do it before starting. I drew out my small rectangle to size on a piece of paper and then drew an orange peel inside of that and cut it out as a template and then traced it with a Frixion pen on the quilt to give some rough lines to follow. I love the texture it leaves on the quilt! It’s somewhat dense but so soft as well.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Figures HRT (outdoors)

The rest of the borders I struggled with! I quilted things and unpicked them multiple times. Not the best photo see, unfortunately, but around the dark blue/white spots I just stitched in the ditch on either side as I thought it was too thin to really bother with any quilting designs. Over the birds, I made tiny stipples and I figured out the figure 8 design over the feathers — one of the designs I unpicked the most because I failed at it miserably the first few! At one point I was about ready to ball the quilt up and throw it away. The next time I want to put borders on a quilt, I am going to make myself come up with a quilting design right then and if I can’t? Then no border! Borders are hard!

On the back, I used a print that was made up of bright blue, navy and green squiggles. Even though the colours don’t match the front, apart from the blues, I still felt it was similar enough to still match without being matchy matchy and without being totally different at the same time. I held my label corner pocket down with some contrasting yellow thread (to match the front) in a blanket stitch. I’m still unsure about my labels and keep considering the Ikaprint ones but I’m stumped on what to put on them! I just like their smallness and that they’re unobtrusive.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Figures HRT (outdoors)

Here’s a fullshot photo of the back but the colours are a little off (they look very true in the photo above, with the label). I used a white thread for quilting and it blends in completely on the back so if I made any quilting mistakes, you can’t really see them!

This whole quilt is one of my favourites I’ve made so far. I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to get decent photos of it, and that it didn’t sell, however I’m kind of happy it didn’t sell because it means i get to admire it for longer! I’ll be putting it in my etsy store eventually, but I’ve been lazy and haven’t listed any of my Facebook Showcase quilts yet.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Figures HRT (outdoors)


QUILT STATS

Pattern: Half Rectangle Triangles

Name: (any ideas for this one?! I’ve been stumped!)

Size: approx 37″x 41″

Fabric: Figures by Zen Chic; Up, Up and Away from Cloud 9; Happy Go Lucky by Bonnie and Camille; Modbox by Juliana Horner

Backing: unknown

Binding: by Sweetwater

Thread: Aurifil white

Here It Comes

I’ve not done the 2014 Finish Along before, so this is my first time making a list and joining up! A few things are ‘loose’ but a couple of others have deadlines!

My list of things to complete for Q4 are:

  • Bonnie and Camille Charm Along Quilt (for the linkup circa October 20th-27th)
Riddle and {Whimsy} Charm Along
88/440 HSTs. Yikes!
  • Supernova (need to complete remaining blocks by October 20th to send to Sarah) and once received other half, put the quilt together – will probably work on quilting through November/December
  • A charity quilt I need to send by November. Top is partially done; need to add borders and then quilt.
  • IG Mini Swap mini quilt (to finish for the mailing deadline: 8th December) – leaving until November to complete October goals
  • Gypsy Wife (I would like to complete it in time for the Quilt Along goal of December — or at the very least, for Christmas). A few months behind in block making :(
  • Frosted Cheerios (finish by Christmas). I have 6 more blocks to make to have all 42 before putting the top together
Riddle and {Whimsy} Frosted Cheerios
25/42 Cheerio blocks

If I get overly ambitious, I’d also like to see these completed:

2014 FAL goals


Other things I’ll be working on:

  • Remaining bee blocks for my Threadbias bee (October and November queens)
  • Possum Magic Border 3 (to send out for November 17)
  • Disney Quilt Swap (due to send out early January). I’m making doors!

Having goals written out like this almost looks more do-able! Especially since I left out a few WiPs, that when I think about how much I need to do, I constantly think about all WiPs and UFOs and freak out so having a selection written out almost seems less stressful! Let’s see how I go!

Finish Along 2014

Break Free

My other Round Robin (not Possum Magic) is almost complete. I’m now only waiting for the final round on my top. The last time I saw it, it looked like this which was 2 rounds ago. I’m relieved I’ve now finished all rounds, and I only need to send off the final two tops I worked on. This Robin is one more thing to knock off from my commitments. One bee has finished and I only have this month and next of my final bee, so slowly but surely, I’m getting my own sewing time back ;)

Working on the final rounds was hard, because the tops looked like they were completed already.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Round Robin (before)
What I received

For a while I was stumped on what to do with this one. Eventually, I decided that it looks quite busy and very angular. It’s also quite bottom-heavy (or top-heavy /side-heavy depending on orientation) so I decided to just do something simple along the top to calm down those angles and to balance it out. I picked a few fabrics in similar colours and made a row of varying sized strips.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Round Robin (after)

It’s pretty simple, but I think it helps give some balance while at the same time leaving room for next border — the final one.

The next top I added the final round to. Both of these tops I received within a couple of weeks of each so I held onto the above one to send them together to save postage.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Round Robin (before)
Waiting for the final round

Aren’t those paper pieced elephants adorable?! As with the other top, I thought this one looked off-balanced down the left side. When I first saw photos of this, I knew I wanted to add a border down the right to balance it off. Once I received it, I knew I wanted to replicate the shapes in the left border.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Round Robin (after)

For fabrics, I had to make do with my stash as there were no black or elephants scraps left to use. I used a black solid instead. To add a bit of colour where the elephants are on the left, I used some Castle Peeps castles which had the same bright tones. To copy the aqua corners, I even found an elephant print in my stash (elephants playing crocquet, to be exact).

This particular robin had a tighter schedule than Possum Magic, and since I’m sending and receiving internationally, I lose half of my time into postage. Now that I’m done I can feel a little bit of stress relief!

Twinkle, twinkle little rainbow

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Work In Progress post on my blog. I’ve been finding IG much easier for sharing WiPs because I can take a quick snap and share it while I’m actually working on it. To make a blog post I’m having to whip out my camera and work out the lighting etc etc etc wich means stopping the actual work and then I get sidetracked by writing blog posts and don’t end up going to back to work!! So if you’re not following me on IG: I’m @riddlingwhimsy!

Speaking of IG, I’ve signed up for a couple of swaps. The #igminiswap and the #disneyquiltswap2015 so I’ve been spending time trying to brainstorm what to make for those. The IG Mini Swap I’m completely stuck on at the moment but I know what I’m doing for the Disney swap, and have fabric on the way! Kind of annoying that the swap due next year is the one I’ll probably have done first… :D

By the 20th of this month, before these swaps are even due, I also need to finish 6 (!!) blocks for the Supernova Friendship Swap! I haven’t posted about it in a looong time – May actually, when I posted tips on how to cut it. I’ve only made one other  set of blocks since that post.

For a refresher, this is the layout that Sarah from Smiles Too Loudly and I are going for. Rainbow colours on various low volume backgrounds.

rainbow12
Rainbow goodness

Originally, we were going to make alternative blocks. The first two blocks I made that I posted about before were blocks #1 and #3. We then decided that instead of sending blocks each month to a) save on postage, and b) have an opportunity to send goodies (which I think at the moment is just lots of chocolates :D ) we’d make all the blocks and send them at the end of the swap. THEN that idea morphed into “why not make the blocks in order so we could send two completed rows — if we join those rows we’d end up sending half a quilt and when receiving the other half, would only need to join the halves together for a whole top instead of having to join up the 12 blocks”. Genius, right? I feel like it will encompass a true ‘quilt made by two people’ since Sarah would have had a hand in piecing my entire top, and hers with my help! We’ve been posting a lot of updates to this on IG also, sharing our fabric pulls with the tag #rppoycgabivo which is our rainbow of 12 colours, rather than the regular 7 of roygbiv.

Since I’d already started, that left me to make the first two rows and Sarah with rows 3 and 4. The third block I made was the second one in the top row. I actually made it quite a while ago, but I’ve sat on it because I decided that I wasn’t happy with the background. It’s a blue cross hatch, but it loses its oomph, and looks more like a solid than a Low Volume print.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Supernova Block 2 Take 1

I liked the blue within the background though as I feel like it meshes nicely with the rest of the colours on the block so I pulled out my low volumes to find another print that would match. The one I realllly wanted to use was the periwinkle recipe print from Pam Kitty Picnic. Unfortunately it’s a fat quarter, and I would have needed a smidgen more than a fat quarter to have enough fabric for the background so it was out.

Riddle and {Whimsy} Supernova Block 2 Take 2

So instead, now it has chickens!! I’ve only fixed one block, so still need to do the second one. So far this is the worst block of the lot as the seam/points don’t line up which I think originally was more to do with having a long break between making the first ones, and then this one. At one point I thought it would probably would have been easier to completely re-do the whole block with new fabrics; but I like these colour choices and wouldn’t have had much left after already cutting them up for these blocks. I’m planning on making the remaining blocks all in one go, so I’m hoping that will help with my “muscle memory” to get everything right. Hopefully the next one will come out better so I can pick the better one to send to Sarah ;) I’ll probably do this one last after I finish the remaining blocks.

I have big plans for this quilt, including wanting to enter it into a Quilt Show next year, that both my husband and I have been roped into going to to help set up :) My husband has been told he needs to do security to battle off all the fabric stealers and quilt touchers lol :) There’s no set in stone plans yet though, so I don’t want to jinx anything! I’m already worrying about who will baby sit my house, and my two baby cats?!

I do apologise at the blurriness of photos. I’m still fighting with my camera and I’m actually getting new glasses next week, and I can’t wait so I can see properly again. It was so nice at the optometrist when she flicked between the lenses on the machine to compare my current glasses with what the new ones will be. So SHARP. SO CLEAR! I was at least a year overdue on a checkup so I definitely need them. It’s been hard trying to judge on the camera screen if something is blurry or not. Sometimes it’s fine, sometimes it’s not. Then I’ll just have to do some more battling with the colour changes :/ Even looking at my computer screen, things look blurry so I don’t even know what’s up or down :)

Fulfilling online

Over the past few weeks I’ve started seeing an increase in complaints about online shops and their fulfilment of orders. Whether they take too long (in most cases: blame the postal system not the shop!), confusing shipping policies or items that have been poorly packed. In all of these posts that I’ve seen, a couple of the same store names stand out, so in those cases I will say the shop probably is a problem. One of the places in particular I’ve also received dodgy packed goods from, so I certainly am aware, as a customer, what I am expecting when I order online, so when I see these complaints, I’m certainly empathetic to the customer’s experience! The catch, for me, is that in my previous job I was actually a supervisor of an online store, so I can also understand and see how some issues happen to begin with.

I’m in no way saying that the complaints are unwarranted. In fact, I have my own complaints, which I shared with Katy at The Littlest Thistle on her post about Fabric Shop customer service. Most notably the time I received my fabric from fabric.com in a ball. Every piece I had ordered. The first time I ordered from fabric.com I was actually really impressed (this was early last year). I ordered a lot of fabric for curtains and they actually sent me a whole roll instead of it being taken off the roll and then folded. And the shipping was really quick (from memory it took less than a week from the US to Australia). The price, including shipping, was under $100, even when converted. Now though, if I try ordering the same fabric it costs a lot more because they seemed to have had a shipping policy change (also the conversion rate has changed a bit). Perhaps that change is when my bad orders came through (late last year). I’ve also since learnt the store is owned/run by Amazon and I’ve read a number of articles about how they run their business which seems similar to my experience in working in online, so where I’m not happy with getting balled up fabric, knowing how Amazon tends to treat staff based on those articles, I can see why it happens.

As with all customer service jobs, don’t be a Judgey McJudgepants unless you’ve actually worked in that position yourself to have knowledge of what it’s like and what actually happens (like this recent story of a couple offering a $100 tip to a waiter because they understood the bad service was not coming from him, but the working conditions he was under – short staffed, bad management etc.). In her reply to my comment, Katy linked me to a blog post from the bitchy stitcher about working at Jo-Ann’s. Some of the comments by ‘just customers’ were kind of astounding (but not surprising). The post itself is interesting, and if you’ve not seen it, I recommend it. Not just as an insight as to how this particular store works, but it is true of all corporate retail that I’ve experienced. Even though I’ve worked in a department store environment, and not a craft store, the points raised resonated with me from my experience in all of the retail establishments I have worked in. The payroll issue mentioned is definitely standard, even being in a different country, and with online stores as well.

In our second year of online, when we actually had previous year data to work with, management started implementing  “last year you did X sales (orders), which means we anticpate you’ll make X money which means you only need X staff”. The big problem is a year into an online business means there is a year’s worth of extra awareness that the business exists so there is a much larger customer base ordering from the site so when in the first year we had 30 items daily (we counted by item, not order because one single order could just have 30 items in it), the n the next year we had 400 daily. I remember one sale they estimated 500 items. We had 2,000. With only enough staff available to fulfil the anticapted 500, we could not cope with 4x as many. The two people starting in the department were more than enough for 30 items (overkill actually), but with 400, and growing every day we needed a lot more to get through the work.  I had been doing 14 hour shifts, 6 days a week, and no lunch to help everything keep up as much as I could.

We had a KPI of packing 15 items per hour. Now, this is a department store so items varied from microwaves to cosmetics and clothing, toys etc. Clothes obviously surpassed the 15 items because they’re quick, but you were slowed down when packing dinner sets and large and heavy things so 15 was a pretty good average over the day for us. One of my favourite things to pack were towels because they were so easy to fold up straight and pack in a box — this is why I don’t understand receiving balled up fabric HOWEVER I know from the set up of our packing space that some things were packed badly due to lack of space to do them in.

We worked out of an actual store, not a warehouse, which I can only assume most bricks and mortar fabric stores who venture into online do also. To acquire enough room for a packing space, means that part of the store needs to be retrofitted to create it. It’s also not just space for packing that’s needed, but storage. Boxes of all kinds. Satchels of all kinds. Bubble wrap, tissue paper, sticky tape. Keeping enough on hand you won’t run out, and having enough when you run low, that you’ll still have enough to get you by while you wait for another order to come through. (Edited to add: we also had shelves to keep the items we had actually picked, that needed packing. And then space was needed to then hold all of the packed items before they were taken into the loading area to meet the post pickup).

When we started getting 2,000 items a day, two of our other online locations in  different -larger- cities were actually getting 10,000. Now, with a 15 item KPI, that’s 133 hours for ONE person to pack 2,000 items. Just packing! Obviously unrealistic, so extra team members were needed to JUST pack. Even 10 team members is 13 hours of JUST packing. To be more realistic about getting it all done on time, we ended up with up to 30 people to pack at one point. In a space that only really fits 8 people and even then it was shoulder to shoulder and hard to move. People were packing on the floor, or next to the computers on the desk. Taking over the spaces of other departments we shared our office with. So if you don’t have enough space to spread out to fold properly, then yeah it’s not going to look so neat. Remember you can’t see a) what their office looks like, b) how many orders they are actually dealing with and c) how many people are there at a time to do it. With breaks included, this roughly worked out to be an 8 hour shift for all 30 people.  Can you imagine packing for 8 hours? On your feet the whole time, bending, risking cardboard cuts, trying to reach different boxes and satchels amongst a large mob of people. Don’t you think you’d be pretty knackered and over it by the end? Do you think you could nice and neatly fold up a towel or a piece of fabric by then?

Some of you may be thinking “rotate those 30 people into doing other jobs”. Well. I couldn’t. For a one-day only shift, they either pack, which required minimal training, or I buddy everyone up with one of few experienced team members to log them in and out of our system, show them where all the information is input, what all our codes mean to access different parts of our system and then therefor slow down the whole process because less people are packing. Not viable with high volumes. On top of the packers, I had the rest of my team to do the other parts of the job: we had to pick the items for a start, process that the items were in stock so they could be packed, if we were missing items we had to fill out a form to go to other stores, and contact the customer about split parcels, or occasionally to advise we were out of stock. We worked by picking items off the sales floor, and as touched upon in a Pink Castle Fabric’s blog post on missing yardage, there can be lots of reasons why items can be advertised as available but actually are not. I also spent a lot of time bitching at our company buyers and IT for making mistakes on the website.

Have you ever ordered something online that came in a box you didn’t expect? Was it a small item, like a spool of thread, and it was in a box big enough for a couple of fat quarter bundles, or a surfboard? I’ve seen people “joke” about how stupid the packer must have been for choosing such a large unnecessary receptacle. Consider this: a store only has so many small containers for packing. They run out and a new shipment has not yet arrived. Perhaps there was a spur-of-the-moment thread sale and 500 people ordered thread and there were only 300 small boxes.What is the store supposed to do with the other 200? You can’t hold the order for a couple of weeks while you wait for new stationery. I can tell you I have packed teeny tiny undies numerous times into large satchels that could fit over my head, just because that’s all we had left; not because I wanted to be a stupid, funny, jerk. I ordered our stationery and boxes, and it would take a couple of weeks to receive those shipments. Unless it was a major known sale (say Christmas time) I could anticipate our needs, but if we’re told offhandedly by head office “tomorrow we’re having a 24 hour sale on X product”, then I’m sorry but I don’t have time to order and receive enough of the ‘right size’ box (which by the way all had to be a corporate standard and not just any willy-nilly brand box)!

Most people’s first thoughts when hearing a business is short staffed, is “hire more people”. Hiring more staff is not always an option, though it’s probably more viable for a big business than a small one. It takes time to monitor your order averages and to find that happy place with scheduling. If the store is a small business to begin with, there isn’t going to be a huge surplus of extra staff members to take on extra roles and/or hours, especially if they’re running a bricks and mortar store that needs manning as well. An etsy store owner packing orders in their own home has the opportunity to stay up until midnight packing, and then getting up again at 6am to finish but actual stores can’t do this. Businesses have legalities on when they are actually open/when someone is actually in the building. There are shift times, break times, and how long between shifts you should have which also need to be considered that etsy-shop owners can overlook. Etsy store owners are also probably not paying anyone else a specific wage to do the job, so extra money on fabric profit doesn’t need to be spent on someone else.

The store also needs to buy packaging materials, and arrange some kind of courier or postal services. These cost money, and can eat up into the extra costs that could otherwise go towards another staff member. Lots of online stores have free shipping or reduced shipping. That money is coming out of someone’s pocket. And it’s not just the “stamp” that needs paying for, but the boxes, the bags, the tissue paper, the bubble wrap, the tape to hold it together. The delivery costs of having those things brought to the work area! It all costs money. If money is being eaten up into excess costs like this, then there isn’t enough money spare for more staff, regardless of whether or not the store is making profit by selling online, because that profit is being used elsewhere.

Hiring staff in general also costs money. Advertising for the position, the time spent interviewing, getting those people inducted into the business and then the training. Some people need more training than others. Some people are more diligent at working than others.

The spike of a busy period could be a one off or be very intermittent so there could be odd periods of being slow at processing. Recently I did a charm swap, and one particular online store was hit hard as the majority of members in the swap (50+) hit up the store for their swap fabrics as it had been linked in our group. Because these spikes can can come infrequently if the business hired more staff then they can end up with excess staff that can’t be provided work if they’re only needed a couple of days every couple of months or so.

People also tend to forget that there is also more to online orders than just the packing. We had databases to learn – one for customer details and orders and another for stock control and inventory, and then there was the equipment that synced with that database. To pick all of this information up takes time and repetition, especially because different actions had different words. Nothing was labelled “print out shipping labels” it was more along the lines of “create parcel product identification” which made it harder to remember which step is which. Sure it wasn’t hard but some team members picked it up quicker than others. Those that only had shifts one day a week, were slower than those available for full time hours because of the lack of exposure. Some team members gave up/quit after a couple of weeks as they decided they didn’t like the work involved and then you’re left back at square one. I learnt early on that the first job people did when starting with us was to just pack. If you could handle packing, then I knew you could be trusted with the computer stuff. Packing also gave staff exposure to the descriptions of items we were given, and the actual items themselves, and from there, I’d get people out picking because if you know what you’re actually looking for, the hard part is just finding where in the shop it actually is and then from picking, I’d go through the whole process step by step. I didn’t have time to waste to risk falling behind by training someone who would leave within a week. We weeded out a lot of people who couldn’t take the workload as packing is the worst job ever but is still necessary.

Because I worked in a department store there was luckily a whole pool of current team members to choose from, though the unfortunate thing was that during busier periods (Christmas) the best team members — ie. the ones you would actually want to work with because they were trustworthy and did a good job — were already working in their own departments. So above where I said I had 30 extra staff members? They were, to be quite honest, the dregs of the staff pool. The people who weren’t good enough to be given hours regularly and who weren’t wanted anywhere else in the store. This was also another reason why I would not rotate them into doing the other jobs I had my regular team do. Some of these staff members were also people we had “blacklisted” to never work with us again because, frankly, their work was terrible, and the fact we ended up with them again, shows how at times we were desperate. If it weren’t for us needing packers, then they wouldn’t have had a shift at all. It showed in their work while packing that they were sloppy, and didn’t try. But even despite that, if all you did for a full day was pack with all the bending and manoeuvring and cardboard cuts and the squishy area you worked in, how well could you pack?

I enjoyed the black and white description part of my job. If it weren’t for the rest of it, like all the office politics and bad management that you’re not told about when you start employment, I would have stayed in this job forever. It was fun and even though I hated the 7am starts, nothing beats being in a store ‘after hours’. It’s so quiet and peaceful! Pink Castle Fabric have also made another post about “behind the scenes”  of how they fulfil actual fabric orders, so I recommend giving that a read as well!

(Edit: Another business I was reminded of that has been getting some negativity due to their slow shipping is Missouri Star Quilt Company. They actually have a blog post about their business and moving locations as they could no longer cope with the work in their space. I hope you take what I have mentioned above about online orders growing into consideration when complaining about growing companies like this. That link also shows photos of their work area so maybe it can show a little insight as to what people work with in this kind of business. There’s also another post about fulfilling fabric orders, as well).

From the start, I knew working out of an actual store was not the best idea. When dealing the 30 items we had to start, it was fine, but once it started to grow it just became unreasonable, however to set up a warehouse meant renting out a new space, providing it with all necessary stock which was more investment than the company wanted to do and they decided it was cheaper to retrofit a handful of stores across the country and run out of a shop instead.

Yes, I am wordy. And no I’m not going to apologise for it ;) feel free to ask any questions, or clarification on anything I’ve said though, if you actually read through everything hehe!

Facebook Selling Adventures (part 1)

Since there are lot of words here that have no relevant pictures, I’ll share some photos of one of my other recent finishes which I made for another Facebook Showcase, but I think it’s now cancelled. I made the quilt following an idea from Cynthia at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework who runs monthly scrap projects. In my scraps I found a bunch of blues, and fishy novelty prints. I made the top prior to the showcase, but when I found a showcase with an Under the Sea theme I finished it up!

Riddle and {Whimsy} Under the Sea (front)
Nothing fancy; just a lot of fish

Over the last couple of months, as I’ve started trying to sell my quilts on etsy, I’ve been trying to market them and get word out via Facebook. I have a few thoughts and have noticed things about how FB marketing works (it’s so weird!) and thought I’d start writing some thing down to share my experience. For the most part I’m not selling directly via Facebook; I put things in my etsy store and then advertise them on FB in various promo groups. The only ‘direct to facebook’ sales I’m attempting are on Showcases, which are basically online markets (which I’ll post more about later as I’m still working on that…). If no sales are made, it’s still a bit of exposure. No FB sales = I’ll pop them on etsy.

I’m doing this, because despite getting a number of search hits in my etsy stats, as I do not live in the US the majority of etsy users would have to pay for international shipping, or if I reduce the advertised shipping price I’d have to raise prices of the quilts to offset the higher shipping costs… which then means those who live closer would pay more… it’s tricky. As someone who always has to pay international shipping for most online purchases, I know it’s not cheap, so even if someone is interested in my quilt enough to buy it, I’m sure the postage rates scare potential buyers off since there are thousands of other quilts out there to look at that would be cheaper (postage wise). So, the best way to market it is to do it locally and the easiest way seems to be via the Facebook community. There is an Australian etsy-based site (Made It) but the last time I used it, it had very little traffic (not just for personal items, but the whole site in regards to new uploads).

Riddle and {Whimsy} Under the Sea (closeup)
For quilting I did a mixture of swirls and pebbles. Some of my pebbles are a little rough but for the most part I’m happy I’ve pretty much got the hang of them!

Marketing and keeping up with the Facebook pages is taking up more time than actual blogging which is hard because sewing and blogging are what I do for fun, and trying to sell quilts isn’t a main “business objective” ; it’s just something I’d like to do to help sustain my hobby! It’s also hard for me, because I’m not much of a facebook fan (I’m tempted to actually delete my personal page which I might do soon). I would immediately move my quilting stuff elsewhere if there was another place I could promote in like this to leave FB in the dust. It’s too much of a time suck so I’m trying to spend as little time as necessary on the site.

One of the better Facebook promotion sites I’ve found is Hike Those Likes. They have multiple versions for different countries if you search. As well as running different promotional activities through the week (quiz nights, free for all sharing, support of small pages) they also provide a lot of info on how to best moderate and promote your page which has been useful since I don’t spend that much time on Facebook to know this myself. The Australian page pushes that you should only like a page if you really like it as empty likes don’t generate sales and empty likers usually will leave a page which reflects poorly in a page’s stats which reduces their reachability (posts will show up in less feeds). How people are with ‘likes’ seems to be quite a regional thing though, as I’ve seen discussions where people in different countries prefer page likes. I’m not a fan of the like for like mentality (which also goes for blogs, instagram etc) so the non-pushing of likes is okay with me.* From what I can tell, when this group was made, “likes” played a bigger part in promotion on Facebook, so their name is a little outdated. With all of FB’s changes, liking pages and posts helps but isn’t one of the main factors anymore (that’s what the paid advertising is for… :/).

* I’m not going to automatically follow your business  just because you like mine, most especially when your business is unrelated to mine! I know that sounds unfair because people are making the effort to like my page but just because you like Star Trek as well as quilts, doesn’t mean I like the Star Trek too. If I were a Star Trek fan, maybe I would be interested in your collectable figurines, but I’m not, so why would I like your page when you’re selling items I actually have no interest in? I do understand that you want to put yourself out there and and advertise to a broader audience but I’ll follow you if you have something I like or I’m interested in or if I have a personal interest vested into you/your work (smarter marketing).

Riddle and {Whimsy} (back) closeup
Bit of the back, binding, and label

Instead of liking, you’re advised to “interact” instead because people will remember you and want to buy from you and because I don’t even like using Facebook to begin with, it’s hard for me to want to sit there and trawl through random pages to find a business to talk to. Spelling. Grammar. Netspeak. It can be terrible on Facebook. I see listings that are “4 sale 2day” or am asked to “cum c my pg” or “I’VE JUST ADDED NU THINGZ 2 MY ALBUM PLZ LOOK” . My brain hurts from trying to figure out how to type all of that, let alone read it. I’ve seen a number of market-place groups that are even named that way, so it’s not just people trying to directly sell items.

As simply just liking doesn’t play a big part on Facebook as it apparently used to do, I’m noticing there now tends to be “empty comments” to replace the “empty likes”. Things like “wow” or “good job” and “great”. They help in the way they push promotion (or “the reach”) to other pages because adding comments generates more promotion for the posts to show up in multiple feeds of other users (like when your friend comments on a three year old funny picture that then sits at the top of your feed amongst new posts) but it becomes obvious that people aren’t actually reading your posts or looking at your picture, they’re just writing words and I almost find this disheartening; like I’m talking to people who are there but they’re too busy doing something else (ever tried talking to someone who was busy playing a game on their phone instead so they’re only half listening and aren’t invested in what you’re saying, if they’re even listening at all? Or when you talk to your husband and he just says “uh huh.. hmm mm sure” at random intervals ;) ). As an example, I once shared a post to promote someone else’s event and received a comment saying “good job”. Uh? It’s not my job? It’s not about me?! It’s like they’ve just assumed I made whatever was in the picture and didn’t read the words attached.

uts04
Pebbly backing print; photo also taken on bad-photo day earlier this week.

I do understand that if commenting promotes better than liking, then saying “wow” is no different from simply pressing a button that means “I like this” but it seems pointless when there is no engagement or interest. It seems like a similar problem we face on blogs when you receive (or leave) a comment just saying “nice quilt!”. The comment itself is appreciated but it doesn’t really create a dialogue.  I think you can still make empty comments but they can also be relevant. When an event is posted.. how about commenting “fun” or something like that?! Come to think of it, I think I did actually receive one on that event that was “can’t wait” which ended up still bugging me since it was a random person and not anyone involved with my fb/blog/quilting community so… why can’t you wait, random person?

All of that said, because of my own feelings towards Facebook, I know I don’t comment and engage much over there as I should with others (pressing the like button is so easy and to be honest I think I prefer someone just pressing “like” than having an uninterested party say “wow”). I’ve been having a hard enough time keeping up with all the blogs I follow so not sure how to work more FB time in there too!

uts01

Still no cats!


QUILT STATS

Pattern: based on “Scrap-A-Palooza” Bricks from Quilting is More Fun Than Housework

Name: Under the Sea

Size: approx 30″x 33″

Fabric: misc – had no selvedges on the scraps (known: Kate Spain’s Cuzco, Michael Miller prints, Heather Ross Lightning, Bugs and Other Mysteries, Carnaby Street from Pat Bravo, Outfoxed from Lizzy House)

Backing: unknown

Binding: unknown

Thread: Aurifil grey