Develop Craft Skills to Boost Your Income

A friend and I attended a sewing workshop a month or so ago and learned how to make a pretty fabric craft bag. I don't know if you have ever attended a class or workshop on something which is completely different from what you do on a daily basis?

Craft stitched into fabric

Let me tell you, it is a fascinating experience. The first thing is the intense concentration involved. Because there was a lot to do and take in, over a short period of 3 hours you just couldn't start thinking about anything else. If you have a grasshopper mind like mine that is novel indeed.

There was tea and cake and a bit of chat and a definite bonding, a – we are all in this together- sort of feeling in the room. What was really nice too was how the one or two pupils who were more experienced, helped the rest when the instructor was occupied – oh, and she was great too. She had the essential quality in a teacher – she didn't make you feel stupid. I'd attended similar workshops but this was my friend's first. Whenever you suggest something like this you are always a bit apprehensive. What if your friend hates the experience and views it as a waste of time and money?

Well, in this case, I certainly didn't need to worry. I was speaking to her today and she has not only found a hobby she is passionate about but already she has been on a business course and has a few firm orders for bags, from friends who admired the one she made in the workshop. It so happened that this has come along in a period of transition in her life. She is moving away from full-time teaching and towards a mentoring role which will be less demanding on her time so is actively looking for a sideline.

I also have another friend who is very experienced at sewing and actually quite gifted, (no wonder I have confidence issues at times, surrounded by such talent!). This friend takes her craft fairs seriously and making and selling bags and a big range of home accessories actually makes up a considerable part of her income. I have listened to her, accompanied her to several craft fairs and I have learned a lot along the way.

This is a definite possibility for many people who are trying to supplement their income. But there are also a few pitfalls. If this is something you are considering, here is my advice:


Do Your Homework

Attend as many craft fairs as you can and if possible strike up conversation with the stallholders. You will probably find that they are helpful rather than hostile at the prospect of competition I have noticed a good community spirit amongst crafters. Also, buy a few craft magazines – there has been an absolute proliferation of these, in recent times; publishing companies obviously spotting this trend. If you like using the internet, there are numerous crafting websites and blogs – some even offering free patterns, (though check carefully, as some specify they don't want their patterns used for commercial purposes). You will definitely get inspired to develop your own ideas though.


What Skills do you Have Already?

It may seem very obvious but have a good look at your own talents. Even think about the skills you once had. Life gets in the way sometimes and though you may have once known how to crochet, for instance, you may not have picked up a hook for years. If you are not sure, just try a few things out. It needn't cost a lot. I have recently made someone a cardigan from an old-fashioned pattern I found at a fair in our village. I think the pattern cost me 10p – vintage on the cheap! You can find cheap odds and ends of wool in charity shops.

This is perfect to experiment on. Those old granny shawls for instance – they are trendy again, draped as throws on sofas and chairs. The secret is in the colour though. Stay away from the typical pastel colours and go for bright and bold. Knitting or crocheting squares is the perfect accompaniment to watching mindless TV. The bonus is that you don't feel you are wasting your time.


Word of Mouth

It is the best form of advertisement in the world, you know – this word of mouth, business. Just like my friend, in fact. Someone saw the craft bag and thought it would be a perfect present for someone else. If you take a few of your craft items into work, you may elicit some interest. Think laterally; you may well work with others who are interested in knitting, crocheting or sewing.


Share Costs

That brings me to the next piece of advice. If you decide to try out a craft fair it can be daunting. Sometimes it can cost as much as 50Euro for a space. There is always the chance that you will be out of pocket. This has happened to my friend in the early stages of her craft-selling. She is, perhaps, exceptional, in that it didn't put her off. Renting a space with a friend is normally a win-win scenario. You are splitting the cost and you will have a more varied display.


Variety

And, guess what? That brings me to my next little tip. Variety is key – no matter how clever or wonderful your product is, don't just rely on one – people, potential customers are drawn to a diverse display.


Display

It isn't just about the quality of your product though, how you display it is also important. My friend uses battery-powered fairly lights, strategically placed amongst her goods. Her husband has made her some small shelves and stands so that she can hang up bags and display brooches and other pieces. The thing to remember is – the learning curve – the more often you do this – the better you will get.

If you are sufficiently enthused to explore this area more closely, check out the Craft Council of Ireland's website at: www.ccoi.ie.