A fair day

This last month has been very head-ful for me. Lots of thoughts about the work I do, which is good, but has a tendency to keep my brain going even when it should be asleep. And quite a bit of preparation for the school fair yesterday. Mostly it was because I decided to take the plunge and have my own stall with my own handmade goods and a little bit of being the volunteer coordinator of the other stalls.

We had the most glorious autumnal weather that just to be outside made you feel good. I love those days. There’s a little warmth in sun but no so much that you want to hide from it, and just a hint of a cooling breeze. The kids have a fine time running around their school out of hours with its familiarity and one off strangeness as parents and family gather to eat, listen, craft and bungy trampoline.

I’ve been thinking for a little while about dipping my toe into the craft market business, mostly as a means of funding my fabric and yarn habit rather than as a serious business proposition. I went with the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ theme of the fair and refashioned garments, made fabric cuffs out of remnant fabric and did up some iron-on transfer sheets. From a trading point of view, it wasn’t successful (I sold two items, but there wasn’t a great deal of buying going on for most of the stalls). I did learn heaps, though.

I got lots of positive comment on the refashioned garments. I can now tell you that one large machine-knit turtle neck jumper can produce a beanie (the turtleneck, with one opening seamed up), leg warmers or toddler’s leggings (the arms, plus some extra fabric from the torso for a rolled waistband), and a size 4 girl’s skirt.  I’d pinned them up on a dividing screen so they were laid out for viewing and it was easy for people to stroll past, pause, get enthusiastic (and then walk on). I had some totes made from vintage fabric or refashioned items – a cotton knit halter neck in an oriental print make a great looking hobo-style bag. Trust me on that because I forgot to take the camera. For the record, a bright orange tote and the leg warmers got sold.

The fabric cuffs and iron-on transfers were directed at the pre-teen demographic. They weren’t things I would plan to do at a craft market since they’re fiddly and pricing needs to stay reasonably low to attract the smaller budgets of the audience. Again, a lot of interest but no sales. My lass, who had invested her own time and energy in making a large sign, and helped out beautifully on the day, wistfully wondered why nobody was buying our things. I was wondering too.

My guesses are that a lack of regular foot traffic meant fewer  (no) sales. The stalls were away from the main action and required a special trip – they weren’t on the way  to anything – so that meant fewer opportunities to wander past and reconsider a purchase. I think this was most true for the older kids who are encouraged to have a small budget to manage on fair day. I also think that the fair is seen by the school community as a time to get together and have a bit of fun. So food and drink were popular, obviously, and especially so since that was arranged around our little ampitheatre while students and a parent/teacher band performed. Grown ups and kids alike were happy to have a go at the lucky number spinning wheel and to get into the few carnival games we had. Craft activities seemed to do well and is particularly popular with the under-6s. And as this year’s external stalls coordinator, I’m very happy to argue that we shouldn’t have any. Or only a couple. The more we focus on helping the kids have fun and their parents relax and join in, the better.

But back to the learning curve. For refashioned garments, I got the most comment on articles that were dissimilar to their original form, such as the toddler’s leggings. That might mean people are more interested in those things that go beyond the ‘I could do that myself’ thought. For new or different items, demonstrate their purpose. It would have been easier for my potential customers if they’d seen a hand mannequin wearing the fabric cuffs or a model t-shirt with an iron-on transfer. For totes and bags, variety and volume may be the go. I didn’t really expect to see the bright orange one go because it was such an individual piece. But someone came along and saw that it fitted her style – with more bags there may have been more customers drawn in to browse. And as ever, good signs and display.

I think I will do a real craft market. But I’ll do it just a few times a year with a more focused product line with more of my particular style in the goods.

And I’ll remember a folding chair. Because standing up for seven hours is not fun, even in glorious autumnal weather.



  1. innercitygarden said,

    May 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I was thinking about it later and I decided that although I like the screen, and seeing things pinned up from a distance, people also like to be able to pick things up, and try them on for size (or hold them up and imagine their kid in them, or whatever). People start to feel like they already own something once they’ve fondled it a bit, which makes them more inclined to buy. And I agree, more stuff! More often!

    • froginthepond said,

      May 4, 2009 at 2:42 pm

      Yes! A very good reminder. Nice to look at, nice to touch.

      Hmm, now that could be taken out of context.

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