Why you should consider setting up a wholesale account for your business


Stay on the crafting trail!

Stay on the crafting trail!

Last week’s blog post was about buying your craft supplies direct from China. We talked a bit about my recent experience doing it as well as the general positives and negatives to getting your supplies via this avenue.

But what if you have a small business (especially those of us who work for ourselves) and buying supplies in small numbers is getting more frequent but also more costly? At what point do you think about switching to buying stock in larger quantities from a wholesaler and setting up a wholesale account?

The answer is multifaceted, but the two main things to ask yourself if you are thinking of doing it is a: do you have an obvious way to sell what you have in stock (website, stall etc) and b: are you comfortable with having to lay out the money for the stuff you want to sell on, while it is in between being sold and not being sold.

In the case of the Studio, we started to carry items that people needed when they were taking their workshop. It just kind of happened in that people would ask me, “do you sell rotary cutters” after I showed them how to cut binding using them, and I kept having to say no. Which got a bit tiresome as they were not readily available in the local area which meant most people had to go on-line. So deciding to take the leap into having stock was dictated by the people that came to the workshops and their needs, as well as having an outlet to sell them in.

So I decided to look into where I could get stock but that raised the next question….where do I find out about wholesalers? I had never really dealt with a wholesaler before and didn’t know what to expect in terms of setting up an account (other than you needed to be a bonified business). And people don’t really tell you who their wholesaler is as they don’t want to give away who they buy from (which is completely understandable but makes it doubly hard!).

There is a listing of wholesalers at The Sewing Directory  – this wasn’t around when I was looking, but that would have been a good place to start. (Having looked at the list when writing this post, the wholesalers I now use aren’t listed but more on that in a minute). I was very lucky in that the people who work for me at the Studio – tutors, sewing machine technicians etc – all gave me great advice on places that they knew of and said they were just what I was looking for. And they were right as I now toggle between three different wholesalers to get what I need based on these recommendations.

Why three? Because I can bounce between the three depending on what I need. As an example, the price difference between them for acrylic rulers is such that I only buy them from the one wholesaler but the cutting mats from another.

But the odd thing is that the ones that I use now I ended up finding out through a variety of sources, but none of them were listing in a directory. I guess like any industry, some companies take the time to market themselves and some don’t. So doing a bit of research may be required as well. If you want to do a bit of research for what is available, my top tips (I have used them all!) would be:

1. Go to trade fairs in your industry. Larger trade fairs (most tend to be based either at the NEC or in London) tend to be a mix of vendors that sell to the trade and trade that sells to the public. The website should list who is attending, with a brief description of what they sell, to help you get your list together of who might be worth meeting if you decide it is worthwhile to go.

2. If you are part of a closed members forum on a Facebook group, the members are normally more open about who they use. That is where I found my first wholesaler (who did eventually go bust but that led on to other wholesalers who were even better!).

3. You can try and just Google what you are looking for -again, there tends to be limited luck on that front but you would be surprised what you can find out!

4. And this one is definitely one that is a bit different but it can work! I was at a haberdashery in York and I noticed they had a delivery arrive, which was being dropped off by the front door and then ferried into the back. I took note of the labels and where they were from ( I guess the really bold could take a photo with their phone), did a Google search when I got home and guess what…I found yet another wholesaler!

So finding a wholesaler can be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes affair but you can find them. I know for me, it allows me to offer another service to those that come to the Studio and one that helps raise my profile.

So if you are thinking about buying from wholesalers – I hope you have found this helpful and there is no harm in doing a bit of research!

Is ordering the cheapest on Ebay always the best option?

I have used Ebay and Amazon since opening the Studio in 2009 as it was a great way to have access to items I needed quickly and usually at a reasonable price.

Since then, most of what I need I now get at my wholesalers (I love my wholesaler!) so I haven’t used Ebay or Amazon for sewing items in ages. The other day, I was holding the second part of our Quiltmaking for Beginners workshop and I was explaining to Jade, who was getting ready to quilt her “sandwich”, about the function of a walking foot (or an even feed foot – same thing just a different name ). Her Singer sewing machine didn’t have one so she was using one of the Studio ones.

Impressed with how easy it made the job, Jade’s next question was “how much are they”? I said I wasn’t sure how much Singer branded ones were as I didn’t have a Singer sewing machine in my armoury. But I got my laptop out and did a quick search and was surprised to see such a wide range of prices. From £28.95 for a Singer branded one to the cheapest I could find was £3.29…what a huge difference!


Is ordering the cheapest on Ebay always the best option? The main difference is that for the inexpensive one you are buying direct from China (you can find this information out when you scroll down through the bottom). You have a very long lead time before it is delivered (14 – 24 days but this is not guaranteed) and then returning it if you were unhappy with it (for any reason) was up to you to pay. The more expensive one was from a UK supplier with clear instructions on how to use it and what to do if you were unhappy with and wanted to return it.

A few weeks before Jade had asked the question about cost, I decided to do my own experiment as I was curious about whether the amount you saved was worth ordering direct from China. So I ordered from Ebay a job lot of invisible zippers and then a separate invisible zipper foot – the cheapest that was listed – fully aware they were coming from China and I wasn’t in a rush. It was more of a “process testing” measure.

The zippers took a little over two weeks to arrive. The quality was a bit on the flimsy side and had I seen them beforehand (in the flesh so to speak) I probably wouldn’t have bought them. The actual zipper itself looked okay – it was the fabric on either side that was really cheap.

The invisible zipper foot took three weeks to arrive. It looked no different than then more expensive ones that I have seen and will be put to the test later on this week when I have a go inserting the zippers with the foot. But my initial thoughts are that it was worth ordering it and the subsequent wait.

So in theory – the split on whether you should order from China direct is 50/50. But that is about what the average is when I speak to folks who have tried this at the Studio – some things are worth it and some are not. The real problem is that you don’t really know which ones are worth it and which ones aren’t.


I doubt very much that most people would take the time to return the items as you have to pay to have them shipped back to China and if you really want to ensure they arrive, then you would pay to have it tracked….costing between £6 and £7 for the cheapest options for this very small zipper foot.

Let’s be honest, you would be hard pressed to spend more on the postage than you did on the item.

So for me, I am very happy to stick with my wholesaler to get my items for the Studio. I spend half a day a month there getting stock. They give me cups of coffee on tap to help me whizz up and down the aisle, they answer my questions about just about everything, never rolling an eye when I am sure it is a bit of a silly question, they carry my stuff out to the car (telling me where I should and shouldn’t park if I want to avoid a ticket) and if I want to return it, no problem.

So what about you? Have you ordered direct from China and if so, what was your experience?

How to get your crafting project published



Getting your crafting project published in a magazine (either in print or on-line) isn’t as difficult as it may seem. These magazines rely on people contributing to their content – the key it is to find the right magazine for your craft project, find the person to contact within the organisation and know why what you do is a good fit.

The first article I ever wrote was for Sewing World magazine. It was a “snapshot” article on sewing trends in America. I was going back to America for the summer and I noticed that when I told people about this at the Studio, they would often ask me questions about what the fabric stores were like, what the trends were etc. So I thought it would be of interest to a wider audience and set about finding a few magazines to contact and see if they were interested. Now I have to put my hand up and say at this point I HAD NO IDEA what I was doing so just decided to give it a whirl. But sometimes that is the BEST attitude to have as you don’t get bogged down with negative mind chatter.

I then went to WH Smiths and had a thumb through the magazines in the crafting and sewing section. I picked out three that looked like my proposed article might be a good fit – you do have to really look through what the editorial style is for each magazine to make sure what you want to submit for a project would be of interest. I took my IPhone and snapped images of the masthead- this is where you can get the name of the best person to send your idea to (it often has a title called Editorial). This was to make it easier for me to find the right person, but you could also scan the internet (I have started to use LinkedIn for this) and find the information as well. I just wanted an excuse to sit and read magazines for work (and now you have one too!)

I went home, draft a proposal for my article including why I thought it was a good fit and offered to write a sample so that they could see that I was a reasonable writer. The first magazine I emailed was Sewing World magazine and to my utter surprise, I was emailed back later in the day by the editor saying that she thought it was a lovely idea and could we talk. So a few emails back and forth about length, date needed for publication and photo requirements, the amount they would pay me and well – that we pretty much it!

I had about four months until the article needed to be sent to the SW editorial team. I decided that I wanted to use this time to make sure that my writing style was similar to the magazines so I bought a few magazines and really picked apart the various articles. I also looked at the quality of the photos to see what level I was expected to submit.

So that was how I did it and you can too. Why would you want to do it? You won’t get rich, so I wouldn’t look at it as a way to earn extra money on a huge level. But it does add to your credibility within your industry. In this day and age where everything you do is part of a digital footprint, it can help with your SEO if the magazine prints it in electronic format too.

So which magazine would you write for and why?

Creating a homemade Christmas starts in September



I really hate gratuitous Christmas marketing bumph – especially in September.

I mean, come on, I only just sent out my last blog post about Autumn and now I am talking to you about a homemade Christmas?

But I made a note last year in my Evernote file for September 2015 labelled “pull your finger out re Christmas prep”.  l laughed at that label as I remember writing it. It was a few weeks before Christmas and I was intent on making something homemade for those that I knew would appreciate it.

I realised that really, I should have started way back in September when I could spread out the projects and didn’t find myself sitting up many a late night, making an item, while feeling stressed and strung out as I only had two weeks until the big C.

For example (and yes, I am following my own advice as we speak), jams and homemade liquors are best made now. Jams (because the fruit is in season so cheap/easy to find) and flavoured liquors (my favourite – damson gin) tend to be best when sitting for three months, with the occasional turning during this period, so that can be made now as well.

Other homemade foods – like baked Christmas cookies – can be baked and frozen up for around 2 months before giving them away. So they are a good October project.

And last week on the Studio Facebook page, I posted about how simple it is to make fabric napkins as a gift. If you are really clever, that could be your November make.

You still have tons of time to learn how to sew, crochet, make beautiful bags etc as we have all these workshops (and more!) on our schedule – why not have a look?

Do you have any favourite tips for making homemade gifts? Do you have a project that is your “go to” holiday make?

PS – Be on the lookout for our quilted cushion project that will be featured on the Sewing Directory website in the next week or so – it is a great beginner quilting project!

The one crafting gadget that has folks at the Studio completely transfixed!

We love to share new and/or useful tips and tricks to anyone that comes to the Studio. That is our special sauce – sharing the love!

And the one thing that I use in virtually every workshop that continually wows people is…..


The Frixion pen!

My Mom told me about it quite a while ago (of course, in good daughterly fashion, I didn’t listen) and then Anne, who teaches our soft furnishings workshops, also told me about it. So I decided to get a few in and have a go.

So what exactly does the pen do? Well – you write on your fabric with it (transferring markings from a pattern piece) and when you want to lift the ink off the fabric, just use a hot iron on the ink and wallah – ink be gone!

As you may have gathered from the name, the Frixion pen has been created for paper as it has a nub on the end of it that you use to rub out mistakes – the friction (my spell check is in meltdown at the moment) from the rubbing makes the ink disappear. But by applying heat – which also creates a different not-so-obvious kind of friction – the ink is lifted too.

Once you get past the “oops, shouldn’t really be writing on my fabric” feeling, it is addictively fun to use.

Have a go and let me know how you get on!

What to do if you lose steam with your social media updates?



I had this post on the Studio Facebook page earlier this month and I thought I would share it with you but also include my remedy to the Weymss School of Needlecraft’s malady!

I know how hard it is to find time to post your social media updates – especially if you are new to it and it is probably more of a chore than a joy. But you should include it in your daily routine the same way you make sure you have enough change for your til or that you have remembered to flip the “open” sign over on the door.

It is all about creating a habit. One that will benefit your business immensely if you start it.

So if you have lost steam and need to start again, it is a great time to start. Summer is a bit slower for retailers – holidays and the sun have the effect on the high street – so why not use that downtime to start the ball rolling? Here are a few very do-able habits you can start with:

1. Commit to doing updates twice a week – say Wednesday and Saturday – and PUT IT IN YOUR DIARY for a specific time on these days. You are more likely to do it this way than “waiting for the right moment”.

2. Don’t let what you update about be the thing that stops you from updating! Everyone thinks they have to write about BIG things that happen but really – it is the small life things that connect with your people. So did you make a great meal on Friday that you think others would like to know about – post it! Did you sell something that a customer raved about – let people know.

3. Let someone else do the hard work for you and repost something that you saw and think that people might like to see. I wouldn’t do this for every post as for SEO reasons it isn’t great but if it kickstarts your habit – it is a good place to start.

4. Include a photo with it if you can as people LOVE photos and are more likely to check out what you have posted if you include a photo. And if really want to ensure that people look it the image – having an animal in it amps up the open rate. Yes – pets have that power.

And if you really want to make your life easy, learn how to use HootSuite – it is free and makes the job of getting updates out of your head and in to a diary much easier!

I hope that gives you a bit of direction without giving you that tight chested feeling that people can get when you talk about social media.

So will you do it? What would help you with your social media journey?



My attempt to make a pencil skirt from knit fabric in 20 minutes

My brain has been so busy with preparing and giving talks that after my last one, which I gave earlier this week for the CHA-UK, I realised I hadn’t sewn or made anything in ages. As I am a maker first and foremost, that ain’t good.

I have to be honest and say that NOT making things isn’t always due to my other commitments – family, work etc. Sometimes it is just because I can’t kick my ass in gear to get going.  I guess I am just like every other crafter out there – getting everything out and ready can be the biggest obstacle.


But as this project only had 3 items needed to complete it, I had no excuse!

So with the weather having changed to tropical this week (yay summer!),  I decided to have a go at this tutorial for a 20 minute pencil skirt, made in knit fabric.


I had bought the fabric that I eventually used for this project ages ago from America and was having analysis paralysis with what to do with it – would it be a kimono? A tunic top? A dress? Each time I picked it up I couldn’t make a decision and put it back again.  But the knit pencil skirt pattern caught my eye and the 20 minute claim was a bonus. I have also followed Danamadeit for ages and know she has clear instructions which always fills you with unbridled confidence.

So – did I finish the skirt in 20 minutes? Very close!  More like 30 but I then had to alter the waist as when I tried it on, it was too big.  Altering it probably took another 10.

Why did the waist not fit? The instructions were really clear so I don’t think that was the problem – I am wondering if it is the elastic I used as it didn’t really stretch..



I have sewn with elastic before so that wasn’t the problem – but I think I just didn’t pull it enough when I was putting it on. As you can see from the image of my waistband…it was too gappy.

So I took an inch off each side and it was better…I will wear it around for a day to see if I need to take more off.

I also didn’t finish the bottom as I liked the fact that stretchy fabric can go unfinished (it just tends to roll) and it looks fine. I am trying to achieve the “way too relaxed to worry about the hem” look. I think I might shorten it as it’s that weird “is it too long or is it just me” length.


Final words? If you have been thinking of trying to sew with knit – this is a great starter project. The instructions call for 2 yards of fabric but I didn’t really need that much – more like 1 1/2.

The only downside for me is that I really struggle to find good quality stretch fabric at our local shops (and I tend to be from the school of I like to see it before I buy it). I usually wait until I go back to the States and see what I can find. I have noticed the trend over there is to make stretch versions of the cotton crafting weight cotton so you do really get more to choose from.

So are you inspired to try sewing with knit fabric?  

Or just to have a go at making a skirt with no pattern to work from? 

Tell me if you do as I would love to see what your skirt looks like!


PS – If the idea of making your own skirt with a bit more tutelage is up your street, we have added our A-Line Skirt workshop. It is a great way to make a skirt that has lining, pockets and an invisible zipper! Check out our webpage with all the details!




How to find your voice on social media


If you have been busy following our Facebook and Twitter feeds, you will have seen that last week was the grand finale of my three talks for Coats on using social media in a small business setting – which took place at the stunning Edinburgh Castle. I spoke about how important it is to find your “voice” when you start on your social media journey. You and what you have to offer within the context of your business is something that only you can express – this is your voice.

I think that people struggle with this concept more than I realised. One of the participants, Janet, came up to me afterwards and said, “I know how important it is to find a voice but I just don’t think we have anything interesting to say”.

I promise you, everyone has something interesting to say – unearthing it can be the hard part.

So I began chatting to Janet, who owns a shop called Jinty and Baa on the edges of Loch Lomond, and as the conversation moved from topic to topic, she said that she (and her mother) opened the shop after the death of her father a little over a year ago. His death was what had spurred them on to have their shop.

I looked at Janet and said, “there your voice is…why not tell folks about that? ”

Sometimes you just have to look a bit harder to see what you can talk about.

And yes – it is that simple.

So if you are trying to craft your words to sound uniquely yours, start with a story that is well….uniquely yours. It is far easier to find your voice when what you talk about is something that you feel passionate about.

Right – I am staring down the barrel of another busy week because I am talking to the folks at the CHA -UK One Big Show International Conference on Sunday and Monday about you guessed it….social media!

So I shall leave you with some great links and some lovely photos to look at.


PS – The Autumn schedule is now up…well the bulk of it is. So for those of you that want to have something to do once the summer months have passed, why not have a look? We will be adding two new workshops over the coming weeks – making an A Line skirt (with lining and adding pockets) and a whole new twist on how to design and construct your own quilt using strips, tubes and colour.

My Father’s Day story that may make you cry

Black and white before it was cool to be black and white!

Black and white before it was cool to be black and white!

As some of you who follow my blog might know, I tend to go back to Vermont most summers. To wind down, reboot and recharge.

But it also a chance for me to spend much needed time with my family. Last time I was there, my Dad and I were talking about regrets and my Dad said “I wish I had spent more time with you when you were growing up.”.

I crinkled my forehead and said  “what? Dad – you were always around! ” .

I grew up on a small farm in very rural Vermont. And in my memory of my time there, my Dad seemed to always be there…on a tractor waving as he went by the kitchen window (the suspension on the tractor was a bit suspect so he sometimes looked like he was bobbing by the window), getting us to help out with the harvest when time pressed down on mother nature, making sure we took time to be involved with our garden – usually after dinner when it was cool enough to weed without the sun beating down on our backs.

However, my most abiding memory is of my Dad throwing softball with me after dinner.

I played softball for years – starting when I was probably about 7 – playing on a boys team at first as there weren’t enough girls for a separate team (I blame the early introduction to this exclusively male environment for my ability to swear like a trooper).

And I guess as a way to help me get as much of a leg up as possible, my Dad started to take me out after dinner for a couple of ball tosses, in our back yard alongside our beautiful wooden barn. In the Spring months, when my accuracy wasn’t very good as my muscles weren’t as developed, the barn lost a few windows.  They were always magically replaced and the tosses continued. As the years went by, I got stronger and (thankfully for the windows) my aim became laser sharp.

When I moved up to the high school, there was a proper program for the women’s league so I moved on to play with the women. It was tough at times –  we had a coach who taught me that hard work (and no bullshit) was the only way to ensure success. But my Dad and I continued on with our “want to go for a toss?” most evenings as it was a great way to wind down.

Graduation came at the end of my final softball season and then the usual fanfares of youth. At graduation, I was both surprised and touched to have been awarded the female athlete of the year. When I was presented with the award – the coach (the same one who busted my ass on the field every night and had me stay behind so he could fire rockets at me to catch) presented me with the award and said

You weren’t the best athlete but you were the most tenacious”.

I’ll take that.

I like to think that I am still tenacious today. And I put that tenacity down to all those after dinner sessions with my Dad.

So when I asked my Dad about regrets and said he wished he had been there more for us kids, I told him this story. I hope he understood that what he wanted was already there  –  no regrets required. He was (and still is) there for me and there is no need to feel the need to rewrite history.

And that I know right now, as he reads this, tears are starting to form around his soft blue eyes because he hopefully, knows it is true.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!





So what is it really like to own a fabric and wool shop?


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Have you thought about opening your own craft shop?

Have you thought about opening your own craft shop?

Hello readers!

I have just returned from my second speaking gig on behalf of Coats Crafts UK at the stunning Newbury Race Course (on a completely different aside – I drove there from Wantage in Oxfordshire and took the B4494 road to Newbury – absolutely take-your-breath-away beautiful). The talk was pretty much the focussed on the same topic – finding (and flexing!) your social media muscle.  I even added a bit about my journey as a marketer – as both a marketing professional and as the marketing person for the Studio. It has been an interesting journey between these two completely different job titles that is for sure!

But I really wanted to chat to the retailers who were there to find out what it is like when you decide to go from being a shop owner wannabe to someone that carries a much bigger share of responsibility (and exposure!) by taking up space as a shop owner. The conversations were so interesting that I thought I would share with you parts of the discussion that were worth passing along.

Look really close and you can see the crystals winking at you!

Look really close and you can see the crystals winking at you!

There was a range of shops that were there – from long established (often family owned) businesses to one that was celebrating her shop’s one year anniversary on the day of the event.  It was obvious from talking to many of them that the internet has posed both opportunities as well as threats to their businesses but that those who were up for the challenge were fighting back…and gaining ground.  As much as some of the people there might not like to have heard it – the key to it is engaging with social media and knowing what is working when you are doing it and when to change gears.


Socks. socks and more socks!

Socks. socks and more socks!


During the Q and A sessions (which I love to have people ask me questions!) there was a lovely older gentleman that raised his hand and proudly told us about how his shop had used Facebook ads successfully (again, music to my ears!) and also was working with Mailchimp to get their mailing list up and running (I have said that a good mailing list is as important as your social media presence). You could see he wanted to tell other shops that if he could do it – so could they!

My favourite story had to be from Jenna Clements of Exeter Sewing Machines who was sat in the front of the room and enthusiastically nodded her head as I was giving my talk. She also said that for her business, they have someone employed to help them keep up with the social media updates and that this pays for itself in so many ways. She even shared a tweet that they posted during the last Sewing Bee which was retweeted by none other than Patrick Grant himself (she said it was one of only two tweets that he retweeted that entire day – imagine how many people got to see it!). 

Yes - Twitters means you can even have make contact with Patrick Grant if you wear a moustache!

Yes – Twitter means you can even make contact with Patrick Grant if you wear a moustache!

But the most touching thing that Jenna told me was what about the activity on her table of other shop owners:

“It was lovely to see people on my table who clearly had little confidence with social media frantically writing notes during your talk. One man even wrote down “it is never to late to start!” 

That “it is never too late to start” was one of the last slides I presented. I can completely understand how daunting it must be if you feel that everyone is doing it and you are only starting – which is why I included that slide.

It isn’t too late – just get started.

When I have done my last talk (in Edinburgh next month) I will take the talk and convert it into a slide presentation for all you folks as I would like to have it available for everyone to use.

Always happy to spread the good news on social media and again thanks to the fantastic folks at Coats Crafts for giving me the opportunity to talk about this important tool for small businesses.