Wednesday, 17 June 2009

All Over, Red Rover

I've told a few people privately, but here's the public announcement. I'm winding up Waggle-Wee Kids. It's not going to happen immediately, (because I have the site paid for for a while!) but I'm going to start sales or start using some of the stock myself (yes, my daughter needs some new nappies). And there are some things like ProCare and bamboo velour that I will continue to supply - they're hard to get, but don't take me effort to make up and have as stock.

So what I wanted to talk about here are some of my reasons.

The main one comes down to moving on. I started designing nappies for a reason, I couldn't get ones to fit my first daughter. I enjoyed developing the new side-snap design, but when I came to time to test it and start producing it the fun wasn't there. My little one is toilet aware, we won't be using nappies for more than another year or so, so my interests have moved on and I want to sew things for my girls.

Which is where we come to the second reason, time. There are lots of different elements that go into running a business of this type, I can identify at least four.

  • Stock production - yes, it takes a long time to sew a nappy. And if you don't produce your own you have your own set of problems - finding suppliers, ordering stock, keeping track of levels, differentiating yourself from your competitors, ...
  • Packaging and posting - It doesn't sound like much, but it does take time to pull an order together, check it all and send it out.
  • Store maintenance - again, this actually takes a long time. To photograph your stock, clip, crop and otherwise pretty-up the pictures, to load them, to write the descriptions, if you have 20 different products to put up you're looking at hours of work.
  • Marketing and advertising - I know these are two different things, but for a one-WAHM show they can be treated together. In a business driven by word of mouth it means time to get on the forums and talk to people, not just market to them. It means time to find the different places you should be advertising, because surprise, surprise, websites don't find you, you have to go out and find them. Of course you could pay someone to do your marketing for you, but then you need to ask yourself some hard questions about what you are getting out of the business and where you are going with it. (In short, have a business plan, which you should have anyway.)

So my position at the moment is I don't have the time to do all four, and I don't want to take it to the level of outsourcing. So better to take my time and wind it down now, so I can use that time to do things I enjoy more, like playing with the new sewing pattern program I just bought.

I do have another project I'm very excited about, but I'll post about that later. I thought about it and I will be continuing this blog about my new journey.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


I'm writing this instead of sewing, and I really do have an order to put together. Probably a good reason to be transitioning to a writing based business!

I'm fairly new to Twitter, so I'm definitely not writing this as a guru or to tell people how to use it to make lots of money. In fact in one way it could be considered a bit of an experiment - to see how many new followers pop up once I tweet it and what sort they are, and to compare it to my stat counter to see how many actually come and read this post.

For those who don't know about Twitter, it's a form of 'micro-blogging' that is only allowed to be 140 characters, designed to be done from a mobile phone. I noticed it with a lovely lady called WAHMBizbuilder, the first person I started following (by the way, I'm WaggleWee). I use something called 'Tweetdeck' but I've heard good things about Seesmic too. I have it open on my laptop and it continually checks for my twitter and facebook updates, so I don't have to visit different sites. I much prefer Twitter, I find all the things about 'Sarah-Joh Flossen scored 2,414,235,213,452,245 on Bubble Hex Stratis' on Facebook annoying. Anyway, you follow people to see their updates, and people follow you to see yours. I find it brilliant as a WAHM - 140 characters is about what I can fit in between the kids, it's a gentle form of advertising that fits my budget, plus it's nice to feel you have someone to talk to!

There are lots of different ways to use Twitter, with some people I've known around for a while I use it to message and chat. I tweet my blogs, just to let people know that I've written something new and they have the choice to read or not. Other times it's pure advertising - most of my followers are in the same sorts of businesses and we all have young children, so they're interested in my business and I'm interested in theirs. It's not spam, because I'm choosing to receive it, but personally I find it a bit boring if all someone is churning out is advertising - it's social networking, so there should be some chat as well. RhodesTer has a good analogy that it's like a party, you can network but if you don't chat a bit people will find someone else to talk to. But there are also people who are searching the network to get as many followers as they can, then basically posting constant advertisements. There are even programmes that will find thousands of people for you to follow by some sort of keyword search, I assume in the hopes that some of them will be polite and follow you back so you can get paid when they click on your links. This is where it gets interesting.

Last night I wrote a blog on Family-ing called Money, Money, Money - Wealth and tweeted it. Today I've had all sorts of people suddenly start following me, many of them finance type people rather than Mums. Which is great, I've had a look at them and some I've chosen to follow, some I've left, a couple I've blocked. Why the different responses? Firstly, I know from stat-counter a bit about the people who are visiting my blogs, so I have at least some idea if these people have looked at it or if they've just seen the title. But what it really comes down to is their Twitter home page. Some of them are posting interesting links, tips and ideas, and I'm more than happy to have my brain nudged several times a day and hopefully give out a few nudges in return. Some of them don't seem to have much that I'm interested in, but they look like nice people so I'm happy for them to follow me. Some of them are just in a competition to get the most followers, with tweets like:

"Woohoo! 16,000 followers already. This program rocks!"


"I'm aiming to get 20,000 followers in 60 days, will you be one of

Let me think about that. No.

I actually find it quite insulting. Can you really be interested in what 16,000 people have to say? Can you even read that many tweets? (It's one every 5.4 seconds even if we all tweet just once a day.) Or do you just want to use me to make money? Oh, and the lady who joined Twitter 18 minutes before she started following me, her first tweet was thanking someone for helping her set it up (it's so difficult to choose a username and password) and has "Twitter expert" as part of her profile? What do you think? If she hasn't even bothered to read her own profile I don't think she'll read mine that carefully. (I'm guessing she actually has more than one account, which begs the question of what she does with the others.)

It's an interesting challenge for the network at large - at what point will we all drown in the guff? My hope is that if those of us who want to connect and talk to other people keep blocking them, they'll end up fenced off in their own little world. All tweeting to each other, and never realising it because they never read the rubbish coming in. Then the rest of us can ignore them and continue the party.

I have a little prediction to make, mentioned above. I'm going to tweet this post, with some label like "Twitter, followers and spam." So I predict I get a whole heap of new followers tomorrow, mostly of the "Twitter expert" variety. Some will have good links and tips, and I'll follow them because I'd like to learn how to get the most out of this new medium. Several will be blocked. I wonder how many will actually show up here and read this?

ETA - seem to have the first one already!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Newborn Outfit

Finally got the little outfit done for one of my friend's new baby. She is actually about 9 weeks now! They grow so quickly! No photos on because she's going away, but she got a one-size side-snap minkee pocket in gorgeous Raspberry Slush Benartex Minkee, I think this one is my favourite colour.

Then I made a little minkee pinafore. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get newborn measurements? Most of what I could find was for knitting, or it gave a length and a weight. How is 9lb supposed to tell me how big to make the armholes???

Anyway, the dress is very simple, it snaps at one side and has a button on one shoulder so you can slide the baby in rather than trying to get it over their head. Then you tie the ribbons at the front or back, voila!

She's a lot bigger than the doll, but you get the idea.

I tried several different ways of finishing the minkee, which was very painful. If you've ever sewn a fabric with a pile you'll know, firstly it's very thick, but then it moves around. You aren't putting fabric to fabric, but the little hairs can bend and move, so it's very hard to line up and pin. I didn't bother with hemming - far too thick. I thought of facing but wanted something simple and given how long it had already taken me, quick! I really wanted some satin binding, but couldn't get any here - remember I'm in the middle of nowhere :) I then made a binding out of some lovely soft fabric I have here, but it was way too hard on all the tiny little curves. Satin stitching just didn't look good, it stretched the fabric (which would have been nice on the hem) and the pile showed through. I know there is a product you can get to stop that, but middle of nowhere again. In the end I did a line of decorative stitching a little back from the edges, minkee doesn't fray so it is just for looks. I'd still like to work out a better way, (maybe this is my excuse to buy a binding foot) but I think the gorgeous fabric speaks for itself.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I think I'm in love.

Well, there was a radical change in direction, and I'm in love with the currently final side snap nappy pattern. It'll probably change a bit more with more testers, but this version fits both my 1 year old and 3 1/2 year old, and I happen to know a couple of newborn clothy bums who are getting presents. Hopefully they will be ready by Friday.


1 year old

3 1/2 year old. I'm quite lucky because she toilet trained almost 2 years ago, but she thinks trying on nappies for me is a cool game :)

While going through I discovered another version that missed the photo call, so that's what, 15 distinctly different patterns I've trialled. There were three radical changes such as changing from front to back pocket opening, changing how the wings go, and the final version which is fully topstitched. Then all the other versions were fiddling with the wings, crotch and spacing of the snaps. Plus the decision that they'll all be mostly minkee to side step the wicking issue, plus I like minkee!

I have no idea how this compares with other people's design process. There are some who I think have possibly done a lot more versions, and some I'm pretty sure have done a lot less. It depends on what your design requirements are and how many times you change your mind!

Now I just need to practice practice practice sewing them, and get them tested by a wider audience.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Side Snap Odyssey 2

Back to designing, which I left here. After using them a bit I realised the snaps needed more support, so this was my chance to do some topstitching, which is the look I prefer anyway. So:

7. With topstitching around wings.

8. Changing the back and wings, and using some minkee :)
9. More wing changes.
10. And more changes.
11. More minkee
12. This is pretty close to a working design.
13. So I did another one to the same pattern but only in minkee, and discovered the wings are extremely difficult to sew in a napped fabric rather than cotton.
It almost sounds like I'm there. Unfortunately the legs just aren't working. I never had this problem with Widget, but Midget keeps getting wet around the legs even with non-wicking fabrics. And if she does, other babies will as well. So while I really like the way I do the legs and think it makes a nice feature out of the inner, I'm going to have to change it. I'm currently sewing one which is topstitched all the way around to keep the inner in and the outer out, and will continue the saga when that's been tested a bit.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Side Snap Odyssey Part 1

I thought this might be interesting for anyone who is thinking about designing something to sell. This won't necessarily translate into other areas, but it will give you an idea of the fiddling that is required. Or that is required if you are picky and change your mind a lot.

One of the things you have to identify is your point of difference - what is it that will make people want to buy your product? This doesn't have to be a feature of the design, it might be your availability, your price, your service, or something else. For me, I only got into nappy making in the quest to find something to suit my girls, so the design is paramount. We generally only wear nappies and a t-shirt, so I'm after a particular look that to me is cute.

To fit my girls' thighs it has to be side snap. I can't stand the idea of them growing out of a nappy rather than wearing it out so it has to be a one-size (OSFM, I hate the OSFA label with a passion). I like a nice little triangle bum shape, a trim fit and cute fabrics.

Bear in mind these are all 'working' nappies, they are a bit worn for nice pictures! Plus I trial sewing techniques as well as patterns, so some of them are funny shapes because I've tried out a different way of putting it together.

First attempt, too wide in the crotch, short in the rise, generally too small.
2. Pretty frill effect on the legs, trying out the fabric, didn't wear well at all.

3. Crotch much trimmer, still a bit short but very useable. Still trying to get the pocket opening easier to sew, I keep ending up with a raw edge.

4. Christmas nappy. Nice shape but a bit baggy, each wing is a different snap width to compare them. I quite often do that on experiments - make each side different so I can see which one works better. There was a fairly large break in here while I trialled them and decided whether to continue.

5. I love this fabric. Settling into a design I like, but I don't like the way the wings are pulling.

6. The front runner at the time. There was a lot of fiddling with the front wings to try to get one large enough, this is the first that comfortably fit my eldest, now 3 1/2.

At this point I didn't do any more sewing for about 3 weeks to give all of them a workout. There are many more to come!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Survey Part II

Wow a long time between posts, but it will all be busy now. I've been distracted by a very ill family member so the business has been on the back burner.

A wrap up of some of the individual comments and suggestions from the survey.

There is a strong feeling that people buy two sorts of nappies - the plain, go with anything, go anywhere, serviceable nappies, then the splash out, wild, funky, embellished ones.

Labels are important. Not only for reliability, but there is a whole positive feedback cycle happening, where for resale only certain brands go well, so they get double the exposure, so they are more popular, so they get more word of mouth, and it goes on. I'm not going to get into why they got big in the first place, I assume they're good nappies and deserve it, I'm just saying my survey shows that feedback loop is very, very strong.

Some of the other suggestions - I'm definitely working on the store layout, this one was a bit rushed to get ready for the GDUNH, when I start selling side snaps it will definitely be a bit re-organised. I also have ideas for a boys section to match the girly things, unfortunately it has been put on hold while travelling and getting the new pattern up and running. Now testing takes a while, so while that is happening hopefully I will get some of the other ideas made.

There were some great suggestions, combined with people's preferences I'm going to start heading towards more fancy and embellished nappies. I've tried being middle of the road because that's the sort I like, but that seems to be the smallest market segment. There'll still be some there, but I have a huge minkee order coming from a co-op and it's a good excuse to do some of the embellishment that I enjoy.

An interesting idea was to do an AIO/2. I've thought about it with my snappi pattern, but it wouldn't work the way I want it to so I didn't go into it. But with the side snap pattern I think it would work, that might be somewhere to go in the future.