Saturday, 15 December 2007

Taking a break

Just for Christmas lol!

It seems like a good time to reflect now I've been open four and a half months.

To answer my original question, I think I should have remained a SAHM with a hobby. Not that I intend to shut down or anything, just there are things I miss and a lot of pressure I don't necessarily need.

I've just sewn a little sleep doll and discovery bag for my nephew (hmm, hope my sister doesn't read this until after Christmas) and am working on a really nice top for myself and it made me realise I haven't sewn anything for myself or DD since I opened. I've had a wonderful time with the top especially because I know exactly what I want and I've made it up from a completely different pattern, making a toile and fiddling around with that to modify it. It's that sort of creative design that I really enjoy, not just following a routine.

It would be nice to have the time to be sewing DD little dresses and making doll's clothes, she's just getting to the age where she doesn't grow out of things every 5 minutes and is starting to be able to dress and undress dolls. I've also had a ball making up a newborn nappy for someone else, that was the sort of problem that got me interested in designing my own nappies in the first place.

On the business side I think I've actually done pretty well. Thanks to a couple of large orders I'm way ahead of where I expected to be, I'm almost halfway to my break even point a lot quicker than I expected. Of course I keep spending more money too! I've got some decisions to make over the Christmas break about which bits to continue and whether to expand some areas. It's nice to have had enough turnover to start filling in some of the gaps in my business plans.

One of the things I need to do is look at how I'm going to get some more of the creativity I enjoy into it.
  • I've been really enjoying appliqueing and doing extra bits on some of the nappies, and they are pretty much a boutique product anyway, so I'll be doing more of that with little frills and furbelows.
  • I like doing the T-shirts as well, so I think I'll be pushing those.
  • I've been asked about fitted nappies, and given that I'm pregnant and now live somewhere they will actually dry I want to experiment with those and with small/newborn nappies.
  • I still have a half made sundress sitting on my sewing desk, because DD completely refused to try it on. I'll have to finish that and see if they are viable, as well as the two half made sunhats.

Looking at the list, part of the trick is going to be getting far enough ahead on the basic nappies that I can do some of the fun stuff as well.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Customs vs In Stocks

From a producer's point of view, definitely in stocks.

I used to prefer them as a customer as well, the only two times I ordered a custom it took a ridiculously long time to arrive. One there were various reasons and some communication, the other just didn't turn up for over a month, and as it was my first MCN I didn't know that wasn't normal.

Having said that, there is something special about choosing everything exactly the way you want it, and since I've been open I've been asked for customs a surprising number of times. It's not that people want different fabrics, they want a slightly different product. Which is fine, as a new store I want to know what people are after, rather than telling them what they should be interested in!

But in stocks are definitely so much less pressure. If I don't get the current ones done as quickly as I want, I'm the only one affected. If DH has a super busy time at work so I miss out on some of my sewing time, it doesn't hold anyone else up. I've just experienced this with a custom order, firstly I'd never done anything that big before and completely underestimated how long it was going to take. Then on top of that it coincided with DH having to result Year 11 and 12s, do reports, presentation night, school formal, and a trip to town for our ultrasound (Yay!). But it's finally done and sent off, so that's a relief.

In stocks are also more fun for the same reason customs are more fun for customers - I get to choose them all! It's quite a shock having someone else telling me what to sew! Although this time was good, she just chose the outers and I got to do everything else, so here we have 23 nappies that are all different combinations. That's quite an impressive stash.

(BTW, this is just like being at Uni still. I always got the most nervous after submitting an assignment, sending off orders is definitely the most nerve wracking time. I know they've been tested, I know the nappies work, but there's always this niggling doubt that something went wrong this time.)

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Snap sockets, 6 x 2cm start from back

You know when there is something you consider really minor, how it always seems to end up being huge?

The title is the line in my nappy sewing instructions for putting the snaps on the outer. I use sockets there so they are flatter, there are two lines of 6 snaps 2cm apart on either side of the front tab, and it is important to start measuring from the back of the tab. This is in there because I have done it from the front occasionally, if you've been reading this blog for a while you may remember the tester disaster when I did them all wrong. Actually the pattern has changed since then and it is not as important, but I still make sure I check.

Anyway, to me this is a fairly minor part of making the nappy, in my head it doesn't rank up there with sewing the leg elastic in, for example. But I've just spent several hours snapping away. I have to stand, because of the bench height, and it is really rough on your hands. And it's really, really boring, although my daughter did watch a DVD while I was doing it this morning, and I have sort of learnt to read while doing it.

No other point to this post, I just need a break and there are no emails to read!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Some Practicalities of WAHMing

Ok, I thought it was time for some more cute photos, and they don't come much cuter than my little girl.

So, the practicalities of WAHMing. Basically you have 4 options.

  • Daycare or baby sitting, which pretty much defeats the purpose, although some people find a day a week is good. It would also make a difference if you have grandparents around who would love to have them.

  • Somehow have an incredibly independent child who lets you work ALL ON YOUR OWN. Personally I'm still waiting to have a shower or go to the toilet on my own. I must say DD is getting a lot more independent and will wander off to play by herself, but I don't get much done in 10 minutes here and there. There is also the option that some kids can do their own thing down one end of the table while you work at the other, but whatever I'm doing is usually much more interesting.

  • Work only when they are asleep or your partner is there to look after them. I do have the most fantastic husband, he loves taking DD in the morning and letting me sleep in, and he puts her to bed at night so I get to start some work at a decent hour. Her naps are also settling down, I can usually count on almost an hour's work, although whether I feel like it at that time of day is more problematical. Hmmm, maybe half an hour. Actually, after I check emails and the forums more like, oh, it's not worth it for that time, I'll just keep looking at this.

  • Find some way to include them. Getting DD to hold things down while I am cutting is starting to work, although every now and then she feels the need to yank them instead. Painting is much more successful.

Here she is painting the terry tabs that go on my nappies for the snappis to attach to. It is so gorgeous, she carefully straightens them and helps lay them out, then hands me the pins. She tries to pin too, but the little fingers aren't strong enough. Then here I've set her up with all the ones that need to be blue. I chose to go with a paint rather than dye because it is non-toxic and washable, and you can thin it with straight water.

In the background are all the other colours I set up and painted very quickly! And no need to clean up afterwards, I just put the paints away then kept giving her More! More! water and she basically cleaned the containers and brushes. Of course then it dripped all over her and she was Cold! Cold!

Then after we dried and washed them she pegged them all up on her own little clothesline. I should have got a photo of that too, she loves having her own line and always helps hang out the washing. The problem is convincing her to let it dry before bringing it in.

Oh, why is she naked? She's a toddler and it's paint! Why do you think she's naked? (It is high 30s here.)

Monday, 29 October 2007

What a difference a day or two makes.

I was going to post a couple of days ago, and while it wouldn't have been negative it would have been a bit blah. While I'm officially over the gastro I'm feeling a bit off, and first trimester exhaustion is still a big factor (Yay! I'm pregnant! and I've remembered to tell all my family so I can post it here now!). I've had to accept that I won't just get over it with time, at some stage I'm actually going to have to sleep :) Then DH took DD over the weekend so I could catch up, which was wonderful, but I wanted to go swimming with them :( To be honest, I just kept thinking of all the things I could be doing if I didn't have to run a business (sleep).

But then it started getting better. I went swimming on Sunday, so we got some family time when we were all upright and no-one was spewing. Then I got an enquiry about an order. Then I got a really nice email from a customer. Then they ordered an entire stash!!!!!!! (I definitely need some smilies here) Then there were some more compliments on another forum.

So is this the fifth or sixth time I've talked about the emotional ups and downs of WAHMing? Sorry to be a bit repetitive, I think you get the message.

Excuse me, I'm off to check the fabric stash to see if I have enough to fill this order. And DH is already saying "See? I told you you should cut out lots at once."

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

On a happier note ...

Everything seems to be settling down and working itself out nicely, although I've been so busy I haven't been on there much to find out.

The visit to the city was fun, I picked up some Christmas fabrics as well as my new sewing machine. I had one the store lent me while it was off being fixed, and it is great. Whatever the adjustment seems to have fixed all the annoying bits as well and it is now fun to sew again rather than frustrating.

I've got some Christmas prints but I also bought some plain colours to do appliques. These are a custom order that isn't finished yet, but I was really pleased with how they've turned out. The sewing machine even coped with the metallic thread for the tinsel on the tree, which it wasn't doing before. There are matching T-shirts to go with this order too and it's going to be gorgeous, now I just have to stop mucking around and sew it!

Just had to edit to add the completed sets.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Well, that was nasty.

Been a long time since I've posted, mainly because nothing much was going on. I was just pottering along trying different things. Then I went to check online before going to bed and discovered all sorts of things were happening. I'm not going to say what it was, some people will know or be able to work it out but while it was very over the top I don't think it was anything that hasn't happened before in other industries so you don't really need to know details. I'm only writing about it because this blog is supposed to help people see what it is like being a WAHM.

I suppose I've been a bit naive. It's funny, I've been involved in discussions about stealing designs and copying, but I suppose I had this image that this is a nice little cottage industry where we are all trying to help each other stay home with our children and push our favourite products at the same time. If someone asked I would have said that it is a good thing that there are so many WAHMs out there doing nappies, because all babies are different and the huge range means you are sure to find something that suits your baby. Unfortunately some other WAHMs and even customers don't seem to agree with me and there is a lot of competition that seems to get nasty. And then of course it all becomes tit for tat and gets out of control.

Maybe my perspective is shaped because I have a husband who is able to support me and my business. I am trying to treat this as a genuine business, not a hobby, but to be perfectly honest anything beyond breaking even is a bonus. I've been very careful to set up fallback positions and alternatives so we don't lose too much money, even if I had to pack it in tomorrow. Maybe for other people it is more important to make a profit or they have more invested. I definitely have as much emotionally invested, it hurts when a week goes by with no orders, or when I have lots of people visiting the site but not buying. You definitely start to wonder what you're doing wrong and why no-one likes you. And it's wonderful when I find a link that a customer has put up recommending my products, it pretty much makes up for the bad times. (So I just need a few more of these, hint, hint.)

Anyway, what happened had nothing to do with me directly, but it could impact on me. To me it was unethical, and I was very tempted to react. I definitely don't blame the others who did, a huge part of me agrees with them. However I decided not to, and I just wanted to share some of my reasoning.

As both an educator and as a parent I have to believe that mistakes are to be learnt from, and I have to believe in second chances. I have done stupid things in my time, and other people have given me the chance to redeem myself and rebuild those relationships. So tempted as I am, I have to extend that chance to the people in the wrong here. I definitely don't believe in forgive and forget, I'm far too vindictive and nasty for that :), but I believe in letting people earn back trust. And if they don't, I'll be able to say that at least I tried.

Because ultimately, the only person who's behaviour matters to me is me. I can be angry at other people, but I don't have to look in their mirror or live with their conscience. All I can do is behave in a way that I can look back and say, "Yes, I like that person and I am proud of them."

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


Well that took a lot longer than I thought. Just lots of things happening, so it took me a lot longer to get them sewn than it has. A few silly mistakes as well which slowed things down.

DH has come up with a good suggestion. He has made us a timetable for our work times, family times, times with DD etc. This tells me how long I have every week to spend on the store. I then work out how long it takes to make an individual nappy. This is a bit tricky because I make them in batches, but I can make a batch of 7 or so easily in a week (or at least I can normally). So my target is to make 5 every week, no matter what I sell. This gives me a bit of time left over to do other things like admin, and hopefully if I stick to something like this I won't get caught again. Of course, it would be nice to be selling more than this :) but I don't really want that pressure at the moment. Maybe later!

My other big news is that I have a store on WAHMania. I am doing the admin stuff at the moment, hopefully it will be ready to be activated on Friday. At the moment it will just have stock from the store, but I also have some nice fabrics I am playing with and would like to get at least one special nappy done for the opening.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

All's right with the world

Well, DH came and got us so we are all together again :). It makes such a difference.

And everything is starting to come together, I think I have sorted out the non-payer (the old exploding computer trick (now I come to think of it, half of you will be too young to remember Get Smart)). I got a big order which has just about cleaned me out, she ordered a nappy before and I was about to email and ask how it was going when another order came through, so I guess it must be working! So I am back to sewing nappies, which is nice. I wasn't sure how long it would take before I needed to re-stock.

You know the feeling - should I be saying "I've been open a couple of weeks and I've sold this many! Yay!" or "I've been open a couple of weeks and I've only sold this many :(." After the big order, I'll go with the Yay!

Getting the hooded towels sorted as well, so I will be able to add them to the site and get another newsletter out to my subscribers, then I have to decide what to work on next - is it getting too late for the sleepsacks, with the time needed for testing, should I get the sunhats and clothes going instead? Oh, and then there's the accounts I couldn't do while we were away, I have a huge pile of receipts to sort through. Sewing nappies is much more fun.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Drilling out snaps on soft stretchy fabric ...

is NOT my idea of a good time. I managed to get the entire thing wrapped around the drill twice, even with someone else holding it for me, and eventually ripped the snap off grrrr. DHs response was that you just need strong fingers to hold it. I replied, you mean we need a clamp of some sort. "No, you just need strong fingers." Darling, you may have strong fingers but WE need a clamp. (Alternatively I could just put the snaps in the right way round the first time.)

So that sleepsack is in a bag until DH arrives to drill out the snaps for me, and I am making one for my nephew's birthday. I wanted to send one off to be tested so I could start selling them, but it will have to be next week.

Bit depressing, the orders have dried up and I have had my first non-paying customer. It was very lucky I didn't send the order off because it was all packed, but my Mum and DH told me off and it was a good thing I waited. I have sent a couple of emails and not got any reply, there is this package sitting there looking at me. I just don't get it - surely if you change your mind it is not too hard to contact someone and let them know? Especially when there is a custom bit to the order. My hope is that they have forgotten to go back to do the direct debit and don't check their emails. So if you are starting to get worried that your parcel from me hasn't arrived yet, contact me! The really annoying bit is that I have been contacted about that nappy, I don't know whether to hold out a bit longer or let the other person know it is available.

I knew that the hunters would dwindle, now I'm having to think of other advertising strategies and have been looking at all the parenting websites. Unfortunately some of them do it in alphabetical order and W is rather far down. Might have to revamp the budget a bit. (Budget? Hah! you need money to budget!) Of course I'm hoping that the people who have bought things like them and start to tell other people about them. The trick is to get enough out there to get word of mouth going!

I do wonder how other people manage that sort of thing. Is it because they have such a fantastic product that people want to tell everyone about it? Do they choose the chatterbox testers who they know will rave about it? Are they a social butterfly and have lots of friends who want to help them out? Well the last one is definitely not me, unfortunately, so I will have to rely on 1 and 2. And now, of course, I will get all insecure and worry that the reason no-one is talking about them is that they don't like them and are just too polite to tell me ;) And the people who are telling me they are great in private emails are just saying that. I do have one lovely public affirmation from a hunter, I will have to console myself with that for a while.

Take care and keep hunting everyone, they really are great prizes and you won't have any competition from me!

Monday, 6 August 2007

Reflections on being open

Well it's been an interesting week. I am now addicted to the email and am elated when there is something business related but (more often) depressed when there isn't. I know that I am very new at this and my product is very different to most people's so I can understand customers holding off until they see others using it. It is also very much for a niche market, a lot of people don't want to use snappis.

It's interesting having a look at other businesses through the GDUNH. I notice that a lot of the other new places don't have anywhere near the stock that I do. This is probably a good thing, there is less risk for them. The only reason I have so much is because of the way I bought the materials, it had to be in bulk. And with a lot of people going through the store I wanted to have a good range to appeal to different people.

I've been a bit surprised looking at other people's designs and prices. Considering the materials and the fact that it's a very complicated design, mine are underpriced. But see above about new product and niche market, I don't think I can realistically charge any more until I am better known. And I was happy with the price when I set it, so the fact that other people are charging more, good on them if they can get it.

I am all prepared to go and very calmly talk to (read argue with) the manager of a shop tomorrow. I got a lovely new sewing machine, unfortunately it doesn't stop sewing when you take your foot off, which is a bit of a hassle when you are sewing patches, or stretching elastic, or trying to carefully line up decorative stitching. It's record so far is 8 stitches, and it has a few problems winding bobbins and other things too. So I took it back on Saturday and after talking to the manager a staff member said it was a warranty issue and they would have to send it away to be fixed. I was sure that wasn't right, so I rang the ACCC this morning, and I was right. If you are sold a faulty product the seller has to offer you a "suitable remedy" such as repair, replace or refund and YOU get to decide what is suitable. I don't want to be without a machine while it is repaired, so I can insist they replace it. The really silly thing is that it doesn't affect the store at all - it is the manufacturer's problem, they can just send it back as faulty and have it replaced. So the only effect on them is if they upset me as a customer and I then complain to everyone about them. I honestly believe small business would be falling all over themselves to fix the problem, but a big one ??? Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

I'm Open!!!

Well I got the store open and I even have an order! I am having an opening sale and everything is 5% off this week, plus the specials for subscribers.

I have done all my clues for the GDUNH and my husband has just looked for it to check it works, I think he needs to learn more nursery rhymes. Either it will be very easy and I will have to change it, or it will be very hard and lots of people will be frustrated. I think it is very logical, but I know the answers lol.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Well that was surreal

I just had the weirdest experience.

There is a section on the forum I advertise on where people can share and discuss new stores or products they have found. And I made it on! That was very exciting, but it was so strange to read about myself as "she." A bit like overhearing people discussing you. Luckily they were saying nice things LOL.

Been working frantically and am just about set to go. All the little details like wrapping and postage have had to be dealt with, as well as trying to keep sewing.

I was tossing up about whether or not to put in some of the ones that didn't quite work out as seconds, and in the end I decided to. When I was starting I liked trying seconds, it is annoying to pay full price for something that may not work. So having some where the stitching is a bit messed up or the arm is too narrow won't affect how they work, but there are probably other people out there like me who want to try a cheaper one before buying a full priced one.

It's a bit of a worry but I am getting sick of it at the moment :) I'm sure it is just a combination of single parenting, working until 2am then getting up at 7am and not getting any feedback. And all the boring fiddly bits that I left till later like weaving in the overlocking threads, well later is here. As soon as I open and people actually like something enough to buy it I will feel good again, and I am planning a partial day off tomorrow. This is one of the reasons I stock lots of different things - when I get sick of doing one thing I can swap to something else.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Staying in the city.

Well, what a busy 4 weeks it's been.

We have been staying at our house in the city and DH has spent a lot of time with our little girl, so I have pretty much been working full time. It's very sad, she has weaned and moved out of our bedroom, and she is happy playing by herself for a bit. She used to be stuck to me like superglue, it is really funny to have her walk away from me. Having a toddler is so much fun (and I'm not being sarcastic there), but I do miss my little baby a bit.

The sad thing is that DH has gone home, while we are staying here for another 4 to 7 weeks. I already miss him horribly, and she has been wandering around the house calling "Da!" It is pretty sad. I am going to have to pace myself - no sewing until 2am, because I won't be getting any sleep ins.

I have been doing some fun sewing, getting some fancy T-shirts ready for my Secret Subscribers' Area. It is almost impossible to find fancy fabrics for boys - it is all flowers or lace. And sewing with metallic thread is a pain - it keeps coming unthreaded and I have to unpick it. I'm going to try to finish the boy's t-shirt tonight, then I can post pics and put a newsletter out.

Then I need to keep sewing boy nappies. It's silly, I have more boy than girl fabric, but when I grabbed some to bring up here I seem to have grabbed all girly stuff. Lucky there is a Spotlight in town! And my labels should finally arrive sometime this week. I thought it was all organised and then got asked to check some of the artwork, and I can't do anything on the sleepsacks until I have the labels. I am giving DH a list of things to post to me, I am going to be flat out getting it all done. I am going to have to open and then keep adding stuff, which is actually quite a good way to go during the hunt month, I know I go back to a lot of stores to see what they have.

Better keep going, it's almost curfew.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

I have a store!

The store is up for previewing!!! I am still fiddling around with things, but the basics are there and some products are up.

I have also registered for the Nappy Hunt, my prize is a bamboo velour children's towel. I painted it with sunpaints and put hearts and stars on it as well as salt patterns.

Now I am sewing sewing sewing, I have just cut out another 12 nappies to get done this weekend hopefully, then I can do some more fiddling with the store!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Busy, busy, busy

So much work, so little time.

I have just done my first batch conversion of pictures and I am in love with this programme. Probably other programmes do it too, but this was the only one I had on the computer I am currently on. I just had to click a few buttons and all the pictures were resized and compressed! I have been doing it all by hand, this is wonderful.

I have been doing lots of painting and have lots of flats ready, still working out the best way to photograph them.

The results are back from my testers and I have made some new nappies which are being trialled. I also checked out the new PowerDry and it works well. I was worried about how thin it is, but DD has worn it a few times now and even with toddler wee she feels dry.

I have used up all of my velour making some towels and sheets. They were fun to sew because I got to use my fancy new stitches. This is what I am going to use as my prize in the GDUNH. It is a gorgeous bamboo velour baby/child's towel. The painting is yellow and orange and it has stars and hearts on it. They only come up faintly because of the technique but you can see them IRL. The front was really interesting - the fabric underneath has absorbed the colour but the nap hasn't, so it has this really shiny look and changes colour if you look in different directions. My daughter has been using my first trial ones and they are brilliant for drying her.

The other thing I am madly working on is my website! Yaay!!! I really should finish the tutorials, but I got impatient waiting for them to load and just dove in. I like playing around with it this way, I now get the principals of how it works so I can work out each step more easily, if that makes sense. I am about to go and upload pictures to it so I will be learning how to put products in. I thought I had brought all my photos off my home computer which includes finished stock and things for the gallery, but I don't seem to have saved them :(. Oh well, it would have been nice to have that bit set up but I don't think I will run out of things to do anytime soon.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Great Down Under Nappy Hunt

OK, it's coming up again and it has prompted crunch time. I can sponsor through this blog and that will get at least some exposure, especially if I have a form for subscribers.


I can try to get the store up and running by then. It may be doable but it will probably drive me insane, especially as I am currently operating on dial-up (and what I think of Telstra's service cannot be written).

I have lugged the overlocker, sewing machine and a heap of fabric up to our house in the city. So far I have overlocked all the flats, but I am waiting on the paint to arrive. They should be no problem to get done though. I am also doing various inserts, but I changed them after tester comments so there is a bit of fiddling, I think that is finished.

I am holding off doing the towels or sheet sets until I have a new machine, as I want to get one with nice decorative stitches to finish them with. I didn't bring much velour fabric, so I will probably only get a couple of these done.

I am waiting on a quote for labels. Unfortunately the high fire hazard labels only come in rolls of 1000, so if they are too expensive there goes the sleepsack idea. If I don't get them then I will just get plain written labels at first, but it will be interesting to see what the quote is on labels with the logo. If they come back OK then I have to get the sleepsack tested, but part of the testing is the label attachment so it is a waiting game. I can't get the insurance sorted until this is done either, as it makes a difference if I am selling nightwear.

A couple of the testers are still getting back to me, but based on the others there are a couple of changes, and I have already trialled them on DD. Poor little thing only gets new nappies now when I am trying something new! So I will have to test the changes and then see how many I can get put together.

Then of course there is the store itself. I have written up all my information so it just has to be copied and pasted, and this is something I was going to do while I am up here. Unfortunately now I have used this internet connection for a couple of days I can see it is going to be an exercise in frustration, I will have to sit here and finish off my overlocking threads while I am waiting.

And of course the fun things are left until last - MONEY! I have an idea of the prices I want to charge, but I was going to check out various other stores to compare them. So I may be here at odd hours of the night trying to go faster than 14.2kbps.

Luckily DH's eldest son arrived to visit today, and DD thinks he is the best thing since sliced bread. It's funny, he and my mother are the only two she really goes to. But she is having a wonderful time helping him and Daddy in the garden or putting curtains up, I feel like I have barely seen her today. And Daddy got her up at 6:30am and then did her nap and put her to bed. Don't get me wrong it is great to have a bit of time to myself, it just feels weird having so much of it.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Fabric's arrived, I'm leaving

Well the fabric has made it through customs. This is just the stuff for the pocket linings. There is the most wonderful one called butter suede, the two purple ones. The others are all Malden Mills PowerStretch and PowerDry. They are specially designed as wicking fabrics and I have been using the PowerStretch for a while now, so they should make good linings. And as long as they take to get here, I didn't want to have to do lots of orders!

We are going away again on the weekend, staying in our house in the city for 3 or 4 weeks. I have been trying to decide what to take. Before the fabric arrived I decided to get all my overlocking done, so here is some of the fabric I have cut up. There are 39 bamboo flats, (don't ask me how I managed 39?!) who knows how many bamboo inserts and 30 microfibre inserts as well as enough ProCare for 30 pockets. Then I am halfway through cutting up the hemp for inserts as well, and I haven't decided whether to take the bamboo velour. I wasn't going to because I was waiting on the FOE, but that arrived today so some of that might go in as well.

I am starting to get some feedback from the testers and it is mostly good. They are not having wicking problems and most of them fit well, I have to decide whether to modify it a bit for the ones that don't or put them outside the size range. There are a few problems with the cover flap, it is confusing. I have an idea what to do about it, so it was lucky the fabric arrived, hopefully I will be able to get one done before we leave and DD can test it. I've also had an idea about the inserts, but I can fiddle around with them on holidays. Exciting news - DH might buy me a new sewing machine!!! I kept saying I couldn't really justify it, but he's decided it is just too noisy and he is going to road test some new ones to see if they are quieter. Sounds good to me!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

I made a profit!

I have been selling sleep sacks at the local markets. I worked out all my expenses on them - the cost of the fleece, snaps, and the rent on the stall - then worked out how many I had to sell to cover all the costs. Helped by the sudden cold weather, I am a couple over. Any I sell from now on are profit. Of course, I still have all the other materials and there is my time, but it is nice to know something has paid for itself.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Where philosophy meets reality

I have to stop thinking evil thoughts about the label man. He has a pretty good excuse, having to go interstate for medical treatment.

It has been part of my personal philosophy for years to support small businesses and especially, living in small towns, it is important to support local businesses. This was one of the reasons I was so excited when I discovered WAHMs. I am trying to build this into my business philosophy as well and deal with WAHMs or small businesses as suppliers, and trying to find ones in my state.

In keeping with this I found a label company that has a local agent and contacted him. Well that was over two weeks ago, the promised samples haven't arrived and my emails have not been answered. My little one has been very hit and miss with her naps so today was the first chance I got to phone him. It turns out that he has been away sick, and since he is chief cook and bottle washer my things just didn't get done.

Another small company I am trying to deal with has just requested my address and is going to send me things snail mail. This is because their website didn't have all the information I was after so I contacted them with questions using the contact us button. I get the impression that they are older or at least not as computer literate, so they are probably going to send me a brochure. And it is fair enough because most of their custom is not web-based, but for me it is a pain because I live in the middle of nowhere and mail is slow.

At this point the temptation to go somewhere else is starting, I know you can get these things on ebay! But this is where philosophy meets reality, and as a wannabe WAHM I need to give them some leeway. I am sure that at some point in the future I am going to mess up an order, something will be forgotten, or my way of doing business will be inconvenient for a customer. So I hope that they will give me the same leeway.

The last couple of days have taught me two things -

  1. Try to set up good systems so that things are so automatic they have less chance of going wrong, and if they do go wrong you can hopefully catch them and deal with them.
  2. Make your product good enough that people will be forgiving. I can't rely on everyone to share my philosophical ramblings.

The business has also given me a giggle today. I made up a toile of my new sleepsack pattern out of an old sheet and took it along to playgroup today to check that my sizing was correct on some smaller babies. Several people started asking about whether I sell polar fleece sacks and looking at the sample. One lady had come in halfway and only heard half the conversation. She tried it against her baby and was obviously a bit confused when she asked "So is this the warmest one you make?" "Um, no. That's an old sheet, it's just to check the pattern." She was very relieved to hear about the polar fleece!

I also got two completely independent compliments from playgroup ladies about my nappies, which they had been using for a while. It was so nice, it's those little things that keep you going.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Who are you and what have you done with my baby?

Alternative title: Exhaustion really does work

Well exhaustion really does work, she had a two hour nap!

I just went to the best workshop on business planning, and it was absolutely free. If you are thinking of WAHMing, get on to your state small business development centre (whatever they are called) because they have some fantastic things available.
I also got to meet other small business owners in this town and there are a couple that I can see their products going well online, so they were good contacts to make.

I have decided to turn a difficulty into a virtue. If the blind hemming to make it unnoticeable is a pain, I will turn the hems into a feature. Bright colours in twin needles doing a zigzag stitch looks fantastic against natural bamboo velour, and the back is neat as well, especially with off white in the bobbin. And it is so easy. So problem solved!

Monday, 4 June 2007

Beautiful Bamboo

Well, I finally got the bamboo flats to paint the way I wanted. I know I've said this before, but it doesn't matter how many times I practice something on one fabric, when I change fabrics I have to start again. And I never knew how many variations there were with these paints! How wet the fabric is, how much water you put in the paints, how quickly it dries, whether you wash the excess off, how you set the paint, arrrgh! I keep thinking it would be easier to go with the dyes, I know they give bright colours and are set a lot more easily. And they actually combine with the fabric, whereas the paint coats the outside which sort of destroys the point of nice soft bamboo. But I think I have worked that out and I remember the reason I want to use these is that they are completely non-toxic and DD can play with them as well. She loves painting the fabric. She pins things up, carries spray bottles around, tries to spray everything (I am sooo glad her hands aren't big enough yet) and "helps" put things out to dry. She even has her own brushes and containers and is obsessed with painting with water whenever we go outside. I couldn't resist this photo of her helping.
I think they are going to have to be re-overlocked because they went through a few different processes while I was trying to work it out :). And some of them weren't straight because of the way I dried the fabric after its first wash - it got pulled out of shape. But I have now made myself a template which should help with that problem. Most of them are actually quite bright, I am not sure how well they photograph.

I really like the first one, I have a cotton nappy I did the same way that is just gorgeous. It is actually the same technique as some of the multicoloured boosters below. The green/purple/blue one didn't photograph that well, it is actually yellow and pink with blue sprayed over the top and they have blended nicely, in the picture they just look a bit dirty. The one with all the stripes came out as a nice pastel one, I am pretty sure I can get a brighter version if I set it differently.
The painted ones in the last photo are interesting, They actually work better than the sprayed ones because the brush gets the paint in there, but they are a lot more time consuming than the sprayed ones. I'm not sure what I will do with this.
So what else have I been up to? Hmmm.
Waiting on feedback from the testers, most of the nappies took over a working week to get there, probably about right given where I live but a bit depressing all the same. One of them still hasn't arrived, but that is country to country so I'm not panicking just yet.
Trying to sew blind hems on bamboo velour. I know that it will look much better if I do, and I am secretly convinced that a new machine would have some magical attachment that would make them easy. I don't know if it is because the fabric is thick or if it is the stretch but I am having a really hard time lining up the fold for the needle to catch on the swing (sorry, that will only make sense if you have sewn blind hems). I also need to make them wider, in spite of the little voice in my head saying "This stuff is expensive!" I need to keep reminding myself that ruining it is even more expensive.
Fiddling around with my sleepsack design. I really don't want to give up the opening the way I am doing it - it is one of the unique features that I think is really good, so to give it up means it is just like everyone else's. Oh well, no-one else is using bamboo velour. This is another area I am lusting after a new sewing machine. Just imagine what I could do with the cuffs, neck and opening with some embroidery thread and in-built stitches.
Waiting on some labels. I wanted to go with a local supplier and actually found someone with an NT agent, talked to him and he was supposed to send me some samples, but it's over a week now and they still haven't arrived. That was something I was going to chase up today, but of course DD decided that 20 minutes sucking was all the nap she needed. Oh well, with playgroup tomorrow morning I'll make her walk home via the Post Office and she'll definitely sleep.
I hope.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Labels and regulations

Well, after the excitement of getting all the testers off it is down to a bit of admin, checking out the regulations for my products.

I already knew the nappies one, that care instructions need to be included but not attached, and that you have to have size labels. I have been trying to find out the nightwear regulations for ages, but keep getting the same information. I know I have to have flammability labels, but it doesn't say how to get it tested or what the categories are.

So I finally found the number and rang the ACCC. It was really funny. At first they thought I was already making nightwear, but when I explained that I wanted to find out the rules before I started they were so impressed they couldn't help me enough. They were really great and got me the info, and then told me where to go to get my other questions answered. Then the lady at the testing lab spent ages on the phone with me explaining things, and even gave me the names of some companies who do the labels I need.

I am going to have to change my pattern, and unfortunately I will lose what I think is one of the good points, but it won't make that much difference. Most people think (and I thought too) that if it fails the flammability test you can just stick a high fire danger label on it, but there are some things that will fail the regulations for this too and shouldn't be sold at all.

Then today I got a phone call from the business licensing people. Apparently they keep records when you register a new business and for a year they will contact you whenever there is a free upskilling course in your area. So I'm booked in for one next week, luckily it's in the evening so DH can look after the little one. All of the bureaucrats I have dealt with have been fantastic, there is so much help out there for small businesses. In fact my biggest problem is finding time to look at it all and working out which bits are important.

It is really weird not sewing nappies. I have run out of ProCare and until my order arrives that is it. I have heaps of other things to do, but I feel at a bit of a loose end. It doesn't help that DH is away and we are sick AGAIN, so she isn't sleeping well and I am exhausted. I have been painting some of the bamboo and am working on the velour. Again, some of that is going to have to wait on the Canadian order, but at least I have trialled it and know that it works. The solarveil has also arrived so I am trialling my patterns in this - you know how you can have a pattern that works really well and then you change the fabric and it goes funny. It's going to take a bit of tweaking to get used to sewing it, so it is good I have the time now to practice.

Several of the nappies have arrived at the testers, so I know it is going to take at least a week when I start sending things out. Now it is just a matter of waiting to see how they go!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Testers are ready!

These are the tester nappies ready to go. They are pocket nappies that close with a snappi. They are all OSFA, but have been done up differently to see how they photograph. They can fit at least 12 layers of hemp in the pocket but because the snappi pulls them tight you can get a trimmer fit by putting in less layers - it isn't baggy.

All of these have 100% cotton outers, although I plan to use poly cotton as well. The water resistant layer is ProCare and the inners are 100% polyester velour or suedecloth, I will be using Malden Mills PowerStretch and PowerDry as well when it arrives.

Fish with green velour, large fitting.

Shoes with white suedecloth, small fitting.

Red sunflowers with green velour, medium fitting.

Blue and green stripes with blue velour, large fitting.

Purple and gold with blue velour, large fitting.

Pastel flowers on black with blue velour, medium fitting.

Small squares with green velour, medium fitting.

Just call me the human roller coaster

OK, life does look better in the morning. Obviously I have emotional things going on that aren't really part of this blog, but in a way they are.

It's hard to find the words. You know when you are working you have to get up and go to work and you pretty much try to forget all the personal stuff. It goes in its own little box to be taken out again when you get home. At least that is the way I operate. When you are a SAHM it all sort of builds up and there never seems to be any me time, or you join online forums and talk to other mothers. Or you start a blog and tell your personal secrets to complete strangers all over the world :).

As a hobby sewing is great, it gives me something creative to concentrate on. It is almost like a form of meditation, focusing my thoughts and energies and I feel relaxed and excited when I achieve something. What this week has taught me is that as a WAHM you have to push yourself and be disciplined. Of course I already knew that and it is easy to say, but it has been interesting to actually experience what it is like. There was no deadline except what I set for myself, there is no expectation that I be at my sewing machine the way there is in an outside job. When you don't feel like sewing there is always something else to do, and the nature of being a work at home mother is that they are all legitimate and even vital so it is easy to procrastinate. Deciding where your priorities lie can just become an exercise in guilt because there are so many demands on you.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that even in a job you really love there are times that you just don't feel like it. I think as a WAHM (or anyone self-employed) you really have to have the discipline or the motivation to keep going and get through those times. If it ever takes longer than a couple of days I think that will be my signal to leave. And think really hard about which priorities you will be moving down the list to fit WAHMing in, because it is long term and you can't necessarily pick them up easily.

Although personally, I don't care how far down cleaning goes ;).

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

They're fixed

Well they're fixed, and if you didn't know you probably wouldn't notice. And no, it's not really the sort of detail I want out there publicly.

So why did I put it in?

This is supposed to be to help other Wannabe WAHMs, and if I only tell about the good bits then it won't give a real picture.

Now all Mums know that it doesn't matter how sick you feel you just have to keep going, so that won't be news to anyone. I suppose it is good news that my 19 month old can blow the snot out of her nose and now likes the taste of the medicine, so it isn't a hysterical kicking and screaming fight to get it into her. And the testers will be ready to go out this week, even if it isn't as soon as I wanted.

But I'm sitting here writing this rather than sewing because I feel like ****, I've just gone through the budget with DH, she still doesn't talk, and I'm not pregnant. This is probably called an emotional low point.

G'night all, hope it looks better in the morning.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Arrrgh! I don't believe it!

In spite of us all coming down with some flu type thing, I was feeling pretty good about how the testers were going. I was just about to get some finished while the little one has a nap when I realised I have put the snaps on the wrong place ON EVERY SINGLE TESTER!!! I can't believe it, the instructions I've made even SAY where to put them WITH A DIAGRAM and it isn't as if I haven't done it before. I obviously just got into a rhythm and did them all that way. The sensible thing would be to keep them as seconds and start again, but this is my last fabric until the rest arrives from Canada!
I think I can fix it but I don't know what it will look like. If I drill them out it might look sloppy, but if I leave them there it could be confusing and obvious there is a mistake. Of course I really wanted the testers to be perfect - I mean this is what I am offering to sell. It is purely aesthetic, it can't affect the function of the nappy, and it will be covered up so not even visible when it is on, but you know what I mean.
Sighhh, fingers crossed this works.

Monday, 7 May 2007


Woohoo! I got back and my logos and some more fabric is here. Here are the fabulous logos, with different ones for different occasions. I have always loved dragons and Kristie has done a fantastic job, making it look cute without being dopey. It is also a bit cute and fairy style and a bit funky, which is good because I can go either way depending on my mood.

And that is the name of the business - Waggle-Wee Kids. It actually comes from my husband, and our daughter's habit of waggling her little bum when she walks. It should really be Waggle-Wee Wear, but there are things other than wearables included, so that will have to be a product line. Every name I chose was either too specific, too broad, too similar or already taken. At least I know no-one else will have anything like this one!

Looking at my to-do list, there is still lots to go. I have got a quote on insurance that seems awfully high to me, although DH thought it was reasonable compared with a business he was involved in. I am off to register the domain name and business now, but the shop will have to wait a bit because I really need to get the testers sewn. I am making a couple of modifications based on the feedback from the one I sent off before, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.
This is the big test for me as well - how long does it take me to sew them. It is certainly going to be challenging as DD has a fever and hasn't slept well for the last 3 nights, we started driving at 4.30am to get home, and the last of the furniture arrived so the boxes that had been waiting on it have all been pulled out to be unpacked. There is now a narrow winding path to the change table and everything else piled up in that room. Add to that the usual post-trip chores, washing, unloading 7 weeks worth of shopping (we bulk shop when we are in the city) and several days worth of nappies (You too can use cloth while you fly and drive around the country, staying in 3 different places!). I suppose this is what WAHMing is about - running a business while being a mother. Hopefully it is a good test run for the real thing.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

My little fairy

OK, not strictly business related, but I had to put in pics of my little fairy before I go away for a couple of weeks.
While I was fitting the elastic she insisted on running around in the skirt, she kept pulling it right up to her armpits then it would gradually fall down.
I was squatting down to take the photo at her height, so she had to copy me.
Here she is. It has little wings on the back, too. She was so excited it was finished she had to wear it to playgroup, although I did rescue it from the sandpit.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Weekend Markets

We have a local market every couple of weeks so I went down with some baby things. No nappies because I am trying to make ones for testers at the moment, but I took some of DDs for a display and had lots of women look at them and ask questions, which was really exciting. I was going to take some of the pamphlets from Modern Nappies but unfortunately their site was down, I will have to make sure and save one the next time I am there.

The velour painted beautifully and I made some wipes. I was using one on DD and had a bit of a panic the next morning - it's gone hard! somehow the paint must have affected it! Until I realised it was actually the food I had wiped off DDs face. The wipe is still gorgeous and soft.

The velour was really easy to use on the overlocker - I have heard that other people have had problems but it didn't roll, possibly I have a different supplier and it is a different knit. Although the lower looper thread broke twice, which it has never done before. I have discovered why threading the overlocker is considered a pain. I almost didn't overlock it because it wasn't fraying at all, but decided it needed to be finished.

The logo is absolutely lovely, it is very exciting, and I am looking at colours and designs for the shop and trying to write up my information and care, so they can just be copied in. I am also waiting with bated breath for the results from the tester nappy I sent off and trying to get more testers made. Actually, I am going away on Wednesday and I thought it was a good opportunity to make a fairy dress for DD. A while ago she liked them in a shop, but Mummy took one look at the price and said "You've got to be kidding! That's just a handkerchief skirt, I can make one of those!" Of course then Mummy saw the price of the fabric ...

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

It's all happening.

Well, things are really starting to happen.

I got the courage to send a nappy off as a tester to someone I really respect, so now it is the nerve wracking wait to see how it goes.

I have registered for an ABN and decided on a name, now I am organising a logo from another lovely WAHM, Kristie.

I have even sold some nappies! It was very exciting to make the first sale, and to know that I could produce them in the time limit.

And then today my yummy bamboo velour arrived, so I am going to get some set up tonight to paint tomorrow. Painting is one of the things I can do with my little one around, she loves helping to pin things and painting with water and mud, then she is in charge of putting rocks around the edges to stop things blowing away! The only problem is when she decides to combine the mud and the drying, which is one of the reasons most of the designs are hmmmm, abstract. She also loves the spray bottles, it is just a good thing her little hands aren't big enough to work them or we would have a house that is all lovely colours.

Now what do I have left to do:

  • Testers, testers, testers! (So if you are interested, let me know!)
  • Register the domain name.
  • Register the business name, can only be done 2 months before trading.
  • Set up the accounting programme.
  • Organise labels - after the logo is finalised.
  • Get the shop set up - after the logo.
  • Insurance.
  • Actually start building up stock :).
  • Advertising.