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.