Spoonflower Sales Update: 1.5 years later

When I first started designing fabric for Spoonflower, I scoured blogs and forums trying to find out what I might expect in sales. I did find this discussion and this helpful blog post, but not a whole lot of recent information. In general, it seems that people are reluctant to talk about how much they are making. There are Etsy forum discussions where people say that even asking what they make in their Etsy shop is offensive. This, I think, is a problem.

I can’t find a link now, but I believe Spoonflower once shared the average users make in a year, but that number doesn’t tell you anything about how many of those designers are actively trying to get sales, the average amount made on one design, or how much that number is driven by the handful of top sellers.

So, as a non-top seller with a relatively modest number of fabrics available (200 as of this moment) and a minor social media presence, I wanted to share the sort of information I was looking for back in February of 2016 when I was deciding whether or not to proof my first batch of fabrics. And here it is:

Spoonflower Graph

Did I write sales at the top of that graph? Sloppy–it should say “Profits.”

So, what does this mean? First, I’ve made over $100 in profit for the last 3 months. I am on track to hit somewhere around there this month, too. Spoonflower gives 10% to the designer, so that means that for those months, I’ve sold over $1,000 in fabric, wallpaper, and wrapping paper. It sounds way more impressive that way, doesn’t it?

Second, the black line is the trend line for my sales data. If I keep doing what I’m doing now, it is possible that I could reach $200 in profit in a month before the end of this year. That would be wonderful.

Third, though I’m not about to quit my job, I’m making enough at the site that I can pay for all of my proofs and all of the fabric I use to make things for craft fairs without having to pull out a credit card. The only real benefit of this is psychological, but it still feels good. I’ve also been able to roll some money over into my account to use for non-fabric things.

Fourth, if I decide to stop posting on Instagram or take a break from designing, those numbers probably won’t change much. I could become busy at work, have another baby, or just lack inspiration and it probably won’t make much difference to my sales because people will still be out there looking for Hamilton fabric.

Last, the main thing I get out of this is an outlet and constraints for design. In another context, I would never be drawing golf fabric, but thinking about what people want has provided inspiration and has also helped me think about what to make for craft fairs. And I have no end of ideas for what to make next–there are a lot of activities out there. Designing for Spoonflower has also led me to draw more and illustrate for other projects.

So, should you jump in?

Well, count on spending at least $100-200 in proofs before things start selling. If you have some really great ideas that people want and can’t find anywhere else, then you might be able to start with less. Either way, you don’t make any money until you proof things, and so you have to take some chances. Also, don’t count on anything happening right away. Those number for May, June, and July of 2016? They are all around $5. For the month.

But, if you want to have some fun designing, see your designs printed on fabric (which is always thrilling), and maybe make a little money, then go for it!

Sports Fabric Collection

All those sports designs I was working on? They are available now!

SONY DSC

Basketball Fabric

I set them for sale a few weeks ago and so far have sold a few yards of yoga fabric. I wasn’t expecting that one to do as well as it has, but I guess the crossover between sewers and yoga enthusiasts is greater than, say, sewing and lacrosse.

SONY DSC

Yoga

Much like hockey, my experience with yoga consists of knowing other people who do it. A midwife suggested it after baby three was born as a way of combatting the core muscle  weakness that comes after 27 months of pregnancy and at least an equal number of months of indolence. “Would soccer work for that?” I asked.

“No,” she replied, “yoga.”

“A lot of walking?”

“Yoga.”

That was more than a year ago and I haven’t followed up yet, but I’m happy there are some sewing yoga enthusiasts out there who like my fabric. Keep doing what you’re doing, yogis.

SONY DSC

My favorite: rock climbing (as a fabric, not as an activity)

The same goes for most of the other sports featured. My one experience rock climbing outdoors was when I was 14 and with older strangers who didn’t have enough harnesses. They took mine and had me cling to a ledge while they threw it down to the next person. I dreaded volleyball and basketball in PE and growing up in a wet climate, we played them all the time.

SONY DSC

Volleyball is not for people who were under 5′ in junior high

My best friend and I went to a gymnastics meet (is that the right word? That doesn’t sound competitive enough) before the 2012 Olympics and got to see the people Google tells me were later given the moniker “The Fierce Five.” It was exciting and impressive and we were probably both just really happy to have a break from children and do something together that wasn’t a run to Trader Joe’s, but within the first half an hour we discovered that without running commentary, it was hard to follow what was going on.

SONY DSC

Gymnastics, gymnastics, soccer

dsc00328

“This is great! What are the rules?”

All of which is to say, that I am sure that person in the photo above was laughing inwardly when I told her I was making a collection of sports fabric. And, I now have a bunch of swatches for sports most of which I don’t do. But, I have a daughter and I’m thinking of making a quilt for her full of girls and ladies being strong and doing things and maybe when she’s thirteen and someone makes her do volleyball in gym class, her first response won’t be, “Huh? Why are we doing that? It really hurts your forearms. When do we do badminton? How many years of PE do I have left?”

Stuff and Nonsense

I participated in my first craft/maker fair over the weekend. I was expecting a cool September afternoon when I signed up for it in the spring, but instead got a humid day in the 80s. My sons were with me while I set up the table and my three-year-old was insistent that we leave the tent walls closed “for privacy.” “We need a breeze in here,” I kept saying while I opened them up. “Okay,” he’d say as he closed them, “We’ve had one.”

It was hot. Really, really hot.

I sat in the tent for six hours, I had fun visiting with my neighbors, and enjoyed hearing the band play next to us, but at the end of the night I had made exactly enough to cover the tent and the space fees. It was pretty discouraging. The forecast for the following day also predicted hot, humid weather, and scattered thunderstorms.

14449865_10208328003411792_10361733584270286_n

The sauna, day 2

But the next day it didn’t rain. It wasn’t a huge success, but I made enough to feel like the endeavor was worthwhile and I came away from it with a better idea of what people would and wouldn’t buy.

The best part (other than the sangria my husband brought and the terrifying and funny car-birth story a fellow maker told me) happened when I was dropping my daughter off at a birthday party at one of those pottery painting places. A kid approached me and asked me if I was the one from the Made Fest. I said yes, and he asked for some help with an embroidery kit he had purchased the previous day. I was able to see the work he had done already and help him figure out a chain stitch.

Saint Marilla Watermark.png

My best friend asked for the picture above. I’m pretty sure Marilla would disapprove of viewing one craft fair as a referendum on one’s work. Then again, she’d probably also disapprove of fabric pretzels.

LandPenguin, Maker of Hockey Fabric

I started playing around with Spoonflower a little more than a year ago as something to do while I was nursing my newborn baby. It took me a good five months to get around to ordering my first fabric, so I didn’t actually have anything for sale on the site until February. One reason for delaying was that I couldn’t find out how many people on the site actually make money from it. People don’t write much about how creative hobbies and jobs pay because the reality is that for most people the hourly rate is pretty abysmal. I’m in the middle of deciding on prices for handmade toys and concluded that I couldn’t pay myself minimum wage per hour because no one is expecting to pay that much per toy. On the other hand, I spend a lot of time in the early mornings sewing things up while watching HBO. Tradeoffs.

So, in the interest of helping out anyone else who is thinking about getting into designing fabrics, I’ll try to be upfront about how much I’ve made over the last eight months. Here it is:

$87.50

At this point, I have 67 designs available, so it all comes out at a tiny bit more than the cost of paying for the proofs. And most of that money comes from these:

SONY DSC

A tiny, wrinkled hockey empire

I’ve made other designs that I like better. Sprout Patterns picked one of my contest submissions for the sample for their Jaxon Bowtie, which was exciting. This is my favorite. Those designs have never sold (except to me and once to the people at Sprout, who purchased the design when they made up the tie). The hockey designs were an afterthought; I made them because my husband played hockey and I thought he might like one of the kids to have a quilt from the swatches. But florals are ubiquitous. Hockey fabric is hard to find.

So, I’m embracing those sports with hard to find fabrics and putting a lot of effort into making some beautiful, appealing designs for people out there trying just trying to find a nice rock climbing print, or lacrosse, or volleyball, or gymnastics.

Rock Climbers by Landpenguin.png

My favorite, so far

And that 87.50 number? It doesn’t sound like much, and it just covers the proofs, but I am really proud of it. There’s $875 in fabric and wallpaper out there that I designed. Some kid might be going out today in a tee shirt covered in skates. Another might go to bed on a hockey stick pillow. There’s also something fulfilling about the process, and I have learned a lot since I started.

So, I’m owning it: I’m the number one designer of print on demand hockey textiles. Thank you, hockey fans. And by this time next year, maybe I can add number one designer of team handball fabrics to that title.

(If you are interested in the sports series of fabrics, wallpaper, and wrapping paper, they will be available for sale sometime in October)

Painting Cakes

I’ve had this idea for a long time that I wanted to decorate my dining room with paintings of desserts reminiscent of those made by Wayne Thiebaud. I bake real desserts more than I paint, though, and my painting skills aren’t really up for complicated swirls of buttercream.

SONY DSC

A real cake.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the best thing to do was to compensate for mediocre painting skills with mediocre piping skills.

DSC07899.JPG

The mixture I used was coarse molding paste, heavy structure gel, and fluid acrylics because that was what I had on hand, but a smoother molding paste mixed with paint would work just as well. The decorator’s tips have been designated for paint, as paint has a long history of toxicity.

How to Decorate a Cake

Project: Road Roll Up

I thought about writing a sort of introduction, as this is the first post, but there’s a reason I never got into writing a blog back when people still read blogs. I know I am bad at it. There are some really fantastic blogs out there that have instructions for projects mixed with glimpses of the writer’s personal life and I am really grateful that people are out there doing that so well in many cases. It is incredible to be alive at a time when you can say to yourself, “How do you make this funny detail on vintage table linens?” or “What kind of conductive material can I use to connect these LEDs to this switch in my cardboard dollhouse?” or, “What are all the combinations of shelves at IKEA that have a width of 60″?” and find an answer somewhere. This is the time to be making things. So, in recognition of my debt to others, I’m putting a few things out there for people to stumble upon.

I’ll start with the road roll up.

I’ve been dabbling in making fabrics on Spoonflower since February. For this project, I used this fabric. If you buy one yard of it, I will get $1.75, but this project could also be made using appliqué to make the roads, or by sewing felt on felt. The listing photo gives you a good idea of the layout if you want to try to make it from things you have on hand already.

SONY DSC

My foot. Taking photos is challenging.

This is the fabric as it comes from Spoonflower. I believe this one is printed on Kona cotton. That’s my son, surprised that the car paintings that turned into a file on the computer arrived at our house on fabric.

SONY DSC

Cut out your pieces, and then cut one piece of interfacing slightly smaller than the road, plus a second one to go in your garage pocket.

This is the garage pocket with interfacing inside. It is stitched on one of the long sides, then top stitched down.

SONY DSC

Next, I put interfacing on the outside of my road roll up. You could also use batting or something else to sandwich between the layers to give it a little heft.

SONY DSC

Next, I sandwiched that garage pocket between the two big pieces with the wrong sides facing out and sewed almost all the way around the outer edge , leaving a hole to turn the mat inside-in, and insert the ties that hold it all together.

SONY DSC

I then clipped all of the corners to make the mat lay flat, and turned the whole thing so the right sides were showing. Next, I sewed long strips of fabric to make the ties. If I were making this with my own fabric, I would probably opt for elastic instead, but the matching ties do look nice.

SONY DSC

Next, I topstitched around the entire edge, and lastly, I stitched between the garage spaces to hold the cars in place.

SONY DSC

Garage stitching.

That’s it! The whole thing comes together very quickly, and makes a very good gift. In fact, all of this has reminded me of how easy it is as a project and that I should make some for a craft fair I’m going to in November.

SONY DSC

All folded up.

SONY DSC

And unfolded.