At your bidding: making to order!
In my last blog, I announced my change of emphasis to make bags to order rather than just creating items in the hopes that they will sell. I'm delighted to say that so far this year, nearly all my online sales have been for made-to-order bags. This doesn't mean that it's not still possible to buy ready-made bags and purses from my Etsy or Folksy shops and I would, of course, love you to!
When I started making bags about 6 years ago, I wouldn't have thought that I'd have the confidence to offer the option of making bespoke bags for strangers, so how have I reached this point?
Soon after making my first few bags, my mother-in-law asked me if I'd make a bag, like a tote bag I'd made for myself, but she wanted it to have vegetables appliqued onto it because it was to be a gift for a friend who was often giving her vegetables from her allotment. I'd designed appliqued flowers so I felt bold enough to have a go at vegetables! This was my first made-to-order bag and significant because it gave me the confidence to offer "custom orders" when I opened my Etsy shop.
It wasn't long after I'd started selling online, that I got a request for a custom order. Toni of Shore Treasures wanted a small patchwork bag similar to one in my shop but with an extra section inside and a trigger hook for a keyring. No problem!
At around this time I'd made a book bag for my great niece and appliqued her name onto it, so the option of offering personalised items also became a reality. These book bags remain one of the most popular items in my shop and with a choice of colours and motifs (even your own suggestions) there's plenty of scope for individuality.
At that point, though, the requests had been for bags that weren't significantly different from others that I'd made. My first real challenge to make a truly bespoke bag came when I was asked to make a bag to coordinate with my customer's Irregular Choice shoes. I could envisage how I would interpret the design with applique, and found suitable matching fabric, but when, in the course of a series of messages, my customer decided that she'd like the bag to be of a style I hadn't made before, I needed to do more research. Consulting with a bag-making friend and looking at on-line tutorials, as well as making a practice version, provided me with the skills to produce the bag that she had hoped for and described as an "absolutely fantastic product". It also provided a new style of bag for me to have in my online shops.
Lots of correspondence to ensure a good understanding of a customer's wishes is essential to achieving a bespoke product that matches up to (or exceeds) expectations. It's certainly easier to do this face-to-face rather than through written messages and photos, as I found when being asked to make bespoke bags for three customers in the Sheffield area. Chatting over a cup of tea or coffee, being able to see any items that are to be matched with and getting immediate answers to questions relating to size, colour, use and extra requirements really helped in making these items for their new owners. Thank you Jane of Together We Make, Rachael of Fire and Fairylights and Jane of Dolls with Attitudes for your custom.
I am now starting a large bespoke order which I'm calling the "wedding dress project".
No, I'm not starting to make wedding dresses - the opposite in fact! I was contacted by someone asking me whether I could use the fabric from her wedding dress to make a variety of bags and jewellery rolls for her to give to family and friends. After a series of messages and seeing photos of the dress and some of her ideas of bags, my customer drove up to deliver the dress and together we discussed ways to use the fabric to achieve the items she wanted. How I get on with this great upcycling project will be in my next blog but here's the dress to get you thinking about what it might become, and I may post some updates on my Facebook page!
And if you'd like me to make a bag for you, take a look at my website page about bespoke bags.