Announcement of Classes
I taught at a bra making conference this past weekend, and while it was a little overwhelming due to class size, I have decided to start teaching again. I have set up five 3-day workshops to teach pattern drafting and manipulation of bras. The best part is that I am limiting class size to 5 individuals for each class.
I was planning to write this post later this week, but just by announcing it on Instagram and Facebook about an hour ago, I have already started booking classes and I know some of you want to know as soon as they are available.
The class days are all Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That way if you are taking off to come to Florida, you only need to take off 2 days, then enjoy an extra day in the Florida sunshine over the weekend after your class ends on Saturday.
The times are scheduled for 9am to 4pm with lunches and snacks included. We have a cute little neighborhood restaurant called Stone Soup that we like to frequent for lunch. If weather permits, we can walk, but we can easily drive over there in my hubbie’s Highlander.
If you are traveling here, I encourage you to stay at the beach to take in the relaxing atmosphere after classes, but we have hotels and AirB&B nearby too. Take an Uber to my studio and I’ll drive you back at the end of the day. I can also try to coordinate with everyone on their arrival times so one of us could come get you from the airport if you don’t want to deal with a rental. We can work out the details once you start scheduling your travel, but please check with me first before depending on us for airport pickup. I will not drive to the airport after 11pm, as I will be asleep, 10pm is probably pushing it.
Here is the link for the classes:
Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.
How to determine what size your bra was drafted for
How would you like to know what size your bra was actually drafted for?
Since there are so many different ways people measure for fitting bras, I thought I’d try to shed some light on why some people measure some ways and why some people measure other ways.
The first thing to cover is how people measure. I have encountered 4 different measuring techniques, but the one thing that is common among all of them is that you subtract your band number from your full bust measurement to determine your cup size. For each inch difference, there is a cup size.
The differences come into play based on how to come up with the band size. The most common measuring technique is to take your underbust measurement and add 4″ or 5″. Specialty shops generally take your underbust measurement and add 2″ or 3″. International measuring either take the underbust measurement as your band size or your chest (above the breast) measurement as your band size.
So, which one is correct? The short, but frustrating answer is, “All of them.” Each one of them were developed based on how a pattern was drafted, but how do you know what measurements they were drafted for?
The next short, but frustrating answer for that is, “you don’t know.” I am on a quest to find out what sizes these bras were drafted for.
I started with a paper with a line on the far left. I also did a lower horizontal line, but that was unnecessary (skip that if you are doing this yourself). I pinned the center of each bra and lined up the center front to the left line.
I first marked the position of the wire with it just sitting. I then straightened the band, which moved the wire and marked the same point on the bra with the wire sprung. That was done for a later post, but thought I’d explain what I did.
With the side of the band straightened out, I marked where the side seam was on both the top and bottom of the bra, then marked where the back ends before the hook & eye.
Each one of these is a different manufacturer, let’s determine what size these were actually drafted for. I did a video as well (link is at the bottom) but it might be a little technical and boring, except for the parts where the cat tried to get some love while I was filming.
I repeated this for 4 different bras. Notice that the angles of the side seam are very different, meaning that the body proportions these were drafted for, were very different as well.
I marked a horizontal line from the center front to the top and bottom of the side seam and indicated the measurements.
I then drew in the back lines from the side seam to the back and measured those as well.
Once all those measurements were recorded, I then tested the back for stretch. Now, the one thing I had taught in my previous books is to take into account the stretch of the back fabric, but in actuality, you need to know the stretch of the elastic, which is generally snugger than the fabric. In fact, you can really use any stretch fabric you want for the back, IF you have the right elastics to stabilize the fabric.
Ok, so to test the stretch, I tested the elastic itself. I marked in pins at 0 and 5″. I then lined it up to a vertical and horizontal line and stretched the elastic to a comfortable stretch. This stretch was not the full amount the elastic stretches it, its the amount it stretches before you hit resistance. The point beyond resistance can be very uncomfortable.
I then referred to my stretch ratio chart and reverse engineered the back lengths. I took the amount of the back (and really only the underbust measurement matters) and divided it by the stretch ratio to determine what the measurement it should fit on a person.
Ok, now I’m jumping around a bit. Lets first determine the difference from chest to underbust. Subtract the underbust from the chest amount for the front and multiply by 4. That is the difference for the entire bra between the chest and underbust measurements.
To determine the actual underbust measurement this was drafted for, add the front band, the new underbust measurement on the back plus 1″ for the hook & eye. Then multiply by 2. Voila. That is the underbust measurement this was drafted for.
Then add the chest difference to determine what chest measurement this was drafted for. Voila. Now you know.
One thing to note is that bras are designed for generally the smaller measurements in a range, so a comfortable fit would be for those two measurements plus up to 1″, maybe 1 1/2″ max.
The next question I approach is which measuring guidelines match each of these bras:
Black Bra: 38C by Maddie & Coco (cheap bra from Bealls)
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 30″, Chest 35 1/2″
Measuring technique: Chest +2/3 or Underbust +8
5 1/2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust
White Bra: 38B Body Frosting (cheap imported brand)
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 31″, Chest 33 1/4″
Measuring technique: Chest +4/5 or Underbust +7
2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)
Nude Bra: 40C Wacoal
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 32 3/8″, Chest 35 3/4″
Measuring technique: Chest +4/5 or Under bust +7/8
3 1/2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)
Brown Bra: 42C by Pink (Victoria Secret),
Measurements drafted for: Under bust 36 5/8″, Chest 41 3/8″
Measuring technique: Chest measurement
5″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)
Ok, I was not expecting those measurements for those sizes. Now I’m curious what the manufacturers recommends.
Just checked Wacoal. They recommend under +3/4, but no mention of the chest. As far as I can tell, this bra was possible drafted based on the fabric stretch and not the elastic stretch. The fabric stretched far more than the elastic did. Wacoal always fit me best, but the bands were often a little tight for me based on their recommendations.
I also checked Victoria Secret and at least their measurements match their recommendations. The other two brands are cheap and likely made in some factory with little to no reference of sizing.
I can see why so many people wear the wrong size bras. It isn’t really an issue with the measuring, it’s an issue with the drafting. Every part of the bra needs to be accounted for, in every aspect of the draft. (A wire discussion will be a later post.)
The elastics play an integral part to the way a bra fits and if the bra is only being drafted based on the fabric and the elastic isn’t incorporated into it, the bras can fit drastically different based on which notions are used.
Why don’t you try this yourself and share with me what you discover about your favorite brand. How does their measuring size up to the actual bras you have?
Here is the full video:
This is all part of the research I did for the third edition of my bra drafting book. Now, I know that some of you are wondering why I would write a third edition in 7 years. Not sure if you knew this but the big textbook publishers do a new edition every 2 years, so I’m not far off.
BUT, I do not plan to write another edition of this book, EVER! When I wrote my first book, I researched all the available information out there and tested and tested. I developed my own drafting techniques and they worked. I still say that they worked, even though I am writing the 3rd edition.
What changed is me. My body changed after having a child so I began to look at drafting a whole lot differently. The second edition also included instructions on how to draft in CAD. The second edition I am also proud of. I have found a few typos and wording that could have used a little more editing, but the second edition showed different ways to do the same thing.
Over the past 3 years I have gotten involved with a few bra making groups on Facebook. It has opened my eyes to even more issues that ALL bra drafting neglected to address.
I decided last year that I was going to do more scientific and mathematical research to thoroughly understand the underlying issues and how to fix them by drafting a truly custom fit. That is what I have been working on.
I created a calculation to determine the horizontal measurement for a cup draft based on the wire size, under bust, full bust and chest measurements. I then was able to create a calculation to determine the vertical measurement of the cup incorporating one additional measurement, the chest height. With these new calculations, I have been able to get to a more accurate draft on the first try.
Those are just some of the reasons for the third edition. I’ll share some more in my next post.
Silent, but Busy on the Home Front
I know I have been silent lately, but I have been working on some big things. As you can see, I gave my website and blog a facelift, a much needed facelift. I believe it is more mobile friendly now, so be sure to let me know if you encounter any issues with either.
I also created and developed an online course website with a PolyPattern Training Course. I plan to begin working on some courses in conjunction with my bra making book release, but more on that in a bit. It took me a while to get it right, but at least I will no longer be working on web design for 3 websites so I can focus on what is really important.
Another big project I have been working on for several months is to create a full product catalog to make it easier for everyone to see my product offerings under one cover. There will be a few new products I’m adding to the catalog in about a month, so I’m only going to be offering a few printed catalogs in the meantime, but that still will be a few weeks away.
I have a big underwire shipment coming in a few weeks with three new underwire styles which I am really excited about. But unfortunately, with all the imposed tariffs from our current president, my wire prices have gone up a bit and I have seriously reduced the markup to keep the prices reasonable. (In a related note, we have been actively researching to develop our own wire bending machine, but haven’t had a chance to really research the available material in the US for making custom wires.)
Here is our present catalog. Not sure why it is showing link text in Chinese, but I’m hoping to get to the bottom of that too.
As if designing/redesigning three websites and creating a catalog isn’t enough work, I am also actively testing my new drafting instructions for bra making and I believe I have create two successful calculations to determine the horizontal and vertical bust measurements for drafting based on 5 simple measurements that everyone can take. I’m just waiting to confirm with a few more testers before I declare it confirmed.
The next step to work on in my book is my pattern manipulation instructions, but I feel like I need to have my block drafts perfected first. I’m almost there.
AND…..I am also working on some new bra patterns. I know I state I have been working on these for a while, but in the process of all my book research, I have decided to offer a set of patterns for various different wire types and sizes as well as variations for torso shape and bust depth. It has been a fun project, just ask any of my testers.
I plan to release the cups and bands separately as they will be designed to be mixed and matched with new designs. I have so many variations for both, it is proving challenging to figure out how to split them up. I have been working on the band range initially.
My first pattern set is for the regular wire in band sizes 28 through 52. Each band size has 8-10 variations for wire size and 3 variations for torso shape, from tubular to v-shaped. This accounts for chest measurements that are larger than underbust measurements.
I’ll be working on the band patterns for the vertical wire and my flat vertical wires as well as bands for all my new wires – the long vertical, short vertical and demi. With the demi, I plan to create two bands – one for a traditional demi wire use and one more vertical in style for larger bust sizes. Those two will be the last I work on.
AND…………..In addition to all of that, I have been trying to downsize my product offerings of items that are not intimate apparel industry related. It has prompted me to completely re-organize my sewing room to make it more functional for myself, for my daughter and for being able to bring students into my studio for workshops. Here are a few photos of my new workshop layout.
I know sometimes I say I plan to do things, but you may not see things happening. Always know that there is never “nothing” going on with me. Stay tuned and you will see some amazing things coming your way soon.
New Blog, New Courses, New…
I have been working on this redesign since September. It is amazing how long it actually takes me to implement changes when it is just me. I used to think that my employees slowed me down, but perhaps they made me more efficient with my time.
With no employees, I now do it all. I am still one website away from my full redesign, but two sites are done.
Ok, so I did say two sites. If you notice on the navigation bar at the top, I have a link for online classes. This is new. I presently only have two online classes done. One for the demo of PolyPattern and one for the full training of PolyPattern. That course took me a couple months to get together, but now I have a lot more support for the software.
As many of you may know, I am working on revamping my drafting instructions for bra making. This takes a really long time. I just completed phase one of new directions. Phase 2 starts next week. The plan is to release an online course to work with the new book. I’m not sure exactly how I will structure it, but I’m thinking I can offer a discount for the course if you get the book, or get a discount on the book if you buy the course.
My goal is to have the drafting completed by mid June. I am teaching a drafting class at the Bra Making Conference in June, so I have to have a working copy completed by then. Two months isn’t much time, so I have a lot to work on before then.
I would love to commit all my time to this but unfortunately I still have to run my online shop nearly full time. I just ordered more supplies and will be expanding my offerings for larger wholesale quantities. I have already put together a catalog for this, but I can’t release it until I update my website. The catalog looks nice! Its 58 pages right now and it might grow 2 more pages after my last edits are done.
On all other fronts, things are good. My daughter got into a gifted program for critical thinking and problem solving. I’m so proud of her. She also got switched to another class after a bully punched her and she defended herself with a pair of scissors. Not happy about the scissors part, but proud that she stood up for herself.
Now that the blog is updated I can get back to posting again. See you soon!
End of the Year Update
This time of year is always nuts. My business is super slow and my daughter’s schedule is super busy, plus trying to figure out what to get my loved ones for Christmas is just a nightmare. For a small business like mine, Christmas time is the slowest time of the year, but it is also my busiest time of year, with preparations for January and beyond.
Here is a fun photo of my daughter while I digress a moment.
December is a cacophony of projects for myself. I had originally planned to release my new sports bra pattern a few weeks ago, but decided that December is the worst time to release anything unless it has something to do with gifting.
Sewing patterns are usually a personal project and not a giftable, so January is a much better time to release a pattern. And that is exactly what I’m doing. I currently have an amazing group of ladies testing out my new pattern in sizes across the spectrum.
The samples look great and I’m really glad I took my time to get this one released. I have completely rewritten my instructions and reformatted my pattern downloads so the sizes can be turned off with layers in Adobe Reader. I am not sure if this is inherent to Illustrator, or if it was an extension I downloaded to do it. I honestly can’t remember. I just tried looking for the extension and couldn’t find it, so the extension I’m thinking of mine not be this one.
Anyway, back to my year end summary.
Amongst my many projects, I have also been working on putting together a website for online courses. The first course I have written is for the software PolyPattern. It is my way of offering a better support system for the software.
The second course will be related to the pattern book I released a few months ago, followed by the third course on grading. The website is in need of a few more revisions, but I’ll announce it in early January.
Let’s see, what else is on the docket for the new year. Once the course website is rolled out, we will then be rolling out our website and blog redesign. As if I didn’t have anything to do already.
I hope to start working on revising my California Dreaming pattern late January/early February. I will be renaming it, but don’t worry, if you bought this one already, you will get the revisions too.
In early March, we will be rolling out (for beta testing) our inventory management software. My husband has been working on this full time for the past year, but I have been working on some version of it for about 4 years now. It’s the only way I’ve been able to keep from overselling with all my online marketplaces. I will be so glad when this is ready to go. If you are interested in possibly testing it, check out the website and sign up for the newsletter on there. www.EpitomeInventory.com.
So, that is the plan for early next year. Do you think I can get it done? I hope so.
Now for the wrap up and thank you portion of this post.
As a little news round up for this year, I am grateful that my new pattern drafting book has been received positively. I have at least one school picking it up for the Spring semester in 2019, but I hope more will be too.
I would love to thank my husband for all his support of my business venture and his partnership in raising our wonderful family. As some of you may have picked up from posts here or there, we added a 4th member to our family this last year.
No, I did not have another baby. If so, that would have been very awkward since she is 20 years old. Early this past year, we welcomed Hanna into our family full time. We may not be her biological parents, but we call her daughter and will forever be a part of our family. I wish we could have taken her in 5 years ago when she came into our lives, but life has to itself play out.
While I wished we could have been her foster parents when she needed one most, we are glad to have her in our lives now. I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a wonderful new year. I’ll see you back here in a few weeks when the new Laurel Sports Bra pattern is released.
Getting a Pattern Ready for Sale
As I’m trucking along in the 7th hour of putting the pattern sizes together, I keep thinking that people really don’t know what it entails to get a pattern ready for release. I am hoping I’ll have this pattern ready for release next week, but I still have hours left of making the sizes look good and have to update my directions still.
Here is my journey of labor and love for a pattern. (Apologies for not photographing more steps in my process.)
1. Initial design phase – this involves sketching and creating my initial pattern. For the Laurel, I started with my Christina Sports Bra as my base. Altering the pattern in my software is getting easier, but I used to do this step by hand.
I cut and paste the pattern together in my software, double check the seam measurements, the waistline measurements, side seam measurements, across bust measurements. Once I feel like I have a working sample, I print out the first draft and sew a sample for myself. This was my first sample
I can then evaluate major and minor changes to my base size. For the Laurel, I was able to get changes in my base size completed after this first round. For the Christina, this phase took about 6 samples. The Christina was started from scratch, so initial patterns in a new silhouette are more labor intensive.
2. Initial grade for the J cup band range – I start this grade based on the Christina grade, but because the seams are completely different, there is a lot of trial and error.
My grading is done in two parts. First for the J cup (my size) for all band sizes, then for each cup size in each band size. There is a lot of back and forth to make this work. The side seams and waistline have to remain the same as the Christina so I stay consistent in my sizing.
Then I need to make sure both sides of the princess seam line remain the same for each size increase. I also have to verify the measurement across the bust is increasing by the right amount. The last point to adjust is the strap point and a point on the armhole which affects the armhole coverage.
If you were wondering, I usually need two notebooks and a clipboard out to help me keep the numbers straight. I also have a spreadsheet I use to help me determine what each measurement should be. When I get to the size 40/42 in the range, I make changes in the pattern shapes to accomodate a slightly different body shape.
This initial grade takes about two to three 6 hour days (for the wide 150 sizes range I cover for the sports bras).
3. Writing initial directions & test fit – I do a rough set for my pattern testers to follow for testing fit of my graded range. I then send the patterns to my testers for checking fit.
I generally give about 2-3 weeks, but sometimes less if its an easy sew. At this time I take a tiny break from my patterns to work on my many other projects.
4. Test fit evaluation and changes – after reviewing 4-6 different sizes I determine if the changes that are needed are a simple grade change or a more complicated pattern change that is needed. Luckily the Laurel Sports Bra was a simple grade change. I neglected to check the measurements on the new pattern of the center front to the armhole. Most of the patterns were off by 1/2 an inch, which affected the fit for everyone.
I also discovered a little pattern problem with the waistband which caused me to have to adjust the waistband pattern and the waistline measurements of the patterns. I also realized this is a change that needs to be made on the Christina, so I will go back after all these steps and update those patterns as well. I honestly don’t think anyone would notice the issue on the Christina, but I’m a perfectionist, so I, of course, have to fix it.
5. Export patterns from software into PDF I can turn into my pattern downloads. At this point, most people might think I am nearing completion, but in actuality, I’m only about half way through this process. I next make all my lines pretty by adding styling and colors to the pattern pieces. This took me 3 hours.
6. Rearranging patterns for download – this sounds easy, but the patterns are not all together. All the A cups of each pattern piece are together and each other cup for each pattern piece are all grouped together. I have to then take each band and each cup and separate them into each band size. That alone took about 2 hours.
Once they are all in their own files, then comes the daunting task of nesting each pattern set together, adding pattern info, grainlines and sizing square. Then grouping them and placing them in the Letter, A4 and A0 formats. Each band size takes 1.5 to 2 hours to organize and get ready for downloading.
7. Filming the tutorials – I take the time to film directions and generally sew two samples together in case there are alterations I’m showing in the directions. I plan out the best steps for construction and mark up the initial direction I created to follow my tutorial.
8. Updating the directions – this generally doesn’t take too long, but I often have to illustrate steps that were not previously illustrated.
9. Editing the video tutorials
10. Creating the online listing and uploading the files for download.
11. Pattern release!
Well, there you have it. I still have from the middle of step 6 and 8-11 to complete, but I’m taking this tiny break to write this post about my process. Luckily I filmed the tutorial on Monday, so I at least have most of that done, all I need to do is film my intro for the videos.
Spiral Binding Do-it-Yourself
I almost always spiral bind the drafts of my books while I’m editing, so I am often dropping by the Office Depot to get spiral binding done. Unfortunately, my Office Depot is the only office supply store in about a 10 mile radius, so they are often overworked and understaffed.
For the last 4 binding projects, I had to drop off the book and wait until the next day to get it spiral bound and even then, they still hadn’t done it. Each spiral binding trip cost me about $5 for the binding and covers, plus about an hour of my time to drive there and back and wait.
I decided that my newest book would best be viewed in spiral format. I have thought this about all my others as well, but when you self-publish, you are slightly limited with your options. I also really wanted my book to be color (as well as all my others, but I learned how to do it this time around). The cost to print my book in color on Amazon was way more than I wanted to spend and it also would cause me to price my customer out of buying it.
Because of the cost factor associated with Amazon color printing, I chose to have my Amazon book printed in black & white. I also sell my book with a distributor using a different printing service. Luckily their color costs are about half of Amazon’s so my book sold through Ingram will be in color, but still perfect bound. The spiral option is available only by me and my manual labor.
I searched more and more and found out that I could get color copies of my book printed for personal use on Barnes & Noble Press. This is a perfect solution. I ordered 20 copies from Barnes & Noble Press in color so I could spiral bind them myself.
Now for my decision to bind them myself. I factored the price of binding 100 books at $5 each, which obviously was $500. I felt that was a little much, so I decided to price out the stack cutter and the binding machine on my own. The two machines cost about $250 total plus the coils were another $20 and the clear plastic cover sheets were another $10. So, for the grand total of $280 I could buy the machines and do the binding myself. That was really a no brainer. And I can bind any future books for only the additional cost of the additional coils.
Here is the stack cutter. I line it up and cut off 1/8″ of the spine.
Here is the stack in progress. The spines on the left, the cut books on the right and the clear covers in the middle.
The is the binding machine to cut the holes. It is a lot of work, but I got a binder that can punch up to 20 sheets at a time.
The coil binding of the machine I found to be useless. It was too difficult to control. There is one speed to it, so it is more work to try to use it than just manually coiling it. I opted to manual coil them. One of these days, when I have more patience, I will try to get the coiling part to work for me. Here is the stack before I trimmed the coils to size.
Because I had such issues with the coiling part of the machine, I wonder if I could have found a machine that punches the holes without the coiling for half the price, but I’m not going to return this one and deal with it, so I’m not going to get myself upset by looking up the price difference. I have to pick my battles and today’s battle is for my daughter to pick up her little people off the dining room floor. (I really thought she would be outgrown of the little people by now, but she likes to line them all up like they are walking around the room in a single file line. I guess it beats her playing video games.)
National Sewing Month is Here!
National Sewing Month is here! I honestly didn’t even know there was a thing called “National Sewing Month.” But a colleague in the industry reached out to me to see whether I would be interested in being a part of her celebration of National Sewing Month.
I said, “Sure, why not?”
So what’s the deal? Maddie Flanigan of Madalynne Intimates is hosting a giveaway of several sewing prizes, including one of my book Bare Essentials: Bras. It’s an Instagram sewing challenge, but she will also be awarding a $100 gift certificate to her own shop, a $200 JoAnn’s Gift Card and a year subscription to Creative Bug.
I know there are a bunch of promotions across the interwebs of the internet this month. I wish I could be more involved than I am, but hey, I’m blogging at least.
As my own personal celebration of National Sewing month, I will be de-stashing my parent’s garage of my fabric. Check out my fabric stash on my Porcelynne Business Facebook page. I have a lot of random fabrics that were left over from my store or my personal stash. When we moved, I packed them all in air tight bags and stashed them in my parent’s garage. I will be pulling fabrics out of storage all month, so check out what I have.
It does feel nice to finally go through them. My loss is your gain. I’m participating in a few events this coming weekend. On Saturday I will be at Whim-so-Doodle in Downtown St. Pete doing a crafting garage sale from 11-2. On Sunday I’ll be at Art Pool from 11am to 5pm. At Art Pool, I will have all my cool vintage fabrics and trims, Saturday is more random stuff.
Everything I don’t sell in terms of the vintage fabrics will be added to the Facebook shopping link on my facebook page.
It’s our 16th Anniversary!
This month marks the 16th anniversary of my business, Porcelynne. 16 years ago this month, I made my way across the country to San Francisco to start my lingerie design business, Porcelynne Lingerie. It has been a wild and amazing adventure thus far.
In the past, I have not celebrated my business anniversary. It never really came up and I never really had any significant announcements to make during this anniversary month. My business has changed forms over the years, from a lingerie design business, to a co-op boutique, to a retail fabric shop and now I’m just an online supply and pattern shop.
Despite my love for having a brick and mortar shop, it really does take up all your time. You are having to figure out how to make twice as much money to keep the doors open. This can pull you away from your ultimate goals just to make ends meet. When you are online only, you can actually focus on other things – like family and personal growth.
Ideally, I would have made a big deal about my 15th Anniversary, but we had just moved to Florida and we were dealing with hurricane season. Remember Hurricane Irma and Maria? That put us out of power for a week. We had just moved into our house a few weeks prior to Irma hitting Florida and we had just started to unpack. Once the chaos ended, I was back to playing catch up from our cross-country move. These are pictures of my sewing studio during the chaos.
It is now a year later, I have moved my business forward, but my storage unit is still full (aka my parent’s garage). I am actively going through my storage unit to unpack my fabric. Most of the fabric is from my store, but I do have some personal fabrics stashed in there too.
If you haven’t noticed, I rarely ever do a store-wide sale. This is mainly because I price myself fairly competitive so I am unable to really do any markdowns and keep my business afloat. I introduced the reward points a few years ago, which gives 10% back in rewards for future purchases. That is my way of offering a site-wide sale.
In the coming months, I will be releasing more patterns, books and downloads, so now is your chance to take advantage of sampling my patterns at half price.
Thanks for being a part of my journey.
How I Started Selling on Amazon and the Experiences that Followed
I first started selling on Amazon in September of 2013. I was recruited by a representative on Amazon that summer and over the course of a few months, I diligently worked on compiling a spreadsheet for them. He created a Brand account for me and held my hand (metaphysically) through the entire process. At that time, I was selling on both my website and Etsy and had just opened my retail store (not to mention my daughter was about 6 months at the time), so this was a new challenge to add to the mix.
My sales in the first few months were sad, but still probably better than I did on my website. I had about 5 sales a week for the first 2 months. It was pretty easy to manage. I shipped directly through Amazon’s interface, but pulling orders was time consuming.
At this point in my business I had not been pre-packaging any of my products, so as an order came in, I manually counted out what I was shipping and sealed them in a little plastic baggie. Selling on Amazon was really an experiment for me.
Three months passed and I spent the holidays working on adding new products to Amazon. I went from earning $100 a month on Amazon to about $400 a month by summertime. I had also moved my shop to a busier location and bought a counting scale to help me package. Believe it or not, I was counting out all my inventory manually for a year before my husband asked me one day, “Have you ever tried using a counting scale?” Not sure why it took him nearly a year for him to realize if I had, I would have used one.
What a life saver….a year late.
Amazon sales kept steady for the remainder of 2014 and it kept growing in 2015. I had very little competition on Amazon until mid 2015. More on that in just a bit. Fast forward to 2018 and Amazon continues to brings in about 40% of our revenue, allowing me to support my entire family while my husband concentrates on designing a multi-channel inventory syncing software for me. (The slated release of this amazing software is February of 2019, so stay tuned).
I am reaching my 5 year anniversary of selling on Amazon and I have learned many lessons on adaptation and reorganization. A couple years after selling on Amazon, a flood of Chinese sellers jumped on boat, tipping the scale for small businesses like mine. My best selling item, which I was selling for $25-30 suddenly dropped to zero sales. I did a little research and found that my best selling product was being offered by Chinese sellers for only $3.
That was a huge blow and I had just invested an additional $1000 into that inventory (and for the record, I still have 3 boxes of it). It hit my bottom line pretty hard. I had to step back from my business on Amazon and make some decisions. Sales had died and I needed to figure out how to get it back. The novelty of Prime was kicking in and I evaluated my options.
I packaged up all that extra inventory I couldn’t sell and sent it Amazon for Fulfillment. I also had to drop my prices to about $8 which included shipping. This also got me reevaluating my shipping costs. I had so many people complaining about shipping costs on a $3 item. I changed my products to include all my shipping charges. So instead of $3 plus shipping, I changed the item to $6 with free shipping. To my Amazon customers this was a great deal. FREE SHIPPING!!!
To help offset some of the shipping costs I also offer customers 10% off for multiple item purchases. It helped re-energize my sales.
As time passed, most of those initial Chinese sellers all were removed from Amazon. Understand that Amazon has a strict 48 hour shipping policy. You have to ship within 48 hours to keep your account in good standing. I believe there are exceptions with how you set up your account, but my account was set up for 48 hours shipping time.
Luckily this does not include weekends, so I don’t have to ship on Saturdays. If you miss shipping deadlines, your ratings decline and Amazon will not show your products on the the first several pages even if it is relevant to a product search. They will eventually remove sellers that have a negative rating, which is why all those Chinese sellers disappear shortly after they arrive. I still see this true. There have been a few products of mine this has happened to.
A few years passed and a friend at my daughter’s school told me how she had received a follow up email from an Amazon seller, checking in and asking for feedback. She suggested I do the same because she felt a personal connection to them. I thought that was a great idea and proceeded to sign up with a service that sends follow up emails. I’m not going to mention the company here because the guy has some other businesses that seem like a bit of a scam, but the email software works for me. On a side note, the email follow ups will be a feature of our software, so no extra $40 a month for that pretty soon.
The reviews really helped my page ranking too. Having the reviews on my Amazon store has been really good for business.
Amazon has another feature called Enhanced Brand Content that I have taken advantage of. I’m not sure what the deal is, if this is a feature for Brand accounts only, or if anyone can use them. They changed their Brand requirements since I joined, but I’m kind of grandfathered in. The new requirement is that you have to have a trademark of some kind to be able to have a Brand Account. Having a Brand account also negates the requirement of having UPCs.
What the Enhanced Brand Content does for me is it allows me to have a custom description for a product including additional images. This is what my underwire listing looks like.
There is also an Amazon advertising account that is linked to your store, but thats a whole other animal that I won’t be discussing here. If you are interested, comment below and I will see what I can whip up for you.
Amazon has been a fun experiment in growing my business. I feel like I got in early, but maybe I’m just seasoned now. I’ll have to write another post about how I got selling on Walmart too, but today I need to go to the gym and get a little work out in.
Check out my Amazon shop here: Porcelynne Amazon Store