I have been sitting on this one for a few days now, trying to think how best to answer it. Let me explain a few things to you guys.
I buy most of my materials from Joann’s. Yes, there are other stores I can get my fabric and thread and stuffing from. Probably better companies. So why do I get my things from there?
The employees. The staff there are great! Most know me by name, they joke how I’m in “Again?!” They have a great time with me. I like to support THEM. Other fabric stores I’ve been in don’t feel so great. One that I’d love to support watch me like hawks the moment I come in, as though I’m going to slip a bolt of fabric into my pocket or something. One cashier actually did tell me they thought I was up to no good. So I frequent stores that are kind to me.
Anyway. I buy my things from Joann’s, which allows me to find their prices online for fast reference. I’m rounding all numbers to something easy to do math with.
- A 32oz bag of fiberfill is $10. I can make five toys out of one bag. (I use the ten pound box now, but have not finished it so I don’t know how many animals yet.) So $2 an animal.
- Fat Quarters are $2.50. I can get two animals out of two fat quarters, so we’ll just call it one fat quarter per animal for ease. Would it be cheaper to get a whole yard of fabric? Yes. Why don’t I? If I have eight animals all exactly the same, they won’t be very interesting or one of a kind, would they?
- Sand is $3. I can get five animals out of one bag of sand. So $0.60
- Thread. I get the big spools whenever I can, so we’ll call it. $3.50. I can get three animals out of one spool, so $1.15.
- Interfacing is $2 a yard. I can’t really tell you how many animals I get out of this, because an elephant uses more than a giraffe, but an owl uses more than an elephant. Let’s call it six out of one yard, so $0.35.
- Embroidery Floss is $1, and I get five out of one skein, so $0.20
- Machine needles, $4 for five. $0.80.
- $0.20 listing fee for each item on Esty.
Let’s start there, with just the materials for one animal. Let’s say one giraffe. That’s $7.80 of just materials, base cost, IF I buy things online.
So out of my $22, I have $14.20 in profit. Wow that’s a lot! No, not really. See, because from the moment I open the fabric to iron it, to when the giraffe gets tossed in the wash, is three hours. Four if I do two at one time. (Chain piecing, you are a blessing.)
Then after I wash them, I take pictures, edit photos, and upload to Etsy. That takes another half hour to forty five minutes.
That’s if I don’t stop at all. No having to wind bobbins, no replacing thread, no re-threading my machine, no replacing needles, no going to the bathroom or getting the mail.
Also, I don’t only make one or two animals a day. I’m working on pouches, lip balms, new patterns, emails, etc. I put in an eight hour day, every day. Even when I’m not sewing. But, we’re just doing those three and a half hours for this.
Let’s see, California minimum wage is $8, so for three and a half hours that’s $28.
So, now I’m -$6.20.
Don’t forget, I have to pay my electricity bill for sewing those animals, my water bill for washing those animals, either gas or a bus pass to get the things I need, and at some point I have to eat! There’s also my $35 a month phone bill. Considering as I do a lot of business from my phone, I can’t really be without that. I also still owe $2,500 left of my loan for a college that I never got to finish. (I have one class left to graduate, and because of budget cuts they cut the class. So I’m SOL.)
Let’s also remember that it takes me at least one day to design and make the pattern, I have to test-sew the pattern, and then correct what needs fixing. All of that is unpaid.
So please tell me again that $22 is too much for a one of a kind, hand made, stuffed animal that comes with a name, backstory, and personality? I’d like to see these for $40. But no one would buy them at $22, who’s going to buy them at $40?
This is my job. My one job. This is my living, my life. I’m not a factory that buys fabric at $0.80 a bolt. I’m not some factory that has an industrial cutter, I cut my fabric out by hand. I trace my pattern from my cut out paper pieces to the fabric by hand. I sit for hours in the store with pieces of fabric trying to find the best match. I fussy cut to get the flower in the ear just right.
Buy local, buy hand made. Because we are our own sweatshops, underselling ourselves. But we have pride in our work.