Friday, January 15, 2010


This is a story about trying to make a living profit out of my goods. After almost a year on etsy I finaly did the math and had to re-think my pricing. I am using my catnip pillows as an example because I had to totally reprice them after much calculation.

Imagine my surprise when my catnip pillows became my best seller! I originally made them as a lark to consume the ever-growing pile of scrap materials left over from making aprons, tablecloths, pillows and all the assorted goods on my etsy site. They were fun and a kind of give-away, so I listed them for $.25 each, and sold several, charging shipping extra.

Assorted scraps to be cut into pouches and make into catnip pillows.

Then looking at my etsy bill, I realized I was paying $.20 each to list them, and 3% to sell them! I was in negative dollars - well, pennies - territory. I increased the price to $.50, but was still only making mere pennies for my labor. During Christmas I increased again, to $.75 each, with free shipping, and sold a LOT. The free shipping was a big deal, because I like to have a tracking number, which costs about $.80 on top of the actual shipping charge, so I was paying $2-$5 sometimes shipping $10 worth of catnip. After Christmas I raised the price to $1 each, which gave me about $.50 profit, before thinking about the cost of the catnip. Harumph. I increased the price to $1.50 and decided to do a scientific experiment to calculate my actual costs making and selling a 2 1/2" square catnip pillow.

First I bought the catnip:

I wanted to know exactly how many pillows I could make out of the large economy 2.50 oz size jar. I assembled the scraps and measured out 3"x6" lengths and started sewing them. Then turned them inside-out, snipping the corners, filling them up with about 1tbsp of catnip, and sewing them shut:

Finally, DONE! I honestly didn't keep real track of my time, but it did take at least 3 - 4 hours to complete all 33 pillows, from start to finish. And now I know I can get 33 pillows out of a $7 jar of catnip. Time to do the math:

At $7 for 2.5oz, divided by 33 pillows, equals $.21ea in catnip, plus $.20ea to list on etsy, plus their 3% commission to sell, another $.05, and postage, minimum $.44 to mail a single pillow in an envelope, no tracking number, total $.90. This is what they mean by the cost of doing business. My profit is $.60, x 33 = $19.80, after selling them for $1.50ea x 33 = $49.50. Hoo boy! And my work is not done. I'm taking the jar full of pillows to the post office and get an estimate to ship them all to California,, plus tracking number, for a more realistic shipping cost. Then I plan on checking out the competition. Just how much CAN I really sell them for? How much do other etsians charge for their catnip toys? How much do they retail for at the pet store? I must say, this has been a true learning experience, a real eye-opener. I hope this little blog helps you out, too, in trying to make a living selling on etsy.

Well, heck, guess what? I just read one of the comments to this blog. A woman tells me she pays $2ea for her catnip pillows from a local vendor, and she drives to pick them up. She told me to raise my price! So guess what? I'm taking her advise and raising the price to $3 each! Thank you for such good advise! Here is the link to see them in my store.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


As you can tell if you have visited my etsy store , I like toile (pronounced twal). Toile is a French word which means "cloth". Toiles were first produced in France in the late 18th century and quickly became Marie Anhtoinette's favorite fabric, depicting romantic bucolic scenes of lovers picnicing on a riverbank, or hunting scenes, or peasants working in the fields, and other imaginary scenes. Benjamin Franklin sent toiles home to his wife while he was in England, thus introducing America to toiles. They were used primarily for decoration, in upholstery or drapery, in cushions and, printed on paper, as wallpaper.

Genreally printed in black, red or blue on a white or cream background, these days toiles are available in many colors and fabrics. Most of the toiles I use are a Laura Ashley copywrited design which I call the "rural scene". I have the same pattern in many colors:

I like to mix and match my toiles to make tablecloths. This one is brown and yellow, using the Laura Ashley print

This is an elegant black and white print

I do have other toiles besides the Laura Ashley rural scene. One day I played around and mixed and matched big time, and created what I think of as my masterpiece:

It's really hard to sell tablecloths, though. Everyone has a different size table, different color schemes, different taste, etc., etc. and so forth. Also they are time consuming and expensive to make. So nowadays I am making placemats/napkins from my toiles, cutting out different scenes approzimately 21"x15" and hemming them to approximately 20"x14", a generous sized placemat, which can also be folded into a napkin. I think they're charming. I sold this set:

And now I have this new set ready to list on my etsy site. Here is the original full-size piece of fabric:

I can only get 4 placemats out of each yard of this fabric, so I try to center each scene. I used 2 yards and produced 8 placemats/napkins, so you could use 4 for placemats and fold the other four for napkins!

These are the two big scenes, which can be folded to highlight a particular part, like a bowler, or the dancers:

I have another yard of this same pattern and colorway, and will make an apron today, and after I go to the fabric store and buy more batting, I will make at least one tablerunner, and several potholder/trivets. Stay tuned, and please see my store where these goods are available for sale.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


On the first day of 2010 I was at an Inn in Westerly Rhode Island after a really nice New Year's party the night before. It was snowing when I left Long Island the day before, but stopped along the way, and there was already plenty of snow in RI when we arrived. I had been wanting to take pictures of trees in the snow, and the next morning was beautiful in a gray winter's day sort of way. I hope you enjoy these pictures of trees in the snow.