When preparing for snowbirding in Arizona this winter, I had to decide what to do about my ETSY shop. I don’t have a huge inventory or tons of traffic, but I decided to put everything in a plastic box and bring it with us. If an order happened, I could fulfill it from the road.
The RV resort has a store where residents can sell their hand made products. Last year I bought a cute visor cap and a water bottle carrier there. Apparently this store is well known in the area and gets shoppers from outside the park. I had the idea that maybe I would be able to sell my ETSY shop items at the store, but when we got there I found out it was closed this winter due to Covid.
Instead of a physical store this season, a few residents had organized an outdoor craft fair once a week for a couple of hours. I decided to try selling my ETSY items at the event in the RV park.
Notice the perfect fake grass behind my table, and in the next photo, some ladies practicing yoga on it. There is a nine hole golf course in the RV park with real grass, but other than that all the landscaping is desert appropriate.
There is a big question of whether participating in a craft fair, or selling homemade products in general, is worth the time and effort. Whenever I think about it, I remember that I don’t want to make dozens of the same thing. I decided to try the craft fair at the RV Park, since the set up effort was minimal, I had the inventory all ready to go, and only a couple of hours per week was required.
It turned out that the woman who sold me the hat I bought last year was in charge, and my booth ended up being next to hers on my first day. I enjoyed talking to her about where she is from, how long she stays in the RV Park, what kind of sewing machine she uses, where else she sells her things, etc. She sells a large assortment of fabric items such as sandwich wraps, reusable snack bags, bags for microwaving a potato, aprons, small purses, caps, etc. She does all her sewing in the summer, and sells at this RV park, and at one other large craft fair in her hometown. The prices on her items were very reasonable. I have to wonder how much profit she is actually making after taking into account her time and the cost of materials. I told her about my struggles using a 40 year old serger sewing machine that takes forever to thread and then usually does not work right. After learning about her newer self threading serger, I am tempted to buy one for $1000.00 (or more). That will not help my bottom line.
Shown below is a sandwich wrap and snack bag I bought this year, which are lined with Polyurethane Laminated Fabric (PUL) that has a polyurethane film on one side to make it waterproof. PUL fabric is durable, breathable and waterproof. It was originally developed for hospital settings, but is now commonly used for diaper covers, baby bibs and other products benefitting from a waterproof layer. The information I found said it is safe for food and the environment, but I am slightly suspicious. Eventually whatever product is made with it will be in a landfill, but that has to be better than using disposable diapers, or single use plastic bags for snacks.
My wool yarn and hats were not in demand in Arizona. People walked by and admired them and chatted. It was pleasant for the most part and I enjoyed meeting other residents at the park. On the forth week, it was really windy. I was spending all my energy trying to keep things from blowing off the table, or running after things that HAD blown off the table. I was about to bail out and pack up my stuff, when someone pointed out a different place for my table that was less windy. I decided to give it a try. After that someone bought a hat!
Another woman sitting at a booth near me was selling handmade cards. It turned out that she was manning the booth for her Canadian friend who could not travel to the RV park this winter due to Covid. She was looking for kitchen scrubbies, so I told her I could make some if she bought the yarn.
The following week the woman brought me 4 skeins of YarnBee Scrub-ology 100% cotton yarn. I found a pattern on Ravelry called “Scrubby Set” by B.Hooked Crochet that looked good. After I figured out what was going on with the pattern it was easy and quick to make. However the yarn keeps catching, and if you yank too hard it starts to break. I made several scrubbies in time for the craft sale the following week, selling one for $5. I won’t get rich on that, but it is enough for 1 Caribou Mocha haha, except that they do not have Caribou Coffee in Arizona.
Later I bought three skeins of “Sugar ‘n Cream Scrub Off ” by Lily at Joann Fabrics. It is similar to the Yarn Bee yarn, but there are lengths of smooth yarn alternating with sections of the abrasive yarn. It is also 100% cotton. I knit up a few scrubbies from this yarn, and between the two types of yarn I sold four the next week.
My other experience with craft fairs was in November and December of 2019, when Torri and I participated in a Holiday Artisan Fair in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Getting all the inventory documented and tagged, and setting up the space, took quite a bit of time and energy. The booth was in a large space with many vendors and a common central sales counter, so I did not have to sit there or process any sales. I sold three items, but at the end one item was unaccounted for, probably lost to shoplifting. Not a good use of my time and energy.
I have some ideas for things to make that could be sold on a limited basis, but I won’t be doing any big art fairs or farmers markets. Strictly from a financial perspective, if you add up the hours I spent sitting at the craft sale in the RV park, compared to the amount of money I made, it was not a good use of my time. However in this case it was a nice way for me to get to know some people at the park.