Well, I’m officially back to business! After nine long weeks of waiting to be reunited with my sewing machine I sat down this afternoon to make a few simple cotton hearts. It’s been quite therapeutic for me and it made me remember why I still love my business after all this time, (ten years!) because deep down I'm just a girl who loves fabric and making something pretty with it.
While I was sewing I was thinking about how I can make the business work for me now. My mind was whizzy-ing so, I've just taken a break from my machine to sit down at my desk and type out my thoughts.
I'm going to be making a few small changes to the business and I want to be clear about them from the offset of my return. It's nothing major, I will just be moving from hand making everything to order, to making pre-prepared batches of my items instead. It's something I've experimented with a little in the past, and I liked it. So hopefully making these changes will make my life a lot easier and make your experience of ordering more efficient.
My sewing session today was my way of testing the water to see how long I can comfortably sit at my machine, since having my surgery. I was a bit nervous that I might have forgotten how to sew and I did have a few minor teething problems with my thread tension. But it was easily fixed, I just had to completely re-thread the machine. I was glad for muscle memory in that moment!
Today while sewing I realised that while I feel fit I know I'm still not 100% recovered and I need to take extra care of myself. Sitting at the sewing machine for hours on end does actually take its toll on my body even when I’m fully fit, so I want to be careful not to push myself too far over the next few weeks and months. It also confirmed to me that I'm not going to be capable of pulling out marathon sewing sessions anymore, and even if I was fit enough to do that, I need to be more mindful of stress levels and burnout after all the trauma of the last year.
It's been a rough ride.
My mind and body has been through a lot, from the sudden death of my darling Dad and learning to live with grief, from fibroids to infertility worries, open myomectomy surgery, nine weeks of recovery, a major house renovation, living out of a suitcase for over a year and counselling for depression. I'll be truthful and tell you I just can't face the usual stress levels that my business can bring me during my busier times. I love to make orders, but it's the pressure of getting them made and dispatched on time, and not knowing how many I'll have to make until the orders come in that leaves me on edge. I can be quiet for weeks and then all of a sudden I won't be able to physically cope with the order numbers coming through!
And I realised now that I simply can’t carry on with my current business model. Handmade to order is simply too overwhelming during busy periods. I've always managed it before, but it is stressful, and I want to try to reduce the levels of cortisol in my body now. I think this last year has given me enough to last me a lifetime.
In the past I've always just taken orders based on the amount of raw materials I have in stock, then I make, make, make like a maniac to fulfil them. No matter how prepared I am in advance I’m always so, so stressed with the order numbers at certain points of the year. I always take too much on and leave myself feeling quite jittery by the end of it all.
I even did this before my surgery and ended up dropping off a colossal bag of Easter bunnies at the post office on my way to the hospital the morning of my operation, because I took so many orders that I had to work right up until the eleventh hour! It was really stupid of me now I look back, but I was worried about money because I knew I'd have no income while I was off sick.
I know people will suggest I hire help, and I do have some help during pumpkin season. But I mostly work on my own because that's what I like to do, I don’t really want to employ a big team. I'm happy to work in my own company. Maybe one day that will change but this is the plan for now.
I'm aiming to release batches of stock for sale when I have a nice pile that I've prepared at my own pace. Prepared means a finished, blank, item than can either be sent out plain, or can easily be personalised by adding a simple fabric tag to the front.
This means I will only ever make as much as my body can handle in one sitting. The pressure is off! I can only sell what I've made. I'm in control of what I will be making each day and when. Hopefully it means I won’t physically be able to over commit anymore and hopefully you'll see your orders coming out a lot more quickly!
It shouldn’t make much of a difference to how you order online. It will be the same process, apart from things might not be available every time you check the site, but I'll always let you know when the stock will be replenished. I’ll try to build up a good amount of stock for busier times of the year and hopefully this will help me to keep calm and have a better work life balance.
There will be a slight change to the look of my items, but only with how the personalisation is attached. Over the years I’ve experimented with how I do this. At first, I used to sew the labels onto white felt and glue gun them on, then I changed to sewing them into the items before I finish making them. The second option is the one I’ve done for a few years, and whilst it makes the items look lovely and neat it's a process that doesn’t really help the stress levels during busy times as it leaves me with no option to batch make anything in advance. I have to sew the labels in before I’ve made the item which means nothing can be pre-prepared.
If I attach the personalised tag at the end of the making, I can batch make lots of items and then all I will need to do is attach the name label with your chosen personalisation on at the end. Simple!
You can see the difference below. The top image here has the tags attached at the end after the items have been made. They are backed in white felt. This is how they will look from now on. I think it makes the labels stand out nicely.
The image below shows the items where I've sewn the tag in at the start of the making process. It makes the items look neat and tidy, but it isn't completely necessary to do it like this. So I'll be opting for the above above in future.
After ten years in business I know only too well that things evolve, change and grow. I hope this change will be a positive one for my business. You're always so supportive of everything I do, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll like this new way of ordering. It means that whenever you buy an item now you can rest assured it’s been made and just needs to be personalised before I post it out to you. If the item is not in stock I'll put a note on the description to announce when the next stock update is due. I'm feeling positive that this is going to work out well for everyone.
So, I'd better get back to my sewing!