{Ask Abby Maddy- Where to buy supplies?}

 

AAM

Today’s question comes from so many emails and messages that I can’t just attribute it to one person, but it usually goes something like this:

“I just started a sewing business and I cant make any money if I keep buying my supplies from the fabric store, but I don’t know where to buy supplies. Where do you get your fabric and supplies?”

or

“ I love the {buttons, fabric, jewels, etc…} you used on your latest bag design. Where can I find those supplies?”

or

“Do you have any recommendation on where to buy fabric wholesale?”

 

They’re all great questions. And they’re the same questions I had when I first began sewing. After all, we’re all looking for the best place to buy unique fabrics and notions at the absolute best price.

So after three years I am finally going to tell you where I buy my fabric.

Are you ready?

Get a pencil.

I’ll wait.

Ok, ready?

 

I buy fabric everywhere.

 

Hehee..OK, so that was kind of cruel, I know.

So, I’m not gonna tell you the actual places where I buy most of my fabric {trade secret} but I can tell you that I’m not a fabric snob and nothing thrills me more than finding a piece of vintage linen or lace – or even a pillow case, in a unexpected place. As long as it meets my quality standards and I like it, I buy it. And while you may not even realize it, Abby Maddy items are often made up of a mix of high priced designer fabrics and equal quality store brand fabrics, and the occasional vintage piece. That’s part of what makes our brand unique.

What I will share with you today are some suggestions on places to look for good quality supplies and fabric. Spend a little time doing some research and I promise you’ll find your suppliers in no time.

For fabric, I recommend sites such as fabric.com or Etsy.  You can easily find a large selection of colors and textures, but you can purchase in small quantities if you’re unsure of what you’re getting. Etsy is also great for finding vintage or hard to find pieces to work with. If you’re looking for a mass market retailer, I recommend the Brother Sister line from Hobby Lobby. It’s designed just for their stores, and its a better quality {and prettier} fabric than you’ll find in most fabric stores.

For notions, the sites above are both great resources {especially ETSY}, but I also like to scour thrift shops and junk stores for vintage buttons, bobbins and broaches to add life and character to my pieces. And believe it or not Ebay can sometimes be a good source of bulk notions, just be sure to check the seller rating, return policies, and then inspect the items well once you’ve received them.

As for wholesale I can only say this. Notions are much easier and cheaper to purchase wholesale than fabric. That’s because most stores require you to buy twenty-five plus yards before the discount even begins. If you’re working with small pieces and you want to change patterns and designs frequently that can make it almost impossible to purchase wholesale.

Are you starting to understand why handmade is a little more costly?

Spend a little time checking out online sites and stores, and you’ll be amazed at the variety of fabrics and notions that are available. You will eventually find your own favorite supplier, possibly even an undiscovered gem that will become your own trade secret 🙂

Happy Shopping!

{Ask Abby Maddy- Increasing Online Sales}

Today’s question comes from Te’anna, who writes:

“I am a {direct sales} district assistant…and  I would love to increase my online sales Do you have any advice for creating more exposure 
and increasing sales online? “

Oh my! Why yes Te’anna, I do! Thank you sooo much for asking!
Running an online business can be super rewarding- as in you can answer emails and run your website from the comfort of your jammies- but it can also have it’s challenges. You don’t have a store front, traditional advertising isn’t as beneficial, and you can’t rely on the word of mouth if no one knows you’re here. 
In other words, the whole “Build it and they will come” thing doesn’t apply.

I always recommend when you are working for a direct sales company that you do your due diligence and check with the company to find out, first, what you are allowed to do online. A lot of companies only allow you to have a presence on their sponsored sites, approved Facebook pages, etc…And you gotta make sure you’re playing by the rules.

OK, so now that that’s done, let’s talk about all the possibilities out there in that great big online world. 
One of my most favorite ways to increase traffic to my site is partner with other shops and blogs that I adore. I love it because it benefits both parties, and it can be a great deal of fun. Plus, it’s great exposure to a primed audience that you wouldn’t otherwise have. You can do a giveaway or offer a special discount to their customers/readers when you launch a new product or to mark a holiday or celebration. And make sure you take full advantage of the giveaway process. Want to increase traffic to your site? Have them visit and leave a comment with their favorite product to be entered. Need more Facebook traffic? Instruct them to “Like” your page for an entry. The possibilities are endless.

Now, if you happen to be like me, and blessed with the gift of {written}gab, then you’re gonna lOvE this idea. Find a site or blog you love, that’s relevant to your product and Guest Post! It’s a fabulous way to introduce yourself and your product to a new readership, plus you can take the opportunity to educate your audience. So say you work for a company that sells cosmetics, well I don’t know any woman that doesn’t love a good make-up tip, so use your exposure and expertise to write an advice or “how to” piece. Reader’s love gaining insider tips, and you’ll have the chance to showcase one of your strengths. If you have a blog, return the favor for another shop owner. You’ll quickly find the online world revolves this way.

Of course we can’t overlook the obvious when it comes to the basics of doing business online. Set aside some time to give your brand an online inspection and ask yourself these questions:

Do you have a website? Is it current? Is it easy to use? Is it easy to find? Does it have a shopping cart?


Do you have a Facebook page? Do your customers know you have a FB page? Is it current? Do you post often and reliably? Do you take full advantage of all its features?


Do you have a Twitter account? Do your customers know you have it? Do you use it? 
{Did you know you can set up an app on your facebook page to auto post to your Twitter account each time you post? Try it, it’s what I use}

Do you use Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube, Etsy or any other media sites? Do your customers know you they can find you there? These can be very powerful tools when used reliably. 

Do you have a Blog? Helloo?!! It’s Free!  


Do you have a Newsletter? Hello?!….Yea, that’s free too!


Are you starting to get the picture? 

There are thousands upon thousands of ways to increase your visibility online, so long as you’re using them reliably. It may feel as though you are posting constantly, repeating yourself or tweeting in your sleep, but remember, you must be consistent in your efforts. When working with a business that’s solely online, you simply must do something to to keep your business moving forward every single day.
Take some time to set yourself up using the outlets and platforms you want to use and then grab a calendar and schedule the next three months with giveaways, promotions, guests posts, newsletters, product launches, and anything else you’ve got going on. Create your own momentum and I promise you will see things happening in your business. And then don’t stop! Keep going, scheduling, posting, tweeting, and moving, moving, moving! You’ll be amazed with what you can do!

{Ask Abby Maddy- How to Choose a Sewing Machine}



Today’s question is actually one that I get often. 

As soon as someone finds out that I’m self taught, 
the first thing they want to know what kind of sewing machines I use.
 
 
If you know my story, you know that I almost failed Home Economics, and had no idea how to even thread a sewing machine when I first began. Back in 2010 when I was just starting out I borrowed my mom’s twenty five year old Singer and literally had to Google how to thread it. But I finally nailed down the basics and soon I was off shopping for my own machines.
 
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I knew that I wanted to have all computerized machines, and so I finally settled on a Brother CS6000i. And for the first year of the business, it was the only machine I used. It’s a total workhorse and is everything I needed to get started. I love how many stitches are pre-stored, and the manuals are super easy to follow. Plus, it came with a ton of specialty feet and tools, which was a huge plus, since I had no idea what I needed back then. I’m telling you, I was a total rookie.
 

 

 
But as my sewing skills progressed, I decided it was time to add second machine to the studio, the Brother SE400, which is a combination sewing and embroidery machine. And it quickly became my new best friend. 

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Even though it has an embroidery carriage that allows designing and monogramming, I honestly don’t embroider with it that often, but I sew on it all day, everyday. I absolutely adore the way it sews.

It also came with lots pre-loaded stitches, designs and fonts for monogramming,as well the embroidery carriage, hoop, feet, and accessories. But my absolute favorite feature is that it ties and cuts with just the touch of a button. It’s a huge time saver!
 

And speaking of buttons, most people are surprised to know that I sew completely without the use of a foot pedal. Computerized machines can be operated by touch button which is one of the coolest features.

 

 I love all my machines, and trust me, I put them through some serious abuse. If you’re new to sewing and thinking about purchasing your first machine, I highly recommend spending some time online reading and researching. When you’ve found one you like, take some time to visit your local fabric store to try it out for yourself. Make sure it does everything you need it to do, it’s well built, can be easily repaired and cleaned, accessories and parts are readily available, and most importantly, that it feels comfortable to sew on.
 
Recently I’ve added a Serger to my collection,
and honestly these three machine are pretty much all I ever need. 


 

Ready to buy a machine? 
 
Here’s my Top 5 Tips on Buying a Sewing Machine.
 
1) Stick to name brand machines. You really can’t go wrong with Brother or Singer, or if you have a little more to spend, a Janome or Bernina- Be still my heart! 
 
2) Opt for computerized if you’re a beginner. This may be a bit controversial, and I too learned on an older machine, but oh the ease and beauty of a computerized machine! Since they come preloaded with error codes, there is no more guessing what went wrong, just match the code to the manual! Nothing builds your sewing confidence like being able to troubleshoot and fix problems! 
 
3) You don’t have to spend a lot but buy the best you can afford. My first machine cost around $189 and it is a workhorse. I still use it and I still love it. I have since added other machines to my collection- honestly the difference between what they do and what that first machine does is minimal, but the cheaper machine probably wont hold up as long. 
 
4) Buy your machine from a dealer if you can, and make sure you try it out first! You wouldn’t buy a brand new car without test driving it first, right? Take some fabric swatches with you, denim, cotton, knit, leather and make sure it’s going to suit your sewing purposes. 
 
5) Evaluate what you need. I can’t tell you how many times students have sat at my table with a machine that was completely unnecessary for home sewing. The machine may be fabulous but if you can’t or won’t use it, then what’s the point? Think about what you want to sew and then choose a machine accordingly. Want to monogram and embroider? Great, consider a dual purpose embroidery machine. Want to make baby blankets and a few pieces of clothes? A basic machine with a few decorative stitches will suffice. Are you a quilter? A sturdy machine with all the appropriate feet is the way to go. 
 
Lastly, make sure you love your sewing machine and you’re comfortable with it. Don’t be afraid of messing it up, generally it’s hard to do a lot of damage short of dropping it off a shelf.  Spend time with your machine and you’ll be amazed how quickly your sewing skills grow!