Packaging 2012…

Perfect timing for us in the UK, that directly after the hose pipe ban kicks in, all it does is rain.  Oddly this actually makes me happy, I find it much easier to buckle down and work when it rains and I rather like the sound on the roof (the studio is directly under the eaves).  On a slightly less happy note our underfloor electic heating has broken in this room,  so it’s a bit nippy in here and I find myself working in fingerless gloves and wrapped in a scarf.  Not ideal.

And so, I have a new toy, which sadly I hate.

I have been happily making do for some time now with my trusty little corner cutters bought forever ago, they have served me well, cornering all my business cards etc, in fact pretty much anything not pinned down gets cornered around here (even the tooth fairy sends messages on little cornered cards), but they are hard work and not really up to the job of slicing through the many mounds of thick card I need them to.

So I upgraded to a ‘Corner Buddy’ made by LeMORE and in all honesty I hate it.  It’s a bit cheap and nasty, only it wasn’t cheap, it cost £60.  It does have interchangeable blades (4mm, 6mm, 10mm) that are replaceable and that was a main attraction for me, I need 6mm for my business cards and 10mm for brooch mounts and ideally something I can buy new blades for when these get blunt.

Now, I do need to give full credit to the on-line shop I bought them from (Joyce on-line), the 6mm blade that came with the ‘buddy’ has a kink and they didn’t hesitate to offer to replace it, they were also friendly and helpful on the phone and had I of called them before buying my corner cutter, I know they would have helped me choose one more appropriate to my needs (ie, slightly more expensive but better.  I would have paid more for the next grade up machine).

Anyway, it does do it’s job, so all is not lost, it doesn’t feel a quality piece of machinery but you get what you pay for and in terms of a heavier duty table top cutter it’s probably perfectly fine.  I try to tell myself this, anyway, then I will feel less disappointed.

I have been meaning to do a post on packaging for ages, the ones I’ve done in the past have been quite popular so I thought it’s time for an update.

I am quite particular about how things are packaged, partly for the customer’s experience but also for mine when it comes to storing and ease of getting orders ready and posted.

For instance, I used to pack the ‘Little Birds’ in PIP boxes (so the ribbon tails don’t get crushed), they were mounted, ready on A5 cards, then packed with tissue (apple green, as always) and a MOO mini card with beads attached to hold the tissue (using a green dot sticker, as above) and a thank you card.

This was a bit time consuming and the birds were quite difficult to store, so now I still mount them on the same cards but I have figured out a way to be able to also put them in cellophane bags, so they can be stacked for storage and stay nice and dust free, and I don’t have to worrying about the tails being crushed.  Perfect.

The cards I use for this are A5 size and printed by Overnight Prints.  I use the same cards, cut down for mounting flower brooches on.  I did consider, when placing my last order, getting some in A6 versions so I didn’t have to cut them, but I like the square look, and it was cheaper, in the long run, to bulk order A5 and halve them instead.

On this point, I have given up on paper cutters at the moment, I find they get blunt very quickly and in all fairness, most are not intended for cutting card, so I stick with my trusty Swann Morton surgical scalpel, a wooden cutting board from the kitchen (I’ve never bought a self healing matt) and 10A size blades (I have been using my scalpel handle since I was a design student, it has, and still is, serving me well).

I use a Woodcare Craft Collection hole punch, as it allows me to get holes quite far into the card….it’s not ideal and I could do with something a bit heavier weight, it needs to be able to punch at least 5cm in so any ideas are most welcome.

I swapped last year from using mini MOO’s on packages and additional ‘thank you’ cards to using a single business card on ribbon.  I also buy these from Overnight Prints, they are great quality, they do take a while to arrive and are maybe not the cheapest but I will always return here.

I found threading the wooden beads on the old MOO mini cards etc took up a lot of time and it seemed silly to have a separate details/thank you card plus a repeat attached to the packaging.  I’m pretty sure in a lot of cases these end up straight in the bin anyway.  As above, on my original business card order, I only had one side printed and used a stamp for the other.  I was trying to cut corners, I figured it gave me an option of small blank cards if I wanted to write a note and it was cheaper. Wrong move, I am officially crap at stamping and so I’ve just recently placed a new order with both sides printed.

I still use MOO a lot.  I like to add mini MOO cards to larger items, I figure these are often given as gifts so it’s nice to have my details there as well as on the actual parcel packaging.  I try these days to get the tags on directly after finishing a batch of animals and before storing them,  anything to speed up the packing and sending out process is good, and I often attach care details if it’s appropriate.

I am also using the large MOO business card stickers on the backs of some of my cellophane packages, such as brooches and little birds.  These products go directly into jiffy bags to be sent out so there is no added tissue or tag etc.  In an effort to get even more tidy, I may get some sticker versions of my business cards printed, that way everything would be uniform, saying that I love that you can have a number of images for the same price at MOO.

Finally, I keep all my packaging prices written down and updated, it allows me to see exactly how much it is costing me to parcel something up, I also write down the postage (which is all about to go up in price I’m afraid 😦 ).  I would love to say I am very green with my P&P but that’s not true, I do favour cardboard boxes and tissue when possible but there is a lot of work to be done reducing my use of jiffy bags and new love of cellophane.

Below are my most recent lists, some details may be wrong and may need updating, the ‘-‘ price is the price per item, even when you can’t order them individually, it simply allows me to see how much each one costs.  These lists are really for my records but I thought they might be useful anyway 🙂 :

Rajapack

All excluding P&P at £10/order

Brown Standard Postal Boxes (bought in 50′s)

A6 215 x 155 x 50                          –  35p each

A5 310 x 220 x 50                          – 50p each

Lrg Flat 430 x 310 x 50                          – 80p each

Lrg 430 x 300 x 120                          – £1-65 each

Rajabul Mailers (their Jiffy)

White 300 x 450 (50/pack)             – 44p each

Tissue paper (bought in a Ream/500 sheets)

Green                                                 – 4p/sheet

Kraft bags (bought in 250 packs)

Very Small 120 x 190 x 45            – 5p each

Small 160 x 250 x 80            – 9p each

Large 240 x 390 x 75            – 16p each

Brown Paper Roll

Recycled 220m @ 90 gsm             – £30 (inc vat)

Smart Packaging Store

I bought Jiffys (Jiffylite) from here simply because I needed them in a hurry and they offer free next day delivery.

Lrg Letter 220 x 320 (min 50)             – 26p each

Lrg Letter 170 x 245  (min 100)             – 15p each

Simply Envelopes

http://www.simply-envelopes.co.uk/

They allow you to order small quantities and delivery is £4.50 for next day (optional).  I had struggled to find a supplier of mailbags in small quantities, more importantly they had a good price on large Biodegradable Poly Bags.

Prices exclude VAT and there is no min order

Clear Cello Bags 230 x 167 (A5)                          – 7p each

130 x 210                                    5p each

Jiffylite 115 x 195 (A6)                                                  – 19p each

290 x 445 (lrg)                                                 43p each

Featherpost Bubble 180 x 165                                    27p each

Biodegradable Poly Bags – 595 x 430             –            – 36p each

Overnight Prints

http://www.overnightprints.co.uk/main.php?A=pc_landingpage

Love em!  Prices below include VAT @ 20% and allow £6 postage towards each pack of cards on the basis of ordering 2 lots each time so this covers the £12 set delivery

A6 postcard, one-sided, no extras             – 25p each (on 100)

A5 postcard, one-sided, no extras             – 30p each (on 100)

DIN Long, one-sided, no extras            – 12p each (on 250)

Business cards, one-sided, no extras – 11p each (on 250)

Moo

http://uk.moo.com

Including delivery and vat @ 20%

Moo Mini – £28.36 (box 200)                        – 14p each

Moo Stickers – £35.08 (box 100)                        – 35p each

Defenda Boxes

http://www.defendapack.co.uk/

Free P&P plus prices shown include VAT

PIP Boxes

For the below DL (long and thin to fit DIN packages) size, the Die Cut make up into a box, the other needs to be taped into place.

DL 217 x 108 x 20 Die Cut (bought in 100 batch)                        – 33p each

DL 217 x 108 x 20 (bought in 150 batch)                         – 20p each

C5 (fits A5) 218 x 159 x 19 (bought in 100 batch)             – 33p each

SALE! SALE! SALE!

I have been really lucky to have one of my Buttercup Brooches, in this month’s Country Living, not something I was necessarily expecting.  Despite it being used as part of a photo shoot and so not given the prominent spot that the Mouse Egg Cosy had in last month’s Emporium pages it has led a lot more traffic to my shop – hurrah! I am struggling a bit, though, to explain to some of the lovely interested people who call, that I don’t have a catalogue or brochure and that my work is only viewable and available to buy on-line at my shop (though I do accept cheques when pre-arranged).  It doesn’t help that some calls have arrived whilst I’ve been at a busy Mum moment, like on Sunday when I was cooking lunch and there some dreadful cartoon was blaring out in the background, I should have looked at the caller ID and let it go to voicemail but I stupidly picked up the phone.  Hey-ho, I’ll learn. It is interesting though, that the brooch is so much more popular than the egg cosy, I am not surprised as my own sales reflect this.  I have spent quite a lot of time recently thinking about what does and doesn’t sell for me and getting a plan together for the Autumn/Winter products and the shop in general.

As part of this I have decided to (reluctantly) get rid of all the larger products that take up valuable storage space but don’t sell as well as smaller items, the ‘Cushions’ section disappeared a while ago (storing cushion pads is a pain, I have to be honest, plus they are a nightmare to pack and post) and I am adding all remaining Linen Cats & Bunnies to the newly revised SALE section of my shop.

We recently stayed in Yorkshire (over Easter) at my Sister’s cottage in Burnsall where she has two linen boys residing on her sofa, they are part of the first batch I ever made, in fact the first product I designed along with butterfly lavender bags (now long gone) and I do love them so but I think it’s time for a possible re-design, certainly for the existing stock to go. I am also adding the last few lavender bunnies, they are a nightmare to stuff with lavender (which is always done to order for all my lavender bags) and a few lavender birds that need to make way for future colour versions, some little felt birds and the odd egg cosy. Out of interest, just in case you are actually interested, the products that sell the best for me are (in no particular order):

  • Lavender Bags, Birds in particular
  • Little Bird Decorations
  • Flower Brooches
  • Monster Purses
  • Tweed Bunny Purses
  • The seasonal softies that I make (such as Foxes, Special Linen Mice etc), which often fly out of the shop.

It’s taken me forever to get the final cats listed, I realised when I came to check stock that only a few where even photographed and I had some half-stitched in my project draw.  As each is individual, they take quite a long time to list.  I should say now, though, I am in LOVE with create.net, who I host my on-line shop with.  I just used their SALE shop function for the first time and it took me about 5 mins to set up and fill this category.  Got to love anything that makes me life this much easier.

I have a few new things in the pipeline, I just need to get sewing again, some have been ‘in the pipeline’ for well over a year now!  I haven’t really been in the studio for about 5 weeks, partly because of the school holidays but also because I’ve simply been taking a break after panic re-stocking for the April Country Living issue, I am now very aware I only have one term left to get my Autumn & Winter stock started before the boys are on the long holiday and as M plans to be away for a lot of the time, I will be very busy with the boys.  Time to get my act together.

The Peony Dress…

There have been so many great versions of the Peony Dress by Colette Patterns appearing in blogworld, that despite my aversion to buying patterns, I thought I’d give it a go (the reason I don’t generally buy patterns is that I feel guilty I should draft them myself plus I HATE working from things with the seam allowance already added, it’s not the way I cut patterns and I also HATE flimsy pattern paper when I’m used to working in brown paper).  I also had my ‘big day out’ in London looming and wanted something special to wear that would take me through the day without feeling over dressed. I my stash, I had some cotton corduroy bought ages ago from Dragonfly fabrics (they have nice things, don’t blame me if you spend all your pennies when you hop over to the site 😉 ) in an ‘Aubergine’ shade that I’d planned to make into a skirt so figured I’d use this.  It costs quite a bit more than my usual ebay cotton corduroy but the colour is really nice; I must say here, though, that when I pre-washed the fabric before making up the dress it pilled really badly and faded a bit.  After making it up all the loose fibers had brushed off and actually the final colour is really nice, so I’m happy, it’s also had a couple of washes since and has settled down nicely in colour and fiber loss, so goes into the ‘winner’ list.

This is my final dress, shown with one of my pairs of Chia Mihara shoes and a brooch that I also wore.  I attempted to pop it on my Stockman dummy but since buying it, many years ago, I have *ahem* put on a few pounds so it’s not a great fit.  On me, as I made a toile in calico first to get the bodice right, it fits perfectly and is very flattering.  I struggled to get the pattern version in my size to work.  As mentioned, I did cut a calico version (toile as we called it at college) and started the process of pinning out the excess fabric but in the end, rather than mess about too much I drafted my own pattern to my measurements then out of interest compared the two.  Mine was a lot narrower in the back, by about 2 inches and the waist was lower (I have a long body), it was also much tighter directly under the bust to give a more fitted look and the arm holes were smaller.

I also need to confess that I didn’t follow the making instructions, but made up the dress as I would have from my own experience.  I did take some time today to read through the whole pattern and I actually think it’s great, really well laid out and easy to understand.  I can imagine it being quite straight forward for someone who is quite new to sewing.

I also took a dart out of the sleeves as they were a bit ‘baggy’ in the original version and as suggested added some piping cord, also in the corduroy around the neck and waistline.  Instead of doing the gathers as shown in the pattern when attaching the skirt, I opted for inverted pleats, as they sit flatter and so hide my belly without exaggerating it.  Bonus.

I lined the body and skirt of the dress in some Liberty Tana Lawn, again from my stash (I didn’t line the sleeves).  It’s seconds, and was quite cheap as the background colour has a yellow tint that would have made the fabric unusable for my shop products but perfect for this project.  I bound the sleeves and lining together at the shoulder joint using bias binding, which I also used it to bind the raw seam at the sleeve edge.  The rest of the seams were tidied using my overlocker.  I’m really glad I did line the frock as it looks very neat and tidy and somehow very ‘finished’ and it much nicer to wear.  The only down side of the whole thing, is that I hope to be at least a dress size smaller by next winter so I am wearing it as often as I can before it get’s too warm.

As I’m blogging dress making, I have become addicted to cruising the many vintage pattern re-prints out there, especially Vogue Vintage and I’m rather looking forward to making the above at some point (all bought from Jaycotts where they often run half price pattern sales). For loads of info and inspiration in vintage style dress making, and much better info on the making up experiences of  Colette patterns, you must go and read Jane’s blog Handmade Jane , I am always inspired to sew for myself when I visit, and Jane’s recent dress for a brilliant Mad Men challenge frock is one that I’m especially in love with.