A couple of weeks ago on the 17th of June I took my little shop on the road and exhibited at Craft Alive Hawkesbury. While this wouldn’t be my first time setting up and running a stall, it would be my first time having a stall at a largish Craft only fair. I had previously only taken The Maker’s Stash to Camden Quilt show back in 2018.
I was originally booked in to do the Craft Alive show back in 2021, however due to the virus that will not be named, it was postponed. Instead, I participated in Craft Alive Great International Craft Show, a completely online event. I had a fun weekend setting up my stall in my home studio and doing live Instagram videos.
While the online event was wonderful, it was a real shame to not be able to interact with people in person, so when they announced the date for the Hawkesbury show for 2022, I crossed my fingers and toes in hope that it would go ahead.
And go ahead it did over three days last month. I was both nervous and excited! As many of you may know, I had recently taken a step back from running The Maker’s Stash. Life changes, burn out, new challenges and schedules meant that I took an unplanned eight-month hiatus from my business until the beginning of May, when I finally got off my backside and started preparing the for the show.
The time I took off was necessary and I don’t look at it in a negative light. After spending a lot of time in 2021 working on pattern designs and the business I needed to take some time away. I also became co-owner of another business and so I had new roles and tasks that I needed time to focus on and learn.
So, after months of thinking to myself ‘I need to start preparing for the show’ and procrastinating on this, I finally pulled the trigger and started to cut and package what would end up being thousands upon thousands of paper templates to stock my stall. Fortunately, foresight had meant that I had at least ordered and received the other products & notions I carry alongside my paper templates.
Every spare moment I had was either spent cutting and packaging papers, creating signs and price tags, working out my stall design, collecting display props, preparing social media posts, gathering my samples, writing and practicing my Slow Stitch Talk and Trunk Show and entering every product and price into my point-of-sale App.
But all the hard work would be worth it.
Late Wednesday afternoon on the 15th of June I had everything packed up into Ikea Blue bags (seriously how good and useful are they!?) and I started to load it all into the back of our car. It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, working out how to fit it all in, but I got everything in with not an inch of spare space!
That night I barely slept a wink. I just kept running over different scenarios in my head…what to do when I got up in the morning, what I had to get that I forgot to pack, thinking about my talk, thinking about how I would set up my stall. On and on and on…even typing an email to-do list on my phone and sending it to myself didn’t seem to relax my mind!
Somehow, I managed to eventually fall asleep for a few hours before waking up to a bright, beautiful sunny day. After a quick breakfast and cup of tea it was into the car for the conveniently short half hour drive to the Hawkesbury Showground for bump in. One of the main reasons I chose to do this particular event is that it is so close to home for me.
Bump in started the day before the show opened. I was there right on time and unpacking the car was done swiftly, loading most of my gear into cages provided by Craft Alive that they then move to your stall for you to unload. All through bump in, the show and bump out the Craft Alive team were so helpful and accommodating. They are a well-oiled machine, working together to put on a fantastic event for stall holders and customers alike.
With everything unloaded it was time for the epic task of setting up my stall…all by myself. We had from 10am until 6pm to set up…I finished setting up just after 5pm! First to go up was my wall display which involved sticking a lot of tiny sewing pins into the walls…not easy and a little painful on the fingers!
Once my wall display was done, I moved onto my product display. I had wanted to do a trial run of this at home so I could figure out what display box/container etc would be used for what item and how I would set it all up together…alas I ran out of time for that and had to fly by the seat of my pants!
I had a rough idea of how I wanted to set everything up and, in the end, despite the lack of practice, everything went together relatively smoothly without too much swapping things around. The final step was to attach all my price tag signs, decorate with some streamers, and set up a demo area.
Then it would be home to yet another sleepless night full of anticipation for what the next three days would bring.
I really needn’t have worried so much…the next three days would fill my heart and creative soul with kindness and encouragement.
Each day of the show I was doing a talk and trunk show all about Slow Stitching and sharing some of my work. I’m not generally a nervous public speaker, I think after fifteen years presenting interior design projects to clients has given me confidence when it comes to speaking about a topic. However, I was a little nervous and apprehensive. My talk on the live stage was very different to all the others. I wasn’t sharing how to use a useful tool or teaching a technique. I was sharing my journey into Slow Stitching and EPP and talking about how it can benefit mental health.
I looked at this as very much a trial run as I would like to take my talk and trunk show to quilt shops, guilds, and groups. My first talk went well and while the audience was not huge, they were engaged, and many told me how well I did. I did go home that night though and shorten it a fair bit so that I had more time to share my projects.
It was a good experience doing the talk and it’s something I’d like to do more of as I am passionate about spreading the word of how Slow Stitching can Soothe the soul. You can watch the live stream of my talk HERE.
The weekend was full of lovely moments shared with customers and stall holders. I didn’t get a chance to meet all the stall holders, but the ones I did meet were so welcoming and encouraging. They passed on tips, encouraged me to continue with my little niche of stitching and EPP in the big world of patchwork, and admired my work.
There was a lot of admiration for my work and samples I had on display. While we may tell ourselves we don’t need to hear compliments, and be shy about what we do, sometimes a healthy dose of pride in your work and knowing others find it beautiful and amazing is completely necessary for the heart and soul.
I had so many lovely conversations with people about the intricacies of EPP, how calming and soothing it can be. How projects take on special meaning and hold memories. It was truly wonderful to connect with other like minded Slow Stitchers and Quilters.
It was also a lot of fun introducing new people to English Paper Piecing, demonstrating the techniques I have learnt and passing on tips and tricks. It always makes me super happy and excited when I can inspire someone to try their hand at EPP.
Being a small online essentially part time business I have always had reservations about how my business and stall would stack up against bigger patchwork businesses that have been doing this longer than I have. Over the weekend I had customers and stall holders alike telling me I could definitely hold my own next to the ‘big guys’. I cannot tell you how much of a confidence boost that was.
On Saturday at the close of the show I had a good chat to Bret from Craft Alive who encouraged me to continue with what I’m doing, focussing in on slow stitching and EPP. He was excited for me to get some classes put up on their online classroom and would love to have me back at other shows. He also encouraged me to apply to have a stall at The Quilt NSW Exhibition in October, and he was not the only one. On Sunday I met the Vice President of the guild, and she also was very excited by my work, stall and what I was doing and encouraged me to apply.
At the close of the show on Saturday the team put on drinks for the exhibitors for a catch up and chat. Being the new kid on the block, I was keen to attend and get to know some of the other people and business owners in the patchwork community. It was wonderful to chat to these women and men and I certainly began to feel like I wasn’t alone in the business world of Patchwork and Quilting.
I must give a huge amount of thanks to my two friends Valerie and Rachael, Rachael’s Mum Pat and my darling Mother who each came on one of the days to mind my stall while I did my live talk. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful friends, who despite not knowing anything about sewing, patchwork or EPP are willing to help me out. It was also lovely to share a moment of success with my Mum and Dad.
I am very proud of the stall I managed to pull together, of how it looked and my work on display. I had many compliments on how beautiful it looked and it makes all the hard work and time I spent on branding, sourcing displays and decorating worth it.
I went to the show with low expectations, both sales wise and just in general. For me a big part of doing the show was exposure, getting my name and business out to a local audience. What I have taken away from the experience has blown my low expectations out of the water. The experience has definitely re-ignited my passion both for EPP and for my business, and my heading is buzzing once again with so many ideas.
I feel rejuvenated and keen to keep pushing forward with my pattern designs, experimenting with different embroidery techniques, expanding my paper template range, and adding more beautiful products to my catalogue.
I am excited and looking forward to taking my business to Camden Quilt Show and the Quilt NSW show in October…and this time I am going to start preparing paper template packs right now! I hope to see you there!
If you have read all the way to the end of this rather long and rambling post, Thank You! You are what fills my heart with confidence and joy. Hugs to you x
I have put together a little Mini Vlog of my stall at Craft Alive Hawkesbury which you can watch HERE.
Miss Leela x