Sunday, January 23, 2011

in a crafter's pickle

Branston Original Pickle
Originally uploaded by hwayoungjung

I'm still in my pyjamas! I've been cleaning all day though, so I don't feel bad. It's amazing how much housework you can do and yet still feel like you've had a lazy day just because you never bothered to get dressed. Will have to do this more often!

That is all besides the point though. The point is that I am in a crafter's pickle and I need some advice... or maybe just reassurance. I'm not very good at these sort of delicate diplomatic situations (that I'm sure come easily enough to some people) and I'm getting a bit stressed out and pickle-like. Help!

What is your opinion about sharing your hard-earned crafty knowledge with anybody who asks for it? I am really in two minds about this. I think it is great to share and I know I have learned how to do so many things thanks to generous people on the old internet, but is it also all right to keep some things secret? A very nice customer of mine bought a pinwheel brooch kit a while back and now wants to make more. My pinwheel brooch kits come with instructions and everything you need to make one (and only one) very lovely brooch, hence why I only charge £4 for them. I think that is a good price for a fun project, in cute packaging with a nice brooch to keep at the end of it. The reason the kits only allow you to make one brooch is that I don't divulge how I make the felt and fabric squares that I put in the kits. This piece of information is what my customer really wants to know, so that she can make as many pinwheel brooches as her heart desires. Hmmm... On one hand, who am I to refuse to share that information and will it really harm my "business" if someone on another continent makes some pinwheel brooches using my methods? It's not even like I make a living from crafting (let alone just from pinwheel brooches) in the first place, although the kits are my best seller of all time. On the other hand, I feel like that information is my business/intellectual property. I spent a lot of time (and money when you factor in failed attempts etc) experimenting with different methods of attaching the felt and the fabric. What I came up with in the end isn't staggeringly unique or original or unexpected, but I did still have to work hard to get there and that is why I can make and sell pinwheel brooch kits and some other people can't - because I have chosen to set aside time to do that and they haven't.

I think it's really nice that someone liked my kits so much that they want to make more brooches, but in my heart of hearts I do not want to give away this particular piece of crafty information. I once told a lady at a market how I made my miniature bunting and I still wake up in a cold sweat at the thought of how I just gave that part of my crafty self away like that. Is it really mean of me to think like that or is it just good business sense? Is it OK to say no and if so how do you say no? I am no good at these sorts of dilemmas :( Help!


  1. I've had the same situation happen to me although this particular lady didn't even buy a chicken - just emailed and asked for the pattern! Now the pattern isn't difficult at all but it's my pattern and one I spent a long time perfecting so that it is easy for me to make and not too faffy (which is how the original pattern came about incidently as I was looking for a chicken doorstop that wasn't too faffy to make) Anyway..... I said no. I think I put something along the lines of I'm sorry but this is my pattern that I spent a long time developing and I don't give out the pattern to anyone - sorry. She'd actaully said in the email that she was going to make some to sell from it too! For charity but still....

    Hope that helps a little bit - I would stick to the lines of I worked hard to get this pattern just right and I don't give it out - sorry!

  2. I think you answered your own question there- don't tell. You gotta go with your gut instinct.

  3. It's really up to you and whatever you're comfortable with. I share a lot of my stockists where I think the materials are not what make my product unique. And I sell kits for my book hearts that explain everything because they're quite boring for me to make and I'd rather sell a kit than take on commissions. But I copy protect my PDF zines because they took a LOT of work, and refuse to divulge a few stockists because it took me years to find them. But no-one has ever been annoyed when I said no, because I share so much other stuff. So I would say share what's not important to you that can help others, and keep the others. I do find the whole thing a bit strange though - I bet they don't phone up big name companies and ask for their recipes/manufacturing secrets!

  4. I think you've answered it - if you're not 109% happy, don't tell. They clearly don't deserve to know anyway - they could really work it out themselves if they were that bothered. I'd say a polite and friendly "sorry, but no" would do it, explaining that you've spent a lot of time developing and perfecting it. Then offer her a bulk discount on multiple kits, mwuhahaha!

  5. You lot are so mean. That was a test... and you failed! I'm only messing with ya ;) Thanks for your comments, really. I did mention she was a nice customer, didn't I? And she really didn't give me the impression she was planning to launch a rival pinwheel brooch company, trying to steal a percentage of the few pennies a month that I make on pinwheel brooches. I'm just a terrible worrier when it comes to running the risk of offending/upsetting people.

    We've been back in touch now and I did not divulge any trade secrets, but she was very understanding about the whole thing and came up with the perfect solution herself - that I could sell her a wee batch of just the squares rather than whole kits, which I was very happy to do. Why didn't I think of that?! She's obviously a smart cookie and will figure out my top secret techniques soon anyway!

    The whole panic (and your insightful comments) has given me a lot to think about. I definitely think, for my own karmic well-being, that I maybe need to start giving a few more things away, so that I can feel OK about the things that I want to keep to myself. Hmm, food for thought, but the main thing is that my panic is over. I should learn to have more faith in the niceness/understanding of strangers. Or strangers who shop on etsy at least!


Hello! I'm sorry that I've had to turn on the word verification feature again, but my inbox was being flooded with very dull spam. Genuine comments always brighten my day though, so thank you for taking the time to leave one :)