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Saturday, 17 August 2019

A $2 PDF Experiment

Is there a need to think about the purchase when the price is $2?
I'd like to try something different this week and invite some participation from my five readers.

I'm assuming that as sewing enthusiasts in today's world, you are familiar with PDF patterns and have purchased at least one. With that in mind, your opinion would helpful for a marketing experiment that I am planning for early September.

It's a two-pronged test, meant to evaluate how much people actually read before purchasing and whether or not a $2 price point prompts any "should I or shouldn't I" consideration, especially when it's perceived to be a deep discount.

In May 2016, I experimented with a Pay What You Want price on the initial release of my Bundled Up Bindle Bag. Almost three months later, I had "sold" about three hundred copies but had collected nary a cent. A $2 price tag was thereafter attached to the pattern. It has triggered subsequent sales, albeit nowhere near three hundred. ;-)

In my Makerist shop, the PDF is currently selling for $3. Because Makerist takes a commission, I decided to bump up my pricing when I listed my patterns there. And because Makerist also runs "$2 sales" about four times a year, I use them as opportunities to reduce a couple of my prices back down to $2. Following so far?

I'm convinced that there are folks who know about Makerist but who never browse the individual shops during "non sale" times. Based on this belief, I've decided to take a couple of my free PDFs, slap a $4 price on them, and then drop them to $2 for the purposes of the next sale. I'm curious if anyone will make a purchase, based on the perceived 50% savings.

Oh, and the part about evaluating whether or not people actually read? I fully intend for the descriptions of those PDFs to advise that their contents are available for free from my blog.

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With that established, let me ask you a few questions.

It's Just a Couple of Bucks!

Back when all dollar stores were exactly that, it was never much of a decision for me over whether or not to buy something that caught my eye, because it's "only a dollar".

With PDF patterns often running upwards over $10 USD, is it a similar situation when faced with a $2 price point? That is, if a pattern appeals to you, would you hesitate to buy it, if it's only $2?

It's a Sale!

Okay, so let's say you're the disciplined type who successfully resists a cheap price.

But can you resist a sale? I've said before that I don't like to participate in pattern sales from the designer point of view, but I do realize that from the buyer's side, sales are the ultimate way to spur purchases.

Whether or not you normally jump at a $2 price point, will a PDF of interest that's been marked down to $2 during a sale cause you to buy?

As a sidebar to this discussion, are you the sort to wait for a sale to buy most of your patterns?

It's 50% Off!

So here is the supposedly foolproof technique to trigger a purchase: put up a sale price, but ensure that the customer knows what the percentage savings are. The higher the percentage, the more likely the customer will bite, sometimes without much further consideration or thought... or reading.

If you see a pattern marked down to $2 and notice also that it represents a savings of 75% — i.e., it's normally an $8 pattern — are you more likely to buy even if it isn't something you were looking for?

I'm really curious as to what your thoughts might be, so I'm crossing my fingers that you'll be similarly intrigued to provide some answers. If you're contemplating leaving a comment, please know that I am happy to receive any input, no matter how short or long it may be. Alternatively, if you have a lengthy discourse that you'd rather not submit as a comment, use the contact form on the sidebar to get in touch with me directly.

If you're shy, be anonymous; I don't mind!

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As a heads up for those who may be curious as to which PDFs I am going to be targeting in this experiment, they are the Quilted Hanging File Organizer and the Portable Pocket Pouch.

Both have been available as free products in my Makerist shop since December of last year, so I'm not trying to trap anyone into buying something that they haven't seen before.

Fully aware that this experiment is already somewhat sneaky; I didn't want to introduce new patterns into the shop to lure unsuspecting customers. If people have already claimed those PDFs over the past eight months while they were free, at least they won't be tempted to buy them again.

This experiment will span a timeframe sometime between now and September 6. I'll need to change the price and edit the descriptions of these two patterns appropriately before they go on sale September 4. (If you need a copy of either PDF while it's "not free", just email me and I'll send it on to you.)

Just to be clear, it is my intention to make those PDFs free again after my little marketing study is complete. If any substantial data arises from this experiment — or if I get so much input from you that it comprises a whole blog post — I will certainly be back to share it next month.

Before I sign off, let me ask one last question. I recently saw a tutorial that was presented in its entirety in a blog post, but the blogger indicated that a PDF version of the same content was available for $1. The apparent reason for why one might part with actual money for something that was free was that the PDF would not include all of the intrusive ads and large images. Would that be sufficient enticement for you or would you put up with the distractions?

Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Challenge of a Limited Palette

The challenge of creating a surface design using only these four shades...
For a designer just starting out, Spoonflower's regular design competitions can be intimidating. Given a theme (or not) and a big white page or computer screen, it can be a difficult journey to the finish line.

Because it was once my intention — in another lifetime, as I'm fond of saying — to be a graphics designer, I've come to realize that it's worthwhile to take part in these competitions. Creating a new surface design forces me to use parts of my brain that don't get enough of a workout, and along the way, there's always the opportunity to learn something new.

Such was the case for a competition in early July featuring the colours that you see at the top of this post.

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It's called a limited palette challenge, meaning that only those specific shades (along with black and white this time) were permitted in the design. As I've said before, I like these specifically because of the limitation. It frees me from having to decide on a colour scheme as well as an actual pattern or print.

The banner across the page describing the competition stated, "Have you been wanting to try out a new design technique, practice with playful patterns or finally give florals a try? In this week’s challenge, your palette may be limited but the theme is up to you!" (I draw your attention to this because of what my final design came to be.)

"Arrow Up" surface design by eSheep Designs
This one is called Arrow Up...

I have a preference for a geometrics, so that's where I began. This one (above) featured four arrow heads. It was honestly a lazy attempt, because it took less than three minutes. I still think it's a striking pattern, however, which is proof that this whole process doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming.

Then it occurred to me that the limited palette colours could well represent the changing seasons in the mountains. Thus my efforts took a turn from arrow heads to triangles.

"Triangle Trees & Mountains" surface design by eSheep Designs
These are Triangle Trees & Mountains by Day and by Night, respectively...

As I was putting the finishing touches on this, however, I decided that it was too representative and might therefore only have limited application/appeal. Lord knows why I cared about that, but there it is.

So I then came back full circle on the whole geometric theme to focus on — what else? — circles.

"Angled Circles & Slices" surface design by eSheep Designs
These are called Angled Circles & Slices on Black and White...

After a couple of hours on this, I bumped into a mental (stub) wall and stopped, realizing that I wasn't satisfied with any of the directions I had taken. During this time, not only had I tried to perfect the circles, I also returned to my arrow heads to create this...

"Arrow Up" surface design by eSheep Designs
My fourteenth iteration of Arrow Up...

While I probably liked this design the most at that point, it was time to step away. That night, my mind turned towards the original statement on Spoonflower's web page: try a new design technique.

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Somewhat ashamed and sad to say, up until that (next) day, I'd never bothered to master the curve drawing tool — in even a basic way — in my graphics program (Paint Shop Pro v. 8). I decided that it was high time to start, which led to a concentrated effort that finally delivered my entry into the competition.

Floral Vines by Day by eSheep Designs
Floral Vines by Day...

This time, I was totally disciplined and did not cut any corners. Some of the elements in the previous designs had not been created out of vector graphics on their own layers, leading to some "bleeding" when I changed my mind about which parts should be in what colour.

It was almost as if I knew those designs weren't going to be up to snuff.

For this final go around, I was regimented about separating everything onto layers and making sure that every component could be resized by sticking with vector graphics.

The first three "steps" of the creation of the final design...

I started my "Bezier curve drawing lesson" by laying down four vines of varying thicknesses. Then I drew a grouping of three leaves. Gradually getting the hang of it, I then created a five petaled flower.

And that was all that I needed. The flower and set of leaves were subsequently copied and altered in some fashion to create the remaining two flowers and sets of leaves. The whole vine was then duplicated, mirrored and flipped.

Because each component was retained as a vector image, I was able to modify each flower, set of leaves, or individual vine so that they did not look like exact matches.

This flower was created once and then copied and modified...

The flower shown above was the most elaborate of the three/six. Initially all of them were the same colour, as seen here:

Floral Vines by eSheep Designs
The "first" final version...

Although I was pleased with the overall effort, the plainness of the background gave me pause again.

Adding stripes brought the design to a state of completeness. And because the rose stripe was directly under the first set of flowers, I made them white instead.

Floral Vines by Night fabric by eSheep Designs
Floral Vines by Night...

For the better part of three days, I struggled with the decision of which one to submit as my entry. Anything with black in it is immediately eye catching to me and at first, I favoured that one.

Throw Pillow featuring Floral Vines by Night fabric by eSheep Designs
image courtesy of Roostery...

But then I saw how the vines popped out a lot more in the white version and decided that was the way to go. (I'll never know which one would have fared better in voting, but this design delivered my best challenge results to date: 71 votes total, doubling my previous high of 35.)

Tablecloth featuring Floral Vines by Day fabric by eSheep Designs
image courtesy of Roostery...

Considering Spoonflower's message, the end result was rather prophetic. Not only did I try out a new design technique, I also ended up going the floral route... all much to my surprise.

Both versions of the fabric are now available in my shop. If you're interested, Spoonflower's current 50% off FQ sale is still on through tomorrow (as of this original posting date). Sale pricing means that you can pick up a fat quarter of their Petal Signature Cotton for just a bit more than the cost of an 8" x 8" swatch. Not too shabby at all!

Saturday, 3 August 2019

A Patch, a Pouch, a Firmed Up Bottom, and More!

A Route 66 patch...
Ha, ha... did I get your attention?? (I probably couldn't create a more attention grabbing title if I really tried.)

Near the end of my post last week about the Route 66 Ollie Bag, I mentioned that the remaining scraps would also be recycled.

As I collected the leftover pieces of tapestry a couple of days after I completed the bag, I saw multiple instances of the Route 66 sign on them and decided to make a patch.

Guess what I did with it? Yep, I sewed it onto the flap of the bag...

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
Sorry St. Louis, but Route 66 should be the focus of this flap...

Much as I took the trouble to fussy cut the flap (best I could), the print on that particular area of the tapestry is just rather blah. No offence to anyone with a connection to St. Louis, but having that city's name displayed across the flap would not have been my preference had I had any leeway in fabric allocation.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
No mistaking the fabric now...

I believe the bag is now truly identifiable as a Route 66 themed bag.

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It was my plan all along to make a zippered pouch out of the remaining material. I didn't add pockets to the inside for that reason. Ultimately, I made two pouches: one to put inside the bag and one for the exterior pocket.

Here's the first one.

Route 66 Zippered Pouch by eSheep Designs
Just your basic pouch...

Nothing out of the ordinary about it apart from using the Boundless fabric to extend the size of the exterior panels and for the lining.

Route 66 Zippered Pouch by eSheep Designs
The print on the tapestry is essentially the same on both sides...

With this pouch, I used up the last of the tapestry remnants that featured the Route 66 sign.

For the second pouch, I wanted it to be tethered to the bag in some way. For that, I needed some bias binding.

Custom made bias binding...

I took 12" x 12" square of the Boundless fabric and made some continuous binding using the method I wrote about here.

Route 66 Zippered Pouch by eSheep Designs
A simple matching zippered pouch...

This second pouch actually reuses the pocket piece from the side of the original Route 66 bag.

Route 66 Zippered Pouch by eSheep Designs
Back view of pouch...

The binding was extended to allow attachment to a clasp, which will enable it to be attached to the bag in various ways.

View of interior...

Zippered pouches can be so run of the mill that I'm always wanting to try something different with them. I like how this one turned out.

After making the pouches, I saw that the largest remaining scrap was interfaced. There was enough to make a matching lip balm carrier.

Lip Balm Carrier by eSheep Designs
A matching lip balm carrier!

My original tutorial calls for non-fraying material, and this tapestry is anything but. However, since it was interfaced, it held together better than the fabric by itself.

Back view...

Some zig-zagging around the edges — in fact, I had to join two pieces together to make a bottom seam since the scrap wasn't long enough — before the folding and final stitching was enough to make it work.

I need my lip balm to be easily accessible...

If you've never seen my lip balm carriers before, I urge you to check out this post and try one out. It's a cheap (pennies to make) and fast (five minutes) project!

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Do you sew up the inside lining of your bag immediately after you've flipped your project right side out? I usually don't. (In fact, I have in the past discovered that I'm carrying a bag that hasn't yet been closed up!) I like to test out the bag before sewing up that turning gap, in case it needs some additional stabilizer to avoid a saggy bottom.

This was the case here, as I found that the wide base of this bag lost its shape once I put some heavier items inside. (You can actually see this in a couple of the photos from my original post.)

Adding support to the bottom of the bag...

So in went a 4" x 7.5" piece of Peltex. I then stuffed a towel into the bag to fill it out so that I could put a hot iron to the bottom. The fusing is not super important because the Peltex is not likely to shift around, but some adherence is better than none.

Now all is good!

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
The matching Route 66 set!

Not bad for a week's effort, huh? I'd been in a bit of a sewing slump before this, suffering an unexpected failure on a simple project. Fortunately, those are the sort of moments that often send me back to my what have I not finished pile.

I'm glad it happened.

Oh, and I still have a few more scrappy pieces of this tapestry that will be put to further use. Stay tuned.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Revamped Route 66 Ollie Bag

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
Front view of my new/renewed Route 66 Ollie Bag...
Have you ever been so keen on ripping something apart to repurpose that you forget to take a "before" picture?

If something is going to be repurposed (as opposed to put back together), it's perhaps not important to have that frame of reference; but still, I could have sworn that I took a picture of my foldover J Garden Route 66 tapestry tote bag before having at it with my seam ripper, but there it is. If I did take a photo, it's nowhere to be found.

Since that can't be helped anymore, let me just describe it as a slightly tapered rectangular bag with a zippered top that folded down about 5" or so to where straps were attached to the front and back of the body. Along the gusset, one side had a small pocket with hook and loop tape closure and the other side featured a mesh pocket for a water bottle. (My quick sketch of it is shown below in the picture of the fabric.)

By the way, you'd think the internet would yield a picture of this bag, but no luck at all on that front.

My deconstructed J Garden Route 66 bag...

I bought it in Las Vegas many years ago, having been drawn to the tapestry print. I'm fascinated by all things Route 66, despite never having actually travelled that highway. (Fun fact: Route 66 manages to skirt "under" Las Vegas and totally miss the state of Nevada.) As with most bags purchased as souvenirs, it was used sporadically. Over time, it was relegated to a back closet shelf.

In the spirit of redoing, renewing and reusing, I pulled it out at least a couple of years ago with the aim of turning it into a totally different bag. Early this year, I took a seam ripper to it. (Yes, it has taken a long time to be reborn.) Today it finally makes its appearance as a customized Ollie Bag (by ithinksew).

Ironically, this is now my third bag project this year, despite having professed no enthusiasm for them. Go figure!

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It was during the same $2 Makerist sale when I snapped up ithinksew's Seth Bag pattern that I also picked up this one. Its shape — as defined by the unusual side gusset darts — appealed to me.

image courtesy of ithinksew...
The pattern is listed on her website for an advanced beginner. It is a simple bag, albeit with features beyond basic. On purchasing the pattern, I fully intended to execute it mostly as designed. Once it became this Route 66 project, however, I had to modify it in several ways to suit my materials.

By the way, are you sometimes challenged by trying to imagine how big a bag might be even though you're given the dimensions? This seemed to be the case with me. The pattern clearly stated the size as approximately 8" x 8.5", but I was still surprised by the "compactness" of the finished bag.

That said, the interior is roomy, due to the width of the base/gusset. I have no problem fitting my purse organizer into it (the same one that's normally in the Frankenpurse that I'm currently using). It's actually the perfect I want a smaller bag but still need to be able to carry "stuff" size.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
Back view...

Unfortunately — and this couldn't be helped given the constraints of reusing fabric that's already in pieces — the "Route 66" sign itself appears quite low on both sides of the bag. On the other hand, the strap length is relatively short, so when worn, the famous sign is unmistakable.

Despite the fact that this bag seems quite a bit smaller than my original, the material needs of the various pieces necessitated some cutting choices that I wouldn't have made had I been dealing with new fabric.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
Side view, checking out the Route 66 zipper pull...

For example, the (four) side gusset pieces were quite wide at the bottom, leaving me with no choice but to orient the fabric upside down for one half of each side. Even to accomplish that, I was forced to cut the pieces for the main panels with no option for featuring any specific part of the remaining fabric.

My first customization — and I would have done this regardless of what material I was using — was to put an actual pocket under the flap. The pattern calls for a zippered lining pocket at that same location (which I did not make), but no pocket on the outside, even though the flap is real.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
I couldn't have a functioning flap be essentially useless...

I made the pocket as big as the main panel of the bag in terms of depth and width. With a flap on top, I didn't feel like it needed the additional security of a zipper.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
Another view of the open pocket...

Normally, I'm not a fan of velcro, but that piece came from the original bag, so I decided to use it. Given what I've said before about disliking flaps, the hook and loop tape at least makes it easy to access the pocket underneath... which further explains why I didn't want the bother of a zipper under there.

The fabric used for the underside of the flap, pocket and zipper end trim is a selection from the DECOdent collection by Boundless (a Craftsy/now Bluprint brand), last seen on the body of my Purl Bee Penguin.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
View of recessed zippered closure...

The second (and third) customizations had to do with the recessed zippered top and the lining.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
An idea of scale...
For the lining, I simply cut the original bag's lining to fit and reused it. It had basically the same sized boxed bottom, so why not? In any case, I didn't see the need to remake the lining to be the same as the exterior of the bag. If you're actually reading this post — because I know some of you skim and just look at the pictures — here's a nugget of true wisdom for you: bag linings don't have to replicate the features found on bag exteriors.

The thing is, a pattern designer won't often go to the trouble of making a separate set of templates for a basic lining, but that doesn't mean that you can't simplify them, especially once you've gained some bag making experience. (In my MIY Bag PDF, I provide the means to create the lining if the exterior has been pleated; other tutorials might just instruct you to pleat the lining as well, which is not only a waste of fabric but a tremendous waste of time.) If a bag has a simple drop in lining, it really doesn't matter that it's not constructed in the same way as the exterior. To extrapolate further, just because the bag's exterior has a gusset, it doesn't mean the lining must have one as well.

This particular bag called for an identically constructed lining, using the two piece format of the main body panels to secure the recessed zipper assembly. I chose instead to install the zipper facings within the top seam, sinking them deeper afterwards by top stitching. This resulted in several thick layers to power through, but since the fabric is loosely woven, it wasn't an issue for my sewing machine.

Speaking of loosely woven... this tapestry stuff is challenging to work with. A pull here, a drag there and it could all disintegrate right before your eyes.

Fabric that will totally unravel if you're not careful...

To combat this, as soon as I cut the required pieces according to the pattern's templates, I cut matching pieces of SF101 to fuse onto the back. I even sewed all the way around the pieces at about 1/8" to ensure that they could be handled repeatedly. Even so, my sewing table was littered with tiny threads throughout this project.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
The black nylon pieces used as strap anchors were also recycled from the original bag...

The final customization was part necessity and part practicality. Much as I loved the look of the grommets for attaching the straps, the grommets I had planned on using were just too large. (This being a recycling project, I didn't want to buy new materials.) The original bag used four small pieces of rip stop nylon to reinforce the straps at the point where they were attached to the bag's body. Two of those pieces ended up as the strap anchors here.

My relatively new supply of rivets provided the finishing touches.

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I chose not to reduce the length of the original zipper, even though it's technically too long here. The ends can be pushed down inside easily enough, and as you can see from the photos, the zipper pull can even be pushed through the D ring to provide added security.

As a matter of fact, here's an innovative use for that "longer than necessary" zipper...

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
Zipper end makes a handy sunglasses "hook"...

But the main reason that I kept the zipper intact is that this bag may be a candidate for further recycling down the road and a long zipper is more useful than a short one.

ithinksew Customized Ollie Bag by eSheep Designs
View of bottom of bag...

The strap was fine as is. (There's still a second one remaining from the original bag.) It's not long enough for cross body use, but I rarely carry a bag that way. The width is also perfect for the size of this bag; I've mentioned before that smaller bags look odd when made with wide straps.

All in all, I was lucky to have straps made out of the same tapestry material; I've seen other versions of these bags cheapened out with black or beige webbing.

Scraps remaining from this project will definitely be recycled into something else; stay tuned.

What do you think of this renewal concept? Might you have some purses and bags from waaay back whose material you could harvest to create a whole new look?