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Saturday, 16 September 2017

A Tale of Three Fabric Orders

Canadiana Maple Leaf on White fabric by eSheep Designs
My original Maple Leaf on White design...
Back in the latter part of June, I received a message from someone via Spoonflower asking if I could possibly make a version of my Canadiana fabric in a different colourway.

Specifically, she was looking for burgundy and navy leaves for the design shown here (Maple Leaf on White).

Of course, I said yes.

My first instruction was for her to check out one of the two Spoonflower colour guides (here and here) and tell me exactly what shades of navy and burgundy she was looking for. She ended up choosing the following:

Spoonflower colour chart
Spoonflower's colour chart...

Oddly enough, when I went ahead and ran a quick sample, it occurred to me that it was sort of an "Americanized" version ... it's a darkish red, white and blue.

Customized Canadiana Maple Leaf on White fabric by eSheep Designs
Customized Maple Leaf on White in a burgundy and navy colourway...

It kinda works, don't you think?

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When I originally received the request, I thought it would be a simple thing of, well, make the change, order the fabric, have the person pay me via Paypal and have Spoonflower send the fabric directly to her.

I'm glad that within a few hours, I realized that that would not be the best option. A few weeks later, I was really glad that I didn't go that route.


In late May, my market friend saw samples of my Canadiana fabric and wanted to purchase some to make infinity scarves to sell for Canada Day. It would be cutting it close, but based on previous timelines with Spoonflower, I figured the order would arrive the week prior to July 1.

As I did with her fabric labels last year, I placed the order for her and had it shipped to her address. And then we waited, and waited, and waited. The tracking for the order indicated that it had arrived in Canada on June 14, but beyond that, there was no further information.

Canada Day came and went... lovely as it was.

By the time I contacted Spoonflower on July 4, I had actually received an order of mine that had been placed in mid-June.

Make no mistake, Spoonflower was extremely accommodating in their response to the situation. I received a reply that same morning asking me to verify the recipient's mailing address (it was correct) and was then informed that the order — since the original was most likely lost at this point — would be reprinted and reshipped ASAP via FedEx Priority. My friend ended up receiving her replacement order on July 10.

Again, major kudos to Spoonflower for going above and beyond so quickly. (It wasn't an insignificant order, coming in at just under a hundred dollars.) But here's the thing.

Using FedEx to ship across the border incurs taxes and fees that Canada Post doesn't usually impose. So yes, the new order came quickly, but it came with a $16 brokerage fee. Since it was technically my order and since my friend had nothing to do with the original shipment getting lost, I decided to pay it out of my own pocket.

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And there was the lesson learned. Had my friend created her own Spoonflower account and placed her own order, I would not have been caught in the middle of that whole situation. (And yes, that's exactly how it's going to happen in future.)

So getting back to my first story, when this potential customer told me that she wanted six yards of the customized Maple Leaf on White fabric, I had two thoughts. One: I wouldn't be comfortable taking ownership of such a big order; and two: I wouldn't be comfortable making a purchase of such a large amount of fabric without first seeing a swatch.

Therefore, my proposal was slightly amended. I provided four variations of the fabric with the burgundy/navy combination (since she did not indicate what leaves she wanted in what colour). If she wanted to go forward with the order, she would have to pay me $10 up front to cover the cost of a sample swatch. She would then choose one of the designs; I would upload it to Spoonflower to allow her to make a sizing decision, and then I would order a swatch to be sent directly to her.

eSheep Designs custom fabric order contract
Terms and conditions of my custom fabric services...

I included a one time change that could be performed at no charge after seeing the swatch. (She eventually asked for a re-sizing of the pattern.) But beyond that point, whatever yardage she wanted to purchase, she would do it directly from my Spoonflower shop (which was what happened).

By the way, the ten dollar fee did not represent any real profit for me. Paypal's fee and the cost of the swatch (including shipping) came to $6.67; coming up with the four designs — and ultimately providing a "clean" version of the one that she wanted — cost me much more than $3.33 worth of my time in regular consulting terms.

In crafting terms, however, it was perfectly acceptable, as it represented another milestone reached on my "becoming a designer" journey. A custom fabric order? Would never have occurred to me in any way, shape or form!

Anyway, it was a thrill....

My third fabric order was for one of my very first designs. When the Spoonflower fat quarters BOGO sale came around in July, I outdid myself and purchased eight FQs. Two of the selections were my Winter in the City (Day) and the Winter in the City (Night) fabrics in lightweight cotton twill. (After seeing how some throw cushions made out of the fabric looked on Roostery, I decided to replace the rest of my flat cushions with new ones.)

Throw pillows in Winter in the City fabric designed by eSheep Designs
Winter in the City (Day) and Winter in the City (Night) throw pillows...

I followed the method that I used for my P&P pillows.

Combined with my designer discount, these fat quarters were $5.85 each with the BOGO sale. Not bad, huh? Not only that, the strips of fabric that were left over were put to use in another cool project that you'll see soon.

But going back again to the custom fabric order, for those of you who "make and sell" things on request, do you take a deposit from customers prior to starting work?

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