Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

Shop Talk – Jennifer Parsons, A Crafty Hen

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.

Crafty Hen a crafty hen ribbon tag blankets

Describe your Folksy shop

A Crafty Hen is a shop filled with colourful, fun and modern baby and nursery accessories with an emphasis on style and quality. Bibs and burp cloths, bunting and cushions, storage and blankets are all made to be beautiful, to be practical and to stand up to the heavy use from little ones!

Bibs from £5

A Crafty Hen is run by myself a mum of three young children from our home in Devon. It is a place where I can indulge in my passion for colour and pattern. It all started when my Grandmother gave me her old sewing machine, I started to make items for my children and it was then that I realised that there is such a wealth of fabric prints out there. As my own children have grown from babies to toddlers and now into children I have continued to make for them. It was when they no longer needed bibs and burp cloths that I decided I needed to find a reason to keep making these things that I enjoy sewing so much so ‘A Crafty Hen’ was born.

How do you manage A Crafty Hen?

My days are very busy just looking after my kids. Ferrying them back and forth to school and pre-school and doing the endless chores that family life creates. I also work part time and often dream about what ‘A Crafty Hen’ will become once all three children are at school and I have more time that I can dedicate to my business!

I always make time in the day to check and answer emails and to get orders ready and wrapped for sending. I am lucky to pass a post office on the school run so I can generally get parcels sent within a day of ordering. It is once the children are in bed that the ‘creating’ begins and I usually try and squeeze in anything up to 2 hours of sewing of an evening. I have learnt through the years to find the most effective way to sew and unless working on a new project where I may start by making a one off, I try and work in small batches. I also have a very supportive husband who is also a very good cook!

How do you price your goods?

Finding the right price for a handmade item is probably one of the most difficult jobs to do when running a small business.

The most important factor for me when deciding on a price for an item is the cost of the materials used. Over the last couple of years the cost of cotton has gone up considerably which does make it difficult at times to stay competitive and as I run ‘A Crafty Hen’ as a business and not as a hobby I have to take these increases on board and be realistic about the final price. No one can work for nothing so time is another factor that has to be considered. Once I have a final figure in my mind I tend to run it past family and friends and watch for their reactions!

Craft fairs also can be a good way of testing out prices. If an item attracts a lot of interest but isn’t bought when the customer sees the price then it may be worth considering lowering it a little. Though I also feel at times it is worth sticking to your guns. It worries me when I see a handmade item that is priced too cheap as it makes you wonder about the quality. At the end of the day handmade is not mass produced and people who shop on sites like Folksy do understand this.

Gift Sets from £12.50

How do you decide what to make for your collection?

My head is constantly spinning with new ideas and I keep notebooks full of project ideas and samples of fabrics that I like. I am also enjoying using Pinterest at the moment as I way of hoarding ideas!

As my time is so limited at the moment only a small fraction of my ideas get made. I enjoy watching for trends in pattern, and colour and these can influence my direction of work for example my Modern Grey Burp Cloths were made using greys and zigzag patterned prints as they are both very popular right now. I can also be influenced by customer feedback and from speaking to buyers at markets. They may ask for something in particular or for something that I make to be made in a different colour range. I also watch for what is selling well. Eventually I would like ‘A Crafty Hen’ to be able to offer nursery collections that would included a range of products all made in coordinating fabrics.

Do you have any tips for selling online?

Promote! It is something I find very difficult and quite frustrating at times as I often feel that I spend more time at the computer than I do at the sewing machine. But don’t underestimate the power of sites like facebook and twitter. I use both though prefer twitter due to the instant communication you can have with buyers and fellow crafters and I have found some wonderful people on there and have become part of a lovely crafting community.

Being able to offer good friendly communication is also important and something that can set your shop apart from larger online shops this is true also with the presentation of an item.

Quality is so important to me I try and reflect this in every aspect of my work from the item itself to the way it is packaged and labelled, I take as much care and attention in choosing tissue paper to wrap an item in as I do in selecting the fabric in the first place. It is the small personal touches that can bring a customer back, and I think it was when I had my first returning customer that I realised that ‘A Crafty Hen’ had turned from a dream into a business.

You can see Jennifer’s full collection in her Folksy shop ACraftyHen