Sewing: thirty-three bags

 After making one of this zippered bag design, I sold one right away. And so I worked out my cost on them:

  • a Fat Quarter is usually around $3.00, or about a dime a square-inch.
  • a spool of thread is around $2.00
  • a zipper is either $3.00 for one, or $0.15 if you buy a hundred at once.

Which means that for a sewing studio, it’s much more efficient and cost-effective to buy a hundred zippers at once (and accept the vagaries of color that come with that choice), than it is to make a trip to the store in search of the zipper of that exact color needed to finish a bag.

You can probably get two or three bags out of a fat quarter, depending on the pattern.  You need three fat quarters of shell fabric, though, and one of lining material (even if it’s just plain black) — So, $12.00, plus 3*0.15 = $0.45, plus maybe 1/2 a spool of thread.  Thus, $13.45 in materials yields three bags.  Divided in thirds to estimate the cost of one bag … $4.50 in parts, and then 15 minutes of my time to make a bag… Between $10.00 and $15.00 is probably what I can charge for them, and what they’re worth.  Silk or linen linings for people who care about that sort of thing — that can be a higher charge, maybe as high as $20.00… but probably not. There’s a diminishing rate-of-return on what people will spend, especially with thousands of sewists working at close-to-slave-wages half-way around the globe. 

So you make thirty-two of them — and a fabric basket to hold them, when you set up a booth at a craft fair or at a farmer’s market.  Some of them are drawstring bags, because some people like that old-time style. Some of them are zippered, but small, because people want to put one tarot deck away, not dozens of decks in one bag.  And some are larger, because sometimes kids want pencil bags.  The larger bags, those are going to have to be $20 (definitely only two such bags in a fat quarter.  The smaller bags are going to $15.

There’s also an inventory cost to consider, though — it may be a year before all these bags sell, and some of them may never sell. Do I factor in the cost of holding on to them for a year, waiting for them to sell?  No — they don’t take up that much room.  But the question of what to do with the stuff that doesn’t sell, does weigh on my mind (and take up storage space).  It’s the great irony — if they don’t sell, you should lower the price until they do; but if you lower the price past the cost of your materials (a danger in sewing), then you’re paying people to take fabric off your hands.  Tricky, tricky.

In any case, I’ve made 32 bags in various zipper styles.  I’ll try to get them up on Etsy in the next few days, in case you want one.


    • Certainly. But then too many of my bags would be made of the same fabric. As a small scale producer, I have to think about weather my customers are buying for uniqueness, or for price, or for design. My sense is that far more people will buy a bag that is unique at my price, than one that looks like the other 30 available at my booth. Originality, or relative uniqueness, may matter.

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