Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Commissioning Crafts

Its interestsing to receive commissions from people, either for handmade items to your design or to a design they have in mind. As a tutor, meeting the learners needs also demands flexibility and the need to adapt lessons or even devise them to suit the customer's needs.

Over the past few months I've had a few commissions for items as diverse as caravan cushions - reupholstery - which I've learned on the hoof!! to hand crocheted bags. Some customers give me a pattern and I simply get on with the job, others have a pattern that requires luxury yarns way beyond their means - so as well as finding a substitute yarn, lots of reworking needs to be done to ensure the tension is right. Others give me a pattern and yarn and say I love this but I want less colours. Others give me a size and come and rifle through my stash for their choice of colours. I then start playing with ideas and see how the design evolves.

Its also a learning curve for me about pricing commissions, I've used this series of work to calculate the time it takes me to produce an item or a piece of teaching. And I've realised I drastically undercharge most of the time. Its also making me query my pricings in my shop. I really need to sit down with an "expert" in the field and get them right. I think I'm beginning to realise that if I under value my work or my time, it leads people to wonder if my work is of a suitable quality and skill level. Quite how I'm going to "up my game" price wise I'm not entirely certain but I know I need to do something. I do have a bit of a "mates rates" policy and will also barter - you can see below the outcome of bartering in a very yummy way. But when I start to charge the wider public I can't quite get my head around asking them for what I'm worth! From reading forum posts on Folksy and Creative Connections, I know I'm not unique in this.... but as I want to make a living from crafting and teaching crafts I need to make sure I put my business head on when going forth into the world.

Here are the commissions:

Red Bolero

Knitted for the customer from a pattern. However the customer wanted to cardigan knitted in a machine washable, reasonably priced yarn. The original pattern was written for Louisa Harding Silk. I did search for it online but the colour had been discontinued - had I managed to get some surplus stash from EBay I would have been very pleased. However I did manage to find the standard meterage for the 50g balls of silk yarn, so this made it possible to estimate the quantities of a replacement. I started off knitting a tension square and quickly realised that the yarn was going to give a much looser tension that the silk yarn. A few mathematical workings later, I arrived at the solution of knitting the cardigan 2 sizes smaller - 12 - 14 instead of 18 - 20.
The bolero is knitted in one piece from the bottom of the back to the bottom of the fronts. It was surprisingly easy to put together at the end too!

Caravan Cushions

My daughter sort of volunteered me to recover a set of 15 cushions from a caravan. am very much on the home straight now with only a few left to do. Some are the same size as a single caravan bed so have been quite time consuming. I devised a method of covering the tops of the cushions and then whip stitching the fabric to the thick piping around the base. They've turned out really well. Some cushions can also be entirely covered so again they've proved fairly easy to sew up on the machine - once I'd figured out that it didn't like upholstery thread anyway!

Crochet Bag

Made of from granny squares, the customer liked the pattern in principle but not the colours. Also instead of 6 colours she wanted 4. So with a few suggestions and ideas from the ladies at the church "granny sport" club I came up with the idea of having 4 solid coloured squares and the rest 2 coloured. I worked the coloured squares in pairs so I could keep count - so when I worked a pink and white, I would then work a white and pink and so on. When I put the bag together I chose 2 solids for each side and then worked out a pattern with the coloured squares to so that the featured solid colours dominated their side of the bag. The bag is lined in a white silky feel fabric. I'm strongly considering making another to my own design and putting it in my shop as granny squares seem popular at the moment. They're also portable so I can take my work wherever I tend to roam!

Mobile Phone Case

I make mobile cases from small amounts of left over yarn in my stash. In the summer I made a rainbow zigzags one. The lady who commissioned this one, loved it but wanted one made with a cord so she could hang her phone around her neck. It meant she had her hands free to cope with her small children. So I knitted up an I Cord on 6 stitches and worked in some rainbow stripes symetrically on the cord. I turned out really well.

Bartering for Cake

The final piece is very much a work in progress. I was asked to knit and crochet a bag as a birthday present for a friend's mum. She chose chocolate, raspberry, soft pink and cream. She wanted the main bag to be plain with a hint a contrast colour with the flap and strap in all the contrasting shades. I've knitted the main bag in chocolate stocking stitch. I then knitted in a raspberry stripe every 14 rows in moss stitch. The strap and sides are worked in crochet in 2 continuous loops which I'll then join together. I then need to get the flap completed. Its actually flowing together really well and I hope she'll be pleased with it. The same friend was then commissioned by my daughter to make her 18th birthday cake. So in the end we decided to do a trade - the cake for the bag. I think in terms of time, effort and materials its a fair exchange. 

And the cake!!!!!!

Can you believe the cute baby on the left is the teen on the right! Its not been an easy journey for either of us at times but I'm proud of my beautiful 18 year old daughter!

The Folksy "Commissionaires"

As well as "blowing my own trumpet", I've decided to give some fellow makers over at Folksy an opportunity to let the world know that they too take commissions:

Unique Beaded Gems

As well as offering a beautiful selection of handcrafted jewellery featuring beautiful gem stones, owner Jo Walters is always ready to take commissions. This beautiful Blue John Sterling Silver Ring is just one example of her beautiful work:

NofKants Curio's

Natalie Ofkants produces beautiful hand crocheted bags and accessories including the fab "witchy woo hats" pictured left. Natalie also polishes and mounts fossils and gemstones into fabulous keyrings and trinkets. Her shop is well worth a visit and she is always happy to take commissions.

Kawaii Boutique UK

Kawaii in Japanese means cute, pretty, lovely, charming and Kawaii Boutique UK definitely deliver. There is a fantastic range of handcrafted jewelerry, which in the words of the owner is "handmade kitsch and kawaii jewellery, inspired by animals, cupcakes, sweets, anything cute and colourful. I also make custom-designed pieces so you can have something entirely unique."
The Pink and Blue Rainclouds especially appeal to me, I think they're really cute!

Gaia Noir

Owner Jane Faye makes an eclectic range of unusual makes from ethically sourced / green materials. She does not work with plastics or other toxin based materials. Jane especially welcomes commissions that have an ethical basis. She also has a range of beautiful vintage style made to order items in her Folksy shop.

Girly Bunches

Oliva, owner of Girly Bunches, has a shop full of crocheted delights. From traditional doilies to funky coasters and hair accessories. She welcomes commissions and says "I love making things that I wouldn’t have normally thought of…. helps me to keep my work evolving!"

The Press Gang

This beautiful handbound journal is created by owner Leanne and her collection of presses. Leanne loves to take commissions for bookbinding and you can see from the quality of this journal, that it would be worth the outlay for a treasured item like a wedding album or special journal.

Baggie Aggie Too

Designer, maker Rosie has a wide range of beautiful covers and cases, from specs to kindles. The Mushrooms Business Card Wallet pictured is just one example of her work. Like the other makers featured, she can share photo's of previous commissions with you. She welcomes custom orders via her Folksy Shop


  1. Thank you so much for the lovely feature and for choosing my blue Witchy Woo hat to showcase.

    Natalie xxx

  2. What a brilliant feature, and thank you so much for including me. Love that bolero! :)

    Rosie. xx

  3. Fantastic blog post and a really good area to cover - its something I'm sure lots of crafters have experience of - receiving a request for a commission, then working out how to do it, learning new skills along the way and the joy in producing the finished item. Thanks. Annie