Craft Shows, Indie Business

The Big Fat Craft Fair Post

Last weekend I celebrated my first craft fair, making one of my biggest goals for 2011 come true!

I can’t believe it’s come and gone already.  Oh my gosh, where do I even start?   Last time I blogged about craft fair prep, it was about a week before the event.  Here’s what’s happened since.  But if you just want to skim ahead to the pictures, it’s ok. 🙂

The week before the event was supposed to be spent with straight up sewing and prep.   Every night after work I came straight home and just dove into work.  Unfortunately, the theme of the week seemed to be “If it can go wrong it will.”     I took off work Thursday and Friday so that I could finish up sewing and then get all the other stuff ready.

But Thursday and Friday were spent cleaning up my sick dog’s disgusting messes (and I’m not talking vomit), force-feeding him water and gatorade (he wasn’t drinking), dealing with workmen in the house,  oh – and sewing!  It was so not productive.   It was too hot for me to leave the dog outside all the time, or believe me – I would have.  And Ryan was out of town.

The Day Before

By the time my family arrived Saturday, the house was a wreck, and I was racing furiously from room to room, trying to get things done as fast as I could.  Fast-forward to Saturday night.  A few of my friends came over to help with miscellaneous tasks, since I was – get this – still sewing.  My friend Carolynn made my shop banner, her fiance did assorted tasks, including making my fabric sample binder, my mom cut out all my product tags, and my dad stamped my logo on all the tags as well as the shopping bag.  And Alyssa, one of my best friends on the planet, helped me hand-sew my cat pads and tooth fairy pillows closed.

Funny fact:  My dad is very risk-averse and exceedingly pessimistic.  He made various amusing comments throughout the night, like “You don’t want me to stamp your logo on these bags, because then you won’t be able to return them after you only sell 2 things!” And he was dead serious.  For many people, this could be upsetting.  But when my dad says it, it’s just funny.

Somewhere between 1 and 2 am, I sent Carolynn & her fiance home, and my parents to bed.  Ryan finished loading my car, then hit the sack.   Alyssa and I stayed up all night finishing everything up, and I managed to squeeze in an hour’s nap at 5 am.

Honestly, I felt so guilty letting my friends & family help so much at the last minute, but I also knew that I couldn’t pull it off without them.  Looking back at the last few months, I can see places where I made mistakes that impacted my productivity and readiness, and all I can do is learn from that and be ready sooner next time.  And I can not stress enough just how appreciative I am for these amazing people in my life.

The Big Day

Fortunately the adrenaline got pumping through my sleep-deprived body shortly after my dad and Ryan and I arrived to set up the booth.  Soon after that, my mom came down to help, and Ryan went home to take a nap.

Here’s the booth on Sunday morning (the first day):

And here it is on Monday morning.  You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s only 10 am and I’m already drenched in sweat!

Photo by Crys.Perkins.Photography

Looking back at these photos, I can see ways in which I want to improve my booth setup next time around.  For one thing, my last-minute hand-written product signs are not ideal, and are even less ideal when printed on bright teal cardstock. But I was out of white cardstock.  Also, I just don’t feel like the white table side of my display was nearly as captivating or fabulous as the other side with the pillows.   But I guess I was bound to find room for improvement after doing it once.  You don’t know until you try, right?


I really wanted to try and evoke the feeling of a “room” with my booth, to tie into the product line but also to make it stand out and catch people’s attention.   I draped curtains (actually $1.90 bedsheets from Ikea) around the sides and back of the tent.  Additionally, I put my favorite kilim rug on the ground and filled the vintage steamer trunk with the pillows.   Both the rug and the trunk are items that I love, yet Ryan absolutely hates, so I don’t usually get to decorate with them.   And remember that bookshelf that my dad built for my entryway, but which I finally admitted didn’t work in the space?  Well, I was super excited to find that, after a few coats of white paint, it was just perfect for displaying pillows and other items in the booth!

Speaking of my pillows, I absolutely loved how fabulous they looked in the display.  I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but at times I’d look at them and think “holy cow, I can’t believe I made all of these!”  It’s one thing to make a few for your sofa, but then to see a huge pile of them that people are admiring and purchasing – I’m not gonna lie, it’s super exciting.   One woman, who lives right down the street from me, purchased a few for the chairs on her front (covered) porch.   It was so awesome to hear her say that she thought my pillows were so much “fun.”  Because that’s exactly what I was going for – unique and absolutely happy and fun products.

I tagged each of my pillows (as well as the other items) with labels that included washing instructions on one side, and a stamp with my logo and website address on the other. The custom stamp is from Sugarskull7 on Etsy.   If you ever need a stamp, she’s awesome.

Photo credit: Crys.Perkins.Photography



Above the pillows I displayed my flour sack towels on a clothesline.  I absolutely love flour sack towels, and was pleased to find that they were a pretty popular item with my customers as well – especially as gifts they were purchasing for others, it seemed.

Photo credit: Crys.Perkins.Photography

The other side of the table held my reusable produce bags, tooth fairy pillows, sunglasses cases, and my email sign-up sheet.  Yep, this side definitely needs to be more fun in the future.  Any suggestions?

My tooth fairy pillows are made from new fabrics and old felted sweaters or suit jackets.  They all have little pockets on them for the child to leave their tooth, which the tooth fairy then replaces with a dollar or whatever the fairy does these days.  🙂   I chose not to put any tooth-related decals, etc on them because it leaves them open to be used for other occasions, such as a surprise reward, etc.

Handmade Tooth Fairy Pillows

I especially loved the ones made with my school bus fabrics:

Photo Credit: Crys.Perkins.Photography

One display idea that I was pretty stoked about, yet which turned out not to be ideal, was my cupcake-stand-turned- produce bag display.  My friend Lisa piled all the bags on so nice and perfectly…yet it didn’t seem to catch customers’ attention.

So the next day I tried displaying a few sets of bags in little piles tied with twine.  That seemed to go over better.

You may notice a bit of a sign in the background.  I decided early on that I would always donate a portion of my profits to a deserving organization, because I believe it’s important for companies to do their part to help others.  For most of the year I’ll donate to the homeless shelter that does an awesome job helping families in our area, but in honor of Memorial Day Ryan and I decided to donate to the Walter Reed Foundation, to help returning sick or injured service men and women.

Next to that sign I had my email sign-up sheet, so that people could sign up to be alerted when my online shop launches (hopefully tomorrow)!  I offered a random drawing for a $30 shop credit as an incentive, because I know that many people are reluctant to sign up for email lists.    Um…in retrospect $30 seems like a lot – but that’s what happens when you make these decisions on 1 hour of sleep. 🙂

I displayed my catnip purr pads in a copper bucket at the front of my display.  I think next time I need a better approach – perhaps up on the table, or on a shelf?  This didn’t seem to catch people’s attention very well.

Oh, I almost forgot a peek at my sunglasses cases!  These guys are guaranteed to fit even the fattest sunglasses.   In this shot they’re over on the shelf with the pillows, because on the second day I tried mixing things up a bit.

And with that . . . I think it’s a wrap. In the end, despite it being nearly 100 degrees each day, I had a blast meeting tons of local people and showing off my stuff. 🙂  Many of the vendors closed down early on Monday, because it was so bad with the heat and humidity, but with the help of Ryan and my friends I stuck it out ’til the end.

And before I end this, I have to say it again:  I have absolutely amazing friends and family.  I knew this before the past week, but now I am officially overwhelmed with how they pitched in to help me make this past weekend happen.

And if you’re wondering why it took me a whole week to post this, here’s why.  Not only did my house look like a bomb hit, but I ended up falling asleep around 9 pm the first few nights after.  I guess I really wore myself out!

The post-craft fair disaster in my living room.

Now I’m off to photograph my products so that I can launch my online shop by tomorrow night.  And don’t forget, to celebrate the launch I’m having a whole week of fun giveaways from Monday – Friday, so don’t forget to come back then!


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  • Reply Tiffany Leasure at 8:01 pm

    First I have to say thank you so much for donating to Walter Reed! As a military member {and wife of a military member}, it really touches my heart to see civilians willing to donate time, money, or resources to strictly military organizations. We {the military community} all of course donate to these types of things but it makes me giddy to see others supporting us as well. So thank you.

    Moving on….as I first saw your booth pic, I though, “Wow looks like a little room!” Then of course you explained what you were going for. Nailed it!! Love that you have the rug and the drapey-look! I love all the fabrics on your pillows and cute creations too. Just looks homey, casual, and fun. Can’t wait for you site to open. Definitely ready to place my order! Good luck and I hope you keep at it…even if you only sell 2 things. hahaha

  • Reply Jessica at 8:08 pm

    Love your product line.  I think the table needs fresh flowers to draw your eye.  And the catnip purr pads area  fabulous product.  Maybe next time they should go on the bookshelf or a little table so that one can be laid out.  You could even put a cute photo in a frame of the product in use so people can see what it’s for?  

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 5:30 pm

      Great idea about the flowers, and I did intend to do a photo frame but
      forgot at the last minute 🙂 glad I was on the right track, though!

  • Reply Kalanicut at 8:14 pm


    What a great effort you made and how beautiful everything turned out. I have lived this life before and I know how much work it is and how much thinking, analyzing, and over thinking goes on trying to consider every product, every layout in a booth etc. Way to go!!!!! I love your creations, your booth looks fantastic and I am so, so impressed with everything you’ve created.

    You asked for suggestions, here are a couple of things that might be useful to you.

    I found that throughout the craft fair if I moved things around in my booth every couple hours, when people came back by they saw things they didn’t see at all the first time. That variety attracted different people by having different things be the focal point throughout the day. It also gave me something to do during lulls. I found that if I looked busy rearranging & was moving around people were more likely to come into the booth, less intimidated to enter rather than look from the edge, than when I felt a little anxious and was waiting for something to happen.

    For the long table, get some small wooden boxes you can stack to place items in. Get stuff up at eye level and higher. You can maximize the vertical space up at least 3 feet or higher. When people are walking facing that direction, that eye level space is the first thing they will see. You could create a really pretty curated shelf set up with a variety of all the wonderful things you create in the little box cubbies.

    I am so happy you had family & friends to help. It really is exhausting. I can’t wait to see your new store and your continued success! Hooray!

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 5:32 pm

      Thanks for the awesome feedback! I definitely like the stacked wooden boxes
      idea. Can’t wait to try it next time!

  • Reply Jenn @ peas and crayons at 11:25 pm

    oh phew I am so glad you had some little fabric faries to help with your craft extravaganza! <3 Your dad is hilarious — I know he's just teasing and ridiculously proud =) and i'm so happy for you and your first fair! the setup looks right out of a magazine!!!! <3 and those sunglass cases are so baller girl. I'm dying to see what pops up on the etsy shop! <3 keep me posted on when you want some crazy press your way and when everything launches! xoxoo

    oh yeah.. and REST baby! wine? margaritas? beer? you earned all three <3

    xoXOxoJenn @ Peas & Crayons

  • Reply Stephanie Killey at 2:02 am

    Your booth is so pretty and so are all your products!  Glad to hear that you enjoyed your first craft fair and like anything in life we always learn from experience.  I was going to give some suggestions and feedback but Kalanicut already covered most of what I was going to say, so I will just second her comment 🙂 

  • Reply Anna Hull at 2:16 am

    I love your booth and all of your products!  It looks far more homey than most.  I’m excited that you’re getting to try all kinds of new things!

  • Reply Renee Gremillion at 4:25 am

    Looks fabulous, Jane!  Amazing first craft fair booth!  I really like the “room” vibe from the rug and curtains.  The trunk full of pillows ROCKS MY WORLD.  Are those giant coffee sacks actually dog beds?  I love them.  In fact, I had to look back through the pictures several times to come up with a suggestion.

    My only (constructive and loving) criticism is that the booth looks overwhelmingly white.  Maybe dying either the curtains or the table cloths a soft color (a light color from the rug?) would help the white towels and produce bags stand out better without distracting from your bright products.  Hanging brighter items could also help diffuse some of the white.  As for the pur pads, grab a stuffed kitten or puppy and throw one down with the little fellow on top.  That awesome trough you used for the pur pads would be an excellent container for white products and could really add some height and visual interest to the table.  

    Interesting display pieces always catch my eye while shopping – like that awesome trunk – stacked vintage crates or suitcases can become a display “table” or a beat-up curb-side-salvaged desk or chair make great unconventional stuff-holders that would nicely contrast the conventional folding table set-up.  Heck, another winning sales tactic for me is free food.  Throw some inexpensive fresh fruit and veggies in that cupcake stand by the produce bags… it’s a simple little “freebie” to offer your customers, and even if nobody eats it, it could be an interesting backdrop and display stand that coordinates with your product!  OK, that turned long-winded!  Wish I lived nearby to drop by the next fair!

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 5:38 pm

      Thanks for the awesome feedback – I totally get what you mean bout
      everything being white. 🙂 I have an image on pinterest now of someone
      else’s booth where they had patterned curtains…I definitely liked that
      more. Maybe I’ll dye some of my curtains a nice color.


  • Reply Sarah (My Way or the Pie Way?) at 5:36 am

    Congrats on your first craft show — as others have said, the rug and the trunk full of pillows were a beautiful touch. As for the other side of the booth, maybe some sort of shelf, or frame to hook products on, would help liven things up over the table? I also wonder if the lower portion of the table could be better utilized — maybe by stringing up some more little towels across the front or something. (Even if most customers wouldn’t bend down to look at them, it could still add some color and interest to that side of the booth.)

  • Reply Katie makingthishome at 11:12 am

    Jane!  I am so proud of you.  This post was a blast to read, and it looks like you picked up so much knowledge.  I love the teamwork and how everyone chipped in to make your goal happen.  The first thing that caught my eye was the crisp white backdrop curtain because it REALLY accents your talent with color and the products themselves.  It makes everything feel so airy and cool on a miserably hot day.

    Renee thought it was too much white, so I wonder if using another neutral color on the tablecloths would add an even bigger punch.

    I understand why people might hesitate to buy the produce bags from that cute display.  There are these little shops in Berlin that have the most beautiful displays.  Maybe this sounds weird, but I feel like I don’t want to buy an item that will “ruin the display”.  It’s not even something I ever thought about before!  So it’s interesting to hear your experience from the other side.

    And do you know how much I’m drooling over your products?!  SOOO awesome, Jane!

    I look forward to the day when you launch the shop.

  • Reply Kate at 8:14 pm

    Looks like you had a great booth to me!

  • Reply Sarah at 8:58 pm

    Jane, I thought you had the nicest and most interesting set up.  The colors and lightness drew me in.  Great job!  I second the other comments – when displays are too pretty, I am hesitant to touch things.  Maybe hang more things, so people can just take them down?  But, all in all, your booth was absolutely lovely!  I could use some sewing lessons 🙂 

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 5:39 pm

      I appreciate the kind words! Yeah, maybe next time I need to put more items
      loose so that people feel comfortable moving them around, etc. Never
      thought of scaring people with “too pretty” a display but I agree – I have
      the same reaction in some stores!
      And we need to plan some time for me to give you a sewing lesson, I guess!

  • Reply Cat A. at 10:32 pm

    Congratulations!!!!!! Did you end up selling most of your items! I hope so – Those pillows were too cute! xoxo, Cat

  • Reply Bonnie pearson at 12:19 am

    it looks so refreshing and especially in all that heat. Your displays are great, love the trunk and rug and don’t mind my son…I  would attend other craft shows and pay attention to how other displays draw attention to product, but as others have said, show them in use with little stuffed kitties for catnip, some fruits or veggies in the bags, you have as great eye for color and design.It will get easier. creativity creates it’s own mess!

  • Reply Jenn at 6:48 pm

    This was so much fun to read! I LOVE your booth … super cute. Especially all the pillows in the trunk. It makes me want to come hang out there … so cozy!

    Have you thought about hanging your fabric samples on the other wall? If they were bigger sample, secured on in a clothes pin/line fashion, it would be super colorful and really give people an idea of options. Just a thought! 🙂

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 7:04 pm

      Jenn, thanks for that great suggestion about fabric samples! I absolutely
      love it and am definitely going to ponder that idea for the next event. 🙂
      Thank you!

  • Reply Liz at 8:42 pm

    It looks like an exhausting and rewarding weekend! Thanks for sharing, can’t wait for the online store to open!

  • Reply Robin at 10:46 pm

    What great photos! I am so proud of you and so happy that it went well! 🙂

  • Reply Leigh at 12:19 am

    Holy cow! Amazing.  I love the tent “walls” and all the colors really pop off the white.  The table on the right…maybe more color or bigger looking some how, like fuller?

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  • Reply Ashley @ at 3:19 pm

    <3 the sunglass cases! I might have to buy one when your online shop launches!

  • Reply Julie B at 6:34 am

    That’s so awesome, Jane!  Your booth looked fantastic!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the rug and trunk and the white linens AND your sign!  Don’t ever get rid of it.  Keep it for memories.  Frame it or roll it up and take it to all of your shows. 

    Def need shelving on that table to the right.  Maybe even another bookshelf set on the table.

    You have amazingly supportive friends and family!  =) 

  • Reply Juleen Kenney at 11:59 pm

    Your booth looked great, and your pillows DID look awesome!  I love the floral and bird prints on them!  Where did you get that fabric?  It’s delightful!

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 3:25 am

      Thanks so much! I get most of my fabrics from a wholesaler, since I am
      buying for the business. But you can find some of them on Etsy, if you
      search for Japanese fabrics.

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  • Reply at 10:07 pm

    love your use of the vintage trunk . I think we have one tucked away in the basement! I use an antique wicker chair to show off a few pillows at a fair.I’m working on my mockup in the garage for my next fair. good luck. cat in canada

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  • Reply Natalie at 11:27 pm

    Oh my goodness…this made me laugh out loud!!

    “You don’t want me to stamp your logo on these bags, because then you won’t be able to return them after you only sell 2 things!”

    Thanks so much for all the great advice and pictures. I am going to add “participating in a craft fair” to my 2013 goals!

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 11:13 am

      Ooh, that’s awesome that you’re adding a craft fair to your goals! They are SO much fun to do, at least I think so.
      And yeah, my dad’s line about not stamping my logo on the bags. . . totally awesome and classic. I will never forget that. 🙂

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