I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with sewing, but like many moments of love I am sure that the “moment” exists for all of us bitten by the bug. To be honest, it was probably more falling in love with vintage fashion to which sewing and knitting for myself provided a doorway. It took sewing from a “craft” that people to do on a weekend to an amazing world in which so much knowledge could be acquired.
Whenever that moment happened, my thirst for more knowledge followed. This included the acquisition of many rare and hard to find texts on fashion history and dressmaking over years (and knitting, another passion) that now occupies an entire wall in my (cubby hole) “studio” and a cabinet in our dining room. They come from a variety of sources… estates, online auctions like ebay, church sales, fellow dressmakers and seamstresses that have onsold their own collections… every pamphlet and book holds such pleasure, lost fashions, a doorway into a world that once existed.
It was a matter of time before I opened my own etsy shop. I remember sitting in mothers group with another mum who liked to knit marvelling at what was available. And to think I could share some of the out of copyright gems in my collection that way too? It seemed an obvious step.
Fast forward four years later, I am now full time stay at home mum and part time shop owner… these days it has become a great way to meet and interact with so many other great people in the global crafting/ knitting/ dressmaking community. I am so so so awed by the talent that exists out there, by the people who quietly achieve great beauty by making art works that are not destined to be seen by scores in museums, but are bestowed as gifts to their family or friends or become cherished garments for themselves. And my heart fills with a feeling I find it hard to name when they contact me sometimes years later to show me their finished work. Maybe that feeling is joy. Maybe it is pride. But I do know I feel happy that a pattern that was deteriorating with the sands of time in my sewing table drawer or bookshelf is living a life and being enjoyed by someone whether its in Australia or the US or Scandinavia or the UK…
Unfortunately, there has been a down side. When you have a store on the internet your name and offerings are out there. What this means is that someone who has never met you, doesn’t know you, has never bought from you, has no intention of buying from you who may just dislike the fact you are in the reproductions business can find fault with what you have to offer.
I’m not going to bother getting into are “reproductions of out of copyright work is evil argument”, because if they were, Pride and Prejudice would have died at least a century ago. And lets face it, anyone who has been victim to the dark and smouldering looks of Mr Darcy knows that would be a travesty!
But I have one particular product which has proved very contentious because quite separate to any reproduction available in my store, there are apparently others available for a lower price as part of subscriptions and memberships or for “free”. These are someone else’s product, reproductions of the same original out of copyright book.
What this means is that someone can say, completely ignorant of the time or work you’ve put into your product “she should be offering that cheaper or for free,”… because (I assume) the original material is in the public domain and someone else has tried to offer the original content in a different way. Forget the fact that you spent forever agonizing over what software would be best to make the reproduction, did the legal copyright legwork, that you refused to shrink file sizes to trade off easy instant downloads with high resolution, easy to view imagery, that you traded off time with your kids to spend weeks touching up the document page… by …page. And my poor husband, he is the real sucker, I reeled him in to help me with the technology when it wasn’t doing what it was doing and his time was totally unpaid. (Okay… Its nice to be loved).
Seriously, I can’t compete with “other” versions of this book, because mine is a different product and its been created by me with a view to making it as user friendly as possible. I don’t imagine that everyone expects that every copy of Pride and Prejudice is going to be the same quality in digital or original format.And frankly when you are talking pattern schematics, I think quality is all the more crucial. I personally don’t want to waste my valuable sewing time and thats what I’ve had in mind when I undertook a reproduction.
Which product? It actually doesn’t matter. The fact that there is someone out there willing to write up on a public forum to one of my customers- all of whom I value endlessly- that it “sucks” that you sell your product at all because someone else is offering another version… well, it really does turn that great joy to sadness. It was like someone saying “I have no value for your time or what you have to offer and no’one else should either.” My car broke down today (the last day before a long weekend with tons of traffic) with a six month old baby and an active three year old to entertain, this felt so much worse. It was both random and personal.
But you know, it doesn’t matter what business you are in and how much you love it, there is always going to be someone that will push and shove to be the first to throw stones. In that sense my etsy shop hasn’t just been about pursuing a passion or meeting other great people, its actually been a fabulous exercise in business- learning about what distinguishes one product from another – and what is worth my time in selling.
And then there are the GREAT customers, the ones that send those fabulous photos, that make you smile, that get in touch and share their own amazing abilities. One such customer named Letha has just started her own etsy shop Knitting and Donkeys including a product made from one of my patterns… a gorgeous little shrug. Well done Letha! Great job! And thank you.
Life is full of stones and diamonds. Chin, chin… Here is to the diamonds.