When I first started buying fabric online, I wasn’t remotely aware of designers or even the different fabric companies or really anything – I just bought things I liked. One of the first places I shopped was Fat Quarter Shop and Fabric.com (which I won’t shop at now – I’ve tried to take myself off their mailing list probably a dozen times and yet I still get their daily emails!) and then Etsy.
From Fabric.com I bought the first and largest chunk of my collection of Mendocino prints; they were selling them for $6/yard, which wasn’t a spectacular sale at the time (I would guess fabric was about $8/yd then), but was still significantly cheaper than buying from a local shop. (I think the place nearest to me was selling their fabric for about $22/metre, though I’ve noticed lately that most brick and mortar shops sell for around $16-18 now – I don’t know if that shop was particularly expensive or if everyone in town was selling that high… I took transit and that was the only one I could get to very easily). From there, I found myself on Etsy, looking for more to add to my Mendocino collection. Fabric.com only had the bronze and brown and orange prints, so everything else I was going to have to get elsewhere. And that’s when I found myself tumbling down the OOP HTF rabbit hole. (If you don’t know what that is, it’s “Out of Print, Hard to Find.” That’s a thing that took me a while to work out when I was a fabric newbie.) I may not have known Heather Ross’ name back then, but sure as shit, I learned it fast.
Mendocino, back then, was OOP but not terribly HTF, so I was able to get the bulk of my collection for $10-12/yard, but then over time I noticed prices going up and up and up every time I went onto Etsy. It was $15-20/yard and then more and more. Right now you can buy one Fat Eighth of Presentation Mermaid for $25. Some of the more “reasonable” sellers are asking $50/yd for some of the mermaid prints. I’ve seen it as high as $100/yard. (I hope nobody buys these because I think these fabrics are going to be reprinted in 2016, though I suppose we don’t know if it’ll be the whole collection or only part of it or different colours or substrates or…)
My collection of Tula Pink’s Neptune fabric happened in a similar way – it was already OOP but only mildy HTF. I was kind of broke during the buying of both these collections of fabrics, so I did have to be relatively choosy about what I bought and how much I was willing to pay for it, and that’s a fortunate thing because I do love both those lines of fabric a lot and I might have been more of a dumb-ass and spent way more than that fabric is worth if I had had more money.
For the low, low price of $180, you can buy your own Layer Cake of Neptune. Yeah. That probably cost that buyer less than $35 and now they’re trying to sell it for nearly $200.
I generally don’t sell my OOP HTF fabrics for a couple reason. One, I don’t know what to charge. I know what people on Etsy and Ebay are charging because I can look, but I can’t stomach that. Maybe I’m not cut out for that kind of capitalism, but it makes me feel dirty to think of charging someone $20-60/yard for something that cost me $8-10/yd. It feels wrong to me and it feels disrespectful to the designers (who, after all, make their living off what we are willing to buy and if they’re making a small percentage off the original price, well, they’re making nothing more off that $180 layer cake) and to fellow crafters. (Maybe I shouldn’t care about showing respect in that way, but I do and that’s my choice. I don’t expect anyone else to share my ethical concerns about much of anything.)
My second concern with selling these fabrics is that if I sell them at what I consider to be a reasonable price (ie. my cost including shipping, plus a small profit), then someone might turn around and resell it again at those insane prices that I’m trying to avoid. And I don’t want to be taken advantage of like that. If I’m selling it, I’d like to believe that it’s going to someone who intends to use it rather than to someone who intends to profit from it. And there’s really no way to control or combat that.
All of this by way of saying that I sold some of my OOP HTF fabric this weekend. I mostly sold off Tula Pink fabrics, well, exclusively Tula Pink fabrics, both from the Plume and the Parisville line. If I take Etsy sellers at their word, I undercut myself. A lot. I sold my cameos for $20 a yard (Etsy currently has prices ranging from $65-75/yd). I sold a jelly roll for $40 – that one was basically no profit, as I bought it for $38 at a local shop, and I remember it so specifically because I was making $12/hr at my job at the time and I really questioned the purchase because it was THREE HOURS WORTH OF WORK. And I never used it in all these years. I sold some other bits and peices for $10-20/yard and some scraps for basically $0 (because I didn’t take into account how much money PayPal takes for the transaction and thus didn’t build that into the price in any way).
I think the ideal transaction of this type is one where both parties come away feeling like they’ve done well – I think that’s how this went down. I don’t feel bad about any of my choices and I think my buyer is happy with what she’s getting as well. She certainly seems excited, in any case! (I suppose I don’t know that she isn’t excited about some amazing re-sale possibilities. But if she is, I hope I never find out about it.) Still, I don’t think I’m going to want to do this again for a long while. That influx of cash is nice, but I don’t think I’ll ever see myself turning into one of those Etsy sellers who’ve spent the last five years doling out $30 “last one” scrap packs of Mendocino, all composed of bad and awkward and small cuts with one or two nice large ones of the prints that are still relatively easy to find. I guess they’ve got to get their selling done while they can (even though probably the bottom won’t drop out of the market when the reprint drops – people still sell “original” vs “legacy” Flea Market Fancy for stupid prices) though. 2016 is coming!
Linking up with Molli Sparkles for this week’s Sunday Stash: