how to motivate people to buy handwoven items

What approach do fellow weavers use to entice buyers from the mass-market world to the handwoven world? 



Campbell Creek Weavery


Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 16:35

Hi Kate,

I moved this to Chat. The Weavolution News and Announcements is a forum for news about Weavolution and announcements of happenings on the website.

Thanks for the suggestion Deb.

Kate, this is a good topic and an issue we are all concerned about. Thanks for starting this thread.


Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 16:58


This is a great topic for discussion!  i, too, have been frustrated by those who just don't "get it!"  I have tried to educate my clients to understand the difference between being created by the loving, caring hands of a designer, as opposed to  a machine, but some just don't understand and unfortunately, they may never understand.  Guild activities where demonstrations are held are key... so that people can see the process... and even try it.   But some, are always going to favor the less expensive option.  For some, it comes down to priorities... and handspun and/ or handwoven items are not cheap.

I can't wait to hear what others have to say... because I've been thinking about this for YEARS!


Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 18:01

True, Sara. The goal is to educate consumers to see that and then to spend the money for that quality. Some people seem to get it right away. Others go for the lower priced option.

Then, there is the issue of selling online. How do you help someone "feel" the fabric and "see" the drape in a photo? I have never sold anything hand woven or hand knit online except when the person has seen and felt my work in person. And even those times are rare.


Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 18:31

Have you ever bought anything handwoven on line yourself, Claudia? If you could cast your mind back and remember what it was that attracted you, you might be able to answer this question. I haven't ,so can't help.

Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 18:48

Cheryl and I market her weaving as a "One of a kind, you will never see anyone wearing "your"........ even her dish towels are one of a kind, unless it is a special order. I do not think you can educate the modern consumer on what is quality, most have been buying "Made in China" goods for so long that they do not know what quality is. But they still know the meaning of "one of a kind', creative handwoven, handmade, designer apparel. Like Claudia says someone has to feel the fabric. Getting then to feel is the trick. You do this by having something that jumps out at them, or by telling them that this weaving is special, at shows this is done with signage and taking. When someone stops to look at something, I ask them if they would like to try it on, or I tell them about the piece and how it was made. You have all seen it, a person at a show trying to sell something with a book in their hands, who looks up and says, " if I can help you let me know." Then that person wonders why they did not sell anything. People if you love your weavings and are trying to sell them to the buying public act like you want them to buy from you. Interact with your customer, not to the point of being pushy, tell them how much you love weaving and how  unique the piece is and them ask for the sale. This is something most craftpeople do not do, that is ask for the sale. I will get off my soap box (an how many of you know where this comes from?


Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 19:01

Believe it or not, high quality items up close and personal don't need didactic to have the viewer recognize it.

If what I offer is not the customer's taste of the moment, I understand, but for many years I have NOT heard comparisons with cheap commercial goods when people view what I've made. Often, persons who obviously are not in a position to pay the asking price look at the item and respectfully indicate that if they had the money it is worth the price.

I have, over the years, harvested more than a few comments like "I have friends who weave and I didn't realize that you could make items like this!" "I didn't know you could make cloth of this quality on a handloom, my friend 'Gertie' doesn't weave things as nice as this."

It could be that there is a style used by handweavers known as "handwoven" that isn't meeting public perception of beautiful textiles.

As for internet sales of handmade items, that is self-explanatory - I don't buy commercial textiles online unless I've purchased from that retailer before - why should I take a chance on a photo of an expensive item? Here the artist needs to go out and circulate and let the public touch and feel the merchandise - it is then more possible to have repeat customers order something. Etsy was doomed to imploding from overuse the day it started. 

Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 19:54

We work so hard to find the right sett and a great hand, so it makes so much sense that we want to touch the handwoven item and want other people to touch it.  Someday I'll get the nerve to sell directly ...


I've gathered some thoughts on my blog



Campbell Creek Weavery



Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 20:25

Something to remember is that someone designs all of the wovens, including those that are mass-produced and made in countries where the pay is much lower.  Some of them love what they do as much as you do, and some will produce excellent goods.  Some differences you can emphasize when selling:

Unlike mass production, or even hand work in some other countries, the goods we make are generally put together from start to finish by the weaver.  There is not a separate designer, warp winder, weaver, sewer, surface designer, burler, seller, etc. One person handles all or most of  the stages and their vision of the end product can be carried out fully - and explained to the customer.  I'm much more apt to buy from the craftsman who explains their process to me and seems passionate about all the steps.

While commercial products vary in quality greatly from poor to excellent, yours are all excellent (show them what makes an excellent quality handwoven  - no errors, great selvages and beat, appropriate sett and finishing, drape, durable high quality fibers, etc.).

Your work is one-of-a-kind or very limited in production compared to the usual store bought items.  Because of this, it is more labor intensive than making 200,000 of the same item (redesigning and setting up after every one, or every hundred takes time and skill).  The person who is most concerned about price of item at Walmart is not the person who wants something unique that shows their personality and taste as well as the weaver's. 

Make sure that your items, even though unique or limited in production, are distinguishable in some way from the common run of machine goods.  Since you do not have to please 200,000 people you can branch out into smaller markets, of interest to individuals, not crowds. Point out the differences - the 14 colors taken from the peony in your back yard, the curved lines mimicking atomic splitting paths, the piece of music you coded in, the time consuming leno or twisted fringes, etc.  Put it on the hang tag if you have room. 

Remember that the person buying is not necessarily like you.  They may have no interest in making things, have considerably more money, and run in different circles entirely. The viewpoint of a "patron of the arts" vs. a craftsman or artist may be quite different.

Ultimately, no matter how well you design, weave, connect, and explain, the piece must speak to the buyer. Take time to listen to their comments and look at how they are dressed (if in person) to try to match your work to the market. Learn from every opportunity.

Laurie Autio

Posted on Tue, 12/15/2009 - 20:33

What people buy is always a mystery.  There are a million reasons for people to *not* buy something.  :(

What I have found on a personal level is that people are first attracted by the colour(s) of your textile, then the feel.  Trying to express this on the internet is a challenge and most lay people don't buy textiles until and unless they can feel them. 

The only time I've sold textiles on line is to other weavers.  Mostly weavers who know me and my work.

The vast majority of people are not willing to buy expensive hand woven textiles so I don't even try to appeal to the mass market.  I choose high end craft fairs where people who *are* willing to spend big bucks on unique hand crafted items will go to shop.

So I guess if I were to give out free advice (which is worth what you pay for) is to make your items as colourfully beautiful as you can, as well as you can, then find a market where people who are willing to pay a premium for hand made goods go to shop.



Posted on Wed, 12/16/2009 - 09:25

Sara writes: "It could be that there is a style used by handweavers known as "handwoven" that isn't meeting public perception of beautiful textiles."

This is a problem I have, that (literally) does not translate, but... I sometimes get visitors to my shop who come in, look around and say "there are no handwovens in here" - because, to them, "handwoven" means something specific. Most often they mean rag rugs, table goods and, possibly, wall hangings. For years, I have been thinking of words - what other word could I use that had a more neutral (ot at least different) meaning to customers? I'm thinking that "handwoven" may repel my real customers, because they, too, think it means rag rugs, and they are not looking for those.
(The actual Swedish word I use is Vävatelje - weaving studio)


Posted on Wed, 12/16/2009 - 15:19

I think we have to give our patrons a good reason(s) to buy.
(Going back to the original question of how to entice mass-market to buy handwoven, handmade.)

At our recent sale, one of my guildmates told me while she was helping a customer select a scarf for a gift, the final choice was made because my scarves had "nicer" labels. Specifically, there is a blurb inside that explained WHY one should buy handmade. This is not the first time someone has commented to me about this. I originally put the blurb on there to help every weaver who participates in the sale, to educate the customer and give them confidence they were making a good choice. 

Here's the blurb—

Why Buy Handwoven/Handmade?

You are...
•Selecting a unique product, which reflects your appreciation of fine craftsmanship.
•Buying Quality. Owning a product with artistic and value-added construction details.
•Supporting the Arts in your community.

I may add this, another statistic I read while visiting AZ this fall: "When you shop at locally-owned businesses, 45 cents of every dollar stays local, vs only 13 cents of every dollar spent at a national chain."


I think the second part of this is that your hand made item must reflect the wording above. For instance, the customer should see that you spent the time to twist or braid the fringe, handsew or hide the sewing on the hems, etc. It should fulfill the expectation of fine craftsmanship. This is where an actual event (like a guild sale) probably sways the mass market over the Internet. (They can see how the merchandise compares to what they see at their price point, be it Walmart or Restoration Hardware.)

For Estsy or other online venues, I guess you can try a macro shot that clearly shows these value-added details over that chenille blanket they can get at Bed Bath & Beyond for $20 (with a loose sett and fringe that will fray off on the first washing!)

Selling Handwovens reminds me of the Syms slogan, "An educated customer is our best customer" (Sorry, we can't use that. Already taken!) But you get the idea.




Posted on Thu, 12/17/2009 - 17:51

I greatly appreciate that yuor 'blurb' elightens the customer and/or browser while lifting up what weavers contribute.  And concisely, too.  Thank you! 



Campbell Creek Weavery

Posted on Fri, 12/18/2009 - 13:21

Well, we know the question. But how to find the best answer og argument. A big question is quality or quanity. Does the buyer bother or not of either? The cheapest buy it a chaep idea.

I've made interesting notes from this link. Interesting to find the right arguments to the right item. Good luch all =D

Posted on Fri, 12/18/2009 - 16:07

A few observations from our recent highly-successful guild sale. 

There are some designers who weave really unusual things, some might say outrageous items, and they are typically not at the cheaper-end of the price point. It's like the designers aren't that concerned about who the ultimate customer will be, but they are weaving and producing by following an inner voice or allowing the materials to dictate what the item should become. And I noticed at our guild sale this year, these designers were the ones that sold successfully. Their items just seemed to "find" the right customer.

On the other side of the room, we have the designers who weave or produce mass quantities of items, and you can see they were thinking about the customer and end-use quite a bit. They had options in a variety of colors, and were economical in their structure choices to maximize their production time. Their price point was at the lower end of the scale. Their items attracted the bargain hunters.

I think the sale was successful because we had both price points and types of items represented. And I still see a huge potential market in the middle ground; customer's who aren't big risk takers or spenders, but want something a little beyond what they can get at mass-market retail locations.

The challenge for us is to figure out where along that continuum of price-to-quality-to-uniqueness they fall. And how much to pay attention to the inner voices we hear, vs. noticing what colors are showing up in the latest Pier One catalogs.


Posted on Fri, 12/18/2009 - 23:14

Some people just don't get it.  I was wearing one of my rayon chenille scarves with ladder ribbon yarn as supplemental warp, which most people tell me is very striking.  His comment was "That's really pretty Tina.  It looks almost as good as the scarves you can buy at the store." 

Posted on Sat, 12/19/2009 - 03:34

Oh, Tina,

That is stunning and very dramatic. What a great idea. Have you posted the details in your projects? I hope so, I'm going to take a peak at that. I have some variegated red ribbon yarn with glitter in it and I could see it as a supplemental warp in a black background, too. Do you mind if I borrow your idea. My mom would love a scarf similar to yours.


Posted on Sat, 12/19/2009 - 03:46

That's' one I haven't posted yet.  It's a great way to add glitz to a rayon chenille scarf while keeping the scarf itself plain weave so there's no worry about worming.  Feel free to borrow this.  This is a modification of one I saw somewhere -- I think a Handwoven project.   Just hold out heddles on a different shaft from the chenille for the ribbon, then figure out how frequently you want to raise that shaft.  For the ladder ribbon I think it was every 6 picks.  I had one treadle tied to that shaft and just pressed it in addition to the plain weave treadle.  I had the ribbon weighted separately off the back beam.

Posted on Fri, 01/29/2010 - 23:00

 Having just opened a new handweaving gallery and teaching studio in Asheville, NC, I really enjoyed reading this thread. We haven't been open long enough to offer any insight on buying habits, and it's apparently still WINTER here, but what a valuable side discussion group this might make at Convergence this summer. Anyone going who might like to participate and can fit it into an evening during the conference?

Posted on Sat, 01/30/2010 - 00:23


Reading your post from last month about the Guild sale, were you able to get any sense of how the display of items affected sales?

One of our top Angora fiber sellers always has her items tagged with prices and attractively spread out for display.

She always sells the most fiber and knitted goods.

So question for everybody is: How much do you work on display and how do you think it affects the buying decision?

Have a good day!

Posted on Sat, 01/30/2010 - 00:29

Back in the day when I did Craft Fairs... I always was amazed that there was a HOT SPOT.  Just about everyone who passed or came into the booth touched whatever item was in this HOT SPOT position.  They weren't necessarily  interested in buying the item... but they had to touch it!  It was like a magnet!  And the interesting thing was that it wasn't the item... but the place... the HOT SPOT.

Does anyone else have this happen?


Posted on Sat, 01/30/2010 - 02:45

Displaying things well is critical.  And yes, I've heard about The Hot Spot.  Have not yet identified one in my own display.  :)

Lighting is also critical - I always bring my own lights for my booth.