Look at the Past- Advice from 1913 on Selling Needlecraft

Just like today, people of the past were looking to monetize their work and hobbies in order to help their income. Needlecraft magazine had people write in looking for suggestions for how to sell their needlecraft to the larger cities.

Some of us who are makers can relate to the “You’re so good, you should sell that!” I’m sure the women of the past had the same admiration from their social circle. Here’s an interesting look at what Needlecraft said to women looking to sell their work to cities- probably with a lot more straightforwardness than you’d get from a woman’s magazine today.

Earning Pin-Money

No, indeed, the “new department” hasn’t been forgotten; it has simply had to wait a little, perhaps for the great and special reason that sufficient really good material has not come in with which to fill it. We must have practical ideas, you know; such as the writer herself has carried out successfully, or has personally observed. A story, however pleasantly told, of how some woman made a small fortune manufacturing neckbows, jabots, or any other small article, “which ought to sell for at least a dollar at any city store,” is of little value to the would-be money-earner unless the knowledge of just where her wares can be disposed of is forthcoming.

Not long ago a package of crocheted doilies was sent Needlecraft to sell. They were of designs that had already been illustrated in our magazine, so the possibility of disposing of them in that way was cut off. They were not especially well done, either; yet the sender wrote that a merchant in her town, to whom she carried them with a view to placing them or others on sale at his store, assured her that “they ought to bring five dollars apiece in the city.” So to the city they were sent, and there is sure to be another disappointed one; because by the best of chances those doilies will sell for not more than a twentieth part of the sum named.

The instance quoted is but one of many. Scarcely a day passes that does not bring one or more packages of work accompanied by the same story. “A lady told me these would sell for large prices-naming themmin the city,” or “Please do the best you can with my work; it is not the nicest I can do, but I am sure will sell well because I have been told hand-embroidered things are very high in cities.”

And the editor’s heart gets a good many little sorry twinges; because she does so hate to disappoint one of her eager, hopeful friends, and she knows so well that only the most perfect productions of the needle can find purchasers in city markets, where shops are filled with importations from the needleworking centers of the old world. This is particularly true of embroideries. Madeira and solid and eyelet, in the making of which the peasantry of Europe have become expert through centuries of practise.

This bit of plain talk should not be discouraging, but quite the reverse. Good work, at reasonable prices, is almost sure to find a purchaser sooner or later; but it must be good work, such as will win admiration and that not every woman can do equally well. Often a little novelty, perhaps a Susette bow, or jabot, or doily, or collar, in tatting, crocheting, knitting, netting or other kindred art, will sell quickly and the demand for duplicates be large; and such happenings bring joy to the heart of the editor who, above all things, loves to see her coworkers succeed.

1 Comment on Look at the Past- Advice from 1913 on Selling Needlecraft

  1. eimear greaney
    July 31, 2020 at 1:59 am (4 years ago)

    interesting article – especially as it was written at a time when more things were handcrafted and skills were highly prized. its a good antedote to the contemporary comments ‘you should sell these’ – which personally drives me nuts as it implies everything has a price…(as opposed to value)

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