Somebody Asked… About Making Your Own Reusables

From Facebook:

Can you offer a suggestion for making the switch to cloth toilet wipes and tissues with things we have on hand? We have a huge box of old clothes that my hubby hasn’t seen or worn since high school (10 years ago), and I have basic sewing skills (straight lines, and 10 stitch options on my mom’s sewing machine that I hi-jacked 6 months ago, and she still hasn’t needed). At this point our budget won’t allow us to purchase these items, and in order to save the money we would need to make the switch…is that backwards thinking? Would love some suggestions if you’re willing 🙂

I’m happy to help.

You have a few options, and what you choose will depend on how fancy you want them, and what fabrics you have available.

  • Tshirts and other knits technically do not have to be sewn around the edges – they won’t unravel. If you have thicker knits, you can just cut them into squares and use those for hankies or wipes. If you have thinner knits, I’d recommend using those as hankies instead of wipes… some people use the thinner stuff for single-ply wipes, but I prefer something a little thicker. You know those annoying TP commercials about keeping you clean while getting you clean? Well, thinner knits don’t do a good job of that.
  • Thinner knits, you can double up and sew around the edges, just with a regular straight stitch. Again, they’re not going to unravel, so you don’t need to worry about the edges.
  • Soft fabrics that aren’t knits (flannel shirts, old towels), you can cut into squares, sew two squares right sides together, leave an opening for turning, turn them right sides out, and then topstitch.
  • Personally, I’d recommend saving things like twills or denims for other uses, as these won’t be comfortable as wipes or tissues.

So there you go! I hope that helps.

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Somebody Asked: How do you do it all?

I was all set to write a post – and somewhat of a downer – about discouragement and balance and feeling appreciated and respected (or a lack of feeling either one of those things), but as I sat here and thought about it, I realized that I feel pretty good about how I manage things. I’m NOT perfect, I have things to improve. But, you know, on the whole, I’m happy.

To say I’m busy would be an understatement. I’m a Martha. (You know, Mary’s sister, of “Martha was too busy with her tasks to sit with Jesus” fame.) I run Wallypop (which means processing, packing, and mailing orders; managing inventory; sewing inventory and made to order items; answering emails and phone calls; keeping the website up to date;  8 million other things). I homeschool. I take care of my children. I webmaster 3 other websites. I teach dance classes at least one night a week, often two, in addition to choreographing for and coaching our performance team. I volunteer with ICAN, Des Moines Cloth Diapering, and Des Moines Babywearing. I run our household, including all the typical housewife tasks like laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, managing the budget and bills, and facilitating home repairs. I am the household handyman. I take care of the chickens and will soon be also caring for my rabbits. I also do things for fun, like knitting, reading, and internet-ing.

It’s a lot. But if I weren’t doing those things, I’d be doing something else. Seriously. I have been like this since I can remember.

So, the question on the table is… How.

Several ways.

– I multitask, and I’m good at it. I know there’s a lot of, um, yoga type advice out there about being In The Moment (more on this later) and focusing on one thing at a time, and that when we multitask, we do a poor job at everything. But that’s not always true. I’m a good multitasker, most of the time. I know how to mix and match my multitasking. For example, with me, cooking + anything else = bad news. Cleaning + washing dishes = great. I clean the bathroom while the kids take a bath. I scrub the shower while I’m showering. I nurse while doing, well, practically everything.

– I never stop. I just don’t stop. I get up in the morning, and I don’t rest until bedtime – usually long after everyone else is asleep. When both kids are happily occupied, I move faster. I am always moving. This is just how I am. Not everyone is like this. I have high metabolism.

Now. The trick is realizing that there ARE times when being In the Moment, focusing on one thing, is important. Kid time, for example. When we’re homeschooling, I’m doing homeschool (and parenting Genna, which is unavoidable). When I’m reading to the kids, that’s all I’m doing. I don’t multitask my time with them – mostly. (I have an upcoming blog post on the topic of mixing work and kids.)

And, unlike Martha, I do try to not be so busy that I don’t have time to sit with Jesus. But, at the same time, I also know for a fact that God can reach you while you’re sweeping or sewing just as easily as He can reach you while you’re resting.

(and, yes, I really was asked this question.)

Somebody Asked…. about adding a product

Every month, I receive at least three – sometimes more – emails with new product ideas. I love it!!

Seriously. I love getting these emails, because it helps me understand what you – my customers and potential customers – are looking for. Also, they’re very encouraging on a personal level, because there’s an inherent “I want to buy more from you” tone to these types of emails.

But I also want to be clear about something – I won’t be able to start offering all of these wonderful product ideas. It’s simply not that simple.

The main factor in whether I can add a new product is whether I can handle the additional workload. I need to keep a basic stock level of any product I offer. Unlike many stores, which merely purchase and resell items made in factories, Wallypop items are 100% mama made. (We do have a few resale items like Proraps, Wrapsody wraps, and Prefolds) And I’m the mama. I have a few hired sewists who help out with certain products, but most of the items are made by me.

Inventory is a continual struggle, as anyone who’s tried to buy All in Ones from me knows.

Beyond that, there’s also the legal side of things. Not just CPSIA, though that is a major obstacle. But there were regulations before that, as well – particularly on clothing items, which is why I’ve hesitated to offer anything beyond just the basic, basic clothing. What CPSIA did was enact incredibly expensive regulations on toys and child care articles, including bibs and anything involved in sleeping. Out went a product I had all ready to add to my inventory. Frustrating!! These regulations literally have priced me out of the market for these types of items.

But, Sarah! There are small sellers on Etsy and all over the internet selling these items. How can they afford it and you can’t? you might ask. Chances are, they are not in compliance with the law. I don’t know for sure, but there are plenty of small businesses who either do not take their business seriously enough to research applicable laws, or who figure that they’re small enough that they don’t need to comply.

I’m not like that. I’m sorry.

Other products (like clothes) I can likely afford to comply, but I need time (and undivided attention) to become familiar with the regulations, so I can’t offer any products in those categories until I’ve had that time. Genna makes this somewhat of a challenge, lol!

So, please keep the new product ideas coming!! But also please understand that it’s just not that simple to add to my product line. The wheels here at Wallypop turn slowly…

Somebody asked… about help

Thought this might be worth a blog post, since it’s come up a lot recently.

I don’t give out my supplier information. Just as a general rule. I’m sorry.

It’s not to be mean. It’s not – as has been suggested – because I’m afraid of competition. It’s not because I want new businesses to fail.

It’s for the same reason that, when teaching dance lessons, I don’t give students written notes on what we’ve learned. It’s for the same reason that I don’t let Wally use a calculator when doing math.

Would it be easier, shorter? Yes. Would it save our dance students work, avoid “re-inventing the wheel,” to give them my notes? Sure. Would it save time to let Wally use a calculator? Absolutely.

But, as was said in a book I recently read, the benefit is in the seeking. (The Chronicles of Prydain.)

First of all, most people who’ve owned their CD operations for as long as I have had to work pretty hard to find their suppliers. Not only locating potential suppliers, but then also contacting suppliers, purchasing samples, testing the samples, making preliminary orders, finding through trial and error who is and who isn’t reliable, etc. It’s expensive and it’s time-consuming.

So, yeah, I’m not eager to just hand my hard work over to newcomers to the industry, simply because it was a lot of work. I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Second, I’m not going to say that digging up supplier information is a rite of passage or anything. But it is part of the new business experience. And I think there is a benefit to be gained in the seeking of your own suppliers. Not only just for the experience… but because, who knows, you might unearth some really awesome supplier that nobody currently uses. How boring if we all got our fabric from the same source? (And in a few cases, most CD makers do get all of one supply or another from the same source, and those sources inevitably have poor customer service because there’s virtually no competition.)

Third, though this might sound snotty, if you can’t use Google, you need to really re-think whether you should own a business. And I’m not just being snarky, I’m being honest. If you really can’t figure out who my supplier for Prorap covers is, as was seriously recently asked of me, then are you going to be able to navigate child-product laws or HTML? (In case you don’t understand why that is funny… the supplier for Prorap covers is, um, Prorap.) If you can’t figure out how to get ahold of Touchtape, are you going to be similarly stumped when you need to get a sales tax permit?

There are good resources out there. Use them!

It’s not that I’m unwilling to help. To the contrary, I’ve helped out countless new business owners over the years, either through advice, answering of questions, helping with marketing, product testing, or whatever was asked of me. Not only cloth diaper or babywearing businesses, but other baby products businesses, and a few completely unrelated WAHM businesses. I’m more than willing to help. But I’m not going to do your work for you.

Somebody Asked… about free samples.

Got this email today.

I’ve been wanting to start CD my 1 yr old! But don’t know where to start. I don’t know what kind to try Or what will work for her! I don’t want to buy diapers to find out they don’t work and So I was wondering if you’d be generous enough to send us a sample? We want to try an AIO, pocket, or fitted with cover! Just something So I can get the feel of cloth diapering. We will be buying if they work for her! Thank you for understanding.

Hmmmm. No. I mean, wouldn’t we ALL love that? I’ll take one sample of EVERY type of diaper out there, K? And then I’ll decide which I like best, and buy more. (though if I had gotten enough free samples, I wouldn’t need to buy anything, right?)

My response:

Hello, Heather! No, we don’t send out free diapers, but good luck finding someone who will. I understand your not wanting to experiment, but it’s like anything else in life, and sometimes involves trial and error. Your best bet is to buy high-quality diapers, and stick with something simple like prefolds and covers or fitteds and covers. AIOs and pockets are much more prone to problems.

I’m sure when you started buying clothes for your child, you also didn’t want to buy a brand only to find out it didn’t fit quite right, but I’m sure you also had to learn the hard way that some brands fit better than others, right? Same with food – when our family first switched to natural peanut butter, we hated to spend the money on it only to find out it tasted like butt, however, that’s exactly what we had to do, and eventually we found a great local producer whose product tastes great. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. It’s no different with diapers, or anything else.