Category Archives: Sweatshop

Behind the Scenes at the Sweatshop

Just thought I’d share some images from around my office, of the things I was working on a few weeks ago. 🙂

wrap conversions in action

Pinning the together a wrap conversion ring sling.

wrap conversions in action

And hemming a Shorty wrap (matching the tapers).

fitteds

A stack of Large Fitteds ready to be put together – some for a custom order, some for inventory.

wrap conversions in action

Another Wrap Conversion getting ironed before cutting.

DSC_1162

The Baby Monitor, Unlike the other kids, who happily nursed down for a nap in my office, Teddy must nap in Our Chair (rocking chair), so I use the baby monitor that I bought for the door (so I could hear when people knocked) as it was intended.

mei tai

This is the Star Trek mei tai all pinned together, ready for sewing.

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Working working working

Working with a toddler…

A Day in the Life
I’ve had to move my keyboard and mouse up off of the keyboard tray and onto the desk to keep them out of reach of Teddy’s little fingers. Each of the others went through this stage, too. And, of course Crawl And Go Pooh ALSO goes on my desk. And the scissors I took from Teddy’s hands…

A Day in the Life
This is a stack of sherpa wipes in the process of getting made.

A Day in the Life
Teddy likes to play with his cars on our old schoolhouse desk, but he can’t get into or out of it by himself, so it creates somewhat of a problem when I’m trying to work.

The current situation at Wallypop

As of Monday, August 26, we’re back open and running as normal.

Our 1 year old, Teddy, was born with kidney failure. On July 18, 2013, he received a kidney transplant, and was discharged from the hospital 3 weeks later, on August 5. His recovery is going well, though there are a LOT of ups and downs. We visit the local hospital once a week for labs, and drive the 2 hours to his hospital once a week for an appointment with his nephrologist (which takes essentially the entire day).

I’ve learned from other moms of toddler kidney transplant recipients that we should expect at least one admission this first year, probably a few. Because of his high level of immunosuppression, he will be admitted for any fever this first year, as well as for any number of other things. I can’t predict these admissions, and we will continue to work under the caveat that I may have to close things down briefly with very little notice.

Please order with confidence! As always, I have contingency plans in place for sudden hospitalizations, and I’m not going to run off with your money. I try my best to stay in contact with customers whose orders end up in limbo, and I have friends who can come in and complete your orders if needed.

Teddy’s medical needs are still such that a considerable part of my day is spent doing things with him that “regular” toddlers just don’t need – on top of all the regular toddler stuff.  I’m still working reduced hours compared to my normal schedule, and keeping slightly lower inventory levels.

I process and mail orders once a week (usually over the weekend). I try to answer emails and phone calls two or three times a week.

Please do not ever feel bad about emailing, calling, asking me to make something for you, or placing a special order. That’s why I’m open! Wallypop supports my family and helps pay our mortgage. (It’s considerably less help these days than it used to be, with my reduction in hours, but it is still a help!) When you buy from Wallypop, you’re helping out our family – and we greatly appreciate it!

The New Plan

Alright. Here’s The New Plan.

1) I’m cutting back on my product line-up. I originally had such a broad product line in an effort to provide full-service diapering and babywearing options for the local community. Since I opened, however, a lot has changed locally. First, because of our thriving Des Moines Babywearing and Cloth Diapering group, many many more people are able to see diapers and try carriers out in person to get a feel for what they want, and this makes them more confident online shoppers. This is a GOOD thing, but it also means that more people are choosing to shop online vs buying from a local store that they have to make an appointment with. (totally understandable.) Also, in the last few years, Little Padded Seats has opened a brick-and-mortar store in Valley Junction, providing locals with the ability to see things in person before purchasing, as well as much easier local purchasing than Wallypop where, again, you must make an appointment. These are both incredibly positive things for the community, but they do mean that I can probably safely stop offering such a broad assortment of products without fear of depriving locals of their options. With a few exceptions (I need to drop Basic Covers over regulatory concerns), everything I remove from the inventoried product line-up will still be available via Made to Order.

2. I’m raising prices. I’ve been reluctant to raise prices in recent years as the economy’s been tough. However, my expenses keep going up, both in terms of actual materials cost, as well as in the cost of my time. When I only had one kid and we had lots of free time, I didn’t place quite as high a value on my time as I do now, with three kids and markedly less extra time. I also can’t underemphasize how expensive cotton, hemp, and polyester have gotten recently.  Wallypop items will still be comparable with the more affordable options out there – we’re certainly not going to start charging $25 a diaper like some of the major name brands (which are, notably, made much more inexpensively). I’ve also been surprised by the willingness of the cloth diapering and babywearing community in general (of course with exceptions) to continue to spend extremely large amounts of money on luxury baby items. Again, in comparison to many of the best-selling options out there, Wallypop products will continue to be very competitive, while remaining comparable or superior in quality.

3. I’m not going to sell wholesale. Removing the wholesale option cuts out a good number of sales, but it gives me more flexibility with my own pricing. It also will remove the pressure of receiving orders for hundreds of items in one fell swoop.

4. I am going to permanently remove my diaper repair and conversion options. It is so time-consuming to repair and convert diapers. I cannot pay myself fairly because it would be cheaper for customers to just buy new diapers.  I will continue obviously to provide support for my OWN products, but I’ve only ever repaired ONE set of Wallypop diapers in almost 9 years in business.

5. Made to orders will continue to run as they have, but I’m not realistically going to be able to go back to my former schedule of competing three orders every three weeks. This means wait times will probably be longer, more like what they’ve been since the beginning of the year.

6. Restocking. Restocking should hopefully be easier and faster because I won’t have as many things to restock. I’m also going to try to expand my network of local mamas (and nonmamas) willing to do sewing for me to enable restocking to be faster, easier, and less stressful all around.

7. Inventory. If it’s not physically here and ready to ship, it’s not available for sale. Historically, when I run out of things like wipes, I have continued to allow them to be purchased, and I just make them as they are ordered, because they’re fairly quick to put together. No more. This change will allow other people (aka the husband and my 8 year old) to help me pack up orders (which neither have ever done before, ever).

8. Fitteds. I’m going to change the way I sell fitteds. At the present time, I allow made to order fitteds to be ordered along with inventory items, and I make them as they’re ordered. This stresses me out so much, because then I need to sew sometimes 2-3 dozen fitted diapers to be ready to mail in a week or so. I’m going to be inventorying more already-made and ready-to-ship fitteds, and if you want customization or options not available on the inventoried diapers, they will be orderable via MTO like other products.

9. Shipping. Shipping once a week, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

10. Goal to work 10 hours a week, not 40 or 50. Wallypop currently really requires 40-50 hours a week. I don’t have that kind of time. I hope these changes allow me to cut back my time to 10-15 hours a week. We’ll see how that works out!

11. LemonDrops. I’m still going to stock and open LemonDrops. I don’t anticipate it being a really high-traffic business, lol.

Sound good? We’ll see how it goes. Give me a few weeks. I want to get past the start of school (we start the first full week in August so we have lots of cushion time for hospital stays), Teddy has surgery on the 10th, and I need to decide which products to axe and which to keep, then make the associated changes on the website.

From a personal standpoint, let me say that this was and was not a difficult decision. In a way, I’ve made this decision at least two dozen times in the last year, but every time I’ve pulled myself back from the edge. Last week, I just reached the end of my rope. I can’t ease into changes at this point, I just have to jump into them.  At the same time, I love Wallypop like it’s one of my kids. I’ve certainly spent more time with it than my kids. (um, it’s also older than my kids.) I don’t want it to just go away. It’s been almost 9 years of hard work and countless hours, and I’m extremely proud of what I’ve built from nothing. I didn’t just buy a business… I started one. From absolutely nothing. Quite an accomplishment, and one I hate to just throw away.

So… look for some sort of grand re-opening in September and see what the changes look like.

—-

A few important notes in the meantime – I am NOT going to republish the shopping pages right now, because people will, not reading the notes, go ahead and order. It happens all the time. But I do want to honor gift certificates! If you have a gift certificate that you wish to redeem online or in person, PLEASE contact me!

New Office

The toy area. These short shelves used to hold our DVDs, so they’re only 5 inches wide. The top shelves have some of m things (pictures, vintage sewing books, my babywearing dolls, my vintage coffee can full of knitting needles, and my Watch In My Office Only DVDs. To the left there is Part I of the fabric storage. Cotton prints, twills, bottomweights, suedecloth, knits, and wools.

New Office

On the right, the giant TV and my picture boards. Then shipping supplies and inventory. Two crates on the floor for pillows, pads, and blankets for the kids.

New Office

Inventory. These shelves used to hold our books. They’re several inches too wide for the crates, leaving me a quandary. I feel all inefficient with so much wasted space, but it seems a little silly to buy new bins for the inventory just because my shelves are too wide. No labels yet – I’m working on it!

New Office

Patterns in the drawers on the left. And you can see just the chair of the little discussion table I have for customers. PUL goes in the green shelves. Flannels on the black shelves. Silks and Minkee in the black bins. The top black bin is for smaller chunks of my frequently used fabrics from the giant rolls – microfiber, sherpa, flannel, and terry. The dehumidifier’s winter location, and the black thing on the right is my awesome heater, with a cardboard box on top that needs to be recycled!

New Office

The desk nook. You can see the air purifier box (I need to unpack that thing and get it set up!) next to Wally’s desk on the left. Next to his desk is my sewing desk, and then my supply bins.

New Office

My sewing desk with my project board hanging above it. The sump pump is there with a pile of phone cord on top. We have cordless phones here, but my office is in a Cordless Phone Free Zone. It’s like a secure bunker. So I have to get a corded phone, and I wanted to wait until I knew what the phone looked like and where it would sit before hanging the cord.

New Office

On the left, supply bins. Then my desk. And to the right, the bins that hold Cut fabrics.

New Office

And my window, with my view of the chickens. I kind of have to stand on my tiptoes to see out, but hey, it’s better than nothing.

So tired!

Pictures tomorrow, but I’m all moved in to the new space, and I love it. I mean, I guess, I love the idea of it, since I haven’t actually worked in there yet.

I have a little alcove for my desk, my sewing table, and Wally’s desk. That’s also where the new sump pump is and it is HUGE and takes up a lot of room and I really don’t like it there. It was supposed to go in the other room (old office) but apparently, they can’t put it there because it would empty out onto the sidewalk and make ice. (Yes, we had a brief discussion with the contractors about the fact that the person giving us the quote certainly should have known that.) But – big and in the way as it is, it will be keeping the basement dry (hopefully!!) so… as long as it earns its keep, it can stay. 🙂

There’s more space around the cutting table, and I have a bit more room for inventory. My shipping boxes have a place now, instead of taking up space at my desk. Where the boxes used to be (in my desk), I now have a nice box to hold Ready To Ship packages, instead of piling them on the floor. The kids have a nice, big space to play in. Of course, I haven’t moved in the easel or the beanbags yet, which will take up some space.

There’s also a big, widescreen TV in there, lol. I’m not sure how I feel about that, and I’m not sure it’ll stay. I’ve never had a TV in my office before. (Unlike a lot of people, though, I’ll freely admit to you that we’ve just used the computers to play movies or watch Hulu. It’s not like the lack of an actual TV means a lack of TV watching.) I don’t feel like the TV is needed, and it hogs a LOT of what could otherwise be shelf space. But it doesn’t currently have any other home, so there it is. (My new office used to be our family room, until we had the break-in, and that’s where the burglar was when we got home, and I stopped wanting to be in there any more.)

I tried to move in all of the fabric, but there just wasn’t space for it. So, I have some fabric in one corner, some fabric on some other shelves, and then the fleece and other fabric on rolls back in my old fabric storage area.

I even have a window I can open to let in some fresh air! And this spring, I’ll make myself a screen for said window and then I won’t have to worry about our friendly neighborhood raccoon coming to live with us. Or, you know, some random person.

I think my favorite part – again, in theory – is that I have a little two-seater table in there. So now when I have customers over, they have a comfortable place to sit if they want, and we have a surface other than my cutting table to spread out products and whatnot. Customers will also find it easier to reach the inventory, since there’s a LOT more space between the cutting table and the inventory boxes.

I do anticipate a long period of misplacing things, since I’ll be all off my routine. You know, for example, I typically put my scissors in one place while I’m cutting, but that place is in a different place now. So I’ll put them down somewhere else and then not be able to remember where I put them.

And in other news, my washing machine burned out today – it hasn’t been spinning correctly for about two years now, and has been causing problems like little holes in clothes, but today after I threw in a load of dirty diapers (of course), it didn’t drain at all and by the time I noticed there was a problem, it was smoking and making a strange noise. I’ve been wanting a new washer for a while anyway, so now’s my chance.

Dining Room

26 Things: Behind the Scenes
Some days, it’s just too cold to sew in the basement, so I bring up my small portable machine and work at the dining room table. The kids appreciate the change of pace, too, I think, and I know I definitely appreciate the windows!! This machine sews much slower than my main machine, though, so I’m ultimately less productive than I would be in my office.

PS, yes, I am actually sewing in my jammies.

If you call…

…which I encourage if you have questions or just want to chat with a real person before ordering… just please don’t start out the phone conversation like this:

Ring Ring! Ring ring!

me: Hello?
you: Who is this?

Because I’m likely to respond “you called me, who is THIS?” and that’s not a good way to start.

The Wallypop phone number is also our home phone number. (And we also share it with Swing Des Moines.) Unprofessional? Yes. But neither business receives enough phone traffic to warrant its own phone number, so all three share a number. And 50% of the calls received are for a grocery store, a church, or the playhouse, all of which apparently either have misprinted their phone numbers, or have very similar phone numbers. And most of THOSE calls start out with this “who is this” business.

So, anyway, just, you know, realize that if you say “who is this” in response to my Hello, you’re likely to hear “well, who is THIS?” as your answer.

Today

Today I turned this pile of elastic’d fleece covers:
A day's work.

Into this pile of seamed and tagged fleece covers:
A day's work.
(ok, the actual pile was about 3x this large)

And this pile of cut flannel hankies:
A day's work.

Into this pile of finished hankies:
A day's work.

Hard at Work

Pocket dipes

Here I am, hard at work yesterday making one of my last batches of diapers before the new labeling laws – part of the CPSIA – go into effect. The law forbids stockpiling, but part of me wants to stay up really really late these next few days and sew as much as I can, just to be a snot, lol. I won’t, though. These diapers are medium pocket diapers. Yes! I finally restocked medium pockets. Get them while they’re hot.

8/12 hard at work