Julie Helmer, one of my Facebook friends from a doll clothes group I belong to online, has her own Etsy doll clothes line. Her store is called, “Sew Dolled Up 81.” Here are the questions I asked her in our recent interview. Her responses include some great advice for anyone who is thinking about starting a business selling doll clothing.
Q: In addition to your Etsy store, do you also sell your doll clothes at craft fairs? How do you find out about craft fairs?
A: I started out my doll clothes business through craft fairs, but I have found that the on-line business is more reliable. I still do several shows each fall and a couple in the spring. I find out about most of the shows by word of mouth. Often, coordinators will visit booths at local craft shows and try to recruit vendors for their upcoming shows. I do find that craft shows are better than “vendor” shows which end up with so many direct sales companies.
Q: What sizes and styles of dolls do you sew for? Of these dolls, which is your favorite and why? And what social media platforms do you use for advertising your doll clothing?
A: I sew for the 18 inch American Girl size dolls, the slender 18 inch Kidz N Cats dolls, Bitty Baby 15” baby dolls, and some fashion dolls like Barbie and Ever After High. I enjoy all of them for different reasons. The American Girl is my bread and butter. Those have the highest sales volume and are definitely the most popular. Those are clothes that I make for children to play with, and I try to keep them affordable and durable.
I really enjoy sewing for the Kidz N Cats dolls as well. They are very beautiful dolls that tend to be owned by adult collectors. They feature articulated joints so that they pose very well for photographs.
I primarily advertise and promote my etsy shop through Facebook. I have a Facebook page, “Sew Dolled Up”, where I keep updates on my latest projects and Etsy listings. The traffic there is often surprising. I had a post on doll undies that reached 2.8K viewers! That was so much fun to log in every hour or so that day and just watch the numbers climbing!
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a business sewing for dolls?
A: I think that the best thing that someone can do is to keep learning! I have been sewing for about 30 years and I am still taking classes to make my sewing better. When I signed up for an on-line design course a few months ago, my friends actually laughed! BUT I learned so much, and I can use it to make my products better. Never stop learning. Never stop trying to improve your sewing skills, your eye for detail, and the products that you offer. Keep looking at trends in children’s clothing so that you can offer up-to-date fashions for their dolls, if that is your market. If you market historical doll clothes, do research, develop your skills, and make sure yours stand out from the crowd.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Julie Helmer of Sew Dolled Up 81 for sharing her advice with the rest of us. It’s been a pleasure, Julie!