Who doesn’t love a good craft sale? Especially one close to the holiday season for some unique gift purchases and seasonal fun. I do! My mom and I attend the Scandinavian Christmas Market year after year to line up and hopefully get some traditional baking. The bake table is always the most popular and goes quickly! But there are also craft tables featuring local makers.
Now when you’re headed to a Scandinavian market you are expecting to find Dala horses, tomtes, straw decorations and all sorts of nordic designs. But we quickly realized these items were lacking at the market and sometimes never offered. This was the reason we began our crafting journey and goal of becoming a vendor at the Christmas market.
We started by listing out all of the things we would buy if they had been offered. Then we figured out what crafting skills we would need to acquire to make some of these items. I learned to crochet, knit, wood burn and make jewelry. My mother Ingrid got back into sewing, paper art and now needle felting. We would get together on weekends throughout the summer months and brainstorm ideas, watch YouTube videos and perfect the items we hoped to sell one day.
At some point we were pretty happy with what we created and decided it was time to apply to be a vendor. Oh my goodness we were so excited to find out one day by email that we had been selected! In the beginning the goal was to only do one market a year so we could learn how it all worked and find out which products our customers liked. I set to work designing business cards, a table banner and designing how we would display and package everything. So much work but so much fun!
Our first market we offered a huge variety of items to help narrow down what exactly we should focus our time on. I still think that we offer too many different items but that’s the fun in it! We are always learning a new skill and researching what is popular each year. I don’t want to always make the same things but some items were definitely more popular than others. We are still working on slimming it down to a few key best sellers and introducing new designs as we go. The data shows that you can’t go wrong with a Tomte or a Dala horse at a Scandinavian Christmas market though!
Pinterest and YouTube were huge resources for learning how to price our items, with tips on displaying products, how to handle cash/credit card payments, what tools you should bring with you during the sale and even how to pack up and count everything at the end of the day. It was very important that we setup the table at home to practice staging everything and even deciding which side of the table we would stand on. Mom and I spent a lot of time figuring this all out and the day of the sale we were so ready!
Everything from the table cloth we used, to the business card holder, to the outfits we chose to wear that day, followed The Forest Fairy brand. Nature, Adventure, Folklore. We were so proud of reaching our goal and couldn’t wait to see how it was received. People started pouring in through the doors of the Scandinavian Cultural Centre at exactly 11am and the flow of traffic didn’t stop. Never mind taking a lunch break! We packed snacks and drinks but barely touched them. There was always someone to talk to and we couldn’t stop smiling from all of the kind comments. My 4 large crochet tomtes were sold in minutes! I noted that I clearly needed to make more for next year!
I had set a sales goal which I was thrilled to have reached. We still had lots of inventory leftover after the sale and I posted a few of the smaller items in my Etsy shop. The woven hearts were a big seller at Christmas time and were small enough to send using small packet worldwide. A set of 3 made it to Alaska which was pretty exciting!
Our planning had paid off and our first sale was a success. We took a well deserved break and began planning for 2018 in the new year. We made note of areas we needed to improve on and figured out how to apply that for the next sale. Looking at the sales data we quickly eliminated some of the items and focused more on crochet and knit wear. We sent our application in for the second time and we were on our way to the 2018 Christmas market!
Our second market featured a lot of our leftover inventory from 2017 but this time with more tomtes, toadstools and acorns! Guess what?! All of those items sold out! Our testing and experimenting was working. I also took a custom order for crochet ear warmers which was a new situation. Custom orders weren’t in the plan but I couldn’t refuse to such a lovely customer. We improved our spacing of our display and made new clear pricing tags instead of tagging every item individually. Having my Square reader and iPad to track inventory and take card payments was very helpful as many people ran out of cash. They spent it all on the baking which I don’t blame them!
Our third year became our biggest year with not one but four sales! We were happy only returning to the Christmas market but we were invited to the Waffle Breakfast at Vasa Lund, Allt för Sverige screening event and the St Lucia pageant. Being members with the Swedish Association of Manitoba we felt very welcomed and happy to be honouring our heritage at these wonderful events with fellow Swedes! My biggest worry was if there would be enough inventory for our main sale at the Christmas market. Then I had a new idea for Swedish garlands that I thought might be something new and different.
New product ideas
I drew my original Dala horse design along with several others, cut them out and strung them up with twine. I wasn’t sure if they would be received well since I never released them anywhere prior to our first sale, the Waffle breakfast. Figuring out how to display them was a challenge since they needed to be hung up but I found some space in front of the table overlapping my banner. Not everyone noticed them down there but they did catch the attention of a few who thought they were a great gift to send in a card. One lady said she was going to send them back home to her family in Sweden. That was so awesome to hear! I realized the garlands might be a hit and was advised by the Swedish Cultural Association’s President to start making them like mad. She then invited me to sell them at the Allt för Sverige screening night and also St Lucia. 2019 was definitely a special year!
Another new item we offered in 2019 were our foraging bags. Handmade by my mother Ingrid with wooden buttons and adjustable straps. We had a few ladies purchase them and were excited to use them on their walks. That’s exactly what we designed them for! When you’re out walking or hiking through a forest and you find a little treasure, place it in your foraging bag! They all have nature themed patterns and are nice and compact to carry. We’ll have more at future sales.
Garlands were a hit!
The best seller of 2019 were the garlands by far. I created a few more designs like reindeers, foxes and blue/yellow Dala horses. All of them sold! Again my crochet and knit wear nearly completely sold out too. After a few sales we definitely figured out what sells and what we enjoy making all year long.
The past 3 craft markets have been a lot of fun and I’ve learned so much when it comes to presenting my handmade items. The time I get to spend with my mother Ingrid is also priceless. Spending time with her, being creative and honouring our heritage is something really special for us.
2020 has been a challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope we can be a vendor again at the Scandinavian Christmas market but that is still uncertain if the event will take place. We continue to work on our projects and I decided it was time to open up my Etsy shop again after a long vacation. The woven hearts and garlands are now available online!
Thank you for your support
I hope this post gave you a look at how we got started and how you can too! If you’re thinking of getting started, the biggest advice I can offer is to pick a sale you have been to and understand who attends that event. Having this in mind helped us make decisions on everything we did. Start small, set goals and share the journey with someone you love. Thank you for all your support!