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Craft Fair Costs

I see a ton of people set up for the first time at all types of craft fairs. However, when I talk to them, the newbies don’t always consider all the costs of being there. Today, I would like to express my opinion on that.

Labor: How many hours are you going to be at the craft fair. Any helpers? Are they volunteers or are you compensating them? Be aware that labor laws also apply to craft fair helpers. Take a few moments to read up on what is an independent contractor vs. an employee in your state.

Transportation: Did you rent a Uhaul, use your personal vehicle or borrow a friends car? You might be entitled to a mileage deduction on your federal or state taxes. It’s useful to keep track of your costs.

Hotels: If you stay at a hotel/campground be sure to add that in as part of your cost.

Parking: Put a coin in the meter? Then put a line in your cost tracking spreadsheet for parking. One other thing. How are going to get the boxes of product from your vehicle to the craft fair? Having a dolly or wagon will make it easier. Most items need to be carried 50 feet or more. I had one craft fair where I had to carry everything a block. And that included the canopy tent.

Canopy Tent: A lot of outdoor fairs require you to have a canopy tent. They might be 10 by 10 feet or 8 by 8 feet. You might be using a family tent, but if you buy a new one, record the cost. Cost Accounting is a bit different than tax accounting. So roughly guess on how many craft fairs that you will be using it for, the allocate a percentage of the cost. Note that inexpensive tents will only last one or two summers before breaking.

Tables/Racks/Gridwall. These are the foundations of your craft display. Like the tent, roughly allocate across how many craft fairs you are planning to do.

Table Cloths, Jewelry Displays, Other display. These are the sparkle on your display. They highlight your items and set the tone. Also roughly allocate.

Banners: These are fairly inexpensive but you may need a graphic designer to put some sparkle on the banner. Vista Print or most office stores can print them for you.

Oh yeah, booth fees. Craft fairs usually charge a fee to attend. As always, I suggest a credit card for payment for the best protection against fairs that are cancelled. Event cancellation happens to even large fairs and comic cons.

By now you are probably thinking: But Laura, what about the things that I’m selling. Those are my pride and joy! Enough of the bookkeeping and boring tent stuff!

Sure! Cost of Goods Sold:

Materials: Count up what the raw materials cost.

Labor: Keep track of your time and effort. (Not the R & D part)

Supplies and overhead: Some of the materials, like paint and glue, are difficult to quantify. Do an estimate and allocate a portion to each item.

Overhead: Website costs, business cards, studio costs, utilities, phones, and office supplies.

Okay, so that is overwhelming. No one would ever set up at a craft fair if they thought this through. Many people do craft fairs or vendor fairs as a part time thing or even a hobby. It’s important to think about all these things so that you don’t go on a buying spree that fizzles out after one or two craft fairs. Budgets are real and very few people have unlimited funds. If you want to economize some of the costs, ask friends if they have a canopy tent or tables that you can borrow. In addition, inside craft fairs might be less expensive that outside ones. Craigslist or Ebay are also discounted places to look. Walmart and Target also have discounted tables, tents or wagons.

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How to Research Craft Shows

Craft Shows are a great way to connect with your local customers, get some feed back on your products and earn some money. However, it’s important to research each and every craft show that you plan on attending. Each one has a different audience and price point. Knowing what to expect at each one will give you a basis for crunching potential sales and profits.

Types of Craft Shows:

  • Church and School Events. Usually the attendees are members of the church or school. The fees are usually smaller as well as the attendance. They are usually inside and provide a table that you set up at. They have usually been around for a decade or more.
  • Vendor Show: These are usually attended by MLM vendors. There may be as much as 50% handmade crafters attending. A lot of crafters report lower sales at these event types. However, I’ve had good luck at some of them. It’s difficult to sell $$$ jewelry when the table next to you is selling mass produced jewelry for under $10.00
  • Handmade crafted show: Only handmade vendors. Usually juried. That doesn’t always guarantee higher sales.
  • Juried Show: A show where potential vendors send in an application that is reviewed by the organizers. They then pick the vendors. Just because it’s juried, does not mean there will say 50% jewelry. I once attended a juried handmade show and when I was there, there were three different people with the same MLM company.
  • Non-Juried show: The organizer takes vendors on a first come first served basis. They still try to limit one MLM company per show.
  • Premium Craft Show: There are multi day events run by Urban Craft Uprising, Renegade Craft, and others where the event is run by a professional event planner. Typically, the booths are more expensive, there is actual advertising, and it is difficult to be approved as a vendor.
  • Farmers Market: Typically lower fees, at least once a week and the audience is not looking for handmade crafts or art.
  • Comic Cons: Usually juried, high traffic, and your handmade craft needs to be pop culture inspired. Note that some comic cons have an, Artist Alley, Vendor, and Craft Sections. The fees vary wildly for each section. I’d attend one before applying for these expensive buy profitable shows.
  • Holiday Shows: Holiday shows are annual shows in late November and December. They are thrown by a variety of organizations.
  • Annual festivals and community events. Often a large portion of the community attends each year. If you have a handmade product that sells well at festivals, it can be great. (T Shirts, for example) If you have niche product like pogo sticks, you can do less well. Do some test markets to see how people react before committing to a three day community festival. Three days without significant sales can be an emotional long haul.

Outside Tents.

Typically an event will have a standard tent size. 10 by 10 tent or 8 by 8 tent. The tents are usually popup canopy tents. Inexpensive ones can be purchased at Walmart, Target, or sporting goods store. The inexpensive ones are often flimsy and easily break. The expensive ones are well worth the extra money if you end up doing a lot of outside craft shows. Painters often invest in the sturdy ones.

Tent weights: Yes. Always use tent weights on popup canopy tents. The tents are giant kites waiting to be airborne. It doesn’t take that much wind for them be airloft. And remember the metal legs? Ouch if they land on you.

Tables and displays. Once you know the tent size, you can plan your display. Make sure you plan to either have room for people to walk into the booth or have a table against the ‘frontage’ edge. Have both a sun plan and a rain plan. Note that the tents will let in rain especially if it rains. I put up tent walls as necessary.

The Tents will usually be lined up in rows. Most craft fairs suggest that you tie tent legs together with your neighbor’s tent. Always ask before doing this. Your frontage will be 10 feet. If you are on a corner, you might have an ‘endcap’ or a ‘corner’ frontage.

Do you need tent walls? If it rains, probably. If you want to create a brick and mortor experience, yes. You can use sheets, tarps, or curtains to create walls. If its raining, I suggest tent walls and then use curtains at least two inches from the tent walls to decorate. Note that you can use bungie cords along the inside for places for curtains to hang.

Why would you install tent walls if it’s sunny? Remember that when you don’t have tent walls, the customers can look right into your neighbor’s booth. And poof! Your customer is gone! I had that happen at an early craft fair. My neighbor had a large loud knitting machine that they rode a bicycle to power. All day, my booth was filled with lookie loos trying to get a better angle on the machine operation.

If it’s sunny, as it is in many parts of the United States, you might need the tent as a sun shade. In that case there are lighter weight tents that might work better for you.

Inside Tables:

  • Usually six or eight feet long. Table widths vary and maybe 18 inches to 3 feet. Make sure you find out what it is.
  • If you buy a table I suggest a six foot folding table that is 2 and half feet wide.
  • I suggest doing a dry run of your craft display before going to a live event. It will be easier to quickly set up and you will bring less items.

Where was I? Research!

  • Organization: Make sure you find out who you are sending money to for booth fees. Unfortunately, there have been a number of frauds and cons where crafters and artists have been sold fake booths. See if their LLC is registered. Look at their website, does it look like someone has spent years making it? Or is it thrown together? Do they have references? How far back do their social media posts go?
  • Location: Verify with the location that it’s actually going to be there. There have been a number of craft show organizers and comic con organizers who have listed a venue they have not made an appointment for the show. Sometimes it falls into the category of running out of money vs fraud. However, if someone runs out of money, it’s difficult to get the money back.
  • How do they want to get paid? Options such as paypal’s friends and family, do not allow for refunds. A request to send friends and family might be a red flag. I suggest always using a credit card if possible.
  • What do their terms and conditions say about refunds? One organizer after they switched the venue to a different month and 40 miles away from the prime holiday show location, denied anyone a refund.
  • What do prior vendors say or think about the show?
  • Look at the prior social media posts. Are they full of shoppers? Or rather empty?
  • Search on social media outside of the organizers official channels.


  • How many potential attendees do the organizers think will attend?
  • How many shoppers will potentially fit into the space? Does the parking accommodate the numbers?
  • Note that for multiday events, such as conferences or comic cons, some organizers count each time a person enters the event. ie. Three day event, three people attended the event.
  • If it is a large event, is the vendor or craft room easily entered from the main event? There was a comic con that recently had the artist alley a mile away from the event. They did provide a shuttle between locations, however.

Who attends craft fairs?

  • Other craft vendors. Some of your sales will probably come from other vendors.
  • Farmers Markets often have regulars attending. They will often stop by in family groups.
  • Comic Con attendees. They will often be traveling from out of town and will only see your booth or table once or twice a year. They will often request a business card.
  • Supporters of the arts. They will often be shopping for everyday crafts and gifts.
  • Gift Shoppers. Usually only attending holiday craft shows or art shows.
  • Window Shoppers. They might be there for lunch or to be entertained.

Hopefully, that provides a bit more information on how to research craft fairs. It is essential to:

  • Understand what type of craft fair it is. It lets you decide if the booth fees are reasonable, you will have enough space, and the typical customer who attends them.
  • Research the Event Space. Is it in a place that people will attend?
  • Research the organizer. Organizers go out of business all the time. Even good organizers have issues with spaces cancelling on them or unexpected things happen at them.
  • Plan for what your display is going to look like and product types. I will write more on this later.
  • Plan for what foundation items like tents and tables that you will need to provide.
  • Plan for product unloading from your vehicle

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What do the insides of the Recycled Book Journals look like?

I believe in fun.  Fun paper, cards, and books that deserve a new purpose in life.  I upcycle books into nifty journals that can go anywhere and be used for any number of things.  Junk Journals, Scrapbooks, writing journals, bullet journals, or sketch books.

The Recycled Book Journals also make a thoughtful gift to friends, family and co-workers.

What do the Recycled Book Journals look like?

I upcycle a variety of books.  Generally I bind them with a wire binding system that looks like this:

Other binding types are available upon request.

What’s on the inside?

  • 28 lb white paper
  • 10 ish pages of the original book
  • Decorative paper
  • Interesting pages that vary.¬† They might be maps, music sheets, graph paper, pages from other books, or things I feel like upcycling.
  • There might be playing cards from games, library checkout cards, and again if I feel like including it in a book I will.

Here are some sample inside pages:

What types of books do I upcycle?

Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and Nancy Drew recycled book journals are always popular.¬† However, I do quite a bit of vintage textbooks, gothic novels, classics, vintage children’s books, english literature books, foreign language books, and physics books.

Does it need to be hard back cover?  It helps!  However, I bind paperback and book jacket covers to a stiff book cover all the time.  I then apply a protective coating  to protect the paper, so that it will stand up to being in a bag or falling off a nightstand.

Does it always need to be white paper?¬† ¬†It doesn’t need to be!¬† I will add quality lined paper or drawing paper upon request.¬† Of course, there is a small fee for having the more expensive paper.

Interested?  My email is to discuss further.


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Making some cute bookmarks

People ask me all the time what I do with the extra book pages.  Here is one use:  I make cute book markets.

I have a backing that I bind the book page too.  Then I cut out the book mark.

Have a peaceful and prosperous day!

Laura ūüôā

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First Day at Pike Place Market

It’s been a fun summer. ¬†I’ve met a lot of great people at the Wallingford Farmers Market, the Madrona Farmers Market, Fremont Solstice Fair, Magnolia Summer Fest, Urban Craft Uprising events, and Oddmall. ¬†After such a whirlwind of sunny events I turn my eyes to fall and to the 2017 Holiday season.

Then I got some fantastic news. ¬†I’ve been accepted into the Pike Place Market as a daystall vendor. ¬†Quite unexpected since this was the first year that I had applied and I was accepted. ¬†I feel so fortunate.

So now you can catch my book journals at the Pike Place Market at least once a week.


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Whew! That was some whirlwind of a year!

It’s a few days before the holidays and I’m starting to reflect on everything that has happened during the year.¬†It’s been a fast and furious year! ¬†I’ve been binding books and notebooks just about every free second that I have.

From Place to Place Recycled Book Journal
Fun Textbook upcycled into a sketchbook or diary.

I started showing at the Fremont Sunday Market, Urban Craft Uprising, Oddmall and so many other craft markets. (Bellingham Steampunk, Emerald Downs Gift Fair, a Very Vintage Market and more.)

Oh the Thinks you can Think! Recycled Book Journal
Upcycled Dr. Seuss Classic

Now I’m sitting down to plan for next year. ¬†I have some new binding equipment on the way so that I do that magic that I do a little more efficiently. ūüôā

The Writers Harbrace Handbook Book Journal
Upcycled writing handbook.

My first stop this January will be Rusty Con in Seattle.  I look forward to spending time there and meeting more people.  I have more than a few applications out to craft fairs this spring.

I had so much fun this interacting with all other craft fair vendors.  I look forward to seeing them again this year.

Everyone have a great holiday!

Laura Dodson

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What I’ve been working on!

My workbench!

Many thank you’s to the people who supported the Book Pom Pom Kickstarter. ¬†It funded last week and I will be sending out the book pom poms and book marks shortly!

Book Pom Poms

The Kickstarter funds will go towards purchasing new book binding tools.

This past week I have been traveling and was even able to hand deliver a package of game tokens to a customer. ¬†Since I mail the Lore Bits game tokens all over the world now, it’s rare when I can actually take them myself to a location.

I will be at the Fremont Sunday Market this weekend in Seattle. ¬†Hopefully, it will be another sunny day! ¬†I’ve also been invited to First Thursday Artwalk in Occidental Square. ¬†This is a popup market curated by Urban Craft Uprising.

New projects: ¬†I have a post up shortly about a new product line that I’m excited about!


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Off to Port Townsend for the Brass Screw Confederacy Steampunk Con

I’m off tomorrow to vend at the Steampunk con in Port Townsend. ¬†I haven’t been there before, but I’ve heard good things about it. ¬†I hope to meet some new people there.

The following two Saturdays, I will be at the Georgetown Trailer Park Market. ¬†I enjoyed my time there in May. ¬†I’m looking forward to returning.

What I will have at booth #9:

  • Over 150 book journals, each one is unique.
  • Card Notebooks made from magician cards
  • Free Bookmarks
  • Book Pom Poms
  • Comic book magnets
  • Lore Bit Magnets

If you are in Port Townsend this weekend, stop by the American Legion hall and say hi!

This week I also launched a kickstarter to raise money for book binding tools and education. ¬†I’m looking to expand the types of journals that I make. ¬†There are so many traditions in bookbinding, it’s time that I took a few classes to expand the selection. ¬†Sure I know that youtube has dozens of videos on the subject, but it would be nice to be taught the right way.

The stitched journals can be assembled any number of ways, so it will take some experimenting with glues, papers, chip board and book cover cloth to be sure I have a quality product.

In addition, I’m interested in tea staining book pages. ¬†But I want to make sure that tea stains are permanent and don’t run if someone gets the journal damp. ¬†I know, I know, it never rains here in seattle, so I don’t have to worry about that. ¬†But perhaps they will accidently drop a glass of water on it. ¬†It never hurts to be prepared.

Since I will be assembling signatures, I need to know what type of thread I should use. ¬†I’ve heard, dental floss, non-waxed, normal thread, furniture thread and definitely use waxed thread.

I haven’t used the PVC glue (okay, so I’ve used elmer’s, but not the specific glue that book binders use.) I need to know when and where to apply it. ¬†Some helpful tricks on how to get it on the book and not on my hands. ¬†I’m the type of cook that ends up with cookie dough on their hands after baking cookies. ¬†Steve always wipes down the fridge door after I bake. ¬†Predictable, but he loves the cookies. ūüôā

At bottom is a few seconds from The Cure Concert in Portland in 2016.  We were sitting down towards the end of the concert.  And yes, yes he did wear the hat the entire concert.

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Comic Book Magnets at Craft Shows

Hello all!

Paper Butterfly Forge is still making comic book magnets, shiny magnets and upcycled book magnets.  However, I have taken them off the website because of the high number sold at craft shows.  It was rapidly depleting the inventory on the website.  I could either take pictures of magnets five hours each week or I could take them of the website.

Please check out our events page to see where we will be next!


Check out some of the past magnets that we have made!  Again, visit our booth at Seattle area craft shows!

Nancy Drew Magnets
Charming Upcycled Nancy Drew book magnets

Upcycled Book Magnets - German
Charming upcycled book magnets

German Illustrations Magnets
Glass Fridge Magnets upcycled from a vintage German Tutorial book.


WOK! Comic Book Magnet
WOK! Comic Book Magnet

Jane Grey Magnet
Jane Grey Magnet

Mushroom Comic Book Magnet
Mushroom Comic Book Magnet

Shiny Tiny Fridge Magnets
Shiny Tiny Fridge Magnets


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Paper Butterfly Forge will be at the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall this weekend

Urban Craft Uprising - First Thursday Art Walk Pioneer Square

We are super excited to be at the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall this weekend.  (May 14th & 15th 2016).  The market features vintage and upcycled products.  They also have long term vendors in vintage trailers!


Saturday: noon-7pm
Sunday: 11-4pm


5805 Airport Way South,
Seattle Wash. 98108

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Attending First Thursday Artwalk in Pioneer Square May 5th 2016

Urban Craft Uprising - First Thursday Art Walk Pioneer Square

I’m super excited that I will have a booth for Paper Butterfly Forge at the Pioneer Square artwalk on May 5th, 2016. ¬†Urban Craft Uprising is coordinating the crafters and artists for the booths in Occidential Park in downtown Seattle.

Link to the Facebook Event:

There will be about 40 booths with jewelry, art, photography, journals, bath products and more for the craft fair. ¬†It only runs from 5 pm to 9 pm, make sure you don’t miss out!

Edit: I had a great time and met lots of fantastic people. ¬†I’ve added a picture of my booth!

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First Time as a Fremont Sunday Market Vendor

Fremont Fair - Seattle

Yesterday, I was at the Fremont Sunday Market as a Vendor. ¬†Pretty cool! ¬†Well, it was raining and cold, so it was literally cold. ¬†ūüôā

I showed up just after 7:30 am just after the Market office opened.  Just under the Red Door were two cheery women organizing the market for the day.  There was a clipboard for the signup and an second clipboard for the rules and regulations.  Later during the orientations, I would be told to acknowledge all the rules, just not the ones we felt like following that day.

I wandered a bit before the orientation at 8:27 for new vendors.  The street was a bustle from cars being towed, merchants unloading trucks, assembling canopy tents and getting their displays ready.  I got a cup of coffee to off set the chill from a nearby coffee shop.

About 8:20 am I headed back and found a small semicircle of new vendors waiting. ¬†A bit of a chuckle as she chastised us that we didn’t need to back before 8:27 am. ¬†It was then it started to drizzle a bit. ¬†I wasn’t worried, I was planning on being on inside the parking garage. ¬†My book journals can’t stand having their feet wet, so it was a good fit.

We were asked to come inside so that we would be a bit drier.  There was short orientation, description of fees, and more banter.  Then one by one we were called up to the register where we issued our booth number and parking permit.  After learning the traffic method, I retrieved my car and unloaded it near the mouth of the parking garage.

Once inside, I realized that many lights had been rigged to light up the garage. ¬†I’m too new to know if this is the Fremont Market or if the long term vendor have an astonishing array of bright lights.

I got to setting up and before I had finished customers were already coming into the garage. ¬†The rain was pretty thick at that point, and I was a bit soaked. ¬†I went off to put my car in the official parking. ¬†I ran back and got my feet soaked. ¬†(Next time, I’ll bring some thicker soled shoes to help with the puddles and to easy my feet during the long day.)

I settled in for the day. ¬†Lovely people came to my tabled and looked at the book journals. ¬†Kind things were said. ¬†The rain eased on and off. ¬†When the rain was the hardest, we had the most people inside the garage. ¬†When I went to a food vendor for a snack, I could see the street was a bit empty. ¬†Later, when it was sunny the market street was full of shoppers. ¬†Never say that Seattle shoppers don’t mind the rain. ¬†They were there, they were just hiding between the rain drops.