Selling what you sew – how to price your work

Sewing to sell.  How to price your work.  Several different methods discussed and a handy worksheet to give you a range of selling prices.

Handy Calculator below that will give you guidelines on pricing your work to sell. –> 

We’ve mentioned previously at a few articles about sewing to sell, or selling what you sew, either online in marketplaces like Etsy, or locally at craft fairs. For example, How to get traffic to your Etsy Shop.

In the sewing chat group, people often post pictures of what they’ve made and make enquiries about what to sell it for.  Or just ask for general advice on how to price to sell, based on cost of materials used etc.  Too often the likely selling price is no more than the cost of the materials, so you don’t make a profit, or even get compensated for your time.

Sadly some people just don’t recognise the value of ‘hand-made’ goods these days so you can’t always achieve the price you need.  Many people still do however (it’s just finding the right venue to sell to them) and there are plenty of people sewing to sell, enjoying their work and making enough money.

Let’s look at it all in more detail.

How to price what you sew

Firstly let’s think about our expenses as these are often the easiest to identify, although there are often many hidden selling expenses you might not think of initially that need to be taken into account.  Throughout these examples I’ll use a bag as a typical project that you might sew to sell.  So what are the costs associated with making a bag?

3939144710_9a0826d6ca photo credit: vacation via photopin (license)


Consumables and materials expenses:

  • Fabric – maybe more than one fabric
  • Interfacing, fleece and stabilisers
  • Hardware such as handles, locks, bag feet etc
  • Thread
  • Other supplies – elastic, trim, solid base materials, zippers
  • Your pattern – can be used many times over so split the cost accordingly

Other costs that don’t perhaps come immediately to mind but should be considered:

  • Wear and tear on your sewing machine
  • Machine needles
  • Electricity for your machine, lighting etc as you work


photo credit: 365 :: 12.9 – small bag :: liten veske #5 via photopin (license)


Selling fees – online:

  • Listing fees
  • Percentage fee when your item sells
  • Website expenses if you have one, and newsletter expenses
  • Payment gateway expenses, such as PayPal fees
  • Advertising
  • Postage expenses such as mailing envelopes, tape, business cards, tissue paper
  • Fuel to drive your parcels to the post office

Selling fees – craft fairs:

  • Cost of your stall
  • Fuel driving to the craft fair
  • Display expenses – table or display equipment, signage etc
  • Bags for your customers purchases
  • Promotional materials – business cards or leaflets
  • Phone calls with organisers
8017227394_a53b80e2d9 photo credit: Thames Festival 2012 – 20 via photopin (license)


Wow, that’s a lot of expenses before you’ve even thought about your time.  You MUST take your time into account.  When you sew to sell, you are working for yourself albeit informally, so you need to pay yourself a living wage for your time, or what has been the point of all that hard work?  Let’s think about that next.

Costing for your time

Perhaps you don’t consider your sewing time as work, because you enjoy doing it and if you can make a few dollars by selling what you sew, even better.  But what if you were spending that time doing something else, an actual paid job.  Even if you enjoyed your job, you’d still expect to be paid for the time you spend doing it and you should expect to be paid for your sewing and creating time too if the end product is a product to sell.

photo credit: Blue office space via photopin (license)


Just because you are working from home, in your spare time, or after the kids have gone to bed – that doesn’t make your time any less valuable.  You may however, decide that your acceptable hourly rate for flexible hours and working from home is less than you would consider the minimum if you had a regular job, and that’s OK too.

In the industrial sewing industry you might be paid two ways:

  1. Piecework – paid a flat wage depending on the number of garments/items you made that passed quality inspection
  2. Hourly rate.

So how do you want to ‘pay’ yourself for your time when you sew?  What hourly rate do you need to make sewing a worthwhile occupation and use of your time if you are doing it as a ‘job’.

7893971428_0abf1fbeeb photo credit: 11:30 A.M. Jennie Rizzandi, 9 year old girl, helping mother and father finish garments in a dilapidated tenement, 5 Extra Pl., N.Y.C. … (LOC) via photopin (license)


Don’t forget to include ALL of your time, such as the time needed to buy supplies, photograph and list your items online if applicable, deal with orders admin, package items and drive them to the post office.

How to work out a selling price

For a start, you’ll need to take into account the costs of your materials and the other expenses we’ve talked about above if any of these apply to you.  Then consider your hourly wage you want to pay yourself.  There are a number of formulas you might work through to see which works best for your personal scenario.

Here are a few of the ways you might work out your selling price (these are all ways suggested by the members of the Sewing Chat Group for how they work out their selling prices):

  1. Materials cost x a multiple of your choice (2 or 3 times is common)
  2. Materials cost plus your hourly rate
  3. A multiple of 1 or 2 above, less for wholesale, more for retail
  4. See what others are charging for similar items and charge the same if you can make a profit from that price

Which method works for your products depends on whether they are materials and expenses intensive or labor intensive.

Handy Calculator

This calculator uses information based on your materials, expenses and hourly rate to work out a minimum selling price for your product.  It doesn’t take into account fees for selling online or craft stall fees, you’d need to add these on top.


What do other sellers say?

I surveyed some sellers who sew things for money and here are there personal methods and suggestions.

Vicky say – “I cost out materials (incl thread, zips etc not just fabric), I then charge £10/hr (working out sewing time when making a few of the same items at the same time which is always quicker) I do not factor in time for photography and listing the item. Sell via Etsy:)  I also factor in Etsy/paypal fees, and charge at cost postage (although I do at time gets that wrong!) – personally hate being charged more postage than the postage and packaging materials cost!!

Kelly says – “I sell at few things at Christmas time. I’ve found that most people aren’t willing to pay what a handmade item is worth in time and materials but I have a few holiday items that are quick to make that sell well. I’ve found that figuring my materials cost and the time I put into something doesn’t always result in a competitive price. I research what similiar items, both handmade and commercially produced, are selling for and what people are willing to pay for an item, then decide if selling the item for a competitive price is worth my time and the cost of materials and fees before I decide to sell it. My listing prices are based purely off what I’ve found people are willing pay for an item and what price will make it worth it to me to make it. That makes my “hourly rate” for myself vary depending on the item. I track the cost of materials and the time it takes me to make items to make sure I’m not making too little to make it worth my time but also to make sure I’m not completely ripping off the customer.”

Gina says – “I started selling on Etsy back in July of last year. I do not use any special formula to come up with cost. The first thing I did, was I went on Etsy and I searched for the product I was intending on selling. After I made this list I evaluated my product and compared my quality to theirs. That gave me a good ‘”range” that I knew i should be in. Next, I created a spreadsheet and began listing out all of my “cost of materials”. On etsy, you not only have to calculate out cost, but also all the etsy fees.

Once I had this number I then decided on how much I wanted to make in order to make it worth my time. I sew concealed carry purses. It takes me about 15-20 hrs to make a purse. If I paid myself $10.00 and hour, I would not have any sales. I basically came up with a $ amount that would make me happy. An amount that would be worth my while and would motivate me to make another one and another one, without getting burned out. I think it also has a lot to do with the demand of your product. If the demand for your product is high, and there are few sellers on ETsy in your niche, then you might be able to pay yourself a little more. smile emoticon Hope this helps!”

Lauren says – “I started selling long before blogging. And I used to undersell my products and myself. Now, I know that doing that devalues my work, and everyone else’s around me. So I try and sell items that I know I can make quickly or cheaply, but that people are still willing to pay a decent price for. I do ‘pay’ myself for my time. I charge postage and packing in my post fees, so don’t lose any money that way. I also like to price my goods based on what other experts in my field are charging, so that I’m comparative (if possible). I have also begun collecting a passive income selling PDF templates for applique. That helps supplement sales of goods.”

The sewing chat group threads

Check out some of the recent threads on this subject in our sewing chat group.  It’s a closed group to stop the spammers so you’ll need to join us if you haven’t already in order to read these discussions:

Angela – raising funds for Cancer Research

Jane – how to set the right price without under or over-selling

Further suggested reading

This book begins with the quote: “If you really do put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.”  Gets great feedback on Amazon and looks like a very interesting read whether you are interested in selling sewing crafts or any other crafts too.


Buy on Amazon

Coming up:

Sewing for profit. Projects that are great to make to sell.  We’ll be putting together a round up of sewing projects we think are ideal for sewing to sell, either because they use smaller or more reasonably priced materials, or because they are so darned cute they are always in demand!

Watch out for this next article in our series coming out on 8th July.

Ideas and tips for sewing for selling. What do you need to consider and links to some great projects that could be good profit-makers.

What do you think?

Do you sell what you sew?  How do you work out your selling prices?  Do you make a good living, or just do it to cover the cost of your materials?  Let us know in the comments.

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32 Responses to Selling what you sew – how to price your work

  1. Theresa French says:

    I think one has to be careful at how much one values ones self at the beginning of this enterprise. I have seen new sellers value their time with the learning curve of producing the product and pass that on to the price thus “punishing the customers”. If you were an employee in a a business you would work your way up to top of market wages. I think $20 an hour is not appropriate when formulating a new product. Think minimum wage while testing the market – it tempers your investment. My recommendation would be to start with craft tables first to get a feel of the fickle market. Because I love the product doesn’t mean others will so I test my investment. Is it a product that people will line up at your table for and fight over – regardless whether you love it or not? It’s about putting one’s self in others mindset. I know of many many ladies that had stalls crammed with cute 18″ dolls dresses and nothing sold. They were left sitting on about 1000 of these dresses with no interest after their hard work. They didn’t see that many other ladies had the same idea at the same shows.Where as the breastfeeding drapes (cheap and easy to make) were selling for $40 each! And next year who knows? Those drapes can be passed on to others for use so now is the market for those saturated? Self employment is not an easy business and very few “make it big”. Especially in this economy. Establishing ones self is rarely about big money in the beginning. I know this is a wet blanket but to be successful one has to be realistic and hard at the bottom line.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Theresa, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Building a business is indeed hard work.

  2. I have been on the French Site “A Little Market” for several months now and have sold just one item ! I decided to pay for more ads on the site but that’s just a waste of time and money. So now, I have decided to sell my stuff at Creators Market Shows and that works ! As for the pricing, I find this really difficult, with all the competition – Especially internet ! I guess we have to be just patient. Thanks for the advice.

  3. Glenda says:

    As a CPA, I’ve worked with several people who sold hand made goods, and the only one who was successful was a woman who sold to the upper crust. She sold handbags that cost at least $800, plus embellishments for additional $, and some women would buy five or six to match their various $$$ shoes. I came to the conclusion that if you want to have a profit, you have to target consumers who can pay you what you need in order to make a profit. Identify the people who can afford such purchases, identify what goods they want, and offer them those goods. Not simple, but it makes sense.

    Also, any and all sales must be reported to the IRS on your tax return. So keep good records. Keep in mind that f you are not incorporated you will need to pay self employment tax and income tax on your profit, so you should allow for that when you calculate your prices. I advised my clients that 25% of their sales should be set aside for taxes, and an additional 25% should be set aside for savings. If you can’t manage to do this, your business won’t make a living for you and you should consider it a charity, or a form of entertainment and recouping some of your costs. A hobby.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thank you Glenda for your professional opinion and taking the time to write. I am sure many will find it useful.

  4. Susie says:

    Great site and information. I I either get my materials (new) free or very inexpensive. Notions the same. I don’t count my time, but admit cutting out is the hard and time consuming part of my craft. Once all the items are cut out, then sewing time is cut down. I have priced my items what the market will bear. I think the economy has had a great affect on my sales. E-Bay take 12% of your sales now, and PP the equivalent of 5-6%, their shipping charges went up from $1.93 to $2.74. After you factor in all those charges I would net about $3 an item which is so NOT worth it to me. I am starting this year to sell at crafts shows only and make pure profit after the table or space fee. I do better at craft shows where the people can actually look at my items and touch them. The internet pics didn’t do them justice.

  5. Amelia Davis says:

    I had to retire due to a rare cancer that offers not treatment, two years ago but also had to supplement our income to help pay the bills. I am passionate about vintage clothing and started with my own designs which I make from scratch, sewing and crafting to create an unusual product. It has provided me with an outlet away from cancer and I focus on designing unusual aprons. (I have dreams about my designs!!). I have my own website and sell on ebay, but to be honest have not been able to turn a profit. Yes its exciting when I sell a product and get great feedback, but the amount of energy I pour into creating my designs will never be profitable. I look at it this way….

    Today I am going to design something from my imagination. Someone out there will like my design, and hopefully, as it’s unique they will not be able to get it anywhere else for less. As for competing with China, I have found the more complicated your product is the less chance they have in copying it, because they cant sell it to make enough profit.

    Hopefully, I will be able to start making a small profit once my apron labels become better known. Until then I guess I accept my time is well spent being creative and busy, and selling that creative part of me is satisfying when buyers acknowledge the workmanship and are happy with the product. Can I hope for any more?

    Vincent Van Gough never sold any of his paintings, until he died. I would like to think I am leaving a legacy behind for my children. For now, i enjoy the challenge and the time spent.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Amelia, thank you for your story. We wish you the best of luck with your endeavors.

    • Lynn Todd says:

      Hello Amelia,
      My prayers to you, as I too am disabled and now finding that I may also have more health issues than just my physical disabilities (which was why I turned to sewing and painting on fabrics/quilts this past 2 years after doing nothing for 7 years and only becoming more depressed).

      I have now been fighting pneumonia and retaining body fluid in my feet to my knees now for over 6 weeks and really drains on me; and very painful both to walk and constant pain in my upper chest and back. It is difficult just to find the energy to sit here and reply to your post since I have to get up and walk to my office/sewing/crafting room. That’s bad considering not so long ago I had enough energy to run my own gardening/landscape business and maintain my home 3 acres of lawn and gardens, raising/training horses, basically running a small farm on my own! But I loved it and loved life at the time.

      Now it’s time to do something else to do and stop feeling sorry for myself, as I have lost everything I have worked and became disabled over for the past 32+ years, to my son and a rotten lawyer (which I am still facing those issues, seems they never end). And as you say, even if what I do isn’t recognized until after I’m gone maybe it will be worth it at least to my memory.

      Every Friday night here, they have a ‘teen night’ for the local kids as this is a very destitute area, and I volunteer my time (and often my materials) teaching the kids to use colored pencils, gel pens, pastels, markers, sewing for beginners such as rag dolls, potholders, etc. It gives me something to do, and it also keeps the kids out of trouble and maybe even find their niche in life. At best keeping them out of trouble, off the streets and out of the drugs! I need to come up now with some programs and some challenges for them to get a certificate 🙂

      I have found an outlet to sell some things on consignment, if I felt better and were far enough ahead, I would go to the flea market and set up every weekend, but having no one to help and on limited income with no cash to hire, that is out for now. However, I do have the local outlet, its just a matter of getting the old clunker back on the road so I can drive again and be able to talk more with the man and how to set things up since it is also a bar and restaurant, I do not want my handmade cards or clothing smelling like smoke or cooking odors! Yuck! So that is all still in the making, but I need to find other help as well, which is why I am replying to your post after reading it this morning.

      Just last night I was thinking of where I could find some just plain fairly heavy duty fabric aprons with and without the bib section for my gardening and crafting people (without having to use Chinese products). I like to design where to put pockets and such as I know what is needed and where, but I just have a dogged time with all the frustration of putting in the D buckles in the neck area for adjustment since not everyone has the same torso length, and often tying behind the neck is so uncomfortable! The waist part of course is of no issue with making ties and due to my illness and disabilities I am finding less time to make the half apron themselves, and often even the time to get some orders finished up that are nothing more than a simple baby blanket and gowns for my 2 new grand nieces,

      Is this something that you make, or interested in trying out since I saw that you mentioned making aprons? If so, please contact me, and perhaps I could get you to make me a couple of each as a ‘ground starter’ project here to show and take orders for. I know that many of my FB garden friends would buy such things, as they always have bought the garden crafts I have made. I also have a project coming in from out of state that I may like to re-design, its some sort of garden tool thing that connects to a chair for those that cannot stand to garden, It’s coming in for repair, but I would also like to see what is involved in creating something similar as being an retired avid gardener, I know too well how handy these devices can be. The bucket ones they came out with a few years ago were ‘okay’, but not exactly what was really needed in the market for those of us with disabilities.

      Please contact me if this is something you would like to chat about and perhaps help me out with making basic med to heavy fabric full and half aprons; perhaps even some ‘new’ creations for avid gardeners and crafters for carry aboard tool devices (tool belts, aprons, chair add-ons, etc.) with disabilities or even without being disabled for that matter. I know how many times I have had to go back to my shop to get a smaller pruning shear because I didn’t think I would need one! Then back again for something else I thought I may not need. It would have been so much easier to carry them in an apron alongside my garden tote (another possible design only newer and better as mine was just a cheapie but the only one on the market at the time).

      Thank you and God Bless, please find my prayers with you and yours.

      Lynn Todd

  6. Pamela says:

    I have found this very helpful. Great advice. I am just thinking about making and selling.

  7. Debby Faucett says:

    Unfortunately, I have discovered that selling handcrafted goods in this economy and with the discount store competition, it is not going to pay any bills on a regular basis. People do not care about the craftsmanship or the love,labor,talent or pride we put into our wares. Oh, they love it and want it but at Walmart prices. I bake designer cakes from scratch, cake and frosting as well as crocheting,knitting,sewing.beading,painting and other things and folks don’t want to even pay for ingredients not to mention my time, they would rather buy a frozen cake from Walley World. It is so….disheartening .I love my crafting, but you can only make so much before you have made too much . I thought I would give things I made to friends and family, but sadly they aren’t as appreciative as I would have been .An afghan in a yard sale, a couple of sweaters at the flea market ended that. No they weren’t ugly…LOL. I have stopped trying sell stuff. I have just started donating what I make. I hope you all have more luck than I. I do love your site ! You have done such an awesome job ! Thank you for sharing !

  8. Liz says:

    Internet selling platforms are vastly overhyped, IMO. To have any hope of even small success, one must p!ug and plug away, trying to fathom out unfathomable algorithms, spending/wasting both hours on the computer and money for listing and relisting fees.

    The modern craft fair or farmers/makers market can be extremely successful once you have found your niche. It provides customer feedback, networking opportunities, new friends and a way to get out of the isolation of a home-based workspace. Of course, it takes time to find the right fairs for your goods, and to fine-tune your goods to the market, not to mention the vagaries of sales psychology and pricing strategy, but that, I’ve found, is all part of the fun.

    A couple of tips – don’t expect your friends and family to be good judges of a fair price for your work, and never look at it critically and think what *you* would pay, either. Instead, realise that, lovely though they no doubt are, friends and family are inevitably somewhat similar to you, and you don’t want to sell to people like you. You want – indeed need, if you make beautiful things – to sell to people who are quite different to you. People with different priorities in life, who have much more disposable income, and far less time and talent at their disposal. Remember that you are not only selling a hand-crafted item, but can use back-story to add more value. If you clearly love, value and take joy in your work, customers are more likely to contact so also.

    Deby offers some really lovely patterns and ideas, whether you are making for charity fundraising purposes, or to supplement your own income. Thanks Deby!

  9. Rozina Dee says:

    It’s really disappointing to me to continually hear people admit that they lower their prices on handmade goods because otherwise they wouldn’t have any sales. What if we all charged what it was really worth?!? Then we wouldn’t have to worry about what others are selling similar things for on etsy, or in church basements or bigger craft fairs. Consumers who value handmade will come around eventually. Just look at what crafters sell for at ACC’s fairs. Quilts would easily fetch thousands of dollars, as they should. If we all collectively de-value our work, people will keep comparing it to Ikea, Pottery Barn, and Target, and we really cant blame them.
    Also don’t forget that calculators like this usually give you a price closer to wholesale, not retail, so if there is any chance you will be selling to store so no the near future add on a markup of 40% because you can’t undercut the shops that are generous enough to carry your items. Seems harsh, but I’ve seen that mistake made lots of times when fellow craft fair friends get asked to sell in boutiques.

    • Liz says:

      Rozina, I agree with you 100% on the lowering of already-low prices! I see some craft fairs advertised as ‘grab a bargain’ and others as ‘buy from real artisans’; if people are attending the former, I suppose there might be pressure to lower their prices. The motto of all crafters who wish to sell well-made products should be ‘I am not a discount store’.

  10. Some Very Interesting points are made both in the article and the comments. I would add that if you are selling direct to the public the venue can make a very big difference. Try to visit a similiar show at the venue before booking your stand, it may be that the type of venue and type of show has a particular reputation which may or may not suit your products. This is built up over time and the people who regularly visit that venue/show will have preconceptions about what they are looking for in terms of items and prices. Then if you do decide that it is suitable for your product adjust what you sell to the type of market place it is and the type of customer it attracts. That way you stand a better chance of making a sale. Don’t be afraid of keeping some of your more expensive items under the table and just getting them out if someone is particularly interested. If you have too much on show that is out of the customers price bracket they may not even stop to look. Selling several smaller items can often add up to more than one expensive one and in turn you then have more of your products out in the community which will act as another advertising source.

  11. Helen Reidt says:

    I am part of collective running a craft shop. We are very particular about quality of work, also being aware that we need to cater for the modern community. Even so, selling goods isn’t easy. I’m afraid if we used your calculations we wouldnt sell our products at all. The general public have no concept as to what it costs to make that ‘lovely item’ and often complain as to costs. When I mention building rental and utility costs they look at you like you have lost your mind. ☺☺. Having said that, good information.

  12. Anke says:

    Great post, Deby! I always love reading your articles. Pricing items too low is never a good idea .. if they start selling like hotcakes you end up with lots of work, no time and no money to show for it. If customers are not prepared to pay a price that leaves you with some profit it is better to find another product to sell or you’ll end up resenting the work and your customers. Yep, I learnt all that the hard way 🙂

  13. Hello Deby, great post! Very detailed and very practical.

    We’re also doing a sewing to sell series on the blog and we’ve included a link to your post here:

  14. helene says:

    i work from home and i have found with your list above that i am way behind on cost so if i was a business i would be broke but if i charge too much i dont sell and have noticed that since i have changed my prices i am still not selling

  15. Judy says:

    thanks for this information. I’m in the process of trying to establish what articles I will make for sale, and how to price them competitively and still make a profit. This article is so timely! Thanks again.

  16. julie says:

    thanks for breaking this down into understandable sections. Yes, e-Bay is the very worst place to advertise hand-made goods. And it makes you vulnerable to “design theft” by cheap manufacturers.

  17. Jeanne Marie says:

    GEE to be honest with you I would rather make my crafts then sew Dress again! I remember all of how to sew a dress and blouse and not me again i will make crafts more fun and loved it! hugs angeljeanne (Jeanne Marie)

  18. Maria Roncarati says:

    Very helpful article. Offers a detailed checklist that is essential in calculating expenses. Thank you for sharing. Maria, Playa del Carmen, MX

  19. Thanks ,this is just the article that I needed.

  20. MacCupcake says:

    Great stuff! And in a “test” of the calculator, I think it did an excellent job.

    Now the not-so-great-stuff: Its a very competitive world. Not only are there a lot other sellers out there selling their handmade treasures, but you’re also competing with manufactured goods from China, Taiwan, etc. The last time I was on Etsy and did a search on handmade quilts, I think the search resulted in something like 200,000! No typo there… that’s two hundred thousand!

    I also did a search on eBay for handmade quilts vs Pottery Barn quilts – and you know what? The mass produced junk from China sells more readily than carefully crafted beautiful quilts. And more cheaply. If someone wanted to buy a quilt and did a search, people would gravitate towards a recognizable brand versus homemade work. How do you change a mindset like that?

    I attempted recently to sell some handmade quilts on eBay. Re-listed 6 times… and eBay suggests that I list the quilt for less than ten dollars. That I simply cannot afford. At that point, I’d rather give them away to friends and family than endure the travesty of “selling” something that I put my time and effort and money and creativity. That would be the ultimate slap in the face.

    • That price of $10.00 is ridiculous……would barely cover the cost of the thread!
      People do not realize the cost of the materials these days, let alone the time and effort that goes into making a carefully crafted quilt.
      I made a queen size top for a wedding gift for my niece and sent it to a long arm quilter for the actual quilting. The cost of her labor and the batting alone was $240 – – add to that my cost for the fabric top and backing plus my labor.
      These are one of a kind designer quilts and I will continue making them for gifts for my family.
      There is no way I will just “sell” for an unreasonable price for the sake of a sale.

  21. Great post!! Pricing is so hard! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for this evening that links to your post: –Anne

  22. Barb Wilson says:


  23. Nicola says:

    Really informative. Lots to think about and sticking to a set range of items to make rather than what I like should help me find a niche.

What do you think?