Sewing for profit. Projects that are great to make to sell

Sewing For Profit. 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.

Hi! Stephanie from Swoodson Says again, with a really fun round up of things that I think would be great to see and then sell at a craft fair or on Etsy and other online handicrafts venues. I am an avid handmade shopper, so I not only looked for things I'd buy myself but also considered how long they'd take to make, how much fabric they'd use, and if they'd make good gifts!

I think you will find some fun new ideas if you sew to sell, or maybe just some new projects if you don't.  I have a round-up of fabric scrap gift ideas that also has some great ideas too!

What makes a good “sew to sell”  project?

  • Supplies – if it uses small pieces of fabric or basic sewing supplies, you don't have much of an outlay.  If you are making a custom top of the range bag with real leather and high quality hardware, you'll need to buy all of those materials up front, and then sell at a high enough price to cover those costs.
  • Profit – linked to the costs of supplies above.  Can you make a profit from this item?  Take into account cost of materials and your time.
  • Time – how long is this going to take to make?  Remember that your profit over and above your materials expenses, also needs to pay you a living wage for your time.  Don't undervalue yourself and spend 5 hours making something, only to make $5 at the end.
  • Shipping – can be expensive on large, heavy or valuable items.  Smaller items that can go in a padded envelope and be inexpensive to send may sell better.   A $15 item that costs $15 to send has less appeal than one that costs $5 to send.
  • Appeal – do people actually want it?  Naturally if you make things people aren't interested in, then you won't sell many.  A beautiful embroidered fabric cover for your video cassette recorder won't have many buyers, but a trendy bag for your iPad will have more appeal.
  • Venue and audience – where will you be selling your items?  Do shipping costs come into play at all?  What about the local market?  If you make items that might appeal more to seniors, then you won't sell so many if the typical audience at your craft fair is young moms.  Try to match your projects to the audience you expect to encounter.  If you can theme your items to appeal to a particular sector, and create a co-ordinated display or store, you'll do well.
  • What sets your products apart?  Are you making exactly the same products as everyone else?  There's nothing wrong with that if those are popular products and you can make them well, and make a good profit.  But if you can include a special feature that sets yours apart from the crowd, even better!
    For example, how many zipper pouches do you think there are for sale on Etsy?  Plenty.  But if you set yours apart by appealing to a specific audience, such as a Dr Who Tardis zipper pouch, you'll be more likely to catch the eye of your buyer.  So try to give your products that special unique touch.

For additional thoughts about the art of sewing and selling, please check out this post:

sewing and selling

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For more tips on how to sell on Etsy, check out this advice from an Etsy selling and marketing expert on how to get traffic to your Etsy shop.

sew to sell

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Sewing for profit – Things that are great to sew to sell

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I'm Stephanie and I blog at about sewing and crafts for myself & my toddler son. I love upcycling, using up scraps,  and having the freedom to make what I can't find or afford in stores. I spend way too much time online - you can connect with me on twitter/pinterest/facebook/instagram !


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15 Responses to Sewing for profit. Projects that are great to make to sell

  1. arava says:

    great tips,
    personally im using sites like koocam, and your article provide me good points to take care of them.
    thank u

  2. Linda says:

    I make little girls Tutus dresses and skirts. I do alot of Mini Mouse and Frozen.I always say “inspired by” before the name

  3. Sheena says:

    Wendy R (above) is – not exactly wrong – but not entirely accurate re her pronouncement on children’s stuff in the UK.

    As a toymaker and seller myself for the past several years, the CE regulations apply to the entire EU, not merely the UK. It is, contrary to what Wendy states, NOT necessary to send items away for testing, but it IS necessary to carry out certain tests oneself, to use materials which are certified to certain standards (with documentary proof) and to keep careful records of all the foregoing, as well as to label all items with one’s contact details.
    This is known as ‘self-certification’; it is far from being an unsurmountable problem but it does go a long way towards protecting the health and indeed lives of those who cannot protect themselves.

    Deby, I’m not much of a blog reader or user of other social media, but your blog is great.

  4. Important To get the copyRight..And licensed character fabric questions settled.

    I am not a lawyer, but I will guess…that the copyright holders might not choose to notice a very small operation.

    But what if your idea takes off? I would not want to assume that the phrase suggested above will keep the copyright holders off my back.

    I once worked for a firm…which I later found was infringing on other companies. Scary to see the legal notices from law firms.

    Now I have seen some projects where they might suggest Minnie Mouse but (probably) not to the point of copyright onfringement. Maybe by using pink polka dots with black. But check the selvage edge of your fabric to see if it has a licensing notice.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Please Please remember when making to sell there are strict copyright rules especially in items such as Doctor Who mentioned in this article. Also ALL soft toys and babies ribbon toys are to be CE tested by law

    • It’s just fine to make things with licenced Dr Who fabric to sell, provided you aren’t trying to suggest that these are official licenced products. You should include a disclaimer in the listing if selling online. I’m working on a follow up article now with a couple of lawyer contacts to set out all the info about sewing pattern copyright, sewing to sell etc. The toys issue is another matter and something that varies according to where you are in the world and what your laws might be locally, so not something I can advise on other than of course people should take advice on this in the same way you would for any legal matters when setting up a business.

      • Wendy R says:

        I have researched this somewhat and in the UK, ANYTHING being sold for children must have the fabric tested for fire safety issues and for durability the finished product MUST be sent for testing in order to get the CE mark to enable it to be sold for children. VERY STRICT RULES INDEED.

  6. jennifer says:

    In relation to Sue’s comment, what happens if you’re using licensed fabric to sew something? For example; I find an adorable Mickey Mouse flannel fabric and make toddler pj’s, can I then sell it on Etsy?

  7. sue r says:

    Interesting that you have an article about great things to sell in your shop but the first thing that I clicked thru to read says “Pattern not for commercial use in any manner”.

    • That’s another interesting point you make Sue about restrictions on patterns and what you can do with them. Basically, once you sew an item you are free to do with it what you like, including selling it. You may see designers asking you to buy a very expensive ‘licence’ if you want to sell what you make from the pattern, but this is not needed. The law states quite clearly that you can sell what you sew. Maybe I should follow up with more about the copyright on sewing patterns and these restrictions because I know people do worry about it. But the easy answer is, that you are free to sell what you sew and have no obligation to pay, credit or mention who may have made the original sewing pattern you used.

      • Julia Cheeseman says:

        Thank you so much. I am glad some kind person has made this clear. Obvious if you think about it!…What ever I create is mine and could not ever, possibly be the same as someone else’s.

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