Raising cash in a hurry #22: Make stuff to sell

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Update May 2009: Report after report of tainted toys and food on store shelves has enhanced the appeal of homemade goods. And thanks to the recession, plenty of us now have the free time to make these items by hand.

Every year my best crafting buddy, Larissa and I sign up for our favorite holiday bazaar (the table fees are cheap and it's for a good cause) and set out to make a good bit of our Christmas money through making hats, bags, wallets and wristlets out of recycled sweaters. While some items languish on our artful table, others fly out the door (often worn by the purchaser), and I use this research as a stop-gap measure when I've totally spent all my coffee-and-yarn budget for the month.

When I'm entirely broke, I'll get out the sewing machine. My favorite quick project is little stuffed geese (I call 'em "teething birds" because babies love to chew on their little birdy heads) made out of thrifted fabric, and they sell like crazy on Etsy, an online shop devoted to crafty vendors.

Selling crafts is a fantastic way to make quick money (as long as you don't get too hung up in your hourly wage), especially for an at-home parent or someone with a lot of time gaps in your day.


It's typically not a great way to earn a living -- there's a fine line between enjoying your skill with handicraft and turning your sewing room/pottery wheel/workbench into a sweat shop -- but it's a fine way to fill in the gaps between pay for freelancers or anyone with a money crisis.

From my experience, items that sell quickly are generally low-priced vanity purchases that aren't incredibly useful. When I made gorgeous wallets out of ties, I had lots of admiration but no sales; a wallet is such a daily-use item that people aren't willing to buy one from a crafter. On the other hand, hats, small toys, jewelry, scarves, aprons, magnets and buttons, tote bags and mosaic coasters were huge sellers. The more potentially useless and ornamental something is? The more likely it will be purchased. Online sellers of bead necklaces sell out quickly.

Another category of handmade items that sell especially well is soaps and perfumed or infused oils, although these typically take a little longer to make. Especially talented friends make great money selling their handspun yarn or knitting patterns. A woodworker in my church makes little trucks and cars that are in high demand in the annual All Saints' Bazaar. The potential for turning your favorite craft into quick cash is only limited by your imagination; but remember to test the market for an item first (an easy way is to set up a sidewalk "booth" at a local arts walk) before cranking out dozens or investing anything beyond your "stash" in materials.

Have you made anything crafty to sell? What did you learn?

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