How to sell your knitting online

This article is an excerpt from an e-book that was written a few years ago. The topic is is about selling your knitting online, and it contains information about how to sell your knitting online on platforms such as Etsy, Ebay, and on your own website.

The information may be useful to anyone who has an interest in selling their knitting online.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Introduction to selling your knitting online

Do you have a passion for knitting and dream about how you could use your talents to start your own hand made business?

Do you love knitting and would like to try to make some extra money by selling it online?

That was me a few years ago. 

I turned the dream into reality after I had my second child and the cost of childcare made working full time in an office impossible for me.

After much trial and error, and many mistakes and lessons learned, I reached the point where I was making enough profit from selling my knitting online to be able to afford extra luxuries such as holidays that my family just wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t jumped into starting my online knitting business.

This article aims to give some encouragement and advice to fellow knitters and crafters who would like to try to sell their hand made goods via an online business.

By reading this article, maybe you can avoid some of the mistakes that I did, and can more quickly find the business formula that works best for you.

Thanks very much for reading. I wish you the best of luck selling your knitting online!

Legal Issues

First of all, each country, state, county etc has its own rules regarding making money from online sales.

It is your responsibly that you are acting within the law, including tax laws, if you decide to sell your knitting online. If in doubt, I would recommend consulting a lawyer or a small business expert.

I shall write here a summary of some of the issues that I know are important. 

  • You need to find out whether you need to register as self employed, and how you do that.  In the UK, for example, you call the Inland Revenue, and this triggers the process of paying taxes as a self employed person.
  • Once you have decided on an online platform to sell your knitting, you need to ensure that you have complied with several laws regarding online selling. A privacy policy, for example, may need to be publicly available, and you need to adhere to your policy.  This is definitely the case when selling to customers in Europe, even if you don’t live in Europe. There is masses of information about data protection and privacy polices online, and websites that will generate them for you.
  • In some countries,  you have to to publish your name and address when selling online. This is about transparency, and I am aware that this is necessary in EU countries.
  • There is a law regarding rights to return and cancel orders for online wares.  I believe this is an EU law, but may be wrong and it might be a worldwide issue.  In some countries (for example Germany), heavy fines are issued for not complying with this law. Again, I am no expert in this area, and would recommend consulting a lawyer for advice. You have to include certain information including clear instructions about how the customer can cancel or return orders. I have seen online lawyers who will provide this information at a reasonable cost.
  • If you decide to sell via your own website, depending on where you live, you will need to ensure that certain information is displayed. Again, please seek legal advice when in doubt.
  • You need to consider copyright issues when selling knitting. For example, some designers might not allow you to sell their designs either at all or without buying a licence.  I only ever sold my own designs, or designs from private sellers on the Etsy website, who clearly stated that you can sell your finished knitting products.
  • Certain items require safety certificates such as a CE mark. This is a very important issue to check. I know that toys, for example, are included here.

This list of legal issues is not exhaustive, I am really trying to express here that you can’t just start selling your knitting and crafts online without thinking about legal and tax issues.

Please do check that you aren’t breaking any laws, as there are agencies out there who check for compliance, and in addition, not declaring and paying taxes for an online business is really rather a risk as the internet is so visible. You can receive hefty fines for trying to cheat the rules.

Knitted items you could sell online – some ideas 

Actually, the best sort of knitting to sell online is the thing that you knit best, or enjoy making the most. 

However, you should also consider how long it takes you to knit whatever it is you would like to sell, and how much it will cost to post.

Knitting is not fast. it is definitely a lot more time consuming than many other crafts. Actually, many non knitters don’t realise how time consuming knitting really is. If you are going to sell your knitting, whether online or in person, you should pay yourself a decent hourly wage, factoring in packing items, posting them, doing your paperwork, adding your listings, and so on..

Personally, I would be terrified of large knitted items going missing in the post. All that work, gone. I would never get over it!

I think that smaller items are better items to knit and sell on. Lower postage costs, faster to make, can sell at an affordable price that still makes a profit for you.

I personally sold baby hats when I ran an online knitting business, mostly in newborn size.  These were bought by new and expectant mums, who are excited by the cuteness of little woolly hats, and also by photographers, who often use hats as newborn photography props.

I tried to make hats in chunky or super chunky yarn, as it was faster to knit up, and also more unique than hats that can be bought in stores.  I added pompoms, embroidered faces on, added flowers, stripes, and made each hat unique.

Super chunky type newborn hats aren’t as popular for use as photo props as they once were. The current fashion is for delicate bonnets and plainer hats in a finer type of yarn. Newborn hats do still sell well online, however. It is a matter of keeping up with current trends if you want to be successful in this field of business.

Here is a list of ideas of hand knit items that I believe would be good things to sell online.

  • Hats for all age groups 
  • Gloves
  • Coffee Cosies
  • Tea cosies
  • Cushion covers
  • Baby clothes
  • Wedding shrugs and shawls
  • Socks
  • Slippers
  • Headbands 
  • Dishcloths
  • Reusable cotton cleansing pads 
  • Flowers and bows (aimed at other crafters, for example card or hair accessory makers
  • Baby blankets and sleeping bags/pods

This list of knitted garments that you could sell online is not exhaustive.  Whatever you decide to knit and sell, I think that it is better to make repeats of the same item, rather than unique items like I did.

I will now explain why I am of this opinion..

Selling Repeat Items

I think that selling repeat items, rather than one offs, is extremely advantageous. For example, you could offer a pair of gloves for sale, and knit them to order, or indeed have a few pairs always in stock. You would then sell the same knitted item over and over in repeat quantities, rather than one each of different knitted items.

With repeat items, you can spend time making your online listing look really attractive and then never have to work on it again. Search engines will start to list your item high up in search results, once it has been there for a length of time.

When I sold my one off items, the listings themselves took a lot of time. I had to photograph each item, write a description, and just hope that someone found it.  As it happens, I built up several regular customers and my unique items did sell. However, selling the same thing over and over, perhaps with variations in colours and sizes, would have worked much better and would have meant much less work.

Where to sell your knitting online

There are several places where you can sell your knitting online, and I shall summarise what I think are the best ones.

  • Etsy
  • Ebay
  • Big Cartel
  • Own website

Big Cartel is a beautiful creative focussed online selling platform. I know of several knitters who use this platform. They pair it with say a blog and Facebook page, where they publish links to their work for people to purchase.

I have never used it, however I have perused the website and think it is beautiful and very artistic looking. The sellers that I know of who use it seem to be selling premium prices items. High quality, beautiful knitting, aimed at discerning customers. Definitely worth considering.

I used both Etsy and Ebay to sell my knitting, and found clear advantages and disadvantages to both platforms.

In terms of numbers, I sold way more via Ebay. The traffic was much, much higher than on Etsy.  I used to list unique knitted hats, and they would sell within hours or days. With hindsight, I think my prices were too low, and that is maybe why they sold (my general price was around ten pounds per hat including postage, sometimes eight pounds).

Ebay was easy and fast for listing. I sold everything as buy it now, not as auctions, and you can set your listings to remain published until sold. So you can just list something and leave it and wait for it to sell.  I did auction off my knitting every now and again, and it was hit and miss. Some items went for a pound, others for fifteen. I was much more comfortable with buy it now sales.

The main problem with Ebay was that the fees are pretty high. The selling fees are around double than Etsy. I also had issues with items ‘getting lost in the post.’ When this happens, you have to refund all of the money to the customer. You can of course send your sales via signed for delivery, however this pushes the postage price up, and time to post increases too. For example, if your item is small and thin you might be able to use stick on a stamp and put your item into a post box. Very fast and efficient. Unless it gets lost…

With the items that I sold on Etsy, nothing whatsoever went missing in the post. I had sales in Peru, New Zealand, USA, Brazil…they all arrived.  I suspect that has something to do with the customer base on Etsy (ok yes I am saying that maybe the lost items on Ebay didn’t really get lost). I guess the answer to whether or not that is true will never be revealed.

Etsy is seen as a more quality crafting website, and I believe that you can ask for higher prices there than you can on Ebay. However, I found sales to be much, much slower. It was only when I built up a group of regular customers that sales became acceptable.

The final option that I can think about regarding where to sell knitting online, is doing it on your own website.  It is pretty easy to set up an online store these days, and other than the cost of the website, which can be pretty minimal, there are no selling fees.

With your own website, you need to be extra careful with legal issues such as cookie banners, data protection etc, however you can find information online about this, or you can pay for legal advice.

New websites need time to be found by search engines. It can be that nobody actually sees it, or your listings, for a while. Using selling platforms such as Etsy and Ebay is advantageous in that they pay for all of the advertising and already have regular visitors who will be able to search for and find your items.

I would not, however, rule out starting your own website, particularly if you have experience with this or are keen to learn how to do it. There are many online platforms where you can build up an online store, and they all offer plenty of help and advice regarding setting everything up. Weebly, for example, is pretty easy to set up and is a good option for beginners to online selling.

Using social media to sell your knitting 

Social media is of course mega important for any business. You should consider having a Twitter account, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook Page, and possibly a blog.

When choosing a name for your business, I you should check out the availability of your chosen name for each of the social platforms that you wish to use to promote your knittin. The name also needs to be available for the platform that you choose to actually list your knitting for sale.

So, have a look on each platform to see if someone else has taken your name of choice before you start setting everything up.

At one point, I sold my knitting directly via social media, namely via a Facebook page. I used to publish photos of my items, and people would send a private message to buy it. I would then send an invoice via PayPal, send the item, done. 

This worked quite well, and there were no selling fees, just the fees from Paypal. However, it was time consuming, and I would often take and then make orders, and the person just didn’t pay and ignored my messages.

In addition, Facebook pages have undergone a radical change in recent years. They don’t get seen much any more unless you pay to promote posts. I think it is worth having a page, definitely, and you can still take occasional orders there, however I wouldn’t rely on it to sell home made items, not these days.

Instagram is of course vitally important, and you can post your lovely photos and add the link to your selling platform on your profile.

Pinterest is marvellous and vitally important for online sales. Something that I currently sell is consistently top in Google search results, purely from a Pin that I made several years ago. Anyone searching for my item will be directed to the Pin, and then to the (Etsy) listing, where they can and do order the item.

I personally don’t use Twitter. I don’t get it (smile), however it must be that millions of other people do, and therefore your business will benefit from a Twitter account. You can tweet about your new items, your latest ideas and so on, and build up a following, get to know other small business owners, get involved in networking and pick up hints and tips.

Social media is vitally important in marketing yourself, and your work, and I would recommend presence on as many platforms as time will allow.

Photographing your knitting

Wherever you decide to sell your knitting, your photos are of major importance.

A smartphone will probably give a good enough quality of photo for your online listings. A high quality camera might be even better.

What is most important is having a good, clean, composition, a nice background which does not distract, and a way of making your items stand out.

I would advise taking a look on the Etsy website.  Look for items similar to what you will sell, and look out for the ‘Bestseller’ sign on listings. Scrutinise the photos of the best sellers. This is what has attracted buyers, and this is what you need to aim for when photographing your knitted items.

This knitting pattern Etsy store has thousands of sales – you can see here how the photos all have a similar style. Earthy, with a woodland theme. The items are modelled on real people, which always help potential customers to see how the finished item may look. This is an inspirational, beautiful online knitting and crochet store which is extremely successful.

As this shop has done, you need to develop your own consistent photography style, so that it will become recognisable and help you to build a following.

You could also consider paying a photographer to take product photos for you, and it might even be that you could offer free knitted items in return for photographs which you can use online to promote your work. I did this, and received a few wonderful photographs of my work modelled on babies.  

The problem with this can be that you lose paying customers. They won’t buy from you if they are receiving free goods, and it might even be that they keep the item and don’t send you any photos. Yes, this happened to me. 

If you find a photographer to partner up with, that’s really super. Try to stick with this trustworthy person and be careful. In my experience, you will receive many requests from photographers offering free photos in exchange for your goods, and while it can seem tempting, you are risking losing your time and work, and costs of posting to them.

Just be careful regarding this issue. It is important to only partner with trusted people.

How to sell your knitting online – an action checklist

Here is a summary list of the things that you need to work through to start your own online knitting selling business.  It is only a rough guide, you may be able to think of additional necessary tasks. This is however a great place to start.

  • Decide what you are going to sell and think of a business name.
  • Decide which platform you will sell on, and check if your chosen name is already taken there or not.
  • Check all major social media platforms, where you will market your business, to see if your chosen name is available or not.
  • When you have determined a name which is free on all necessary or desired platforms, open accounts there. You could also open an email account with the same name, and use this for all websites and matters related to your business. This is also good for communicating with clients.
  • Prepare some stock and take wonderful photographs of it.
  • When you are ready to actually sell things, register yourself/your business with appropriate authorities.
  • Start listing your items, ensuring that you are complying with any required legal issues (your responsibly to find out what these are).
  • As you wait for items to sell, think about your packaging. How will you post items? Will you enclose a thank you card? Maybe wrap a ribbon around your sales? Nicely packaged wares  and good communication will attract repeat custom.
  • Market your items every day. Post to Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, your Blog. Let people know what you are making, your design ideas, show them your new yarn purchase. Put yourself out there and be visible!
  • When sales start to come in, make sure you write everything down. Keep records of money coming in, going out, keep receipts for postage and anything else business related. You will need this for the tax office.

I hope you enjoyed this article about how to sell your knitting online, and that it gave you some helpful pointers.

Thank you very much for reading it.

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