Why–and How–to Buy Handmade This Holiday Season

lovely simple wrapping
It’s officially November and my thoughts are turning toward the holidays. I don’t want to rush straight from Halloween into the Christmas season, but I’m much happier if I plan ahead for Christmas. That means starting now.

Each year we get a little more picky about the gifts we buy: we want to get them something meaningful, not just a gift card to a big box store. And we’re becoming more and more conscientious about who we’re ultimately giving our money to when we’re buying those gifts.

Baby Aviator Cap from Scoggin’s Noggins

This year, we’re buying more handmade gifts from small cottage industries. I love the trend I’m seeing: more and more women are using the internet to operate small businesses out of their homes. These women are able to make an (often small) income by doing something crafty that they love, and I want to support these women by buying from their businesses.

There are several venues cottage industries can use. Sarah Scoggins, who knitted that darling hat I showed you yesterday, sells through her facebook page.  Some women sell through their blogs.  But Etsy is far and away the most popular online marketplace for handmade (and vintage) goods.

Wool flower pin from Karen’s Etsy shop The June Bride

Etsy describes itself as “the world’s handmade marketplace.” There’s an amazing variety of items for sale on Etsy–jewelry, clothing, wall art, accessories, patterns, pottery–the variety is astounding. An individual can open her own online “shop” and use Etsy’s ready-made storefront to sell her wares.  (Etsy charges the shop owner a 20-cent listing fee and 3.5% of the sale price of each item for its services.)  If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen a huge number of Etsy-listed items without even realizing it, because so many items are pinned from Etsy!

I love that I can buy beautiful gifts that my family members will love and support these small businesses by doing it. But for this all to work out, I have to plan ahead. Because these cottage industries operate on a small scale, shipping deadlines are often in early December or even November. So I’m starting my Christmas shopping now, right at the beginning of November, so I can have all my Etsy purchases ordered by Thanksgiving.

Mr Darcy proposal onesie by Brookish

To really succeed with their cottage industries, these women need to build a reputation, find some regular customers and get great reviews for their shops. Can we help them succeed by spreading the word?  If you have a favorite cottage industry you’ve had a great experience with, whether it’s through someone’s etsy shop, facebook page or in real life, would you share a bit about your experience in comments?

And if you have a cottage industry, would you please put a link to your etsy shop, facebook page, blog or other venue in the comments so we can support you with our gift-buying purchases this holiday season?

Thanks to Sarah of Scoggins Noggins, Jodi of Sew Fearless, and Karen of The June Bride for answering all my questions about your experiences selling online!

(If you want to make your own gifts instead of buying handmade, check out this post on when it’s better to buy, and when it’s better to DIY.)

photo credit for gift box: Pretty Hair Clippies via Pinterest


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  1. I have a childhood friend with an Etsy store (http://www.etsy.com/shop/bethstonestudio) and she does a wonderful job of using old hymns in her art as well as creating beautiful art jewelry. I’m always happy to plug her work as her husband is currently back in school and she’s working to support them through her art.

    Can I shamelessly self-plug?? I don’t know that it qualifies, but last year, we wrote and self-published a book that is for sale through our Amazon-owned publisher (https://www.createspace.com/3456887) and through Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Mashed-Potatoes-Little-Brother-Story/dp/1452893047/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320405570&sr=8-1). We paid for everything out of our pocket (including paying the artist for the drawings), so now we’re on the very slow climb out to try to make our investment back (let alone make a proffit). I realize I didn’t create it through knitting or drawing or print the thing out at home, but it was still something that was dreamed up, worked towards, and made to happen by us and it’s very personal. Does that count? 🙂

  2. Linda says:

    Don’t forget to support your local schools and libraries. Our local library is hosting several local cottage industries for a holiday marketplace. They charge a moderate rent for the table space which benefits the library and the profits from the sales benefit the various small businesses.

  3. Sarah Beals says:

    I just opened an Etsy store for my art, although it is empty. http://www.etsy.com/shop/sarahbeals?ref=si_shop
    I painted two pieces and they were both bought before I could post them, which is better for me. (no fees!) This Christmas, I’ll paint watercolors for my family and make wool felt ornaments for Sunday School teachers, etc.
    In years past, we have made homemade potpourri with mini cinnamon buns made of salt dough and dipped in cinnamon scented wax and then drizzled. (about 1″ round). Also, homemade beeswax candles are always nice. You can buy beeswax online and scent it. We love homemade Christmas gifts!!

  4. Beth Stone says:

    Well, here I was going to post my link, and I see that [email protected] Carrie’s Busy Nothings beat me to it! Thanks,Carrie! (You all definitly need to check out Carrie and her husband’s children’s book – “Mashed Potatoes.” It’s really cute, and it has a good lesson too!)

    Anyway, yes, I do sell my artwork and jewelry through Etsy, and it has been a great experience so far. I love the “built-in” traffic aspect of it… And I love the idea of Etsy itself – it’s neat to see so many people creating things and turning their interests and hobbies into full-blown businesses. Handmade gifts are so much more personal and unique than anything you can buy in a box store, and it’s nice to know you’re supporting a family/small business. I plan to do some of my own Christmas shopping through Etsy too….

    If you’d like to visit my shop or my blog, here are my links. Thanks for the opportunity to share them, Anne!

    My Etsy Shop (again): http://www.etsy.com/shop/bethstonestudio
    My blog: http://www.bethstonestudio.com

  5. Heatherly says:

    I just popped on over to “Brookish” and bought a mug! Thank you for introducing us to these great shops.

    I’m a big fan of Rags to Stitches and Aisle to Aloha. 🙂

  6. Erin says:

    I love the following shops:

    Aisle to Aloha Studio (http://www.etsy.com/shop/AisletoAlohaStudio?ref=ss_profile) for modern, colorful and beautiful artwork. It is so much fun and she can create amazing custom pieces too.

    Squiggly Doodles (http://www.etsy.com/shop/SquigglyDoodles?ref=ss_profile) for cute custom creations that make excellent gifts. I am totally eyeing one of the cups with the straw.

    Needle Dee Needle Dum (http://www.etsy.com/shop/NeedleDeeNeedleDum) for adorable and fun dog collars and accessories. Dog neckties anyone?

  7. No plug, just my idea for Christmas gifts this year…

    I’m baking bread.

    Being newly married, we don’t have a lot of money. However, I LOVE cooking and baking, and I’m getting pretty good at it (if I do say so myself!). And for friends and family who live nearby, a beautiful loaf of bread will be easy to make and deliver.

    I’m planning on making Challa, a Jewish bread with eggs in it, traditionally braided and then sprinkled with poppy seed or some other seed or herb, mostly for decoration. Wrapped in cellophane and tied with a pretty ribbon, I think they’ll make lovely, inexpensive and practical gifts. 🙂

  8. Barb S. says:

    I LOVE this post. Two friends and I have started a “creative” cooperative and have been at several craft fairs this year. We are hosting two upcoming open houses and inviting other crafters to come in. I am still trying to figure out how to sell off my blog, so as not to have to pay fees, but the shipping process is what really gets me. I just don’t like the “flat rate” deal because I think it’s not as economical for the customer. Anyway, you can check out my friend Kimberley’s wonderful items at http://www.etsy.com/shop/HomesteadSolutions?ref=pr_shop_more. Some of my friend Dinora’s items can be seen on my blog at http://trainingourdaughters.blogspot.com/2011/10/entrepreneurs-dinoras-sewing-room.html. (You can contact me if you’re interested.) My dear daughter and I have set up a blog for our business and you can see a list of our selection of jams & jellies here: http://katieshomekitchen.blogspot.com/. (Again, if you’re interested, you can contact me.) We also have information there on our upcoming open houses/fairs. We have officially decided on a name for our cooperative and are working on getting that site up and running.

  9. Beth Anne says:

    Oh Anne, I love you so much for sharing this! Also, I see that you were way ahead of the game encouraging everyone to buy handmade even 3 Christmas seasons ago. You’re the best!

    Right now, we’re highlighting many handmade gifts on our blog and encouraging women to do the same – support small business and handmade. There are so many wonderful options out there.

    Here are a few etsy shops that I’ve had wonderful experiences with:
    LittleRedFlagDesigns – Katy Campbell is so talented, and she’ll do custom work as well. Some of her prints are treasured items in our son’s room
    SirBubbadoo.com – She used to be on Etsy but now has her own shop. She made Holden’s quilt for his bed. Again, she was so wonderful to work with and created something beautiful for us. Really, just the best customer service.
    PeaceLovenPolkaDots Etsy shop – I bought a purse from them several years ago and it has held up beautiful. They handmade their purses using upholstery fabric so it’s heavy duty but still beautiful. I get so many compliments on it every time I use it. Their inventory looks a bit limited right now, but after the Christmas rush I bet they’ll fill things out again.

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