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How T-Shirt Crafting Makes Me Money with No Website

In 2008, I had an idea. Since I was passionate about drawing and collecting graphic tees and hoodies, I decided it was penquinforpost2time to begin my side gig in apparel crafting. I had an extensive collection of t-shirts and hoodies and as time went on, I got really good at picking out unique designs that usually attracted a lot of attention when I went out.

I always found that the attention my t-shirts got sparked a burst of creativity and motivation in me. So I began to draw my own designs on tees and hoodies I had at home.

This became so much fun for me that I found myself buying many portfolio books to keep my sketches organized because my ideas were popping in my head too fast for me to keep up in producing them onto tees.

When I first started crafting, I used Heather Grey tees and hoodies. I figured the coverage with the markers I had in mind to use would be easier. Other colors would be too dark and I wasn’t a fan of white hoodies so I worked with what I liked and had at home.

I started using a Sharpie to draw the outline of my picture and paint markers such as Decofabric to fill in the drawing. This is a picture of one of my first designs.alien

I began wearing my designs.

Soon after, my friends and family members started to approach me about designing tees for them. Some people even asked me to teach them.

In time, I had a developed a following so I decided to make it a side business and registered my brand as Inner Monster.

Eventually I started changing things up because I realized the colors weren’t as vibrant as I wanted them to look. And every time I washed a shirt or hoodie, the colors would fade.

I started thinking about what I needed to do to get the fabric to feel like I was working on a white canvas. So I continued to use Sharpie markers for the outline and then started filling in the outline with white Palmers Fabric Paint.

Now that it felt like a piece of blank canvas I was able to add color over the white. I would use Palmer Fabric PaintMarvy the Fabric MarkerSetaskrib+Crayola Fabric Markers or Elmer’s Paint Markers.

I definitely preferred the brands of paint and markers I was using (Crayola, Marvy, Setaskrib+ and Elmer’s) because the tips were softer and others were too stiff. I found that the softer tip adhered to the fabric paint better. On the other hand, Sharpies were the best for outlining because the tips are stiff.

Once I was done with the design, I would let it settle for about 24hrs. Then I would take a piece of blank white paper and monsterplace it over the image. I would iron over the white paper covering the image on low heat just to set the colors.

After starting to use the white paint as a base, I could use any color tee or hoodie because I wasn’t painting directly onto the bare fabric.

Here’s a picture to the right after I made some adjustments in the materials I was using.pebbies

A couple of years after designing and producing my own apparel, I thought about exploring ways of transferring my drawings digitally. I began to research printing shops for mass production. The demand for my tees had increased for what I could supply – I simply couldn’t keep up because I was working a full-time job.

I eventually had some of my designs produced at a screen printer and others I would craft by hand as limited edition designs.

I sold my tees at flea markets, craft shows and car shows and managed to not only enjoy it, but also make extra money on the weekends.

Car shows were quite good and offered a better return on my investment. My Inner Monster theme went well with the muscle car perception of car enthusiasts.  As a car enthusiast myself, I was enjoying this aspect of my marketing.


I also started uploading images unto Zazzle which I promote on Instagram and make some sales that way too. I’ve even graduated to making custom tees for children’s birthday parties.

I put up a website through Wix to showcase my designs but since I did it myself, and I’m not the least bit techy, I decided to take it down because I didn’t want it to represent my brand. For now, I send people to Zazzle to look at my designs but have plans to have a website made professionally.

So if your thinking about not knowing where to get started with making your crafting hobby a business, do like I did. I knew nothing except how to draw. The rest just flowed as it came to me.

I still work a full-time job but I also make a pretty decent side income in t-shirt crafting with no website. To be able to engage in my craft and get paid for it is a nice perk.

Juicy Crafting Reads

Selling at a Craft Show: 10 Things To Know Before You Go

Calling all crafters: summer selling season is here!  Yes, it’s that time of year again.  Craft shows have begun popping up all over.  Whether you plan on selling at craft shows this summer or at anytime in the future, keep reading for a list of things to know before you go.

Mes Amis Vintage Antique Show, Roseville CA April 2013

1. Registration Deadlines

All craft shows have a limited number of selling spaces, so you must register in advance for your booth space.  You’ll need to beware, since registration deadlines usually come up way in advance of the actual show dates — sometimes as early as six months in advance.

Most shows have their own web page ripe for the googling, and it’s there you’ll find all their particulars, including registration deadlines.  If you’re having a hard time finding the registration information, check with the town’s Chamber of Commerce website.  Generally, town festival information can be found there.

2. Registration Savvy

Registering for a craft show entails more than just filling out a form.  You’ll need to decide on a few items first such as:

  • What size space you’ll need; sizes usually offered are 10’x8′, 10’x10′ or sometimes 12’x12′
  • Where you want your space located geographically within the event (indoors or out?)
  • What day or days you want to participate — many require that you participate all days, but some events allow you to pick and choose certain days

3. Insurance

Some facilities/locales require that you purchase a certain amount of property and liability insurance before selling at their shows.  Some shows do provide overnight security for your merchandise.  However, it’s just plain smart to cover yourself in case of theft, liability  and/or damage to your goods.

There are commercial companies out there who offer this type of insurance at varying rates depending on what you need.  For example, you might choose to pay a lump-sum yearly fee, versus individual pay-as-you-go event fees.  It’s not uncommon to pay around $100.00 a day, or as much as $300.00 or more for a yearly policy.  If possible, talk to other vendors about how they handle it and be sure to shop around.

4. Bring A Friend

A silly as it sounds, you’ll need to bring a friend.  The friend  doesn’t  have to be an “employee,” however, they do need to be able-bodied and willing to help.  Neither merchandise nor money should ever be left unattended, so having a friend there to step in when you need a break will be helpful.

In addition, the acts of setting up and taking down your booth and all that entails will most likely require another body there to help.  Finally, some vendor contracts actually require that you work with a partner, for just those reasons.

5. What’s A Juried Show?

If a craft show is “juried,” it means that you are not guaranteed a spot at the fair.  To the contrary, a panel of judges will view your work and decide whether or not your craftsmanship has met their standards.  Be ready to submit photos of your merchandise and booth decorating style for consideration prior to the panel’s approval.

6. Fees

You’ll need to factor in those pesky fees.  The main fee will be for the actual space you’ll be taking up.  The bigger the space, the higher the fee.  Indoors will cost more than outdoors, and you’ll usually be asked to pay more for a corner space and/or a space with electricity.  And don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas to and from the show.

7.  Dress Rehearsal

If at all possible you should have a booth “dress rehearsal” prior to the show.  You can do it in your garage or backyard, whatever works for you.  This way you’ll be able to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t from a set-up standpoint, and you’re sure to have your booth looking great come the big day.

8.  Tents

We’ve all been to craft fairs and seen what sometimes appear to be endless rows of tents.  Tents are important, for many reasons.

  • They shelter you and your merchandise from the elements
  • They afford you a creative opportunity to “decorate” and put your best “brand face” forward
  • They can give the illusion of a brick-and-mortar store, or “boutique” atmosphere

Many different types of tents are available online at competitive prices, so be sure to buy the best quality tent you can afford.  You’ll be glad you did.

9. Credit Card Readers

Not all customers carry cash, so be prepared to accept credit card payment for your merchandise.  One fairly new and innovative way to do this is with a card reader.  Card readers are small, plastic devices that clip onto your smartphone and “read” the credit card, allowing you to process the transaction. Once you hook this free device up to your bank account electronically, all payments go directly into your account minus a small transaction fee.  Easy peasy.

10. Relax And Enjoy

Most crafters report high satisfaction after selling at shows, citing a strong sense of camaraderie and support between sellers.  They also cite a positive sense of satisfaction achieved from meeting and greeting their “fans” face-to-face.  Try and have fun with it.

Are You Ready?

Be sure to keep these tips in mind before jumping into the crafting season. Start small, get your feet wet, and work your way up from there.  One craft show at a time.

How To Find Local Craft Shows

needleMany Spring craft shows are already taking place around the country, and it won’t be long before the Summer season kicks into high gear. That will lead us into the Fall shows, and then the busy Winter season. I think you get my point. There really is no “break” for craft shows.

Selling crafts online is great, and for some of you, that may be your only option. But, if you can get out to some local shows, do it!  It’s a lot of fun to interact with your customers, face-to-face. Plus, there are TONS of benefits to meeting other crafty biz owners in your local area.

So, how do you find these local shows? First, start by finding your local crafters. Chances are, there is something crafty happening in a town near you. There may be something as structured as a “craft collaborative” – a group of people working together to put on shows. I live in Michigan, and there are two of these groups near me, Flint Handmade and Handmade Detroit.

Start by doing a quick Google search. If you can’t find something in your town, look to a nearby state. They may know someone who is involved in your local craft scene. For example, I know that my Columbus, Ohio pals are involved in Craftin’ Outlaws and some of my Detroit friends participate in shows put on by Handmade Toledo. Even though I don’t live in Ohio, I can certainly lead people in the right direction over there.

Once you have found a group that is somewhat local to you, ask the members if they know of any upcoming shows. Many shows have an application process. It’s not often where you can call someone the week before an event and get table space. Definitely plan ahead!

If you miss a deadline or don’t get chosen to sell at a show, don’t worry. There will be other shows! Go to the show, meet some people, find out about more shows, and keep applying.

You know the old saying about the lottery? You can’t win if you don’t play? Well, you won’t get to sell at a craft show if you don’t apply!

So keep trying!


Detroit Urban Craft Fair – Apply Now!

If you live in Michigan or the surrounding area, you may be familiar with the Detroit Urban Craft Fair. Held annually each November, this is arguably one of the largest craft fairs in the area.

This year’s event will be held on November 21 at The Majestic Theater in Detroit.  (of course it’s in Detroit, right?)

Applications are now open and will be accepted through September 11, 2009. If you would like to apply, click here.

Craft Fairs: Making a Great 1st Impression

First off, I apologize for not being here more during the summer! With school starting back next week, things are finally settling down and a routine is back in order! Hooray! Crissy, you rock girl! What an amazing job you have done with posting! And what a treasure trove of information you have given! You are a true goldmine in the industry.

Now, let’s talk about that 1st impression with setting up a booth at a craft fair! We all know the saying, “You never get a 2nd chance to make a good 1st impression”, right? Well, it rings true in selling as well! First of all, if you follow some of these same checklist items as mentioned in the “What to Bring With You” post, you’re already half-way there because you are ORGANIZED. Have your booth set up well in advance before the show begins. That way you are not scrambling at the last minute while customers are now beginning to just walk on by.

Keep your prices clearly marked. Remember my “car sales” approach? Trust me, customers want to see the price immediately and not have to guess what the price would be because some will simply just not inquire.

If possible, you may want to consider making some of your items right in front of the customers. If you are selling jewelry for example, demonstrate the process you go through to make a particular piece. This method can work in many different areas of crafting and others may truly enjoy watching! And just think, you’ll be able to get something done at the same time! But be careful not to ignore the customer while working on your project. Be flexible enough to set it aside to answer questions, visit with the customer, and showcase some of your best-sellers.

Be positive! There is no doubt that you will get some who may come into your booth and you may hear whisperings of comments such as, “Ooh…I bet I could make that myself…” or “That’s nice, but she’s asking WAY too much for it. I could get that cheaper here….” Keeping positive and upbeat will create such a great feeling in that booth and both you and the customer wins when you can maintain a pleasant and courteous demeanor….no matter what. Be a professional- you will always, always get the “nay-sayers” but more often than not, you will find customers who are just excited to be a part of this whole experience and they will appreciate the extra effort you go to in being genuine in your approach to each of them. And smile!

Cover tables with floor-length tablecloths. This makes great storage space for your extra items and keeps the booth area look nice and neat. A solid color works best so it does not distract from your hand-made items. 

Dress professionally. As mentioned before, you are a professional. Wear comfortable shoes. If you have a company name on a shirt or jacket, wear it! If not, just keeping a modest and higher end casual style in your clothing choices will make you feel even more confident and approachable.

*What other tips might you have for making a great 1st impression? What has been you experience in implementing the suggestions mentioned in this post?

Renegade Reminders

When I think of “indie craft fair” I think Renegade! One of the first events of it’s kind,  Renegade Craft Fair was first held in Chicago in 2003.  Several cities across the nation are now hosts to their own Renegade Craft Fair, including San Francisco, LA, and Brooklyn.

If you happen to be in New York, the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair is taking place this weekend, June 6 & 7 in McCarren Park. Click here for directions & more info.

If you would like to sell at Renegade Chicago, being held September 12 + 13, applications are now being accepted. Click here to apply.

You can also shop at the Renegade Handmade online store anytime of the year by visiting The store has a physical location at 1924 W. Division St in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Yay, Renegade!!