Nearly every knitter I know hears the following at some point of their hobby: “Can you make me a ____?” “You should sell your knitting/crochet!” “How much would you charge me for ____?” 90% of the time, my reaction tends to be the following:
Mind you, I always feel kind of like a giant bitch about it. I really do absolutely love giving people handmade things. But often, in today’s world where we import things made overseas for pennies to sell for $5 at Walmart, people don’t really understand the time and money that goes into making something for someone. There’s a concept in the knitting world of someone being “knit worthy” – meaning they’re worth the cost of the yarn and the hours and hours of work that goes into making an item for them. Honestly? There are a lot of people who do not fit the knit worthy description.
With all the above in mind, I decided on a little bit of an experiment with a pair of socks I wanted to make. I’ve never actually tracked the hours my projects take because there’s never a need – it’s a hobby, after all, and something I do because I love it. But being a business owner, also, I decided to try to get some cold, hard facts on my time spent knitting so I could explain the true cost of knitting a little bit better instead of just rudely dismissing someone’s knitting request.
So on February 1st I got myself sorted with my snacks and drink, turned on my toggl timer and cast on. I made a simple rule with myself that I couldn’t knit on these socks sporadically throughout the day like I normally do with my knitting – I had to sit down and make a point to knit them without interruptions, and if I took a break I had to shut the timer off. Nearly each night, after dinner, I’d settle in on the couch and knit and knit and knit on this sock until last night, February 5th, I cast off.
One sock took me 7.5 hours. SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS.
Now, I’d like to point out some variables that could change the timing – I did a very basic 4×1 rib pattern with 3 little cables at the top of the sock and those cables take up extra time. If I were to just do a totally, entirely plain sock (meaning some ribbing at the cuff and plain knitting the rest of the way, which I can practically knit in my sleep after 9 years of knitting) my time would decrease because I’d have to pay attention less to moving my yarn and making a different stitch every 5 stitches. If I did something more fancy/pretty (Niagara River socks, for example), my knitting time would drastically increase because that pattern is much more complicated to make and therefore requires more attention to the pattern rows to ensure the design turns out. I’d also argue that if I had uninterrupted knitting time – meaning I didn’t have to stop to go to bed – I could probably knock a sock out a bit faster because my fingers would already be warmed up and in the flow.
So let’s do a little math here: Let’s say someone asked me to make THIS pair of socks for them. If one sock took me 7.5 hours, that means the pair will take 15 hours. Ohio’s minimum wage is $8.10, so multiply that out and we’re at $121.50 for bare labor alone. The yarn itself cost me $22.50 because it’s a really lovely hand-dyed yarn from a Star Wars-themed yarn club I purchased from HaldeCraft. So our grand total just to make the socks – not counting any kind of profit mark up – is $144.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone willing to pay nearly $150 for a single pair of socks. And this is the problem with selling handmade items. It is nearly impossible to sell a hand knit item for what it’s worth and make a living. If you were to try to make a legit business out of it and make a living, you’d have to charge those high prices. And if you’re just doing it for fun to try to make a “little bit of extra money” you’re not only severely undercharging, but you’re also doing a huge disservice to every other crafter/artist out there because you’re perpetuating the concept of cheap handmades. Why would someone buy my socks for $144+ when someone a few booths down is selling socks for $40? This doesn’t even take into consideration the costs involved to market the items – either via online or by attending various craft shows, which would require travel, booth fees, etc.
As consumers, we’re all looking at the bottom line when it comes to our wallets but we’re not looking at what is fair or right (which is just as true for hand made goods as it is for the clothing we buy at the stores made in 3rd world countries under piss poor conditions). We argue that we want more goods made here in the USA but don’t want to pay what it costs to get that. We expect people to work a job – any job – to try to provide for themselves otherwise they’re deemed lazy moochers, and yet when people are trying to make a living doing something made with their own two hands we turn up our noses at their prices because we’re spoiled on cheap imported goods. We don’t look at the quality of the craftsmanship, or the quality of the materials, or the relationship we have directly with the producer – we simply look at what comes out of our bank account.
And that’s why I don’t sell what I make.