kira makes a long ramble: why I don’t (generally) sell my knitting

Featherweight Cardigan Gauge Swatch

While I have this in my head: why I don’t sell my knitting.

This weekend, while talking with a friend, I mentioned about how it is extremely hard to sell knitting (or other craft/art) for what it is actually worth, and therefore I generally don’t sell my work. I gave an estimation as to what my asking price would be for the shawl I’m currently making: at least $300. Which I would be unlikely to get.

But let’s break it down, with this shawl as an example, since I’ve done all the math already.
First there’s the cost of supplies. There’s the consumables: the yarn (2 skeins of Knit Picks Preciosa, 100% Merino Wool) at $29 (including shipping/handling).

What about the tools used? Stitch markers (set of 35 for $4, I’m using 4, so let’s say $0.45; nominal cost, so I’m not going to even include it) and the needles. II’m using a US8 circular needles from a set of addi Click Lace Long Tip Interchangeables, bought for $134 in 2014 (which, btw, is a fantastic investment if you like to knit lace, or are looking for a set of interchangeables with sharp tips), and with the additional purchase of longer cords to accommodate more stitches (like for a shawl) for $34, for a total of $168.

But, wait, you say — you have been using those needles since 2014 and didn’t have to buy them specifically for this project. Okay, sure. But they were an initial cost/investment and these specific needles allow me to knit more quickly than other (cheaper) options. The interchangeable aspect allows me to have the full set on hand for whatever combination of needle tips and cords that I need. Since oftentimes, you have to get a specific size needle depending on the project and yarn required.

Since I’m only using one circular needle, let’s say I didn’t get the full kit. Let’s look up the cost for the single circular needle with the same size cord: US8 w/ 32″ cord is currently on sale, luck day, for $13.60 (regularly $17) and we’ll ignore s/h. We’ll even round down, so we have $29 (yarn) and $13 (needles) for a cost of $42 in supplies.

Now, I have calculated roughly about how long it will take me to knit this shawl: 42.25 hours. This is based on an average speed of 3.35 seconds per stitch (on these specific needles, because speed varies on your tools) and 45,349 stitches total. This total time does not include re-reading instructions, checking stitch count, etc; no breaks, just the amount of time actually stitching, if I am able to keep up pace (not accounting for fatigue, hand cramps, etc).

Let’s use the minimum wage in VA ($7.25/hr) to calculate the least amount of cost for my time, coming out to about $306. This is just the cost of my time, at minimum wage — not accounting for how valuable my time actually is, nor the amount of time it took to learn and hone my skills, which let me work more quickly. (If I were to give myself a more skill-appropriate wage, it obviously would be much higher, still.)

So, we are up to $42 in supplies, and $306 in minimum wage work, for a current total of $348. We’ve already surpassed my rough estimate. But wait! There’s more.
What are we knitting? A shawl. Well, we had to get the pattern from somewhere (and it has to be a pattern that the creator allows items made from it to be sold). The upside: I designed this pattern myself, and therefore grant myself permission to sell the shawl made from the pattern. Yay, me!

The downside to designing the pattern: additional time, skill and costs! I had to research stitch patterns (using my personal resource library of stitch dictionaries, books ranging from $15-$30 each — how many books did I even look at? I don’t know), but let’s disregard that and say I researched at the library or using online stitch dictionaries. There was a lot of graph paper and pencil charting, ultimately leading to the purchase of the knit chart editing software Stitchmastery (about $88), which tremendously sped up the process. How much time did I take to design the pattern, and again, how much is that time worth, based on the skills needed to do this? You know, I have no bloody idea how long it took, nor what rate I would assign myself as a knit-designer. In the development of a good pattern though, I would also enlist the assistance of a Tech Editor and Test Knitters, to ensure the pattern is of good quality and free of mistakes. However, I am attempting to act as my own Tech Editor and Test Knitter, as I am trying to meet a deadline.

So instead, let’s say that I “bought” said pattern for $8 (a totally reasonable price for a knitting pattern of this complexity/skill level). Total up to $356.
Now to list the item on a popular site for selling handcrafted items. Looks like the listing price on Etsy is $0.20 per item, with a selling fee of 3.5%, and to use PayPal, it is $0.30 per transaction and 2.9% of the transaction amount. Additional costs to me, that I would either have to eat or boost the price of the item to account for that. But, that’s also hoping that someone would come across the item and want to purchase it. The market is oversaturated; I would need to stand out somehow.

Well, first would be to get fantastic photos, because shitty photography would kill a sale. This either means hiring (or in my case, bartering a trade with) a photographer (with lights, camera, studio/location, skills, shooting time, postprocessing time, editing software costs) or taking images myself (again, needing tools and the knowledge for making great images, each with their own costs).

There might also be a model to showcase the item, since a styled image with model is more interesting than on a mannequin, which… I don’t have. (But if I did? It would cost, too.) Model costs? Depends. I’m enlisting friends, and well, you can’t put a price on friendship. Lol. Just kidding. Considerations for costs of models are time, effort, styling (hair/makeup/additional wardrobe), and model fees, if applicable.

Other ways to stand out include the possibility of promoted listings (variable costs), sponsored ads (variable costs), offering promotions and discounted sales, and doing a lot of marketing/promoting on social media sites (which requires time, etc).

All of those costs listed above are variable, depending on your item’s list price, promotional skills, and if you can pay off your photographer with cookies. 😛

One of the additional problem with this oversaturated market is the “hobby” sellers — people who consider their work as a hobby, something they do in their spare time, and therefore underprice their items based on what they *think* people would be willing to pay for them. They are, in their minds, competing with big business — where you can easily buy a scarf for less than $10-$15. So, in many cases, the sellers dramatically underprice their items, barely even covering material costs.

But kira, you say. You LIKE to knit. Yes. Yes, I do. But my time is worth something.

Then there are other costs, such as packaging and shipping (possibly eating that cost, if I want to boost sales by offering “free shipping”). General overhead. Bookkeeping, scheduling, responding to customer emails. Etc. The ever-elusive costs of creativity, craftsmanship, and artistry.

So, yeah. I wouldn’t even consider selling that shawl for less than $300, which would still be underselling it. And I don’t really see myself getting that asking price, and I refuse to devalue my work, time, and skills by severely undercharging, especially when that also devalues other artists and crafters as well. So, in general, I don’t sell my knits.

And of further note, I really winds me up when I see other artists and crafters underselling their work as well. Because, if you are undercharging for your time and efforts, it causes the general public to undervalue it as well. People often aren’t able to see all the hidden costs of what goes into making something handmade, and if you price something lower than what it’s worth, then they apply that thought process to how they value other handmade items. Just because something is out of their price range, doesn’t mean that it is priced incorrectly.

[whoa there, long ramble…]

-x

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