Category: knitting

kira makes a stack of design swatches

Designing Swatches

Since I can’t show you progress on the shawl, I figured I’d show some of the design process. A stack of swatches (in worsted weight cotton I had laying around — not what I’m actually using!) to test different arrangements/patterns/stitches.

On the plus side, I have realized that shawl is becoming larger more quickly than I was anticipating, so reducing the amount of row repeats, making overall pattern smaller and also theoretically less time to knit. Working on it steadily, hoping to keep on schedule.


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…]


kira makes her second trip to the Powhatan Festival of Fiber

kira with sheep (instagram: @lolspeak)
(photo by Dylan)

Last year, I went to the Powhatan Festival of Fiber by myself, on a gloomy, drizzly day. This year, my party increased by 3! Woo.

Powhatan Fiber Festival - Alpacas

We saw alpacas, and sheeps, and bunnehs.

Powhatan Fiber Festival - Chicken

There was a very large and incredibly grumpy looking chicken.
I have less pictures than last time, because I was being social(!). Hah…

We wandered the vendor booths, meandering from stall to stall, each of us trying to find our small score for the day. (Boo, budgets!)

There was an amazing 50% yak/50% silk blend roving by Kim Dyes Yarn, in two gorgeous colorways (a somewhat jewel-toned rainbow and a lovely blues-and-greens mermaid color). I snuggled up to it multiple times, even dragging Lauren over to it later, but I’m still attempting to resist the lure of spinning. (Because… face it, I don’t need another hobby, with all it’s tools and trappings. At least, for right now.) Sadly, there wasn’t any of it already spun up, otherwise that might have been my yarn.

Somewhat ironically, after scouring all the booths, I returned, yet again, to the Unplanned Peacock booth — and purchased the exact same yarn I got at last year’s festival, in a different colorway. I guess I know what I like!

Unplanned Peacock - Kinky Sock - Butterscotch

Unplanned Peacock, Kinky Sock, in Butterscotch. I’m not sure what I plan to make from it, but I’ve been drooling over shawls in yellow.

And, I think I finally know how I’m going to use my other skein of Kinky Sock (colorway Frog) from last years festival. The second lace shawl design I’ve been dreaming up; I think I might swatch it with this and see how it looks!

Altogether, a fun time. And I have next year’s festival already on my calendar!


kira makes yet another yarn purchase

I originally played around with the idea of designing a shawl in order to use up some lonely skeins in my stash. However, the yarn has been discontinued and if I want to try to submit the pattern for publication, then I need to use “commercially available” yarn.

So… I should just buy more yarn, right? Haha…

Cyntaf Yarn

The yarn has arrived. Knit Pick Preciosa, in Goldfish.

Now to see if I can knit a worsted weight lace shawl in less than one month. (Since I need to also photograph it before deadline.) The race is on.


kira makes the transition from analogue to digital: knitting charts

I’ve been designing all night and all day, with pencil-smudged graph paper and eraser crumbs scattered all over. (Literally. Designed the night away!)

Finally decided to buy Stitchmastery. After reviewing several different knitting chart editing programs, I selected Stitchmastery. Knitty officially uses Stitchmastery for all their charting needs, so I figured that was a pretty good endorsement.


So far, it’s looking to be a excellent investment, if one is interested in designing knit charts. And since I’ve apparently caught the knit-lace-shawl-designing bug, it’s looking like I’ll be using it a fair amount. It has a lot of great features — one of my favorites is the stitch validation: it tracks how many stitches are consumed and produced by each row and compares it to the previous and following rows. And if they don’t match, the program warns you so that you can double check your chart! It saves so much time from doing that by hand.

Another feature I love is that it automatically generates written instructions based on the charts, including condensing information into repeats. I’m still exploring all the aspects of the program, but it seems to be pretty great so far. Hopefully, it will pay for itself… I have plans in the works! (Unfortunately, can’t say much about them, but fingers crossed.)


kira makes charts

knitting chart

I’d much rather be working on this than working. Lace and cable knit shawl design!

Though, after thinking more about what I want this dream-shawl to look like, I think I am going to try to make a “simpler” shawl to start with. Since I haven’t designed anything before, and I don’t want to be overly ambitious and bite off more than I can chew.

This second-but-now-first shawl is more geometric than organic/botanical. I have been thinking about either offering it as a for-purchase Ravelry download or trying to submit it for publication somewhere.

Downside of publications is that I can’t show any pictures of it online, if I want to submit it. Boooo… But, it would be amazing if it was accepted for publication.

And, if it’s not accepted, then I can post all the pictures I want, and offer it as a self-published pattern. Independent knit designer, what?


kira makes Little Arrowhead Shawl, revisited

The weather lately has been indecisive.

First it’s warm and Spring-like (even sometimes downright hot), but then it will switch and turn chilly. In order to combat the fickleness of the changing season, I’ve taken to wearing my Little Arrowhead Shawl.

Despite having made it in… late 2012?, I hadn’t really worn it often. I think it was my first (or possibly second) lace shawl. I like lace shawls, conceptually and in the creation process, but hadn’t quite figured out how to wear them.

Previously, I only had pictures of the shawl from when it was blocking: Attempt #1, where the bind-off edge was too tight, and Ziggy was “helping”; and Attempt #2, after I re-worked the bind-off edge, and re-blocked it (sans-Ziggy).

But since I was wearing it fairly often, I finally snapped a pic of the shawl being worn.

Little Arrowhead Shawl

This shawl has been great for the fluctuating temperatures. It is warm, but not too warm. The yarn is smooth and soft. It is a now-discontinued DK yarn (Spa) from the Naturally Caron line from Caron, made of microdenier acrylic and rayon from bamboo. I have another skein of this yarn in pale yellow (Soft Sunshine), that now I am pondering working up into another lace shawl, since I’ve been wearing this one so much lately.

Sooo, I pull up Ravelry, and look at my options. I immediately spot one that looks good… and see that it is the Little Arrowhead Shawl pattern, again. Hah.. well, apparently I know what I like. But, I want to try another pattern, since I’ve already made that one. Variety!

Soooooo, I browse other options of thicker weight lace shawls, because I want to use bigger needles and take a break from laceweight and sockweight yarns. Looking at patterns until it dawns on me: I COULD MAKE MY OWN PATTERN for a lace triangle shawl.

WAIT, brain. What? Stopppp! …not only are you not supposed to be starting yet another project, but… designing one?

Needless to say.. I’m totally planning on looking through my lace stitch dictionaries when I get home.

(Not like I don’t already have a lace shawl on the needles (*cough*Mirkwood*cough*)… But this one would be a much quicker knit! I haven’t really picked Mirkwood back up since the cat-astrohpe. One day I’ll get around to finishing it. One day…)


kira makes a string of expletives

I had to reset my phone, and everything was fine.

tally counter pro

…until I realized this morning that my Tally Counter Pro app was deleted. Meaning that I now don’t know what row I am on in the Mirkwood Shawl, the Featherweight Cardigan, and the Crocodile Stitch booties (a project I think I’m starting over anyway). Boo, technology failures!

(However, now from blog post title, I want to somehow craft a “string of expletives”… *ponders*)