Valuing the Handmade
We've talked quite a bit about how this is the time of year when many of us are in a hurry to finish those handmade presents for our loved ones.
This is also the time of year when we talk about those who are knit (or crochet or weave) worthy and those who are not. (For simplicity sake, we're just going to use "knit worthy" for the rest of this blog post.)
Now, because some people have misunderstood the meaning of knit worthy and thought that it means those who are worthy of learning the craft, let's be clear. In our discourse community, knit worthy means that the recipient of the handmade item is worthy of the present. There are a myriad of jokes and memes about people who have proven themselves to not be knit worthy--those who complain about having to properly care for said handmade item; those who lose said handmade item; those who regift said handmade item; those who somehow destroy said handmade item; those who make really thoughtless comments about the color or style of said handmade item; or those who commit the ultimate error: telling the gifter they could get something similar from a store for less money.
When someone doesn't appreciate our heartfelt, handmade presents, it hurts. When someone thinks they can buy our handmade work without proper compensation for said work, though, it can make us angry.
Okay. Let me rephrase. It makes me angry because it suggests that people don't value the time, the material cost, or the personal investment in the making of the item. So, while this is the time of year when we make for the knit worthy or we decide to never again make for someone who has lost their knit worthy status, it's also the time of year when some people try to solicit our making so that they can give to others without properly compensating us.
I'll give you an example: Every now and then someone will come into the shop and will not only inquiry but become a little pushy about about wanting to purchase the samples that are hanging around. While I cannot sell them because of copyright concerns and, in truth, I didn't make them for someone else, I also highly doubt that someone would want to pay me what the sample would actually cost because there are so many more factors than simply the cost of materials.
Let's break it down.
Take the Esme sweater in Lucky Tweed that's a shop favorite. That particular sweater took about seven skeins of yarn to complete. At $20 per skein, that's $140 in just yarn. Now, if you Google how long it takes to knit a sweater, some people will try to tell you that on average it would take about 20 - 40 hours. Let's be realistic, though. If you are knitting without trying to injure yourself because you've already suffered through tennis elbow, shoulder strain, and carpal tunnel, and you're working on a pattern that has a chart and a sweater that requires seaming (both of which are required for the Esme sweater), you're probably looking at closer to 60 - 70 hours if not longer. And, then, let's say you value your time at least a little bit along with your physical well being and you think that maybe $10/hour is relatively fair, then you're looking at $600 - 700 just for your time. So this cardigan, that you labored over, would run around $740 - 840 to cover materials AND your time. I'm fairly certain that most people wouldn't want to pay that kind of money for a sweater. Incidentally, I'm lowballing the cost of the labor because knitting is skilled labor, and skilled laborers generally make $16.57/hour as of December 1, 2022, which means labor would go up to $994.20 - 1,159.90, plus the cost of material. (For the record, I do believe that handknitting, crocheting, and weaving ought to be compensated as skilled labor and not as an afterthought/tacked on expense to the cost of material.)
And yet, I would be a very wealthy person if I had a nickle for every time someone tried to convince me to make them something just because they think I'd be "nice" and do it for free or for a $20 bill.
It's one thing to make something for someone because you care about them and you want to give of yourself, but it's another thing entirely when someone undervalues your making.