Saturday, 17 March 2012

Seeing Red

A knitting forum post has got my blood boiling.  A knitter has been asked by a friend of a friend to knit an aran jumper.  Her question:  "I normally add a nominal charge for knitting but this is a complicated pattern,  what do you think would be reasonable price per ball?".

The implications in that innocent question have made me see red. In one short sentence, that knitter has summed up what is wrong with the way our mutual craft is perceived.  Instead of it being seen as something that requires concentration, skill and many hours of labour, "it's only knitting"(!) and, therefore, not worth anything.  Knitting is sneered at for being "home made" or "hand made".  It's perceived as women's work or a hobby, something that is done for the enjoyment of the craft, but second rate because anyone can do it if they put their mind to it. 

(I'm an accountant.  Anyone can book-keep in their spare time and charge £20/hour for the privilege and nobody would think twice.  It doesn't require as much skill as knitting.  Or as much time.)

What really annoys me is that craftspeople won't charge a proper price for their work.  Instead, they consistently under-charge, which adds to the reason why home-made and hand-made are so undervalued.  When you're selling something crafted with your labour, you should charge for your labour and be properly rewarded. Why undervalue your time?  It is as valuable as anyone-else's.  You are providing a service, like any other tradesman and should charge accordingly.  Minimum wage in this country is currently £6.08 an hour.  My advice to the knitter was to work out how many hours it'd take to knit the jumper, multiply that by minimum wage and charge accordingly.  (Adding in the cost of materials, of course.)   I doubt she'll follow my advice because it will work out to many hundreds of Pounds and she won't think her work is worth that.

Charging £500 for the time it takes to knit a jumper is reasonable, in my opinion.  There are plenty of women out there who'd pay £100 for a screen-printed silk scarf which can be produced in its thousands. (Hermes, anyone?)  Every hand knitted garment is unique;  why not charge accordingly?

"But nobody can afford to pay £500 for a jumper!", I hear you splutter.  So?  I can't afford to waste £500 worth of my time producing something for you that you don't value.  If I give you something I've made, then you better bloody appreciate it!

- Pam


amy said...

This is why I don't sell knitting. If I agree to knit something for somebody (and I rarely do requests), it's because I want to, and it's a gift, and I say so. If I don't want to, I'll happily offer to teach the person to knit. :)

Ishtar said...

Yeah. Every time I make something small and kinda cool, people are astonished that I give it away instead of selling it. But trying to sell it for what it's really worth is annoying.

Recently, I modified a bag pattern and made one for a friend.

Another friend was all, "Wow, you could sell those!"

Well, yes, I could. How much would you pay for it?

"I don't know, about $10?"

Yeah, I could sell it for $10. The materials cost approximately $8. That's $2.00 for my 10 or so hours of work or about 20 cents an hour.

Does that sound cost-effective?