Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday was for Christmas company. Two friends I used to work with came by to see my new digs, and since we've not been together since before the holidays, we exchanged Christmas gifts. They got hand spun and knitted items and I got yarn specific goodies. It was wonderful to see them, but I wonder how we let things go so long without hanging out. We laughed ourselves stupid, ate good food, gossiped about the old days, shopped at a fabulous fabric store and had a great afternoon. Too bad for me that work got in the way and cut the day short.
I love knitting for these women. Even my early attempts at knitting were met with gushing praise from them. Last summer, after they'd worked a 12 hour midnight shift, they met me early in the morning to go see my shawl on display at the Michigan State Fair.
One of the gifts I got from my friend, Judi, was a skein of Araucania Ruca. It's multi-colored, soft as a baby's ass and made entirely from sugar cane.
So sweet, I searched and searched for the perfect single skein project and cast on this afternoon. While I've had to intersperse a little work (it is how I pay the bills around here), I've completed two repeats of the pattern and I'm liking it. A lot. But I like it for the softness of the yarn, drape, sheen and overall beauty. It gets a charge more score for its pain in the ass factor (PITAF). The yarn is slippery, hence the clover needles and because the twist seems loose, it tends to be a bit splitty.
I first read about the PITAF (my own term) when searching for how much to value the shawl I knit and donated to my own hospice agency for auction. Utilizing a formula that includes the cost of the yarn and a reasonable rate of 35 cents a yard (it would be 25 cents without PITAF), that shawl was worth about $540. It raised about half that at auction. Sad, I know.
I get several requests for items I make and ordinarily avoid committing. I'm in the business of nursing the dying, not knitting for the living. I knit for sanity...not profit. People will occasionally ask though, and go into sticker shock when I tell them how much I'd charge for an item. For instance, one woman I worked with asked me to make socks for her husband who has MS. She wanted to know what I'd charge for a pair, and I told her that she could just pay for the yarn...about $25. She about fainted at the cost for a single pair of hand knit socks, but I didn't charge her for anything else. Like time. Lots of time. And the PITA factor of the yarn. Or the fact he had big and unusual feet. Typically, if the yarn is a superwash sock yarn, there isn't much to go wrong with it. It doesn't split or fray, dropped stitches are easy to fix, and the sock wears well. His had mohair in the mix and mohair sticks. Hence, PITA factor means one should charge more. There can also be a PITA factor with a pattern. Is it lace, cables or intricate color work? Charge more. This woman's husband loved the socks so much, she asked me to make a second pair. I did not do it, because the work that went into it went unappreciated. She thought nothing of what it takes to make something of such delicate yarn and very tiny needles.
How do you put a price on what you make? I've read some sites that advise charging triple the value of the notions used. For instance, take my recent Icelandic sweater. If I were to make one for resale, I should charge around $300 for one. Nobody wants to pay that for a sweater, and I'm no TJ Maxx. There is another resource out there that recommends charging by the yard and adding the PITA factor. After all, it's about putting a value on your work, your art and your time. If you take an ordinary pair of nothing-special socks, depending on the intricacy of the pattern and the cost of the yarn, the actual value of hand knitting a pair is north of $75 And don't ask me what to charge if the item is made of hand spun yarn. I haven't a clue. Do you?
Therefore, I have a pretty steadfast policy on what I'll do with requests to make somebody something special just for them. I ordinarily don't. Never say never though, because once in a blue moon, I do.
What I prefer is to make something for someone because I want to and because they appreciate my work, time, talent and the costs involved. My best friend, Fannie, will get an Icelandic sweater. Not because I love her, which I do, but because she is so enthusiastic when she gets something from my needles or my wheel. Sara is a frequent recipient of my goods because she adores them--even the flops. And Judi...well she will get a scarf made of sugar. Mainly because she's sweet, but primarily because she thought of me when she picked out yarn, but somehow, the color of the skein and texture of the fibers spoke to her. It'll be my needles that turn it into something for her to treasure.
Do you make knitted items for sale?
If you sell your hand knits, how do you put a price on them?