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?


Joanna said...

It's like all art Rudee. No price can be put on it. It's not about the cost per hour, it's about the beauty and the love. No price can be put on that. If you enjoy doing it then it's all good, right? The rest is just a bonus. PS: I love the colors of that 'sugar' yarn.

Ruth said...

I give away most of what I knit - acrylic blankets to good causes to keep people warm, baby blankets for my grandbabies. I knitted a simple shwal that was meant to be for me but I didn't like it so gave it to My Zonta Club to auction it raised $80 - had $50 worth of yarn in it. Was sort of happy with the amount raised. Currently I am kniting cardigans for my grandbabies and a friends then back to the chartiy blankets with a few scarves thrown in with smaller amounts of yarn - I will knit up anything I am given to give away- Will never knit requests cos I knit to relax and don't like time frames.
Catching up with friends is so hard- time just goes so fast I try hard to keep up with everyone I want to but time slips by.

Rose said...

No I don't sell and for exactly the same reasons. I don't want to turn it into work. And I don't like knitting to spec either, I've done it and it makes me cranky if someone doesn't like it (by which I mean if they make ANY even slightly critical remark). I only knit for people I want to and you're right, the people who gush will get more than the people who don't! And I have a sort of sliding scale for the baby gifts: a coworker I don't know well gets a hat but the more I like the person, the bigger the knitting committment! When my students see me knitting socks and ask me for a pair, I tell them it would cost them $50 and then explain why. Another knitter I know said she only knits socks for people she sleeps with, which is also an interesting way to put it!!

laurie said...

sorry i haven't been around lately---crazy busy. but i wanted to say congratulations on leo! and how sweet of you to name a dog after my dad!

and re his eating too fast--boscoe used to do that. there are a couple of tricks, one of which is hand-feeding, which takes forever but helps you bond.

another is this: you can buy a dish that has little rubbery obstacles in the bottom so that the dog has to eat around them. we tried the tennis-ball-in-the-dish obstacle but boscoe was way too smart and simply took the ball out of the dish and set it aside (and then gave us a LOOK).

but the dishes that have these obstacles build in them are very good at slowing a dog's eating.
you can buy one at sit stay dot com.

good luck

Stephanie V said...

I totally agree on the knitting for others. I will knit for the cost of the yarn for friends who appreciate the hours put into the actual knitting. But mostly I knit for me. If I have time, I'll knit socks to donate to our seniors' craft table. I put a price of $15. These are usually plain and not the more expensive sock yarns.

I do sell my hand-hooked rugs, though. There is a kind of marketplace 'price list' for that. Of course, there's no way that your time is actually covered. As Joanna said - it never is.

And, it does become work if you have to do what other folks want all the time. I prefer to make what I want. If I choose to offer it for sale then I have to hope it's what someone wants.

Middle Aged Woman said...

I'd stick with what you are doing. Why add the pressure of what you HAVE to knit, instead of what you WANT to knit, and WHEN you want to do it.

debra said...

You know that I don't knit, Rudee, but that I make other things. And people always ask how long it takes to make object X. The real answer is that it has taken my whole life to make this piece. I bring all the experiences of my life to this moment in time, and this is what happened. Clay and glazes are cheap. Skill, experience and heart are not.No apologies given. And after a lot of years doing this, the price is almost intuitive.

Brenda said...

I have loved hand made items since I was in the 7th grade. My first Home economics class taught me how to sew and embroider and I fell in love with all things made with love. When I got into making quilts, I always had to laugh at the people that would occasionally ask me if I had any extras that I wanted to sell cheap. People that don't do these things have no idea the PITA they can be, just like life sometimes. When you really love somethimg or someone though you hang in there most times and see it through. Wow...I am feeling weird today...spouting off all this. Ha....Your post must have inspired some inner feelings for me about handmade items. I agree with you about only making things for people who really appreciate them...and only doing what you really enjoy doing. These things are not to made for a profit most of the time. Like you said they would have a very high price tag on them. Only for the rich. I just can't tell you how excited I am to see so many younger women who knit and quilt. I was so afraid it was becoming a lost art. Glad you had a great days with your friends!

NCmountainwoman said...

Somehow I feel that I have put too much of myself into a knitting project to sell it. I have donated items for charity auctions, but never gave a thought of selling anything. Perhaps I would change my mind set if I knew from the beginning I was making something to sell.

I love the sugar cane yarn. Not surprisingly, it works and feels very much like bamboo which I also love to work with.

Miss T said...

I knit a sweater for pay once. Once. I gave the client a good estimate up front of exactly what it would cost, and she STILL bitched about the price, despite my estimate being dead on, and despite the fact that she was happy with the sweater. I'll never do it again. Not worth it.

Rudee said...

Joanna, this yarn is gorgeous.

Ruth, I'm so envious you have little ones to knit for.

Rose, I have someone who likes to point out that I never knit anything for her. She also tells me I'm rude when I pull out my wheel to spin or my knitting and company is in the home. I can visit and do either, so I don't feel it's rude to watch them watch television when they're in my home.

Stephanie, I don't like it when it's work. It takes the fun out of it. Charity knitting is different.

Brenda, I think people think our knitting and quilting is quaint and thus, not art. Humph!
Debra, having purchased and received your art, I can vouch that it is worth every penny!
MAW, exactly!

Laurie, he is starting to slow down a bit by adding water to his food. This way, he'll be at less risk for bloat.

NCMW, this yarn is fussy, but scrumptious. It does remind me of bamboo, too.

Miss T, a sweater? She bitched about the cost of a sweater? I would have taken it back right then and there.

SkippyMom said...

Yeah, Rudee but just because people watch TV while you visit doesn't mean it isn't rude. I find that to be extremely rude. Why would you care to watch someone watch TV while visiting?

And I simply subtley in this post! So cute :D - but I have to say - I have only been out of the hospital one week and I go back friday and having prepared two seperate shipments of soap while waiting on the socks to be finished I just haven't really felt up to packing yet another batch and it isn't something my family can do.

Hopefully the treatments they plan on giving me this next week will give me some strength, energy [and the ability to walk would be nice] - I just thought that you understood I have been in pretty bad shape the past few months and socks haven't been on my mind so much. As I told you when we started talking about a swap is that I understood all the work and love you put in your artwork and that I would've paid your price but you desired soap instead - which is great!

My wish is that I get better this go around so I can spend time with my family [in an area other than a bed] walk my dogs - well heck, just walk and get some of my energy back - then I will certainly put "send soap to Rudee" on the top of list, 'kay? And you will have my address. Alrighty?

Mrs. G. said...

I couldn't sell anything I knit...too uneven, and I hate counting stitches. But I love the idea of being a good knitter.

Rudee said...

Skippy, you're reading between lines that aren't there. Feel better.

Anonymous said...

Oh heavens what a conundrum to be in. Many many years ago when I did not work for awhile, I decided to sew for others. I was sewing for my daughters then. It was amazing how surprised folks were at what I needed to charge to make it worth while. No one understands. Same way when I did massage therapy, but I was taught to not dishonor your work with love prices. They just take it or leave it. Honor your work.

Devon said...

Last year I made an intricate knit and beaded cuff bracelet. The supplies were about $10. It sold at a silent auction for my kids school for $40.

I appreciate what you are saying. It is so funny how people see things I have knit and ignorantly suggest I could make good money selling them. They are always shocked when I tell them the cost of the yarn alone.

By the way, I am knitting the same wave scarve you show in the picture on this post. I'm knitting it in hand dyed silk. I'm surprised how long it is taking!

Rudee said...

Devon, if it were wool, it would fly. It's the slippery fiber that's making it seem like forever. Well, that and I've ripped sections out a couple of times...

Miss 376 said...

The colour is fabulous, hope it the PITAF is forgotten when you've finished.

Rositta said...

I have never sold a knitted item nor will I ever do so. I have though knit many things for friends and relatives who appreciate them. Hand knits are difficult to price. I have sold my pottery items because they are fairly simple to price. There's also a really good profit factor. Special orders are always a little tricky though. I love that sugar yarn and the scarf will be sweet...ciao