Every knitter I know has been asked at least once... "Will you knit a hat/sweater/scarf/pair of socks for me?"
All knitters, when asked this question, hold their breath for the inevitable next bit... "I'll pay."
I recently had a very nice email from someone in Australia - probably found me through a google search - asking if I could help him find someone to knit him socks. Socks like his grandmother used to make. "Price not really an object."
I tweeted about this, and got some amusing responses. Yup, we'll all been there.
Most sensible knitters simply provide a rough estimate of the number of hours required to knit such a thing, and the conversation stops dead. Some knitters I know quote a (seemingly) outrageous amount - $1000! - to much the same effect.
But you know, $1000 isn't far off for a sweater.
An average pair of socks, by the average knitter, in average sock yarn takes on the order of 10-15 hours. Multiply that by a reasonable hourly rate - $15 an hour, let's say - and that's $150 to $225 in knitting time. Then add yarn - $25 for something nice.
$175-$250 for a pair of socks.
A sweater can be 40 hours knitting. That's $600 for the time. And then a sweater's worth of yarn is $100 or more. So we're at $700. Then factor in things like opportunity cost (Christmas is coming and by making this sweater for you I'm sacrificing key gift-making hours), cost of needles you have to buy, and the coffee and chocolate you'll need to push through a deadline project - and all of a sudden $1000 doesn't look insane.
I don't begrudge a non-knitter asking the question. It's reasonable enough. After all, it wouldn't occur to someone that knitting could be so slow. You can see the incredulous look on the faces of the muggles... WHAT? This is a sensible use of time?
At this point, I usually just smile and remark that it's a labour of love.
All that having been said, many of my friends and students know that I'm currently knitting a scarf for someone to give as a gift to someone else. The person who asked me to knit it likely hasn't the faintest idea how much work is going into it - and in this case, that's ok. I love both of them (the requestor and the giftee) and it means a lot to me to do it.
(You know who you are - damn right you're taking me out for a meal, though ;-) )