Thursday, November 12, 2009

Price No Object/Labours of Love

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 ;-) )


marlie said...

Such a good point! I was recently asked by my aunt to knit her a sweater for Christmas, and I had to let her down gently.

I AM knitting all of my Christmas gifts, but everyone is getting a pat, cowl, or mittens, since I can knit them up pretty quickly, and I don't need ridiculous amounts of yarn for any of these projects.

But my poor aunt looked so sad and downtrodden when I told her that she wouldn't be getting a sweater, since I haven't finished the one that I started for myself in MARCH, and that a sweater takes FOREVER to knit, even without time-outs from it.

I did console her by saying that *maybe* she'd get one for her birthday in September. ;)

Anyway, I love your blog! Can't wait to see the big pink squid-like object when it's finished!

marlie said...

P.S. My dad IS getting a scarf. He's the only one though. I'm such a Daddy's girl!

Northmoon said...

I've knit a pair of socks for a non-family member once. She paid for the wool. I didn't mind, since I'm a process knitter and I knit socks all the time on the streetcar so it didn't take time away from my big projects.

I don't encourage this type of thing now though. My project que has grown quite long, let alone all my fav's on Ravelry.

My mother's been hinting for a sweater so she may get my February Lady for Christmas.

Kelene said...

Marlono I too am knitting all my xmas gifts.. but fairly new at this.. I have made the mistake of promising to make sweaters for my kids.. and neice... silly me.. this will not happen next yr.. and I love them to pieces ... I am feeling some pressure here...

Virginia Ruth said...

I made the mistake of agreeing to make a gift for someone else to give to someone else. It is finally, finally done, and I have vowed never again (unless, as you say, the circumstances are such that I'd be happy to do it anyway.)

When I'm talking with people about the time and money aspect of knitting, I make sure to compare it to other hobbies: "You'd spend that much on rock climbing/video games/whatever. The pretty knitted item at the end is just a perk." Of course it's more complicated than that, but it's the best way I can get people to understand why I'd spend 15 hours making a pair of socks.

Sel and Poivre said...

Whenever someone (aside from my husband and kids) asks me to knit them something I quickly say "sure!", just get me the wool and the pattern you want - there are lots on line to choose from." I offer to take care of the needles. I then warn them that good quality yarn will be more expensive than they imagine so they should prepare themselves for that - because I know they wouldn't want me to make them something from sub standard material. I even give them suggestions of local yarn shops they might well want to visit.

After that I may or may not tell them where I am in my own project list and so when I might be able to get to their piece.

I have never had anyone do the requisite leg work and bring me yarn and pattern. Frankly, if they did do all that work and were willing to be patient, I would happily knit them something - it might take me out of my normal comfort zone and with them paying for the yarn, I think it would probably be worth it - especially for a friend or relation.

curlysheep said...

Thanks so much for commenting on this topic with your post!

I must say that anything handmade comes from my heart and it is a real turn off when I am asked (especially by people I am not so close to) to make them something specific and they are very picky about what it is.

It's true that knitting takes far longer than it appears to produce something fine and nice and I am constantly knitting gifts for others and teaching friends/colleagues how to knit their projects whenever I am asked. I work long hours a day and knitting only during my few hours of spare time a week, so I have no problems turning requests down.

I have a line that I am always prepared to use.. I smile shyly and say, "I'm sorry, but knitting 'by request' is something that I actually don't do." I go on to say, "I am fine helping you get started with a project you want to do if I can be of help in that way, but there just aren't enough hours in a day for me to take on additional knitting projects. I'm really sorry." My response is certainly to the point and as politely put as I am able to while letting them down.

TracyKM said...

When someone asks me to knit something for them, I get non-committal and say "I'll think about it" or just "Uh huh". But when I hear someone say "I could really use a new hat" to someone else, or in a non-knitting sort of context, I'm quick to knit them a hat as a surprise. I don't give a lot of Christmas gifts in general, and very few knitted ones, but I do like giving gifts throughout the year. I just hate being asked outright to knit something because then, yes, it becomes a 'job' instead of pleasure.

V (of the lopi baby sweaters) said...

Kate, Kate.... Just one meal? Please tell me that there will be steak involved, or at least it will be at a seriously overpriced restaurant. Your socks are AMAZING.