Friday, February 27, 2009

The Value of What We Do

While I was shopping with my mother-in-law this past Sunday, we noticed an abundance of knitwear in the new Spring fashions. There were cardigans, cotton sweaters, tunics, knit dresses.... It was really quite striking.

"You should knit yourself one" my mother-in-law says to me. "It'd probably be a lot cheaper than buying one."


Before I go on, let me state right now that this is a woman who professes to LOVE hand knitted items of all kinds. In fact, I always knit her something for Christmas, her birthday, and pretty much every appropriate gift giving occasion in between. Mainly because the woman is IMPOSSIBLE to shop for, but also because she REALLY appreciates the value of a hand knitted garment.

And yet here she was casually, one might say downright flippantly, insinuating that I could just "whip up a cardigan" at will, and for next to nothing to boot.

OK, we WERE in a fairly high end shop at the time, so presuming you're knitting your garment out of, say, KnitPicks Shine Sport as opposed to Qiviut or cashmere, she's probably right...

But what value should we place on TIME, and SKILL? How can we put a dollar sign on THAT???

No knitter in their right mind would EVER think it's cheaper to knit a garment rather than buy one. Take socks, for example. You could probably score a 6-pack of athletic socks at Wal-Mart for 7 or 8 dollars.... But it'd cost roughly 25$ for a "good" skein of yarn. THEN factor in the time it takes to knit the stinkin' socks!

Now, I can churn out a pair in, oh I don't know... say 12-15 hours, depending on the pattern (and that's probably conservative). Even at mininum wage, that's still 102-127,50$, just for labour! So you're looking at a 150$ pair of hand knit socks, as opposed to 6 pairs (that can be machine washed and dryed!) for 8$.

But yeah, I could make a cardigan for cheaper than I could buy one...

In light of the knitting going on here lately, this problem with the perceived value of a hand knitted item seems all the more relevant.

I completed the first half of the Pacific Islands stole tonight, while Phil and I watched Gran Torino (and can I just say? Clint Eastwood is my hero!!!).

The system I've set up for myself actually works fairly well (I respond well to structure). I'm not sitting down to knit an entire STOLE in the evening, which just seems like a colossal undertaking that'll take forever and is just discouraging... No, I'm sitting down to knit 21 rows, which is totally doable.To knit is my goal. What's yours?

Happy Knitting Everyone!


Alrischa said...

Everyone should be forced, say, at the beginning of high school, to attend knitting classes. Imagine that... drug and alcohol abuse would drop off (can't smoke and knit), teens wouldn't be so stressed (I'll just do a few rows to take the edge off), and Everyone Would Appreciate Knitted Gifts.


Sinéad said...

Love love love the colour of that yarn. You're progressing nicely!
My MIL could never be given a hand knitted gift. The one and only time I gave her something (a cardigan I'd knit her) she instantly turned it over in her hands examining the seaming and looking for any mistakes. Needles to say she has never got anything since!

birana said...

It's so true for value.. buy cheap acrylic.. yes maybe, but a nice knit worth a lot of yarn 1st and 2nd time.. it's uncountable! But you paycheck is to see the person who appreciate it and wear it with proud (like my grand-ma who is saying to everybody that makes her comments on her scarf.. my grand daughter did it for me.. yes she's knitting.... (you see the idea))
I'm also having goal, but mostly irrealistic and finnaly I fall asleep on my knitting before reaching this goal.... Like my noro scarf when I fell asleep and woke up maybe 1 min. later and my hand and fingers were still knitting (wrong, but knitting).
You pacific stole is very nice, the color is so nice!

Anonymous said...


Knitting cheaper than buying? Please! I had people ask me that when I was knitting a linen/cotton blend into a tank top for a summer party. The yarn alone was over $50, not to mention the few weeks' worth of knitting time, all for a top that fit mostly nicely (I tend to make things too oversize to hide my own bulk) and hasn't been worn since that summer.

p.s. the shawl is coming along beautifully. It really is a stunning color, too.

Ali P said...

You rock, lady. The stole is really looking awesome.
I'm lucky I think, that most people I know and knit for realise the "costs" involved in making as opposed to buying.
I got Hman and gorgeous Banana Republic merino sweater for xmas 2007. It is coming apaprt at the shoulder and I could count on my hands the number of times it has been worn AND washed. if i had MADE hime a sweater like this it definitely would have cost more than the priceyness it was, but it never would have come apart either.
I'm afraid to fix it incase it gets stupid is that??

Knit and Purl Mama said...

Your MIL cracks me up! That's a good one!

Someone recently asked me to knit them socks, and how much I'd charge to do them, etc. I laughed. These people are funny.

Love the color of the stole as well - can't wait to see it finished!