28 February 2012

Why I don't sell my FOs

I post one photo selection of each of my finished objects on Facebook, as a way to show my non-knitting friends (and long-distance family members) what I've been up to. They don't have Ravelry accounts, so they can't see the extensive project information that is stored there: specific yarn choice, pattern designer, yardage, start and completion dates, and much more. This just gives them an idea of what projects I've done.
I often get really supportive comments about how great my stuff is, and I get quite a few suggestions that I should start selling my finished products. Without going into too much detail, I usually just say I can't, due to copyright... Which isn't exactly accurate, so here's a better explanation.

Unlike other pattern-based clothing, knitting patterns sometimes come with notes from the designer, saying the pattern is for personal use only, and the objects cannot be sold. Is it really possible to restrict someone's finished product entirely? I'm not a copyright lawyer, but the general consensus is no, technically you can't limit the sale of the item, but it's generally frowned-upon to sell. Are we selling just the physical labor of making a piece, or are we also selling the designer's creativity? What will sell better: a simple, universal pullover, or one with design elements, stitch patterns, and built-in ease?

I asked my Twitter followers what their views on the copyright matter are, and it was almost unanimous: it's not illegal to make and sell an item, but it's kind of a jerk move to do it without simply asking. Then you have something like this:
I used a pattern for this sweater to get a quick stitch count (to avoid doing gauge swatches), but didn't use the color scheme, striping concept, button band, or suggested yarn. At what point are you far enough away from a concept that you can claim it as your own improvisation? I don't know that I can answer that question.

I DO know that it becomes a frivolous debate very quickly for me, though, when I think about how much yarn costs, how long it takes to make an item, and how much money that would end up equalling. Let's take my last FO, that Versio sweater:

I finished it in one month (36 days). Probably spent around 3 hours each weeknight working on it, and another 4 or 5 hours each weekend day for the entire month. Granted, there were days I didn't knit, and days I knitted a ton, so this is just an average. Let's say right around 100 hours total of knitting and finishing. The yarn, Wollmeise lace, is a generous 1700 yards, of which I used about 1200. The whole skein is about $50, so at 1200 yards, I used just over $35 worth of yarn.

If I get paid for my yarn, pattern cost, and labor at minimum wage, I end up at:
$35 + $6.21 + $7.25(x100 hours) = $766.21, before sales tax.

Before I even got to the labor part, I was over $40, which could buy me a machine-knit sweater at a mid-quality store in the mall. 

Let's try something smaller, like my Raphaelite shawl:
Two skeins of Madelinetosh yarn, a $5.50 pattern, and about two weeks of work:
$44 + $5.50 + $7.25(40) = $339.50

For those of you who don't knit, take a moment to think about the things you do in your free time. Your hobbies, arts, interests... Would you be willing to trade your time at minimum wage? Would your work be worth more? It is for me... Giving away something I've made, no matter how small, is a huge sacrifice of time, before you even start valuing the materials and labor. 

This is also why I'm super picky about who I knit for, and what I knit for them... When someone snubs your gift, it can be devastating... but that's a different post altogether. 

Leave your opinions in the comments, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!
- YX


  1. When you break down the cost that way you really have to question where we get ALL our goods and what price we pay on the labor of others.


  2. This is so interesting. I've always argued that my time is worth $x when traveling, etc., but I've never put pen to paper to calculate what I "spend" on my hobbies. It's a good exercise to value your work in that way...who really is a recipient worthy of this much love and effort? Thank you for sharing!

  3. I just don't even bother telling people I don't sell my FOs anymore. They never hear me so when I'm asked, I quote them $1000 (for little stuff) or $2000 (for big stuff). They suddenly don't want me to knit for them anymore.

    When it comes to gifting, I quilt/sew as well as knit so I've generally got a wide range of things I'm thinking about making for others and I take very careful note of people's reactions to my gifts, as well as whether or not I ever hear/see them using said gift after it's been given.

    My friend K, she openly adores handmade gifts and you hear about it and see it in use. She will always be considered for handmade gifts. Whereas another friend will not be gifted handmade again. They make noises of appreciation, but then don't bother to take care of or even use the gift again.

    I dunno. I got a little rambly there and I'm not even sure how closely this pertained to what you were wanting to know about. Haha!!

  4. I think I need to start doing what Amy does. I try to break it down into terms of labour and cost and materials and all that and pople don't seem to understand. A friend of my sister recently asked me (on very short notice) what I would charge for a baby knit hat that looks like a watermelon wedge and seeds in it. I replied with "About $100 but I doubt I can get it done in the time you need it."

    Let me just poop out a FO for you here, random Facebook friend of a friend. Grrrr

  5. I also refuse to knit for pay or for someone's boyfriend/friend/baby/cat, even if they so generously offer to purchase the yarn. My time is my own, and the time I spend knitting is spent either on myself or on people I care quite deeply about. I've done what you do, only I break it down based on what I'm paid at work, as that's quantifiable for me; my employer feels my time is worth what I'm paid. So a pair of socks is $30 + ($23.10x100 h)= $2340. It's my way of saying "no, I don't want to knit for you."

  6. First of all, this blog is awesome. I have nothing against knitting (my wife knits, and her stuff rocks, and you two should have a knitting party), but personally, it wouldn't crack my top 100 hobbies of choice. But your stuff is SO good, I'd consider it as a spectator sport.

    In regards to this post in particular, I'd just like to let it be known that those lucky few people who DO receive gifts from you had better fully appreciate every bit of love and effort and money and time that went into your making it. I'd like to think that most people feel as I do, and appreciate it even more than I could possibly express.

    The monetary math is astounding, but not surprising to me (if that makes sense). Anyone who has a hobby like this (for me it's crossword construction) has done the math on the time spent, and is left shaking their head. And then they realize that they're lucky: they've found something they truly love to do for fun. Because no sane person would work that hard on something if they didn't truly love it. A lot of people go through life and never feel a passion for anything like you obviously have for knitting, and I think that's awesome for you. And you can clearly, clearly, clearly see it in your results.


  7. I have had the same comments from people about my knitting - although I quote a higher rate than minimum wage (after all, it's skilled labour!)

    But my number one reason for not knitting for pay (particularly commissioned work) - it's my hobby and I love it. I love it a little bit less when I have a deadline. Having a deadline and a person with expectations at the end would suck all the fun out of it for me. And for non-commissioned stuff, I'd still be wary that something I had put so much time and effort into wouldn't be as appreciated as it deserved. Which is why I knit for my mum, who knows how much work goes into things!

  8. I have knit-on-demand for people in the past, and it has "sucked the fun out of it", as pinkundine succinctly put it. Case in point: hat requested by husbeen's co-worker = 1 month knitting; same hat (unsolicited) for husbeen = 1 week. Now I do birthday and Christmas socks for my parents, hats for husbeen and brother, and a few little things for sister-in-law...because everytime I see them, they've all got one of my knits on! My parents are handknit sock converts...how can I say no? At least the most they've ever interfered in the gift-knitting process is "could I maybe have some in ______ colour?". Otherwise, all knits are selfishly for me!

  9. I think I love your blog. Let me say that first off. I've been contemplating on this for several years now. Locked in a shop name on Etsy, a page on FB, and still have not put a single FO up in my Etsy Shop (which will someday probably end up offering "supplies" and hand-dyed/handspun yarnz).

    This last holiday season was the first time I ever attempted the "fair" circuit locally. This year has been my year for creating my own patterns... and 2 of my fiber friends and I went in on the booth rental. One girl is a crocheter, who works strictly in washable, economy type acrylics and blends - and makes the typical things you see at the "craft fair". The other is a super-creative fiber artist who works in Nuno Felting, and crochets in natural fibers exclusively. I knit... I can crochet (35 years plus) but so much not in the mood for that, that my son is still waiting for his crochet beanie for the year.

    I've done commissioned things - and have both been handsomely rewarded, and seen the jaws drop when I quote a price that would not be the standard at Walmart. I knew what to expect... some that oooo and ahhhh... and leave. Some that leave because of price... la la la. I priced my things in the middle between my two counterparts. Materials were all natural... cheapest yarn I used was Cascade 220 - and that hat sold for $35. Got the yarn through a ravtrade, so it wasn't retail. Decent return on my 3 or 4 hours of time at half of minimum wage - yeah, I broke even. AND, my family suffered the consequences of me not having as much time this season to invest in their presents; most of them got "storebought" gifts this year and were so disappointed. Some of them got "leftovers". Meaning, the thing they received - though definitely quality and cool - was not made with the thoughts of them specifically, but speculatively created to sell. BTW - I do not enjoy speculative knitting much I found out!

    I can sell all I want of items I designed myself... but I think that when the Grower's Market comes this summer - maybe I'll send the girls with a few of my things on consignment... unless I decide to just look at it as a freebie/fun day with the girls where I might recoup some of my stash investment.

    Indulgence on Rav