Palette Cleanser … and Value …

Weird title today … but you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

After my last couple of spins, I needed a palette cleanser. I needed a quick less intensive spin AND I needed to see if I could still spin thick so I picked a Polwarth blend to try and accomplish this goal. It wasn’t as easy as I thought! You see, my brain, hands and feet seemed like collectively, they’d forgotten how to spin thick! What in the world?!!!!!

I’ve been spinning thin so long it’s like my faculties forgot how to spin thicker, so I decided to do a little experiment! A few years ago, I received this braid from a friend. I’ve been trying to use fiber exclusively from my stash so I took it out to play around with.

My goals were to spin thick intentionally, do some barberpole colorplay and spin without over-twisting. My first efforts proved interesting — while I did spin thick and got the barberpole placement I was looking for, the fiber was horrifically over-twisted. The likes of which I haven’t seen since my early days of spinning. I stopped spinning on that bobbin then split the remaining fiber into 2. The fiber on the bobbin is so over twisted, I didn’t even wind it off.

Then I tried again …

With the second fiber bump, I was able to spin thicker, not my most consistent spin but with faster uptake and slower treadling, I did it.

The third bump was even better, although the yarn weight turned out to be worsted/aran weight. It was much more consistent, I got the barberpoling I wanted, and there were no over-spun, squiggly bits!

Overall, the experiment was successful (see project notes here) but it seems like for some, tenacity, education and expertise isn’t worth the cost. Let me explain …

I posted this skein and the experiment on instagram. Last week, I received a text message from someone I know indicating that she would like to purchase some of my handspun. She asked me to send her some pics of my recent spins so she could tell me which she was interested in. She was interested in this bulky spin. I gave her the specs on the skein in terms of weight and yardage but there seemed to be some disconnect. According to her, she wanted to purchase skeins for someone who is a knitter and that person wanted to knit a sleeveless sweater. I saw where this convo was heading and was transparent. No, I don’t have a sweater quantity of this skein. No, I can’t estimate how much you would need, your knitter needs to look at her pattern then tell me what weight and yardage she needs. No, I can’t immediately serve you up 6 skeins of some undetermined yarn weight and yardage. And no, although she might have convinced you that she really wants handspun, your knitter has to be willing to pay at least $50 per skein for this work. Handspun doesn’t mean cheaper, actually, it costs more than even a custom dye job. I even offered that alternative: I’m a pretty decent dyer, if your knitter likes the colorway, I’m willing to mix a custom dye color for her but that’ll amount to $28 per skein. After providing this information, the conversation dissolved into multiple reasons why we couldn’t connect on the phone to discuss final details once I was done with my 9 to 5 job.

Why am I writing about this?

I feel the need to because most non crafters continually underestimate the skill and effort it takes to create anything that is not mass produced and the cost factors to be considered when pricing these items. The initial fiber was a gift, but if the purchaser bought it at the going rate for a polwarth silk blend, at the low end that’s a minimum base of $25. It took me about 4 hours to spin, test, ply and if I use the awful $7.25 an hour minimum wage benchmark (U.S.), the skeins already amount to a pre-profit base of $54.

I’m not one for price gouging, but this thing we do — the skeins we spin, the gifts we weave, knit, crochet, the macrame projects we make, the project markers we create, the projects bags we sew — they have value and value far beyond the mass consumed offerings from large corporations. We are not machines and all these items we make, especially the gifts are truly, truly labors of love. Love of the craft and love for the recipients. So to have someone want a handspun skein for the same price as a mass produced skein is a bit of an insult and rather disrespectful.

Don’t let anyone undervalue the work you do, even if you have to walk away from a sale.

24 thoughts on “Palette Cleanser … and Value …

  1. Ella August 19, 2021 / 4:01 am

    Your handspun yarn looks lovely. Also, agree a million times to all you wrote. What makes me really sad is that this discussion has been going on for about a decade, and still there are people out there who don’t care about the time and effort it takes to craft a unique, beautiful and well made item. Some just don’t know better and understand what it takes once you start to explain but some are just … I don’t know … maybe just not willing to change their ways? And some seem to think that the mere fact that they showed interested in some handmade item is the best reward in itself. They’re the ones that never get to wear beautiful handknit socks, by the way, so win-win. 😉

  2. highlandheffalump August 18, 2021 / 5:26 am

    I know that I under price my lampshades based on the effort that they take to make and materials, but I make a small profit and I’m fortunate that I don’t need the money to live off. Your spinning looks beautiful.

  3. ceulanfibres August 17, 2021 / 3:54 am

    This is a great post and I totally agree about the need to value what we do as crafters. People are surprised at the cost of a ‘simple’ pair of socks and the number of processes that go into producing an item.

    Thank you for sharing your spinning notes they’re really useful. I’m trying to be more intentional with my spinning as I default to around fingering weight and spinning thicker, rather than adding more plies, is a bit of a challenge. I’ve found Yarnitecture by Jill Moreno a good book for helping me think about the end goal and then all the steps from fibre type to finishing to get there.

    • Nicky August 17, 2021 / 5:15 pm

      Yes … I’m hoping that the conversation becomes a thing of the past as more people become conscious of the work that independent makers do.

      I’m a huge fan of Jillian Moreno and Yarnitecture is one of my favourite spinning books. It’s dogeared and tabbed with a huge amount of stickies! 😀 We have the same default yarn weight so I’m going to try to switch that up by alternating spins — thin then thick to keep the muscle memory for thicker weights intact.

  4. Backstage Knits (Kath) August 16, 2021 / 5:12 pm

    Your hand spun is beautiful and I loved hearing about how you re-developed your spinning think skills.
    I totally agree with you on the value of handcrafted items! Hopefully the person you were talking to wasn’t too rude about it.

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 9:49 pm

      I’m trying to be a more intentional spinner and honestly it felt good to work out the problem and almost achieve the yarn weight I wanted. I have another braid that I’m going to work this out on.

      The person wasn’t rude per se but she definitely avoided me after I gave her a sample of the price.

  5. Knit One, Spin Too August 16, 2021 / 9:43 am

    First off, owning my agree about spinning heavier gauge yarns. Isn’t it amazing how muscle memory gets deeply ingrained and then you can’t seem to override it, even on purposes? I suffer from this issue since I spin so much fingering-weight yarn. Kudos to you for sticking with it for a heavier yarn!.

    Secondly, also owning my agree x1000 about the cost of handmade items (in both time and supplies) and how people seem to think all of this should be cheap for some reason. I have run into similar examples to yours where people want to undervalue the time, energy, focus, talent it takes to create something by hand. It’s an ongoing educational battle and one I think is particularly noticeable with fiber handcrafts. I mean… while people may not want to pay thousands of dollars for a painting hanging in a gallery, they accept that it’s “art” and seem to be more accepting of that type of price tag. There’s a disconnect, tho, when applying that concept to fiber-y things for whatever reason!

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 9:59 pm

      It really is something isn’t it, that spin muscle memory!!! I never thought for a second that I’d forget how to spin thick. Now I know, I’m going to alternate thin then thick spins.

      Thank you for your support re the value of what we do. It really is an ongoing educational battle and yes, especially for crafts like fiber and sometimes, sewing. I’m definitely going to use your analogy because it’s so true, other art forms are celebrated and costs are justified without having to defend them.

  6. Lucy Bowen August 16, 2021 / 4:15 am

    Your spin looks lovely and that is a beautiful colourway. I agree about value and is a reason I don’t do commission work – few understand how long these things take.

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:00 pm

      Thank you and agreed! A former colleague wanted me to knit a chair cover for an armchair in her living room. She wanted me to buy the yarn — Michaels brand — AND pay me $50 for the effort. She couldn’t understand why my response was a firm no.

  7. Becki August 15, 2021 / 8:43 pm

    Your hand-dyed handspun is beautiful. I don’t know that I feel frustrated over people not understanding the time that goes into handcrafted items (unless I know that they know better), but I’ve often felt frustrated simply over being asked to make something – and being told in all earnestness they’ll “pay me for my time, of course”, because I know the drill, too. After going around with this a fair number of times, and since my knitting and crocheting is purely for my pleasure, I finally put all of this to rest and just decided I do not sell my work. The exception to this is if I’ve made something and I’d like to move it out of my home (for whatever reason), then I’m happy to sell it. I’ve also donated items (either as just the items they are, or for selling at a fund-raiser – these, too, have been items I already have made). I know they won’t bring what my time was worth, but I send them off hoping they bring in at least what I would have been happy to have donated in cash myself. That said, I don’t concern myself with it once it’s left my hands. If one is truly wanting to sell their hand work, I’m sure my attitude about it all isn’t terribly helpful, but for me there are much easier ways to make money that save me plenty of time for my creative outlets to be pure pleasure. For those who are able to charge truly what their time is worth, I am very glad. It increases the value of hand-made items – whether those items are made for selling, or gifting, or simply for the maker’s enjoyment.

    I’m chuckling over Sandra’s comment above about your post being a TED talk. I agree! You explain the situation very well. 🙂

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:09 pm

      Absolutely in agreement with you. In cases like making for charity and fundraisers I don’t think twice once the item leaves my hands.

      Your reasoning is why I primarily craft for pleasure and learning. No matter how many times this topic comes up, the point will always be lost to some

  8. Mary-Anne August 15, 2021 / 8:39 pm

    Amen to all you wrote about value and our creative process!

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:12 pm

      Thank you! I don’t usually gripe about this but this instance frustrated me a tad.

  9. Cinna Knits August 15, 2021 / 7:59 pm

    Your recent “thick” spin is beautiful! I love the colors!

    The undervaluing of creative work is truly frustrating. Every one of my artist friends can tell you, that everyone wants bespoke at big box prices.

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:14 pm

      Same with my artist friends. So much so, some of them started to under-price their work so they could stay competitive. It’s a rough cycle of wanting to sell but having to deal with people not wanting to attribute value to the work creatives do.

  10. Sandra Licher August 15, 2021 / 5:17 pm

    You go, girlfriend!!! My creative ventures are for me to relax and enjoy but because I’m retired people think I have nothing better to do than to make custom items for them. Evidently they think I need to feel needed, Trust me…I felt “needed” for way too many years. Retirement means finally being able to put yourself first for a change. Your post should be a Ted Talk! BTW, I adore your homespun and I love barber polling. That is one gorgeous yarn!

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:19 pm

      Goodness, don’t talk about that!!! This way people have of making assumptions on our time is another thing I can talk about. I’ve become better at saying no firmly.

      Thank you for engaging in this conversation.

  11. knittingissofun August 15, 2021 / 10:46 am

    Thank you so much for sharing why handspun deserves to be priced! I agree many nonknitters, and knitters, don’t know why hand dyed/spun costs what it does. On a similar vein, I commissioned an artist friend to redo a set of paintings she did for me 30 years ago. (Seems two of my kids both want the paintings when I die so I’m getting a second set that I will now hang so that hopefully two sets can be made from a mix of the old and the new ones.) I just reminded her to not undervalue her time on top of materials. I better do some investigating to make sure she doesn’t undercharge. They get delivered next weekend!!

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:21 pm

      You’re already miles ahead! You value your friend’s work and you are actively coaching her to do the same. That’s really awesome of you. Really.

  12. Marsha Noce August 15, 2021 / 10:37 am

    I agree 100%! I have had people ask me to make something for them. They will purchase the fiber and say they will pay me for my time to make it. I just laugh and laugh because I know they can not afford to pay me for the time it takes for me to knit or crochet an item. I always figure $10/hour minimum and when they are looking at something like a blanket they are looking at hundreds of dollars in time. No one realizes what kind of time it takes to do any of the fiber arts. You keep your standards and don’t let anyone try and talk you ‘down’. BTW…..Your worsted spin looks fabulous. I love the way the colors play with each other.

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:28 pm

      Thank you so much Marsha! I think I’m going to up my hourly wage to $10 an hour. Any gift we make really can’t be paid for … I hope one day we don’t have to defend our creative value.

      And thank you. The spin was quite enjoyable.

    • Nicky August 16, 2021 / 10:29 pm

      Thank you Asha! I appreciate you dropping by. 🙂

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