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.