Thursday, August 4, 2016

What's It Worth?

A few years ago I was hanging out in a hotel lobby, waiting for my family, wearing a fair isle knit hat I had recently completed, when a woman stopped me.

Woman: "Wow! Did you make that?"
Me: "Yes."
Woman: "I love it! Will you sell it?"
Me: "Um ..."
Woman: "I'll pay you $20?"
Me: "Um ..."
Woman: "$30? What are you wanting for it?"
Me: "Well, no, I'm not selling it."
Woman: "Here's my address. If you change your mind or can make another for me, let me know!"

I was very flattered that she liked my work. And it's not true that I wouldn't sell my work. But I could never charge what it's really worth without people scoffing at me. The fair isle hat cost at least $25 in yarn (since it was really nice yarn) and $90 in labor. I wouldn't sell it for less than $150, but I wouldn't ask for that, I think it's a ridiculous price to pay for a hat. And of course even at that as-low-as-I-can-go rate, I wouldn't dare ask for even $115 for a hat. Not when she can buy something at a store for $10 or less. It's not a fair comparison, of hand-dyed wool vs acrylic, of one-of-a-kind vs mass produced, of my time as an American worker vs some poor child in a factory in China. But only other knitters really understand the value of our creations.

This problem is even more prominent for quilters, as I've recently discovered. People who don't quilt just don't understand the value of a quilt. I'm not even talking about those hand-made Amish quilts that go for $1000+. Even for a very simple baby quilt with no design, machine binding, and basic straight machine quilting, it can be ~$200 just to break even. Quilt top fabric is expensive, backing fabric is expensive, batting is expensive, thread is expensive, the wear and tear on our machines is expensive, and our time is very expensive. And if I go on etsy and try to sell my works, either I price them at their true value and nobody will buy it, or I price them below, and then I might get a few bites but other quilters will be very angry that I've "devalued" myself and my art (and consequently, their art).

It's no wonder knitters and quilters end up giving away tons of stuff they make. I only wish the recipients can always appreciate them for the time, effort, and money it represents, but unfortunately it's not true. As for me, I only have a very selective list of people to whom I'll give stuff to (close family or fellow crafters who understand the value), the rest I'll either keep or I'll give away to charity.

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