Saturday, July 27, 2013

It's Worth What?

Today while catching up on my blog reads I ran across a post from Hunter's Design Studio that really caught my eye. Entitled What's It Worth, Sam Hunter shares how she determines the prices of her wares. The article is a brilliant breakdown on why handmade products are expensive but worth it.

It is often difficult to put a price on the things we make. Personally, I have never made a real effort to sell my wares I have only been seriously sewing for about a year and quilting for a mere six months. I consider myself to still be learning, as such I am not ready to qualify what I make as ready to sell. This doesn't mean however, I do not want to consider this option in the future though.

The fact that I do not regularly sell my finished products does not stop people from asking. From the minute you let it out that you own a machine and use it regularly (or blog), the requests for sewing commissions start rolling in. So many times I hear, "Could you sew me this?" "Could you sew me that?" "I swear it won't take very long." On the one hand I find this very flattering and it really puts into perspective that despite the millions of sewing blogs out there very few people actually know how to sew. However, when making these grand requests all too often the wish is that you do this work for free. Mostly leveraging your friendship for the cost of the project. This can often lead to very difficult situations.

I have been known to knit, crochet, and sew as gifts. These are projects that I chose, I make, and I am happy to give away. I love giving handmade gifts as I realize presents something very special to the recipient that they could never buy in a store. Yet when someone comes to me asking to "make them something" for free I am often taken aback. Mostly because I think so few people recognize the cost involved to make things. My hobbies are not cheap- just ask my husband, he is constantly whining about the cost of components I need. The article I linked does a great job of breaking down the cost involved in sewing but what about fiber arts. I learned to knit and crochet well before I learned to sew and am far more proficient at it. I do not know how many times I have had people request "freebies" from me.

I remember one time specifically back when my husband played Magic: The Gathering competitively I took it upon myself to knit him a felted wool dice bag after months of him admiring mine. It came out lovely and he loved it. He brought it proudly to the shops where the other players would thus begin coveting it themselves. "I want one!" "I want one!" Then came the customization requests- I want one with mana symbols, I want the Captain America symbol, I want this color, I want that color! At the time I was still in university in my senior year and the idea of taking on any extra projects made me shudder. Especially this many intarsia projects using various colors. Well, I said to myself I suppose I can take on a few more bags. So, I said that I could do a custom bag for around $50 (a smoking deal if you ask me). Well, that stopped them in their tracks. I can still remember the look on their faces. "You want us to pay for them?"

I was amazed. Of course I wanted them to pay for them. I honestly felt like the boys just thought they fell out of a tree and I was just snatching them up and dropping them off. More than that these were the same boys that I had just witnessed drop sixty dollars for a Baneslayer Angel without any hesitancy whatsoever. So, I couldn't understand is how could my handcrafted original dice back not hold value to a mass printed card that cost the company mere cents to print in China. Maybe they didn't realize was the cost involved of producing something even as small as a dice bag.

To felt a dice bag as we all know you must use pure wool yarn. Wool is not cheap! Even at Joann's and Michael's not a custom yarn shop wool will run you seven to eight dollars a skein. Now multiply that by every desired colorway. Use two or more colors and you are already nearing the twenty dollar range. Then there is the cost of needles. It still shocks me the amount of money a store can charge for sticks- but alas they can and we pay it. To do my dice bags I knit on size seven double points (which retail at about eight bucks) and size five double points (also eight bucks). Now comes the big part though- time and energy! Intarsia is not easy, in fact, it took me many months to perfect knitting with multiple colors. For a university student coming up on exams it is really hard to give away your extra time, especially when depending on the difficulty of your knitting pattern even a relatively small dice bag can take 3-5 days to complete as I am not a machine and I did have to eat, sleep, study, and attend class at some point. Then I had to take the time to felt and block the bag. So, here I am expected to spend my hard earned money on yarn and supplies, hard pressed time to craft the bag, and then just give it to you out of the goodness of my heart. No way sweetheart!

Granted, I am in no way saying that every person is out to take advantage of hard working crafters. There are so many generous people out there that truly understand the plights of the made by hander and wish to reward them. I am more affirming the fact that few people really stop to think about what goes into creating a handmade product, and if they did perhaps they would realize they are truly getting their money's worth. More than that they would realize there is a reason these products generally cost more.

So, if you are wondering what is reasonable to charge for your finished projects just remember- do not undervalue the cost of your hard work, nor the cost to complete your project. This is your time and your money, two things which you will never get back.


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