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To Knit or Not: The Choice on Commissioned Knitting

August 29, 2013

We have talked about requests, about price negotiations and the typical responses given, today we are talking about part 4 of the topic of commissioned knitting, to knit or not. This ends up being a personal choice to be sure. The great thing about knitting is the wide variety of personalities it appeals to. There is no one set of hard and fast rules that can be used to determine whether a person should knit on commission or not. The realities are that when it comes to commissioned knitting there are some things to keep in mind.

Each knitter has a comfort level, which may or may not be tied to actual skills, but it is definitely something unique to each individual knitter. This comfort level should be a guide for moving forward.There will be some knitters who absolutely refuse to do any type of commissioned knitting, whether for profit or not. Just as there will be knitters who see commissioned knitting as a chance to make some “extra” money or to use it as a bartering tool. The comments to this series of posts have opened my eyes to the variety of responses and types of commissioned knitting that can take place. I encourage you to go back and read them, if you haven’t.

I don’t claim to know all the answers when it comes to commissioned knitting, frankly I tend to steer clear of it, and that’s okay. While it seems a lot of requests are coming from left field, I do not want to believe they are all just out to get things made as cheaply as possible (even if it is true.) The fact of the matter is, many people just don’t understand the time and costs related to hand knitting. When I was first starting out I stuck with the lower end (read:cheap) items. My tools weren’t the greatest, but they did the job, my yarn wasn’t the softest or best, but it worked.  It’s taken me almost three years to feel comfortable enough to spend more than $10 on a skein of yarn, (but, boy am I glad I did) I just didn’t realize the costs associated with knitting. I have also had numerous people ask me, if knitting is a good way to make your own clothes. I usually respond with yes, but wait for the follow-up. The next question is usually, how much cheaper is it to make a sweater than to buy it? At this point I try to lay down the realities of the cost of materials and give a usual time frame. It seems that at this point most people lose interest. But that education is the key.

The fact is, for how big our knitting community is, for how easily we seem to find each other (thanks internet!)  we are still a pretty niche group. Knitting is popular, to be sure, but most people aren’t aware of the cost of “good” yarn (can you imagine the responses to spending X dollars on merino, or cashmere, I think people’s eyes might pop out of their heads if you told them the price of Quivit.) You can blame the fact that many of us are so far removed from the actual making of items. We have the ability to walk into the store and buy an eight pack of socks without even thinking about it. Mittens appear as soon as the seasons start to change, they are present and fully formed (no Second Mitten Syndrome there.) You could blame the fact that many people don’t understand the effort that goes into making those items, whether it is done in a sweat shop, or in the comfort of your own living room.

You could even blame the knitter’s themselves. All too often I hear of knitters who brush off their achievements over sticks and string with a shrug of the shoulders. People won’t learn to value the hand knits if we consistently make it seem like no big deal, if we make it seem like the knitting just falls off the needles. Now this isn’t mean tot chide anyone, I am just as guilty of this. Someone may comment on a shawl or a pair of socks and I will just brush it off with a wave of my hand. Seemingly negating the hours spent knitting.

What does this mean for the commissioned knitter? It’s up to you. The great thing about knitting is it can be practiced autonomously. If you want to knit for someone based on a price, you get to. If you don’t, it’s no skin off anyone else’s nose. The beauty is that it is up to the knitter. The truth is, I don’t know the reasons behind the undervalue of our work. But I do know that when it comes to appreciating a hand knit, we sure have a long way to go.


From → Fiber Arts

  1. Pat(ricia) permalink

    Definitely wonderful articles. Well written and thought provoking.

    I think you bring up a very interesting point in this last one as well. Often, many knitters DO undervalue their work. As you’ve said, they casually shrug it off. I suspect it’s because those of us who do don’t want to sound or look like we’re being all front and center or bragging. But truly valuing our work and being to honestly sing our own praises is a skill to be learned and trusted.

    As for knitting with a “better quality” wool …. as I’ve said before, to other knitter friends … every wool for each project as there is a time for every season. Sometimes a ‘cheaper” yarn is just as great as a more pricey one; it all depends on the project and the time investment one is willing to offer, whether for oneself or someone else. But in all honesty, I too have come appreciate better quality wools and yarns for my projects.

    To each her/his own 🙂

  2. You have certainly put it all very cledarly, as nebulous as it is. And you are right about the price of yarn. the ladies who eat lunch at the same time I do at work craft using the cheapest yarn available. They love the yarns I use, but when I tell them where I buy them “oh, they are so expensive there” well, yes, but it isn’t rough acrylic, either. they never quarrel when I make them things from those shops. 🙂

    • Pat(ricia) permalink

      They use the cheapest yarns available and then comment on the expense of the yarns you use, and you choose to gift them with your quality? Seriously?

      My, you are generous. If all I was hearing was comments about how expensive my wool choices were, I wouldn’t be inclined to knit someone else something with a better quality yarn than they chose, because I would be annoyed. Not only that, I have noticed that people gifted with “higher priced” yarn choices often don’t appreciate it any more than superficially, at least not in my experience. Often it takes the actual knitting using the “better” quality to truly understand what it’s all about.

      • Well, some of where they are coming from is lower income than me, so I like to give them something they wouldn’t otherwise have. BUT I don’t give to all of them, I pick and choose those who I think will appreciate it. So far, I think I have done OK at that. The ones who really are just cranky about it aren;t on my gift list. 🙂

        • Pat(ricia) permalink

          Yes, I can appreciate your generosity … not everyone can afford a higher priced yarn all of the time. At least you’ve had positive experiences with your offerings. 🙂 And at the end of the day, or the project, it’s really about the generosity of spirit and intention. That’s what counts 🙂

  3. belesamablue permalink

    Great post. I’m totally guilty of downplaying my skills (“Nah, it was easy, it just LOOKS complicated”) but I still find a big gap between the number of people who say “You should sell these!” and the number of people who would pay a fair price! We should all just be honest and say actually yeah, the hours of concentration and practising and learning new techniques and selecting yarn carefully IS pretty darn impressive 😉

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