Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

Handmade Vs. The Wal-Mart Mentality

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016




I finished knitting up a cowl for myself, and had uploaded this picture to my facebook page, offering to make another for the low, low price of $75.  It resulted in a conversation between a couple of my knitting friends.



The timing of the conversation coincided with my train of thought while working on a pair of fingerless mitts.  I no longer depend on income gained from handmade items.  However, I do make a living selling supplies to those who earn a living selling handmade items.  I’m very familiar with both ends of the stick.

When I first went into the handcrafted soap and personal care products business 15 years ago, the running rate for a 4 ounce bar of handmade soap was approximately $4-5 a bar.  These days, the cost of raw materials has more than doubled, but I still see some of my long time customers selling bars for nearly the same price, and it breaks my heart.  I’ll never forget an old farm wife stopping at my soap booth, looking longingly at the selection I had on display.  She told me she really wanted to buy some, but if she did she would have to hide it.  When I asked her why, she told me her husband would blow a gasket over the price, when she could buy a 10 pack of ivory soap for $2.

If I had a nickel for every person who has taken a look at one of my handmade items, and said, “That’s so cool! You should really sell your ________.  If you do, I’ll be your first customer!”,  I’d be a wealthy woman.  The cold hard truth is that makers and artisans usually struggle to get a fair price for their work. I have tried to sell some of my handmade items, and guess what?  Most of the people who told me they would buy never have.  The subject of pricing among my maker and artist friends is a hot topic. It’s not a subject taken lightly, and most agonize over it.

I have a question for you.  How much do you earn for putting in a 12 hour shift at your job?  I’m going to use my fingerless mitts as an example, although they are a gift, and not for sale. They are rather complicated, and the pair will take me approximately 12 hours to complete. If I were to charge $10 an hour for my time and the cost of the yarn, the mitts should have a minimum price tag of $120! Needless to say, I’m probably never going to use this particular pattern for selling.




Knitting Frenzy

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

It’s that time of year when my business peaks, and I find myself working double time in the shop, leaving much less time for other pursuits.  Outside of work, once my family is fed and household responsibilities are attended to, I’ve been using almost all of my spare moments to work on my Christmas knitting projects.  I’m a bit worried I don’t have enough time to finish all the projects I was hoping to complete. The shot above is one of my projects, but I can’t show you the details because a few of the recipients have been known to read my blog.  The yarn I’m using is a wool/silk blend that was solar dyed by my friend Maggie last summer.  I know I’ve told you about her on numerous occasions, and this won’t be the last time.  In addition to dying, and spinning the most luscious yarns you’ll ever see, she also makes some cool dyed scarves and handkerchiefs which you can find at her Etsy store.  Below  is a big bowl of her handspun yarn that I’ve got on tap for more Christmas gifts.

My niece does not read the blog, so I can tell you the big ball of pink yarn is going to become a hat for young Emma. The blue in the foreground is going to become socks for yours truly.

I did manage to go out the winter tunnel today to pick some greens.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that instead of just holding steady, my garden has continued to GROW! I opened the plastic to find that some Calendula I had not pulled was blooming.  It was such a wonderful, welcome surprise, and has me contemplating flowers for next winter.

I will try to check in periodically over the next few weeks, but I won’t make any guarantees.  I have about 3 weeks of my busy season left at work, and then my brother and his family will be flying home from England to spend the holidays in my home.  I’m quite sure many of you are as busy (if not more so) as I am.  Try to remember to take a few moments to breath from time to time. None of our best laid plans are so important that we shouldn’t take a moment to set aside whatever we happen to be doing, and remember to give our kids, significant other, or cat a hug and a kiss.

Sock Siren

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

The siren’s call of my knitting needles finally managed to drown out the call of my kitchen.  So many things are calling me these days, it’s a wonder I can hear myself think!

I will finish this pair of socks before I start anything new! This is the very first pair of socks I started to knit … almost two years ago!  The project is on itsy bitsy, teensy, tiny, dinky little size 1 needles.  Anyone who knits on size 0 needles is insane.  I learned what I needed when I first started them, got bored, switched to a different pair of socks using thicker yarn and larger needles.  Then … last winter I decided to unravel the original sock, and start over.  My knitting had improved ten fold, and I saw mistakes I didn’t like.  I managed to get this far (see picture above) before my spring garden started screaming at me to come play.

I spent a good part of my day completing dozens of little tasks that have been piling up around the house. Things like finishing sweeping up the empty jar I broke in the basement two weeks ago, balancing my checkbook, folding the sheets I washed three days ago, putting away the pile that’s been accumulating on the kitchen table, emptying the fridge of a couple of noxious containers, digging a hairball out of the shower drain, and other such nonsense.  My plan was to make and can a batch of chunky applesauce this afternoon, as well as another batch of plum jam.  However, my knitting needles were complaining so loudly I could no longer ignore them.


A Junkie’s Confession

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Back in September I wrote I was in danger of becoming a fiber junkie. Well, it’s confession time.  I am a fiber addict.  And Maggie is my dealer/enabler.  It’s all her fault for creating such irresistible yarns.  Hopefully, my family won’t be forced to put me in rehab.

I know I’ve told you about my friend Maggie before, but I’m going to tell you about her again.  She currently owns 4 different spinning wheels, and is turning out some of the most amazing art yarns I’ve ever seen.  On a daily basis I’m forced to restrain myself from spending the family’s weekly budget on the items she lists in her Etsy store.  Pictured above is a ball of deep dark chocolate llama and alpaca wool that I got from her a couple of weeks ago. It’s so soft, bouncy and lush.  The skein was really big, so I’m in the process of knocking out a quick pair of ballet flat slippers for myself.  I may use the rest of it for a pair of socks for one of the boys… or maybe a hat. I had a very difficult time getting a shot that would do justice to the rich brown color of the yarn. This was the best I could do.

I did not buy the yarn pictured below, but I really, really, REALLY would like to.  I’m trying hard to be a good addict and told myself no.  I wanted to show you a good example of why Maggie’s yarns are so hard for me to resist. I didn’t take this picture.  It was shot by Maggie’s significant other, John, who is a photographer. You can see more shots he took of this gorgeous yarn on his blog.

This is a pair of felted slippers I finished recently using the 50% Jacob wool and 50% alpaca I got from Maggie back in September. It was my first felting project, and I will admit to being a little scared when I threw those wool slippers into hot water in the washing machine.  I was so amazed when I pulled them out and they weren’t ruined.

I’m so pleased with these little ballerina slippers I made as a gift for my young niece (Rachel, make sure you don’t spill the beans, please). I knitted them with a wool/silk blend that Maggie solar dyed this past summer using madder root.  I found the pattern in a new book  I picked up,  Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers.  The pattern gave instructions for knitted i-cord ties, but I decided I wanted to use ribbon instead.  I thought my niece might appreciate a slightly more authentic looking ballet shoe.  After all, hasn’t every little girl imagined herself as a ballerina at least once?

Help! I’m Becoming a Fiber Junkie!

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I know…. two posts in one day, so sue me! Today is  a cool drizzly day that has me reaching for a cup of hot tea, and I’m in the mood for some show and tell.  I just found some of the most wonderful yarn in my mailbox. I got it from my friend, Maggie, owner of Prairieland Herbs. Maggie is also a fiber artist who manages to spin and dye fibers in her “spare time”.  She sells some of her work from an Etsy shop, a place, I’ve discovered, I’m going to need to be VERY careful about visiting. Apparently, I’m in danger of becoming a fiber junkie.

Look at this!  Isn’t it gorgeous stuff! Maggie calls this Lapsang Souchong (which just so happens to be the tea I’m drinking).  It’s a gorgeous natural steely grey yarn, spun from 50% Jacob wool and 50% alpaca. I had no clue what I was going to do with it, but Maggie suggested it would be fantastic for a pair of felted slippers. I’ve never felted before, and I’ve never made a pair of slippers, so it looks like I’m about ready to hit another learning curve.  First I need to find a slippers pattern I like. Any suggestions?

I’m so in love with this yarn! Maggie calls it Gimli.  It’s a 50/50 blend of dark romney and alpaca wool. It’s a natural brown color overdyed with deep forest tones of rust, brown, forest green, navy and slate. I’ve got to decide on something special for this.

Maggie included a couple of silk hankie freebies with my yarn.  I didn’t know what silk hankies were, so I had to look it up.  I just learned to knit last winter, so I’m still a noob. I read that the silk can be incorporated into the wool, but I couldn’t find any specific instructions.  The pink hankie was naturally dyed in cochineal, and the orange was dyed in madder root.  More for me to learn!