fair trade*

As you probably know, I like making things.  Some of them turn out lovely, some not so much (remember the Ugly Sock? I hope she’s having a happy life…)  I do tend to post pictures of the lovely ones, and sometimes people will encouragingly suggest I could sell the Lovely Things.


This is an appealing idea, both financially and egotistically (gosh, look at me!  earning money through my own creative endeavours!)  But I find a great big problem when it comes to setting a fair and realistic price for what I’ve made.


I like to work with good materials.  I make no apologies for this.  If I’m going to spend time knitting/ crocheting/ sewing something, I want to enjoy the experience, and value the end product.  This doesn’t mean luxury, extravagance or top prices (I love a sale, bargain buy or good quality basic), but I’m not going to compromise with the materials I use.  I almost always prefer wool, preferably British and organic to reduce the environmental impact.  I’d rather not make something if I can’t afford to use the yarn or fabric it needs for the result I want.


(Cost of materials for rainbow spotty cushion: rainbow colours, approximately £5; cream, approximately £6; cushion pad, ripped from a £2.49 Argos sale cushion, does anyone know a cheaper source?  Total= £13.49)


I know other people have this problem too with selling handmade Lovely Things, and end up undervaluing their time terribly.  There’s an argument that we’d make these things anyway: as a hobby, an enjoyable way to keep our hands busy.  There’s some validity to this, but how can we expect people who don’t make Lovely Things to understand the time that goes into making them?  This is how we’ve come to live in a culture of cheap throwaway clothing, produced in factories under dubious conditions  (and yes, I have three children and a limited budget, I buy Primark pyjamas too…)  Maybe we should price our Lovely Things instead in hours of our time, and see what monetary offers we receive?


(I estimate the rainbow spotty cushion took around 12 hours to knit and assemble.  Admittedly, several of these hours I was doing something else simultaneously: reading, thinking, sitting in the car.   Labour cost at minimum wage: £72.96)


What are the possible solutions?  Compromise on materials; negotiate a lower price for supplies (through squeezing someone else’s margins?); learn to knit at warp speed; accept that pennies per hour is a fine rate of pay; find a niche market of wealthy customers.  I’m only really liking that last one, myself…




*Things this post is not: advertising, a guilt-trip, a pity party.  I would love discussion and constructive feedback.



Filed under crafting

7 responses to “fair trade*

  1. Rosie

    It is an issue. Almost the first thing people ask when they see my knitting something is how long it takes me. To which I never even know the reply, as I don’t really keep count, and it’s not really the point. It takes as long as it takes…

  2. I’ve had this discussion with people several times, and it is always difficult. Time is something people just don’t want to factor in when they are buying, and if any of us charged even minimum wage then we could never hope to sell anything. This means we have to enjoy making the things we make, it is the only way we can get some form of recompense.

    I’d love to be able to make and package things upmarket enough to charge a higher price and find the rich niche market and be able to sell consistently to it – but I don’t want to spend lots of time doing admin and marketing and the like, which is one of the things which would be needed. I want to make things, I want to create, not be in marketing.

    I tend to set prices based on cost of materials, aiming where possible for about 3 times the cost (so that one, a replacement one, a bit extra.) However it isn’t always possible, so sometimes it is only double costs.

  3. arky-helen

    Totally agree.
    I find I want to make things as presents but then am unsure how it works out money wise. So for example, if I’d usually spend £15 on a gift, should I then spend £15 on materials? Or less, and count the time as money. But will they then think I’m being a cheapskate? Or will they not like my handmade gift anyway and prefer a voucher? Very tricky and I shall be interested to see what others think!

  4. There is no easy answer to this. I have only ever met one person who insists she charges a fair rate for time spent. http://www.kathrens.co.uk/index.html Nicola Kathrens only sells one-off pieces from her shop in Lyme Regis and some of them sell for thousands. She told me you should charge for your time at £10 per hour, no less. Interestingly there is another designer knitwear shop in Lyme called Hilary Highet, so perhaps the answer is to move to the south coast where the DFLs (Down From London) appear! (I have to say that Nicola’s pieces are truly works of art, but then so are yours)

  5. katherinea

    It’s tough, isn’t it? I have come to the conclusion that we aren’t as rich as we think we are; we can only have all this stuff as it is made in countries where wages are so much lower. And as these countries get richer, we move onto news ones to make our stuff for us. If a cushion actually costs £86 then I can’t afford as many as I thought I could. And the same is true for a lot of the other stuff I buy.

    And if you were to charge £86 for your cushion and everyone else charged prices accordingly, your £86 wouldn’t go very far.

    Of course handmade is an additional cost, but it would still be cheaper made in a country where there is a low or no minimum wage

    So I congratulate myself for my economic theory and sleep in my Primark pyjamas.

  6. Pingback: Yarny thoughts and ballet knits | Knit Two, Pointe Two, Bake Two Together

  7. A maker I saw online somewhere a while back said that even though she was essentially crafting as a hobby and selling on the side for pin money, she always charged time at a reasonable rate. She found the idea of being able to undercut the price of those trying to make a living from their crafting because she was earning a living from her full time unethical.

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