Friday, November 10, 2006

What's it worth to ya?

In Civil War world I am often asked how much I charge for my knitting.

In Civil War world, unlike today, it is not possible to nip down to K-mart and purchase one these kicky little numbers off the rack for $11.99 plus tax.

Not that I would.

Lots of stores today are filled with things that look handknitted to me--cable sweaters, slinky scarves, bulky hats, mittens and gloves, pillows, even Christmas ornaments.

Those things are pretty cheap. As a rule, we could not knit them ourselves for even twice the money. And the money would be for the yarn, without factoring in our precious time. Some Chinese or Malaysian knitter somewhere is doing it all for us.

In Civil War world, though, if you want to look like this guy, you have to make it yourself or pay someone to make it for you. The going rate on smaller items like socks or these hats is about $65. It's fair, I guess. The hand-spun and -dyed yarn for each is about $15. Socks would certainly take a few days to knit, even in DK yarn. The hats are the most profitable.

When you start getting into bigger items or more complicated items, the price quickly becomes a factor. Shawls take a long time. They take more yarn. If you're copying a photograph, you're essentially drafting your own pattern.

More importantly, civil war knitting uses a lot of garter stitch. Garter stitch is a useful stitch, but a whole shawl can be incredibly boring. Deadly dull. Would you charge extra for that?

If you are knitting for someone else, you are not knitting for youself. Do you charge extra (as we learned in macro-economics) for opportunity cost?

You will never wear this item. You may never see it again. Do you charge extra for that?

I actually love to knit these hats. Something about the decreases powers me through the knitting. I could do one after another without getting bored, especially if I can work with stripes and colors. Should I deduct my pleasure from the final cost?

I've sold a shawl, a hood, a dickey, and some hats, but for the most part I rarely sell my knitting. I have begun trading it though. I have long subscribed to the idea that all work has value and that an hour of your time is worth as much to you as an hour of my time to me.

Yesterday, I traded one of these hats for an expertly conducted, Civil War-themed driving tour of St. Louis.

I'd just spend the $65 on the electric bill anyway.

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