Monday, February 28, 2011

"You could sell that!"

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
It's inevitable. Once you start knitting, sooner or later there will be someone who says, "That's so great -- why, you could sell that and make money!" There's been discussion of this over on the Selfish Knitters group on Ravelry, where we've been dissecting what's up with the whole "you should sell your knitting" thang.

It's generally meant as a compliment, of course, meaning that your work demonstrates such skill that it would have value as a marketable commodity -- except without so many syllables. Personally, I think it's a sad commentary on our culture that a hobby is seen as worth engaging in only if you can make money at it, but there it is, and knitters aren't the only ones hearing this comment. Woodworkers, spinners, quilters -- I think everyone with a crafting hobby hears it.

Once in a while, though, a knitter will encounter someone who insists -- even demands -- that you should sell your knitting. You must. And will think there's something terribly wrong with you if you don't. What kind of weirdo wouldn't want to turn their hobby into a profitable business? Why, anything less is just a waste of time!

So then the knitter explains: So, you think I could sell these socks? And that someone would pay a whole $10 or $15 for them? Dear muggle, the yarn alone cost $25. Socks take 20 to 30 hours of my time to knit. Skilled labor is worth a bare minimum of $10 per hour, so if you know how to break into the $300-pair-of-socks market, please let me know. And even I'd be making less than my time on my day job is worth.

That's when the "you could sell that!" person protests! "B...b...but you do this in your spare time! You wouldn't really charge for your labor, would you? That's so... so... selfish! You should just charge what the materials cost you, and why are you using such expensive materials? You'll never make a profit unless you use cheaper yarn!"

So what's it going to be, O person with the bright business idea? Am I to sell my knitting and make money as you first said? Or am I to sell my knitting only for the cost of yarn, so that I end up with neither profit nor the knitted item I worked so hard to make? Please explain again why you think this is a good business plan, and by the way, please never, never ask me to be your business partner in any venture because it's clear that you don't have a lick of business sense whatsoever. Or maybe you're aspiring to be one of those CEOs who flushes the company down the toilet and walks away with millions in bonuses?

And then sometimes it gets worse. Bright Ideas comes back and says, "I know someone who will pay you $10 for a cowl just like the one you wear! And she's got three friends who want cowls, too! How soon can you finish them?" Or maybe it's dog sweaters, or slouchy berets, or Aran sweaters, or yarn deities help us, king-sized afghans. Because there's nothing a knitter would love to slave over more than a king-sized afghan that she'll never see again, right? Now you've got the dicey task of getting yourself out of being "volun-told" because Bright Ideas already went and told all of those people that you'd love to make the requested items for the pittance that's being offered.

Bright Ideas, do I have to serve you with a stack of cluecakes? Smack you with a clue-by-four? You are mistaking me for a mail order catalog. No, I take that back. You are mistaking me for a free knitwear dispensing machine. Listen now and hear this: I can't make money knitting under the conditions that you describe! And what's more, I don't want to!

If you ever find yourself pinned in the corner by such a Bright Idea, the wonderful people at Think Geek have the perfect shirt for you:

The Shirt of Ultimate Disambiguation

Of course, some people have turned knitting into a business. Some people are speedy knitters and make hats, cowls, mitts, and other small items to sell to boutiques, craft fairs, or online. Some design and sell patterns. A few have managed to become test knitters for big name designers or companies. A lucky fewer still have access to the kind of people who would pay $300 for a pair of hand knit cashmere and merino socks, and if anyone has secret access to that market, please let me in on it, 'kay? Especially if the clients are the kind of people who let the knitwear designer tell them what they're going to wear in the way of knitted garments.

For most knitters, though, knitting remains an unapologetically enjoyable, relaxing hobby that just happens to result in some pretty nifty sweaters, socks, and other good stuff.

And that's just fine.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

FO: Green Thumb Mitts

Yes, they're purple rather than green, but they're still the Green Thumb Mitt pattern, available on Ravelry. The textured yarn that I used and the density of the stitches don't show it well, but the thumb shaping cleverly incorporates a leaf pattern.

I used some of the Rowan Lima left from my Greenwood Cable vest, about one ball. It's a squooshy blend of baby alpaca, merino wool, and rayon -- soft and warm for the frosty and snowy days we've been having.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Public Service Announcement in Support of Public Servants

If you've been anywhere near the news media this past week, you've heard something about what's going on in Wisconsin: how the governor there, after giving tax breaks that drained the state coffers, proposes to balance the budget by busting unions. Or at least that's what I'm gathering from the New York Times.

Now, I hear a lot of grief about unions from certain political factions. From what they describe, life before the Awful Unions was a golden age for everyone.

An age where all workers of all ages enjoyed clean, well-lit, airy working conditions.

When children didn't waste time in school, but enjoyed the pleasures of a working life as soon as possible.

And then there was taking work home -- what a lark! All those golden opportunities to squeeze in extra work into the wee hours of the morning.

Worker safety was of course everyone's first concern.

And of course, never was anyone laid off for life because of injury, like losing half your fingers in a machine.

Why, factory owners sometimes even insisted that workers live in factory-provided high-quality housing.

Ah, how the American worker must long for those golden days of 12 hour shifts, 6 1/2 day work weeks, being paid in scrip good only at the company store, no insurance, no pension plan... ahhh, one can fairly hear the song of freedom!

Why, even today, factories move from American shores to overseas, where the workers can still enjoy the pre-union life.

And all workers are safe and happy. Right?

Not buying that? 

Yeah, neither am I. 

So fight the good fight, workers of Wisconsin!

I, along with a whole lot of state workers here, will be wearing red tomorrow in solidarity. So many across this nation know they're just one vote, one governor's proclamation, one "By Gad, we're gonna bust them unions!" away from a jump onto the greased rails aiming straight back to the Industrial Revolution.

We of the AFT salute you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Isaz is as done

Hoorah! My Isaz socks for our KAL are done! After much ripping out because suddenly following patterns is outside of my skill set, I finally got down to the feet, added a couple of diamonds down the foot, and finished them at Saturday's knit group meetup...

... where I sat in the rocking chair in the corner with my own box of Kleenex because I'm still sick. I was just getting over the last cold and subsequent sinus infection, when last week I came down with a fresh set of sniffles. But now I've got a clue where they're coming from. While complaining to our lab preparator that I was feeling sick again, Julie said, "You want to see why?" I said, "Um... what?" She whips out some petri dishes that the Bi 103 class had been using in their immunology unit. They'd sampled surfaces all around the lecture hall, incubated the plates for two days, then counted the bacteria colonies. Most of the surfaces showed some bacteria as one would expect, but the touch screen that runs our projection system was gross. It was disgusting. Even after only two days of incubation, the plate was solid bacteria. Nasty! But who thinks of washing a computer screen, even if it is a touch screen? I'm going in there with some disinfectant and blitz the bejeezus out of that screen and the mouse and everything else I handle in there. Between that and washing my hands after handling student papers, maybe I can get well again. I've been sick for a month now, and it's getting tiresome.

As for those Isaz socks, watch for the pattern to go up on Ravelry when the KAL is over.

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