|Photo from Wikimedia Commons|
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.