A foray into knitting for cash

Hand knitted bobble hats | Wolves in London Hand knitted bobble hats | Wolves in LondonI’m a member of a couple of Facebook Mum’s groups. You know the kind – they’re started for people who live in a particular area, to sell and buy second hand kids stuff, and gradually everyone within a 20 mile radius has joined and there are 5,000 Mums chatting away non-stop about why the kids don’t sleep, what on earth that weird rash is, and occasionally selling and buying things as well.

The other day, I saw a request on one of the groups from a Mum who wanted someone to knit a couple of ear-flapped bobble hat for her twins. She had the pattern and the yarn, but just realised that she didn’t have the time to make them herself. Was there anyone out there who could, and if so, how much would it cost?

I watched the update for a while, checking on the comments coming in, assuming that someone else would jump at the chance.

But nobody did.

I’ve been meaning to get back into knitting recently, not having picked up the needles since I made the sproglet’s cardie last winter, and I ummed and ahhed about whether to say I could do it.

Because, you know, on the one hand it’s a bit of money for knitting, which I enjoy doing. But then again, I long ago worked out that there was no way in the world you could make any money hand knitting anything, unless you had a nearby coterie of millionaires who wanted to buy from you.

But in the end, I left a comment saying I could do it, and the Mum accepted.

I also linked to my Ravelry page, just so she could see that I did know how to knit.

And then the other responses came flooding in. Within a few hours, I’d been asked to knit a total of eight hats. Eight!

In a glow of happiness at the nice things everyone was saying about my knits, I agreed to all of them, saying that I would just have to figure out prices. (And half thinking about what an incredible knitting empire I was going to set up, and how I would spend my days making these hats, which would almost certainly be picked up by Liberty within a few months and they would pay me millions to knit away, sitting in front of fire. Because, you know me, that’s just how I am…)

Hand knit baby hat
My gorgeous niece, modelling the hat for me, pre-bobble attachment

Hand knitted bobble hats | Wolves in London

But after that, everything started to get a bit stressful. I decided to do a trial knit of the hat in question to make sure it was relatively easy to make. I assumed it would take me a couple of hours. It took more than five.

(Partly, my knitting speed is probably a bit slow after a break, but it is also just fairly slow knitting a 1×1 rib for a while at the beginning…)

I’d originally thought of asking for £20 per hat, which already seemed a bit steep to me, but I realised that with the cost of yarn (£5-£7 per hat) I would then be making the grand total of £3 an hour.

While I do love knitting, having to knit eight hats relatively quickly at that rate just didn’t really seem like something worth adding to a life where I already feel a little squeezed for time.

So, I asked the next lady for £22.50 per hat. Tentatively, and slightly embarrassed. She immediately replied, saying she would be happy to pay more. Phew, I thought, this knitting malarkey might just pay off. Time to stop fretting quite so much…

The next person wanted two balaclavas for her grandsons. Buoyed by the last response, and knowing this would involve even more knitting, I asked for £30, figuring I was upping my hourly rate to around £5, which was starting to make it vaguely worthwhile, but obviously still less than pretty much any other job. Within seconds I had an embarrassed response saying that she hadn’t thought it would be that much and she couldn’t afford it.

I felt awful.

Anyway, to cut the rest of the story short, I’ve done little but worry about costs for the last four days and am once again back to the realisation that there is no way to make money by hand knitting, without feeling like a total money-grubber by asking people to part with a lot of money for a knitted item.

Sigh.

It’s my fault, of course, for not having worked out a price and given it upfront. But now I’m putting off contacting the rest of the people who’ve asked for hats, not knowing if pitching at £25 will be just what they expected or wildly more than they had imagined.

Should I go lower, so they’re not disappointed, and just commit myself to knitting like crazy every evening til Christmas, or should I stick at that amount and simply try not to worry if they say no?

Any thoughts gratefully appreciated!

Update: I wrote this a week ago and then left it sitting in my drafts for some reason. I have since finished the first pair of hats, a few pics of which are dotted throughout this post. I worried endlessly about whether the person who’d asked for them would be happy with them. She seemed to like them when she picked them up, but didn’t fall to the floor in wonder and amazement, saying “My god! You’re the greatest knitter in the world, how can it possibly be that your fair hands have created something so wondrous and elegant as these perfectly-knitted hats?” which I think would have been the only response to calm my concerns about various things like size of bobble and evenness of stitches and whether the turn up was a little too tight etc etc.

I also approached the next person on the list who had asked for a hat and said it would be £25. She replied and said that, actually, she was moving to Australia so probably didn’t need the hats after all, which seemed a rather unlikely response, having asked for me to make them a mere day before, so I suspect that she thought it was too much money.

So, I am currently frantically knitting away at the next pair, to try and finish them before tomorrow and I have spent most of the past few days worrying that the yarn I’ve used isn’t soft enough and that she is going to be disappointed with the end results. I then have one more to knit — for a friend — and after that I will put away my needles for any attempts at making money and use them only for knitting for family and friends as presents.

The hat, though, I should say, is pretty awesome and the pattern is great. If you’re a knitter and are in the market for a bobble hat with earflaps then I recommend it! More details over on Ravelry for anyone interested: Earflap helmet hat.

Joining up with Yarn Along

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3 thoughts on “A foray into knitting for cash

  1. Every time someone sees me knitting at work they tell me I should sell it but as you found, no one wants to pay what hand knitting is really worth. It ties into the cost of clothes being so cheap because of cheap labour abroad so no one gets the amount of work involved! Ah well, save your talent for people who really get it!!

  2. I loved your story…and it is so true. It’s hard to put a price on all the work that goes into a project. Anyway, hope you have a Merry Christmas! Just started receiving your e-mails and I’m really enjoying them. Thank you!

  3. Totally agree, so hard to charge accurately for your time when it comes to knitting. I think your hats turned out wonderfully cute, though!

    Maybe next time barter for something other than cash in return? A couple batches of cookies or homemade bread or even a whole cooked meal depending on the item, babysitting time (if you know them personally and trust them), a couple of errands run for you, etc.

    Maybe would seem less expensive for the knittee, and like a better return for the knitter?

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