What Am I Worth?

Generally, when I spin and knit, I don’t track my time very carefully, if at all. I know it takes me about an hour to spin an ounce of fingering weight yarn on my wheel. An ounce on drop spindles is much longer.

I am not a speed knitter, but not a slouch either and the size of the yarn and needles affect how much I can get done in an hour.

These factors always stop me cold when I am pricing an item of hand spun, hand knit for my shop. A hat of worsted weight yarn might take me about 4 hours to knit if it is a simple pattern, like this one, a slouch hat of stockinette, garter, and ribbing. The yarn was worsted to aran, about 3 ounces, so a couple of hours of spinning and plying. A total of 6 or 7 hours of my time plus the cost of the wool to spin.

This cowl took me close to 24 hours to knit. The three skeins that were hand spun in the cowl were done on drop spindles. The fiber and the mill spun mini skeins were all gifts or bonuses that came with other purchases, so it was just time involved.

Total hours on this fingering weight cowl, maybe 35. I doubt that this cowl will go in the shop, but there is one in the shop of silk, drop spindle spun, my own pattern design. Paying myself slave labor wages of a couple of dollars an hour, it would have to be priced at more than $70-75. People will look, comment that it is lovely, that they can’t spend that much money on a gift or on themselves, and walk on, at least in the area that we live.

The shawl in the header photo is the one I did from the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em challenge yarns. It has 8 different breeds hand spun on the wheel. Each breed had to be at least 4 ounces, but the white center triangle was 15 ounces and the light gray around the edge and one stripe was 8 ounces. That was countless hours of spinning and then probably near 50-60 hours to knit it. It isn’t for sale, it couldn’t be. How could I ever price it?

This is my conundrum. My hook is that my items are hand spun, hand knit, or hand woven garments, so I don’t want to work with inexpensive big box store yarn. My body products are handmade with organic ingredients. Because the body products are generally priced under $10, they sell at craft shows and holiday markets but spinning, knitting, and weaving are what I do for pleasure.

So how do you decide what you are worth? Or how much loss you are willing to take to continue the crafts? And none of this takes into account what the equipment costs are to do these crafts.

That kind of day.

Sundays are quiet days. This Sunday is gray and gloomy, cold, just at freezing but not wet. A good day for sitting by a fire with a cup of tea, a good book, or my knitting. A good day for stew simmering on the stove and bread rising for baking.

To build a fire in the living room, a fire needs to be built in the wood stove in the basement or we get a downdraft on that side of the chimney and smoke in the basement.

That fire heats up the basement, where we keep the thermostat set below the ambient temperature of the ground as the basement is set three sides underground and the fourth side south facing. Having a fire there heats the basement above the temperature that we set the living area thermostats and the rising heat up the stairwell keeps the thermostat for the main part of the house from turning the heat on, and it heats the floors enough to help keep the main level of the house warmer.

The living room fireplace is a Rumford design that has an actual open vent from outside to bring in air and the tall curved back and smoke shelf to prevent downdrafts, projects heat back into the house. This is about as efficient as an open fireplace can be. When we aren’t sitting in front of it monitoring the burn, we have both screen doors and glass doors that can be closed for safety. Fortunately, we have never had to rely on these two sources of heat for more than a handful of days from power outage due to an ice storm. With the woodstove, a gas grill, and a camp stove, cooking wasn’t a problem then. Water was, as we are on a well, but we have a 4500 gallon cistern system that catches rain and snow melt from the roof and downhill from it is a gravity fed yard hydrant so water for toilets and animals can be obtained there. Purchased water for cooking and drinking for us if we haven’t filled bottles. Generally, the basement freezer has a dozen or so gallon bottles frozen in it to help keep food when the power is out. Since we don’t hunt and don’t buy perishables in bulk, there is usually not too much to lose.

We love our retirement farm and are truly fortunate in having acres of grass that can be hayed and young men who want the hay for their livestock that take care of mowing and baling it and in exchange for the hay, keep areas brush hogged and this year keeping us in firewood by cutting an oak that fell at the edge of the hay field two springs ago, split that wood and brought it up to our woodpile. They were going to stack it too, but three grand kids that were here awaiting a holiday meal stacked most of it for us. We don’t abuse their offers of help, but know that if there was really a task beyond our capabilities, we could call one of them and they would make time to take care of it. Country life is certainly different than the suburban life of my working years.

An ark, an ark, my knits for an ark

Whew, we went from 12 degrees f a few mornings ago to 40 and torrential rain. It was low teens 3 nights in a row (no frozen pipes thank goodness) and the days weren’t even reaching freezing then it changed as Virginia will at any season. There was a winter storm warning last night causing schools to delay or close for no reason as it never was cold, and it rained. The wind blew and it rained some more. Still is raining hard. Without an attic to buffer sound, we hear it when it rains hard. Not the pinging on a metal roof like in the barn, but it is still a metal roof with insulation.

When we went to dinner and then to daughter’s house for grandson’s birthday dinner on Sunday, we discussed having another mother/daughter movie date, taking her kids this time, to see Call of the Wild when it comes out the end of February. We had both watched the trailers and wanted to see it. It has been many decades since I had read it, and in our home library is a leather bound copy of Jack London books, so as soon as I finished the ebook I had out from the library, I started reading it. I’m not sure how true to the book the movie will be, but I am looking forward to it.

Today’s rain allowed me to finish it.

The Toolbox Cowl is progressing. I sat in a waiting room again yesterday and knit. Work has been done on it at night. I’m on the last stockinette section, the second to last skein. There will be one more Diamond tweed section with this skein and the final skein and the last Garter Rib section. I’m not sure I should have used the more brightly colored variegated one, but I think I like it anyway.

With lots of Corriedale, Merino, silk, and bamboo in the skeins, it is soft. It shouldn’t take me too much more time to complete. I read the Yarn Harlot’s blog and she posts finishing mitten and cowls in a day. Wow, she must be a speed knitter.

Tomorrow is going to be chilly and party sunny, maybe I can finally get the coop cleaned out. Today a bale of pine chips was purchased because straw seems to be scarce. The old straw is going in the run, the rain has made the area just inside the gate a hazard to my health and safety. There really isn’t a level spot on our property, but I’m not sure I picked the right spot to put that coop when we got it. With the bare scratched earth and a couple inches of rain or a coat of ice, I can slide forever. Perhaps I should put some rough pavers from the gate to the pop door.