Last summer or fall, my eldest did two pages of calculations to determine about what it was costing me per bar to make my soaps. This came right after I did a craft event where I was one of about 5 or 6 people that had hand crafted soap, some selling for as little as $3 per bar. At that rate of sale, they are barely making back the materials cost. I do try to use as many organic ingredients as I can obtain and that increases my cost some, but I can’t sell my soap for $3 per bar and get paid anything for my time to make, package, pay booth fee, Virginia sales tax, and time spent at the event selling. A couple of weekends ago, I was at a re-enactment event and was told I could vend. There was another spinner/soap maker there that was local and not in Rev War costume and her soaps were $3.50 per bar. I didn’t check her knit hat prices. Neither of us sold anything that day.
Very low price handcrafted items devalues other craftsmen.
I know my hand spun, hand knit prices have been too low, so I did a bit of research to see what similar items are listed for on Etsy. I don’t know if they actually sell, but the prices for hats with bulky yarn are listed for nearly double my prices for items hand spun, hand knit with fingering to dk weight yarn. I decided to time myself spinning and then knitting a pair of fingerless mitts. It takes me almost 5 hours to spin, ply, and wash 4 ounces of wool roving, longer if I have to wash the fleece, dry it, comb or card it to use. It take me another 5 hours to knit a pair of fingerless mitts, probably a bit less to do a hat, again from fingering to dk weight yarn. I use about half a skein for the mitts, so 2.5 hours, plus 5 hours is 7 to 8 hours of my time. If I price them at a wage of $5 per hour, not counting the cost of the roving or fleece, no one will buy them.
A real craftsman can not compete with foreign sweatshop made prices.
Most of my hand knit items are from patterns that I developed, not patterns I have found online. That adds more hours to the project. It is difficult to compare apples to oranges, when another vendor is knitting or crocheting bulky acrylic yarn into hats and cowls while I am spinning wool to a fine yarn and knitting. I know I am worth the price that a hand crafted item should sell for, but my stock accumulates. Next weekend, I will participate in a first year Artisan event. The artists that have been featured are true artists, I hope it is a success for us all.