Cost for knitters and designers come from different perspectives. You, the knitter, are doing this as something you enjoy, in your free time. I, as a designer, am trying to make a living doing what I do best and using skills I have learned/been trained in. There are lots of ways to look at this equation that won’t make either one of us happy, but I think we all know what those ways are so let’s just breeze past them and look at it another way.
Let’s look at shawls. We’ll look at the patterns I used earlier in this discussion; I’ve made both and I love both shawls.
Cost: to the Knitters
As a knitter the costs are in the materials, tools, and the time which we need to allocate to any project. The cost of materials is mostly what we react to. Other costs, such as for tools and supplies, we either already own, or know we will use again over time. The amount of time to make our chosen project is probably the cost we are least likely to get right, although the cost may not bother us.
Pattern: $6 for Everly OR $10 for Belon
Yarn: $23.55 for Finch from Quince & Co. OR $40 for Pearl (limited edition) / $24 for Kiwi Laceweight version / $55 for Serenity version (used 40g but you can’t buy partial skeins)
Total Materials: $29.55 for Everly OR $50 / $34 / $65 for Belon
Tools: Needles and markers (we’ll assume ownership of both).
Time to knit: I’ve knit both Everly (once) and Belon (3 times); I’m putting the time cost at 12 hours for each (I changed my Everly, so took some hours off the 15 hours total spent; Belon varied depending on the yarn, from 12 to about 18 hours).
We don’t get paid for the time we spend knitting so it doesn’t seem fair to allocate it as a hard cost. More likely, it is a trade off of how we use our non-committed time. For most knitters this time is not a hardship, although it can be hard to find enough hours in a time frame that appeals to us.
I like to think of the time I spend knitting this way: I can sit and watch TV doing nothing or looking at magazines, I could read a book, I could go to a movie, I could spend time with friends/family, I could go out to eat, I could go recreational shopping. I could spend my time drawing, sewing, or other crafty pursuit. I might cook. Okay, that’s pretty much all I do that would impinge on my knitting time. Almost any pursuit I might enjoy in lieu of knitting will cost me some money and likely some time.
Divide the cost of materials by 12 hours and those projects cost me $2.46/hour OR $4.17 / $2.83 / 5.42/hour. A movie cost me about $9.33 this weekend ($12 admission, $2 for my half of the Red Vines). I enjoyed the movie and don’t begrudge the cost at all, but clearly it was a much higher cost than me sitting in front of TV and knitting.
Cost: to the Designer
I spend anywhere from 8 hours to 80 hours creating a pattern. I do not knit my samples (usually), so I have hard costs for that, plus tech editing, photographs, and any help I need with creating charts. Tech editing, charts, and knitting costs vary depending on the pattern. Photographs end up costing me about $50 per pattern (photographer, models). I do not usually have to buy yarn. I would have paid $125 for the knitting of Belon. Tech editing probably cost me about $90, photography $50. Total hard costs: $265. Of course there are lots of other associated costs, but I don’t specifically allocate them per design. I don’t cover my hard costs until I sell 27 patterns. Remember, I haven’t been paid or covered my overhead.
If I sell a design to a magazine (a shawl pays about $250 to $350). I have to pay the knitter, but I don’t have the other hard costs but I do have to pay shipping, so my hard costs are about $150. I probably spend about 8 to 24 hours creating the pattern in their format. I retain the rights to my patterns, so I can issue it as my own pattern after the time specified has passed, but I have to create the pattern in my format, make charts, schematics, pay a tech editor, get photographs, and likely get the sample reknit.
I do then have the opportunity to market my work over time and I can use the material in creating classes.
Cost: Your Call
We all make judgments based on what we can afford. I do it every day and don’t feel badly that there are things I don’t find room for in my budget. I know what I value and I control how I spend my money. One thing that I find has really helped me is to just buy what I am going to use. I don’t feel guilty about my purchases, I tend to buy things close to when I will use them so they don’t weigh on me. I have learned that most of what I like to knit isn’t well suited to certain yarns, so I just don’t buy those beautiful, but to me, unusable yarns, except in small quantities. In reality, I have so little time to do recreational knitting that I don’t buy much yarn, which is good. I teach at FIDM in part to cover my office expenses (or a portion of them).