Thursday, September 19, 2013

knitting for "profit" during these "hard economic times"

When I first started this blog, almost always I wrote about what I recently made, who I made it for, what I made it from. I had no intention of writing lengthy stories or what was going on in my life - I just wanted a forum to brag about the things I've made. 

As I spent more time online, with facebook, ravelry, ebay, etsy, and now zibbet all keeping me busy, I was blogging less and less about my projects. As I got more involved in online forums and groups - which is, really, a mistake due to how time consuming it gets! - I found myself loving my hobby of knitting but less the "business" of knitting. 

Yes, I use "business" and "profit" in quotes with regard to knitting, for a reason. Let me explain: I've heard it said, many times, that the difference between 'business' and 'hobby' is a paycheck. Anyone will tell you that any attempt at a career in the arts is not a steady paycheck. You are only as good as your next paying project. If you put in a 40 or 50 hour work week, there's no guarantee of a paycheck on Friday, as you'd normally get if you were working in an office. You can go months without getting paid for any of your work. 

Any knitter or crocheter would vouch for the number of hours that go into making anything. If - if - you decide to sell any of your work, you fall into one of three groups: the person who charges by the hour, the person who charges by the yard knit, or the person who only charges for the cost of yarn. The difference between the first two groups and the third, is that with the third group you can likely get a scarf for under $10, whereas the first two groups will likely charge you close to $100 if not more for the exact same garment.

I've been selling on etsy for a number of years, and a couple years ago I switched from etsy to zibbet. I have, occasionally, sold a handknit garment. I've sold online, I've sold at shows, and I've been commissioned for work as well. I do not fall in the third group at all - my time is worth something, whether I've knit that garment in my spare time or in lieu of work time. I do this in spite of the popularity of department stores who fill their isles with clothes made in sweat shops. In spite of whatever hard economic times there may be. 

I also don't use the cheapest yarns, even though I could. I believe, for myself, in investing in quality. Would I wear cheap materials? Or do I want to wear something functional? Meaning - I could wear an acrylic sweater because it's cheap, but won't keep me warm, so investing in a wool or wool/acrylic sweater just makes sense, because that is the thing that's going to keep me warm. If I have this standard for my own clothing, I have that same minimum standard for what I make as gifts or for sale.

Now, there's a certain luxury with selling on sites like etsy or zibbet or ebay - people know what they are, and people go there to shop. These are among the best places to list your wares, and since my marketing skills are minimal, and my web design skills are non existent, so that's where I list what I've made. The down side is, of course, I'm competing with a lot of knitters and crocheters who do what I do, but on the cheap. Cheapest materials, listed for the cheapest prices. Because - despite the fact that they're selling their wares, they're not really running a business in their minds. So, my $90+ toddler sweaters made from quality, durable, breathable, comfortable yarns are competing with toddler sweaters made from the cheapest materials and listed for under $25. Why? Because, kids, my time is worth something, and theirs isn't, and what I've made is using quality materials that took a bit of thought and planning and research, and theirs has likely been made on the cheap. 

Granted, I can't control how other people price their items. I never will be. I can't control what others choose to knit or crochet with. And, as much as I try, it's impossible for me to educate everyone on the benefits of natural fibers vs man made ones. My own circle have questioned why my prices for my things are much more than others who knit or crochet and sell for 1/4 of the dollars that mine are listed for. 

I can explain to them, what I've already written. Most will get it, but realistically I know many don't. It's very difficult to explain how my time is worth as much as their time is, and if we each put in 40 hours into a project, how we should both expect to get paid at least the same amount. But it does come down to my hand knit clothing costs drastically more than most others who sell online, and certainly more than some big name department store with overseas sweatshop labour.

When we've become accustomed to discount stores, cheap materials, cheap labour and mediocrity in big box stores, why is it that we see the same for those who make and sell their own items? Is there not a sense of pride in what you've made?

I don't want to get political about which stores support sweatshop labour. Or how ironic it is when I overhear people complain about how SprawlMart has invaded their town and closed down mom-&-pop-shops, as they empty their bags full of merchandise that they've just purchased from there. Or the irony that these big department stores claim that they create jobs, since they hire so many people, when in fact they're hiring the very people they've drove out of business in the first place, and are now trying to live on part time minimum wage paychecks instead of the actual bread-winning income they were earning before their businesses closed down.

What I do have a problem with, is when the very people who are in the market of selling handmade, they make a point to not support handmade by buying any of it. Or, when they promote their items on facebook (or wherever) - they have the audacity to write "...we strive to work with budgets that have to be stretched without sacrificing quality..." Really? The quality may be in their skill as a crafter, but is the quality still there when they're using the cheapest materials? When they undervalue their work to the point where they're priced as cheaply as a discount department store? When, each time they list clothing so inexpensively, they're making a point to undermine the rest of us?

How are these "discount crafters" any different than the sprawlmarts that close down businesses? How is this good business practice? 

It's interesting to see, in the forums of these selling sites at least, how one site will condemn another for starting off supporting handmade and is now in the gutter by supporting sweatshop wholesalers, when in fact their own prices don't reflect the work they've put into it. How do we set a standard for how we value ourselves, how seriously we take ourselves as artists and business owners, when no matter where I go, I can throw a stick and hit a dozen shops that undercut those of us who actually care about what we're doing?

Let's face it, we all struggle. Most of us don't have thousands of dollars burning a hole in our pockets. But, let's be realistic: we need to re-evaluate our priorities. Supporting "cheapest is best" when buying from these handmade sites is not really supporting handmade, even what you're buying is handmade. When supporting handmade, support those who truly are authentically handmade. My time is worth as much as yours. and supporting sellers who look more at sales numbers than providing quality is no different than buying at a store that supports sweat shops.

Monday, April 1, 2013

toe up socks for the guys...

Dad's socks, knit in Paton's Kroy FX
 in Camo Colours
I just realized that I haven't blogged in a long while, so I'm going to make a point to blog a bit more this month.

Just a knitting update: I'm in love with knitting toe up socks. I know this pattern may be a little vanilla for some people's tastes, but vanilla works for me. I still don't get the logic behind knitting lacey socks, but give me a good skein of self stripping yarn, and this pattern looks awesome.

Both pairs of socks I have here, I finished last month. My dad's socks were for his birthday (yesterday) and DH's socks were made just for fun. Honestly, I wasn't planning on making DH any socks, but when he saw my dad's completed pair, he changed his mind and wanted some!
DH's socks, knit in Paton's Kroy Stripes
in Country Jaquard

(Not a problem!) 

Both were an easy knit - and my dad's I finished in record time, 9 days! It really helps knitting both socks at the same time, I've never been able to knit a pair of anything separately. Sleeves, mittens, socks - all done both at the same time. 

The only tweek I made to the toe up pattern, as you may be able to tell from these two pairs, is I added a little bit of ribbing to where the arch of the food would be, to make the sock more of a snug fit.


I've already cast on a pair for my FiL, his birthday is in June so they'll be gifted then. The yarn I'm using is similar to what I've used for DH's socks, but in a different colour. Pictures to come soon!



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

halloween sheep cookies!

I made these sugar cookies last week - not until today did I get around to blogging about them. The icing on them is my first attempt at making homemade cookie icing, so all things concidered, they turned out pretty awesome!

In case it's hard to tell: the top 3 are just regular sheep with bloody bites missing, the two black ones are bloodthirsty sheep (there's blood coming from their mouths!), a jack o lantern sheep, a candy corn sheep, and the three on the right are zombie sheep! :D

The bites were simply made using the scalloped edges of the sheep cutter, and I bought the candy eyes from Bulk Barn.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

useless

I'm all for knitting and crocheting both fun and/or functional items. Not all knitting needs to be functional, it can be weird or cute or silly.

But then, there's just madness.

Cozies for your fruit serve no purpose. Apples and bananas do not need a sweater.

A cozie for beer or coffee cups can be, in certain circles, a bit of a stretch. Beer bottle cozies help keep beer cooler longer, and don't get your hands cold. One might argue that the purpose of an ecological, reusable coffee cup cozie seems pointless when getting coffee in a paper cup that you're going to throw out anyway - but they can be cute nonetheless, and they do serve a purpose.

Apple cozies serve no actual, functional purpose. Unless, of course, your goal is to have your coworkers stare at you in the lunch room, wondering why your apple is wearing a sweater. Or, maybe, you've got a partial skein of yarn that's just burning a hole in your craft room and there is absolutely nothing else in the universe that is left for you to make a cozie for. Or, maybe, pharmaceuticals are involved, and while on them you become convinced that your apple is freezing and needs a sweater. Or, maybe, you're trying to be an etsy hipster and you've already got pictures of you posing with that Sharpie marker mustache you drew on your finger, and making an apple cozie is the next logical step in things to make and display online.

I'm usually the last one to comment on the utter uselessness or tackiness of something. Nevertheless, comment has been made. I've yet to be convinced of their purpose, and can guarantee that this will never be something that I'll make.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

free patterns vs paid-for patterns

I've been debating for a while now, whether or not to write a post about this, since this is something that has affected not only myself, but several other designers out in the knitting and crochet community.

I've got quite a few patterns available for free, as you can see... but these are all for small projects (1 skein or less) - I haven't posted them for sale largely because I personally only would want to post larger patterns for sale, for items like shawls or sweaters. This perspective will vary from one designer to the next. The knitting community has, for the most part, greatly & graciously appreciated the quantity of free patterns out there, and whenever possible, supported designers who chose to charge for their patterns.

Designers should never have to feel guilty for charging for a pattern. Most people - whether they knit or not - can appreciate the quantity of work that goes into knitting a garment. There's as much work that goes into writing out that design, and making sure that it's as accurate as possible.

Now, it will happen, on occasion, that there'll be a pattern that will come up for sale online or in a book or magazine, and there'll be free patterns that are very similar to it that will pop up. Assuming that the authors of the free patterns aren't purposely and deviously trying to make a sale pattern available for free, but rather these free patterns are merely coincidentally similar, then whoever decides to make the pattern that's for sale shouldn't feel any sort of guilt from having to buy the pattern, despite the availability of the free similar ones.

In my case, what happened a couple years ago, was I designed a sweater similar to the one worn in the movie The Big Lebowski. My brother was a huge fan of the movie, he loved the sweater, he wanted one, and he had requested one from me. At the time, there were no patterns available. So, I had to somehow improvise one. I did, and as I knit mine, I wrote out my pattern the best that I could. I had never written a sweater pattern before, but I had already knit several sweaters, so I had a fairly good idea of how to go about creating one.

My brother's sweater was gifted in September, for his birthday. The pattern became available for sale soon afterwards in the etsy shop I had at the time. As it turns out, exactly a week after I had mine up for sale and linked to ravelry, another designer had come out with her own version of the Lebowski sweater, and had decided to share it for free.

I have to admit, at the time I prided myself in finally coming out with a sweater pattern that seemed to be in such high demand; people had been posting online for years, desperately wanting a Lebowski sweater pattern. And it did bother me a bit that someone else not only came out with a pattern pretty much exactly at the same time I did, but I felt a little undermined that it was available for free. But, our patterns were different enough, and at the end of the day, it was really coincidence that we both had a Lebowski sweater pattern that came out at the same time, so I really couldn't fault anyone for that.

The problem came, though, soon afterwards. And it largely came because there was a free pattern out there, which inevidably conflicts with a pattern for sale.

I had sold a few of my patterns, and as far as I knew, everything was fine. A year had passed, I had quite a few people buy my pattern and knit it, and I had received quite a few emails of people who had finished my design and they all seemed to turn out rather well. The issue, rather, came about on ravelry - I had a couple people buy my pattern, and within a couple months, wrote very mean messeges to me about how they believed I was trying to rip them off, SIMPLY BY HAVING A PATTERN FOR SALE when there was another one out there for free.

In my defense, I told them, that my pattern and the free one had come out within a week of each other, and a basic pattern search on ravelry would show both of these patterns. They chose to buy my pattern, I couldn't be held responsible for that.

It was only AFTER that, that I was told that my pattern was apperently riddled with mistakes, although those mistakes were noted absolutely nowhere. The couple who had complained about my pattern said they would ONLY let me know what these mistakes were on the condition that I paid them for it - which is unheard of, at least as far as I was concerned.

Sidenote: I've frequently come across mistakes in patterns, in both ones I've bought AND ones I've used for free. In EVERY case, I have not only contacted the designer with the mistakes I've found, but I've also made note of them in my notes on ravelry. If for nothing else, that there is SOME mention of erratta SOMEWHERE, and there's a chance that the next person who knits said design MIGHT come across my notes and can make the necessary adjustments. So far, in all of my years at least on ravelry, this has been what other knitters have also done with the patterns they've made. I've even posted, out of curiosity, in ravelry's forums, if a designer should pay their paying customers for pattern corrections, to which I've got an astounding 'no'.

Back on topic: I came to the conclusion that what these couple buyers had was buyer's remorse. I get it, it sucks to have to pay for something when you later discover you could've gotten something very similar for free. This was something that was reiterated a few times to me by these few people: I owed them because they believed I cheated them out of something. I even had one person wanting me to pay her back for the yarn she bought, because she used the colours I did in my original design, rather than using the origincal colours from the Lebowski sweater. Huh?!? And another knitter who, even though she bought the right yarn, knit much too tight and would up with a tighter tension (and therefore, a smaller sweater) so, according to her, I owed her for that as well.

Eesh... one has really nothing to do with another.

I want to note, only because I've been asked and this has been commented on, that I've absolutely not had a problem with the other (free) pattern, nor an issue with its designer. She's a wonderful designer and we've had a good chat about our sweater patterns when they were first released in the ravelry communtiy. The issues solely lied with the few knitters who have a) bought the pattern, and b) commented on their own issues of these seemingly conflicting designs.

On a personal note, it has hurt me quite a bit when my pattern came out that I was given as much grief as I had, simply because I decided to charge for my design, and I apparently had a very selfish audacity to offer a pattern for sale when was out there for free. I took it very personally then, and it still bothers me a bit to this day, to be attacked in such a way not only privately, but also blatently and publicly, online, simply for having a pattern for sale. I didn't steal the design, and yet I felt like I was being crucified simply for having a pattern for sale.

It had been, after a year of being available, taken down. I had completely removed it and was since very much discouraged for even considering sharing another pattern (for free OR for sale) because of those couple incidents.

I have, though, a number of times since, been asked to at the very least share my intarsia charts for the Lebowski sweater pattern I made, and I stood on the fence of whether or not I wanted to even share them privately, because of all that had gone on. So, I simply declined.

Now, 3 years to the month later, and after several more requests for at least the charts (and a few requests for my version of the pattern as well) I decided to post it up as only a ravelry download here - charts and all. I'm posting with a great amount of hesitation, but hopeful that maybe even part of my pattern is helpful to anyone who wants to knit a sweater, and that there's an effort for positive construction to move forward.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

short post

Short post today: I know I missed posting for the last couple mondays, I just didn't have anything to write.

Progress on diet: I finally got past the 25lb mark - I've lost 25.2 lbs so far, despite a couple glitches. Better late than never.

Summer top progress: I'm making progress. I'm knitting this top-up, so I finished the torso and part of the sleeves, I've just joined everything and am finishing the yoke part of the top. Trying to figure out how I'm going to decrease everything to finish off the collar so it doesn't look half-assed. More on that later.

DH and I are doing a little relief work, taking in a foster child toddler for the next 10 days or so, so I may not be posting next monday. But I'll definately post the week after. Maybe I'll get around to downloading whatever I need to download for blogger so I can finally post pictures!

Monday, June 25, 2012

epic knitting fail

I'm still having trouble uploading pictures into my blog, and downloading the new blog format, so bear with me. I'll be including links to ravelry for my project.

The top that I bought way back in March, that I started nearly 3 months ago, was completed last night and it was an epic fail. For a number of reasons. I believe, truly, that it had more to do with the pattern than my knitting, but I'm not going to blame it entirely on the design. I'll comfortably divide the blame 80/20, the latter being my eye and knitting.

Ravelry link to my project: Vintage Love Summer Top

The top is knit top-down, and I think the designer's thinking is that you can make adjustments as needes while you work. Which means, especially if you're making the plus sizes (which I did) one would have to remove it from the needles, thread a yarn thru live stitches, try it on carefully, thread it back on to the circular needles, and keep on going. Very difficult and tedious and very easy to drop stitches.

As I was making this design, I noticed in the beginning there was one problem after another with the pattern itself. I was one of the first to buy the pattern when it came up for sale, and I couldn't work past either the extremely weird wording or the mistakes, and it took sometimes 2 weeks to get a reply from the designer. So, just to get through the top down to below the bust (sans sleeves) this all took at least 4 contacts to the designer to try to figure out the problem, and nearly 2 months. That was painfully annoying. In that time I could've completed the top entirely.

I also thought, as I was making it, that the arm holes seemed enourmous. But I thought, well, there's a lot of shaping that happens in arm holes, and that reflects in the sleeves. Had I been skilled enough to design my own arm holes and sleeves, I really wouldn't need to buy a pattern in the first place. This is where I lack as a designer, so I depend entirely on pattern instructions. Despite my skepticism, and a few unreplied messeges to the designer, I went ahead and finished the design anyway. There is an extra 10" of space from my armpit to the bottom of the sleeve hole. That is HUGE!

This means, if I were to wear this out in public, I'd have to do so without lifting my elbows, or I run the risk of a wardrobe malfunction, and trust me, no one wants to see that.

There is a lot of this pattern that I dislike, and it partially has to do with how it fits on me. It largely, though, has to do with the structure of the pattern. There is no diagram showing what the final measurements and proportions of each part of the top should be, as sweater patterns should have.

Anyway, at the end of the day, and this is also on more of a personal note, the attitude of the designer also turned me off quite a bit. No matter what I asked, despite my best efforts in trying to be polite in all my frustrations, the designer consistantly insisted that what I was doing was wrong, and there's no flaws with the pattern. The pattern support is awful, and the designer proved to be rather difficult to work with. Bad customer service does add insult to injury in this case. This whole endevour has turned me off entirely of retrying this project or any of her other designs.  

This project will be frogged, and in the 7 weeks remaining before my brother's wedding, I'll be making extra effort to reknit my blue top and hopefully find time to knit a black one as well to wear.

Monday, June 18, 2012

and... more progress!

Well, I'm now officially up to 23 lbs lost, which is awesome. And to be honest, I haven't really been tracking points as intently as I normally do, since there's been a lot of eating out. It's interesting how I can more or less guess what a quantity of something is just by eyeballing it, and it's obvious that I can't be too far off because I'm losing weight.

My big issue with weight is not so much that I don't eat healthy - because I generally do. My issue is with snacking. It's rare that I have take-out or pop in the house, we don't really eat chips that often. It's really just portions and snacking that throws me through a loop. I've also found myself making the same meals over and over again - meat with a side of rice every day for dinner. Which, in itself is healty, but it can be a lot. I know I've frequently had 2 pork chops instead of one. A cup of peas is half the points of a cup of rice, and a 1 point salad is not that hard to put together - which would be a quarter of the points of the rice again.

Or, a small glass of juice instead of a tall glass. Sweetener in my coffee instead of sugar, or milk instead of cream. A slice of cheese instead of an inch-thick cut of it. Weird little things like that will cut down the number of points (& calories and fat!) I consume.

Plus I've found myself eating things I don't normally eat. I'm eating a lot more fruit and veg for snacks instead of granola bars, even though the granola bars are quite healthy. Or cottage cheese makes great snacks too.

Small things do make a big difference!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

lagging...

I just realized I forgot to blog last monday, as I usually do.

Well, fwiw, I passed the 20lb mark, I weighed myself monday and discovered I lost a total of 20.6lbs. There's still a ways to go, but it's really a good start.

I've also been slacking off a bit, I'm trying to figure out how to load Google Chrome... because blogger's not allowing me to post links or pictures without the update. I've a bunch of projects I've finished recently that I haven't been able to post because of this, but hopefully this is something I can tackle soon, so I can share my knitting and crochet projects!

Off topic: a weird yarn thing happened this past week. I discovered that Patons Shetland Chunky used to come in a different sized skein. I came about discovering this when I went thru ravelry, and bought someone's stash 2 weeks ago, and it arrived yesterday. I thought I was buying 7 skeins of 100 grams and 148 yards, but what I infact wound up with was 7 skeins at 50 grams each and 73 yards. Drastic difference, and this was something that was not shared before I purchased it.

In itself, it's not a big deal if what I intended to knit with it is hats and scarves and mittens, because it really wouldn't make a difference. What I wanted to make, though, with it, is a sweater for DH. Which requires 7 100 gram skeins. It's one of those colours that I can't just go to Michael's and buy the balance of what I need, because if I could, I would.

I did contact the person I bought it from, and she's adament that the old yardage was infact listed in ravelry when she sold it to me, and I insist that it wasn't, so it seems that we're both in a position where we each think we're right and the other person's wrong, so what can I do. This wasn't an issue of how much I spent on the yarn, because truthfully I did get a good deal on it, but more of an issue of expecting something and getting something entirely different and being stuck with it.

Without asking for a refund, I did get one though, with the condition from her end that the yarn would be used charitably, so that's what I'm going to do. If I can find a charity that can use this yarn, it'll go there, otherwise I'll gladly knit it into some garments and donate it to a charity that's looking for some warm clothes. So, in the end there's something proactive that comes out of this.

Monday, June 4, 2012

diet win!

Well, I set a new record: I lost 4.5lbs this week! I've no idea how... It was my birthday a few days ago, so I didn't really count points then, and the weekend before last (as I've blogged) I was at my SiL's shower and did a bit of birthday stuff then too... there was, in essence, only 4 days in the last 7 where I really counted my points. But I guess I can brush a lot of that to whatever surplus "water weight" I gained since the last time I weighed myself.

So, to date: 19.6 lbs lost. Awesome!