The Honour of Being a Commissioned Knitter/Crocheter/Needle Felter-a story of ethics and request(Part ONE)
I will tell you that in 2021 I will turn 58.
I have knit and crocheted since I was 4, but I never really got into complex pattern and design work until I was in college. I had a 1.5 hour trip by subway and bus to school every day (one way) and I took that time to knit or crochet. It was a great way to have me time and a great way to make the transit trip go faster.
I was influenced to learn by my Grandmother May Wilson, but I learned about the grace and gratitude of the knitter from my best friend's Mom Helen McCormack.
Helen was always knitting. When I was 13 she made my friend (her daughter) Roxanne an amazing Big Sweater Coat. They were all the rage. I fell in love with the coat. I asked Mrs. McCormack if she would make me one. She said, "Sure!" She took me to the yarn shop to pick out my wool. And the adventure begun. I was so naive at the time I thought she would just make it for me. She intended to, but she needed money for the yarn and buttons. I had no money. She had purchased the yarn. I had to go to my Mom and explain that I had commissioned a sweater not knowing that I had to pay for yarn. I was devastated. The yarn was probably close to $60.00 at that time. I knew Mom would have a hard time coming up with the money on no notice. But Mom did it. She was miffed to say the least, but she did it. Yup I did not get allowance for my chores for a whole summer for that mistake.
This is when I learned there is strong grace of the commissioned knitter. They have a clear way to explain their needs, even if they gift you their time. This is how I learned to respect the work of the commissioned knitter. I want you to know that sweater has meant the world to me. A talented woman took the time to make it for me. I learned the value of hand made goods. Plus I received a quality item.
How do I know it was a quality item? I was 13 when I received it. I wore it every single day of school in High School and College. I am 58 this year. So that means it was made for me 45 years ago. I still own this sweater and wear it today!
Why am I talking about this as ethics and request?
Well I am now a commissioned fiber artist. Knitter, and Crocheter, and Needle Felter. I do yarn work for people and they pay me for it. I have to clearly spell out what my cost is, and I cannot get upset with people when they do not want to pay my costs, but I do have to ensure I give myself enough value. There is a formula used by commission folk. Base cost is: (retail regular cost of yarn+cost of notions + cost of pattern)x 3. If the work is extremely time consuming because of severe detail work that cannot be actually fixed if builder finds an error, and must be completely ripped out, or it takes what is called extreme colour-work skill, or is done in black (you cannot see your stitches in black so it can only be worked in the brightest light) an artist may add a time charge to the base price too. Also no good commissioned knitter will take yarn from a person then knit it. Why? Because the person handing over the yarn has no clue how much is needed, they don't have a clue about dye lots, and they do not know anything about availability. A commissioned knitter will make an interchange with a yarn supplier and will buy more than needed, then returned unused untouched yarn balls. Yarn is sold in Meters or yards. One ball of yarn a shawl does not make. An average yarn ball is 250 meters. A shawl takes 1200 meters. This is the knowledge you pay for.
I am currently working on a cowl/beanie set. It takes 10 different hanks of yarn at about $20.00 a hank. Just the yarn cost is $200.00. So three times the cost of that is $600.00. But I am a businesswoman. I can also work in wholesale prices for my materials so I look at the cost and determine if I can jig that price down to see if a client could get it and I still make money. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. That 10 hank cowl set will be between 300 and 400 dollars at my best option price, so I get paid for my time.
Often a requester will say I can get that cheaper at Winners. I tell them go ahead. Why? Because the machine made acrylic yarn piece will not last as a high fashion piece beyond one wash. Mine could actually go into a museum display, or end up a timeless heirloom that other generations can enjoy once the wearer wishes to move on to a new style and puts that set in a cedar chest for an heirloom.
I feel blessed these days. The Millennials Generation is one that watches "Makers" like me. They are minimalist and want quality over quantity. They seek "Makers" and are not interested in the Walmart Quality of life. They will save for months to purchase a trending Amigurumi. They will commission a "Maker Artist" like me to crochet them a lace wedding dress to wear at their intimate friends and family wedding, instead of going for the 400 guest $70,000.00 wedding party.
Gone are the days of getting a crafted item at a Church Bazaar for $2.00. Now Church Bazaars will auction off quilts starting at $1,000.00. A table at a craft show or a Bazaar for a Maker is $50.00- $1,000.00. Also, a maker has to work constantly for a year to have enough goods to sell, before seeing any income.
My life now is about my time. How can I focus my time well and be paid satisfactorily for it. I have a commission going every month. Sometimes it is for a client of mine. Sometimes for a local Yarn Shop Request. Sometimes it is to test a pattern for a designer. Sometimes it is actually my own design I am creating to sell in my shop. My favourite time of my day is when I am creating. The commissioned artist does the work from passion but they do not do it for free. You will get as near perfection as a human can create, you will get work that is done with love. Plus you will receive an item that is heirloom quality.
I thank my Patrons from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to share my talent to bring joy to their lives.
Part Two is on the Ethics of Working with a Designers Intellectual Property and why a "Commissioned Maker" must carry themselves with the highest standard of ethics working someone else's Idea.......