Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Babies, babies, babies! oh, and pricing

It seems that everyone I know is having babies! Aside from being crazy jealous, (what's THAT? Is this the biological clock thing I hear so much about on the TV machine?) I am in knitting - well, heaven or hell, depending on how you look at it. So many babies! So many cute things to knit for them! So few hours in the day!

I haven't posted anything new to my shop on etsy for a while. It's not just the aforementioned job but also realizing that I'm not charging enough for what I'm selling there.

The struggle I'm having is, as always, a complex one, one I think other artisans understand, and that's Perceived Value. First, we tend to undervalue ourselves, secondly many buyers don't value handmade when they can get "the same thing" for one-tenth the price at Wal-Mart, and third, we are often competing with OTHER sellers who undervalue THEMselves. I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before.

So I tend to price things for "what I think they'll sell for" instead of what I think they're WORTH, and as a consequence I frequently find myself packing something up to ship and then, after paying postage and PayPal and etsy and looking at what's left in my account, I get this sick feeling.

At the same time, no matter how long it takes me to knit a cover for a tin can pencil cup, no matter how beautiful it is, and no matter what the yarn cost, I still can't comprehend anyone paying $45 for a pencil cup. (No, you haven't seen any pencil cups in my etsy shop and you never will, but I do love the way my paintbrushes look in it.)

There is a point to all this, and babies do figure into it, and I'm fairly certain I'm about bring it all together and make my point. Stay with me!

For several months I've been searching for the "perfect" argyle vest pattern for my nephews, and I've been unable to find anything that fits my exacting specifications. Having never knitted a vest at all, I kept searching and searching and searching.

Then I got some great stuff for Christmas, and started playing around with all the patterns in the stitch dictionary. When I found the argyle pattern, I started playing around with it, and suddenly realized that I am completely capable of DESIGNING MY OWN PATTERNS.

This isn't a HUGE revelation, as I've been making up my own patterns since I started knitting, and I've done draping and patterning with cloth for years, and in general I don't like following patterns anyway (and let's not start making assumptions about what that says about my character, even if those assumptions might be right!)

So I start in on the argyle sweater vest. Yes, I used the stitch dictionary, but naturally I needed to make some modifications to the classic.

Two days later I was STILL plotting out the pattern just for the argyle. I started knitting it, made more adjustments, and now it's been a week, I'm 6" into it and this isn't going to fit either of my nephews for about two years.

I am incapable of ripping this out. I can't do it. I HAVE TO SEE HOW IT ENDS! But I also can't justify spending every spare minute knitting adorable things for my adorable nieces and nephews and adorable friends and THEIR adorable kids (oh, and the rest of y'all fit in there somewhere, you know that) if I want to make my etsy shop a success, even if all I WANT to do every spare minute is knit adorable things for my nieces and nephews.

So then I think about selling the way-too-large vest in my etsy shop, but with all the work that's going in to it, there's simply no way to make it profitable. Of course I could always knit several dozen more so the patterning cost gets spread out over the knitting, but I'm really more interested in the "figuring-things-out" part than I am in the "making-the-same-thing-over-and-over-again" part.

Some of you have figured this out already, right? No?

I'm going to start selling the patterns for my original designs.


I'll start small, with a simple pattern that I will post here on my blog for free. (I already have several in mind)

Once I finish the argyle sweater pattern, I'll want to grade it (customize it for different sizes) and I'll need pattern testers!

So all my knittery friends, if you are interested in testing some patterns for me, watch this space!

p.s. I've had to edit this something like five times because I used the word "that" approximately 45 times in the original post, and occasionally as many as three times in the same sentence. I wish I was exaggerating.


Anonymous said...

You're so quarky, I love it! I feel your pain on the profit thing. I just let go of a small jewelry piece that took me about an hour to make for about $5 profit. Not the worst of it no, but it is exponential from there. And I'm TRYING to price my items fairly (to me). Apparently I can't do math too well. So I'm steadily raising the prices and not worrying about sales really. After all, at the heart of it, it's really all fun, right?

Miriam said...

Welcome to the world of knitwear designing :) Are you on ravelry? It would provide a good platform to sell your patterns from when you get to that point. Also, it can serve as a good place to house the pdf for the free downloads as well.

There are also great resources on Ravelry for designers, including an indie designers forum.

Also, since you're concerned about undervaluing patterns, you might enjoy reading some posts about what's going on with magazine publication for indie designers. Let me know and I can send you some links.

km said...

Nancy, at the heart of it, it is fun! As I've said before, I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. But I also really need to make a living off of it, because it's simply what I do. I can do the office jobs, but I'm rather ill-suited to them. I'm working one right now and I quite like it but there are days I come home too tired to do anything but fall asleep on the couch while watching trashy TV and knitting stockinette in the round! Then I start getting restless because I'm feeling creatively stifled, then I quit the day job. I'm trying something new, which is: making money doing something that I love doing.

Mim, of COURSE I'm on Ravelry! I think I spend nearly as much time on Ravelry as I do knitting. Sending you a message there! Thanks!