Monday, 11 April 2011

How much do you spend on your crafts?

When I was a young stripling, homemade equalled cheap. If you were wearing something homemade, people thought it was because you couldn’t afford to buy a proper one from a shop. I can still remember (violins please) the first garment I got from a shop, so it must have been a big deal: it was a nylon puff-sleeved blouse with an elastic bottom from Littlewoods, with a neon geometric print on a white background. I was beyond thrilled, and I wore it to a disco with my cousins John and Richard, you can imagine how stylish I looked. Anyway, now we have reclaimed homemade and we call it handmade, much excellent outreach and activism has been done on getting people to value handmade and not see it as a crappy cheap alternative. So here is my confession. Sometimes I wish it was a crappy cheap alternative. Although, emotionally, I am right there with everybody who is happy to pay £150 to get wool which has been gathered at dusk from the underbelly of a llama fed only on the finest tunnocks teacakes, financially, one of the things which really put me off knitting when I started (and stopped me quilting for years) was the thought of having to spend all that money on materials.
The John Lewis remnant bin's finest + a load of scrotty old bits. Hooray! Another quilt!
When I started, I mainly had access to Rowan knitting and quilting books, where if you buy the recommended yarn you are looking at about £70-£100+ for a jumper, or about £150 for the fabric for a quilt. Because I was dim and hadn’t discovered Internet Knitting/ anarchist guerilla quilting (I made that up), I didn’t realise you didn’t have to spend sums like this, and it really made me think that knitting and quilting were not for such as I, but were for nice wealthy ladies with long arm sewing machines, endless money for Kaffe Fassett fabrics, and houses big enough to lay the quilt out in (… and obviously this would be easier. But hard-up scruffs like me, we can quilt too!).

Not only do I not have that kind of money to start with, I would be reluctant to spend it anyway on projects I am practicing on, because I would feel I couldn’t make a mistake, my mad unhealthy perfectionism would kick in, and I would never get it finished. On the other hand, I don’t want to use materials that aren’t nice to use, and don’t make a finished product I am pleased with, and I don’t want to use materials that exploit people or are worse for the environment than I can help. So I wondered (because the crocheted shrug is eating up yarn and I am having to go poking about at Kemps to buy more) – how much do you generally feel happy about spending on a project?
I am the Giant Multicoloured Yarn-Eating Circular Shrug and I wish to be fed more DK, slurp slurp

For knitting/ crocheting projects, I don’t like to spend more than about £30 for a garment, and if possible I like to spend a lot less. This means essentially that I buy most of my yarn from Kemps. If Kemps are not selling it, I am probably not knitting it. I also buy yarn on sale from The Black Sheep, and I think the Araucania clearance at Stash fine yarns is great. If I get my yarn from Kemps, though, I can get enough yarn for a cardigan or something for less than £20. This means I feel happier about making mistakes, ripping out, and treating projects as a learning experience. For smaller projects i.e. one or two skeins, I don’t mind buying a much more expensive yarn, and I don’t think sock yarn is expensive at all, even if it works out at £15 for a pair of socks. Superior socks, people, superior socks!
Bargain yarn of thrift and utility. Wait...
I am only on my second proper quilt, but, I like to make them with the scraps from fabric I have got left over from other sewing projects, and I try to keep my purchasing of actual new fabric (front, back and binding) down to about 2 metres and preferably none. So my quilts so far have each cost me no more than £16 for fabric + £17 for batting each (the first was made entirely from stash fabric). This is dependent on having a large fabric stash, it is true. I normally acquire my fabric either from remnants bins, from old clothes cut up, charity shops, or random stash packs from etsy or Ely Cycle Centre. I do buy some full price yardage occasionally, but I tend to enjoy the scratting about, so if suddenly I got lots of money I don't think I'd do any different.

For sewing clothes, I like to make clothes out of upcycled things anyway, so I am happy to use inexpensive materials (indeed! I enjoy it!). If I am making something out of actual new fabric, I tend to use quilters’ cotton, which is relatively inexpensive (and I tend to buy the lines which are discounted because I am not, shall we say, fussy about pattern). So I would expect a dress or a skirt (thread/ needle excluded) to cost about £10-20, because normally you don’t need more than about 3m, but I would be happy to pay £30 or so (very occasionally). Beyond that, I would start to get very, very twitchy.

Does that all seem cheap or expensive to you? I am interested. How much would you spend on a project?


Tink said...

I'm with you on this one. The idea of spending hundreds of pounds on mermaid bum fluff yarn, only for me to ruin it by using it for an unsuitable project, or it being accidentally thrown in the washing machine by the OH once its finished.... it terrifies me. I'll stick to the cheap/discounted stuff for now!

CraftyCripple said...

I think I probably spend about the same as you. I also seem to buy my yarn from the same places but also throw eBay into the mix for both yarn and fabric. Occassionally I am willing to spend more if I can spread the cost and it is very special (possibly birthday/Christmas) treat. I think I can usually make nice clothes for almost the same price as the mid-range high street if I shop carefully. That is good enough for me and I wouldn't want to spend more. Mind you I probably would if I could afford it!

Marushka C. said...

It's hard to balance... Too cheap on the materials and you risk hating the process or hating the product, especially if you put a lot of time In it. Spend too much and you risk hating yourself for any mistakes that make the product less than you hoped for.

My yarn diet is going very well, but only because I've turned my attention to spinning fiber and quilting fabric.

Susie said...

It *is* difficult. I have bought some cheap fabric that I have absolutely hated (although you can never go wrong with a midweight cotton!) but, especially with sewing clothes, the time investment is so much less than knitting, so it it goes wrong I don't feel I've lost as much. If I don't like my yarn it can be quite miserable.

Let's hope Kemps never close down...

I don't use ebay as much as I could. Hooray! Off to have a look. Haven't seen mermaid bum fluff yarn though, that sounds lovely. I bet they have it at Get Knitted ;-).

Wool Free and Lovin' Knit said...

When I first got back into knitting after a 20 year hiatus, I was APPALLED at the price of yarn. Gosh, $20.00 to make a SCARF? It seemed preposterous to me. I am embarrassed to say that it took all of about 3 projects for me to stop thinking about how much it cost and to just choose yarn/patterns that I loved. Now, if I were knitting to sell my stuff (which I am definitely not) then I would probably care a lot more about the cost. But I'm basically considering all the money I spend on yarn and patterns and related notions as money spent on my "hobby". I don't golf, or have seasons tickets to the symphony, and we don't even go to the movies more than once/year, etc. So I have more of an "annual" budget in mind when I think about my knitting expenditures and as long as I stay within that boundary, I just buy whatever I want . Which is not to say I don't look for and appreciate a good sale, but I wouldn't say no to a yarn just because it was only available at full price. Knitting brings me hours upon hours of entertainment and enjoyment and that, for me, has been priceless!

Voie de Vie said...

While I definitely prioritize my money spending, yarn definitely gets a big bit of my discretionary spending.

I'm not certain of the Kemp's of which you speak, so I can't ascertain a U.S. equivalent, but there are other less expensive, yet quality, yarn distributors out there. I'm a big fan of Drops, and find it really great value for the money I've spent. Of course, I also wait for specials. I am very patient when it comes to specials. :)

lynne said...

Most of my patchwork fabric is old clothing. I love that I can spot a bit of my daughters baby dress or sons pyjamas in my quilts. I also go to jumble sales and grab anything cotton which is coloured or patterned to cut up. I have a huge varied stash of small pieces for my sewing projects. As for knitting, nothing beats Kemps and I would never pay full price for yarn in case I messed up!

Vivianne said...

I try not to think about the cost, cuz if I did I would have to tell DH it isn't saving us money - quite the reverse. But once you have made the initial outlay on the equipment, and have a stash, then topping it up is not so bad ...were I to buy my fabric stash now in one lump, I would be bankrupt ...

Countess Ablaze said...

I'm quite similar as well. I would love to spend oodles and oodles of pounds on uber-expensive yarn to make a grown up sized jumper but I can't justify it to myself. I make full use of Kemps for all my garment knitting. May Kemps live on forever! Even eBay throws up some great bargains. I don't mind splashing out for a one/two skien project though.

I also sew, but not quite as much as I used to. A lot of fat quarters I have stashed are from eBay and there's a great place in Manchester called Abakhans ( that has bins upon bins of fabric which you buy by the weight! Oh the bargains I have gotten from there! Buttons I have collected over the years from clothes of mine that have bitten the dust and charity shops. I also like to keep old clothes to fashion them into something else.

Susie said...

Strangely enough I was just saying this weekend we haven't been to Manchester for a while... I shall go and mention it to Partner ;-)

I think it depends on what you tend to knit as well. If I was making beautiful complex shawls with a skein of laceweight that took months to knit I wouldn't economise, because the difference between cheap/ not cheap laceweight is probably not that much and not worth the compromise. For robust chunky jumpers, however... Kemps is the difference (for me) between knitting it or not!

West/CJ said...

For me, it depends on whom the project is for. If it's for myself, then I generally want to spend less- probably no more than $40 (laceweight yarn makes this goal easier to achieve). If it's for a friend, I will absolutely spend more- possibly even double. I would never go over $100, because I only knit shawls, and that would just be crazy.

AC said...

I always feel bad when I have to disabuse people of the notion that knitting saves money. I like to mix it up--make projects on the cheap most of the time, but splurge every now and then. The most I've spent on a sweater is $60, and I'm making a wedding blanket for a friend that cost $150. But it's a wedding, you're allowed to splurge, right?

Rachel said...

This is the second time you've anticipated my blog post - the second time in the same post! (I have finally got round to writing it now)

Being a newbie, I have only just realised that knitting is not going to save me money and therefore I probably can't afford to do it, at least not until I've found a good source of raw wool (shouldn't be hard, here in Wales) and learnt to spin.

JacBer said...

$3 - $4 (New Zealand) buys me 50gms of NZ wool, which is about the same as your pounds one.

For bigger projects (like your yarn-eating shrug) I'd probably throw all national pride out of the window and buy the cheapest Chinese yarn I can find which is usually $1 to $2 for 100gm.

(I suppose I should be ashamed about that :-) )

Susie said...

If I do another one of those shrugs I too will be using the cheapest yarn I can find, because actually the stripes in it which were acrylic/ wool mixes have come out best. In fact my Top Fantasy Yarn would be an acrylic/ wool mix in lovely bright colours and great big cheap balls for crocheting big mad things.

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would love to have your pattern for your circular shrug. I have lots of yarn from my mom who passed away this year. I would be able to have her close to me all winter.

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Breath Less Cloud said...

I always feel upset when I have people of the idea of dissuading that it saves money weaving. I like to mix - do projects on the cheap most of the time, but sometimes madness.
Washing Machine The most I've spent on a sweater, it's $ 60, and I have a wedding coverage from a friend that costs $ 150. But it's a wedding, you have the right to splurge, do not you?

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