Gifts from the heart -- that's what we often call them.
Sometimes, it is hard for a non-knitter to understand why we spend so much time and effort knitting a garment when it's much cheaper in reality to go to say, even a high-end boutique to buy a sweater off the rack.
Likewise, the non-knitters also baulk at what they deem as rocketing prices for commission pieces.
"It's different," shrieked the knitters.
Just to give you a perspective:
Cost of yarn
Yarns for knitters are often balled into 50 grams size. The cost of packaging, QC (quality control), branding, marketing, transport fuel and distribution fees make up a large part of the costs. This is especially the case since Singapore does not produce its own yarns and most handknitted yarns are imported from overseas.
Thickness of yarn vs Knitting time
Almost all the knitters I know in Singapore do not make use of any electronic gadgetry or machinery to facilitate their knitting. All of them hand knit; stitch by stitch. The cost of time is highly dependent on the thickness of the yarn -- the thicker the yarn, the faster it is to knit. And so is the reverse. However, in Singapore's weather and context, it makes more sense that we hand knit with somewhat finer yarns as they are more breathable and lightweight for the heat.
Cost of time
Given the illustration above, you can imagine the amount of time one spends knitting a sweater for her boyfriend or husband.
Feli who previously knitted a sweater, did this exercise for us.
This man's (size 46, a medium) sweater using Aran weight yarn requires:
an estimated 85,000+ stitches!
And that staggering figure does not even include the mistake stitches that were being made and ripped off!
So even if she is working at 1 cent per stitch (which is probably as low as it can get), that sweater will cost $850 in just labour fees alone (excluding the materials cost!)
For a crochet equivalent, we also have a similar timed exercise.
A mini crochet flower (front row), takes about 30 mins for a beginner to crochet and be properly finished. The bigger ones on the back take up to about 45mins.
Not only that, most of the ladies are full-time working professionals, with some having kids to take care of too. That means, they often knit and crochet during their non-working hours -- during the bus rides to work, before bedtime, when watching TV etc.
That's why I often believe that knitters and crocheters are full of love and kind intents when they hand knit gifts. I am writing this entry not to put anyone off from picking up knitting and crochet but rather, taking the opportunity to educate the non-knitters who we in turn hope will be appreciative of the hand made gifts they receive.
However, what happens if your skills are less than ideal and you end up with a wonky teddy bear or a not too well made sweater?
Chances are; your recipient may not use/wear the item as often. Which can be pretty de-moralizing as the knitter/crocheter has spent so much time and effort on it.
Call me a perfectionist but that's the reason I strongly believe that we knitters and crocheters need to continually upgrade and perfect our skills; as the asethetics of our hand crafted works are also key determining factors to ensure that our recipients truly appreciate and will use the gifts often. Other factors are the sweater fit, the yarn texture etc.
To translate into equations will mean they look something like this:
A not too well made sweater (sleeves too short) = $800 in time and effort -> gets 4 wears. Cost per wear = $200.
A well made, recipient fitted sweater = $800 in time and effort -> gets 20 wears. Cost per wear = S$40!
As you can see, the more frequent our gifts or sweaters get worned or used, the lower the investment (time, effort and money) is over the extended period of time.
So a knitter who goes for lowed priced acrylic yarns intending to knit a sweater may find that the garment does not get as much wear (perhaps due to its scratchiness or stiff texture), compared to someone who invests more upfront in higher quality yarns that results in a garment that will be continually worn for years to come.
I feel strongly about this since the amount of effort and time spent on knitting the garment would be the same; however, it is apparent that the yarns used would have made a great difference in the final product as well as its frequency of use.
Hence, if you ever decide to commission someone to knit you a sweater or scarf, please be aware of the amount of effort and time that goes into it.
But of course, as usual, to each his/her own. Sharing is sexy