Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Knitting, The Bitching

This post has two parts. I'm summarising now so that those only interested in skimming can skip whatever part you prefer. There's the knitting - which is, well, knitting. And there's the bitching. Consider it like a one-sided stitch-n-bitch.

The Knitting
I frogged what I had of Justify today. Originally I didn't know if I liked it, so I put it aside completely and totally for a few days to let it sit. And the more I thought about it the less I liked it. It might have been okay for me, in the end, and even then it might not have been. But it certainly wouldn't have been good enough to gift away, which is what I had originally hoped to do with it. So I ripped it, ripped it good.

And I decided on a new technique - same idea, different application - for Justify, and I started again. I like the look of the new technique better. Basically it uses the same colours and even in similar combinations but in much, much smaller doses per time. Leading to either a million and one ends to weave or a helluva lot of Russian joins. So far I've done both. I'm hoping that if I deal with the ends in fits and spurts, it won't be quite so tedius. And I'll avoid the massive yarn-hairball that may otherwise result.

The bad news is that I only have about six inches done.
The old:
Justify

The new:
New Justify

The Bitching:
I've been thinking a lot lately about value, women's work, knitting, and making a living. Or hell, at least surviving. This probably isn't terribly surprising considering the fact that I like to think that I run a business. It started from a very interesting discussion on the Knittyboard, which I didn't participate in but just read. Most experienced knitters have heard it before - you can't make money out of knitting. Not the act itself, at the very least.

It was pointed out in the discussion that you can, you just need a market that appreciates quality materials and hand made products for you to get anywhere close to a realistic wage for knitting. And I'm well aware there are people out there. However, I'm convinced that they're not Kiwis.

At the same time as I read and reflected on this discussion, in my main forum The Nappy Network there's a bit of a price war going on. One person has her mother knit soakers in Australia, ships them over here, and retails them for $15 a pop. Another knits like crazy (I'm assuming, based on output) and puts soakers up on TradeMe for $17 - $20 a pop. And still another sells here and there and mostly through word of mouth for around $17 a pop, including for larges.

Now, I'm a yarn buyer as much as I'm a knitter. (My husband would argue that I buy more than I knit, but I'm working on that.) And all of these items are pure wool. Most are NZ or Australian wool. This stuff ain't cheap. The cost of materials alone is likely somewhere between $8 and $10. Here I consider myself a reasonably quick knitter, but it takes me around 6 - 8 hours to churn out a soaker, longer for a huge one or one with colourwork. So these people are working, in many cases, for less than $1 per hour. And frankly it pisses me off. Not just from a competitors standpoint, that refuses to sell myself so cheaply. But also from a women's standpoint, which seems to me the bigger issue. Women devalue their own work, and similarly the work of other women, so much, that this is what is has come down to. After all, it's "only knitting". It's "nothing". It's "a hobby". It's "spare time". Who are we kidding? All of us put vast amounts of ourselves into our knitting. To have it sold to the lowest bidder, and thank-you-ever-so-kindly for "helping me out."

I guess it's no wonder that there's still a pay gap between genders. It's what we ask for.

4 comments:

Jen said...

I remember reading something similar to this in one of my Yarn Harlot books. (Or maybe on her blog?) Often times we just pass something off as it was nothing, after someone compliments the vastly intense aran sweater or intricate lace shawl we are wearing. She proposed that we tell people how hard it was to knit and stand proud in our effort. "Yes, it was difficult, but I finished it." I love this approach, the problem is pulling it off without being a snot about it. Doh!


Also, thanks for the compliment on the socks. I didn't mean to imply that these socks weren't fun to knit. They certainly had enough to keep you interested and motivated to knit to the next step. The directions were well written too. It's just that they were a bad combo with my husband's feet. They may knit up better for you, or you may know some tricks about Fair Isle and socks that I don't. If you do decide to knit them up let me know how they work out.

And now I'm done writing my blog entry in your comments.

Rachael said...

Love the new look!
And if you didn't want so many joins you could start again and make it wider - heeheehee!!!!

Andrea said...

Hi Margo,

If you feel like reading something on the subject, try Marilyn Waring's "Counting for nothing: what men value and what women are worth", in which she addresses the gap between the value society places on men's and women's work.

Cheers, Andrea (amazinggrace on Rav)

Nikki said...

Heyyyy... I feel EXACTLY the same about the value of work. Drives me absolutely batty to see people perpetuating the 'Oh, I could do that why would I pay money for it' culture that is everywhere in NZ.

Quite simply, they are undercutting each other. Not good for them and not good at all for everyone else.

I refuse to underprice my knitting. (And I still don't make anything from it!)

Anyway, just wanted to say - yay for you posting about that.

Anddddd lovely to meet you the other week. Your little one is gorgeouso. :D