Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Value of Hand Made

I have frequently heard other needleworkers, and spoken myself, about how you can't sell most handmade things for a price that covers the expenses of both materials and time. The price winds up being too far above the cost of ready made items to be able to compete. And that's even when the customer is aware of superior quality in workmanship and materials. We just can't compete.

This line of thinking leads many, especially those who do not do needlework, to wonder why we bother. It recently occured to me that we've been going about it the wrong way. You can't tally the costs of making things by hand the same way you would account for production costs in a factory or overhead in an office.

Say I want to make a sweater, for whom doesn't matter. We'll be conservative and say the materials cost me $60. I don't need to buy a pattern or needles/hook. Let's also say that the sweater takes me a grand total of 40 hours of work. Those 40 hours may be spread out over a month, but we only need to look at the hours I actually work on it.

According to the way of thinking about cost outlined above and assuming my work is worth the minimum wage in my state (California: $8/hr), the total cost of this sweater is $380. Why should I make that sweater when I can even buy a good quality sweater for under $100?

Making the sweater is still worth while because I have not accounted for my time properly. Those 40 hours were not spent slaving in some sweat shop trying to make a living for my family. They were spent passing the time, socializing with friends and family, and keeping my hands busy while I watched television or sat in the car.

The work was a form of entertainment. As such, the cost of materials was the price I paid to participate in the activity. My total cost was $60, and those $60 paid for 40 hours of entertainment. If I spent $60 going to a movie theater, that would only cover about six tickets, amounting to about 12 hours of entertainment. I could have one dinner with my husband at a fancy restaurant, or three at a cheap one--a maximum of four hours. I could buy one or two tickets to certain amusement parks, buying in the process no more than 16 hours of entertainment. The cost to make the sweater is a far better deal.

Of course, all this is small comfort for those who wish to make some money from their needlework, but it is an excellent explanation to give to husbands ; P

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