Getting paid right has always been a perennial problem of local crocheters. You would always find a rant on local crochet forums on how a client would bargain for a certain project. Clients want neat output finished in a short period of time, yet when it comes to pricing, they are only willing to pay for the yarn used (sometimes even less). The more painful thing is you have to deal with this kind of undervaluing of work and creativity, not only with clients but also with family and friends.
Poor crocheters. We would not even be able to replenish our yarn stash with this kind of clients. Of course, our product is made out of yarn, but people always forget that it is our hands that made the loops for hours or even days. With our talent and patience, we formed the strings into a new beautiful item. Then again, most non-crocheters never know the sheer amount of work needed to create our product. So let’s check this culture of cheap bargaining, misconceptions, and stereotyping so we can shed some light on our crochet items’ worth.
There are a lot of stereotypes about crochet that in some way lead to the undervaluing of our work. First is that, crochet is an easy-peasy hobby for grannies. People usually have this notion that crocheting is a simple hobby of grannies and old maids. Something that they just do to kill time or fight boredom. Connected with the first stereotype is a picture of an old lady with glasses crocheting on her rocking chair doing some crochet projects for her relatives and friends for free.
Definitely nothing wrong with grannies and spinsters who love to crochet. I too first learned to crochet at a very young age from my grand mother, but there are also loads of other young and hip crocheters out there— women, LGBTQ, and men (yep!)— who love crocheting too. And we all grow old too, you know. Also, the other implication connected with the first stereotype is that since crochet is just an easy pass-time, our product is not of a real value. Or is it just because a feminine craft is just really seen as something menial and effortless; thus without real economic value in our society?
Family and friends usually expect us to hand them our crocheted items for free. An expectation born out of the stereotype that they had in mind. Of course, most of us give our loved ones our own creations. Instead of buying gifts, we go for the personalized one where we can think of a crocheted item that suits the personality of our loved ones. The problem comes when the value of our creativity and hard work is not recognized or appreciated.
This becomes a bigger problem when we set up our own crochet business. People still expect us to give out our products for free anytime they ask. Anyway, we can just crochet for them easily, but the reality is we also have to pay for the yarn, packaging, marketing, and of course—save for those flashy branded hooks (i.e. Furls!!! hehe). I still give out crocheted items to friends or just ask for yarn payment, but please do not expect us to do it for everyone all the time.
Our love for crochet might have started out as a hobby, but it does not take away the loads of work needed before we can finish our product. There are countless times where we have to do a lot of frogging (ripping or undoing the stitches) before we can finally nail that perfect look. Yet, this is all behind the scenes, because what we only show is the final output and not our calloused hands and eye bags due to the sleepless nights of doing and redoing our project.
Cheap Manual Labor
Manual labor and creativity is not really seen as something of value here in the Philippines. So if you say that your crocheted item is 100% handcrafted, people will expect to pay for it for a very cheap price.
The minimum wage in the National Capital Region is Php 466 per day. For some crochet projects, we have to work for days. But when clients learn about the price, we sometimes hear remarks like they can buy it cheaper in flea markets or that RTW clothes are cheaper. Most crocheters earn way below the minimum wage because of this, even when we have to work overtime a lot of times. Buyers fail to remember that we made every loop to shape and create the whole item. And this work takes hours or even days!
Actual Crochet Cost
There are different yarn types and different brands with varying prices. Thus, prices of crocheted items also vary depending on the materials. Various types of yarns are also not widely available in the country and sometimes even the basic color of regular yarns are usually out of stock, so crocheters have to do a lot of shop-hopping, or order online. So we not only pay for the yarn itself but also for the transportation or shipping fee of the materials.
Aside from the hours of actual crochet work, we also have to study the design first, look for the right yarn to get the perfect drape, practice the stitches and do a lot of frogging to get the design and style that they want. Crocheting is a combination of creativity, mastery and perfection of stitching skills, dose of patience, hardwork, and strategizing. We also have to do a lot of research and practice to perfect our craft.
Packaging is important too. Sometimes client would opt to buy crocheted items from the mall because it is packaged better but not necessarily made better (crocheters can always tell which one is crocheted neatly). So we also make an effort to present our products decently, and we also have to spend for it. We order customized tags, buy boxes or plastic bags, pay for our logo design, and some even pay for the website. Aside from this, we work from home so we also gain a little extra electricity bill.
I already listed a lot and I might even have missed out some. My point is just that there is a long story and a lot of hard work behind each crocheted item. Please remember, we created that item out of strings using our hands and a hook.
❦ This is an edited version of my article from my old blog https://tanglesandtravels.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/crochetbargaining/ posted last 17 March 2015.