Archives for the month of: January, 2012

Miss Representation is a documentary that explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. It exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that a woman’s value is based on her youth, beauty and sexuality. It highlights how this message limits the leadership potential of women throughout society. It is a powerful film.

So, why is a knitting blog mentioning this documentary? Let me explain.

Reason #1: I recently had the opportunity to attend a screening of this documentary at my friend Michelle’s beautiful residence in downtown San Francisco. About a dozen women were there, and we had a lively discussion after the film. Afterwards, I read more about the film on their web site and took a pledge to tell five people about it. This blog post is my way of telling a few of my friends.

Reason #2: In 2011, one of the recipients of my knitting profits was a scholarship fund for girl acolytes at my church. It turns out that many years ago, a wealthy parishioner generously established a scholarship fund only for boy acolytes. While other parishioners have donated enough to start a scholarship fund for the girl acolytes, the size of the fund pales in comparison to the boys’. I don’t want the girls at our church thinking they are less important than the boys, and over the coming years I hope to donate enough to the girl acolyte scholarship fund to have awards be gender-neutral. I’ll have to do a lot of knitting, but it will be worth it.

I’d love to hear what you do today (or might do tomorrow) to combat the negative images of women portrayed by the media portrays, and to help young women see themselves as future leaders.

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Fiber content tagIf I could knit everything in cashmere, I would. It is so very soft and a pleasure to work with. But, it is expensive.

So, how do I choose more affordable fiber for my holiday boutiques? I typically buy yarn that is:

  • Soft. Shoppers want soft things, and they will stay away from anything itchy. I always test a yarn’s softness by putting it against my neck for a few minutes. If it feels scratchy, I don’t buy it.
  • Natural. Most shoppers prefer wools to acrylics. Blends can be okay, especially if there is some luxury fiber content in the mix. E.g., Debbie Bliss Cashmerino is a winner with its blend of merino, microfibre, and cashmere.
  • Good quality. I don’t want the yarn to show signs of wear quickly. I read reviews of the yarns online to assess quality, and I also will wash swatches a couple of times to see how well they launder.
  • Affordable. After all, the lower the cost of my goods, the more I can raise for charity! I seek out online discounts, sales, and even Groupon offers at local yarn stores to get the best price.

There are some exceptions. For baby items, I always choose yarn that is machine washable. That is the most important quality.

I also have received special requests to make an item in 100% acrylic because of wool allergies. When this happens, I look for a man-made yarn that is incredibly soft. One of my favorites is Cascade Yarns Cherub, which I used to make the It’s a Snap cowl and a baby blanket for a silent auction basket.

What are your favorite affordable, soft, quality yarns? I’d love to hear from you!

Each January, I start searching for a project to knit (and knit and knit) for my holiday fundraising boutiques later that year.  Once I find a project idea or two, I make samples to show to friends to get feedback. I am curious to know if they like the samples, what they think of the price I am considering, and if they have suggestions for improving the designs, colors, or yarns I have chosen.

For 2012, I have honed in on two patterns. One is the Shaw Hill infinity wrap, a design by Alicia Plummer. I’ve made two so far:

Picture of Shaw Hill infinity wrap, knit in black

Picture of Shaw Hill infinity wrap, knit in red

The feedback on these infinity wraps has been uniformly positive, so I have decided to make more of them for my fundraising. I am currently working on a beautiful apple green one. I’m also planning on making a couple of black ones and some cream ones. My cost of goods is about $20 per wrap, and I hope to sell them for $60 each.

The second pattern is the KidSilk Creation Scarf, which I wrote about in my previous blog post. All of my friends who see this scarf LOVE it. I’m planning to make them in all the colors that Rowan produces, including bright green, fuscia, blue, off white, purple and charcoal. This yarn retails for $25/skein, and I believe I can sell them for $60 each.  They are really fabulous!

Picture of three Creation Ruffled Scarves

I would love your feedback on these projects. Please leave comments about the patterns, colors, prices, and any other thoughts you have. Thank you!

Photo of purple Kidsilk Creation ScarfRecently, I visited a local yarn store and saw a fabulous mohair & silk ruffled scarf. I tried on the sample and thought to myself, “Instant glamour!” I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeve tee, but was ready to go to a party with that scarf wrapped around my neck. I had to make one!

The scarf is the Kidsilk Creation Scarf by the Rowan Design Studio. Kidsilk Creation is a lovely, soft yarn made of 70% super kid mohair and 30% silk. It takes one skein of yarn (about $25) to make the scarf.

In the last week, I have made a few more, one of which I donated to the silent auction at my son’s school. I recommended to the auction committee that they start the bidding at $30. I am hoping that the scarf will go for $60-$80 at the auction, which will take place in late March. I’ll be sure to update this post after the auction with the final amount.

I am also thinking these scarves will sell well at my fundraising boutiques next December. It will be fun to make a whole bunch of them!

Sale SignHow do I set my prices for boutiques? How do I estimate a value for a silent auction? While there is no exact formula, I do follow a series of steps when pricing my items:

Calculate my cost of goods. How much did I pay for the yarn, buttons, and other material that went into the piece? My price should be at least 2x the cost of goods. Ideally, it is 3x or 4x.

Track my time. News flash: knitting rarely pays as well as minimum wage. Even so, I do like to understand how much per hour I would be making if I were to keep the profits, and I make sure I am comfortable with this number.

Identify my fundraising goal. Will I be able to reach this goal by charging a certain price for my items? Will I be able to knit enough items to hit this goal?

Search for similar items on Etsy. What are they priced at? How many items has the vendor sold previously? (Knowing this helps me evaluate if the vendor has priced his or her things appropriately in the past.)

Research what similar items are priced at in retail stores. I sometimes use this pricing to justify my price, whether it is lower, higher, or comparable. Let me explain:

  • If acrylic cowls are priced at $30 at the Gap, and my cowls are made from a merino/cashmere blend, I can (and should) price mine higher. During the boutique, I explain the quality of my material and justify a higher cost with something along the lines of, “Sure, you can buy a cowl for less at a chain store, but you won’t get the warmth and softness of these natural fibers.”
  • If a comparable wrap is priced at $150 in a high end shop, I can price mine less and emphasize the bargain I am offering. “The boutique on High Street has something similar for $150, and I am selling it for half that price.”
  • If hand knit merino wool wrist warmers are $35 at Uncommon Goods, I may decide to charge the same price for my merino wool wrist warmers.

Estimate what buyers will be willing to pay. Ask friends! I show samples to friends and get feedback on various price points. Would they buy it at $75? What about at $50?

Develop my sales strategy. Typically, I have a couple of boutiques lined up, and I evaluate my sales after each one and adjust my pricing. If the cowls aren’t selling at $45, lower the price to $40 at the next boutique (as is shown in the photo). However, if I have just one opportunity to sell my goods, I will consider lower prices so that I can sell as much as possible.

Be willing to negotiate. If someone asks if there is a discount if they buy 3 of something, say yes!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how to best price hand-made goods. Please comment!