Going into the Ravelympics I thought, well, if I can get that shawl done, I’ll be doing well. But maybe I should have a backup project, just in case? I mean, what if I finish early? (Yeah right.)
My coworker had asked me to make her a really big, chunky cowl in black. Stockinette, giant yarn, knit in the round? Sounds like great speed-knitting fodder to me! I had ordered the yarn (Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky) from WEBS, and it arrived just as I was nearing the end of my shawl, so the cowl became my second Ravelympic entry.
There’s not a huge amount to say about the actual knitting of this one — it’s about as simple as can be. The Ravelry details say pretty much everything anyone would need to know about the process and the product.
What’s more interesting, and more important, to say about this cowl is that I really struggled with the idea of value — as so many hand-knitters (and other crafters/artisans) do.
On one hand: OMG, she wants me to knit her something! Dude, I LOVE knitting! She’s interested in what I do! And this is a fast project, not a fair-isle cardi or a cobweb lace shawl or something.
On the other hand: Well, she offered to pay for the yarn, but never once offered to pay for my time. And I don’t want to set a precedent where I’ll knit anything for anyone, at cost — I love giving knitted gifts, but I want them to be on my own terms.
I didn’t feel I could charge her after the fact — we didn’t discuss the cost of my time when I agreed to make the cowl, so it didn’t feel fair to turn around and demand money when I brought her the finished product. (And, you know, it’s worth a certain amount to keep the office atmosphere convivial!)
In the end, after debating it with the #uptownknitmob and others, I decided to write a note to tuck in with the cowl. I slipped in a Soak sampler and spent the first half of the note explaining how best to care for the cowl. Then, I explained roughly how many hours of my time and effort had gone into the knitting.
I said, “I’m not asking you to pay for my time — I don’t think there’s a good way to charge a fair wage for hand-knitting, even if I were doing this for money — but I would appreciate it if you would at least consider making a donation to Doctors Without Borders in the amount that you think my time and effort are worth.”
Now, I have no idea if she’s made a donation, or if she even seriously considered it. I don’t even want to know, really; and if she has, I definitely don’t want to know how much she gave. The point is that writing that note gave me a chance to say, hey, this is not something that I spent 20 minutes picking out of a store on my lunch break. The value in this cowl is more than just the yarn; it’s the (skilled!) labour that I’ve put into it.
I feel like I’ve had my say, and yet I haven’t had to go back and demand cash in hand from her… so I’m pleased with the result!
Oh, and… I got a Ravelympics medal for this cowl, too.