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Selling handspun yarn  RSS feed

 
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I love to spin yarn.  Drop spindle, wheel, you name it.  I have A LOT of handspun yarn and yes, I use it from time to time, and now I'm looking at selling some of it off.  I look on Etsy and see people selling handspun yarn and it seems like they are vastly underselling themselves for the work that goes into it.  I usually put a price of about $.15/yard on my handspun, which means that if I get a skein that is 400 yards out of a 4 oz. braid of roving, that comes out to about $60.00/ skein.  even if I drop it down to $.12/ yard, that's still $48/skein.


I'm not looking to make this my full time job, but a couple extra bucks at it would never be turned down!  what are some things that people have done for selling handspun?


 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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kids trees urban
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I don't have experience with this, but as a customer this is why I'd buy it:

--the yarn wasn't spun in a sweatshop by child labor (even if the stuff I buy at the store isn't, I don't know that for a fact, it's much harder to verify what happens in China or Vietnam than someone in the same country as me--and I don't have the time or patience to do that much research, so I'm probably very willing to pay more to have yarn I feel good about)
--I assume your animals weren't abused, and had freedom to graze and have a happy life.
--

As a customer, I'm not as exercised about the hand-spinning part of it.  I like the idea of hands putting their love energy into something, but I'd only pay for that for a very special occasion, maybe a gift (and I'm not a big gift-giver--I'm just imagining here).

I say, put your price out there, tell the story of what goes into making the yarn, and see what happens.  You can always come down in price, you can't as easily jack up the price.  It'll be good research for others to know what reaction you get.

You might also look at this in terms of what is your time worth? how does this fit into your mission overall, your values as a person in the human community? selling at the same price as the competition, like Fukuoka, means you make a more ethical product equally available.  To me this feels like an enabling action, personally, and it's not apples-to-apples, because Fukuoka could get more yield per acre on his farm by farming smarter and spinning is limited by the speed you can do it...but a worthwhile perspective to consider.

Or you might look at what you want your bucks for--can you barter at a better rate?

Is that helpful?



 
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Yes they are underselling themselves.  I've seen many a seller sell for the same price as their materials - but they don't last long and often don't get repeat customers.  That said, etsy stores sales directly correlate to how much time I spend promoting my shop.  I don't put much time into it these days, so sales have trickled off, but I'm working on other, bigger projects this year that should get my name out there some more.

I spin for a living - mostly selling through the local yarn shop which has no problem retailing my yarn for $60 - $100 per skein.  Other hand spinners get about $20-40 a skein.  Getting the yarn in the hands of the customers is the fastest way to sell - but I lose a hefty chunk of the profits to commission.  

Some things to help your yarn stand out from the crowd.

go for quality
make a better yarn than people can buy commercially.
My handspun singles withstand weaving (both warp and weft) as well as 100-year-old sock knitting machines.  They are fairly consistent - but not too much.  What is consistent is that no matter the texture, my yarn won't fall apart.

finish your yarn
I spend almost as much time finishing my yarn as I do spinning.  This makes a huge difference in how much someone will pay and how well the yarn stands up over the years.  I have sweaters that are 15 years old.  The one where I finished my yarn is still looking like the day I made it.  The one where I didn't finish my yarn started pilling from day two and has needed several repairs.  They are spun from similar fibres.  

large quantities of the same yarn.
I usually spin about one kilo of a fibre at a time, sometimes up to 6 kilos - depending on the origin of the fibre.
People like being able to buy a sweater's worth.  

large skeins all the same size
A lot of knitters/weavers/crocheters aren't sure about handspun yarn.  They don't want to spend the money and discover there is only enough for half a sock.  Commercial yarn, they understand how much this makes, but handspun is an unknown.  
My standard fingering yarn is enough for a medium pair of socks.  All skeins are 400yards and weigh roughly 100g.  


My pricing is based on


material cost (if I had to buy it)
time spent x minimum wage
plus commission if I sold it in the shop.

It does make for expensive yarn, but I've worked with enough yarn to know the quality of what I spin is better than what I can buy.  I also know that other pricing methods are unsustainable.  

400 yards out of a 4 oz. braid of roving, that comes out to about $60.00/ skein.  



If your quality is good, that's about the right amount.  I've seen commercial yarn sell for more than that.  But like I said, people 'trust' machine-made things more than they do handmade.  to sell for that much, it's important to create trust - show your yarn in finished work.  Get reviews.  Prove to yourself that your yarn is better than commercial yarn - and it will be easy to prove to the customer.  
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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kids trees urban
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Wow!!!

And you soon a good yarn too.  

r ranson wrote:Yes they are underselling themselves.  I've seen many a seller sell for the same price as their materials - but they don't last long and often don't get repeat customers.  That said, etsy stores sales directly correlate to how much time I spend promoting my shop.  I don't put much time into it these days, so sales have trickled off, but I'm working on other, bigger projects this year that should get my name out there some more.

I spin for a living - mostly selling through the local yarn shop which has no problem retailing my yarn for $60 - $100 per skein.  Other hand spinners get about $20-40 a skein.  Getting the yarn in the hands of the customers is the fastest way to sell - but I lose a hefty chunk of the profits to commission.  

Some things to help your yarn stand out from the crowd.

go for quality
make a better yarn than people can buy commercially.
My handspun singles withstand weaving (both warp and weft) as well as 100-year-old sock knitting machines.  They are fairly consistent - but not too much.  What is consistent is that no matter the texture, my yarn won't fall apart.

finish your yarn
I spend almost as much time finishing my yarn as I do spinning.  This makes a huge difference in how much someone will pay and how well the yarn stands up over the years.  I have sweaters that are 15 years old.  The one where I finished my yarn is still looking like the day I made it.  The one where I didn't finish my yarn started pilling from day two and has needed several repairs.  They are spun from similar fibres.  

large quantities of the same yarn.
I usually spin about one kilo of a fibre at a time, sometimes up to 6 kilos - depending on the origin of the fibre.
People like being able to buy a sweater's worth.  

large skeins all the same size
A lot of knitters/weavers/crocheters aren't sure about handspun yarn.  They don't want to spend the money and discover there is only enough for half a sock.  Commercial yarn, they understand how much this makes, but handspun is an unknown.  
My standard fingering yarn is enough for a medium pair of socks.  All skeins are 400yards and weigh roughly 100g.  


My pricing is based on


material cost (if I had to buy it)
time spent x minimum wage
plus commission if I sold it in the shop.

It does make for expensive yarn, but I've worked with enough yarn to know the quality of what I spin is better than what I can buy.  I also know that other pricing methods are unsustainable.  

400 yards out of a 4 oz. braid of roving, that comes out to about $60.00/ skein.  



If your quality is good, that's about the right amount.  I've seen commercial yarn sell for more than that.  But like I said, people 'trust' machine-made things more than they do handmade.  to sell for that much, it's important to create trust - show your yarn in finished work.  Get reviews.  Prove to yourself that your yarn is better than commercial yarn - and it will be easy to prove to the customer.  

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Eric Crouse
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I spend almost as much time finishing my yarn as I do spinning

.

What exactly do you mean by "Finishing Yarn"  I'm curious about this.  usually with my handspun, I soak it, and give it a couple of good whacks just to set the twist.
 
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Good points here on costing handmade items.

One other point:

What it costs you to make has no bearing on what other people would be willing to pay for that item. It still takes me 10 minutes to turn a log into a wooden chopping board with power tools, and 2 hours to do the same with hand tools, I still end up with the same chopping board.

If the economics don't make sense (ie it takes $60 worth of effort to make an item that sells for $15) then you should probably be making something else!
 
r ranson
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Eric Crouse wrote:

I spend almost as much time finishing my yarn as I do spinning

.

What exactly do you mean by "Finishing Yarn"  I'm curious about this.  usually with my handspun, I soak it, and give it a couple of good whacks just to set the twist.



This is pretty important if you want repeat customers that special order 5 kilos of handspun.  PS, that's the best kind of order - yarn that is sold and paid for before you spin it.

Have a read of the big book of handspinning by Alden Amos.  It's a big book, but it has everything you need to transform your yarn from good to amazing.  

It begins while you take the yarn off the bobbin.  Skeining the yarn, I want to be at least four yards away from the bobbin - ten is better.  This redistributes the twist which strengthens the yarn and allows you to catch any flaws in the spinning.  Soak the yarn and wuzz it.  Wuzzing is a technical term for taking hold of the skein and spinning it over your head to remove the moisture.  Once you do this, you'll know why it's called wuzz (it's an onomatopoeia).  Grab a different part of the skein and repeat.  I like this better than the spin cycle because 1) it's more fun, 2) it does something akin to whacking the yarn, but without the whacking, 3) it takes less energy which makes the process more eco-friendly, but also saves me money on the electric bill.

We're not done yet, but I'll pause here for a moment to talk about whacking.  I know the books love it these days and if it works for you, then that's the thing to do.  I was curious if it worked for me or not, so I did some experiments - I love my experiments, me.  I spun several different kinds of yarn.  Some novelty, some warp, some socks, some singles, some plied, some brick-a-brack.  Two skeins of each, one finished my normal way, another finished according to the books with a short skeining distance and whacking.  I examined the different yarns, then used them in different situations.  The whacking one was disappointing.  Not only was the twist not distributed it wasn't as strong.  The fabric from the whacked yarn showed wear much sooner than the finished yarn.  My clencher is my handspun sweaters - the ones I finished are still looking great even 5, 10, and 15 years later, whereas the others required repair after 5 years.  BUT, that's my experience of my yarn, with my spinning style, in my conditions.  I really encourage you to experiment for yourself and find the method that is right for you.  Spin two skeins of the same yarn, finish one your normal style and finish another differently.  Observe.  Make a small change, and repeat the experiment.  The spinners in my area that get the best price for their yarn are ones who have taken the time to experiment and find the method that works best for them.

Back to finishing.  After wuzzing, I put the yarn on a swift and, at least 4 yards away, often 12, I skein it onto a yarn blocker.  I'm careful not to skein it too tight or it will lose the bounce and liveliness to the yarn.  When dry, I label and twist it gently and store it flat.  Elizabeth Zimmerman has a lot of great things to say about how to store your yarn for the best effect, I think it's in her red book.  Before I send it to the shop or a customer, I twist it tighter so it doesn't tangle in transport.


Each time I'm skeining the yarn, I'm being careful to wind it in a way that makes it easy to undo.  I'm also careful in storing so it doesn't tangle in the skein.  I want my yarn go flow effortlessly from the swift so one can warp right from the skein.  I also self-tie the skein because this makes a looser tie (good for dyeing) that requires the person who undoes the skein use the 'top' end for an easier time.  All little things that make a huge difference in repeat custom.  
 
r ranson
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I sold 10 skeins of yarn the other day to a repeat customer.  This got me thinking about this thread and how I calculate and sell yarn.

Selling yarn in person is so easy.  Put yarn in hand.  Take money.  Okay, maybe there's a little more to it.  But not a lot.  

Some things that help
  • having a kilo of the same yarn made it very easy for her to buy it because she knew she had enough for the whole project.  The yarn I only have a few skeins of, she was nervous about buying.
  • Knowing that I can make more of the same kind of yarn (I just ask her to keep one yard as a sample for me to match) makes her more confident in using my yarn
  • I have examples of how it dyes using natural dye.  She liked this because she knows she can dye it
  • I have a swatch of the yarn that was knit on an ancient knitting machine - which is tough on yarn.  She can see how it behaves when knit.
  • I weave with my own yarn which means I can share ideas on how the yarn will behave.  I also improve my yarn with what I learn from working with it.  This adds to the confidence
  • having a wholesale price for orders over so many kilos means I can supply to production artists that will resell their weaving.


  • Thinking more, working with my yarn has been one of the best things for increasing the price people will pay for it.  It shows examples of how the yarn behaves and more importantly it teaches me how my spinning effects the final product.  
     
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