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Selling handspun yarn

 
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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?


 
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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
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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.  

Content minimized. Click to view
 
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.  
     
    r ranson
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    Here's some more thoughts on selling handspun: https://spinoffmagazine.com/add-it-up-how-to-price-your-handspun-yarns-for-sale

    I don't agree with all of it - or most of it - but it works for some people.

    I've been selling handspun online since 2007 and wholesale for longer.  So most of my opinions are based on what works for me, in my situation, and my style of spinning.  Everyone is unique so feel free to do what works for you.  
     
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    Hi, I am new here and just stumbling around, trying to learn the ropes of this forum. I got here by googling on "price of handspun yarn by weight" because it is driving me crazy that all those etsy and similar listings do not clearly and prominently display the weight of their offerings. Some don't even clearly state the yardage. A photo can be misleading because a very thinly spun bit of twisted yarn can look like a large skein of bulky yarn.

    Anyway, I am a hobbyist yarnspinner who is putting together a product line using my yarns and I am trying to work out the going rates.

    Even the big companies seem to be failing to clearly state, right up front, what the weight or length is. This is very frustrating.  It would be so easy to work out a fair price if a simple search on "handspun yarn by weight" would turn up a page of listings with the figures placed right up front.

    Am I the only one with this problem? Is there a database or clearing house if some kind where I could go to get this information?

    Thank you.
     
    Josie Grenier
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    Oh, I just found the "new topic" button at the bottom of the page... Going there now 😁
     
    r ranson
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    Hello and welcome.

    Weight and yardage - oh yes.  This drives me absolutely nuts.

    Looking at it from an industry point of view, one of the biggest problems with selling by weight is that wool can hold up to 30% of its weight in moisture before feeling wet.  So if I weigh a skein of yarn where I live (that frequently gets 100% humidity) and ship it to Alberta (which I suspect get's negative humidity), then the 100g at my place can weigh 80g there.  (although it's usually a loss of 4 to 8% between the two locations).  Different natural materials have different absorption rates.

    This is why you will see on a commercial yarn saying the weight is Xgrams in "standard conditions".  These conditions are specific humidity, at sea level,... a long list.  If you want to look it up it's ICAO Standard Atmospheric Conditions.

    There are legal issues here.  They will depend on the country, but basically, the metric you sell by has to be accurate.  If you sell by weight, and the customer recieves a different weight than they are charged for, consumer laws have something to say about it.  But if you sell by yardage, then it's unlikely to change in shipping and less bother.  Thus most commercial yarn is sold in length (approx. wight).

    Anyway, I can geek out about that for hours.  Hopefully, I've given an example of why it is so difficult to sell yarn by weight.


    Individual hand spinners selling yarn are best to sell by the length (yard/meter) with approx weight (grams/oz).  This is especially good if selling to weavers as they are more used to dealing with YPP (yards per pound) or kg/m (kilograms per meter).

    Another useful thing for handspinners is to make every skein the same length.  That way it's easier for the user to do the math.  
    I generally spin batches of 1 or more kilograms of fibre, which makes 9 (and a little bit) skeins of my standard yarn of 400yds/100g (yes, I mix metric and imperial - that's because some of my tools are older than others).  Although, the current batch of yarn I'm working on is 400yds/40g and I've got 4 kilos left to spin.

    Why 400yds?  

    My standard yarn is good for socks as it is for weaving.  400yds/100g is enough for a medium to large pair of socks.  One skein = one project.  That's a huge advantage I have over other handspinners.  Plus, there are 9 skeins of that lot that one could use for a bigger project.  


    Pricing by length is a good way to tell labour.  I do time and motion studies to see what my yards per hour are and I have a good idea of my value.  My yards per hour doesn't vary much for fine or fat yarn.  But if I price by weight, then I'm ripping off customers for my fat yarn and ripping off myself for thin yarn.  This is not in keeping with my values or sustainable business practices.


    I've been selling handspun yarn for nearly 16 years (in person, online, and wholesale).  When I first started, there were over a million handspinners selling on etsy.  Now there's only a few thousand.  Those that last, list the information of yardage and weight prominently.  If you have a look at this listing, it gives a good idea of the yarn: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/618249834/undyed-handspun-wool-yarn-natural-dark

    The yardage is listed in three different places, and after the story in the instruction, I make sure to include a little bit like this which says again, in point form, what's being sold

    Dark chocolate brown
    400 yds / 365 m
    approximately 3.5 oz / 100 g
    100% Corriedale





     
    Josie Grenier
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    Thank you, I will be re-reading this but a quick thought here: I am not suggesting a standard of measure and price that would be applied in the transactions, but just a starting point that could be used by artisans as a reference point before putting their wares up for sale.

    Take, for example, the tables of prices of raw fleece. Those are just reference points. If a rancher is charging significantly more, then it is possible to ask why. It is possible to take into account any special conditions or quality that go into his or her pricing, such as wool that comes from an especially good pedigreed line or a herd from a region that is in special demand, for example.

    To take a hint from the meat industry: quality grades could apply. I would rate my lumpy first attempts with Corriedale as "C", for example. Not useful for clothing but I could make a granny-square scatter rug out of it. I am presently at what I would call "grade B': uneven and a little too heavy, but ok for hats or slippers. I have yet to produce "grade A" suitable for a sweater.

    If the standards were published it would be the choice of an artisan to include them in sales listings. Obviously a dishonest artisan would suffer the consequences. It would take a bit of research to collect the data for a price index. Perhaps by using a set of professional sources that are more reasonably priced than the Etsy amateurs?
     
    r ranson
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    Did you want to talk about your yarn and some ideas on pricing?

    What fibres?
    Are the yarns dyed?
    what weight/thickness?
    are they all the same length (you can add quite a bit to the price if you can do this)
    are they made for weaving or knitting or crochet?
    ...
    pictures?
     
    Josie Grenier
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    Actually, I am nowhere near operating a business yet. I am working on a book of crochet patterns and memoires. I once worked in the same textile mill as a yarn winder where my grandmother and aunts were weavers and my people were all in the various textile trades. I am close to 70 years old. This whole adventure started out with a drop spindles I bought in Amazon, thinking I might make twine for a macrame project, but before I knew it, I was following all the youtube tutorials on wool and ordering Corriedale by the pound and now I have moved on to flower dyes, etc.😂

    I found myself remembering so much while learning to handle the drop spindle. And I do have enough industrial production experience  to understand the process and how to plan costs, etc that I might just go ahead and eventually set something up if I graduate from drop spindles to a full-fledged wheel.
    16195653006894885645952099572962.jpg
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