A neighbor of mine is a retired Reverend from a dual-language church in our community. She is also an avid knitter. Over the past couple years she has organized volunteers - herself and friends - to make and sell fruit (and cupcake) hats at our downtown farmer's market and other local stores. They have raised a lot of money for the church and its educational scholarship funds.
A week ago she invited me over to learn more about her process and methods. The hats they sell are loosely based on the Ann Norling Fruit Cap pattern, and they use - almost exclusively - inexpensive acrylic/wool blends.
She didn't try to recruit me to knit with her group. Instead she encouraged and mentored me towards making a stock of hats to sell to local stores. She was inspirational, and she made it seem so...well...doable. So I went home, pulled some yarn from my stash and did something I've never done before.
I timed myself knitting.
Relying on the pattern, I first made an eggplant hat, size 3-6 mos. I used stash yarn. It took me two sessions to complete. The first lasted 2:40. The second (with lots of kiddo interruptions) lasted 1:20. That makes this little cutie a 4-hour hat. Giving myself $10/hour, not including materials, I would have to sell this little number for $40, double what the group sells their hats for.
Second I made a pumpkin hat (modifying the pattern to my taste and adding a spiral vine), size 2-4 yrs. I used newly purchased acrylic yarn. Across 6 knitting sessions, this hat took 4:35 to complete. Including material costs, I'll let you do the math for what this one would need to sell for.
I am not telling a knitter anything that s/he doesn't likely already know. You rarely, if ever, get your labor cost back if you sell an item. And for me this timing exercise affirmed that for me.
I did think - for a fleeting moment - that I might be able to squeeze out baby hats made with inexpensive yarn and sell them for a reasonable labor-to-retail cost ratio. But that doesn't seem possible.
So I continue down the evolutionary path of my knitting, knowing that I am a personal knitter, a gift knitter and and future knitwear designer (I have two ideas incubating for original patterns).
But I am not a retail knitter.
At least not right now.
I did come out of this little experiment with two adorable hats, one of which is loved beyond words by my 4 yo. The other will go to the parents of a little baby that is expected to arrive at the end of December. They actually grow eggplants, so I think it will be an extra special gift for them.