Rant: Price of Crochet in Mainstream Fashion

Please excuse me taking time away from A Tour through Crochet Country today, but I came across a crochet issue this morning that I think can provide us with an opportunity for some timely discussion relating to product pricing in the crochet industry.

As I was working on a crochet crown design this morning, QVC was playing on the TV in the background. I had to look up when I heard them say the word “crochet.” They are selling a beautiful cardigan made by Liz Claiborne New York that is completely crocheted. Yes, real crochet. As in made by real people in China, not by machines.

Take a look at all the details on this hand-crocheted cardigan:

Crochet Sweater View 1
Crochet Sweater View 1
Crochet Sweater View 2
Crochet Sweater View 2


Crochet Sweater View 3
Crochet Sweater View 3
Crochet Sweater View 4
Crochet Sweater View 4

Good News

My first thought was, “Great! Big name fashion designers recognize the beauty of crochet and are including it in their collections. This will help crochet become even more popular.”

Bad News

My second thought was, “Oh, no! Look at the price! How is having such an affordably-priced sweater available at mass retail going to affect crocheters who are trying to run a business selling crocheted items?”

Crochet Pricing Issues

This garment comes in sizes XXS through 3X, all for the standard QVC price of only $59.75, with a special limited-timed featured price of $54.98 today. It’s made from a fine-gauge ramie/cotton yarn.

Think about the hours that would be required to make even the XXS cardigan, let alone the 3X cardigan.

How many hours do you think it would take to make the largest size? Just for reference, the chest circumference is 54″, the bottom circumference is 61″, and the length is 29.75″. Let’s see if we can figure out how much the crocheter who made a size 3X sweater might be earning.

Assumptions (vastly simplified for sake of discussion):

  • Crocheters in China are not magic. They can’t crochet any faster than US crocheters can.
  • 60 hours of crochet time (although it’s probably more than that)
  • We’re ignoring all other costs of production, which does artificially inflate the wages. But trust me, they’re going to be depressing enough even without considering other costs.
  • We’re assuming a 100% markup (keystone pricing) at each step of the distribution chain.

QVC sells sweater for $60

QVC bought sweater from manufacturer for $30

Manufacturer paid someone $15.00 to make the sweater

Hourly rate: 25 cents per hour!!!!

Amazing and pretty horrifying!

Making Money with Crochet?

In my Crochet Business Mastermind groups at Crochetville, I encourage crocheters do make every attempt to price their crocheted items at a level that will provide them with a decent hourly wage. They deserve to be fairly compensated for their time and skills, right?

But with the current economy and today’s discount pricing expectations, it’s very hard to convince consumers that they should adequately compensate someone for their time involved in producing a product.

It’s the rare crocheter who is able to find a market that will bear the product price required to support what I consider a decent, skilled-labor hourly wage, let alone even US hourly minimum wage.

Share Your Thoughts

Do you sell finished crocheted items? Do you have problems selling your products at prices that give you a fair hourly wage?

How will this type of retail product pricing affect you?

What can we do to make it easier for crocheters to make a living by selling crocheted items?

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Disclaimer: All photos are copyright to QVC (www.qvc.com). Photos are used under the Fair Use Exclusion of copyright law as applicable to commentary.

14 thoughts on “Rant: Price of Crochet in Mainstream Fashion”

  1. I would like to think that something handmade by me would be seen as having a higher value and that their retail pricing wouldn’t affect me, but I’m sure that’s not true. I once purchased a crocheted tablecloth on clearance at a big box store. I use it at shows and people always ask if I made it. Sadly, no. It would have taken me months. I still admire the work.

  2. All my handmade items are works of love, made because I love the process, and offered free to family members as gifts, or to charity events where they sell for what they do. I’ve given up on trying to “make money” in this economic climate. I derive much more satisfaction in my craft by maintaining this mindset.

    • Sue, I agree. That’s why I won’t make things to sell. Exception: the woman who offered me $70 to make her a ruffle scarf with Red Heart Sashay. $10 for two skeins of yarn, 2 hours of my time equals $30 per hour. Yes, I would make those until the cows come home if I had enough people willing to pay that for them.

  3. I was told that you take the hours it took to make the item plus the cost of the materials and times it by three.. That makes some items very expensive. It’s a shame that the people in other countries aren’t paid what their work is worth. That makes our products look like they aren’t worth the price we are asking.

    • That’s a very common pricing formula, but I don’t think it works for a lot of hand-crafted items. It doesn’t do anything to account for the labor time involved, for example. Accounting for labor would make items even more expensive than that formula. It takes the same amount of time to make a blanket made out of acrylic as one made of out the same weight yarn in alpaca!

  4. As long as made-in-china fills the bigbox retailers’ shelves, I think it will remain hard, if not impossible for handwork artists to come close to asking a fair price (that would translate into a reasonable hourly wage) for their work, particularly for anything that requires significant time input, such as garments. For example, that sweater you referenced, if the crocheter were to make $10 an hour (what I would consider a “low” fair price for skilled hand-work. ideally, $20…that’s what a local furniture re-finisher charges) , and assuming 60 hours of labour, that sweater would *Start* at $600, before mark-ups and production costs, let alone materials. Even on artfire or etsy, I tend to doubt artisans can truly get that.
    We have a culture that values low price over high quality, and we have become so far separated from the cost, time, and effort that goes into making so much of what we consume, that we have no real idea of the value of many things. It’s really quite sad…

    • I agree with you about appropriate skilled hand-work wages. I personally don’t see what they knowledge, skills, and experience in crochet should be valued less than those of a furniture re-finisher. But, since for most of us, furniture tends to be quite a bit more expensive than the clothes we purchase, maybe that accounts for some of the disparity. Then again, there are also tools available for a furniture refinisher that help reduce labor time. There really aren’t any tools that help reduce the amount of time required to hand crochet something.

      I also agree that at a price that fairly compensates the crocheter, pretty much the only people who can afford it are upper middle-class. Even these customers would probably purchase something only for special occasions, and not on a regular basis throughout the year.

  5. I live in a small Texas town. No one can afford what I should charge. I made adjustments by making really cute animal beanies for adults and children that can’t be found in our Walmart using cheap Red Heart yarn. I was still able to make a profit and once ppl figured out I have some talent I was commissioned for other larger items that ppl were confident I could customize and if they wanted softer higher market yarn I would encourage them to purchase materials and I would charge labor. After they see price of yarn and amount needed they had no problem paying my small (but profitable) labor charge. Making nice gifts for b-days and newborns gets word around too. I don’t make alot but the extra cash helps with bills and/or groceries and I do what I love! I think you just have to understand your market in your immediate area and adjust accordingly and once ppl see what you can do they know it will be quality. In my area, at least, they rather pay for something handmade for the “specialness” of it, In that way I am probably luckier than most.

  6. I usually make $5-6 per hour for items I sell to my wholesale purchasers and when I sell privately it is more.. I work on projects that are profitable for me to make.. I justify the lower wage by crocheting in the evening while watching TV, which I would do anyway. I work full time so my crochet is supplemental money. If it was to be my full time income I would have to sell privately way more then wholesale to make a better profit margin. I am very happy to see crochet items in the mainstream market, I think it makes our handmade items more popular and we sell more.. But the price point for things like this garment can have a big drawback, most people will never pay what we would have to charge for this when they can buy it from QVC so cheaply. So, I only sell products that I can make a decent price on and stay within my hourly charge… This garment would not be one of them.

    • I understand that you’re selling at a price point that guarantees you sales and enables you to make the income you need.

      This pricing model works great for you, and those in similar situations. It does make it more difficult for those who want to make similar things and be adequately compensated for their time.

      Anybody have any ideas on what’s the solution for them? My suggestion: We’re talking about two different markets. Those who expect a fair, or even a living, wage have to identify, locate, and market to a group that wants hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind items made from premium, luxury materials. This population is a lot smaller, but it does exist. These people WILL pay good money for hand-crafted items. The problem is getting access to these people and having the business/marketing skills and the self-confidence to approach them with the attitude of “Yes, what I make really is that great, and yes, my prices are worth every penny of what I charge and then some!”

  7. I do commission work and I’m still basically am a newbie at it, so I see myself as an apprentice and set my prices enough to pay for materials, plus a little bit more. As I’ve got orders to make repeats of past work, the price goes up a little each time, with adjustments depending on the customer. It is extremely hard to make my work pay for the labor, it just is. So I try to be okay with any money that helps me break even with materials and then a flat fee on top of that and the final price is more than what say Walmart would charge, but less than Macy’s…(for now.) How do I feel about crochet in the mainsteam? Well, because I know that crochet cannot be done by machine and that the pieces are being made more often than not, outside this country, thus the wages paid will be next to nothing, it distresses me. It distresses me, not because of how it would effect me and my business, but because of the business practices over all. I’m to the point where I want to throw out almost all my wardrobe, save for pieces I’ve made for myself over the years (and still wear, knitted, crocheted and sewn pieces) and just DIY my wardrobe all together. Would it cost more in time, money and energy? Sure it would. But I would know exactly what I was getting. I am excited when I see crochet on the cat walks, when I see it in stores, but yeah, it’s bittersweet because of the reality of the situation. One of the most expensive pieces of crochet I ever bought that I finally got around to wearing recently was well over $150.00 (90 euros.) I got it in Munich at one of the top department stores and it was essentially a cover up for going to the beach or pool. I use is as a layer over my long dresses, because it goes to about mid calf. I don’t even want to think about how much was paid (or not paid) to the one who labored over it. I believe the piece was actually made in Turkey. Just so you know, machine or otherwise, I distress over the fact that most of the garments made that people wear in this country are not made here…they have been outsourced. I’d like to see the garment industry come back to America…

  8. I have always heard from crafters that if you multiply your cost X3 (for an amateur) up to X5 for a professional then you will come up with a fair and competitive price and you will never really get paid for your time. So if I spent $20 on the yarn then $60.00 – $100.00 would be fair. If you feel that you should charge more I hope it would be really a spectacular item. I do hear ppl say such things as why so much $ when I can buy it at Walmart for $20. and so I remind them that we are not competing with a factory in China, in most cases others correct them and remind them that they should be buying local. Nothing against China but ppl shouldn’t complain that nothing is made here anymore when they themselves won’t buy from here. I see a lot of Americans with what I call the Walmart mentality I think we’re loosing something in America ppl don’t appreciate the workmanship of others and they themselves are not willing to put any work into their own creations either “can’t I just stick it together and say I made it?”

  9. I have been selling my crochet items for several years now. It is certainly a tricky business trying to make money at it. I happened to make an item that took off in popularity – and it was unique. I raised my prices accordingly – I had to to be able to meet the demand. We ended up starting a website selling our products and had looked at having them made overseas to be competitive in the market. After consulting with our attorney about the design (we are currently patent pending on it) – and much consideration, we (I) decided against going overseas with it. We pay local crocheters to make our product. I wish we could pay them more – but we try to remain as competitive in price as we can so we can keep providing local jobs. We have had several companies attempt to copy our design overseas (mainly China) – but the quality doesn’t even compare with ours. They use our photos all of the time though trying to pass it off as theirs. It’s super frustrating. I am glad to say that there are many who purchase our product even though it is more expensive just because it is made locally. There is definitely a growing movement that urges buyers to look for and purchase items that are not made in sweatshops and where people are paid a fair wage. Sadly though, many forget how much of an impact that can have when money is tight – it’s natural to look for the least expensive option.


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