Once upon a time making your own clothes and knitwear was the thrifty thing to do…only the most wealthy could get tailor made or shop brought clothing, every home was equipped with a sewing machine and all young ladies learnt to knit and darn. Even when I was a teen, making my own clothes was cheaper than buying them. But that seemed to change as cheap synthetic fabrics filled large chain store haberdasheries and clothes were manufactured en mass in sweatshops and developing countries where labour is cheap and worker conditions are not discussed. Fabric and yarn became a high-end commodity as fabric prices rose from a few dollars to $20 dollars a metre and yarn became a more specialised product with a tag to match.
But one of the problems with this perception is that we tend to compare cheaply made mass produced, synthetic clothes with quality fabrics or yarns. When The Yarn Bar first opened, we were posed with the question why would we buy yarn from you when it can be bought so cheaply from Spotlight! I have pondered that question (rather defensively) since! And really it comes down to getting what you pay for.
So think about this…yarn for a pure merino wool cardigan might cost about $100 plus many hours of labour. So why would you bother when you can get an off the rack acrylic cardigan for half that price? But if you are going to make this equation there are a few things to think about. If you were to look for a pure merino cardigan, depending on brand you are looking at over $100. If there is a designer attached you can double, maybe triple that number.
A couple of years ago I discovered The Fabric Store in Brisbane (they are also in Sydney and Melbourne) that sold fabric ends from designers. The thing about these fabrics is they are composed of things like merino, silk, rayon, cotton with limited amounts of synthetic additions. Now the fabrics are generally $20+ a metre but they are good quality fabrics and more interesting than many chain store alternatives. I sometimes go and think $40 for the fabric to make a blouse – that’s expensive. But then some recent shopping trips have made me realise that off the rack reasonable quality clothes (less synthetic, more attention to construction detail) you now pay $100 for a blouse, $130 for a skirt and $200 for a dress and shoes are now $150 on average. Ready made has become more expensive (as it does) and it made me reflect on what I was willing to pay for fabric and yarn and I think the scales are starting to tip back toward handmade as a thrifty choice.
I thought, in the interest of science, I should take a look at the “opposition” (Spotlight) and see what the price comparison actually is. So I looked at a 10ply pure wool yarn and the first one I found was $8.99 for a 76m ball. Compare that to some of The Yarn Bar offerings. Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted yarn is merino yarn with 15% mohair content at $14.50 for 176m – so actually cheaper, Zealana Heron which is also merino wool but includes 20% possum is $9.00 for 100m (again cheaper), and even our Cascade Lana D’Oro which is 50% merino and 50% alpaca is $14.90 for 200m so again cheaper! Of course you can get some much cheaper yarns and if you want an acrylic novelty yarn it’s the place to go, but when you start making comparisons on the quality of yarns ‘boutique’ yarn sellers offer, you might be surprised at how thing stack up! At The Yarn Bar, we have included a price per metre so you can make a comparison of yarn prices if you want to. Of course you can't add in the cost of your time or we would be talking about $200 socks!
Of course most of us craft for a lot of reasons other then thrift (my investment in my fabric and yarn stash is testament to that!). Frankly I remain fascinated that with two wooden sticks and a ball of yarn I can make a garment. Or a rectangle of fabric can become something to wear that fits well and looks great. I don’t think the fascination (and testing) of my ability will ever wear off!Continue reading