Can I make a living from selling wool and from knitting?

From knitting? Almost certainly not.

I was a maths teacher, and collected some data for a Functional Maths project I ran with low-ability students. One heavily-cabled Aran sweater I made took me 60 hours (I’m a fast knitter. It was complicated) of knitting time, and about 10 hours of swatching, planning and finishing.

  • At the current minimum wage in the UK (£8.21 an hour), I would need to sell that sweater for £574.70 to compensate me for my working time, plus the cost of the yarn (just over £50, so pretty cheap).
  • However, I am NOT a ‘minimum-wage knitter’, I am an expert AND an artist/artisan. In my professional career, I routinely charged £25–50 per hour for private work. Applying that to my knitting, that raises the minimum sale price of the sweater to £1,750-3,500, plus yarn costs.
  • I knit that particular sweater for my husband: people regularly complimented him on it, and, on learning his wife had knitted it, asked if I’d knit one for them – – – – for £20. INCLUDING the yarn…

From selling wool? If you mean running a yarn shop, people do, and can be quite successful. However,

  • my local non-artisanal yarn shop also sells cheap crappy acrylic yarn, fabric, supplies for sewing, embroidery, quilting, paper crafts, art (painting, sculpture, etc), and just about anything else you can imagine. The owner makes a modest living.
  • a posher yarn shop stocks only locally-sourced wool and mohair. The owner is independently wealthy, only opens part-time, and uses her profits to promote local charities. She does do a mean hot chocolate and gluten-free cookies, so I spend far too much time there.
  • A friend and neighbour who’s a yarn-dyer does make a living by selling online and through trade fairs all over Europe, and teaching, and giving talks, and Patreon, and ‘moonlighting’ as an accountant.

From producing wool? Eh. The suppliers of the posh yarn shop that I’ve met produce yarn as a way of offsetting the cost of keeping their animals. One also keeps milk goats and sells the milk, another keeps Jacob sheep for meat, skins and wool. They also teach, dye, design, etc.,etc. They’re not getting rich, and might not be making very much money at all once the accounts are balanced. I once had a go at buying fleece and getting it spun for sale: I did make a profit, but I had to sell the undyed yarn for nearly £20 a 100g hank – and the profit wasn’t enough for me to buy more fleece to spin the following year 😦

Almost everyone I know of who is making a living off fibre crafts is not just a dyer, or a designer, or a spinner, or… They’re a sample knitter and a dyer and a designer and a spinner and a teacher and a vlogger/blogger/podcaster and a magazine contributor and a book author and a photographer and and and. I knit, design, and teach, and it just about covers the cost of my yarn.

Quora linky.

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