There is a game show in the United States called “The Price Is Right” — it’s been on for decades, and quite popular — in which four contestants on a preliminary panel try to guess the price of an item by placing ‘bids’ to be the highest bidder without going over the actual retail price. Whomever comes closest to the retail price without going over wins that item AND gets to go on stage to play the next pricing game.
One of the pricing games is called “That’s Too Much” – the contestant is shown an expensive item (often a car) and is given a description of the item and its features. This helps (?) the contestant determine what might be the right price. Then the contestant is shown 6 or 8 dollar amounts of increasing worth. An indicator slides along the offered prices, one by one, and the contestant decides whether it is right or not. When the indicated price is MORE THAN what the contestant believes is right, the contestant has to say “That’s too much!” — meaning he thinks the item is lower than the indicated price, but higher than the previously offered price.
Here’s a clip from one such game:
I bring this up because the other day in one of the knitting groups online there was a discussion about a sock yarn — a lovely, custom-dyed sock yarn — that someone had bought and shared in a different discussion group where she was told she paid too much for it.
She showed the center-pull ball of yarn with the label and price marking, AND showed the mitten she was knitting from it. Oh-Mah-GAWD it was gorgeous, and the yarn had clearly been dyed specifically to create an effect when knitting something tubular and sized like a sock or mitten. In short, the combination of the dye job and the resulting knitting were spectacular!
I don’t have permission to show either that person’s photographs, nor the label of another dyer, and those details aren’t really important. I want to talk about what goes into making a skein of hand-dyed yarn in general.
Most of you know that each dyer has to figure up the cost of buying yarn, and add in the various costs of time, dyes and other resources, skill, and sort forth for their primary yarns, and then establish a price for their regular products. This base price HAS to include whatever the dyer needs to make in profit in order to survive. Indie dyers like myself must charge more than the large commercial concerns that make less per-item in profit, but make up the difference by making thousands of identical products.
And then there are the custom techniques, over and beyond what I normally do. One of those is the Black-Out technique. This involves processing a yarn in the normal way, all the way through the process of making a hank, then a pre-dye soak, dyeing, washing, rinsing, drying and reskeining. If someone wants the Black-Out technique, I have to start the process all over with a reskeined yarn, mounting it onto the skein-winder again, preparing it for the Black-Out, then another pre-dye soak, more dye, and washing, rinsing, drying, and reskeining. Doing a Black-Out on top of an already dyed yarn actually takes longer than the original dye.
Here’s an example of the Black-Out technique when it is all done:
The only part of it that is NOT repeated is the actual cost of the yarn itself, since I already have that. Every other step is duplicated and those costs have to be included in the end product. That’s why the Black-Out technique costs so much more than one of my regular yarns.
Another currently popular technique involves knitting up a blank sheet of fabric and then painting it with dye as a flat piece, in order to create long-span gradients. For this, you have to take a hank to make sure it isn’t too much or too little (or know how much to knit off of a cone to ensure a full skein’s worth — and hope to high-heaven there isn’t a knot or splice somewhere along the cone!), knit it on the machine, dye it in whatever technique is appropriate, wash and dry it, and then turn it into a center-pull ball. This is more time-consuming than simply dyeing a hank and thus it should cost more.
Going back to the fantastic ball of yarn and mittens that started this discussion, I can look at it and recognize the techniques involved to create it — not just the dye job, but the way the yarn was processed to avoid the ‘previously-knit’ appearance of similar center-pull balls that are often curly or wavey in appearance.
Knowing what must have been involved to create that product, I would have to say it was under-priced, and that knitter got an amazing deal on a ball of yarn that I could not easily offer at that price.
So before you say “That’s Too Much!”, consider all the factors that go into pricing an item that seems to be above the normal range for the amount of yarn you are getting. You’re paying for the yarn AND everything that went into creating a work of art. The yarn might not be too much or priced too high, which is a judgment call most people aren’t qualified to make — it may just be more than you are willing to pay for it, and that’s fine.