I recently read a post on Instagram about a new sweater pattern that was released by a popular designer in which the yarn called for in the design was close to $400 to purchase. My first thought was oh my, I couldn't afford that! Then I thought, wait what would it cost if you knit the same thing in the yarn I make? Well it wasn't close to $400 but the reality is it would cost on average about $150 to make a sweater out of one of Ewethful's yarns. There has been a lot of talk in the fiber world lately about the high cost of some yarns as a lot of the most popular patterns are being worked up with yarns that come with a pretty hefty price tag.
This lead me to thinking you all might be interested in what goes into my pricing. I'll admit that Ewethful yarn is not cheap. I have struggled with pricing ever since I got into the fiber business. I cringe when someone balks at the price of my yarn. But then I also get a bit defensive because I know the value and work that has gone into every skein of yarn.
For Ewethful yarn it all starts with the shepherd and it is important for me to be able to support local shepherds with a fair price. I tend to pay about $12-15/lb for raw wool that has been skirted. I also have some sources I buy from that cost less at about $25/per unskirted raw fleece which is a great price although it does come with some extra work.
We'll use a recent batch of wool that I purchased and processed out to yarn as an example...
I started with 3 bags of raw wool that ran me $75 to purchase and was about 12lbs. Good price. I then had to skirt the wool (remove any vegetable matter, poop and/or fiber that I did not want to process) which of course takes some of my time. Post skirting I probably had about 9 lbs of raw wool ready to be washed, resulting in about 6.5 lbs of clean wool. Don't forget, washing takes time, wear on my machine and of course the cost of scouring soap which is fairly expensive.
So now I have 6.5 lbs of clean wool. Next I run it thru the Picking machine and condition the fiber. Then it heads to the Carder and next the Draw Frame machine prior to spinning. A couple hours of work, conditioning liquid, plus wear and tear on my equipment and there is some fiber loss during these processing steps.
Then comes the spinning, plying, steaming and skeining. A lot more of my time, more wear and tear on equipment and a bit more loss in fiber along the way. So this particular batch I ended up with about 15, 4.25oz skeins. After steaming I still need to twist and label each skein. More time and expense for packaging. And we can't forget the dyeing! All those lovely colors that didn't come from nature do come with a price for dyes, equipment and my time.
So now I have yarn that I need to sell to recoup that money. This means I have to do marketing which would generally be festivals, social media, website updates, blogging, newsletters and so on. More of my time and money spent on booth fees, programs, apps, and credit card processing fees. And if its ordered online, time to package and ship plus the cost of shipping supplies.
So here we are. I have 15 skeins of yarn that are 220 yards and I am charging $25 each. When these skeins sell (as of this date none have) I will make a total of $375. Now let's go backwards. $75 right off the top for the wool. Soap and labels take another $20 or so. Wear and tear on equipment. There is no exact way to price this, but ordering parts can cost $40 alone in shipping plus the time the machines are down while doing repairs. Last year I spent close to $4000 on machine parts and updates. Now let me add on some of the misc. of owning my business... mortgage payment on building, utilities, credit card charges. Apps for website and newsletters in addition to professional fees to keep them updated. Alarm system, licenses, permits, taxes. Gas to get to and from wool buys. It's a long list. And remember we were down to about $18 per skein in costs just in fiber and prep. The cost of my actual time is always at the end and generally not quite what it should be.
Ok ok, so I think you are seeing why my yarn is priced the way it is. I could certainly cut costs by buying wool from a different source. Maybe even wool that has already been processed beyond washing and even ready to spin. But it is important to me in the process of making Ewethful fibers and yarns that I be able to financially support small farmers. (On the commercial market wool brings about $1 lb for raw wool so fiber farmers would not be able to make a living at that rate). I do this because I love what I do and love supporting our local agriculture economy. Eventually I will slowly make money once start up costs are paid off, the trade off in the decision I have made. I am lucky to be in the position that I am and do not take for granted the fact that I love going to work everyday.
As for other yarn brands, I'll admit that I balk at some of the prices I see. I even think, well if they are charging that then I should be able to charge... And then I stop myself. The reality is, I love my yarn and I want it in the hands of as many crafters as possible. Do I have more work to do on my pricing? Yes. Do those of us in this industry need to charge for our labor and skill? Absolutely yes. So where is the balance? Its different for each of us I suppose. Not a great answer but I can only speak for myself.
So what can I do to make my yarn and fibers more accessible for those on a budget? I'm still brainstorming ideas so please feel free to join in the conversation below. One tried and true way is to give it away! So comment below about anything you wish (does not need to be related to this topic) and you'll be entered in to win a skein of yarn or spinning fibers.
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill. I create hand spinning fibers from locally sourced wool and teach others online how to hand spin their own yarn.