Back when we were still living in Montreal, I was in this fabulous program at CTCM. Métier d’arts, construction textile. I’ve always had a hard time translating that one. Even my translator daddy hasn’t figured it out. Métier d’art is craft but not like what your kids bring back from school, beautiful as their creations are. And not like most of the DIY you see hanging around. It’s creating beautiful, quality handmade objects. People are often specialized in one material, maybe two. The school I went to had woodworking (ébénisterie which refers to ebony and nicely reflects the quality and beauty that goes into this work), glass, ceramics, jewelry, leather, and more. I was in textile. More specifically, creating textiles and objects made from those textiles. Like Rousskine. I went to school with her.
When we moved here, I had to drop out. And even in a city like New York (not that I get to go to the city that often), there’s nothing quite like the CTCM. I loved it there. I was excited to go to school everyday. It was work and it was fun. And I dreamed of selling my own creations. But we moved before I could finish the program. We bought a knitting machine so that I could keep learning and so that I could create prototypes. And maybe start selling some day. It’s slow going when you’re alone. I miss interacting with my schoolmates and teachers. Did I mention I loved it there? It gets even slower when you get pregnant and spend most of your day caring for your children. Not that I don’t love being with them. They’re both very special girls. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to take care of them, make dinner, and create as much as I would like. It’s frustrating at times but I try to tell myself that I will get there someday. If I only start selling my creations at 40, then so be it. I refuse to sacrifice participation in my daughters’ lives.
In this post, and others further down the road, I thought I’d talk about some of my failed prototypes. First up, one I actually really like. Here it is :
I made it with merino wool in two colors on my knitting machine. It has a boat neck, 3/4 length sleeves, and it’s actually pretty long. But not too long. I used two different kinds of ribbing and made a cable-ish front. Here’s a close-up of the ribbing (the color isn’t accurate on that one but I don’t have any photo editing software so…)
People I’ve shown it to called it a modern fisherman’s sweater and I can see that. The boatneck is a little too wide but that would be easy to fix in future sweaters. I originally made it to fit mouseling 1 when she was all of two years old. She’s now almost 5 and it still fits thanks to the extra length and the stretchiness of the ribbing. The 3/4 sleeves look shorter than they did but they’re still long enough to be called 3/4.
So why did I call this sweater a failure? Because I can’t sell it. Not that I tried. Not counting the time I spent designing this thing, it took me 15 hours to make. 8 hours of knitting and 7 hours of sewing and finishing. Maybe I could try machine sewing it to save some time but I’m not sure the seams would be as pretty. Those hand sewn seams are absolutely perfect. So 15 hours of work. How much would you pay someone qualified to do all this? More than minimum wage, right? 10$ per hour means the sweater cost 150$ to make. Not counting materials. And that’s not profit. That’s just the cost. I left the textile program before I could take the class where I would have learned more about pricing. However, I do remember one of my teachers giving us a rough rule : multiply your costs by 2 or 3 to get the price. These aren’t high volume sales so the mark up has to be bigger. Applying that, that makes this a sweater that I would have to sell 300$-450$. Even if the work was only paid 5$ per hour, that still puts the price between 150$ and 225$. For a child’s sweater. That you have to handwash. Do you see the problem?
All that being said, I’m sure there’s someone out there who would actually pay these prices. That person may actually live not too far from here (I’m constantly amazed by the amount of money there is in these parts). I just don’t know how to find that person. And well, I’d rather put my energy in creating prototypes in the hopes that one of my ideas may work for a wider range of people than in finding the person who will buy my “modern fisherman sweater”. Cute as it is.