How to price hand-knit items

A handy little guide showing you how much to charge for a hand-knit hat, socks or sweater and important facts you need to consider

Do you love knitting and you want to turn it into a business? Or maybe a colleague asked you to knit something for them and now you are wondering how to price hand-knit items. It’s a tough question and in this article, I want to explore quite a couple of ideas and concepts you may not even be aware of when you want to sell knitwear.

While the article will approach things from a business perspective, it’s important to realize that even if you just do a few commissions, the principles remain the same. Otherwise, you will let others exploit you, your creativity, and your time.

And even if it’s family or friends, you should still make sure that you are appreciated or compensated in a fair manner that befits the amount of time knitting takes. And that is only possible without downplaying your worth. And I hope this article will help you view the true value of handknitting from a different perspective.

Either way, let’s dive right into it and show you how to price hand-knit items.

1) The math behind pricing handmade items

someone finding out how to price hand knit items on a notepad with various hats, socks in the background

Now, don’t be scared when I say math. Still, when it comes down to business you need to do some simple calculation – otherwise, you risk ruin or at least wearing yourself out for no reason. Typically, when one wants to sell something, it’s to earn money and be rewarded for all the hard labor one puts into making something. And knitwear should be treated no differently.

A) your hourly wage:

So, the first thing you absolutely need to figure out is your personal hourly wage. This will depend a lot on your living circumstances and your time constraints. But think of it like this: If you knit full-time, meaning there’s no other job and no other income, how much would be the bare minimum you need to earn to be able to live off your knitting. Definitely factor in taxes you have to pay, insurances, and all these kinds of costs.

Let’s say it’s $4000 a month (remember this is pre-taxes and other things an employer typically covers for you. You should definitely do some research and probably contact a tax attorney for the full picture if you want to start a knitting business).

And then you need to figure out your ideal working days per month. Say 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. So a typical work week. Together with national holidays and all these kinds of things, it’s safe to calculate with 21 days.

And the rest is an easy calculation: $4000/(21 days *8 hours per day) = $23.8 per hour

This would be your minimum hourly wage you have to charge for hand knitting if you want to live off it in this example – no matter if you want to turn this into a business or if you are just asked to knit one hat or one sweater. After all, work is work.

I know, the numbers might seem awfully high. But you are not doing yourself a favor by selling yourself cheaper. The harsh truth is, if you charge less, then you end up toiling hard for a whole month or so for a price that cannot even cover your minimum living costs. Think of all the things you could do with the time instead (i.e the opportunity costs)!

B) The time it takes to finish a hand-knitted item:

The second thing you need to record or work out is the time it takes you to finish a project. And I would really urge you to keep track of your work diligently and not guess it. Because sometimes you have to take a 5 minutes break to figure out a pattern, maybe fix a mistake, untangle the yarn, frog something, washing, blocking, etc. A project typically takes longer than you feel it does.

Use a notepad and simply write down when you start and end a knitting session, and add the numbers when you are finished. And then, you can multiply the hours you needed times your hourly wage. Maybe you are knitting fancy socks and it took you 25 hours to finish them.

Eg. 25 hours * 23.8 $/h = $595

Important caveat: Typically professional knitting is charged per stitch or yards of yarn and not per hour – otherwise you could inflate prices by knitting slower. At the same time, if you do indeed knit a bit slower, charging less per hour would mean you are not earning enough to cover your basic monthly costs. This basically means you have to be a fast knitter to arrive at prices customers may be willing to pay.

Either way, it’s very important to realize that this is only the first half of figuring out how much to charge for hand-knit items. So please read on – especially if you want to turn this into a business and it’s not just one item you plan to sell.

C) Materials & Overhead

materials and tools are part of the overhead costs for knitting on a table

You can’t knit a sweater from thin air. You definitely need to buy yarn. So, as a first step, you need to add these material costs to your price. Let’s say 100 grams of a nice merino colorway for 24$.

E.g: $595 + $24 = $619

But depending on whether you had to go to a store to get the yarn or buy it online, you have to add all the overhead costs. Shipping costs or the time to drive to the store is part of your work. Now, any sensible businessman or woman will order/buy larger quantities to bring down these costs as much as possible. But sometimes you might get a custom order and you actually will spend time and money to acquire just two skeins of yarn.

Part of the overhead costs are also things like shipping or delivery costs to the client. Listing fees you have to pay for an online platform or booth fees when you sell things at a craft fair. If you have a website, then hosting costs need to be factored in.

But also things like knitting tools. You need needles and they might break eventually. You may need props and a camera to take pictures. You might even have to take a course to learn all these things.

Ultimately, all these costs might add up to $1000 a month or more. And you need to add these costs to the prices you charge for your hand-knit hats, socks, or sweater. Otherwise, and I’m repeating myself, you are not doing yourself a favor. E.g:

  • $1000/168 hours (per month) = 5.95 $/h
  • 5.95 $/h * 25 hours = $148.8
  • $519 + $148.8 = $767.8

And that would be the final cost of those elaborate lace socks you handknitted for a client! Sounds a lot, doesn’t it? And there you see ladies selling plain vanilla socks at the craft fair for $25 a pair and I am here telling you to charge close to a 800 dollars instead. Am I crazy? Well, definitely no! So, please read on!

Caveat: Some people don’t want to turn their knitting into a full-time business. Maybe you just want to knit 1 or 2 hours watching Netflix and sell these products. Fair enough. In these cases, you could calculate a bit differently but I’d warn you to go down too much.

2) Important things to consider when you want to sell hand-knit items

If you follow the calculations from above, you will probably arrive at a number that sounds awfully high. You will end up with more than a thousand for a sweater or a lace shawl. Who’s ever going to pay this, you might think? Here are a couple of other things you need to consider.

A) Hand-knit items are special

I invite you to browse through the websites of the big international fashion labels. Gucci, Chanel, Hermès, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana. We’ve all heard these names. Upon closer inspection, you will see that a sweater on these sites will cost a thousand dollars – and sometimes much, much more if it’s Cashmere or is embellished with embroidery or beads.

Quite evidently, people ARE paying that kind of money for garments. And trust me, a Gucci sweater isn’t really worth 2,000 US-Dollars in and by itself. You pay for the brand, the astronomical high street rents, the expensive advertising campaigns, and above all a very special design. And for some people, this whole experience is worth it (and for some, it isn’t).

And knitting is the same. Some people value the unique organic quality of hand-knit items and are willing to pay a premium for it, and some won’t. You need to find them and be exactly where they are making their buying decisions. And then, of course, you need to offer them what they are looking for.

This typically demands quite some research. And trust me, you won’t find these people at the average craft fair but maybe at a medieval LARP festival where people are looking for authentic period-appropriate craftsmanship. Or at a modern art show where people are used to exorbitant prices and are willing to pay for uniqueness.

B) Quality over quantity – the competition is fierce

a hand knit hat ready to be sold

Go to Target or any other big retail store and you will find wool socks for 10, a knitted hat for 15, and a sweater for maybe as cheap as 20 US-Dollar. And that’s your competition. So, when you start your business, you absolutely need to ask yourself:

Why should anyone ever pay such a high premium to buy one of my hand-knit items?

And trust me, hoping and romantic thoughts about how hand-knitting is special, won’t make the cut. If you sell the exact same ribbed hat or socks, all the hard calculation you did above is for nothing. Why? Because there is a difference between the real value and the perceived value.

People might value hand-knitting but they probably won’t value it as much and pay the factor 10 for it. So if a similar hat costs 15 US-Dollar at the store, you might get away with selling it for 30 or maybe 45 US-Dollar but that will probably be the limit of most consumers.

The solution? If you ask me, you need to find something where people can’t compare simply because you cannot buy these things at a store. Either not at all or not in that size or quality.

There are fat people, super tall people, there are disabled people and so many other consumers who simply cannot go into a store and buy a sweater, socks, or gloves because these items are not available in their size or for their body configuration. Other people want something in a special color or in a special yarn (vegan, hypoallergenic, etc). And if you cater to their needs, YOU get to set a fair price!

Also, commercial items are typically made on knitting machines. That’s why they are so cheap. But there are a lot of limits to the things knitting machines can produce. Complex cables, lace, or items with lots of increases and decreases are typically impossible (or labor-intensive = expensive) to produce in wholesale quantities on knitting machines.

two liners and two traditional bavarian half-socks (loiferl)on a wooden board
A set of traditional Bavarian half socks

Here’s a very excellent example. On my blog, you find a pattern for traditional Bavarian half-socks. Setting aside that your average knitting machine could never create them, the unique appearance of hand-knitting is actually part of the traditional costumes. And people ARE willing to pay for that because it’s part of our tradition.

Note: Another option is cashing in on your fame. E.g., people would probably pay insane amounts of money if Michelle Obama would sell her hand-knitted items for charity. I am mentioning this since in the days of Instagram or Youtube this actually has become a viable option where fans are willing to pay a premium because they want a piece of a particularly influential crafter. Right now, this is more common for crochet influencers.

C) Honest question: Are you good enough?

the finished cable knit socks with pristine stitch definition where you can charge a lot of money

When it comes to knitting, I keep on saying that the most important part of this amazing hobby is that it brings you joy, and only you can define what brings you joy and what does not. But when you think about selling a hand-knit hat or socks, a third party enters the equation. Typically they don’t care one whit if you had fun – they pay for the desired quality.

Before you start your business, ask yourself if you are actually fast enough and good enough. Now, this is a dangerous question. A lot of people (especially women) generally don’t have the highest self-esteem and downplay their own skills on a regular basis. On top of that, it’s often hard to be objective when it comes to yourself.

Still, it is needed and I would definitely ask some trusted friends/fellow knitters if they think your knitting quality was something they would honestly pay hard cash for. It doesn’t have to be 100 perfect. I am definitely not, and probably won’t ever be either. But customers won’t pay hard currency for a project full of wonky stitches and mistakes either.

I know, this is a very hard question to ask yourself. But beating around the bushes and saying things like “I think your knitting is beautiful the way it is. I call my mistakes features.” is not going to cut it in my opinion. If you buy a sweater at a store and the seam comes undone, you don’t say that kind of stuff either. You bring it back and complain.

And if you are doing a small commission, I would definitely show them a previous project so they have an idea of what to expect. Sure the answer might be something you may not want to hear. However, the answer will be the same once you’ve finished the commission – but the many hours and love you used to create the item make the judgment even worse.

3) Finding the right price for hand-knitted items

Many books have been written on the theory of price and it would be impossible to share it all here in brevity. But there’s one little fact I would like to highlight. When people know a lot about a product, they will typically lean towards a combination of quality and bargain (i.e. the experienced housewife will know exactly whether a detergent offers a good bang for your buck or if it’s just a nice packaging and a fancy name).

When customers know little or nothing about a product, they will typically lean towards the most expensive option as they were taught that expensive is good.

So, after you came up with your full business case and you found out that you have to charge 1.000 US-Dollars for those hand-knitted socks, you still have to determine a price. Maybe $995 will sound better. Or maybe you could knit them with a cashmere blend (so invest $30 USD more in yarn) and charge $1.500 because they are unique one-of-a-kind hand-knitted made-to-measure cashmere socks. Same work but more profit!

Any mother will probably have a good idea of how much a simple hat for her children should cost. But how much does a hypoallergenic no-itch hat with a special no-pressure hem cost that children love (instead of hate) to put on? How much does a custom-fitted intarsia sweater in your favorite color with your name – or better yet – with the name of a loved one on it cost? See what I am getting at?

When you leave the territory consumers are familiar with, that’s where you can charge what you are actually worth and make money.

Last thoughts on selling knitting

a knitted pillow and a blanket display on a couch

One thing you might have noticed is that this article is almost devoid of any prep-talk. This might seem strange as everywhere else on my blog or on my youtube channel, I’m the exact opposite. You know, things like “don’t let other people diminish your worth”. And so on.

But the truth is, there is a huge difference between a hobby and a business decision. Your personal feelings and emotions don’t really have a place because, quite frankly, the market is ruthless. And you need to face that fact from the very beginning – if you ask me.

And I would be lying if I told you it was easy. In fact, since so many people sell handknitted items for dead cheap prices, the competition is fierce and it’s a very tough market to earn a living.

Think of it. In the above calculation, I used 21 workdays with 8 hours a day as a base. But can you actually sustain that kind of knitting activity? Knitting for 6 hours per day (the rest will be spent on administration, etc) will be excruciating!

Small commissions can be even more difficult because you may be less familiar with treating a disappointed or possibly angry customer. For example, a lot of non-knitters expect the result to be identical to machine-knit items or communicate their ideas in an incomplete way (yes, I wanted stripes BUT not such big stripes!).

At the end of the day, you also have to ask yourself: What if you spent those 8 hours doing something else? Would you earn more money with it and would it be more or less fun?

I personally came to the conclusion that selling my knitting is not a path I want to pursue. I literally couldn’t do it. Still, I hope this article gave you quite a lot of food for thought and you can use it to make a conscious, deliberate business decision.

Anyways, that’s how to price hand-knit items and everything else you need to know about knitting as a business. Feel free to comment with your questions.

15 thoughts on “How to price hand-knit items”

    • thx for catchin gthat Susan. While the argument remains the same, wouldn’t do to confuse ppl with wrong maths. Changed those numbers a couple of times and guess that’s where the mistake slipped in ^^

      Reply
  1. You’re so right! I make jewellery and it galls me when I see people selling stuff for barely more than the cost of the materials.

    Reply
  2. This article made me think about hats I sold at a church holiday market. I thought I should sell them for $12 and my family thought $8 was more appropriate. I did and sold several. Then someone wanted to have some made for her family. Four in black yarn! I had already told her I would before she told me the color she wanted. I had to buy the yarn and then the most simplest patternc I could find so I didn’t go blind finishing them. Never again. I made very little on the majority of the hats and even less on the black ones.

    Reply
    • Well that is always the problem…people at these markets will not really pay more. I mean you don’t go to a church market expecting to buy something for hundreds. So, this is a tough call.
      But 12$ for a hat…my..i think would definitely give this a pass!

      Reply
  3. WOW!! This is amazing !! I am hand knitting a Winnie The Pooh for a neighbour and really had no idea what to charge as I usually knit for charities. I was thinking £35 but you have made me re-evaluate, so very many thanks.

    Chrissie

    Reply
  4. Thank you for the explanation. I have recently learned how to knit. I have quite a few dish/ wash clothes and soap savers now. I’m planning on donating them. I will say that this explanation helped me with pricing though. I currently am giving it a go selling wreaths. It’s hard when others sell for the cost of items. I can’t compete with that. I currently have a shop on Etsy.

    Reply
  5. Hello Norman,
    I have this post bookmarked for reference and I have a question please. You make a comment about professional knitters typically charging by the stitch or yards of fiber knitted. Do you happen to know how much per yard would be reasonable?

    I used to have an article from Craft Trends (early 2000’s & now out of circulation) that a reasonable amount per yard was $.10/easy, simple project; $.15/intermediate projects (I.e., 2+ colors, some simple cabling, difficult fiber, etc.) and $.25/advanced projects such as unusual stitch pattern, intarsia, fair isle. Do you have any idea if those amounts are still practical?

    I would also be interested in your views on the most common method of pricing I’ve found which is:
    Labor+materials = cost
    Cost x 2 = wholesale
    Wholesale x 2 = retail

    Sorry to make this so long but it’s a subject I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. Thanks for your input,

    Reply
    • I sadly cannot help you with current prices. I am not really involved in that trade.
      As for the pricing methods. Weeeeeelll…i would definitely come up with your own methods. Those u cite sound like methods applied by bigger clothing brands. And your business model will probably be decidely different.

      Reply
  6. I am a retired lawyer who used to charge $400-450 per hour for my services and those were my top rates after 42 years of practice. Now I am lucky if someone will pay $45 for a hand knit wool headband! Knitting is a hobby, not a profession. At least for me.

    Reply
  7. I just read your article and definite will share the link with my South African group. I am fortunate to have been able to attend quite a few Pricing Workshops.
    But I was still too scared to price as I was teached.
    Its was on my first ever selling booth I learned to price right by a consumer. her words to me was “This is your handwork, be proud of it. So price it right”. I never sold anything on my first day, but that night I went home and re-price my work. I had quite a few sales after that.
    I priced better as my work got better over the years

    Reply
  8. I appreciate What you say about catering to certain markets, but it does kind of sound bad the way you say to take advantage of fat and disabled people because the system doesn’t cater to them so they’ll pay more

    Reply
    • Well, there are two ways to look at this Cait.
      So, as a society, we should strive towards a commuity where all people on the margins, those that cannot fulfil their duties or claim their rights to 100%, are included. This means, kids, elderly, disabled, ill, etc people.
      This means, a bus ticket should always be priced in a way that it includes the extra fare that is needed to provide a special seat for disable people or people with wheelchairs. I pay a bit more so everyone can come along at the same price.
      That kind of moral code, however, finds it’s limits within the individual capabilities of a person. If I knit a sweater in XS or in 4XXL…the difference will be almost 10 times the time (that much more surface area). And a small business couldn’t possible justify average prices simple because they don’t have that kind of volume. They are just knitting singles…and not batches. And as business, you should try your best to accomodate the margins but never at the expense of your ability to pay your own bills. That’s like on the airplane. First you help yourself to the oxygen and then provide it to your kids – because they can’t do it themselves in the first place and if you don’t go first, all will die.
      So, I absolutely disagree that you are taking advantage. You are cating to a need and charging fair prices for your labor. Taking advantage starts if you overcharge.

      Reply
    • He didn’t say to take advantage of them! He simply said they could be examples of potential customers, along with all others named in that sentence. Don’t look to be offended.

      Reply

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