Monday, 2 December 2013

A stupid story, in seven parts

I feel silly even saying this, but I had an argument with my boyfriend, and the sheer ridiculousness of it is taking up space in my brain.

Prelude:  We had a fantastic weekend.  Spent some quality time with friends on Friday night, playing Cards Against Humanity, laughing uproariously.  Got home late (like 3am late), slept in Saturday, enjoyed a lazy afternoon,  a light dinner and watched a movie.  Sunday was much the same, except we puttered around the house a little, had a nap in the afternoon.

Background:  A perpetual irritation to knitters, and I think it’s fair to expand it to most crafters, is an inability of people who don’t practice your craft to recognize that comments like, “Hey, you’re good at this, can you make it for me for next weekend?” are generally poorly received, as is their inability to understand that you could, in fact, buy it cheaper at Walmart, but that does not mean it will be made and sold for that price when it’s handcrafted. 

The Antagonist:  Steph draws and paints (often in First Nations style, having lived up north for many years), and he is also a woodworker.  He recently made me some beautiful shawl pins.

A couple of years ago, he made paddles for his nephew and his bride as a wedding gift.


Last year, he carved a tiny paddle for me to include in a swap package being mailed to a fellow knitter.  Her real life job is a canoe guide on the Nahanni River. (My apologies for showing the rest of the swap package.  I can't find the photo I took of the paddle by itself.)

Setting:  Last night, a once-close friend of mine had posted her urgent need of a knitter for a complicated pattern.  More out of curiosity than a desire to actually knit something for someone else, I responded to her post with the words,  “How complicated?”  She emailed me a picture of the huntress vest cowl thing that Katniss Everdeen is wearing in the new Hunger Games movie.  I had a look at the pattern, which is not complicated but it is not a super-quick knit, and which called for at least six hundred yards of bulky yarn.  I had a look online for the suggested yarn, which was a mostly acrylic blend, and saw it would cost about sixty dollars for the yarn alone if you walked into Michaels to purchase it.

The Protagonist:  I emailed her to let her know that if she was commissioning someone to knit this item for her, to not be surprised by the cost, especially if she was looking for it in a short timeline, and told her what I’d found.  She emailed me back and said she was grateful for the information, and said her next door neighbour had said she could probably do it but would get back to her with a quote.  She said she hadn’t understood why it would cost so much that she would need to get a quote, but said that what I'd passed on to her gave her some perspective.  End of story.

The Conflict:  I mentioned this to Steph, in a, hey, yet another person who doesn’t really put a price on how much a handcrafted item really costs, kind of way.  His response surprised me.

You know, you could get that at Walmart for about ninety-nine cents a ball.

YOU are telling ME what acrylic yarn costs?  You’ve bought yarn at Walmart lately, have you?

He tells me, with more than a little snark, that while he doesn’t doubt I know what good quality yarn costs, he doubts that I can accurately price inexpensive yarn, because I’m not looking to get her the best possible deal.  He tells me I could buy acrylic yarn in bulk, by the bag, and pay for shipping, and still get it for less.

In the meantime, I’m sitting on my couch, saying, what the hell is going on here?  I’m not actually PLANNING to knit this for her.  I gave her what I think is a reasonable estimation of what she might get asked for to cover materials, because she and I used to be good friends, and I don’t want her to feel stupid when she does start talking about price with someone.  Why are you debating me?  Why do you even care?

We spend the rest of the evening a little edgy with each other.  He was clearly teed off with me, and it bugged me that I cared, but I did.

The Anti-Climax:  Fast forward to this morning.  He sent me an email at work, with a breakdown of costs, for the same or similar acrylic yarn we were discussing last night, with the websites I could theoretically get it from, showing the cost for a bag (that has three times as much acrylic yarn as needed for a vest that I will never ever knit) being about a third of what I’d told my friend she could probably expect to be asked for to cover materials.

It really, truly left me shaking my head.

I emailed him back and said, you need to prove you’re right that badly that you would take time out of your workday to come up with that list? 

I would never question what his materials cost.  I’ve known him to use plum, rosewood, oak, cherry, apple, cedar, maple, black walnut,  sumac.  Some are found materials, some are purchased.  I would never question what his tools cost.  My father was a woodworker, and we used to get the Lee Valley catalogues.  Nor would I question what he rates his time as being worth.   When someone asks you to make something for them, and you quote them a price, and you put a value on not only your time, but also your years of experience and your toolbox, both of tools and of techniques.

Why you gotta be that guy?  You're NEVER (at least, in the ordinary sense of practically never) that guy.

It’s ridiculous for me to be this irritated, isn’t it?