Is knitting cheap?

A lot of knitters today grumble at the cost of yarn.  One woman I met shied away from paying NZ$3.50 for a 50g ball, saying it was too expensive!  I’m not quite sure what planet she lives on –  Planet Acrylic?  For a 100% pure wool, I reckon that was pretty good value. 

The cost of knitting has the same principle as anything  you buy – there is something to suit every budget.  You just have to know where to look.

So let’s take a closer look.  Say for instance, you want to knit a man’s pullover.  That’s about as expensive as you can get in terms of total cost, because a man’s pullover, in general, takes up quite a bit more yarn than any other project save blankets.  For the sake of argument, let’s pick a good quality, readily accessible New Zealand yarn out of the basket – The Wool Company‘s 8 ply (DK) single colour Perendale.  That’s $13 for 200g.  I’ve knitted a very large man’s pullover from this yarn, and needed 1 kg, or five hanks.  5 x 13 = NZ$65.  I’m not sure it’s possible to buy a good quality, ready-made, 100% wool man’s jumper for $65 or less.  Perhaps if you’re looking in a charity store…

Up a notch, we choose a luxurious merino.  For example, Touch Yarns‘ variegated merino in 8 ply (DK) weight.  For a medium-sized woman’s jumper, you might need four 200g hanks (800g (1,600m)).  4 x $33 = NZ$132.  Now, let’s compare it with a cheap merino pullover you’d buy at Glassons for $39.99.  I have a few of these.  They’re good as underwear, or for layering, weighing in at 180g.  If you look at it on a gram for gram cost, $40/180g = .22 per gram.  Touch Yarns at $33/200g = .17 per gram is more cost-effective.  Plus you get a much warmer, more hard-wearing garment from the hand-knitted version that will last you for a long, long time.  Those Glassons pullovers have annoyingly begun to look very threadbare after just two seasons of wear!  And the cat’s claws have managed to snag and pull the yarn because it’s so thin… grrr. 

I won’t talk about another pure merino cardigan from a luxury brand that has developed unexplainable, large holes after just one season, rendering it unwearable and causing much pain when I think about how much I paid for the damn thing.  I don’t quite know what happens to my non-hand knitted clothing.  It must be the cat. 

Let’s take a look at a scarf and hat.  On the weekend, I had a snuffle in one of the quality outdoor clothing shops and spied a gorgeous Icebreaker scarf.  100% pure merino, it looked like a DK weight yarn, and it was about 300g in weight.  It cost $89.95.  What say I went into a yarn store and picked out 6 balls (50g ea) of top-end, DK weight, New Zealand merino at $9 a ball to get exactly the same thing in terms of material and weight?  6 x 9 = $54.  Of course, you have to knit it, but the actual dollar value is significantly less.  

A hat in the same shop, in 100% merino and hand-knit style in a sport weight, was $59.95.  One could ramp up the volume and knit a gorgeous, luxurious merino/cashmere/possum hat, using Zealana’s chunky Tui for just $18.  Or maybe use two hanks of Naturally’s Harmony 100% merino at $8.10 a 50g hank = $16.20.  Or a 100g hank of Knitsch‘s 12 ply, 100% New Zealand merino for $12… There are so many other variations, all for under $20.

Need I say more?

Of course, if you’re looking for the cheapest garment you can buy, there are plenty that are cheaper than you can buy yarn for.  But you get what you pay for (she says darkly).  If you’re wanting a good-quality, hard-wearing garment, I don’t think you can beat the cost of knitting it yourself.  Unless of course, you’re eyeing up that $40 button of pure cashmere…

10 thoughts on “Is knitting cheap?

  1. There is another even cheaper option for knitting; aside from thrifting and reknitting old sweaters of course. Stash diving, once stuff’s been in your stash for 6 months or more it no longer has a cost attached to it due to memory loss and depreciation; so you can knit for free! Downside of course is then you feel the need to get more new yarn; but in 6 months or so….

  2. Thats one of the reasons I got into spinning! I ‘need’ chunky merino/alpaca/wool singles like Blue Sky Alpacas Chunky, which cost quite a bit if you also factor in shipping from the USA.

  3. And there is all the pleasure you get from knitting something yourself, especially making something that fits your own special, unique shape. Not to mention the pleasure of handling yarns like possum merino knitting yarn while you are knitting. That enjoyment is worth much more than the label on a bought garment.

  4. And the cost of commercially made possum blend garments! You can easily pay $250 for a garment that is nowhere as nice as a hand knit in one of the fabulous possum yarns, or as thick and warm for half the price. I am currently knitting a vest in 4 ply Supreme possum blend for around $65. It would cost me double that at least for a lighter weight commercial garment, without the individuality and the ‘made just for me’ factor.

  5. Great Blog I find it really useful, I have just taken knitting back up after not doing much for years and am blown away by what is out there. I feel knitting is a bit cooler now I have found Ravelry and more social too. Finding local yarn dyers etc add to the fun. I brought my first 3 skeins of hand dyed last week, 12ply(on sale) from Wicked knits! Now I have a couple of other Dyers to keep an eye on for more purchases in the future! Yeay

    1. Fantastic! Yes, I found the world of knitting much changed when I came back to it nearly four years ago. Isn’t it great!

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