You are walking through the aisles of a clothing store and a crocheted top catches your eye. You look closely at the stitches and you recognize the single and double crochets. You think to yourself "What cute top. I could make that myself." You look at the price tag and do some quick math in your head. With the cost of yarn, even at a discount store, there is no way you could make that for less than what they are selling it for. This is especially true when you add in how long it would take you to crochet. Maybe you buy it or maybe you search for a crochet pattern that you can (someday) use to make one just like it. You leave the store and go about your day.
The last time you walked down the aisles of a craft store, did you see the pretty doilies for sale? They are anywhere from 3 to 7 inches across and usually cost 3 to 8 dollars regular price. If you have ever done any thread crochet work, you know all too well the pain of stitching with tiny steel hooks, hunching over and squinting to try to see the detail of each tiny stitch. Can you imagine how long it would take for you to make that doily? How sore you would be after completing such a task? What if you had to make 10 of them in a day? 20?
What you may not realize is that, just as you create each stitch in your work, a human hand has created every stitch in that top and doily. Each one was made by a person, most likely in a factory somewhere. It might take you days or even weeks to complete a project like that. But for the people that are hand making these items, they are making multiple pieces a day. Enough tops and doilies to fill stores all over the world.
How do I know this? Simple. There is no such thing as crochet machine. Go ahead and Google it. The machines that make "crochet" make a completely different product. No robotic hands with hooks attached to them that make stitches like the ones you and I make. Only other hands can do this. Why is this important? Because the people making these items are not being paid their worth. No, I do not have any background insider information, but I do have basic math skills.
Let's look at the doily as an example:
If the price of a doily is $8 without any discounts, how much of that $8 is going to the artisan? Even if they received the entire amount, that may equal about $1/hr if they are really fast. Then let's apply basic business math: the rule of thumb when pricing a product for retail is to at least double the wholesale price, and being able to still turn a profit even when you offer a sale or coupon on that item. This means that the retailer that is selling the doily paid, at most, $4 for it. Keep in mind that the retailer has to pay for all of their other business expenses like a warehouse, shipping costs, utilities, store rents, CEO and employee salaries, taxes, etc. That brings our artisan to 50 cents/hr if they are lucky. But that artisan is not selling it directly to the company, they are one of many employees that work for a manufacturing company that also needs to make a profit. That manufacturing company also has business expenses that need to be covered as well. Let's say they only take half of the wholesale price of the doily and give the other half to the employee (I really have no idea what they keep and what they pay, but it's not a bad assumption). Our artisan is now only making 25 cents/hour. That is not much at all.
So I ask you this? Would you do a job for 25 cents/hr? What kind of life could you provide for yourself and your family on this meager salary? Is the work these artisans are doing worth more than that?
I ask you to join me in only buying handmade artisan goods from only reputable sources, for a fair price. Do your homework and help your fellow humans get what they are worth.
Support handmade artisans that sell through online markets like Etsy. It may cost you a little more, but you will be doing the entire world some good. How much is that worth?