Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Halloween Bag

In a recent post, I mentioned a small project that would fill the gap I was having in my other projects. I can now tell you all about it.

While sitting around Red Purl a couple weeks ago, Amy mentioned that someone wanted to buy one of her shop samples: a very cute pumpkin-orange felted bag with jack-o-lantern faces on it. Amy threw out a price and the lady didn't object.

Except she didn't like the orange. (We could discuss that for a while...it's sort of like the lady who like a lovely jewelled American flag broach but asked if it came in any other colours.) She wanted it done in a sort of greyish brown; like tree bark, she said.

Amy said she was too busy right then to custom knit one for her but would keep her in mind if someone came along to do the work. And along comes Christina....

I didn't jump in immediately but thought about it as I was visiting. But before I left I reached a decision and told Amy to let the lady know I would do it. I wasn't sure if it would be worth my time because the materials would take up more than half of the purchase price, but you don't know unless you try. And making a little money is better than making none, right?

So Amy got on it, and after a week or so we had a deposit and could buy materials. The wool Amy suggested for the "tree bark" colour turned out to be the same stuff I'm using for the Woven Cables Sweater and she only had one black in stock: a super bulky. Project Stats
Started: 3 Sep 09
Finished: 8 Sep 09
Pattern: Jack by Kate Gilbert, $5.40
Materials: Rowan big wool (08 black), 1 ball $13.46
Rowan purelife BSB DK (781 brown BFL), 5.5 skeins@$5.85=$32.18
Doubling the brown made it about a worsted weight but still thinner than the black. It was a little wonky through the colourwork, but the fulling pretty much evened it all out.

I got started straight away and decided to time the knitting. Everyone is always asking how long things take to knit, and I really have no idea. But on this project I can say that one half took about 6 hours. I got sloppier about timing for the second half, but let's assume it was also 6 hours. And about 30 minutes to seam it up, and about 30 minutes to full it, and we've got a bag that took 13 hours.

How much would you charge for 13 hours of your labour? (And to keep it fair, you should think about labour you like to do, not the drudgery stuff.) And on the flip side, how much would you pay for a felt bag?

The knitting was pretty straight forward if you don't mind intarsia (I don't). The only real modification I made was to pick up the second side off the bottom of the first side to save sewing the bottom. I didn't pick up the very cast on edge, but went one row up. This left a nice ridge at the bottom which nicely defines the lower edge.
On the other hand, I did sew the side seams. I used the whip stitch suggested in the pattern, although I did it from the right side because that's how I prefer it, and it doesn't change the result.
Normally whip stitch does not get used because it's visible from the right side. Guess what...we're fulling here, so it really doesn't matter. A plus is that it's a very flat seam and you can see that in the final product the side seam is virtually invisible.

The handle is identical to the slit handle I've used on some of my plarn bags. You just cast off some stitches in the middle and then cast the same number back on on the next row. Knit a few more rows and you're done. It tends to stretch out with use, but people just call that a "design element" and don't worry about it.
I haven't fulled a lot of stuff but this went pretty easily. The pattern suggested putting the bag into a zippered pillow case before putting it in the washing machine and I think that helped minimize the amount of fiber that gets into the machine. I know eventually all that fiber will clog something up. (You know it will. Plumbing just likes to clog up.) I will, however, now have to buy a new case for my pillow!

Some before and after shots. They are not really to scale. The first two demonstrate the change that fulling makes, turning a loose and sloppy fabric into a very firm and thick one.

The third picture has my computer in it to give you some idea of the change in size:
Before fulling, the bag was 22" x 15" and after fulling it was 17" x 15". So you can see stuff shrinks in length by a lot, but not much in width. (Not surprising when you think of a sweater you've shrunk--usually you can get it over your head but it won't cover your belly). This is the kind of stuff you have to keep in mind when doing designs like these faces. When you're knitting it doesn't look right because it has to be stretched out vertically, but then turns out right in the end.

In all, I think the bag came out really nicely and hope the person who commissioned it likes it too. I'll be delivering it to Amy on Thursday (there's still time to sign up for the slipper class I'm teaching) and then collect the rest of the payment due.

And how much was it? I know you're all wondering. Amy's price was $100. Materials cost $57.19. If I want to be generous, I can subtract a half ball of brown that was leftover that I can use in the Woven Cable sweater, giving a new total of $50.99. So net profit is $49.01 spread over 13 hours, yielding a wage of $3.77 per hour. I think that's just about half of minimum wage. But it's tax free and on top of my regular job. I'll take it.

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