Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Cost of Crafting Labor

We're looking at buying our first home and through that and a variety of previous experiences I've learned that labor is generally not cheap. In some parts of the world, and at certain points in time it is relatively inexpensive, but as a general rule it's the biggest cost in getting things done.

But there is a difference in understanding and experiencing a phenomenon firsthand. Enter, the monkey.

I have a sister (2 actually, but this only concerns one of them) who learned to knit this past school year. I like to think that seeing the beautiful things I was able to knit her, combined with the pervasive presence of knitting in our early formative years lead her to this enlightened decision to learn to knit. She learned really fast and decided to knit a monkey for the baby of a friend of hers.

I thought it was a great idea because I think you should have a context for things you are learning. It's easier to understand the difference between k2tog and ssk when you see their uses (and misuses) firsthand. But I spotted a little problem right away. The whole thing was knit flat and that was going to mean a good bit of finishing at the end. I don't like finishing, and I was pretty sure that that much would turn her off to knitting forcefully and permanently. So, like the teacher I am, I thought, "Hey! I can teach her how to knit in the round. She'll learn that and not have to do as much finishing. Great, two birds with one stone. How smart I am!"

So we went out looking for yarn and she found some great variegated blue/green superwash and a coordinating green to make a crazy-awesome monkey. She also bought her first set of double-pointed needles and worked away on the pattern. She finished knitting all of the pieces in just a few weeks and with surprisingly few mishaps along the way. I was impressed, she was impressed with herself, and talked of a whole little monkey family.

But then the parts just sat there. She talked about it. We talked about it.

We had a conversation about 3 weeks ago and she made this comment: "I don't really like finishing, so I think I'll knit an afghan next." That was, of course, hilarious.

Then a week ago, almost six months after she finished the pieces, the moment of truth came. My husband and I had asked her to watch Bobby for two days while we went to a continuing education class. She agreed, but asked that I finish the monkey for her in payment for one of those days. In my eagerness to save some money (remember the new house thing?), I said, "yes."

She left the bag of monkey parts at my house the first day. It hung benignly from one of our coat hooks. It was disguised as a bag from the university bookstore. It was really a time bomb.

Instead of looking in the bag and just finishing the monkey and getting it done with, I knit a hat in an effort to gear up for sock summit. After I finally broke down and pulled out the monkey parts, I realized how big a mistake I had made. So big, that I resurrected a scarf project I hadn't knit on in over a year just to assure myself I knew what I was doing with some small part of my life.

Here was the mistake: I had traded 8 hours of watching my son, who I like and really is, let's face it, sometimes ridiculously easy to take care of, for this
There are, count them, 21 separate parts: the front and back of 4 paws, 4 legs/arms, 1 body, 1 head, 1 tail, 1 muzzle, 1 eye-piece, and the front and back of 2 ears. That adds up to, oh, let's see... 21 seams! (Note here, that the only reason it's not 28 seams is because she had knit the tail, arms, legs, body, and head in the round.) I'm not even going to think about the number of ends I need to weave in.

It took me the better part of 2 hours to get 2 paws put together and joined to their arms. That's 2 seams an hour. At that rate it's going to take me 10 1/2 hours to finish this monkey. And, that little green blob on his belly, I'm not sure where that even goes.

I love my sister, this is going to be very good practice for my own finishing skills, and I don't want Bobby to get sick, but Bobby better throw up on her or something the next time she watches him.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully she knit an extra mouth piece and the belly isn't really a belly piece. Looks great. Love the colors but how will you get the face parts on the face since it is in the round?
P.S. great post, written well and maybe Bobby can have a huge poop instead of throwing up. : )

Anonymous said...

That blob was a mistake, and my very knowledgeable sister told me to keep even that for the finishing stage. At least I was determined to knit the tail in the round or else that would have needed to be sewn together. :)
I love you too, and will be grateful for a very long time.
Aunt E

leah said...

Ooh, a big poop would be a good one! I like that, Bobby doesn't have to be sick and she really earns her monkey!

The head is still open for stuffing, so I can get my hand in there to sew on the face parts. In 3 years when I finally get to them... ...

And, yes Aunt E, I am super impressed you knit that tiny tube of a tail and remembered me telling you to keep that troubling blob. Maybe I'll give him a spot somewhere! :)