Y’all, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but crochet is having a MOMENT in fashion – so what’s the problem with mass-produced crochet?! On the one hand, I think it is totally awesome that people are loving crochet. I’ve seen soooo many granny square patterns, and crochet crop tops are totally hot this summer. So yes, I love that crochet is getting noticed and appreciated for more than just grandma’s (awesome, of course) blankets. However, there are some issues here, and I think it’s important to talk about them.
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Why Not to Buy Mass-Produced Crochet
Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that you shouldn’t buy ANY mass-produced crochet. I just hope you’ll do a little research and put some thought into purchases before you dive in. So let’s get into it. Why do I think mass-produced crochet is problematic? It comes down to (surprise, surprise)… money!
First off, a little background knowledge. Did you know that it’s currently impossible to produce crochet by machine? Unlike Knitting and some types of Lacemaking, both of which can be machine-made, the only way to produce crochet is by hand. That means that every single time someone purchases a crocheted item, it is made by hand by some crafter somewhere in the world. (Just a note – occasionally I will see things advertised as crochet even though they are clearly machine lace. To a crocheter, it is easy to tell the difference, and there is a lot of legitimate crochet for sale these days).
My main concern with mass-produced crochet has to do with ethical treatment and fair pay for crafters/factory workers.
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Let’s Talk About Money!
Alright, so I did a quick Google search to find current crochet designs for sale at major stores like Forever 21, Target, Old Navy, Nordstrom, and even Saks 5th Avenue. It seems like you can find crocheted goods everywhere right now!
So let’s break down an example. For starters, where I live, a “living wage”, as defined by this MIT living wage calculator is about $15 per hour for a single person with no children. (disclaimer – I realize that living wage is different in different parts of the US and in different countries, but we’re working with one example here!)
So keeping that number in mind, let’s talk about these designs. I’m using Forever 21 as an example, because right now their website has a lot of different crochet designs, and they’re all priced very low. There are many crocheted pieces priced at 12-20 dollars! What?!
Let’s use a $15 crochet crop top as an example. Google tells me that a typical retail markup for clothing is 50-80%. Assuming only a 50% markup for this product, it brings the cost down to $7.50. Now there are shipping, materials, and overhead costs involved in producing the item. Let’s be very generous and assume it only costs the company $1.50 in overhead and materials, just to make our math easier. Now we’re down to $6 (but honestly, probably less) that could potentially go to the actual worker who made the top.
How long do you think it would take to make a crochet crop top? Crop tops aren’t huge, but I think it would still take me about 3 hours to make one, if not more. $6 divided by 3 hours means that maker is only getting paid two dollars per hour to crochet. Now imagine crocheting day in day out for 8+ hours per day. I’m pretty sure my hand would fall off after a single day of that, and I would have only made $16. THAT IS INSANE.
What Should We Do?
I don’t care what country someone is from or how low their cost of living. It is absolutely absurd that we here in the United States are willing to purchase a product that was made by someone making well below poverty wages, and who knows what kind of benefits they may or may not receive. Ouch!
I know a lot of people would have no idea that someone had to make the fabric for a crochet garment by hand, and I don’t blame them for purchasing. This is where education comes in. If someone is selling a crocheted garment for $15, please be wary. Do some research into the company’s fair labor practices, or lack thereof, and let’s all consider a step toward slow fashion.
Also, consider supporting local makers. There’s a thriving market for crocheted garments over on Etsy (but again, please be wary as many people undersell to the point of barely covering the cost of yarn and shipping, and that’s just not right, in my opinion). If I were to sell a crop top, I would be charging probably $70+, assuming $10 in materials and 3 hours of time at $20 per hour.