There comes a time, as a spinner, when you have more hand spun yarn than you could ever have time to knit, crochet or weave with. After giving some skeins as gifts, thoughts often turn to selling.
Selling your hand spun is a great way to create a small income and make your hobby self-funding.
Some spinners spin specifically to sell, others just love to spin and then sell their hand spun purely as a way to make space to create more! Either way, let’s take a look at the ways you can make selling your hand spun a positive experience.
The first question most spinners ask when preparing to sell their yarns is ‘how much do I charge?’, when really, the first question should be ‘is this yarn fit to sell?’
Regardless of colour, style, texture etc. [and there is a market for everything] is the yarn fit for purpose? If you’re selling it as a knitting or crochet yarn, will it stand up to being worked on needles without snapping? If it’s dyed, is the colour fast? If your yarn is fit for purpose, then, you can move on to planning your sales.
The price you charge should be based on many things. Don’t set your price based on what others charge. They will have different costs than you, different spinning skills to you and might be selling at a loss if they haven’t done their sums right. Constantly undercutting other spinners just results in a race to the bottom, pricewise, which isn’t good for anybody and does a great disservice to skilled crafts people. If you don’t feel confident enough in your yarns to sell them for an appropriate price – should you even be selling them?
Before you do anything else, put yourself through a little ‘time and motion’ study. Take some prepared fibre and spin a singles yarn, perhaps 2ply weight, for 30 minutes. Don’t go super-fast, just your regular spinning speed. After 30 minutes take your yarn off the bobbin and measure how much you’ve spun. This will give you a basic ‘yards per hour’ for working out your costs. Remember that this is a singles yarn. A two ply yarn would double the time. Three ply would treble it etc.
If you are planning to spin specifically to sell, it would be good practice to spin a variety of yarn styles and weights and record your ‘yards per hour’ for each one. From this information, you can decide your own hourly rate to be paid and price your yarns accordingly.
Your ‘yards per hour’ is one of the pieces of information that you need to accurately cost your yarn, so what are the others?
Potential costs to include are:
Fibre – is this raw fleece or a braid of ready dyed and prepped fibre?
Prep time – if using raw fleece this can be considerable, washing, dyeing, carding etc.
Consumables – dye [if using], fibre wash,
Depreciation of tools and equipment – maintenance and replacements have a cost
Extras – printed tags, website, hot water, heat / light / event overheads, PayPal charges, commission etc.
Some sellers try to make life easy for themselves by simply pricing all their yarns by the yard. Unless all your yarns are exactly the same, this is an unsound pricing schedule as some yarns take considerably longer to spin or may use considerably more fibre. The same goes for the idea of pricing by weight. 100g of laceweight takes an awful lot longer to spin than 100g of super chunky, so you wouldn’t charge the same price for both.
This example shows the difference that your ‘yards per hour’ will have on your costings.
Example 1 – commercially prepared fibre spinner spins 100 yards [25g] per hour
1kg of bluefaced Leicester and silk top £36
40 hours to spin 4000 yards single 2ply weight
Time @£7.50 per hour is £300.
2000 yards when plied
Works out at 15p per yard in time and 1.8p in fibre totalling 16.8p per yard
Add to this all other costs so let’s round up to 20p per yard. This is your BREAK EVEN cost.
100 yards x 20p = £20
Sell for £20 – no profit.
Example 2 [faster spinner] – commercially prepared fibre spinner spins 200 yards [50g] per hour
1kg of blue faced Leicester and silk top £36
20 hours to spin 4000 yards single 2ply weight
Time @£8.50 per hour is £170.
2000 yards when plied
Works out at 8.5p per yard in time and 1.8p in fibre totalling approx. 10p per yard
Add to this all other costs so let’s round up to 13p per yard. This is your BREAK EVEN cost.
100 yards x 13p = £13
Sell for £20 - £7 profit.
If you only charge your break even cost, you would not make a profit. There is no space for special offers, bulk purchase discounts etc.
The amount you add on here for ‘profit’ will be determined by market factors – who is your customer base, where are you selling, financial climate etc.
As surprising as it might seem, the world isn’t waiting with baited breath for you to advertise your yarns. You need to go out and tell the world where you are – and why they need to buy your wonderful creations!
What makes you and your yarn different from the other 1500 listings for hand spun yarns being offered by British sellers on Etsy? What is your USP [unique selling point]? What makes your yarn, and you, your business, different from all the others? Differentiate yourself from your competitors. Think how one of your happy customers might describe you to a friend. They’ll usually use your USP when doing so. Maybe you’re the lady who only sells yarn made from fibre grown in Lancashire. Or maybe you’re the person who adds pet hair to their yarn. Possibly you’re the person who dyes their yarn on a boat. Or has dreadlocks. Or has crazy names for their yarns. It doesn’t need to be gimmicky. Just think about what makes you unique, and then tell others. Use your USP to create a brand for your yarns. Justify price with details of the yarns provenance
It’s never been easier to tell the world about yourself. With modern technology and the popularity of social media, you can now market your yarns, free of charge across twitter, Instagram, Facebook, ravelry, Pinterest etc. All it takes is a little time. So you don’t ‘do’ social media? Then you’re not serious about selling your yarns.
Knitting and crochet blogs and podcasts are very popular. Why not contact your favourite bloggers and podcasters and ask if they would review your yarn?
Where to sell
You have two main options for selling your yarn – online or in person. There are customers in both areas. If you are naturally very shy you might prefer to sell online. If you love to talk to people in person, then selling face to face might be more your style.
Selling in person might mean at craft fairs, market stalls, fibre festivals and woolly events, pop ups at yarn or craft stores. If you only have a small stock of yarns, why not join together with other small producers to sell. This would make the cost of exhibiting at larger events easier and your larger stock would create a greater impact on potential customers.
Online you can sell directly through your social media platforms, or via online market places such as folksy, etsy and ravelry. Online market places take time for you to get established – don’t expect overnight success.
Choose where you sell wisely. Hand spun yarn is a luxury item, a considered purchase bought by customers who value the skill and time taken to produce it. Is this what customers are looking for on eBay? Ebay is a place that people go far bargains – you are unlikely to succeed selling hand spun for a good price there. Approach your LYS about stocking your yarn – though choose your store wisely. Is their customer base appropriate? If the shop largely sells cheap, commercial yarns, your luxury hand spun is unlikely to do well.
If you sell only online, attend a few events occasionally to get feedback on your yarns from customers face to face.
Independent craft shops may be interested in stocking your yarn either by purchase, sale or return, or commission.
Independent online businesses that sell quality yarns and accessories might sell your yarn too.
Focus your efforts. You are much more likely to sell your yarn at shops and events aimed at knitters than those aimed at spinners.
Who is your customer? Put yourself where they will find you. Contact local groups – WI, mums & toddlers etc. offer to do a talk / demonstration and take your yarn to sell. Have yarn at different price points and ensure that whoever books you, knows to tell the group that you’ll have items to sell [so they bring their purses!]
Be enthusiastic. If selling at events, don’t sit behind your stall knitting with your head down. Stand up, smile, say hello. If you are a bit shy, or feel self-conscious, do something with your hands, but stand up to do it and look up often. Show swatches of how your yarn looks when knitted, crocheted, woven – some customers will have difficulty visualising how your yarns may work up.
Have you won any awards for your yarn at shows or competitions? Are you using wool from fleeces that have won awards? Sing it from the rooftops – award winning yarn!
Souvenirs – keep it local
If you use fibre from animals local to you - make sure people know about it. If you live in an area visited by tourists, visit shops, galleries, tourist information centres etc. and see if they would like to stock your yarn. It would make a very original, and useful, souvenir.
Hand spun yarn is a luxury item so present it as such – whether it’s your display at an event or your listing details online.
Offer yarn in both skeins and wound balls as some customers don’t want the bother of winding. Conversely, many people assume that yarn in a twisted skein is of higher quality than that in a ball.
Have some simple tags made with your brand details – remember your USP. Make it easy for customers to buy from you again by including all your contact details.
Give as much relevant information in your online listings as possible. Include length in yards and meters, yarn size in WPI and commercial equivalent, weight in grams, describe the softness, suggest uses, pictures of knitted or crocheted swatches for repeatable yarns. Make sure that fibre content is clearly stated and avoid spinning ‘jargon’ that the general public might not understand.
Give your customer everything they need to make a considered purchase. When buying online you don’t benefit from being able to sell via the squish factor so create your squish factor with words instead.
Show customers the value of your yarn – not just its price.
Photography, packaging and branding can infinitely increase the perceived value.
If your yarn isn’t selling – don’t reduce the price – increase its perceived value.
Add value to your yarn by including a specially designed pattern with it. Pair it up with knitting needles or crochet hook, or create finished items such as simple knitted scarves.
Specialise in a specific yarn type, or for a specific market. Spin only one type of breed, or fibre from a single location. Spin a specific design such as chunky corespun artyarns or fine Shetland laceweight. Use natural colours only or vibrant single shades. Do you design yarns that make great hair for dolls, or silk threads for embroidery? Are your yarns wonderful for weavers? Your area of specialism won’t preclude you from spinning or selling other yarns, but it could be part of your USP.
Giving your yarns a name can help to differentiate it from other sellers and help customers to remember you. The names could describe the colour or texture perhaps. Would you remember ‘pink’ or ‘Fairies Wings’? If using elaborate names for your yarns or colours – say why you chose that name. Customers are interested.
Ensure that skeins are long enough for projects. If you only sell 100g skeins in unique colours and yarn types, you are limiting your customer. Have some yarns in greater quantities for those that want to create larger garments. Put complimentary skeins together so show customers how your different yarns could work to create larger items.
Offer excellent customer service whether selling online or in person. Ask customers for pictures of their items made with your yarn that you can then use in your marketing. Perhaps you could offer a discount off their next yarn purchase as an incentive perhaps.
Most import of all ….. Don’t undervalue yourself or your product.