When you start a hobby, it's usually with hopes to relax and enjoy yourself. Knitting and crochet, in particular, are often touted for the ways they boost mindfulness and calm. Crocheters are not in any particular hurry, simply working steadily as they fill in an idle moment. However, something insidious has been intruding on their bliss. It’s often meant kindly, but it can ruin a relaxing hobby overnight.
Can You Put a Price Tag on Joy?
The single biggest threat to a great hobby is this: hustle culture. Even if you haven’t heard of hustle culture, maybe you’ve seen phrases like “rise and grind” on social media, extolling the virtues of a productive and highly focused life. In hustle culture, everything can be “monetized.” Why not turn your passion into profit?
Turning Yarn Into Profit
To an onlooker, crochet seems like a great way to turn simple materials into adorable (and marketable) products to sell. Who wouldn’t want a custom scarf or a cozy blanket? Crochet can even be used to make little creatures, like the increasingly popular amigurumi (a Japanese style of crochet for creating tiny and adorable animal-shaped toys.)
Creating a Wooly Sanctuary
Crochet can certainly produce some cool results, but it’s also a very rewarding process in itself. Many people take up crochet as a sensory activity, keeping their hands busy while enjoying calm colors and the feeling of fuzzy fibers.
Crochet can also be a meditative practice. The simple, repetitive motions can be a stress-buster. Zoning out is good for mental health, of course, but a soothing activity is also beneficial for managing the stress that comes with chronic pain.
Stitching People Together
Crochet is an ideal solo activity, but it can also be a way of connecting with other people. Art studios often open their doors to groups of crafters to work on their creations while chatting with others and meeting new people. Even in isolation, some crocheters create “prayer shawls” or “prayer blankets,” turning their concern and love into a physical object to send to someone in need.
The Lure of Crochet Cash
Given that crochet is such a passion for some people, why wouldn’t they want to turn their hobby into a profit? Everyone else seems to agree: what crocheter hasn’t heard “OMG, you should sell this!” and wondered, “What if?”
Through the lens of “hustle culture,” it absolutely makes sense to try to “monetize” a hobby like crochet. After all, you’ve got these lovely products, surely someone would give you money for them? What a great way to be productive while doing something you enjoy, right?
Draining Away the Joy
Many crocheters find that there’s something about the hustle that drains all the joy out of their cozy hobby. A common culprit is pressure: it’s hard to relax and enjoy the process when there’s a customer anxiously waiting for you to finish their order. One commenter on Reddit put it this way: “I don't have a timeline because I do it for fun…please don't turn it into another chore.”
Other crocheters report that they feel guilty when they are not working on a commission, but find that their arms, wrists and backs become sore and strained if they work for too many hours.
Unraveling the True Costs
Aside from the emotional and physical stress that comes with laboring under pressure, the numbers just don’t add up. The cost of creation goes far beyond simply purchasing the tools and raw materials. A simple crocheted bag might take ten hours to make, but pricing it according to a reasonable hourly wage would put it out of reach for most customers.
When Passion Meets Price Tags
Selling the products of a hobby can sour the joy, because it forces the creator to think in terms of the monetary value of each hour they spend. Very quickly, the idea of working for three dollars per hour doesn’t seem like such an empowering decision. Even worse, what if the materials end up costing more than the product itself? A crafter on Reddit put it this way: “I feel guilty buying materials sometimes so I feel this pang of regret if I don’t “recoup” the cost somehow.”
The Emotional Toll of Pricing Handmade
Worse yet, the addition of a price tag can lead to some hard feelings when negotiating commissions from family and friends. Creating a labor of love is one thing, and many crocheters would gladly spend hours making a special gift for a loved one. When a loved one offers to pay for what amounts to only a few dollars an hour, however, it’s hard not to feel undervalued.
Dollars and Dilemmas
Why is it so hard to enjoy a hobby when capitalism starts to creep in around the edges? One possible explanation can be found in the psychological theory of “motivation crowding.” Researchers have found that the offer of a financial “incentive” can often have a counterproductive effect because it pulls attention away from other intangible rewards, such as fun, relaxation, creativity, or generosity.
Counting the Unseen Costs
The economics of hustle culture start to make even less sense when other costs of business get factored in, such as the price of a web domain and advertising, creating an attractive display and traveling to a craft show, meeting with boutique owners, photographing the work, packaging and shipping it, not to mention the extra hours spent learning the ropes and maintaining the business.
Fuel for the Creative Fire
Crocheting for profit is probably unfeasible but you might still see crocheters offering their work for sale. Why? There’s a very good explanation: selling a completed project helps to make space for the next one! And besides, any money that comes in can be immediately spent on more yarn.
Preserving the Playful Art of Crafting
The joy of a hobby is all about play and creation. Business just isn’t always a compatible or even a desirable add-on. One Redditor put it perfectly: “The truth is I could probably sell plastic bags full of air if I wanted to make money. What I want is to make weird yarn art.”
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