Why I Won’t Knit for Free

Lately I’ve been taking my knitting along to work with me. You know me and my fidgety fingers: if there’s spare time to be had, I’m using it.

I’ve sold some of my knitting in the past to coworkers and friends-of-friends. I knit for free for family, of course, but even then, depending on the project, I’ve been known not to get around to it for a really. Long. Time. I’m working on this blanket for my husband…at this point he’s wanted a blanket for three years.


One of my coworkers asked if I’d ever auctioned off any of my knitting. Oh no, I thought, here it comes.

“…because my nephew’s hockey team is looking for items to auction off…one lady’s mittens sold for sixty dollars!”

I never really know what to say in these situations. I’m not great at saying no. So what came out was something like, “No, I don’t knit unless it benefits me. Sorry,” which, while true, came out wrong and totally makes me sound like a bitch. Here’s what I meant:

I won’t knit for you for free because:

1. Knitting takes time. This is listed first for a reason. My time is valuable to me. I like to spend it in ways I enjoy, which, when it comes to (free) knitting, means at my own leisure and on projects of my choosing. Believe it or not, even someone speedy like The Yarn Harlot can take 16 hours or more to knit a single pair of socks. I can do a lot of other things in 16 hours.

2. Knitting costs money. True, I have the needles already. But if I’m making your project for free, I’ll need to supply yarn. I’ll either need to give up some of my stash, which cost me money, or go purchase new yarn, which will cost me money. Either way, I’d be paying to do you a favour. Not happening.

3. No one works for free. Do you know how much money those mittens would “cost”, in real-life terms, if I charged by the hour? Do you realize that I’d have to give up other things in my life to make the time to knit for you? Would you come over and make me 16 free dinners? Or wash 16 loads of my laundry for me? Why not?

4. It’s my hobby, and therefore it needs to benefit me. When I knit for myself, this is a no-brainer. I get to use the end product: wear the sweater, use the gloves to keep warm, revel in the luxury of perfectly-fitted socks. When I knit for family, in ways that’s even better: I take time to pick just the right project, and colour, and yarn. I sit and smile to myself, imagining the recipient enjoying whatever it is that I’m making. It makes me no money, but it’s incredibly rewarding. If I donate my knitting to a charity — which someday I’d like to — I’ll still feel the warmth of knowing I’ve kept a preemie’s head warm, or gotten a handmade bear to a child with cancer, or whatever.

When I’ve knit for paying customers, that glowing feeling is replaced with cold, hard cash. Still beneficial.

If I give you something to auction for a league sport, neither of these things happens. You could just as easily sell chocolate bars.

5. I plain don’t feel like it right now, which means forcing myself would make it feel like work, and we’ve established I don’t work for free.

This isn’t the first time this has come up since I taught myself to knit. It’s kind of strange, if you think about it: asking someone (oftentimes a mere acquaintance) to give up hours and hours of their time and some of their money, as if it’s something you’re entitled to. Sure, I enjoy my knitting, but I bet there’s lots of mechanics who enjoy their work, and I don’t see them giving away free engine overhauls.

6 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Knit for Free

  • Totally agree with you here, I’m always trying to find a nice-ish way of basically saying the same, though depends on how much patience I have at the time as to how nice I am!
    When I was at school and doing textiles, people (who were not necessarily actual friends) would just say to me, “Oh, you could make me a skirt/dress/top etc. couldn’t you!” Yeah, that’s it, I’m just dying to spend all my free time and money on you, thanks for asking! And now I’m a knitter, people are still the same! It especially annoys me when I’ve been knitting all day at work, and people will blithely assume that I want to spend my evenings knitting for them for free, I don’t think so!

    Great post (sorry about the rant)!

  • Thanks for the comment!
    A couple of times, when people have demanded I knit them something, I’ve offered to teach them to knit instead — “You could make your own mittens/sweater/laughably huge afghan!” The response is inevitably the same: “Oh. No. I don’t have time for that.”

    Cue me scooping my jaw off the floor, cue them completely missing the point.

    No apology necessary for the rant: this whole post is one big gripe session! I am curious, though: when you say you knit at work, are you knitting *alongside* your job, or do you mean that knitting *is* your job? Because if it’s the second, I’m extremely jealous over here…

  • I know how that goes. Maybe just tell them it’s only a hobby because you never know when it’ll get done, and you don’t want to commit to something like that and not be able to deliver.

  • This reminds me of a couple of years ago when I drew a picture of my then boyfriend/now hubby and I in charcoal. I snapped a picture of it and put it on facebook. Of course everyone and their cousin now wanted me to draw them and their significant other, their mother, their kids, their parrots, etc. I thought I had myself a nifty little side business. Set it up pricing rates and all of a sudden no one was interested. It took me a full day to draw that 5×7 picture. Not to mention the paper, the charcoal, the various erasers I used, etc. And people just wanted me to hand my work over to them. Rude!

    • It must be a universal syndrome…
      Let me guess: they were offended that you’d expect recompense for your time/materials/talent, even though they EXPECT you to fall all over yourself to make them something. Rude is right!

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