Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How long's it take to make one of those things?

Psychgrad posed a question I'm often asked: How long does it take to weave a scarf?

I don't think she knows it, but that's a loaded question, so my usual answer is: Well, it depends.

Weavers tend to avoid giving the actual time they spend weaving, because a) weaving goes very quickly; and b) there's a lot more to making a scarf than the weaving, and if you look at the price (up to $165 for my scarves), it is easy for some people to say, "OK, 165 bucks an hour?"

Of course, those folks aren't likely to buy anything, anyway.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Figuring out the specific amount of time spent on any given scarf isn't feasible, but here's a rough sketch:

You have to put on a warp (I put on enough for about 12 scarves), and thread the loom (each piece of yarn goes through two metal pieces, and my scarf warps usually have about 175 threads). That's about four or five hours from start to finish.

You also have to conceive of the warp and choose the yarns, which takes who knows how long. I think about warps all the time, in the back of my mind, kind of like how I think about newspapers, writing and one or two other things I will leave to your imagination. To put a number on it, though, I'd say that after the inspiration strikes, designing a warp takes a few hours.

After I weave a scarf, I tie knots in the fringe - to make it pretty - about 5 or 10 minutes per scarf. I wash the scarves to get out the sizing and dust (hey, I live in Walla Walla, the land of blowing dust), then dry them, and sometimes spot iron them when they're dry-ish. Maybe that's another 10 or 20 minutes per scarf? Maybe more, hard to say.

The weaving itself depends on what kind of yarn I'm using and the pattern. I'd say for a 78-inch scarf, weaving times range from an hour or so to two hours for complicated work.

What's that work out to on average? Three hours? Four?

For the set looking to assess the dollars per hour, the ace in the hole is this: Besides the time I spend actually in production, there's that whole "artist" thing, plus the 31 years
of experience I have on the loom bench, plus the Internal Revenue Service, plus the yarn company...

But yeah, a few hours :)


Psychgrad said...

Thanks for the detailed answer. I can see how it would be difficult to quantify. I'm surprised that the actual weaving portion goes pretty quickly. But I really have no idea how it's done, so you could tell me it takes 50 hours/scarf and I would believe you too.

Alasdair said...

Well, yours took 50 hours, of course :) I'll try to get around to putting a video together sometime, too...