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River Colors Journal

Monday, June 06, 2016

It's sun hat season!

"Why would you spend all that time making that? You can buy them at Walmart, you know."


Yep, we've all heard that statement at one time or another, usually from a well-meaning friend or relation who thinks they have our best interests at heart. And we talk to them about the superiority of hand-knit socks, the uniqueness of a crocheted cowl, and the fact that keeping our hands busy keeps us happy.
But fans of crochet have one extra point they should make, an important one that escapes most people's attention. While spinning and knitting machines allow for the inexpensive manufacture of many items, there is still no machine that can duplicate the motions or finished product of hand crochet. And that means that every crochet cowl, sunhat, cardigan, or afghan you see for sale - no matter how low the price - was made by someone with a ball of yarn and a hook in one hand.

Think about the economics of that. Walmart has a crocheted sun hat for sale for $8. They're making a profit on it, of course, and that markup is usually about 50% of the price. So they paid $4 for the hat, but they didn't pay that to the craftsman - they bought it from an importer (who marked up the price), who may have bought it from a wholesaler (who made profit on the deal), who in turn paid someone to crochet the hat. It's a pretty simple design, and an experienced crafter could probably make it in two or three hours. But that hat probably earned its maker significantly less than $1 in profit. That's not anything approaching a living wage, anywhere in the world.

Of course, a discount store isn't the only place you can buy sun hats. You can go to etsy.com, where a quick search will turn up hundreds of options, many of them with a price that is reasonable for the amount of work involved, but can't compete with a big-box retailer. You can also search online and in person for fair-trade suppliers who work with craftspeople in impoverished areas to pay fair wages for the work performed. One trendy supplier is Krochet Kids International, which offers a cute raffia sunhat ... for $60.
sun hat

Or you could, you know, crochet one yourself.  Sun hats aren't hard, and the materials to make them certainly won't cost you $60.  For example, this (free) pattern comes in infant to adult sizes, is made from Berocco Modern Cotton, and is super cute with that ribbon around the crown:

Other yarn choices would allow you to make an airy-er crown, a stiffer brim, or a multi-colorered masterpiece of awesome millinery.  Personally, I want to make a slightly oversized version of the one above using Rowan Original Denim, then wash it a bunch of times to get it nice and faded and stiff.

We'd love to see pictures of you in your summer crochet and knitwear.  Post them on Instagram and tag them with #RCSsummerfavorites so we can all appreciate your efforts!

- Gretchen

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