You may have overheard this at a craft/artisan show and sale. You may have thought it or even said it out loud yourself. I have often said it while looking at the cauliflower in the grocery store. I am here to tell you what you are paying for. Thank you for asking.
First of all, no, you can’t just go home and make it yourself. Though I am also guilty of thinking that at many sales. But then I have to say to myself, “Yes, but WILL I?” The answer is no about 98% of the time. So, what is it that I do?
I have spent 30 years honing my craft, taking courses across North America to get good at what I do. But for the day-to-day here is what I do. I dye yarn. Sounds easy but wait, there is more. Dyeing is a dangerous business. Fine particulates can get into your lungs. So, I wear a heavy-duty mask.
First, I scour the yarn (wool, cotton, silk) in washing soda to remove any residue from the manufacturing process. This involves hot water and soaking. Then I mordant the yarn (or silk scarves). This means that I apply a substance that will allow the dye to better bond with the fibres which will increase colour and light fastness (i.e.: no or minimal fading over time). Then I will dye the yarn or fabric. If I am dyeing with natural dyes I will immerse the yarn or silk into the dyebath and leave it to sit for days. Then rinse and finish. If I am dyeing with commercial dyes I put on the mask and mix up my dye colours. I then apply by hand, allow to process and rinse several times to ensure that all of the dye is removed from the fibre.
Once the yarn is dyed, it must then be measured into a warp using either a warping board or warping mill. These allow consistent measurement of warp threads. Next I will “dress” the loom but inserting each thread through the reed and through the eye of the heddle. This is how I create the pattern when weaving.
Next, I weave the cloth (scarf, blanket, baby wrap, tea towel, fabric yardage), wash, dry, iron and hem. Or then I start sewing purses. Anyone who sews will know what happens next. Apply interfacing to handwoven fabric, cut pattern pieces and sew together. Then I create my display booth, apply to craft shows and artisan fairs, set up for the weekend and smile when you come into my booth. I work alone. I buy my extra materials in small batches and maintain my equipment myself. So, in case anyone is still wondering, that is why it costs “that” much.