I often get asked “How long does it take to make a sweater?” That’s a complex question as we know. How long is a piece of string? It depends on a lot of factors. How big is the sweater, how complex is the pattern, what type of yarn are you using? How good is your knitting?
As I’ve been designing my latest handknit sweaters and jumpers, I have been considering this question a lot, so that I can price my work accordingly.
How Long Does it Take to Spin Yarn
How long it takes to handspin yarn depends on a lot of factors. How fine is the yarn that you are spinning? Finer yarn takes longer to spin. What type of fiber are you spinning? Some fibers are more difficult to spin and take longer. Are you also plying the yarn? How energetic are you today? Is your foot pedalling fast or slow? Handspinning is a physical activity, so how you are feeling affects the amount and type of yarn you can spin.
On a good day, I can spin a bobbin full of yarn in an hour – so about 100 grams. I also like to ply my yarns as it gives them a balanced and well finished look. Plying a bobbin takes about another half an hour.
An average sweater, depending on the size, uses approx 700 grams – 1000 grams of yarn. So to spin enough yarn to knit a sweater would take about 10-15 hours to spin, in the weight that I use for my handknits.
If the handspun yarn is also dyed, this is done after the yarn has been spun. I use natural and organic dyes with my yarns so this can be a long dye process depending on the dye that is used. The dyebath often has to be made the day before. The yarn is then mordanted and put into the dyebath. The dye process can take several hours. The dyed yarn is then removed from the dyebath, rinsed and allowed to dry.
How Long Does it Take to Knit a Jumper
Knitting depends on the skill of the knitter, the size of the sweater, and the complexity of the design. I have been knitting for a number of years, so I consider myself to be a fairly fast knitter. I usually knit in the evenings while watching TV, as I don’t need to concentrate a lot on the work. And I can watch TV without feeling guilty.
For an average cardigan with a simple design it takes me about 4-6 hours to knit the back of the sweater, about 3-4 hours to knit each sleeve and about 2-3 hours for each front piece.
How Long Does it Take to Weave
For my latest Isin sweaters, I am also adding a Sami style woven band as a trim. The band is handwoven on a Sami style weaving reed. Each row of the pattern is handpicked and woven according to the drafting plan. It takes a lot of concentration to pickup the correct threads and to weave with even tension. Again, how long this takes depends on the pattern width and the complexity of the design. For a simple design, I can weave about 25-30 cm per hour.
When all the pieces have been knit, the work is not complete yet. The secret to a well made handknit is in the finishing. All the pieces must be carefully pressed and blocked. They are then handsewn together. And the edges, trims and buttons are then sewn on. Finishing can take up to another day to complete.
As you can see, making a jumper from scratch is a long and complex process. Surely we could invent a machine to do this faster for us… But then it wouldn’t be handmade, now would it?