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Mass Produced Crochet Cheap But Not-Cheerful: Ostara Crochet Vest

Updated March 21, 2023
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I have the pleasure of welcome Abby from @calm.homeemade to the blog to talk abut mass produced crochet that is cheap but most definitely not cheerful!

Crochet clothing seems to be becoming increasingly popular and I can completely understand why however there’s a huge issue with mass produced crochet so before I hand over to Abby here’s my main concern…

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A CROCHET MACHINE?

No. While we’re all aware that sewing and knitting can be cheaply produced using machine power and synthetic fibres, this just isn’t true for crochet. The stitches are too intricate and cannot be replicated by machine. So, that £6.25 hat on Shein? Crocheted by HAND.

I’ve shared my full thoughts on this, and also replicated an under-priced High Street tote bag so you can make your own eco and ethically friendly tote. Cute crochet AND a clean conscience, priceless!

Catch up with my thoughts here, Crochet on the High Street and Why You Shouldn’t Buy It.

Not the High-Street Tote Bag

Related Post: Not The High Street Tote

Now, it’s my pleasure to hand over to Abby from calm.homemade.

Abby is such a great advocate for knowing your worth when it comes to selling your craft and has often been outspoken about crochet on the High Street. I can’t wait to share her words and the beautiful pattern that she’s created for you. 

UNLIKE KNITTING THE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CROCHET MACHINE

It’s official, crochet is a huge hit! Its lightweight style is perfect for summer and it’s fast becoming a staple for your summer wardrobes. BUT where are you buying your crochet pieces from?

The trend has hit the High Street and it doesn’t seem like crochet is going out of fashion any time soon. It’s boomed over lockdown and now we are edging out of isolation, will you be hitting the streets to grab yourself a cute crochet top or bag?

Did you know there’s no such thing as a crochet machine? So that means every time you see the word crochet it’s been created by hand, by someone. There are SO many fashion brands that are now selling crochet items at a fraction of the price they should be.

(Image 1) Zara is selling a crocheted top for £19.99 and is now on sale for just £12.99!

(Image 2) Shein is selling this crochet top for £4.99, HOW? 

(Image 3) an AD popped up for Stradivarius, advertising this crochet top for just £27.99 a few months back and that’s when I knew I had to speak up about the damages fast fashion has on our planet and our small businesses! (images taken directly from the companies websites)

LET’S DO THE MATHS:

On average 1x Granny Square (4×4 inches) = 10 mins (roughly without colour change).

22x Granny Squares = 3 hours 40 minutes.

Plus the border = roughly 4 hours.

This = an approximate production time of 7 hours and 40 minutes (excluding colour changes, and weaving in the ends).

Based on a RRP of £27.99 this means the hourly rate works out to £3.73 – This equation doesn’t include materials as the focus is on the hourly pay. But there are also marketing costs, transportation, packaging etc., which begs the question: how are they keeping their prices so low?

Unfortunately, as long as these big companies are allowed to get away with drastically underpaying their workers in order to make huge profits, this problem will continue.

WORKING CONDITIONS

It’s completely unethical for these fast fashion brands to subject their workers to such long, strenuous and repetitive hours of crocheting. ISawItFirst & BooHoo workers earn £3.50 per hour, the minimum wage in the UK is £7.70. This is under half of what they should be earning legally!

Boohoo Factory workers at Faiza Fashion in Leicester.

Not only are these workers not being paid for their time, the conditions and lack of rights they have is shocking.

In addition to this, the fact that the price tag is so low for these items undercuts the hard work of all small crochet businesses. Handmade should be thought of as a luxury product due to the love, effort and time that goes into designing and creating each piece. Fast Fashion companies MUST stop exploiting their workers and start paying their employees a fair wage. In doing so, this will drive the price of handmade items up to the value that they should be.


Buying from small businesses is the way forward as you know they are being paid for their time and efforts. These designs can take weeks and are made with so much love. So next time you see that cute crochet top on the high-street, think, is this a worthwhile investment? Do I want to invest in a product that will last for years or buy cheap and discard after a few times of wearing it because the item has fallen apart?

“A study found that each Briton throws away about 3.1kg of textiles every year, and that 1.7kg of fashion waste is landfilled yearly per person. The UK clothing industry is the third largest in Europe and the study found British consumers spend £980.50 a year on new clothes”. Source

We need to start looking at handmade as an investment, pay a little more for our wardrobe that will in turn last longer and help look after our environment as a direct cause of this new mindset. 

FAST FASHION VS HANDMADE

If you want to participate in the crochet trend, which I urge you to do, it’s important to consider who you want to be spending your money with. Thinking mindfully about your clothing purchases means that you’ll be more comfortable spending money investing in ethical pieces, knowing that you’ll be wearing them for a lot longer and be prouder to wear it. There are some really incredible small, ethical businesses to be found on Instagram and Etsy.

Support handmade by spending your money with people who care about the products they are producing with love and care.

The more we speak about this, the more awareness will be raised and hopefully changes will have to be made.

I’ve seen a lot of people speaking about the importance of understanding the value of handmade. It’s true, until you’ve created something with your own hands, you can’t truly understand the planning, effort and time that goes into creating each piece. Crochet is a labour of love and to think it’s being ‘churned out for pennies’ undermines what handmade really means.

Handmade will lose its value if these brands continue to undercut crochet creators.

VALUE HANDMADE AND THE CREATORS BEHIND IT

The knock-on effect of fast fashion hijacking the craft of crochet is that independent makers feel they have no other option than to reduce their prices. We can’t let this happen! We owe it to ourselves to unite as independent makers and not let fast fashion brands dictate the price of crochet items.

If people see they can get a crochet top for under £25 why would they pay what the item is actually worth? The maker deserves a fair price for their hard work.

We all need to continue to raise awareness on this so people understand what handmade truly means and the terrible implications of fast fashion.

You don’t have to limit yourself to buying the finished piece though, why not learn to crochet your own crochet items? Making your own wardrobe has to be one of the most rewarding processes. Using the art of crochet is extremely mindful, sustainable and a ton of fun. If you fancy giving it a go or you’re a pro and want to add to your collection, why not try my pattern and make your very own granny square crochet vest. 

Unless these topics of fast fashion are discussed and exposed, change can’t be made. Remember, don’t undervalue yourself and support small crochet businesses always over fast fashion brands.

OSTARA CROCHET VEST

Ostara Vest designed by Abby @calm.homemade
Photography by Abby
Model Maja Zalewska

MATERIALS and tools needed

  • Yarn: Cotton Aran. For the sample (size small) I used: white & 2 shades of blue in Shiny Happy Cotton from Wool & The Gang. I used under 500g for this project for size small. The amount you require will depend of the size you make. See Sizing for more info on how to customise this pattern for your body.
  • Hook: 5mm
  • Tape Measure
  • Stitch Markers
  • Scissors
  • Darning needle

GAUGE

I would advise you to do a test swatch before starting this project.

Measure your bust from under your arm to the other side and divide that number by 5. This will be the size you need to make all of your squares.

For a size small your granny square should be 3×3 inches, for a total of 3 rounds. If you are using a different thickness to this yarn, be aware that the amount of rounds may differ.

Try increasing or decreasing your hook size if you are struggling to meet your gauge requirements

SIZING

SizeXSSMLXL2XL3XL4XL5XL
Chest (in)28–3032–3436–3840–4244–4648–5052–5456–5860–62
Chest (cm)71–7681–8691.5–96.5101.5–106.5111.5–117122–127132–137142–147152–158

This size guide is just a point of reference so don’t solely rely on this. Be sure to measure yourself so the top fits you perfectly.

This pattern is in size small, however this top is easily customisable.

Measure your bust (from 1 side to the other). Divide this number (in inches) by 5. This will provide you with the size needed for each granny square for this top.

For size small it’s 3x3inch total of 46 granny squares. You will need 24 in 1 colour and 22 in another. Be sure to get as creative as you like with different colours.

This pattern works by creating and attaching granny squares together, it’s a quick make and super cosy.

Ostara Vest designed by Abby @calm.homemade
Photography by Abby
Model Maja Zalewska

pattern NOTES

  • This pattern uses the granny stitch and the alpine stitch.
  • Ch 3 counts as 1 dc.
  • Fasten off means: ch 1, cut your yarn, then pull through. Leave a tail to weave in at the end (around 5″).
  • This pattern uses US terms

terms and ABBREVIATIONS

Stitch/es (st/s)

Chain(s): ch(s):Yarn over, pull through

Slip Stitch (ss): Insert hook, yarn over, pull through all loops.

Single Crochet(s): sc(s):  Insert hook into stitch, yarn over, pull up a loop, you will have two loops on the hook. Yarn over, pull through remaining two loops.

Double Crochet(s): ds(s): Yarn over, insert into stitch, yarn over, pull up a loop, you will have three loops on the hook. Yarn over, pull through two loops, yarn over, pull through remaining two loops.

Front Post Double Crochet: Fpdc: Yarn over, insert hook around post of stitch from front to back to front, yarn over, pull up a loop, you will have three loops on the hook. Yarn over, pull through two loops, yarn over, pull through remaining two loops.

Repeat ** (means repeat instructions inside the stars [asterisk])

ostara vest PATTERN

If you would like to view this pattern with step-by-step photographs, then please scroll down to download the FREE PDF file.

Ostara Vest designed by Abby @calm.homemade
Photography by Abby
Model Maja Zalewska

Foundation chain: Ch 4, sl st into the first ch to make a circle (see where arrow is pointing).

Note: make sure you have a long enough tail so you can dc around it and pull closed after your first
round.

Step 1: Ch 3, place 2 more dcs into the centre of the ch 4 circle, ch 1. *place 3 dc into the same circle space, ch 1* repeat 2 more times, sl st into the top of the ch 3 (you should have 4 clusters of 3
dc). Turn your work.

Step 2: Sl st into the 1st ch 1 space. Ch 3, place 2 dc into the ch space, into the next ch 1 space, place 3 dcs, ch 1, 3 more dcs into the same ch space (this is your first corner). *place 3 dcs into the next ch space, ch 1, 3 more dcs into the same space* repeat from* ’til the end of the round, sl st into the top of ch 3. Turn your work.

Note: Only put a ch 1 in between 2 dc clusters on each of the 4 corners of the square. Do not ch 1 in between dc clusters along the sides of the square.

Step 3: Sl st into the first space, ch 3, place 2 more dcs into the same ch space. *Place 3 dcs into the next available space along the sides of the square. Place 3 dcs into the next ch space, ch 1, 3 dcs.*
Continue with this pattern all the way to the end. Sl st into the top of the ch 3 at the start of the
round.

Step 4: Continue with this pattern repeating steps 1 to 3 until it meets the size you are creating, for size small its 3×3 inches, for a total of 3 rounds. Repeat until you have a total of 46 granny squares.


You will need 24 in 1 colour and 22 in another.

To access the FULL pattern, including step-by-step photographs, then please download the FREE PDF here:

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2 Comments

  • Hannah
    September 3, 2021 at 2:44 am

    How many granny square are need for medium size shirt?

    Reply
    • BellaCocoTeam
      September 3, 2021 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Hannah as this is a Guest Post you will need to contact the designer directly 🙂

      Reply

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