Thursday, February 25, 2016

The true cost of participating in a sheep-to-shawl competition

In a conversation recently, the question was asked about how much it costs to participate in a sheep-to-shawl competition. I thought it was an interesting puzzle as I’d never really written anything down.

A team is usually 5 people—weaver, 3 spinners, and a shearer/carder. Our team does not own sheep nor is anyone a shearer, so we have to find a shepherd and pay their vet fees to certify that the animal is disease-free. Shearers run in the neighborhood of $150 for the 10-15 minutes it takes to denude a sheep PLUS the time they spend driving to/from the event, the hour before the event and a few hours afterwards so that, if their team wins, they are present for the photos and the auction of the shawl.

The entry fee for the competition $10-30. Most of the above fees/costs are covered by our guild. The auction proceeds also go to the guild to offset the vet/entry/shearer fees, and the auction price can range from $600-$3,000 depending on the event venue and design of the shawl. So our guild can reasonably expect to receive at least $300. From that, they pay each team member $35 to help defray our travel/hotel costs, leaving the guild with at least $125 in profit. However, this does not take into account the costs incurred by the individual team members. This year’s breakdown for the team in which I was a member was roughly:

Days Inn, 4 rooms for 2 nights, $125 each (some family came
                to assist with hauling equipment)                                                 $   500
Gas for 4 vehicles to/from the event, $50 each                                                 200
Costumes, 5 members (we purchased the shearer’s
                costume for her), $37 each                                                               185
Practice fleeces (we went through 3 in 6 months), ~$60 each                          240
Food at the event, 4 people for 3 meals, about $40/person                              160
Display (required by the venues)--historic photos, graphics, yarn                    120

Total spent by the team to participate                                                           $1,405

That comes to an average of $351 per person (weaver & 3 spinners)! So our guild receives a profit of at least $125 and each team member spends roughly $350 out-of-pocket to participate in the competition. Wow! I never realized until I wrote it all out just now. And most of those costs are not negotiable. You must have lodging/food/gasoline and a display. A team could possibly cut down on the cost of practice fleeces if they know someone with appropriate fleece that they'd contribute free of charge, but that would only save the team $240.

I often wonder if people realize that, in addition to the work involved in designing a shawl around an appropriate theme and making the 2 shawls (a sample shawl is always required by the venue), there is SO MUCH MORE that team members do to make it a successful trip.

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