Crafter Costs Then and Now: Using CPI to Compare

Today I was browsing two craft magazines –Needle and Yarn (Summer 1965) and Needlecraft (Spring-Summer 1969).

You can buy these old craft magazines from
E-Bay for $10 and up or, probably like many of us textile devotees, look for them at yard sales (etc.) where they are sold for 10¢ or 25¢.  (Eureka!)

In 1965, Needle and Yarn sold for 60¢, and in 1969 Needlecraft sold for 75¢.  Curious as to what they would cost in today’s dollar, Thor suggested I use the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Inflation Calculator.  It was then easy to figure out that in today’s inflation-adjusted dollar, those magazines should sell for $4.38 and $4.75, respectively.  Hmmmm.

Knitter’s Magazine is now $6.95 an issue; Interweave Knits is $6.99 an issue, as is Interweave Crochet.    So the price for textile-crafting magazines seems to have risen faster than inflation.

I got a little crazy using the Inflation Calculator.

Needlecraft contained an advertisement for Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns for $10.  Inflation adjusting the price, today it should cost $62.69, but it costs $30 at Amazon – as well as at most yarn stores. Curiouser and curiouser.

I found some advertisements whose names I recognized (e.g., Sirdar, Boye, and Susan Bates) – but no prices to compare.  I came across an advertisement for “Dexter’s Orlon Sayelle” for 89¢ for a 4 ounce skein (69 colors!).  That would be $5.58 today (inflation-adjusted).

I saw another advertisement for synthetics by Unger advertising (but providing no prices):

  • “suberb Courtelle acrylic yarn in 36 colors,” though no price was mentioned.
  • RYGJA yarn (a wool yarn from Norway – “Viking strong”) available “at your town’s sportiest stores.”

I found several fiber-related companies that I do not think any longer exist:  Cliveden Yarns and Melrose Yarn Company.

Fair-Tex Distributing advertised knitting needles:

  • A pair of 10″ or 14″ single points by Inoxal (could this be Inox?) ranged, depending on needle size, from 25¢  to 65¢  ($1.57 to $4.08 today, inflation adjusted).
  • Circular needles by Imra in 16″, 24″ or 29″ length) came in sets of 3 to 6 and ranged from $2.79 to $4.89 ($17.49 to $30.66 today, inflation adjusted).

I didn’t expect to find advertisements by companies offering discounted yarns.  Oddly, no  yardages were given!

  • Toward the back of the 1969 journal was an advertisement by Eskimo Yarns Discount House, featuring 100% virgin wool, knitting worsted weight, in 4 ounce hanks (75 colors) for 79¢ a hank.  Inflation adjusted, that would be $4.95 today.  The advertisement also notes: “Compare with National Brands selling at $1.59.”  In today’s dollars (inflation adjusted), that would be $9.97.
  • Some of the yarns advertised by Yarns Unlimitedinclude:
    • “100% Finest French Angora Fur Fiber,” 3 ply in 10 grams for 49¢ a ball – a “79¢ value.”  Inflation adjusted, that would be $3.07 and $4.95, respectively.
    • 100% “Irish Fisherman’s Yarn” for 69¢ for a 2 ounce skein ($4.33 today, inflation adjusted).
    • “Alpine 4-ply sport yarn” of the “[f]inest Australian wool” in 2 ounce skeins for 98¢ ($6.14 today, inflation adjusted)
    • “Kadischa” from France, 75% wool/15% mohair/10 vinyon [sic], in 50 gram balls for 99¢ ($6.21 today, inflation adjusted).
    • Italian Alpaca, 40 grams for $1.29 ($8.09 today, inflation adjusted).

So what did I learn from my first perusal through these magazines? 

  • I can’t get a sense of the yarns used.  The pictures weren’t good: no close ups, scant information and, worse, no yardage!!
  • Orlon seemed to be very popular.  As noted by one advertisement, Orlon is made from DuPont’s Orlon.  Perhaps crafters in the 1960s were less bothered by yarn being made by a chemical company than they would be today.
  • The magazines were supposed to be about needlecrafts but were chock full with advertisements that had nothing to do with fiber art, including (but not limited to): becoming a writer, learning to be an artist, cookbook clubs, woodworking, metal magazine stacks, compact tool kits for “car, home, office, shop, sportsman, or garage,” switchplates, lingerie clips, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.  (Perhaps these had something to do with the magazine’s lower price when compared with their prices in today’s inflation adjusted dollars.  I don’t know.)

Lastly, I wonder if in another 50 years, young textile artists looking through these magazines from the 1960s will view them as we view Weldon’s Practical Needlework!

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23 Responses to Crafter Costs Then and Now: Using CPI to Compare

  1. Now THAT was a lucky day for you!


  2. What a find! And I think I’m bad having a stash that’s got yarn purchased 10-15 years ago … you definitely have me beat! And thanks for the Borax tip … we don’t suffer from roaches (thankfully), but it’s good to know!


  3. I am so flattered and pleased that you enjoy my blog. Thanks!


  4. Great article!! I like to download magazines when I get them. But, once, a lady who saw me knitting in the doc’s waiting room had me come get all of her mother’s old knitting magazines for free! 🙂 I’m usually not that lucky. But that day, I really made out!


  5. Pingback: Crafter Costs Then and Now: Using CPI to … – The Sweaty Knitter | Knitting Instructions

  6. jlstotts says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award.
    If you’d like to accept this award then please take it to your blog and pass it on – if this is not your cup of tea then please accept this as a compliment on your blog.


  7. Ethel says:

    I remember hating the feel of synthetic fibers as far back as 1956 and it still gives me the willies. I remember finding a cache of angora/wool yarn on closeout in about 1970 and buying every bit of it. I have used bits and pieces of it down through the years and still have some left which smells and feels as great as it did back then. I got a kick out of your comment to feelgoodknitting about the modern, scientific approach to pest control. We recently had a minor problem of American roaches (not nearly as difficult to get rid of as the German variety) coming in our kitchen window (they live outside in Florida) so I got the Modern roach spray out and sprayed over and over again. Finally, I remembered that Borax might work – sprinkled it on the sill and No more roaches. ;o}


  8. You may have a point – like the modern, scientific approach to pest control, brought to us by the same folks who revolutionized acrylic yarn! 🙂


  9. I suppose being made by a chemical company made the yarn back then “modern” and “technologically advanced” rather than knitters having to be “limited” to yarn from lowly animals like their mothers were. At least, “it’s better than your mother’s” seems to have been an effective sales pitch for generations upon generations so I imagine it worked back then.

    How interesting to see the absolute lack of predictability in which prices have risen and which have not, though. Go figure!


  10. Ahh, a sister in yarn snobbery! No, I know it’s not a matter of being a snob … I, like you, simply hate the feel of acrylics – and I hated the feel even as a child! I won’t even take a commissioned sweater if the person wants acrylic! One of my current projects is out of Silk Cloud (mohair/silk) by Shibui, and I just bought a skein of a fiber that’s made from Merino and the possum (the New Zealand variety, not the kind we have in the U.S.). I am going to knit up a sample with that and see how it works. 🙂


  11. molivermade says:

    Fun, interesting article. I still have nightmares from synthetic yarns of that era. I hated the way it felt on your fingers. No synthetic yarn for me anymore.


  12. Yes … if it weren’t for sales and places like Webs and Knit Picks, the art would risk being limited to people with $$$.


  13. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, I learned that $1 in 1975 is $4.28 today!


  14. Deborah says:

    Back when the earth was cooling I was paying an average of $1.00 for a 4-ounce skein of acrylic. I have no knowledge of the yardage back then, but it had to be about the same or better than current yardage because I could make a baby afghan (3′ x 4′) with 4 skeins.


  15. Deanne says:

    Great photos. Great to see the price differences – there clearly isn’t a straight 1:1 ratio in change. I guess it’s all about what the market will bear. I know when I got back into knitting a few years ago I was shocked how much the price of wool was.


  16. No problem! But instead of sending you Thor’s formula, I will refer you to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Go to Select the starting year (say, when you remember buying your first Mars Bar!), put in the price you paid then, next select current year, and hit enter/calculate! This is a fun way to compare prices from days past to the present!


  17. What a find! (Steal?)! 🙂


  18. I agree wholeheartedly! Half the fun is looking at hairstyles, poses, accessories … 🙂


  19. Thor is pleased you recognized his slight contribution. 🙂


  20. grimdreamer says:

    My mind’s reeling from all the figures to the point where I’m still wondering if I can use Thor’s formula to calculate how inflation has affected the price of a Mars Bar! Very good article. Like I said, you teach me a lot!!


  21. Curls & Q says:

    Have to say that I did get Barbara Walker’s book in close-out at B. Dalton in 1972 for $2.98! Now, why would I remember that bizarre info?


  22. Summer Larson says:

    Interesting! Thank you, Thor.


  23. whatzitknitz says:

    Ilove these older magazines and booklets. Often I find an older sweater that I love the look of and want to duplicate. Other times I just like looking at the poses and hair dos, the big beehives and the models holding a cigarette in their hand. I always check out the booklets box at St Vinnies and also the boxes of notions for old needles.


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