Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How much for that quilt in the window???

Do you ever give a thought to the true worth of a quilt you
 have made when someone casually asks you to make one for them.
 l have been asked many times and my standard answer
 is l make them  for special O birthdays and weddings.
That seems to stop most of them in their tracks.
l do make them for special friends and family for special birthdays,
weddings, and now great nieces and nephews. And l am happy to
as long as l know they will be treasured and appreciated.
 l found this great article about said subject this afternoon while buzzing
around the Internet. Its not a blog l have seen before, but thought the
post worth sharing here, as its what we all know to be the truth
of the matter. It will prepare you with a true and honest answer
 next time someone asks you "Can you whip up a quilt for me? "
l have posted the story here in its full entirety. These are not my words,
 but the words of another quilter, Sam Hunter,
 who's blog can be found here.
 Its going to take some reading, so a cuppa would not go a stray.

And just because l know you can't have a blog without pictures,
l am adding just a few here to keep you going!!
And there are a few more at the end as your reward for getting there!!
All quilts are from my collection of photos stored on my computer,
 not quilts that l have made or own.

Words below by Sam Hunter.

This morning I caught a post on a quilting Facebook feed… a member posted a picture of a delightful baby quilt and asked what she should charge the neighbor that just asked to buy it from her. She mentioned that the quilt was made from a panel with pieced borders, and that the quilting was done in threads to match the fabric colors (oh, the thread changes!). She mentioned she was thinking $85. A fellow poster thought $100 was better. Another said it depends on the closeness of the friendship.
First of all… I’m not naming names here because I don’t want this person to feel pilloried – far from it, I absolutely appreciate her question and have one heck of an opinion about how it should be answered… a rather, ahem, shall we say passionate opinion – you are warned! Her question, which I hear dozens of times a year, is absolutely legitimate. How does one price a handmade piece of work?
And to note – there is a difference between what it’s WORTH, and what you can ACTUALLY GET for it. So keep that in mind and I’ll address this difference at the end after I show you how I calculate the WORTH part of it:
1. Determine the cost of the goods involved. Fabric is averaging $12 a yard, and even if you bought the fabric years ago, it will still cost you $12 (plus sales tax) a yard to replenish what you used. Same goes for if it came out of your scraps. You still bought the original yardage that the scraps came from… they didn’t give you a 25% discount assuming that a quarter of it would head to your scrap basket! If you got it on sale, wonderful! The savings are for YOU. You hunted it down. And it’s probably the only “freebie” your going get out of this process so take it and run.
2. If you don’t want to count out the yardage of all the little pieces, instead calculate the total area of the quilt top (let’s say it’s 48″ x 60 for a generous lap quilt), and then multiply it by 3 for a simple quilt, and 4 or more for a more complex one – then divide it by 1440, the area of a yard of 40″ fabric. Why these numbers? The fabric it takes to make the top of a simple quilt is about double the surface area because of all the fabric lurking in the seam allowances – and don’t forget the binding! The other “one” is the backing. And use 5 if you paper pieced most of it (because there are way more seams and you have to cut bigger for paper piecing). So for this simple lap quit: 48 x 60 = 2880, 2880 x 3 = 8640, and 8640 / 1440 = 6. So 6 yards at $12 a yard is $72 for materials.
3. Do you wash and iron your fabric before you use it? Add 25% for the time and water and electricity and wear and tear on your (probably expensive) iron and your Netflix subscription for the movies you watch while you iron. Ladies… it’s 2012 and in 2012 we do not iron for free.
4. What did the batting cost? The thread? The embellishments? Add those in. Yes, the thread – because you have to replenish it! And you are probably using a lovely, high quality, long staple cotton goody that can’t be had on sale at the big chain store so yes, you must charge for your thread. And note that there are other consumable products that you could charge for here: machine needles, blades, template plastic, fusible web, etc.
5. Now we get to TIME. How long did it take? Not just the cutting, pressing, sewing, but the “sits and thinks” part of the equation. The pondering, plotting, and extra trips to the store for one more FQ of the perfect print for that corner. The stitching of the binding. The label. All of that. I’m going to, for the sake of easy numbers, say my simple lap quilt took 15 hours – in other words, about a day to choose, cut and piece (assuming all the materials were already in my studio), and another day to layer, quilt and bind. Yes, the binding you do in front of the telly at night is still hours spent on the piece.
6. How much do you think your hourly rate should be? $10? $20? $30? You are certainly worth more than minimum wage. You are a skilled craftsperson. In my case, I’ve been quilting for 25 years and sewing for 43. This is not an insignificant statement. If you hire that depth of skill to lay tile in your house or make cabinets for your kitchen, it will cost you more than $20 an hour. My years of skill ensures the quilt is well constructed, made of quality materials (chosen with a discerning eye and years of practice), and executed with knowledge and a passion for the artistry and craft. This is WORTH a lot. So I’m going to go with $20 an hour for my simple quilt (I would go up for something more complex, and add even more if it was a commission for a pain-in-the-patootie client). Thus – $300 for my labor, and I’m rounding up to $100 for my materials (high quality cotton batting, threads from Aurifil and Isacord, etc). So my lovely little lap quilt is $400.
WORTH vs. What you can get
And I hear you laughing. No one’s gonna give you $400 for that, you say. And you are probably right. But here’s the thing… the fact that society has poo-poohed our grandmas’ prowess with a needle while celebrating their husbands’ prowess with a plow is a sad history that we need to rectify. “Women’s work” has been terribly devalued. And ONLY WE CAN CHANGE THIS. It is up to us to educate the public that what we do has WORTH. And we have to do this with confidence. We have to OWN IT.
So the way I tackle this is to state the gist of my calculations to the person that offers me a department store sale price for my work. I state the price, and then I educate them on what it takes to make a good quilt. The fabric quality. The time. The years I’ve spent honing my craft. I point out that I don’t work for minimum wage as this is much harder than “do you want fries with that?” Then I re-state the price. I own it.
Most of the time they don’t buy, but that’s OK (and if I absolutely want them to have the quilt I give it to them for free). I won’t sell it for less because I feel so very strongly that to sell low is to continue the myth that our work has little value. Either I get what I’m worth or it’s a precious gift. I’m taking a stand for the team, OUR TEAM. Every time we let hours of work out of the house for $5 an hour and free materials without the educational part of the discussion we are letting down the team.
I truly get that our original poster might only be able to squeak $100 out of this sale. And that she might have to put aside any philosophical stands to get her hands on that $100 to shore up the grocery budget (and I have absolutely done this when I needed to). But I really hope she adds the “lesson” to her invoice when she picks up the check!

l would love to hear your stories of how you handled
 the situation when some asked you to make them a quilt.
Thanks for visiting.


  1. When people ask me if I sell my quilts I politely say no. If people I don’t know well ask me to make them a quilt I politely say no, and explain how many hours they were asking of my time. My family know not to ask me to make them a quilt as then they go to the bottom of the list. My quilts are made with love and given with love as gifts to the people I love, and the charities/guilds I support. I would not be paid enough to make selling them worthwhile.

  2. I love this post!
    A couple of years ago my SIL asked how much it would cost to get quilts for her daughters' hope chests (some people do still have those). I told her that the materials alone for a bed size quilt could be a couple of hundred dollars. At the time I was not quilting my own, so I added that it was at least a couple of hundred to have a longarm quilter finish it up. I added that this did not take into account the hours that went into it. She decided that they could live without them. I have too many nieces and nephews to make them for all of their weddings out of the goodness of my heart. : )

  3. Great post Linda, I have been asked many times to make a quilt, but always said no. I don't mind making out of love for family or special friends big birthdays.
    I was recently asked to make a quilt for the nursing home where my Dh is being cared for....now, I really could not say no, So the Gracehaven quilt was made and presented to them today as a donation from us both...It was an emotional quilt to make.
    Julia ♥

  4. I love to make quilts and we probably have enough at our house (not that it stops me!) so I have started making quilts with other people in mind. Last year when I made a top of my choosing (eg learning a new technique or from a workshop) I asked the friend if she would like the finished quilt for her daughter and if so to pay for the wadding, backing and long arm quilting costs. If the quilt is small I will do it myself (I am a very ordinary quilter) and not charge. I have only done this a few times, but I have told the friend up front what I would like them to pay for and given them an $ estimate. These were quilts for a friends children and she was more then happy to pay these costs because I explained how long it took me and the cost of materials. Currently I am making quilts which I am enjoying but do not wish to keep. I have choosen colours/styles which I hope will be appealing to my husbands teenage nieces and I will offer to them when I have completed the tops - if they like them. I hadnt expected them to pay any monies towards the quilt, but they are family and I know they will appreciate the time and effort I put into the quilt. I do expect a few requests from other family members after doing this and my response will be yes, but I get to choose the pattern. If they want any say (apart from colour) then they have to pay!

  5. Such a great post: I ONLY make for family and friends that I know will really appreciate all the hard work that goes into making an heirloom. I make wedding quilts for people I love (god-daughters and close friends of my own children)- then when the babies start arriving they each get a quilt - I really just enjoy making for special people and special occasions. To actually make "to sell" would spoil the total enjoyment of this wonderful hobby - for me anyway. As is stated above, we can NEVER charge for the time spent making our masterpieces - so let us give with love, that is so much more rewarding! Those that love us will cherish this special gift because they will know that there is "love in every stich"!

  6. I am often asked to make quilts for others, but generally say no, I make them only for family and charities. I have made a few custom quilts for very close friends. In that case it's a gift as well. If someone persists in asking, I give them a realistic rundown of the cost of materials, then add the hours of labor. At that point, most people change their minds about wanting a custom-made quilt. Non-quilters have NO idea of the expense and the labor hours involved. If they want a $50 or a $100 quilt, they will have to go to Target to buy it. My son's wedding quilt, for example, was queen sized (18 yards of fabric at $12 a yard). The backing alone was $75, a 108" wide batik. I had $70 in thread in the quilt - for piecing and the quilting. (very special quilt - bought what I needed/wanted to make it just so, regardless of price). I spent 90 hours sewing it, and 90 hours + custom quilting it. The quilt placed third in our state last year at the State Fair. I would have asked $2500 minimum from a purchaser for that quilt (not that I would have sold it). If someone offered less than that I would not have sold it.

  7. Fabulous post, Linda! Thanks for sharing it.

  8. What a great post! We should never undervalue our work even if we do it for the love. Apparently DH has been asked if I sell my quilts but I haven't.
    Thanks for even more eye candy with those wonderful quilts.

  9. Love it!! I too have tried to explain to people how much goes into making a quilt when asked to give one to a bride or new niece or nephew. When I explain how much goes into it in money and hours they back off. I only give to those I know will appreciate it. I have too many nieces and nephews to give to all so I stopped doing that years ago. I do sell a quilt now and then and I know I do not get what it is worth but I try to sell several a year as it gives me the money to replenish the stash. I have more quilts than my family could ever use and when I leave this earth I have no idea where they will all go - I might have to start giving away more of them before that happens!

  10. Great post and great advice. Many years ago I was told that if I ever make a special quilt as a wedding present or such that I should get it valued and include the valuation with the gift as this would ensure that the quilt would be treated with the respect it deserves. Take care.

  11. Sam Hunter certainly knows what he's talking about! I'm headed over to his site now! But first......Oh My Goodness! These quilts are so stunning! I have several I want to replicate.....as I scrolled through, I kept saying 'Oh!' louder and louder! LOL Thanks for sharing Sam's article, and for the quilts, too! Awesome!!!!

  12. I usually just say "No, I'm too busy"
    I LOVED the inspiration pictures again! Thanks!!

  13. Thanks, Linda! I am going to share this article with my Jo's Clubs this month. I have been wondering what "special" something I would have to share this month and now I know!
    Love all the quilts.
    Mary Ann Jones

  14. I'm giving you the full version. G.F wants a quilt, I tell her, come over and look through all my books/mags and lets pick out a pattern. For a queen, we need approx X amount of fabric at $18/metre (I was living in Canada at the time)Then there is the backing, 5 mtrs, @ $18, then the extras, thread, etc. Plus you need to book an appt with a longarmer, they are 2 - 3 months out, and they charge x amount. Then to finish the binding, it's about another $100.
    Needless to say, no one has showed up to pick out a pattern *vbg*
    I would give away my work before I would sell it cheap, and since I don't need to sell finished pieces to keep a roof over my head, I'm ok with that. If they want a bed spread, go to walmart and get a bed in a bag for $89!

  15. Can you hear my applause over here in Mid-Michigan? YAY for you! Excellent blog post! May I have your permission to share this with my quilt guild?

  16. I have only ever sold 2 quilts, one to help pay the electric bill (yard sale) and another because I needed to buy my daughters 8th grade graduation dress etc. (vintage fair). The first time I sold the quilt for way too cheap, let the lady bargain with me and regretted it. The second time I determined that I would sell for enough that I wouldn't cry over it after! That was much more satisfying! The lady who bought the quilt didn't even quibble over my price because she wanted the quilt so badly! I do much prefer to give them away though to people I know will love and appreciate them.

  17. There was someone who asked me to make a quilt and i'v agreed to make it if they supply me with the fabric and threads from a quilt shop. Is is a friend and i've said not to charge my hours but that quilting is a process so it can take from a few months to a few years. The friend has done the maths and seen that a quilt is very pricy.
    I'm making a small quilt for my brother in law. He has done a lot of work in our house and stayed over for weekends. I'm making that one completely by hand. I think i'm gonna print out the story and give it with the quilt so they get an idea of how much it is worth.

  18. What a great article and well said to the author! Personally I don't 'sell' my quilts. I make what I WANT TO MAKE. If someone expresses a love for one of them I 'may' offer it to them, this would depend on how I envisage they will care for it. Once when I was asked to make a specific type of quilt for someone, I gave them the material list, including thread, backing and wadding, and said I would make it, but they had to provide the materials. Funny I never heard back from them!!
    I fully agree that we should NEVER undersell ourselves - an artist of slaps some paint over a canvas can sell their work for $XXX, but a quilter (who is an artist, just using different media) should be able to do the same.

  19. It's true that you can't get what the quilt is worth. Recently when I was asked to make a quilt for a friends granddaughter I decided I was just going to charge her for materials. I agree with the idea that we have to determine how much our talent is worth and since I didn't feel like I could charge that price, and she was determined to pay, I gave her the receipts for the fabric, thread, and batting. It was a bonus for her that I found top quality quilt fabric which I used in the top and for the whole back for $2 per yd.

  20. Great post, I enjoyed all of the comments also. What we do wether for our own pleasure or for a profession is valuable. Quilters are very sharing and giving people by nature, so we find it hard to put a $ value on what we do.

  21. When asked, I offer to help THEM get started making a quilt. That usually stops them dead in their tracks. And if they accept, that's ok, too, because I feel like I've just introduced another person to the wonderful world of quiltmaking :)

  22. Once, long ago and far away, I made (by hand) a baby quilt for a shower which I could not attend. The receiver's comment was "Hrumph, she's too cheap to buy something." That's why I wrote the first word: "Once."

  23. I fully agree with the author and with the commenters. I worked for many years making charity quilts as fast as I could produce them and thoroughly enjoyed it. (I was spared the knowledge of whether or not they were appreciated or cared for.) Here is another thought. When a person wants my quilt enough to invest a good number of dollars in purchasing it, I'm guessing they might take good care of it. Whereas, I KNOW my relatives who are not "in" to quilts will not take care of gift quilt, no matter how lovingly given to them.

  24. You are correct that peeps have no idea of the value of workmanship. I know it has been a valid discussion in several venues.

    I wanted to share with you more info on the fourth quilt you posted. Really it is a blog post about Spring Time in the Rockies..... http://willywonkyquilts.blogspot.com/2013/04/springtime-in-rockies.html
    As Bill often does the information he tracked down was very complete. I think you will enjoy adding this information to yours.

  25. Just found this post and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! Thank you so much for reminding me what we are definitely worth. I appreciate that. Sincerely, Michelle Jensen :)


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