With great interest, I’ve been following the plethora of posts – and comments (pro and con) – regarding what we quilters are really worth. These are quotes from some of the comments I’ve seen regarding charging for quilts:
– “It is better to sell the quilt at a lesser price than have it laying around my house”
– “ It was made from stash scraps, so I don’t charge for those.”
– “Sometimes it is good to be busy rather than counting the profit.”
– “Just charge 19 cents per square inch – that will cover everything”
Ugh. We really question ourselves and our abilities, don’t we? Sam Hunter, who got us all thinking with her series “We Are $ew Worth It” has posted a wealth of information on this subject, and you can find a listing of all of the posts here. If you’ve not read them (and I’ll assume your computer has been on the blink for the past couple of years because everyone is talking about this!), I highly recommend you do. It really stimulated my “what did this quilt really cost me?” line of thinking.
On one hand, I can’t help but agree with the posts that we ARE worth it, but how do you get that through to the non-quilters who want us to make something for them for practically nothing? They have absolutely no idea what it takes. I’ve got 50 years of sewing experience, and 18 years of quilting experience. That’s not saying I’m a pro. I’m good – even great at some aspects – but not as adept as some quilters. I have my limitations, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Those limitations lessen with every new quilt technique I learn, so I’m continually improving my skills. Also, like 98% of you, I do it for fun, for the love of quilting. I don’t teach, I’ve never written a book, nor won any major show awards. Although I did win Best of Show ribbon at a small county fair for a t-shirt quilt I made for my niece – does that count?!?!? My SIL entered it and I didn’t even know until after it won. So someone else proclaimed my worth on that one. Many of the posts I’ve read are by well-known quilters, either in the quilt world or blog-wise. Yes, their quilts are going to sell for more. So I certainly can’t put myself in their position. I’m a little quilter with big dreams. Not of winning awards or writing books, but creating things out of my comfort zone. So, on the other hand, I can’t expect to get all that much for my quilts. Which is why I don’t sell them. But what is my quilt really worth? What value do I put on myself? I decided to put this question to the test.
I made this quilt as a housewarming gift for my niece, Britni.
She’s a beautiful girl who recently moved from Ohio to Indiana, away from every family member and friend she knows. A new adventure! I wanted her to have something “Ohio” to cuddle with, and when I saw this pattern called Twin Sisters from Robinson Pattern Company, I knew it was perfect. Ohio Stars in Scarlet and Gray – Buckeye colors! We quilters all know this is a pretty dang simple pattern, so this was the quilt I decided to test myself with. An easy quilt. It’ll be pretty inexpensive to make, right?
I started by downloading and tailoring Mollie Sparkles cost sheet to my needs. I worked up what I thought my worth would be, estimating my time.
My guess. Wow. I’m worth more than I thought before I’ve even begun!
I had previously purchased my fabrics, so the cost on the guesstimate and actual are both the same for supplies. I found a great deal on the fabrics, but if I were actually in business, the fabric costs I would charge my customer would have been the retail price, not the sale price. But since this was personal, I’m using the sale price. The batting was already in my stash, but I’m including everything – and I paid for that stash, so it’s got to be included!
I decided to add the free app Hours Keeper to my iPad to track my time. I wanted to be as accurate as possible. It allows you to put in “break” times for lunch, putting the laundry in the dryer, etc. I’m ready to start. These were my considerations:
Time: My time clock started from the moment I turned the lights on in my sewing room. NOT when I started cutting or sewing. Why? Because it’s the same as going to work. When I worked as an office manager, my hours began the moment I stepped in the door, not when I sat down to work. Seriously, was that first cup of coffee you took 3 minutes to prepare after you got to your office on your time or theirs? And that 5 minute conversation on the way to your desk with the co-worker about their kid being sick – your time or company time? Company time, always company time. So when I turn on my machines, my radio or TV, plug in my iron and pull out the fabrics, it’s on company time in my sewing room. Because if I weren’t making this quilt, I wouldn’t be doing those things.
Rate per hour: It’s $25/hr. Period. I’m worth it. Well, I thought I was worth $20/hr until my blog buddy Peggi put me in my place about that. My experience is worth the price. See? I needed someone else to convince me of my worth! How blasted sad is that?? Shoot, my perfectly square quilt binding corners are worth even more, as far as I’m concerned. I rock at those mitered corners.
Shipping & Misc. charges: This includes pretty much everything you can’t see. Fuel & time at the fabric store, electricity, water for prewashing and pressing (I used 3 gallons of water just for pressing!), and machine wear & tear.
Thread: I used the chart supplied by Superior Threads to estimate my thread usage. You can see that chart here.
Creating label: I create my labels in Photoshop, with a pic of the recipient and a QR code with my email address in case it is lost.
I print it out on June Tailor Iron-On Print & Press, iron that onto white fabric, then make my label. The cost of the Print & Press and fabric is included in the create label cost.
Quilting: I do my own quilting on my midarm machine, no computer is used. Only rulers, my hands and alcohol when I’m frustrated. Although alcohol, sadly, is not included here. Never drink and drive your machine. Alcohol appeared after the light switch was turned off.
Binding: Two-inch bindings are machine-sewn to the front, hand-sewn to the back in my world. Always. Since I machine stitch everything else, this hand-sewing is my own personal love going into the quilt. The charge for the binding also includes the final trimming of all stray threads throughout the quilt.
So I began. And I kept immaculate time. Every. Single. Moment.
The Eye-Opening Results
Here are my final numbers:
The final numbers. Holy. Cow.
Oh my goodness, I about fainted. This quilt is worth – in time, expense and profit – $2090.55. And this is for a lap sized quilt – 65 x78″! Can you imagine the final cost for a queen-sized quilt? Or a hand-appliqued quilt?
Apparently I quilt much slower than I thought. I guessed a total of 23.75 hours to make this simple quilt. Sounds reasonable. Nope. Nearly 66 hours from start to finish. That’s a 36% time difference. I spend 36% longer to quilt than I imagined. Apparently time really does fly when you’re having fun!
Broken down, here are the guess-and-actual differences:
My piecing time did include 12 minutes of frogging (I told you I timed everything!). Why did I include that? Well, when I made a mistake at the office, did I clock out, correct the mistake, then clock back in? No. The company paid me to correct my work. Frogging is part of the work. So the charge stays. It also included 18 minutes of clean-up time after the quilt was completed. This quilt created that mess, and my room should be back to where it was before I began this quilt.
I also included a half hour of exploring an easier way to create hourglass blocks. The instructions wanted me to cut triangles, and since I’m not fond of those bias edges, I knew there was an easier way. So this cost included searching for instructions I remembered seeing on the internet and printing them out. Obviously, I don’t do many hourglass blocks.
The profit? I applied 15%, but when I think about it, is it really enough? When you buy clothes or electronics, isn’t the profit margin around 50%? Frankly, I probably should have used at least 20%. My actual costs for supplies was $159.12. My profit was $272.68. Which means it will take 58% of my profits to replace the supplies I used in this quilt. Doesn’t leave a whole lot to invest in anything else, does it?
What did I learn?
First and foremost, feel free to call me Cher, as I’ve been totally “Clueless” of the time and energy I spend on a quilt. The time alone is enough to make me realize that I haven’t been giving myself the credit that is due to me. I am blown away at what it really took to make this quilt. When I look at these final numbers, I’m actually embarrassed that I ever said “Pish-posh, it was nothing”! It certainly was something.
It also make me realize that I’m now going to seriously think before I give a quilt away. While others may say “It is better to sell the quilt at a lesser price than have it laying around my house”, I’d rather have it laying around my house than give it to someone who won’t appreciate (or pay a fair amount) for the work that’s gone into my masterpiece – be it a simple or intricate quilt. Not that I’ve got quilts lying around. I make quilts with someone in mind. There’s almost always a reason behind my quilts.
As I’ve said, I don’t sell my quilts. However, now that I’ve completed this eye-opening test, I will have no problem saying “My fees start at $1000” when asked if I will make a quilt for someone (caveat: Family doesn’t count. My family is da’bomb. They pay me with unconditional love.). Because it’s the only way this nincompoop will stop giving her services away. And I’d never offer it on Etsy, Ebay, or anywhere else for less than $2000, either. I promise not to diminish the value of quilters who are trying to sell their quilts for what they’re worth.
I now have the ammunition to educate non-quilters of my worth. My quilts may not have a designer label, but they are beautiful, handcrafted, and worthy of appreciation.
Most importantly, I will take praise for my quilts with immense gratitude and hold my head high because I know exactly what went into making it, and I’m proud of that! I am an artist.
I challenge every quilter (or crafter of any kind!) to take this test and actually time yourself. How long does it actually take you to quilt….really??? Education starts at home. I think you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find out about yourself.
In closing, I’ll say it again: Holy Crap! I AM $ew Worth It! Thank you, Sam Hunter, for starting a conversation that truly opened my eyes.
PS: Peggi found some interesting information on Pricing Strategies for Designers. I’m going to investigate this information and will post a follow-up on what this quilt would be worth if I had my own company, according to those guidelines.