Sam Hunter, who blogs at http://huntersdesignstudio.com/ posted this and I LOVE it!! I have been asked this question before by people who have been interested in a quilt I made. Awesome answer here!!
"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
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
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
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 2013 and in 2013 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
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
Amen sister! You sing it! Sing it loud! Thanks for sharing this.
I agree completely... Thanks for sharing
You are SO right!
People who don't sew have absolutely no idea that 1 yard of fabric is so expensive. And they have not a clue how many go into one quilt. I am a hand quilter and if I quilted non-stop on a simple lap quilt it can easily be 30 hours in quilting alone. Not to mention how many glasses of wine it takes to get me through the math on pricing!
Sometimes it's just easier to say no that to explain why they can't afford it, LOL
Thank you for this affirmation---my standard answer to "How much would you charge to make a quilt?" is "I don't know--I've never met anyone who could afford it."
This is perfect. I have had this very conversation with my own Mother who had a friend that wanted me to make a quilt like one I gave my parents as a gift and custom designed. I ended up with $1325 as the price and my mother was shocked..... her friend didn't ask again. I am with you 100%... if they want it that bad... it is worth what we put into it. And if someone is important to me... they get the quilt as a gift!
I used to hand quilt for hire. I had a gentleman call me to say he had two quilt tops from his grandmother and he wanted to have them quilted so they could be passed on as family heirlooms to his children. He wanted extensive quilting. I took some of my quilts to show him and explained to him that I would use quality cotton batting, etc. He went on and on about how important these "Heirlooms" would be to his family. So I went home and figured out an estimate and called him with my price. He replied "That much for a couple of blankets?!" I replied, "No, that much for a couple of family heirlooms." He had nothing to say, but he didn't hire me either!
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