Why I Don't Make Quilts To Sell
July 04, 2014
Abandoned book "Wilde West" by Walter Sattherwait
Pretty picture that doesn't have anything to do with what comes next.
Recently I've had cause to figure out how much it would cost to make a quilt to sell. It's a sobering exercise, to say the least.
I very rarely do 'just squares and rectangles'. I've long known that, to keep prices even semi-reasonable, I really can't factor in my labor. I am not a beginning quilter, so my cost per hour should reflect the years of experience I have and the skill I've gained through those years. It's not like I think I'm the bees knees or anything, but the reality is that a quilt I make is often a step or two above something made by a less experienced quilter. Please don't take offense; there's nothing wrong with being a beginner and/or sewing simple quilts. There are some lovely, lovely quilts out there that are not technically challenging and every quilt is (or should be), I believe, a labor of love and tangible evidence of someone's desire to make the world a more beautiful place.
But here's what I came up with as a really low-ball estimate of how much it costs to make a quilt.
9 yards fabric @ $5.50-10.50/yard* $72 (avg)
2 yards batting @ $7/yard* $14
Original (non-resellable) pattern design $120
Purchased pattern $10
Labor $85 (~9 hours at minimum wage of $9.50/hr)
Custom machine quilting 4,320 square inches @ .015 (1½ cents) per square inch $64
That's $72+14+6+120 (or 10)+85+64+17.45, or $372.45
(or $262.45). And not everything is included - there's laundry, rotary cutter blades (at $6+ each), thread, band-aids, corn dogs, wear and tear on my tools and machine... a whole host of "hidden" costs that we can't even factor in accurately.
:-) Just checking to see if you're paying attention, kids.
These aren't unreasonable figures - I've researched 'normal' costs online, so I'm not just making stuff up. And these are U.S. prices. If a quilter is in, well, pretty much any other country in the world, the costs of materials alone are probably double or triple what I've quoted. Who would pay that kind of money for something that the dog or cat is going to claim as their own? Gosh, you can get a whole bed-in-a-bag from Wally World that includes a comforter, pillow sham, a set of sheets and 2 pillowcases for about $40 online.
That's why I don't start out making a quilt to sell. If I've made a quilt and someone falls in love with it and just must
have it, I might - might
- sell it. I NEVER get anywhere near the price of what I've put into it, though I try not to allow my potential buyer to think that I undervalue my time or skill and that they shouldn't, either.
This is one of those times I'm okay with having a fairly small reader base. Though I've tried not to, I'm pretty sure that some toes have been thoroughly trod upon...
At 7/04/2014 9:30 AM, Carol Babbled Back:
Great post! I don't make quilts to sell either, but recently someone asked me if I would make them a baby quilt. I was embarrassed to tell them the cost of it because supplies and professional quilting would cost well over $125. That didn't even include my time! It's hard to compete with a quilt sold at Walmart or Target, but I do believe they get what they pay for. A homemade quilt wins every time, regardless of the price.
At 7/04/2014 12:22 PM, Andrea Gatley Babbled Back:
This is why I don't sell my knitting. It takes me WAY too long to complete an item, I'd have to charge a fortune to make it worth my while. I knit stuff I want to make for me, or for gifts.
At 7/04/2014 6:09 PM, Brenda Babbled Back:
thanks for sharing your calculations. It's good to see those numbers in black and white and realize that our quilts carry real value.
At 7/05/2014 2:48 AM, Debra Anger Babbled Back:
Do you know what is funny about quilters, we pay the above and will not sell a quilt but we do give these quilts away as gifts, to family, friends, brides to be, mothers to be, to charities for draws for that lucky winner all for the sake of showing we care. We must be very rich to give so much away. It is a great post also to show those that do receive how much a quilt might cost. You are right though even in Canada you can up those statistics. Especially if you only work with quilters quailty fabric.
At 2/06/2015 5:41 AM, Candace Babbled Back:
I agree with every word. If anything mostly you've low balled. When I make a bag or something smaller, it's the same. I have to make it for love or sympathy, or both. Maybe, that's one reason it's hurtful when you don't even get a thank you.
At 7/11/2015 12:28 PM, Bonnie Zink Babbled Back:
Love this post! Thank you for sharing this information as we need to continue to advocate for creatives to make a living wage. Too many of us in the creative industries (writing, consulting, crafting, sewing, quilting, knitting...) undercharge. People will pay for quality, but only when we value ourselves, our time, and our work.
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