We Are $ew Worth It

HDS Sew Worth It LOGOI’d like to invite you to become part of a new way of thinking about quilting – one that values our skills, talents, and the beautiful things we make.

I know I’m not the only artist that has ever been offered an amount for my work that didn’t cover the materials. And I know I’m not the only artist to have accepted that lesser amount because I really needed the cash.

I’ve written two posts about the value of quilts. In the first, I give you a formula for calculating the actual time and money you invested in a project. In the second, I talk about why I think we get lowballed. Go read them because they give depth and reason to what I’m asking here. Go on… I’ll wait for you!

It’s time for the tide to change, and I’d like you to help me do this. We quilty gals and guys need to stick together. We are the keepers of our worth, and we have to claim it as a team for all. We absolutely MUST have each others backs. Every time one of us gives up a quilt for far too cheap because “I don’t need the money” or “I already had the fabric” or “I made it from scraps” we are perpetuating the cycle of having our work undervalued FOR ALL.

Yes, I know that we can’t triple our prices overnight and expect the market to bear it. But we CAN educate our buyers on what goes into our work, and we CAN let them know just how good the deal is. And I think if we start doing this, our prices will go up and we’ll start seeing our work respected – which will help our prices go up… which will increase the respect some more… and so on.

So go spread the word. Let’s do this. Because truly, we are SO worth it.

Want more?

  • All of the posts written about this subject can be found here.
  • All of the free, downloadable resources are here.
  • Videos of me talking about WASWI are here.

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HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

A post about how to track your time, with a worksheet download, is here.


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84 thoughts on “We Are $ew Worth It

  1. Yes, we are so worth it. And it is ultimately up to us to educate our consumers about our art, just like they do in galleries. Our time has value, our materials have value, our education has value, our CRAFT has value. We are so worth it!

  2. I totally agree with and support what you have said, in both posts. I’ve been guilty of saying the same thing myself!

    Oddly enough, the biggest pushback I’ve received has been from quilters … perhaps they don’t value their own work? I’ve found it very interesting, and a bit disheartening. Every guild has a “charity” group who work as quickly as possible, using the cheapest materials possible, to churn out as much as possible to give away. This has led, in our town, a barrage of requests from even for-profit hospice care for quilts to give the family of every patient! I know they know not what they ask … but even education takes time, and as a quilting professional, time is money.

    So keep on talking, respectfully, openly, honestly … I see the “handmade” movement gaining momentum, even if it is only “handmade” in theory. It’s difficult for people to value time these days as our time is increasingly cluttered with nonsense and meaningless information. Thanks for you taking the time to keep the subject open!

  3. What I have learned is that if I want the value of the quilt it will have to go to an artist gallery, but even there we are facing a 40-60 percent gallery charge, which gets added to the value calculation. Sigh. I do tell people the value price, and most just get a shocked look on their face. So, I only give my quilts to the people that appreciate and resonate with the work.( In my more cynical moments I ask the ‘buyer’ what their job is and ask if they would be willing to give me the same ‘discount’ on their services, for the true value price, that they are asking me for my quilt. )

    • When you ask if they would be willing to offer the same discount, what is the response?
      I won’t barter for dollar, but for time. And often the look is huh? What?

  4. I came up with an Excel sheet much like yours. What you have left out and that needs factoring in and that I include: Wear and tear on your sewing machine and a prorate on yearly maintenance cost. Cost of needles.

    Yes, we need to own this and demand that if people want unique as well as custoim stuff, they need to pay for it. Amazingly, you will get close to that price. If you lowball yourself, it raises the suspicion that the quality is in fact not there.

  5. Thank you for doing this!
    I’m in total agreement, we do need to own this and stick to our prices. I am guilty of lowering my price as part of the negotiation process, but I also start off saying “You can’t afford me” and pull a figure out of thin air which is usually rather high. I’ve had 8 commissions this year and am happy with the results financially and otherwise.

  6. This was a great series of articles – I think your article applies to any art that is not manufactured. My husband has the same problem with his paintings after studying art for 8 years at a major university he has to compete with manufactured prints etc.
    Thanks for putting it out there!

  7. I couldn’t agree more, I am fortunate in that I don’t need the money, so if someone doesn’t want to pay me a fair price for my time and materials, I simply walk away. Our fellow quilters are our own worse enemies, continuing to undervalue their own (and the rest of ours by association) work because they insist no one will pay them a fair price. I gave up trying to educate my fellow longarmers in my area, that at 1 cent psi they were either giving away their time, or their equipment.

  8. I so agree with the statement that our fellow quilters are our own worst enemies. At a recent quilt event my guild sponsored there were quilts available/for sale. The items ranged in price from $65 (for a large lap size) to $150 (for a ‘full’/dbl size). These were not made from cheap fabrics and the quilting, in some cases, was quite elaborate. They represented quilts that the owners had made/accumulated over their years of quilting and they felt that they had saturated their immediate family gifting. The most expensive one was selling for less than I would charge just to do the quilting!!!!! Yes, I did address this with a couple of the sellers (guild members) and they told me that they wanted whatever they could get….even if it was way undervalued. My frustration level was probably at its highest after these exchanges. I am afraid situations such as these are way too frequent and those involved seem to miss the larger, and more important, point BUT the “education” must go forward and I, for one, will not/cannot remain silent!!! Hugs, Doreen

    • It’s frustrating – especially with customers and fellow artisans who want to buy or sell quality products for almost nothing. I I run into this all the with those who are used to buying uber-cheap finished items or craft supplies from Wal-Mart or Joann’s. They need to “man-up” and ask for what they deserve.

      On the up-side, I rarely run into this problem as much as I used to. I owe it to books and websites I’ve read like this one, that tell you how to justify being paid fairly.

      Slowly but surely, short-selling ourselves will happen less and less :-)

  9. Sam, thank you so much for your words of wisdom, and for the invoice templates you created! It makes it a whole lot easier to have the “pricing” discussion with a potential customer when it’s professionally laid out like this. You da bestest!

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  12. Thank you! Thank you!

    I would like to comment in reply to a comment on your original post about scraps and pricing. When I designed and constructed wedding and bridesmaid dresses, the amount of fabric purchased was based on the pattern or the muslin created. However, there were also minimums in ordering fabrics. Just because I had a yard or two extra did not change the billed price of the fabric as it was still a necessary expense. Any “scraps” left behind were not reduced from the fabric bill. They are a cost of goods sold. If there was yardage left over (not scraps) they could have it; as it had been charged to them at full retail price — not my wholesale price. I liken that to the “fat quarter” of the quilting fabric. If a fat quarter is the minimum that can be purchased, then that is what they are charged.

    If you you bring your own fabric to an upholstery shop, they will add at least 20% onto the bill because they didn’t make any money on the fabric. This also creates a predicament as there is no extra fabric in case there is a flaw in the fabric. Yes, you get to pay for the cost of “fixing a possible mistake”. I stock my own batting for quilts, just as I purchased the interfacings and and interlining. How does the customer know what is best? If they did why would they be hiring you?

    I’m not surprised Molly Sparkles is a man. Women are notorious for under valuing themselves. I don’t know that I have ever heard of a woman pricing herself out of the market. I constantly hear about women who “earn less than her male counterpart” or have to “break the glass ceiling”. Duh. Women are constantly blowing their own glass ceilings!

    Likening a home-based seamstress, designer, quilter or artisan to a home-schooler is incorrect. Liken them to a professional teacher. They are making a living, not fulfilling a hobby.

    • You hit the nail on the head. Women are CONSTANTLY under-valuing their work – and it needs to STOP.

      More information, books, tools like the ones on this website are important in helping to push-back the non-stop erosion of valuing our work — whether it’s in an office or at a sewing machine.

      March on!

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  14. (partially in response to Leslie)
    One of the biggest problems with hand made goods is that many people see crafts, such as quilting, as a hobby. As something older women do to have fun (which is why there are few men or <45-50 yr old women quilting). The same perception is inflicted upon crocheting, knitting, and tatting.
    During the early 1900's sewing was something you did to make money. We did not have easy access to 'Made in China'. Both men and women sewed, tatted, etc. to make money. It was a job. If you took in mending or tailoring to make a little extra, you were helping out your family. The only 'hobby' was whittling.
    It is frustrating to see how devalued hand work has become. Many have become used to paying a pittance for clothes and quilting. They get the quality they are used too and I think some do not realize that there is a quality difference. I know I spent a year doing research before I started quilting. (i hate making mistakes) When I started out I did not realize that there are at least 3 different quality levels for quilting fabric (super thin Walmart $2/yd, ok thickness Joann's $6/yd and the nice thick LQS $10-12/yd). We are all still learning that you get what you pay for.

  15. Pingback: Do you want to price your quilts?

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  17. This is essential for everyone,not just if you are planning to sell. By doing this, you can give recipients an idea of what they could insure it for, so your quilt will be appreciated by those who are not aware of the work involved, and your quilt hopefully will not end up as a picnic quilt or the “blanket” under the car unless you have made it for those purposes!

  18. What a fantastic discussion and an excellent point. At this stage, I have never made a quilt for sale, but I am beginning to put a great deal of thought into how much effort I want to put into those quilts that I gift. My time is a finite resource, and I have come to regret the scale of difficulty involved in some of the quilts I have gifted. 3 years ago I made what my husband referred to as the $7000 wedding gift, which has sat in a box in the bride’s mom’s basement since it was made. I am approaching the point where I want to ask for it back, assuming it is not ruined.

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  21. For “April” I would SO Ask for the quilt back! I really gave some thought, my husband and I are from huge families and we have lots of nieces/nephews in the “Marrying” age. I decided not to do quilts as wedding gifts. First of all, the young couples need money or “things” to start their households. Second, I do not want one of my quilts being that thing that gets used as a beach blanket, dog bed, etc. I make quilts for the new babies, and will do some quilts for family members/friends with serious medical issues. These are all throws. The queen size ones I do as part of my block of the month club are so far just on beds in my house! at some point I’ll run out and perhaps give as gifts to my grown children, who at this point, appreciate my art.

    I’ve only sold one, and really short changed myself. Guilty! But I have bartered a couple for services that I would have otherwise paid more than I figured someone would pay me for a quilt.

    Buck up and let them pay! (I have also responded to a few people that wanted me to make a quilt the cost of materials alone, before my time) and sent them running back to Macy’s!

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  23. I think there might also be room in the conversation for pricing a quilt that isn’t quite at full value. Seconds are discounted goods that are still of some value but not quite at the expected level for full pirce. Thanks for the articles!

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  25. Great comments on a sometimes touchy topic. I am a weaver and know the problems all handcrafted pieces require to become finished and treasured items!!!

  26. I’m tasked with embroidery in the family business, though it isn’t as in-depth as garment customization, mostly clothing embellishment.

    Still, what you’re doing is a great thing, and if you can find a way of generalizing this, you’ll find people of all interests, hobbies, and jobs of all shapes and sizes backing you on this one, ESPECIALLY on the web.

    What most people don’t understand is that you often need to work from speculation, they show up and while there, then they decide to figure out what it actually is that they want you to come up with, and if it so happens to more or less fall in line with what they’re imagining, then you need to figure out how to get it on paper (or on quilt, in this case). Especially fully-custom articles.

    I myself, am not connected with many people who would benefit from this article, but the reason for it is something we deal with every day.

    I wish you the best.

  27. Our guild is entering a show where half of the quilts must be for sale. We are trying to set a price on them to be somewhat consistent and also be paid what they are worth. I’ll be trying out your spreadsheet!

  28. Thanks for insightful articiles, word doc and I love reading the comments too! You are going a long way towards educating artists and the public!

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  33. I get soooo p’d off when I see people at markets selling work for material cost only that I actually have been known to go up to someone and accuse them of devaluing our work. I quoted someone $3500 – $5000 for a particular quilt once, knowing that she was not going to get it made but I thought that was the value because the pattern and material came out to about $800 and there was about 150 hours work involved. I appreciate other people realising that our work is valuable. Have enjoyed reading this thread

  34. I’m enjoying hearing what people are saying about this problem. I make my baby/lap quilts entirely by hand by the old fashioned English Paper Piecing method. I make them because I love doing it and for no-one in particular, perhaps for grandchildren when they eventually arrive. However, lately I have two requests to buy them. I would sell them but I have no idea what to charge for a totally handmade quilt that takes weeks to make. I wouldn’t be able to charge by the hour, would I? That would make them ridiculously expensive. Any advice?

  35. Isn’t your handwork, design creativity, attention to detail, worth the value of the time you invest in your quilts? When you use the phrase ‘ridiculously’ expensive you aren’t giving yourself the respect you deserve. Sam’s advice about tracking time and materials is based on real world experiences. If you don’t value yourself (as they say) who will! Stand up, be proud and if you put a price on your work, make it the price of yourself!

    • Awesome, these are the answers to my feeling emotional about my art work in doll and doll cloth making. Especially since I’ve gotten into the loom weaving my own fabric.

  36. I do respect and value my work but, if I was to try and sell my quilts, I think there would be a point beyond which others would not and I don’t know what point that might be. My quilts would cost hundreds of pounds so no-one would buy them. It’s how to get that balance where you are getting a worthwhile amount of money but still being realistic about the most anyone would pay for something that is not a work of art. I find this particularly difficult in the UK where handmade items are not valued in the same way as they are in some other countries.

    • just curious, how many hours per week do you put into these quilts? And if someone wants to buy them they must be appealing. why would you spend weeks making something that is not? Are you slow at it? Then adjust your cost per hour accordingly, factor in your enjoyment of doing it. But don’t lowball it, by asking so little that it undermines the whole ‘movement’ of raising awareness of the value of handmade. If they aren’t so appealing, ask yourself what you could do in the process to raise their appeal….just some random thoughts.
      Best wishes.

  37. I am from South Bend Indiana and we have many Amish communities around us. Therefore many quilt shops where by I am able to get some kind of an idea what to charge for a quilt when I choose to sell one. There is a town close by that has a shop that will design a quilt to your order. they are wonderful but can run in the thousands. I was so happy to see the graph on how to keep a record of hours worked and such, as I am in great need of something like it.

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  39. Thank you. Today I saw your segment on Nancy Zieman and am glad I checked out your site. Won’t ever again hesitate about presenting an estimate for my work (mainly embroidery and memory quilts). Thanks again!

  40. Saw you on Nancy this morning. Thank you for getting this information out there. People just don’t understand all the hard work and talent that goes into making a beautiful work of art quilt.

  41. Saw you on Nancy, and THANK YOU!
    I have been encouraging my contemporary quilting friends to use language that makes us sound more professional and translate into being worth more. All our tools, rulers, machines and equipment are precision and professional quality. So we should say “precision cut”, (NOT fussy cut), “tools” (NOT notions – oops – sorry, Nancy), and so on.
    I am forwarding your website address on to my groups.

    • Ever since learning about this site via Nancy Zieman, I have been doing the same thing you are – and because of this, I have so many more customers than I did 6 months ago. It’s amazing how much more respect you get when you ask for it 😉

      I have been posting this site’s links, telling other crafters, etc etc.

      Sew thankful!! 😉

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  44. This is fabulous! I have been sewing for 50 years since I was 11 to make clothes for my extra height and frame since so many years ago I was the exception to the norm and I didn’t like having to wear guys clothes. I have been sewing for others for 38+ years and every time my customers would say “is that all?” when I’d tell them how much they owed me and thus made me wish for more. This will help me greatly to really charge what I am worth! Better late than never! Thank you!

  45. I am in the middle of pricing a project right now – and my husband is always there for me pushing me to value my work fairly. After all my cheerleading to push to be paid fairly, I still need to be reminded that I am *sew worth it*. 😉

    Thank goodness.

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  47. I have been sewing all my life – mostly garments for myself, children & relatives. In the past 25 years I have been producing cheer uniforms for competition squads, high school, junior high and colleges. Love making the cheer uniforms. Most recently I made my first T-shirt quilt for my grandaughter and one of her friends. I just finished a T-shirt quilt that she of course furnished the T-shirts but I purchased everything else. It was a queen size quilt. When I called her to tell her it was finished she of course asked what the cost would be – I told here what I had spent in materials and my cost to make the quilt and the grand total. She was taken back a bit and said she did not realize it would be that much. I offered her a trade of business at a later date for a discount on the quilt but after seeing the finished quilt she wrote a check for the full amouint and said it was worth every penny and she would still give me the business at a later date. I love making quilts – what a joy!!!! Do not underestimate your talents!!! People will pay because they cannot do it themselves and want something original. Value your work and your talent and creativity and others will too!! Happy Sewing.

    • Greeting’s Pamela Garver, I am a doll maker, doll cloth maker and love manipulating fabric. I’ve done one completed quilt and two I.m still working on finishing from class which is over. Recently recently a friend ask me to make her a T-shirt quilt. I love a challenge is sewing. If you will, can you give tips on how you put together a T-shirt quilt, or direct me in a pattern. Please help!
      I too am looking on how to price my dolls and doll cloths. I were just reading the commits.

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  51. I am not a quilter but a recipient of many from a dear friend. She does not and will not sell any of her work, however we recently discussed a quilt she was asked to make by a relative which she did. This is not one of her “favorite” relatives but she undertook the task of a king size quilt (by request). She labored over this one with not much enthusiasm and finally finished it, packed it up and sent it off. I suggested that she put a note in it explaining the cost that went into it and admonishing her not to sell it (which she might do) for less that the cost that went into it. She laughed and said “oh it’s all right, she wouldn’t understand it anyway”. Her estimate, (just a wild guess) was around $1000, not including time spent. (the blocks used were an antique specialty fabric of some sort and much more expensive that your ordinary FQ)
    I received a copy of your “What’s it Worth” from a friend and am sending it to my friend while asking her to pass it on to her guild (they probably already know of it) because I think it is really worthwhile, particularly when quilting is such an art.
    Thank you for your outlook on the subject, if you don’t want to pay for a “REAL” quilt, go to WalMart and buy one from China, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

    • Beth, your line ‘if you don’t want to pay for a REAL quilt, go to Walmart and buy one from China, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.”, is just brilliant. I’m going to write an Australian version (we don’t have Walmart) and adapt it for crochet. :-)

  52. Thank you for your wonderful article. I’m a professional crochet designer and artist in Australia. I’ve decided to use these titles after reading your piece.

    I’m going to adapt the resources for crocheters and start including them in quotes. Too often I receive requests with grossly undervalued price guesses.

    My time is valuable. I take my crochet very seriously and put a lot of love into my work.

    I like the income I receive from crochet although it isn’t regular enough to pay bills. I’d rather turn away a job than price my time at below zero.

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  55. I wonder when ‘craft’ became a dirty word! If people say my work is expensive I tell them it’s not, just more than they’re prepared to pay. I ask them if they have a job and if so what their hourly rate is. Of course, they won’t tell me so I just stab in the dark and say ‘well if it’s are $50/hr when you’re earning 10 times what I earn. On top of that, they probably get paid every week for 40 hours, paid holiday, superannuation etc. I don’t get paid until someone buys something, no paid holidays, superannuation, nothing. I agree we need to be more aggressive but I we also have to eat and pay bills. Love to see an electrician or plumber work for what I earn.

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