Last November I dashed off a blog post about calculating the value of a handmade quilt. At the time, it got modest attention, but in January the post saw a flurry of views, most of them coming from Pinterest, and a week later, Ravelry (it seems that this question applies to more than just quilting in the world of the handcrafted item). And then a week or so ago, it exploded across Facebook, resulting in a landslide of comments coming to my inbox.
Thank you! I loved reading what you had to say.
This is something I’ve thought about deeply over the years I’ve been making quilts, and by the responses from so many people, I’m far from the only one. Many of you wrote to tell stories of the times you were offered a pittance for the beauties you’ve made.
We have some obvious passion here, so let’s have a dialog about this. I’m really interested in your thoughts, and I want to use this social group-think to advance my perceptions, and so that I can be part of what turns the tide to a higher regard for what we do.
So first of all – a couple of ground rules. By DIALOG, I mean a well-reasoned conversation of give and take, where we address the concepts rather than nit-pick people’s grammatical prowess (or how homely their dog is). I am, after all, inviting you into my house for a chat, and in my house we play nice in disagreement. I find myself wanting to say up front that OF COURSE I don’t speak for everyone (how on earth could I?) and OF COURSE my generalizations don’t apply to everyone (how on earth could they?) And for the record, OF COURSE I’m a feminist – as in a person who will fight for the rights of women (aren’t you?) and OF COURSE I’m not uptight about profanity! And that said, if you hate what I write, please just quit reading and unsubscribe – no fanfare needed. Please don’t be the person who keeps watching porn so they can keep protesting how terrible it is!
So let’s begin!
I recently read a wonderful quote about complaining… don’t complain – either fix it or let it go. I’m not willing to let go of the idea that we can elevate the perception of the value of a quilt (and for the sake of ease I’m going to use “quilt” instead of “handcrafted item” but feel free to substitute what works for you – my intent is inclusive). So how do we fix this?
I think we have several perceptions to work on – external and internal – and by that I mean what others think of what we do, and what we think about it ourselves.
So in the world of external perceptions, it seems that people think what we make does not have the value of a living wage. And when we try to claim that wage, there is outrage and disbelief, and even smack-down – like we have no right to even ask for payment. How did we get to place where we will pay a plumber $40 an hour, and deny a quilt-maker $5 an hour?
I think part of it is good old fashioned patriarchy: the guys got to set the rules about men’s work having a higher value a while back and the mostly female craft world is still playing by them. Some of us willingly, the rest of us because that’s often still the playing field available. Men in general don’t seem to have an issue with monetizing things – for example: a friend told me about the time she got into jewelry making. She made some beautiful earrings, and showed them to her husband, saying wouldn’t this be a cool gift for so-and-so? Her husband immediately asked where she was going to sell them. Women in general have not been cultured to think this way, and many of us still need to drop-kick the idea that earning good money is a sordid affair.
Another part is the availability of cheaply made goods – stuff that comes from overseas, made for barely subsistence wages in developing countries. We’ve become used to a $6 T-shirt, and a $100 bed-in-a-bag (sheets, pillowcases and comforter, all Martha-matchy-matchy). The general public is so removed from a truly handmade item that they have no frame of reference. A quilt is a quilt is a quilt, right? While we were getting used to the low prices, we got used to the lack of quality – the T-shirt lasts only a season, the bedding maybe two or three before the colors are out of fashion and the fraying begins. And thus spins the wheel of planned obsolescence and consumerism (and this is such a huge topic that I’ll just poke it and move on rather than disappearing down that particular rabbit-hole today!)
These factors also weigh on our internal perceptions. In a culture that has bred a disregard for the work made by women, we’ve adapted to the discomfort of this particular pot of boiling water like the proverbial frog. And in a lot of cases, we’re not being held down by the old rulebook as much as we’re pushing our own heads under the bubbles. How many times have you seen a woman give away something too cheaply? How many times have you been told by a woman that what you made isn’t worth what should be charged? How many times have you thought “She’s asking WHAT for that?” and walked on to the next booth?
I’m treading carefully here because, like many of you, I’ve given my time and fabric to some wonderfully worthy causes. I believe in the karmic value of these gifts, and I can’t imagine how the world would look without the thousands of quilts (pillowcases/knitted hats/etc) made by the big hearts and nimble hands of We Who Make Stuff. These are specifically not the quilts I’m talking about, though I do wonder if the fact that we give these so freely doesn’t hurt our cause.
I am talking about the fact that many women don’t value the work of other women. We secretly roll our eyes at prices we feel are uppity, rather than honestly calculate what it took to make it. We don’t support other makers by paying a fair price for what they make – instead we think, hell, I can make that at home, forgetting that it’s not just the materials in the price tag but the creativity and hours of construction too. Of course you can make it cheaper – you’re not charging yourself for the time. We guilt trip our friends who skip the charity sewing day into feeling like they grew horns and a tail for choosing to sew on something of their own instead. We photocopy patterns to distribute amongst our group, rather than honor the effort it took to get it into our hands by buying a second copy. We cave when someone barters us down, not because the barter is fair, but because we’ve been told that looking like we have a spine is unattractive. We hush our friends into caving too. As guild program chairs, we grumble that the speaker who would like to stay in a hotel (rather than a member’s home) is a bit big for her pantyhose. Just last week I got asked to lower my teaching price for a guild I’m told can well afford me (and I know from research that my price is hardly out of line).
On my original post, quilt appraiser Bill Volckening commented “Quiltmakers are intelligent enough to know how to produce cost-effective quilts for the realm of commerce, should they wish to do that, but they don’t seem to wish to do that.”
I concur that we women are incredibly smart and creative in our business endeavors. But I would argue that making the quilts cost effective is the only part of the equation (and before you pillory Bill, it was not the only point he made – go read up before your fingers leap to the keyboard). There’s only so much money to be saved on materials and only so much time to be efficiently squeezed unless we think that creating a different breed of sweatshop is a good thing. The root of it is a bigger game… we have to UP our own perception of worth, and we have to UP our support of others that are doing the same, and BE SUPPORTED in this by ALL, men and women both. That cost-effective price that Bill speaks of needs to go UP, up far enough to support the making of the quilt, and it can’t all be done on the shoulders of efficiency and sale fabric.
So I go back to my original call of action… keep records to accurately calculate your price. State and own your worth. Make sure your under-informed customer gets some the education as part of the transaction. And even if you have to settle for less, do it less often, and never without the lesson. I get that we can’t change this all in a weekend, but I bet we can up the game together.
And I really, really would love to read your thoughts!
Excellent points, Sam and well made! It is, and always has been, an uphill battle of our own making.
Amen! I also think women as shoppers have become lost in the sale with discount and coupon mania and have forgotten to put quality above cost.
I made some quilted potholder sat year and when someone asked how much I would charge for the I said $50 each. That is price of labor ($10 hr) and fabric. I made them pieced and perfect.
This particular topic has been foremost in my mind lately, for two reasons. Recently, a family member was visiting from out of state, and a friend of hers (who now lives in my state) came over to my house to see her. This family member is very proud of my quilting, so she was showing off some of my work to the friend. The friend spotted an unfinished top and offered me a very generous price for it, provided I finish and quilt it. I happily agreed to both the work and the price. My husband, who has for years told me I should quilt for money, immediately told me I should discount the price because it wasn’t finished yet, despite the fact that it WOULD be finished when she took possession of it. His reasoning was because a) it’s the first quilt I’ve ever sold; and b) and I would not be the one actually quilting it (I sent it out to be quilted). This reasoning made absolutely no sense to me, and I stuck to my price. The buyer does not care who quilted it, nor how many quilts I’ve sold prior to this one. She simply knows that she likes the quilt, she understands that it’s better quality, design, and fabric than a department store quilt, and she’s willing to pay a price that satisfies me. SHE VALUES MY WORK.
The second thing that happened (and it made me a little mad) was that a quilter called me to get a quote on how much I would charge her for sewing the binding on her quilt. I love the binding part of quiltmaking, and I’m very good at it. So I let the local quilt shops in my area know that I would be willing to hand-sew binding for pay. I gave this woman a quote, she said it was a little high. I came down in my quote, and she said it was still pretty high. She then gave me the price she wanted to pay, and I realized at that price I would be working for less than minimum wage. This is the part that bothers me! Some of us complain because our friends and co-workers want us to make $40 quilts for them, and we rant amongst ourselves: Don’t they know the cost of fabric, thread, and batting nowadays? Do they know how long it takes to make a quilt, how much work goes into it? And yet, when the tables are turned and we’re the ones trying to purchase goods or services, some of us feel we should pay rock-bottom prices. When I realized this woman wanted to pay me less than minimum wage, I decided I was not going to set a precedent, and I stuck to my price. She walked, and I was okay with that. I realized that if I had spent hours sewing that binding on for less that I thought I was worth, I would resent her, that quilt, and myself. I VALUE MY OWN WORK.
Last but not least, I’m reminded of the story that award-winning quilter George Siciliano tells about one of his incredible miniature quilts, called “Crop Circles”. It has 2842 pieces in it. A woman offered him $10 for it, and wanted him to make 5 more to use as place mats. George is a very kind, generous man, but I hope he educated her as to why that was laughable.
Well said. As one who values the work of women’s hands and is the coordinator of our guild show, I recently spent some time convincing a member that the $250 price tag on her queen sized quilt was far too little to ask. To explain to her that not only did it de-value her efforts it simultaneously de-valued the other quilts for sale in the show was an uphill battle. I am proud of her for thinking through her rationale that the fabric was “from her stash” so “didn’t really cost anything” and seeing that the hours she put into the creation of the quilt had value above and beyond what she paid for the supplies. In the end her quilt did not sell for the increased asking price of $700 but a small victory was won in her seeing the value of her creation.
Thank you for starting what I am sure will be a stimulating and enlightening discussion on this topic.
As a fairly new quilt maker, I haven’t been asked often to quilt for payment. My response, though, is that they can’t afford me. While I’m new to quilting, I’ve been sewing for more than 45 years and at one time sewed for the public. I found then, as now, that people don’t value what we do and will make every attempt to “talk us down” to a much lower price than quoted. That’s one of the reasons I quit sewing for money.
Your comments are spot on regarding valuing our work, and most of those who ask what we would charge to make a quilt and then balk at the cost are women. We are our own worst enemies. How can we possibly expect men to value what we do when women don’t either!
I am not sure if this helps your argument for valuing our craft. I have made quilts in the past as gifts and had them received in less than enthusiastic ways and felt let down but I truly believe that handmade should be valued for the skill involved.
Now onto my point: How many of us have clothing that cost way more than the fabric and skill required to make it just because it has a “label” in it. Do we really believe that designer labels are made better than the old seamstress down the road can make and hers would be unique and fit us perfectly. But I have heard time and again that hand made clothes are too expensive for what they are??? If we say this and then expect people to pay large amounts for our craft items surely we are perpetuating the myth on one hand and trying to educate people with the other. Until we value all handmade, unique items equally we cannot demand that our craft is valued.
I think that your calculations and arguments for fair pricing are spot on, I think that this needs to be printed out and hung in every quilt store in the world. Then hopefully other stores that support handmade items will pick up on it and share it with the rest of the world as they moan about the price of unique items.
It is only after we recognise and start to appreciate our value that others will start to share our views.
Thanks again for a great post and for continuing the discussion.
[…] What’s it worth? Part 2 – A Bigger Picture […]
Awesome follow up! Thanks again!!! I’ve pressed this to my blog and facebook!
I just read your first post and am now appreciating the on-going discussion. Oh, yes! I am guilty of many of those things. I suppose, if I were a bit more flush, I would not respond with “I can make it myself for less than that,” etc. Sometimes thinking thriftily can be a curse. I know that craftwork seldom pays for the hours and effort and care put into it. As a quilter, I know that I could never get what I put into my creations –especially in my depressed little town and especially because so many of our ladies quilt. I’m wondering, at what point do we accept the pleasure of the process as partial reimbursement for the hours put into it? If I have enjoyed the piecing/quilting/etc, is it not a ‘perk’ to be reimbursed for the materials (so I can replenish my stash)?
For instance, I pieced and hand embroidered a crib quilt a few years back. It is cute! I enjoyed doing it. All my little people are beyond the crib. Well before the cotton prices jumped over the moon, I calculated that I had $75 in materials in it. The local quilt prices will not bear much more than that, not even with today’s cotton prices. I would rather sell it to a quilt-loving family and have the cash for more fabric to play with. I’ve already had my fun with it. If they spend $$ on it, I think they will take care of it. If I gift it to someone’s sister’s grandchild, I will worry about it because I don’t know whether it will be appreciated or used as a dog bed.
First things first, I am a guy (and a feminist), and think identifying this problem is the first step in rectifying it. While throughout history men have been the economic controllers, this has obviously shifted subtly over the past few decades. However, the craft world reaches for its origins past this point in time which is why I think it is now even harder for craft makers (women and men alike) to value their economic worth, especially for items that were once have to haves and are now nice to haves. I’m pretty new to quilting and have yet to sell (or try to sell) anything, but I have had a few offers, to which I have sort of responded with befuddlement. Realizing that the creative process is part of the “work” is paramount, and you should be charging for it. This is often why you see paintings in galleries selling for thousands of dollars, every hour spent leading up to the final outcome counts as a billable hour. Lawyers do it, so we as crafts people should learn to do so as well. We must also realize this may cause the available market to shrink, but as I’m not doing this as my sole source of income I’m okay with that. To Linda’s point above, of enjoyment of the process as payment: I don’t get paid more or less in my 9 to 5 job because of how much I enjoy it. If anything, I may get paid more as a bonus because I so enjoyed it the outcome of my labour was more fruitful. This whole discussion is amazing, and I think I might need to put up a price list of supplies and hourly wages in the sidebar of my blog. Maybe we should all do that to spread the word!
I agree that education is key to this movement for change. One thing I’ve started doing is labeling my quilts as “custom made”. They always have been custom, but announcing that they are is powerful. Also, when I’m making a commissioned quilt for someone on discount (for family, or because I know they couldn’t afford the actual price and I’m a being nice) I’m learning to be clear and tell them that it’s a discount.I recently made a baby quilt with someone’s limited budget in mind up front. I told her that I was only charging twice the cost of the materials, because I wanted her to have something beautiful and handmade from me. So my gift was the discount, and I still made a little bit of money from the transaction.
I love your thoughts on pricing for quilts…….I sell custom quilts, and I have the people ordering the quilt also purchase the fabric and batting, I charge $400 for a queen size quilt, more if it is intricate…..and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if someone thought I charged too much. I work for hours on quilts and I deserve what I get for them.
Hi there, I absolutely LOVE this post and your previous one…
I myself have only been a quilter for a little over a year. I sell handmade quilts and have done for almost a year! In the beginning I charge what my Materials cost plus $100 dollars. in the end I was spending close to 20-40hrs on a quilt depending on the size.. So I upped my price. I now can sell a single quilt for $450 without any dramas – YES granted some people turn up their noses But people who really value my work and want something that will be an heirloom will pay for it! dont sell yourself short quilters!!! – My Crib Size quilts go for $350 – and a toddler throw (half the crib size) goes for $250. I get work and I’m happy! 🙂 I have even had picture of my work taken to other quilters to be asked to make the same thing as what I do – CHEAPER!!! this is fine for me – because A) I have more experience in the quilts I personally make and B) More fool that quilter for making it cheaper… BUT what can you do! I have my price list up in my sidebar – http://kizzieskorner.com/product-prices/ and I completely explain everything to the customers and I get 90% of customers that understand and are very happy with my work, never a complaint so far! We really need to advertise more the amount of hours that go into the work – I think this is where people dont understand… if you sell a baby quilt for $150. Then also state the hrs of work gone into it – it will help everyone else visualise it – ALSO it will help other people compare…. so say….
JANE is a new quilter – she knows she spent 8 hrs on her quilt she knows the material cost that went into it But she has no idea where to start with the price tag! By googling and searching other quilters quilts for sale she can get a fair idea what she should charge according to the ‘wo’man hours spent on it by seeing other ladies quilts for sale and their accumulated hrs too.
Some ladies under value their work because they feel it isnt good enough too!! Keep the comments coming such a good read!
i also find this very interesting ,over the past few years i have sold quite a few quilts most of them underpriced as i caved in to other peoples idea that it was better to get something for them than having quilts laying around. i soon realised that this made me feel unworthy. as most of my work has been created as a one of. i now set a price and know that if a person chooses to pay the set price they really love it and value the work and cost.i have decided i prefer to give my quilts as gifts to peope in need rather than give them to someone who can afford to pay.
I make affordable quilts like Ferrari makes affordable cars. They are not looking to sell a million copies, and neither am I.
Reblogged this on ButterflyAngels Quilts and commented:
Yet another part of the conversation from last week…just what IS a fair price for my work?
As a long-time crafter, 3year quilter, and new Etsy shop owner, I am always interested in this conversation. I have had to balance my pricing between the cost of the materials and time, and the inherent value in selling an item rather than storing it. Many of my items are made from scraps left over from other projects, but I always price them as if I bought the fabric new – because if someone wants a duplicate, I may have to do just that. I price my time reasonably and add on a bit for profit and growth, but not an unreasonable amount. I also choose patterns that I can make within a short enough amount of time to keep the price down a bit. And if someone requests a custom quilt from me, I always sit down with them and discuss price well before we get started, with the caveat that if they think it’s too expensive, we can still walk away friends.
I think we are fortunate that the younger generation of working moms out there want unique items, handmade and modern, and are generally willing to pay for them. While creative, they don’t usually craft themselves (at least I find this true for sewing) but they appreciate the skill and time involved. Not having the time themselves, they search out people who do!
Most of the quilting I do is for charity, but it is nice to have a bit of money from selling stuff to “feed the addiction” so to speak – I don’t believe I could make a living at this, but I do have fun. And when people purchase my items, I know that they will be loved and used – because someone cared enough to pay for handcrafted, unique items.
It is true that people devalue your work, even when they hem and haw over- how beautiful, and a work of art you have created. In this area where I live, they ask for quotes, they have heard, or seen your work, and you give them a quote, and you never hear from them again. I have found, that they don’t even want to pay you for what you had in it. The time? They don’t care.
Sometimes you have a huge amount of money in your equipment, programs, overhead. So? Why should they pay that price, when they can find someone to do the same just for the materials used?
I have always said that we need co-ops, so that all our prices are similar.
Yes, you can find a lady to construct and queen quilt for 100 + materials, but just how long will that be around? Will they wash it once and will it fray away? Will a child jump on it, and will the stitches pop? Will it fade away, because it was made with cheap fabric?
We are not actually crafts people, we are artists. Would you ask Michelangelo to paint your garage?
It’s bad enough they devalue our work, let’s not devalue ourselves. Why settle for just what you have in it? I would donate it to a worthy cause before I would do that!
I have sold quilts and quilt tops for forty years, it is an uphill battle and I have seen just at the last quilt guild show women selling their quilts for way too low prices because they dont ‘need’ the money and “they dont sell anyway ” while I sell my quilts at market value still far from making a living…. I still try and stick to my guns and get a resonable price.Venue matters too, Ive had much better success at art galleries and believe it or not real good yard sales (getting rid of ufo’s I’ll never finish etc….)
I have recently re-entered the quilting world, and almost immediately was asked to make a quilt. I was overjoyed, but that led to ‘what do I charge?’ My husband and I had long discussions on this, and finally settled on a price of $500 for a queen size custom made. He is familiar with this uphill battle with his custom made hand tooled leather goods. They are beautifully made, strong and durable, but he has always had trouble commanding the prices he should. I’ve been sewing for 50 years, and know just how cheap the public is. They’ve been trained that way.
Reading both your posts has helped me immensely, allowing me to really look at my work and just exactly what I should get for it, so I must thank you for helping me to pry my eyes open and feed it into my brain for proper processing!
To price a quilt fairly usually means it is out of bounds for most buyers. I am fine with that! Let them buy the knock off ones made for pennies in a far away place if they must. OR save up and buy the one that will become much loved and valued even more over time. As someone who makes labor intensive hand worked art I have long struggled over pricing. The end result for me being that I make what I want to keep. When someone asks about buying something I quote the price I feel is fair, given the time and materials involved, most politely decline but a few have offered opinions about over pricing. In my day job I make a decent wage for work that is hard but requires little skill. I feel that getting at LEAST that amount for the work I do that is skilled is more then fair. Browsing through etsy I see far too many people selling the work they make for what amounts to pennies per hour! This unfortunately hurts everyone who makes and sells handmade goods.
I used to quilt on commission and got really truly burned out on it–now I make the quilts I want to make, in colors and fabrics and patterns that speak to me. I was paid (reasonably) well for the quilts I made and sold, but it wasn’t satisfying because I didn’t feel any pride of accomplishment in them. I also made smaller items–place mats, potholders, bibs, wallets,aprons, totes–and sold at craft fairs, but again the time and energy required weren’t adequately compensated. Teaching quilting classes has been better, for me, and I really also work hard at educating my students on the value of their work.
Denise hit on part of the problem……..we are truly artists! And as such much wrap OUR minds around that thought before we can expect others to accept it. DH, also, added that, maybe, there should be fewer gifted as that “gift” is “free” (read ‘no/low’ cost) and is not truly valued. The idea of including the words “custom made” on the quilt label is an easy way to encourage the correct mindset. All of the above comments are so “spot on” and we all experience the frustration of feeling undervalued yet loving what we do and what we create. Finding a worthwhile charity or community need (ex: Hurricane Sandy quilts) is a way to give the hug of quilty encouragement (maybe even a quilty lifeline!) to someone who has lost hope. Believe me when I say that THEY will know the value of the gifted quilt/item! Thank you for opening up such a dialog in the light of day. We must keep the talk going and minds will be changed! Blessings, Doreen
Reblogged this on Treadlemusic and commented:
A continuation of a much needed discussion……..Will this help?? Yes, if we keep the dialog open, informative and respectful of everyone’s input!
I think it would be worth it for quilt makers in particular to have a quilt appraised – at least one from their collection – before they tackle the “what’s it worth” question. Quilt appraisers are definitely taking into account the quality of the piecing, quilting, cost of materials, and the overall design. If you knew that your queen sized quilt was worth $2,000 you might not be so keen to take $450 for making it. (I’m generalizing the “you” here – not speaking to anyone in particular.)
Sure, something’s only worth what someone’s willing to pay, but it’s not a real “loss” unless you actually sell it for less than it is worth.
In my case, my quilts are worth thousands of dollars *to me* because of what I might lose in other income by selling them. For example, a quilt could be “sold” to a magazine for inclusion in an issue; “sold” as the basis of a pattern which goes on to sell hundreds or thousands of copies; “sold” by getting me bookings for shows or workshops. So the time I would spend making and selling a quilt to someone is worth what I would lose by not making that quilt for other purposes, or by not spending that time doing something else more worthwhile. It’s opportunity cost.
I think that goes back to Nichole’s point about selling affordable quilts like Ferrari sells affordable cars. I’m not up in Ferrari land like Nichole yet, but over the years I have come to realize that making and selling “quilts” is self-limiting, because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do that and make a living wage. 🙂
Circling back to the “what’s it worth” question… where does skill fit into the equation? I don’t think length of time sewing or quilting has anything to do it; I’ve seen some horrid stuff come out of the studios of FIT-trained folks, and some spectacularly executed items from folks who’ve never seen the inside of a sewing or art school classroom. I don’t care how many pieces are in your quilt if it looks terrible; similarly, you could have a one-piece quilt that boggles the mind because of how it is quilted. If you suck at your art or your craft, you cannot expect to command the same prices as other, more skilled artists.
That said… you as the artist also have to know your market & who your customers are. If you’re shopping around for a handmade queen quilt that’s $200… you clearly are not my customer. 🙂
About 20 years ago I was adding to my income by selling my photographs–most of which were black and white images that I printed in the darkroom. I learned fairly quickly not to show my photographs to my friends without the matting and plastic sleeve. They were always saying how much they liked my images and said, “Oh make me a copy” I call this the Xerox (copy machine) syndrome, and was always tempted to slap the photo on the machine and give them a “copy”.
What I learned was two things: First is that most people are clueless about what is involved in the process of creation, and that I have to do a lot of soft education. This aspect has had a lot of discussion here. The second thing is that it matters a huge amount how you present your creation. As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” The more ways that you can signal that your quilt has import and value, the more the other person will perceive it.
When you are taking your quilt somewhere to show, do you pull it out of a plastic shopping bag or a reusable grocery bag or an old pillow case? Is it not more impactful when you take it out of a nice quilt bag?
How do you have your quilt labeled on the back? Have you put effort and thought into this? The labels can be professionally made, or you can make them look like it. Also related is how you convey information about the care of the quilt. Do you make a packet and include pieces of the fabric for potential repairs?
Do you let your potential clients know that the quilt they are interested in or your other quilts have been displayed in a quilt show, art gallery, or other venue? If you received a fabric label when you participated in a quilt show, did you sew that label on the back of your quilt? You may know it is not such a big deal, but it may be impressive to clients, and it conveys the idea that your work is art.
For that matter do you use the word “clients” for people purchasing your “work”? The vocabulary we use can make a difference.
It is all in a myriad of small things that convey value. Of course, the first step is to feel that value yourself.
this is dead on right…presentation guides perception. I am so guilty of this in my recycled jewelry as well. If we don’t treat our work as important, why should anyone else?
Bravo! To all the women who are finally standing up for themselves. I just started quilting 4 years ago, however, I have sewn since I was 12 years old. I began sewing for others when I was just 18 years old and had a small baby at home. Even then people wanted me to sew for next to nothing – expecting me to make clothing for them ‘cheaper’ than the stores. My answer to them then was if you want factory made one-size-fits-all cheap clothes – go to the retailers. I make custom clothing, tailor made especially for your body. I have always taken pride in my work and even though I am new to quilting I am not a novice. My first quilt is beautiful and I have been offered $400 for it but refused because it was my first and I love it. To date I have not sold a quilt because I love making them as gifts and I do not want to be on a time clock for making one. I am retired and my time is more valuable to me now than it ever was. I take my time making a quilt and it is a labor of love – very hard to put a price on. My labels are machine embroidered and beautiful parts of the quilt. So what Andrea says is of the utmost importance; “the first step is to feel that value yourself.” Never underestimate how talented and special the person is who created that quilt, craft item or garment because it is a work of art.
I put my heart and soul into making a quilt…what price that?
When someone asks me how much I charge, I tell them that no one would pay me what it’s worth for me to make one, but I give them away to people I love.!
I really appreciate you taking the time to put into words what I have felt for a long time.
I won’t go into the details of an experience which taught me “I’ll never do that again”. I will give someone a quilt (which is my craft) who I KNOW appreciates my work or give it to a charity.
They are either very special friends or family (and not all family hahahaha)
One time I was asked by a customer at the shop I work at about buying a wall hanging which was on display. She wanted me to give her a price. I didn’t really want to sell it but she wanted to know a price so I told her $300 as that was a quick calculation of what I thought would be a fair price. I was surprised by her response, “I’m sure it is worth every penny of that price but I’ll think about it.” She didn’t haggle about the price and make a big deal of it which I appreciated. it felt good to say what I felt it was worth and no she didn’t return to buy it which was fine with me.
I’ve had other offers and requests by friends/acquaintances but once I say a price and why, there usually isn’t much discussion after that.
So the first time is hard but after that it gets easier. I think there is a saying which I’ve come to believe “I’m worth my weight in gold” and gold is pretty expensive right now and I don’t weigh
50 pounds either.
Stay true to yourself and you will not go wrong!!
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I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this discussion. I had to have this talk with a woman who picked up my card and asked me to build a quilt from some embroidered blocks. She provided me with a picture of what she had done previously by someone else, and my first thought was, piece of cake. When I inquired as to what was charged by the previous woman, she answered $120.00 — I just shook my head. I promised to provide her with a ‘cost estimate’ showing what her project would involve, but I wanted to talk to a couple of long arm quilters to see if the project could be done with her blocks.
When I got her blocks, the first thing I noticed was that she did her own version of cross-stitching, not the ‘correct’ way. Her stitches resembled cross-stitching to begin with, and then she did long stitches over the top of that and none of the long arm quilters I knew would be able to quilt over that. Then, the blocks were NOT flat, and the ‘kit’ was a cross-stitch kit in which the fabric used was so thin that it was already full of holes in areas that she didn’t even use a needle.
I worked up a cost estimate invoice before starting her project and called her. Her only question was would it more than $500? And my response was, possibly. My estimate provided the cost of supplies up front (fabric, 12 yards of interfacing, batting), a deposit for my labor (of about 20 hours, or less if that happened), the cost of machine quilting, and binding. She flipped ! I politely returned her blocks and she said she would find someone else.
Even though the project could have been an easy one, if I had accepted the project and not taken any monies for my work (which she expected), it would have done nothing but devalue me.
I plan to repost your blogs (both parts) if you don’t mind on my blog — which I haven’t done in a while since I’ve been working in the gardens when the weather has permitted and I haven’t been able to sew. I need to sit done 1x a week and just do it !
Besides making quilts for everyone else, I enjoy teaching and use a classroom in a local hobby store. We don’t have a quilt shop in our area but the gratification I get from passing the passion on is definitely one from my heart.
Again, thank you one and all for the comments and the encouragement to continue ~~
Samantha Lane Quilts
Thanks for your passion and lessons on this subject. Having just started in business for myself, I am living the struggle between getting paid what it is worth or just getting some sales revenue.
I could not have said it better myself! I also had an experience while studying fashion in college with a co-worker at the large high end fashion department store I eorked at. Long story shirt she did not like the way the seams in the satin evening gown I made her layed. As we all know those are never as flat as seams in cotton or wool! She wanted the garment for free and we settled on $20.00 for my time and expertise! I may have even bought the fabric! From that day forward I changed my terms. You want me to sew for you? Fine – you agree to pay me $20.00 per hour for time spent planning, shopping and making the project. If travel is required (this started in pre internet days) to get sppropriste fabric you will pay for travel time and gas. I can make anything you want and I will reccomend appropriate fabrics for end use; but if you insist on a combination that I don’t reccomend then I can only take responsibility fir the construction quality not your comfort. AND YOU WILL STILL PAY ME FOR MY TIME AND TALENT! You also buy all materials up front and throughout the process AND you pay me half the estimated labir before i even layiut the fabric to ciut.
Fair enough Cindy! Unfortunately we have all been taken at some point and time and learned the hard way. I make my terms VERY CLEAR UPFRONT and do not back down. I am an experienced tailor not a patch-up girl and certainly not a sweatshop employee. My time is valuable and I work for people who are more than willing to pay me top price for my work because they know they will receive a quality product made specifically, uniquely for them. Anyone who wants to undercut me can go on down the road. Stand up for yourself girls and gents. If you do not value your work, nobody else will.
Ok got distracted, lots of typos and accidentally hit post. So here is my wrap up. You will pay me half the cost of the estimated labor up front. The rest is due at completion or no delivery if project. It will be mine until payment is received and there will be no refunds of your money if you back out! Still want me to sew for you? If you agree to my terms then I figure that you know what you are getting and you value my time and expertise just as I value you as a client and I DO want you to be happy. Please respect that my time is valuable and I deserve to be paid at a fair rate – not the rate of a sweat shop employee! Needless to say this cut down on a lot of requests and I am happy to avoid the potential conflicts! I really love the way you have analized the whole matter and put some numbers behind it! Thanks for your time and support. Girls-lets stick together!
I just came across your post from Just Crafty Enough. As a male who makes handcrafted items, I don’t feel that your discussion is only applicable to women. I make items out of paper products–handmade books and journals, greeting cards, etc. I believe that the discussion can be placed in larger terms–fine arts vs crafts. People in the fine arts (sculptors, painters, etc.) have no problem in pricing their pieces—they are designing for public viewing/sale/auction. The problem is that our pieces are viewed as “crafty” rather than “fine art” and therefore, they are devalued by society because we are viewed as crafters rather than artists. I have run into this problem with my products all of the time. Yes, you can buy a machine made journal from any number of stores. Yes, you can buy a manufactured, mass produced greeting card from any number of locations. What you can’t buy, without my help, is a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind journal made specifically for you. If you do buy one piece of a set, you will own one in a limited series of handmade made items.
Until we value our own work at “art” and not some stay at home person making items as a hobby and get into the BUSINESS of selling our pieces, we will constantly be devalued by others and OURSELVES. By underselling our items, we help devalue our pieces to others and society. Until we step up to the plate and believe in our “artistry” we can’t help ourselves. And by all means, don’t forget–You Do Not Work for Free. You have to pay yourself for the manufacturing of the item at a minimum. And the creating and design work, if you feel necessary–in which you should.
I absolutely love all of the posts in this thread. Spot on!
Like most who have posted, I have my own story about selling my quilts and people’s attitudes. Years ago, a shop opened in my town where you rent a space to display and sell your custom made items. I thought this would be a fun thing to do and an opportunity to sell some lap quilts. Of course, I priced them way too low, but at that time I wasn’t as educated about the investment it actually took to make them. A woman wanted to purchase a particular lap quilt, but she wanted 2 made from the same fabrics. The fabric was no longer available, so I told her I could make one in the same color, but not the same fabric. Long story short, when she went to pick up the quilts, I got a call asking if I would discount the second quilt because it was 1″ shorter in one direction. Needless to say, smoke came out of my ears and these words came from my mouth, “This is not a freakin’ garage sale. If you don’t want to pay the price for the quilts, don’t buy them.” She paid the price and I learned a valuable lesson. Shortly after that pulled my work from the store.
If we don’t value our work, no one else will either.
This is an incredibly powerful, and empowering, topic! I have been quilting for about 4 years and decided to make each person in my family and in my husband’s family ONE “freebie” lap quilt’. I look at it as practice and I want them to have something special from me. Do I know how much time, energy, and money goes into each quilt?–definitely. Do they?–probably not but a few do. It is my gift to give and that’s the enjoyment and satisfaction I get from quilting. Wonderful comments and information from everyone here–thank you!
I’m Not arguing I’m trying to sort MY brain waves and putting them on paper (blog),
I’m not for ONLY putting lots of value on the time spent… I think we should value TALENT and how the product looks at the end. below I’ll try to explain why..
I’ve worked as an Artist making from scratch or adapting company logos for our Family screen printing Embroidery company, As I started really young under my mothers wing I got all the nuisance jobs (no pay and no gain jobs), this did wonders for my talent and speed but made me have no Confidence to charge the correct amount once I was running the company. I’ve done designs for boutiques that have made a FORTUNE selling our t’shirts, international DJ’s Still are using my design as their company logo, all without getting the right amount of $$ for my time. After a long time I’ve learnt to charge for my time and creativity,
The line of clients wanting my designs has got a LOT shorter, but I’ve had the time and money to start a new company, Making hand made pillows each one different, combining my skills: art, embroidery, Screen printing. Some Are very surprised that I can design a new pillow from scratch, chose colours and fabrics cut them out, digitize, embroider (95000 stitches 18 apliques),sew all the piecing around it and put ziper, tag, etc in a day.
Should I charge less because after 25 years working on a tight schedule I can Trick my machinery in producing magic?. (I spend lots of $$ on good machinery and constant upkeep)
What I’m trying to say is YES CHARGE YOUR TIME!! but make sure your time is worth it.. If you new & spend more time un-stitching keep your hour charge for the real hours you put in to your work. If your machinery is not in proper working condition you can’t charge top Dolar.
In Spain, were I come from at the moment Artisans are few and a group in extinction, I consider my work ARTisan work, but I could not live off it as only source of income, One of my main problems is LOTS of people claiming to be ARTIST/ ARTISAN whatever, are ripping off other peoples work and producing it at a low quality or abroad in countries that don’t have the same Labor laws we do. A Other issue we dealing with is many So Called Seamstress shops are opening, charging good prices and delivering Terrible Quality,
All this makes it difficult to STAND TALL and be suitably paid for our work and DEVOTION.
Sorry for the RANT, and all the grammar mistakes
I wrote about this subject on my blog and listed it below. I love that Sam worked out a formula to a quilt. The advent of machine quilters for hire has helped us value our quilts a bit more accurately than in the past but also opened up another avenue for undervaluing a service.
This is an interesting discussion about how to assign value ( price ) anything made by our own hands or the hands of others.
I totally agree with what you are saying. I try to keep my prices “reasonable” which often leads to not a lot of payment for myself. I am slowly learning myself not to do this as it makes me feel under valued regarding my time, effort and materials used to produce an item. I knit, sew and quilt and spend lots of time looking for bargains. Recently I made a cardigan and put up the price I was charging and almost straight away had a message from someone asking how on earth I could justify charging that amount. It basically was the material cost plus around £7 for making it. If I were to break it into an hourly rate it would have been less than £1 an hour! I refuse to devalue my time that way so I try to price covering the material whilst also adding an amount for my time too. It’s true people don’t appreciate the time and effort that go into items let alone the material costs. Today people are too used to buying from mass retailers who can charge £4.99 for a knitted item and £25.00 for a quilt bed spread. I personally find these items lack the character, thought and love that you find in handcrafted items.
I have to jump into this conversation. I mostly make and give away my quilts to family, friends and charity because it’s simply more satisfying than trying to sell them. Recently I lost my corporate America job after 40 years and decided to try to sell some of the quilts I’ve amassed at a local store that sells mostly locally made crafts. Everyone has been telling me for years that I should sell my quilts and so I thought “give it a shot.” So far in 9 months I’ve sold 1 quilt and it was a family member who bought it and she used a store coupon available on line so I didn’t even get the full price listed. I was even told by the owner of the shop that I priced a little low but past experience told me the local market wouldn’t support much higher prices. I charge $125 for a good size play/crib quilt and $150 for a couch/nap size. In addition I have to pay a monthly rent on the space in the store and twice yearly advertising costs. So far in addition to the material costs for the quilts I’m in the hole for about $1000 and still have a few months left on my 1 year contract with this shop. To say I’ve learned my lesson is understating it. I get much more satisfaction playing with the fabric and giving it away. At least I tried but I can’t take the monetary loss much longer.
DrRuss above hit the nail on the head for me – yes, we are Artists, not folksy backwoods hobbyists with nothing else to do. A friend of mine does “fine art” and is involved in a neighborhood studio tour every year where she sells her art in front of her house – this is a popular event each year. She asked me if I wanted to join her next year at her house to sell my quilts. I was turned down by the organization running the show because “quilting is a craft, not an art.” I thought my head was going to blow off of my shoulders!!! We need to think of ourselves as artists so that the rest of the community at large gets the picture.
I have made the decision not to sell my quilts or to think of making them for sale as that process is very different than the creative process of making a piece of one of a kind art. I am in my sixties and want to spend the rest of my quilting life making the most aesthetic pieces that I am capable of making-if someone in the future wants to buy them for a considerable amount, I will consider selling it, but the stress of commissions is just not worth the compensation.
I have to go along with the idea that I’d rather enjoy the quiltmaking process and results rather than sell. I’m sick to death of people telling me how beautiful my quilts are but will not pay the minimum I charge. I’ve tried selling on consignment and it costs me rent each month with less than desirable results. People will pay $50/$60 for a door wreath that takes 10 minutes to make with supplies picked up off the shelf but will not pay $125 for a baby quilt that will last a child well into childhood. I’d rather just make my quilts and give them to charity.
I used to sew clothes for friends for money…what a waste of time! Now I quilt, but I don’t sell them or let the money issue enter my mind at all when creating quilts. Because of that, I make hand-pieced quilts that can take years to construct (2-5 sewing hrs daily) and are amazing when finished. I keep them as art for myself because no one is going to be able to afford that amount of time… not to mention materials! Funny story: After finishing a 1400 piece hexie quilt, a friend came by to see it and she LOVED it and proceeded to tell me how I should start making “a bunch of these” to sell at a local street market ~ she thought I would be able “to make at least a hundred dollars each”… she was so excited for me. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and tell her $100 wouldn’t even pay for the fabric used!! I wouldn’t even consider selling that quilt unless I made thousands over what it was worth because I personally love it. I have no problem educating the masses because I value my work. I’ve never sold a quilt, but have given them as gifts… and because people know I take my work seriously, they have always been treasured.
Good stuff. I appreciate your previous post, and this one — especially the part about how accustomed to bargain-shop prices we are. So many of us complain about how we can’t afford to spend $$ on items, yet we gobble up the cheap stuff like candy. We need to be cognizant of the overhead costs of a sweatshop in a developing country versus an artisan paying first world costs for materials, etc. Regarding the first post, about pricing, I’ve found that when I factor in all my costs, the number is unusable. I end up cutting that price in half just to come up with what seems like a reasonable number. That number, however, is still at least double what customers have in their mind to pay. Needless to say, in my decades of work as a quilter and artist, I have yet to sell anything that wasn’t quite small and therefore in the $200 or less price range. Tangentially, in other fine art, craft, and design arenas, and with some overlap here, is the value of the thinking part of the process. Many consider that to be the “easy,” “fun,” part and expect it for free, not appreciating the years of study, practice, concept, that are behind those ideas. Too often I hear, “wow, that’s amazing — how do you come up with that?” and then it’s followed up with a request for a donated design or artwork because that’s the “easy part.” Serious disconnect.
I came up with a formula that I use and did a blog post about it (http://quazyquilter.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-three-finishes.html). I have listed a couple of small things on Etsy using that formula. So far, no sales while I watch other people who have underpriced (in my opinion) their things that are similar sell things like crazy? Does that bother me? Not really. If they don’t sell then I’ll give them as gifts. I’m going back to a “real” job on Monday so now I won’t need the money as much but that’s not really the point. I completely agree with you that our handmade items are undervalued and I’m with you on trying to change that!
Several years ago I made a baby quilt for a friend of my son. The mother loved it. Years later, I saw her and she said that she was expecting again and would like another quilt. I said that I would gladly make her another quilt and the cost would be $$$. She said,”You did not charge me for the other one”. I explained that the other quilt was a gift, this one would be an order for a quilt. She got upset with me. Later she cornered my son and asked him to “talk to your Mom” about another quilt. To make a long story short, she did not get the second quilt. I found out later that she used the first quilt for the second child and her nephew had also used the same quilt.
I love the fact that we are now, finally, talking about this. My hat (hand made of course) is off to you for writing a couple great posts about what we are worth. I agree, we do under value our worth, especially when it comes to things we make and only we can change it. I know that for me, I would love to make a quilt, scarf, pillow, sweater, etc, etc, etc, for everyone on my Christmas and birthday list. Gifts, both giving and receiving, are one of my Love Languages, and it’s a powerful desire. I have learned, the hard way, that people, especially someone who does not make things (quilt, knit, jewelry, etc) do not really appreciate the value and the time of the gift. After one particular incident, I have pretty much stopped making anything for some people and limit my time and budget for others, because I know they just don’t care. A friend who also has a hobby creating things, I will go above and behind for, and I know that they will treasure a hand made item. It kind of sounds terrible, but it kept me from the disappointment. Another friend says that you can tell something home – made from something hand – made and the difference is in the quality. I think some people do not appreciate hand made items because they think of them as home made, as if “you didn’t buy it, you just made it” and that goes back to our need to educate people of our value and worth. Thanks for the discussion!
You are so right Gayle. When my sons were small I used to take in sewing. I made wedding dresses, mens sports jacktes and even lingerie. I often got the comment “I can buy that at whatever store cheaper.” To which I would reply then you have that option. However if you want an outfit ‘custom made’ to your figure it will not only fit you better, it will wear better and for that you will have to pay a little more. Why is it that when you work from your home people think you should be cheap??? I do not waver on my charges any more – if you want custom made – you pay for it. I do not run a sweat shop and my work is well worth what I ask and more.
I sell quilts on Etsy and have priced them considerably higher than many other quilts there. I love your point of paying for 50 years of sewing experience and 20 some quilting.
I recently entered three pieces in Des Moines Quilt Week and had them appraised while there. Even with my higher prices, I found the appraisals necessitated me raising them even more. One thing that was emphasized is that the value is what it would cost to hire someone else to remake it. Here’s where the plumber analogy works well. If you wanted to remake a well-made quilt, you would not do so with substandard fabric or minimum wage sewists. I try to pay myself what I’m worth, but the appraiser thought my work was worth more–in one case almost twice as much!
Thank you for these articles! I will share.
Thank you so very much for these two articles. I have been wondering how to value my quilts and determine their “worth”. Your words really hit home and I applaud you for bringing this information to all of us who “make stuff at home.” 🙂
Thank you for this and ‘part one’ as well. I’m a fairly new quilter but a long-time sewist and have been considering selling my wares. As a professional healthcare worker I would never consider undervaluing myself. I’ve struggled with what to charge for my time (materials are easier) but now feel like I have a solid argument (educated reasoning) to back me up. I’m with you sister! I’m worth it, and I’m not going to settle for sweatshop wages!
Thank you for getting and moving this conversation along! I shudder at seeing items made by someone for sale on eBay or etsy at Walmart prices! This devalues everyone and how do we change it? We all must value our work more and refuse, yes REFUSE to sell our work Cheap! I also make clothing for a living up against importers. Often I say well go get that shirt for $35 versus mine for $75 and I’ll see you in a few weeks when it shrinks more than you can wear it and it won’t last 1 year! Sometimes they get it, some not. But I refuse to come down to that cheap labor level — But women all over must stop doing this or you keep us all down.
As a costume and fashion designer and maker, I applaud your thoughts, comments and bravery. Sing it sister…
Costuming, for example, is the lowest paid job on set (hour for hour) – the sound boom operator gets a lot more than a costume maker (and the maker has normally been working for maybe 2 month before the shoot starts).
Another factor that influences how much people take clothing and costuming for granted is that, because people handle/choose/wash clothes every day, they can be very picky about them, so costume design takes longer than set design.
SOME SOLUTIONS: if you ever have someone offer you far less than what your work is worth, ask them to come and watch you/assist you at work for 1/2 a day. Might be a bit strange with quilts, but it has worked for me with directors (if they “can find the time”)…
if you don’t feel like having a random in your home, tell them that just because their crappy target shirt made in china cost $5, doesn’t mean you can survive on less than minimum wage when you live here.
DO NOT SUBMIT TO THE SYSTEM OFFERING LOWER PAY TO JOBS IN INDUSTRIES DOMINATED BY WOMEN… in other words… tell the boys to darn their own damned socks!!!
AMEN! So tired of people calling my ‘custom made’ clothing, quilts, crochet “home made” – they then expect to pay LESS than a factory, one-size-fits-all rag from the big merchandisers. It’s takes time and effort plus knowledge to produce an item that is custom made and hand tailored. I am an experienced seamstress and now make quilts. Everyone wants a quilt but few will pay for the quality – so I don’t work for them! I am now retired and sew for personal satisfaction and and the pure joy of creating something by myself. I will make a quilt and give it away as a gift but I will not sell one for one cent less than what I FEEL it is worth. Made in my home where it is spotless in my sewing room, crafted especially for you is CUSTOM TAILORING and you will pay more but get much more value.
Thank you for mentioning that part of improving the payment we receive is becoming willing _ourselves_ to pay for the time, materials, and craft in the hand-made goods we admire and choose to purchase. This blind spot comes up among professional writers as well — I asked a group of graduate students, each of whom said that they wanted to make a living as technical or creative (poetry, fiction) writers, what pieces of writing they had read and enjoyed during the last month. They dutifully listed magazine articles, blogs, newspapers, poetry, short stories….
Then I asked them two more questions: 1) How much did you pay to read these things? 2) Would you have read them if you needed to pay for each item?
No, they said — we didn’t pay, and we certainly wouldn’t have read those things if we needed to shell out cash for them.
I let their words hang in the air for a moment or two, as I looked each of them in the eyes, and then said “So — you want people to pay each of you a living wage, for work that _you_ don’t even value enough to buy? How is that going to work, exactly?”
By the end of the term [this was a course on publishing], a few of the students had bought subscriptions to journals or magazines that produced the kind of writing they aspired to. Some progress… But I was appalled to realize no one had ever put those pieces together for them before!
Wow! And Thanks. I Just Enjoyed Both Articles. Many Good Points Made. ….Made Me Also Think Of Those Who Think You Can “Whip them Up Something” The Week Before A Birthday Or Christmas….
You and I could be good friends! That’s all I’m saying!!
Thank you very much for sharing this series of posts. I have been contemplating selling quilts for extra cash, and also feel strongly that my time and craft is valuable. My friends want to offer me about the cost of materials, which makes the concept of selling goods exhausting. My family of sewers also have told me to only charge $5 or less per hour, which again is disheartening. But I believe in what you say and the value you ask. Thank you for the words of encouragement and support!!
<3 <3 <3
Just got this link from Facebook and am happy I found you. I design knitwear for AG dolls and sell my patterns. A couple of month ago I signed a contract with one web site to sell my patterns there. Their traffic was and is good, but they set the price and that was $3.99 for a pattern that on average takes several months to design, sample knit, then test knit and then tech edit. Plus they take 50% of my sales to cover their advertising. At the end I am getting $1.75 per pattern sold.
I was curious to see what I’ll be getting for the same patterns in my Etsy shop and decided to up the prices. They were still selling for $20 a piece ( though at a slower rate of course)!
That really gave me a good perspective as to how and what I can and should charge. And I will drop that “good willing” site as soon as my contact comes expires.
On another note, what really bugs me is the the statement I heard many times:” but you know how to do it (meaning to hand knit a man’s sweater), it’s easy for you, why do you charge so much then?” I always think to myself that following that reasoning those who don’t know nothing and have no experience gained through years of trials and errors should charge and be paid the most. It’s like living in the upside down world.
A couple of snappy comebacks:
It costs LESS because I’m faster now that I have honed my craft!
If what I do is “just knitting” to you, why do you go to a restaurant to pay for “just cooking”?
Great come-backs Sam. I once crocheted baby sets (sweater, hat and booties) and took then to a craft fair one year. My price was $15/set and I got comments like “it’s homemade so $15 is too much!” or I could make that for less” and the one I really go heated over was a woman who offered me $5 for a set. To me my work is CUSTOM made, if you can make it – go home and make it and to the cheapskate I said “I’d rather give it away to the needy than let you have it for $5!” I eventually sold the sets at another fair and got $20 per set. To me that was still cheap!
Love the latest reply that it would be better to give it away than sell it for $5. I actually LOL because my reply to a buyer negotiating for 1/20th of the cost is “I’d burn it first” but in actuality I either give my quilts as gifts or make them specifically for charity. It’s actually better for my self esteem to do that rather than undervalue my talents.
I’ve been reading all your $ew Worth It articles, having read the very thought-provoking and, quite frankly, fabulous post by Molli Sparkles on the subject at Sew Mama Sew. I’m so glad I found your site. I hope to start my long-dreamed-of sewing business this year and have been really wrestling with the worth/value vs. what people will pay for it equation. Thank you, because now I just think I’m going to charge what it’s worth, I’m going to aim to the top-end buyer if they’re the only people who will pay my seemingly top-end but actually conservatively-costed prices. I know what I do is a craft and is a skill. I am an artisan. I need to live up to the value, in all senses of the word, of the sewing I do.
I think you hit the nail on the head… part of getting the right price is targeting the right market with the right products. You’re not going to get $20 for a baby bib at a corner craft faire… but you might get it at a swanky boutique.
I’ve had some lovely testimonials from people who’ve used the invoices to great effect – Josh/Molli being just one. He took the simple hours/materials formula of my invoice template and utterly pumped it out to cover every last detail. For some, just tracking hours is a huge leap, so I’m content to supply a more modest framework until people grow into it 🙂 The evidence of support is growing though… people are standing a little taller about what they do, and in that confidence, they are getting a better price.
I’m in it for the long haul, and ultimately this will become a comprehensive list of resources for anyone making handcrafted work, be they sewists, knitters, potters or printmakers. It’s time for us all to have our value recognized and compensated!
Thank you for being part it!
I give a custom made quilt to each of my nieces and nephews. I wanted them to have an heirloom item as none of them on one side of the family have any grandparents. As teenagers, they obviously have no concept of the value of the gift. I am often asked how long it takes to make one of these quilts, so with one quilt I carefully calculated out not just materials, but time. I gave myself minimum wage in the calculations. This was about 8 years ago now, so prices have definitely changed, but It ended up being a $3,000 quilt. When I gave this quilt to my niece, I included this little tidbit of information. My quilts are now coveted and appreciated by the family as they now have a better understanding of their value. When one went to college and had roommates, she got a bed-in-a-bag and left the “special” quilt home because she didn’t trust roommates to treat it like she wanted. She now has her own place, and decorated the apartment to go around my quilt.
Another little sidebar, when another family member was pregnant, they wanted me to make several quilts to go in the nursery. They were very good at respecting my time and talents. They wanted to provide the materials, and they all wanted to help assist me with the labor – even the men. Depending on skill level, some cut, some ironed, some simply cut threads. Many of them were stunned at how much work a couple of “simple” quilts took. All of them now understand of what I do oh so much more.
Maybe it would help us all if we went against the traditional gift giving manors of “removing the price tag” before we give a gift. Leave the tag on so to speak so they better understand what they are getting.
When people ask me to make them a quilt (With no idea about how much materials and the like cost) I ALWAYS say…No, sorry, my own schedule is full but I will teach you how to make your own quilt if you want one.
If they REALLY want a quilt, then they accept, and they would go through the entire process themselves….
I happily escort them to select fabric and told them on the importance of value and contrast…and educated them at the checkout about COST. I show them how to cut and set them homework..in manageable size bites so as not to overwhelm them.. and so it can fit around family and work…Just like I do. Then the piecing, same process… They purchase, under guidance, their own batting … they made a sandwich, ….more time……. Then the quilting itself, the fun part, the thing I love doing most…. Pay for a long arm quilter to do it (I had to resist the urge to do it for them 🙁 … or DIY… up to them… Finally the hand binding (now THAT IS my favourite part of the whole process) … do they want to outsource this too to a pro? I’ll show them some prices online Or learn themselves…..? Their choice.
So at the end of the day I have done my bit and ‘educated’ another person about the costs involved, the financial costs and time costs…. I have saved myself work in an already too busy schedule. I have spread the love of quilting… and shared a skill…
But I still haven’t figured out what I should be charging for my teaching >.<
In the end, if you are selling items the price is what someone will pay for them. If you are making them as a hobby and don’t care if you sell them you should price them as high as you value them and see if anyone wants them at that price. If you are making them as a gift, they are priceless.
Great topic and I’ve enjoyed all of the comments as well. Whenever this pricing topic comes up on Facebook or other forums! I see so many women repeat that silly “Rule of Thumb” where you just triple the cost of materials to come up with an appropriate selling price. I will usually reply that this method of pricing might be acceptable for craft projects such as gluing shells onto a picture frame, but not to Quilts. I might spend $10 on shells, glue and a frame and be thrilled to sell it for $30 since it only took me an hour. I just earned $20/hour making that frame. Generally, when I make a t-shirt quilt, I calculate my materials cost to be around $80.00-$100.00. About 10 yards of fusible interfacing, 2 yards of batting, sashing and binding fabric plus fabric to border each t-shirt block. Most of these quilts will take me a minimum of 25-30 hours to complete. If I want to earn the same $20.00/hour I made on the seashell frame, I would need to charge at least $600.00 for a quilt. I would rather give my quilts to charity! then sell them for less than they are worth. Several friends of mine can’t even sell a button onto a shirt, much less make a quilt. It’s up to all of us Quilters to educate customers why the quilts we make are worth the price and stop giving our product away at such cheap prices. If someone complains about your price, too bad. they can go to Wal-Mart and buy the cheap things for $29.99. I am a skilled Quilter with many years of experience. Do not call me Crafter and expect me to work for free. tell potential customers that the slaves were freed many years ago and that you will not work for free. Also add that since you are a small business, you do not purchase any of your fabric for cheap wholesale prices and pay the exact same price anyone else pays at the store.
This is my 2nd comment on this thread. I recently received a phone call from the wife of a friend who decided she wants to make a quilt for an expected grandbaby. She was surprised when I told her I no longer hired out my quilting skills (I’ve been burnt several times doing this). She felt that if she bought all the materials it would be fair for me to make it for her… cut it out, sew it, sandwich and machine quilt. I had to stress several times that I didn’t do that type of work. Oh but she would buy the material! again and again the same thing as if my time was worth northing, never mind the wear and tear on my machine. This woman is not close to me, not related to me but she persisted. I finally offered to “help” her make the quilt but I would not just do it. That was the end of the discussion and I haven’t heard from her since
Jan, way to go!!! I wonder how my friends who love to work in the yard would feel about me asking them to spend about 30-40 hours of their time to plant flowers, trim shrubs, cut my grass, spread mulch, etc as long as I promise to buy all of the materials for the job. They would look at me like I was crazy. I would certainly be willing to swap my hours for her hours, but I don’t think any of my friends would take me up on the offer. Swap Quilting or Gardening.
Fascinating. I started selling quilts last year when I realized how much I was spending on fabric and how much I enjoyed making them. I dithered awhile about prices, and finally decided what I really wanted was to recoup the cost of supplies. So I charged $50 for easy lap quilts done with relatively low-end fabrics. A few that were done with Japanese prints or batiks, I sold for $75. Does this cover all my costs? No. But it covers the cost of my fabric. And that ‘s fine with me. I’m retired, and my income is a little more than adequate. I’m not making quilts to earn a living–I’m making quilts because I like to make quilts. I lOVE to make them, in fact.
The difference between the plumber and the quilter is that the plumber supplies an essential service–none of us will live with raw sewage on the floor, or mold and rotting wood around the leak in a pipe. But quilts are not essential. We can buy a cheap blanket at Wal-Mart to do the same job of keeping us warm. A quilt may satisfy our craving for beauty, for fine textures and lovely colors, but for many people, staying warm is all they can (barely) afford. I make quilts for friends, who are delighted to have them, and I donate quilts to Hospice or to residents in my mom’s assisted living place. I don’t try to sell at street fairs–too many people saying, “I can do that at home myself,” and copying my designs. I’m selling only to people who appreciate that it is hand-made and beautiful. And no one is quibbling over my prices. And I’m quite happy.
Hi Jan – thanks for writing. I’m glad that covering the fabric only is fine for you (and lucky you that you are retired with an income that allows you not to care if you make a wage). No one is quibbling over your prices because you are giving away the farm. By doing this, you are setting an unrealistically low expectation for the paying public – teaching them that only the fabric is worth paying for, not the time, not the skill. Yes plumbers do some important work when the drains get clogged, but they also get paid very well when we decide to upgrade a bathroom or a kitchen – neither really a necessity – and the skills required to do that are as specialized as those we use to make quilts. For the sake of every other person out here who isn’t retired and needs to pay their bills, PLEASE raise your prices so that we may ALL benefit. At a minimum, let the people getting the $75 steal that it should have cost them $350 on the open market. Respectfully, Sam
I have to agree with Sam here. Although I am retired I still feel my work is worth more than a ‘steal’. I don’t make quilts for hire because of this. My sister wants a quilt and she has bought me all the materials and I will lovingly make her quilt for FREE because I love her. However if anyone else offered to just provide the materials, I would set them down to a sewing machine and show them how to make their own. I did not work cheap before I retired and my time is just as valuable now – especially to the general public who knows nothing of a quilt’s worth. By the way – I have a quilt made by my Great-great Aunt approximately 1840’s. It appraised at nearly $1,000 – even though it has clearly been used but cared for. So if a quilt that is over 100 yrs old and made by hand (every stitch) is worth $1,000 why should we be paid less now when they are made even better and more intricate?
I was just introduced to your site. I absolutely agree with your part 1 and part 2 of What’s it Worth articles. We need to charge for our “art” what it’s worth, whether we need the income or not. I’ve been working on a Baltimore Album quilt with 3-dimensional flowers, metallic embroidery, and beading all by hand. I had a ‘friend’ ask me to make her one. I told her no, but that I would teach her how to make her own. So she asked me to make one block for a pillowcase. Again, I said no, but would teach her. She said she didn’t have time, could I please make a pillowcase case for her and she would pay for it. I told her the price was $600. She never asked again. My time is too valuable to undervalue my art. We should put a price tag on our work, even if that isn’t what we get, so people start to understand what a hand-made work of art costs (work of art could be quilts, paintings, writings, knitting,etc). I gave my son and daughter-in-law an appraisal with their wedding gift – a king size hand-made quilt), after my daughter-in-law commented that all we were giving them was a quilt for their wedding. After seeing the appraisal ($2500), she had a new appreciation for the quilt and actually asked me how to care for it. If we don’t educate people, who will?
My art instructor told our class if we undervalue our work, it tells people that we are not real artists and that it hurts every artist out there trying to make a living with their art. He also said when you undervalue your art, you make the public wonder why it’s priced so low – is it inferior?, did the artist use inferior materials?, is it not well-made?, etc. He told us to have pride in ourselves and our work.
Thank you for for allowing me to add my comments and also, thank you for sharing your writings! I look forward to exploring the rest of your site.
All I can say is DITTO; DITTO, DITTO!! I have loved these posts & the comments too! It is HIGH TIME the discussion is held, the lessons are learned, high esteem & proper compensation is given for that which is so deserving. I know many of us quilt & give because we love the recipient but it doesn’t hurt to remind them that the gift is not “just a quilt”. So very well said. I’m here thanks to a guest post of Molli Sparkles on SewMamaSew. I’ll be following on bloglovin’ for more wonderful inspiration. Thanks for the boost!! 🙂
Very well said, all. I’ve been sewing for fees for over 25 years. I’ve worked on everything from wedding gowns to baby layettes and am about to purchase my first long arm quilting machine to also offer that service. In the beginning, I found it very hard to ask for higher prices but learned very quickly that once I did, more respect was given for the work. Even if someone is not willing to pay your price, someone else will. If they need your service bad enough, they will pay for it. Do not compromise your worth and value in the product. I’ve said many times, “You could go to , but you won’t get the fit, the quality and you’ll dress like everyone else and the product will not last.” An individual quilt is no different. Uniqueness costs, quality costs, research and development costs, education, internship, and years of developing skill costs…period. Charge what you are worth and don’t compromise.
My mother made a quilt for me when I was in my teens a few decades ago. It was beautiful and comfortable and I loved it, but I had NO idea until now what it was really worth. Thank you all for opening my eyes. From this day forth I will cherish any and all “home-made” gifts as one-of-a-kind works of art.
I have a inkpad stamp that reads “Love is Handmade”, which says it all for me. Food, fabric, & flowers are all art of my hands and gifts from my heart. Pricing something for sale is difficult because if I enjoy the creative process and also enjoy giving it away, I cannot be objective about price. I am also my own worst critic. Bravo for appraisals!
My mother-in-law hand quilts one day a week with an elderly group of ladies at their church. They charge clients $1.00 per hour for their time to hand quilt the client’s quilt tops! YES!!!!! They do BEAUTIFUL quilting! The money is donated to the church of course, it is usually around $400 to mark, baste, and quilt a queen size top depending on the size. They love the work and the camaraderie. They think that is a lot of money for a quilt. What do you think?
A dollar an hour is a TRAVESTY! And it teaches people that we are worth so little.
I stopped doing alterations because no one wanted to pay what it was worth. Making an ill-fitting RTW garment fit someone perfectly takes a lot of time and skill. But it often cost more than they customer paid for the garment and they balk at the price. I have an expensive sewing machine, a room full of sewing equipment and notions and have taken many classes to learn how to do this. Don’t I deserve to be compensated for acquiring this knowledge? In the professional world, we pay people more when they gain new skills. Why not with handmade items?
I once had a bride’s mother call and ask me to hem 3 bridesmaid’s dresses. They only needed an inch of the bottom she claimed. But the dress was lined and had an overskirt. That’s 3 layers and she wanted to pay me $5 total for each dress. I told her $15 per layer. But its only 1 inch she kept saying. She just didn’t understand how complex the job was and how long it would take me. Needless to say, she didn’t get her dresses hemmed by me.
Thanks for a valuable discussion!
The hemming of prom dresses hit home even more than selling a quilt does! I used to sell some quilts, but stopped when I realized how seriously I was undercharging for my labor. But prom dresses — I have 2 teenage granddaughters, and hem dresses for them. They’ll call me the night before a dance and ask me to hem a full-skirted dress with 2 layers or more of tulle, and a slip, and oh, I don’t want the train, could you remove it? For one rush job, I had my granddaughter stay with me while I hemmed her dress. What to her seemed like a simple job took me almost 30 hours of hand labor to roll-hem a chiffon dress, hem a slip, and made some strap adjustments. And she was there for every step! After I cut off the excess chiffon, I had her measure it — 48′ of chiffon, and then had her stitch some. Now she, and her sister, appreciate what I do more than they did. And understand why I say no to “just hemming” their friends’ dresses for free.
This was very insightful. I make many quilts each year, as I publish patterns and sometimes create multiple samples for one pattern. Needless to say I have MANY quilts stashed around the house. From time to time, I will have someone offer to pay me for one. Of course, they are thinking Wal-Mart pricing, not handmade pricing. If they are a close friend, I will typically give it to them letting them know that they really can’t afford to pay what it is worth. If the many babies that are currently cuddled up in one of my quilts realized that they are snuggling up with $500 worth of love, they would sleep even more soundly. I would much rather donate a quilt to the local school auction and see it sell for $100, than to line my own pocket with $75. At least I can know that I made a donation worth $500 (for that matter, Uncle Sam knows the value of my donation too), regardless of what the school was able to sell it for. I like the thought of making sure to always give the lesson of the “real” value of the item being given/sold.
This is a subject I’ve been contemplating for years. Truthfully though, I do not think the discussion goes far enough to address either the way we value our skills or the way our skills are valued.
The belief that homemade and handmade items are just not good enough/cheap enough/safe enough is filtering into mainstream thinking in insidious ways. Bear with me. I will give several examples. Our local schools will no longer accept homemade food items for classroom parties nor will they accept them for their fundraisers. Only store bought will do. I am told “It’s for the health and well being of the child.” Another example: Laws have been passed here making it illegal to give food to the homeless unless it is made in a commercial kitchen. Again the argument is for health. Believe me when I say I am all for the health and well being of both children and homeless, and I can see the thought behind the rulings, but there is a subtle implication that the average person is not good enough/clean enough/…enough, and I find this not only worrying but downright insulting. I know this thread is primarily about sewing but this is food for thought.
I would also like to ask if anyone here has had repeated requests for donations and ask how they address this. As a working artist I am constantly being asked to donate my work to different charities. One year I logged over 20 requests. I do donate to charities but have become much more selective. I have come to the conclusion that I must be willing to “shoot myself in the foot” in order to do so. Here is why, and I will keep it brief.
A donation of any crafted item, be it a quilt or a painting, rarely sells for it’s stated value, much less it’s true worth. Items generally sell at 30 to 50% of the stated value, sometimes less. This sets up a belief system in the buyers eyes that they only have to wait for the next auction to get a bargain. I have been approached by someone wanting to purchase work they saw in a gallery. They offered me less than 50% of the price I quoted and they thought they were doing me a favor!
If you are trying to make a living from your craft then it’s also time to consider how the taxing authorities look at your donation. Only the cost of the materials themselves can be written off (unless you are a business – another discussion) and those material purchases must be well documented, so if you used a scrap from your stash, good luck finding that receipt.
We all have choices, even when some of them are dictated by the laws we put in place. The biggest choice I think we all have is to be mindful. Be mindful of the consequences of your choices and don’t buy into self perpetuating belief systems. Educate others about value, yes! Ask for your true worth, yes. Value yourself enough to write your local policy makers and find work around solutions to situations that puts you back in the drivers seat. There is no telling what solutions we can come up with once the discussion becomes big enough!
There’s that word again. LOL. Enough said.
Joyce – thank you for writing! I love the points you make about the respect for the handmade eroding… certainly food for thought! ~Sam
Regarding the comment of 007 eddie concerning how much to charge for teaching. I belong to the American Sewing Guild in Plano, TX, and I have a quilt group that meets at my home for which I do not charge because it is a “sharing” of knowledge that the ASG fosters. But, If I did teach classes independent of ASG, I would charge about $20.00 – $25.00 an hour. And, I am not sure that is enough.You are a skilled person and you should be paid for it. Have you taken “painting” lessons lately, or used a “personal trainer” at your health club? I know personal trainers start at about $50 an hour if not more, or did the last time I checked.
I’m so happy I found this blog. My daughter and I have been making/selling quilt-related items for some time and have found the mentality of the general public is truly accurate as has been stated. At one time I owned a quilt shop and people wanted us to make them a quilt for $50 – all inclusive! NOT! First, we appreciate ourselves and that we are of WORTH to others and then we EDUCATE others on our WORTH!
I really do believe education is the key!
When I am asked to make a quilt for someone, I ALWAYS tell them approximately what it will cost-between $125-$175 for a baby quilt, for example. That way, everyone knows up front what the anticipated cost will be, depending on which fabrics you select or I have to order, how complicated the pattern is, how it’s quilted and what type backing is selected. I’ve had people shocked at the price, but that’s almost what it costs me. I make very little on a baby quilt. The ones I make are usually for friends or friends of friends, so I don’t ask a fortune for them.
Wow… have you hit a nerve!!! Thank you for writing both articles. I for one do a slow burn when I see crafters undervaluing their items just to make a sale. I am a firm believer that if you have the skills, and you mark your items accordingly, the right people will willing pay your asking price.
First… to answer the artist asking how to handle the request for too many donations… this is what I have done in the past. At the beginning of the year I decided how many pieces of ‘whatever I wanted to donate for the entire year… breaking it down into how many per month. For example… let’s say I was willing to donate 12 items, so one a month. As requests came in I would place them in a folder.. and then choose one and donate. Simple. That stopped a lot of charities from waiting to the last minute also. I felt bad after a while turning down some worthy charities so I decided that I would keep the system in place for a large item… but had many smaller items already made to donate to the ‘losers’ and the ‘Johnny Come Late-lys’.
Secondly… Whenever a friend of a friend asked me to custom make anything, be it a quilt, a painting, a birthday cake, I would enthusiastically accept… then immediately pull out a tablet and begin discussing design. I draw a sketch… then begin to write down all the material costs, and labor fees… then write the final fee in LARGE numbers at the bottom and circle it. I explain I am willing to accept the material fees up front, and the labor fees upon completion. THEN… I give them a working timetable and suggest they go home and think about it. If they really were serious and want the item… I insist the materials fee be dropped off by a given date in order to keep it all on track. I have found this system works for so many reasons… 1. It gives the person the lesson they need, plus the ability to opt out graciously. 2.There are no surprises. 3. Most importantly… I come across as a professional in their eyes… and not just someone with nothing to do at home.
Third… Whenever I attend a craft show or other boutique type store I scrutinize the item I am interested in. As a crafter myself I can pretty much tell if the materials and workmanship are quality. BEFORE I look (or ask) for the price, I determine how much it is worth TO ME to possess it. If the price is higher, I ask the maker to explain why… maybe I didn’t know her material costs as it is not my area. If the price is too low… and I really want it… then I pay the maker what I was will to pay and explain why… then strongly suggest they raise their prices. I have never had anyone NOT accept more.
Last… I have been to many ‘co-op’ shops and upon checkout am offered a discount. The first question I ask is, “Will the crafter receive less for this piece because of the discount?” If the answer is yes… then I pay the original amount, take a business card of the crafter and send them an email with a photo of my receipt to make sure they are paid fairly for their item.
I hope the above suggestions help.
I love your process for custom work! Materials up front is important!
This has been so reassuring and inspirational!! I am a retired nurse who has turned my love of weaving into my business – Weaving Stone Studio. Pricing has always been a struggle for me but this conversation has convinced me to keep those detailed records and charge my worth. I also teach and have uncharged in order to compete with the classes at the local fiber shops. Thanks for the kick in the butt I needed.
Happy to oblige! 🙂
I agree with you and I think you laid out the argument for how and why the true value of our work needs to be calculated really well in these two posts. This is actually a lesson I learned from my Dad, who was a freelancer. He never discounted his price for anyone. He would donate his time and talents to causes he believed in or as a gift to a friend but he felt that discounting his rate was undervaluing what he did and that wasn’t going to happen. Selling quilts for less than they are worth is the same thing.
WOW! What timing to read your articles.
I’m newly retired and have recently sold a few things I made to test the market. I sold them in a specifically inexpensive market to see how something slightly higher priced of better than average quality would sell. They sold in the winter holiday market with no problem. Since then, they have sat on line and I took the postings down.
My Mom is worried that I won’t have enough $$$ to cover my expenses in retirement. So am I. That is why I am considering quilting as an income stream. I had a profitable craft business more than 20 years ago. I stopped because I no longer had time to maintain it. The business provided a nice extra income but couldn’t support us. So I dropped it to look at a more lucrative full time career. Now I’m back to having time and needing a bit of “extra” income.
I’m looking for that illusive area between worth and selling price point. I’m also intending to keep having fun with my quilting. So I will be turning down a lot of orders if they are items or colors, or have requirements I do NOT want to deal with.
But back to Mom. This is a person who has always supported my efforts, even when they weren’t too reasonable. She is, I hope, playing the devil’s advocate right now. She has a quilow I made for her at her request and a large sofa quilt I made for Dad a couple of decades ago as well as a very well made 65 year old wool afghan from my Dad’s mother that she she has passed to one of my nieces who lacks blankets in her new house. Mom also has a couple of cotton blankets in the closet.
Mom (who will be 90 next month) was talking about how her mother earned a living sewing and quilting, but can I do the same? In a world where blankets are so readily available and inexpensive who will want to purchase something as “old fashioned” as a quilt? How can I turn out enough items in a year to “make the bills”?
Well first of all, I have a long arm quilting machine and plan to earn some money by quilting for others. She doesn’t quite understand this one. Machine quilting a queen size quilt using a long arm machine and edge to edge pantograph pattern, finishing in a few hours and earning $50 to $75 for my labor, machine wear and tear is beyond her ken. My clients bring their own backing, batting and thread – after being told what brands, sizes and types to purchase. If they want me to provide these items, they are charged cost plus 25% for my time and efforts on their behalf.
Secondly, there are markets for hand crafted items, for hand crafted original items and for artistic items. Not necessarily the same markets. I’m already active in one inexpensive hand crafted market and have made about $150 per month (averaging total income over an 8 month period). This market is where I put my failures – items I will not repeat because I do not like them for some reason, not because there is anything wrong with them. And, I market them under a different name.
So, it can be done, but probably like my earlier craft business, not done for enough to live off of if I don’t want to ruin my “hobby” status, or only work part time. And, I can get a goodly portion of “worth” out of my pricing. But that is limiting my business.
It’s really tricky stuff. But I’m hoping that we can up the game through education! ~Sam
A couple of years ago I was just starting to quilt for others. A friend of a friend who is more knits far more than she sews, wanted me to make a quilt for her grandson. While we were discussing several aspects of the project she mentioned that work like this is a labor of love. I think that is the perception that many people have. And as a labor of love we are not expected to charge the real worth of our efforts.
Well, I replied to this lady, that when you make something as a gift for your family it certainly is a labor of love. But when you hire someone to make it for you, then it is a business transaction. Granted we do our best to impart love and attention into our work but we need to let our customers know that this is a business.
I also run into many hobby quilters who quilt for a few other people just for the joy of it and they do not need to earn their living from quilting. I think it is important to educate them that it may be fine to offer low prices to a friend or family member, just like what was recommended in part A of this blog, you can show the true value of the work and then discount by what ever you want. This is just a courtesy to your professional quilter sisters. We cannot let the perception of Labor of Love devalue what we do.
Good points! It’s interesting that she thinks it’s a labor of love for you to make something for her. I love your reply to her!
I love your opinion. I agree we need to support each other. I live in a small northern Ontario town where everyone thinks “oh, I can make that myself” and in admit I’ve been guilty on occasion of this myself. It seems worse in smaller towns and I’m not sure why, but when people from southern Ontario who aren’t crafty come up here, they usually don’t balk at the prices because prices are higher at home. I have also changed my thinking on supporting other artists over the years because they are artists, pattern to follow or not, you will never get the exact same piece twice. The time is an act of love for most of us and I think we often tend to think of it that way…and how do u put a price on love? I usually give my quilt/sewing pieces for gifts, and I’ve got a lot pickier over the years about who receives those gifts. It’s very disheartening giving to someone who is not crafty and doesn’t appreciate your time and effort. Recently I have started to sell my items…mostly to help fund my quilting addiction….and have met with both ends of the spectrum in terms of people wanting to pay less or telling me I should be charging more. It has taken a lot for me to say no to people who ask less but I am not willing to accept $5 an hour as you say. It has been an experience to say the least and I have often pointed out that yes the cheap store item is cheaper but my item will last decades…longer if u treat them properly. It is very rewarding when you sell a piece to someone who truely loves it. I am tending to work more in the fibre arts area now and so I quite often use the expression that my work is a painting in fabric. The creative aspect is also original and no one can redo it exactly the same…that in itself is worth a fair bit. If someone does do it, it is but a copy of the original. I think you are right to hold on to your opinion and I do hope more artists of any sort adopt the same! 🙂
Kudos to you Sam!!! I too have hit the wall of either “I can do that myself” or “it’s just a hobby” mentality and I wish I had some of the snappy come backs that I’ve read here. I really understand the devaluation of women’s skills versus man’s skills. Funny how many female authors have masculine ‘pen names’ or how about the painter; photographer, etc. who have gone to using their initials instead of their full names for their business names; I, too, had to do this (in my 20-30’s back in the 70’s/80’s) when I was working as a carpenter (non-union or union jobs) as I wasn’t valued or even accepted on many job sites even with the proper referral from the union. Many jobs I had to prove myself, but the lazy drunk guy or smoking ‘Good Ole’ Boys” got to disappear for 15 minutes every hour, while I worked on for a lower hourly rate???? Obviously, this still aggravates me!
Anyway, I learned to quilt from my grandmother (who never allowed anyone to devaluize her skills (a couple of her quilts were purchased by the Smithsonian in the 90’s)) when I spent my summer with her (I was 9)….so I’ve been quilting for almost 50 years and yes, I do custom work and yes, there have been times that I have under priced a quilt, but those are the ones that seem to be for the worst customer, so I’m getting so much better at sticking with the true worth of the quilt. I have had booths in the craft shows and refuse to go to all that work to be insulted by almost everyone that walks through looking for bargain basement deals. I am asked to participate in the Art Shows in our area and find that the mental shift this brings is such a wonderful experience (much like “a touch of domesticity’s” goal of selling to top-end buyers) as there is rarely the ‘discount’ seekers or snarky comments about doing it themselves. The idea of setting out a bid contract similar to Deb Hathaway’s custom order and deposit for materials is AWESOME. I have a book of quilt designs that are divided by the ‘cost to make’ and I have prospective customers go through it and pick their top 3 and we then discuss the custom costs on top of that figure. Once we go over all of the variables (type of fabrics – blenders, batiks, hand-dyes, etc.) including type of batting and the backing, they are well armed with all the information that will make them understand and value not only the quilt but me, as well.
I always include an appraisal for EVERY quilt that I give as a gift, commission, or donation with the explanation that they need to give this to their insurance agent to add to their policy. Not only is this the only way they will get reimbursed for its actual value if there is a loss (say there is a tragedy such as a house fire or flooding), but it also educates every recipient by showing them exactly what they have and its true worth. I also include the “proper care” for information/ instructions, as well. Without either of these, you are not taking ownership of the piece of art you have spent hours producing. I remember a student saying that she had helped her son & daughter-in-law with their ‘moving sale’ the previous weekend and that she had been mortified and (understandably) angry that the wedding quilt she had made for them was on one of the tables with a price tag of $25.00. She said that she paid the $25.00 and then gave it to the Women’s Shelter in her area as it was too hard for her to see/use that quilt after knowing how little it meant to her son & daughter-in-law. I know anyone that has taught can recall just about every horror story of discovery of how the gift quilt has been used, or discarded, etc. I use a couple different appraisers in my area and they are more than happy to give me the appraisal and will transfer the ownership to whomever and provide them a updated reprint of their appraisal for $5.00 if I don’t have the information available (especially great for a raffle winner, etc.) If you learn nothing else from all these comments, please remember to educate the recipient on the TRUE worth of their quilt.
I’m also on the Quilt Documentation Council here in AZ and every quilt I own and make are or will be added to this International data base as this will be a wonderful tool to tracking my quilts, but also so my grandchildren, great-grandchildren can also find out how many quilts their ‘Grammy’ made. It is also a wonderful tool for prospective customers to use to seek additional information about me as a quilter before they decide to ‘hire’ me. Don’t mistake this free documentation data base (donations are greatly appreciated, but there is no charge per quilt) for having a quilt appraised, they are two widely different but important tools available to you.
As for teaching instead of making a quilt for a person (at whatever price), I’ve taught throughout the western states (at quilt shops or retreats) and find that those who will go to a quilt store or a retreat to learn a technique will not want to pay you if they come to your home or you go to theirs….so I don’t see where you get the value of your time anymore than if you actually made the quilt for them. I understand that it is the sharing, but you are still working on their project and therefore keeping you from working on your own project….plus you are probably feeding them too!
I loved “Debbie’s” idea of swapping gardening for quilting. I’d much rather have them do the housework or cook dinners for quilting….but the concept is the same, as we all know that they wouldn’t feel they were getting ‘paid’ enough for their time and efforts!!!!
Anyway….sorry so long winded, but I am so thrilled that so many of us are all working towards the same goal! Thanks Sam, I truly hope that EVERYONE will stand up for herself and not back down. There is no ‘glass ceiling’ in the quilting or artisan world! Give yourself the pat on the back and take on the label of Quilt Artist or ???? Take it past the “hobby” mindset and value yourself as it is the only way that you will get the ‘worth’ value for your pieces. As for those who only want to support their hobby….it is said that the greatest job you will hold is the one that you enjoy the most! I say that is also the one that YOU value the most.
All is in & for the love of quilting!
Thank you for taking the time to write so deeply!
thankyou so much for these 2 posts i agree with you on all points i dont sell many quilts but when i do i know that the person who buys from me respects my work and worth. i too get the strange looks and murmerings from some who feel im asking too much but as u say if someone really wants an item they will pay a fair price. i too would rather gift all my quilts knowing that they will be used and loved for the right reason.
When my daughter was 4 to 8 years old I would make a quilt and tote bag that matched the theme of the party. I stopped when we got invited to a party whom my daughter and I didn’t know or associate with. I did not make a quilt as normal but actually bought a gift. When we arrived the mother saw our wrapped package (was very small item) and said, “where’s the quilt and matching tote.” With out a word to her my daughter and I walked away. That was the end of party quilts for me. Soon it was apparent that my daughter was only invited for the quilt. She wasn’t invited to any more parties that year.
So, I learned to make quilts for family, friends, and people who are in or pass through my life and need my quilt. I make lots of charity quilts and raffle quilts. Over the years I have emailed and facebooked my quilting services and prices, NO ONE has ordered, but all want it free!
Wow, what a discussion! I have been sewing for over 35 years and quilting for about ten years. I have never sold anything I have ever made. I usually just give items like tote bags or baby quilts as gifts to family, friends and coworkers. I have been toying with the idea of opening a shop on Etsy now that my kids are grown. I too suffer from the indecision as to what it charge for items. My question is when do you consider yourself an “artist”? If you develop your own pattern? When you properly following someone else’s pattern? How about hand quilted vs. long arm quilted? I have seen many things listed for sale online that are lower quality that are charging more than for more quality crafted items that it is no wonder the general public is afraid to pay the asking price for hand crafted items. How does an appraiser determine a value?
I have so enjoyed this discussion–a recurring issue for all the fiber artists I know. I think you become an artist when you design and execute your own work. Of course, you are standing on the shoulders of all those who have influenced you–teachers, writers, other artists, people who develop exhibitions, newsmakers, critics and your mom. People who properly follow someone else’s pattern are fine crafters, and they deserve the respect and price associated with fine craft.
I realize that there are artists who engage the services of others to make their original designs–Chihuly comes to mind, but he’s part of a long tradition of atelier artists who produce more work by employing skilled apprentices and artisans (who might paint the entire canvas, leaving the face and “finishing touches” only for the name artist to complete) and often don’t give credit where it’s due. How often do you see something “from the school of ____” in an art history book? While we all learn by studying and following and maybe copying the work of others– there’s great developmental value in that–I don’t think we can claim the artist title until the work is fully our own.
Value and appraisal? That’s another topic.
I am a new quilter, about a year now. I have had 2 requests to make quilts. My answer is easy. I tell them how much the materials cost ($68 for a baby quilt) and offer to buy materials for them or they can buy them and I’ll give them a list. Then I say, you pay me what you think my time is worth. Neither decided to have a home made quilt. I quilt for my enjoyment. So far, I have given away quilts to immediate family (kids, grandkids). Not sure what I’ll do with a room full of quilts when I’m 110 years old.
[…] https://huntersdesignstudio.com/2013/04/04/whats-it-worth-part-2-a-bigger-picture/ […]
Great topic and excellent discussion thread. I quilt and crochet. I have been asked many times to make “one of those blanket things” for various people with little or no thought on the part of the requester on how much time and expense goes into a quilt or crocheted item. I use that as an opportunity to educate them. One brother received a double bed sized quilt as a wedding gift from a friend and commented that it must have cost at least a $100. He was surprised the friend spent that much. After I had a little “let me educate you on what it really cost” time with he and my sister-in-law, they were shocked. As many have said on this thread, we need to continually educate people and to never devalue our efforts. I love to give away my quilts as gifts and I have only sold one quilt, but I am careful to explain the value of the gift to the recipient (and not in dollar terms but in love terms). I think about them with every stitch.
As a beginner quilter and woefully unsure about colorI took my husband with me on fabric hunting trips. Then he came to my sewing room for many evenings and saw the work that I did. Then I gave the quilts away to just family for a special event. He said, ” they don’t know how much went into that quilt.” fast forward, we are now looking at art work. He says I can’t believe how much they want for that piece of art! I remind him how much work went into the quilt and he gets it right away…he realize that painting also has a process that could be labor intensive and expensive with supplies. unless we can relate the process of quilting to a process that the person with whom we are speaking understands, it will be an uphill battle to get someone to understand why a simple lap quilt is it less than $100 since thats what you can get for bed in a bag at Macy’s on sale!
Thank you for the work you have put into this website and the items you have built and are sharing. It is so good to hear “We Are So Worth It!”
I am so glad Meg Cox referenced your blog in her article! I’ve been doing machine quilting and making custom quilts for over 14 years. It is SO hard to put a price on my work, and to raise prices gives me hives! Thank you, thank you for putting this out.
I have read this blog with great interest, including all the comments. Education IS key to changing the public mindset on the value of hand crafted goods. I have created many items, whether quilted, knitted, crocheted, embroidered or otherwise crafted, as gifts for family and friends. Some were met with voluminous praise and appreciation and some were barely acknowledged! I have learned who will love my “labor of love” and who will rather have a cash gift.
I have also sold some of my items at craft shops without getting near their worth. I stopped doing that when the shops raised their added on fee from 40% to 100%! Recently, I attended a couple of Fine Craft shows and was blown away by the quality of the work and by the prices as well! These were artisans who valued their work and were not afraid to show it. I did manage to purchase a few things as I also enjoy supporting the efforts of other artists/crafters.
Finally, to address the issue of enjoyment of the process; many people love their jobs. To value them less because of this makes no sense! Do what you love, love what you do!!
p.s. the inclusion of an appraisal or value sheet with a gift is a great idea!
I appreciate the comments above, and have a couple of things to add.
I have also joined the ranks of those who choose to not be sell my works of art (sewing/quilting) because the value I place on my work is so much more than the average person (in middle, small-town America) is willing to pay. I do give some of my works away, and sew a lot for my church mission projects (considering these to be my personal offering of thanks to the Lord who gives me the ability/time/talent to create them).
So what I could add to this discussion is as follows:
No one has mentioned the issue of taxes here…my understanding is that after $400/year, the IRS requires you to report your income and (after deducting for expenses) pay taxes on it. In my state (Missouri) there is a state income tax, so…it wouldn’t take too long for a person to have that little obligation to consider also.
Certainly, a person could choose to “get paid cash” (therefore not report the income), or think of this income as “not necessary” to report…but doesn’t that equate to copying (or passing around) a pattern to a large group, or seeing our work as “not in the same category” as a “W-2” type job?
I know that MANY people in our country choose to not report income that they receive during the year for “side jobs”, “easy money”, etc., which is their choice, but we must remember that ANY country/state/county/city must rely on a tax base in order to provide services and functions for it’s citizens, and it is our responsibility and duty to pay these taxes. (I won’t get into how our taxes are used…or misused…or how unfair they seem to be…how they are mismanaged, etc…that’s for another blog site entirely!!!)
Therefore, when considering how much to charge for your work…also consider the possibility of income tax/social security (as self-employed)/medicare tax and state income taxes. With any luck…you WILL be paying these because your income will warrant them!
The other thought…
I have a friend who makes custom baby items (something like strap covers for high-end baby carriers). Each set takes approximately three hours to complete. She has a shop on Etsy, and rather than selling items already made, she sells an “appointment” for her time to create. (She has made enough items already that her shop has plenty of “examples” of past works for people to view.)
Since she is selling her “time”…she has personal interaction with her clients who choose the fabrics/designs they want. They submit a deposit which covers her costs…and are given a date (let’s say March 19th) that their items will be made.
Right now she continually has a waiting list of at least six weeks, and has been this booked-up for several months. She is a mom of two young daughters (both under three) who only commits to sewing three mornings a week. This gives her plenty of time to allow for “emergency-type” circumstances that would make her “appointment time” not work out. Even though she sets appointments up, she actually sews the items when she has spare hours (always completing them well before their actual due date), still sending them after the “appointment” date so that her reputation is maintained and her clients are happy.
So…what I have seen in this is:
Her “clients” (her description) understand that they are paying for her time (“the appointment”) and have an investment (the choice of fabrics/design, plus the deposit required) in the items they are purchasing. Therefore, they value the item more. She does not discount…has never needed to do this…and has a true waiting list…with many return clients.
If a quilter, when asked to make a custom baby quilt for someone, would say,
“Let’s see, it will take me approximately 20 hours (from design to final stitch) to make this (simple, machine-quilted, scrappy nine-patch) quilt. My schedule is very full right now, but I can “make an appointment” to create your baby quilt for the end of the month. I will be able to work on your quilt on March 24-28).
The cost for materials will be $…my labor charges will be $…making the total price $ !!!
I require a non-refundable deposit of the cost of materials, with the balance due at completion (before delivery).”
Perhaps then the person wanting the quilt be more inclined to view the whole process as a business transaction and respect it as such. After all, isn’t this what we are discussing? The sales of any product is a business transaction between two parties, whether it is a custom made quilt, a watercolor painting, a car, a soda at the local grocery store, or a gallon of gas. It is imperative that those who choose to sell their work, view the sale as a business transaction.
If a person wants to “just recover costs of materials”, they should certainly let the person buying their hand-made item know that is what they are paying for..materials only, not the labor involved. They should say, “I’m CHARGING you $XXX for the materials/supplies, and GIVING you XX hours of my life for free!”
The best of luck to those out there who are considering selling their hand-made items…it’s a tough decision, and should be given the same thought/planning and consideration that you would use if you were starting a restaurant, opening a day care or any other business. Planning and professionalism will always pay!
Thank you so much for your insight. This makes so much sense!
I recently saw you on TV and you had a worksheet that you used to keep tract of your hours, fabric, etc.
Where can I find a copy of this?
Thanks in advance!
Hi Marti – all the posts and resources are under the WASWI tab on the right hand side – drop the menu and look for “Resources” to find the worksheets. Cheers! Sam
Thanks! I found it!
I do trust all the concepts you have introduced
for your post. They are very convincing and will definitely work.
Still, the posts are very brief for newbies. May just you please prolong them a bit from next time?
Thank you for the post.
I couldn’t agree more. I’m sure I’ve spent at least as much time learning and practicing my Quilting Art as I did receiving my degree and maintaining my certification as a math teacher. I can’t at this time expect to receive what my time is worth for the quilts I’ve made. And long ago I told my husband I would never go into the business of quilting. I’ve made several quilts whose value I place at over $3000 primarily based on the amount of time I’ve invested in them. Please continue to educate both the makers of quilts and the consumers who think they know what is fair in pricing a quilt.
Sam, thanks so much for this information! I saw you on an episode of “Sewing With Nancy” several weeks ago, and was impressed with your ideas regarding the value of hand-crafted work. I’ve been gifting most of my family members with hand-crafted items for the past several Christmases, and will not be doing so in the future, since I’ve seen how well several of them care for the items. I really love the idea of including written appraisals with the gifts, as I find most people truly have no idea of their value, thinking that a $50.00 gift card would be much better, and worth so much more!!!
I saw your comment to Splitting Stitches, on a Quilting in Vermont FB post. The original poster had included the Splitting Stitches business name, but only my personal name, so I included a link to my website. Splitting Stitches followed with a link to her blog, “Why are you paying too much for your quilting?” I thought this was a snarky response to me, and I was quite offended by this, and thought it was inappropriate in that setting. Thanks for your comment.
This discussion is very timely and relevant. I have posted a link to the We Are Sew Worth It area of your website on my quilt guild’s website. We need to stop undervaluing our work and ourselves!
[…] What is it worth Part 2 – A Bigger Picture […]
I am a knitter, but the same issue applies to my craft as for quilters. I buy my yarn retail and I buy expensive yarn. sometimes the materials for a shawl come to $80 to $120. And then I have to spend hours to actually knit it. Time goes into choosing the right pattern for the right yarn, experimenting with needle size etc. And I enjoy working with different yarns and patterns. I don’t want to make the same thing over again – that is 1. boring, 2. I usually can not find the same material in that same color again or in the color the customer wants to match something they want to wear this with.
So I agree, no one can “afford” my knitted items if I include my time into the equation and I do give them away. Knitting is my hobby and I do not take orders.
I am not sure there is a solution to this pricing problem. I do’t think any amount of education will make people pay for what the item is actually worth. Maybe we need to go back to the barter system. I’ll knit you an afghan if you make me a quilt or a hand made cutting board etc.
I think consumerism is to blame for this. We are told to buy, buy, buy and stuff only last for a short time.
I know many women (including myself) who love to quilt, and do it for the fun of it. I do not know any man who will do plumbing for the fun of it.
Saying you should be able to make a living by doing something people love to do just doesn’t make sense to me. I love to quilt, lie in the sum and swim, garden, read, hike, and cook. I would never expect to be paid for any of these. Many women have an excess of quilts, and would love to sell them for not a lot of money. To say that they should be shamed for this because it ruins an expected standard of living for people who want to quilt full time makes no sense to me.