Did you catch Molli Sparkles TGIFF post from Friday? I found his post, No Value Does Not Equal Free… It Equals $2,076.65, to be very interesting. I have been following his various posts about his pricing scheme along with the We are $ew Worth It! series at Hunters Design Studio.
Where to start? I have been feeling a bit weird about quilting and blogging recently. I have been making and giving away quilts for years, but I am now actively trying to figure out how to make and sell my quilts. I considered myself to be the main income provider in my family… until I left my full time job (yes, that balance shifted and changed over the years, but my mental view of our income and finances put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself). Now, I am thankful we can cover our bills each month (usually). I love the creative outlet and mental space that quilting provides me, and I try really hard not to promote myself on my blog. I kind of view my blog as a place for me to talk about quilting, the quilting process, sewing, and general creativity. I don’t want my blog readers to think I am trying to market myself or my quilts to them, but the reality is that I am also trying to figure out how to sell my quilts.
It seems like a delicate balance.
In my yoga practice, half moon pose is one of the most challenging asanas for me in terms of balance:
I realized this week that while I am challenging myself and trying to find internal balance with yoga and meditation, that I am not honoring balance in my quilting life because I talk so little about the aspect of trying to make quilts to sell. I do on occasion mention in a blog post that a quilt I am working on has been commissioned or is for a customer. Today, I would like to honor a bit more balance by discussing how I am trying to price my quilts. I realize that this post will not be interesting to some of my blog readers, but I really would welcome community insight and feedback for those of you who do stick around to read this full post.
I am trying to be realistic about how I approach making and selling quilts. What does that mean? Well, I try to pick patterns that I know I can complete rather quickly (less time invested = less money). I track the time I put into each quilt (and report that information on my blog! yay for nerdy quilt statistics!). I charge $15/hour for my time, unless I am making quilted placemats. For placemats I tend to charge $7-$10/hour. I also add up my material costs (fabric, thread, batting)… again with the exception being quilted placemats. I try to use fabric in my stash for any placemats I make unless they are commissioned and very specific. If I use fabric from my stash, I charge a much lower price per yard than the current off the bolt fees (typically around $10 – $12/yard for most prints and $7/yard for Kona solids). In the end, placemats are priced as a set at a value I think someone might pay instead of at the market level for fabric and labor. The other factor I add in when considering costs are my sale and shipping fees. Currently, I sell my quilts online through Etsy, and the credit card processing fee and Etsy surcharge amounts to about 6% of the sale. Beyond that, I just try to make sure that the price I list the quilt for is just a bit more than materials + labor + sale charges + shipping (if applicable).
A bit more about my decision to charge $15/hour. I have made around 75 quilts (so far), and while I am not the grand high poo-bah master of quilting, I can make a very nice quilt these days. The 4th quilt I ever made, Star Quilt, has held up to very constant use over 14-15 years, and I know that I now use higher quality fabrics, thread, batting, and finer detail in quilting – which just means that the quilts I make are going to hold up and last. Also, I purposefully wanted to set my rate to be a bit higher so that if I found that I could not sell my quilts and wanted to offer a discount or “sale” that I would be able to do so with some margin.
OK, so back to Molli’s post from Friday. The quilt he discusses is 72″ by 72″ and it looks like it took him just over 34.5 hours to create. I have been tracking my time spent designing, preparing the fabric (cutting), piecing the top, piecing the back, and binding for about 4 months now. I know that I am on the more speedy side of quilt making, but it also happens to be because I like more modern quilts with larger blocks and negative space, or I am purposefully choosing to not do very intricate work (aka lots of tiny piecing). There is nothing wrong with intricate work; I just expect that unless it was requested by someone, the sticker shock would keep anyone from ever considering purchasing a quilt that I put a *lot* of time into. The quilt top and backing that Molli created is beautiful and intricate, and without a customer requesting the work, it is probably not something I would set out to make on my own.
Some interesting statistics that I have found by tracking the “costs” of some of my quilts. *Note that I have found this to be true for me; I expect that everyone’s style and preferences are different! Materials (fabric, batting, thread) account for about 20-25% of the final price of a quilt. This is not always 100% accurate, but it is a very good rule of thumb if I am looking to give an initial cost estimate to someone. The amount of time spent designing, preparing the fabric, and piecing the top is about equivalent to the amount of time I spend piecing the back, basting, quilting, and putting on the binding. Again, this is not always true, but it helps me as a rule of thumb. If I am doing an all over FMQ pattern, this works. For something with more quilting detail and a simpler top, like Namibia Trees, I spent much more time on the quilting than this simple equation would have otherwise implied.
So let me show you all the information for a few of my more recent quilts.
In the case of Orange Crush pricing (above), the material costs are about 20% of the listing price. It falls on the low end of my estimated range due to the fact that I purchased most of the orange fabric for the top at a steep discount (yay for sales!). The rule of thumb for my time is about consistent. Adding up my design time, fabric prep time, and time spent piecing the front equals 13.5 hours. Adding up my time piecing the backing, quilting, and binding equals 14.5 hours. Note that the Labor and Materials summation also includes the Etsy Fees (set at 6% of the listing price). My goal is to list the quilt above the materials, labor, and fees summation. Also note that Orange Crush finished at 57″ by 57″.
For Space Age Tumbling Blocks (above), the material costs are 24% of the listing price. I actually spent much more on the fabric order, but I only charged for the material used from the order. Time for design, fabric prep, and piecing the front adds up to 12.5 hours, and time for piecing the backing, quilting, and binding adds up to 11.5 hours. Again, note in this example that the Labor and Materials summation also includes the Etsy Fees (set at 6% of the listing price). My goal is to list the quilt above the materials, labor, and fees summation. Also note that Space Age Tumbling Blocks finished at 56″ by 68″.
In closing, I will say that this works pretty well for me right now, and I have already made adjustments to my rules of thumb. I used to estimate material costs at 33% of listing price, but I have found that I undershoot a cost estimate to customers if I use 33%. Adjusting to 20% for an initial quote has made even rough initial estimates much better and more informative to potential clients.
I have been tracking all my costs for the year, and with the sales I have been able to make, I am pretty much breaking even for the year at the moment. I don’t know what happens next or if I will continue to pursue making quilts to sell. I am a work in progress, and I would welcome any insight or feedback from you.