So you want to sell a quilt

So you want to sell a quilt

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That dreaded question we always hear when a friend or family member finds out that you’re a quilter:

“How much would it cost to get you to make me a quilt?”

It stops many a quilter in their tracks. We never quite know what to say. People are flabbergasted to hear the prices we pay for quilt shop quality fabric, thread, computerized sewing machines and longarms. Yet, they want to get a custom piece for the price of a quilt from Wal-Mart (by the way – you can get a King Size Wal-Mart quilt for less than $30). It pains me to hear quilters talk about their prices being based on what other quilts on Etsy are selling for. How do you know exactly how long and what sorts of material it took that other Etsy seller to make that quilt?  There are precious few people in the world that really understand and value the time and skill necessary to make a custom piece and are willing to pay for it. They exist but most consumers have no idea what all is involved.

Then we have the other end of the spectrum recently brought up via Crafty Garden Mom – the overpriced, cheaply made knockoff “designer” quilt a la Anthropologie.
What’s a quilter to do? I’m gonna offer some advice and food for thought on this subject. You are welcome to chime in with your own two cents in the comments section. I’d love to really get a good discussion going about this and share your thoughts in an upcoming podcast episode.

The Cost of Materials

Quilting cotton fabric prices vary greatly depending on where you are sourcing them from. Wal-Mart has a $1 a yard section of threadbare fabric and it’s not uncommon to walk into a quilt shop and pay upwards of $13 a yard for designer quality fabric.  Here’s a little estimate just for a twin size quilt. This is probably the most common size I see produced for others. This estimate is for “bargain prices” you can sometimes find for quilt shop quality fabric.  To calculate yardage needed for a quilt there is a good fabric calculator here.

Approximate Cost of a Quilt - X-Long Twin Quilt Est

The Cost of Your Time

Here is a sticking point I see with a lot of quilters. You’ve got two schools of thought here. One harms the other even if it’s unintentional.

“Selling quilts is a business for me” – You need to charge a reasonable hourly wage for your time. Personally, I consider minimum wage way too low for quilting. Think about it – you’re doing a skilled labor job. You had to learn how to use a specialized machine, acquire the correct materials, cut and put together those materials, and often quilt it yourself. Most quilters take classes to improve their skill. Why should we be expected to charge minimum wage for this skill? I think it’s ridiculous.

A twin size quilt can take 20-30 hours to complete depending on the complexity of the block(s) used. Let’s split the difference and say start to finish it took you 25 hours to make a twin size quilt.

25 hours at US Federal Minimum wage ($7.25) = $181.25

25 hours at $11/hr = $275

Some people charge less than minimum wage for their time. I’ve heard of quilters that charge $3-4 per hour for their time.  This is better than the other option that I too often hear which I find harmful to those doing quilting and sewing as a business:

“I sell quilts for fun and don’t need the money. I don’t charge for my time and only want them to cover material cost.”  This is a bad idea. Yes, you may get more sales on Etsy and Ebay this way or at local craft shows but by doing this you are undercutting every other crafter that is trying to barely scratch out a living selling quilts. The other thing that this does is create an expectation for buyers that your time  or any other quilters time will always be free. You’re also essentially losing money because you aren’t covering the cost of your equipment, space or electricity.  For people like this I always wonder why don’t they just quilt for charity organizations instead?

The Cost of Equipment and Electricity

A majority of quilters use an electronic sewing machine. Costs can vary from $50 to $12,000 for a sewing machine. A decent quilting/sewing machine combo will run you easily $1,500. If you are selling quilts, quilted items or sewn items you need to figure in a depreciation cost for the equipment you are using.

  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Sewing cabinet or table
  • Cutting table
  • Cutting mats
  • Rotary cutter
  • Rulers
  • Starch or sizing
  • Crafting lamps (Ottlights)

Add the cost of electricity and water into the mix and this equipment cost can add up. If you were a business you could write some of this off as an equipment cost. Most quilters do not formally file taxes as a business so they don’t usually figure a fee in for the use of all of this stuff when they sell a quilt.   All of these items depreciate and/or have an annual cost of upkeep. At some point they will either need to be replaced or worked on. If you are working for free you are letting someone have free use of your equipment and electricity.

I’m not suggesting you add a super high fee to a quilt but you need to add something. You can prorate it depending on the quilt size or tack it on to your hourly fee.

I have to sell quilts at the price the market will bear.  So does that mean a quilt that took you over $100 in materials and 25-30 hours to make should compete with quilts sold at Wal-Mart? They’re selling king size quilts for less than $30.  I’ve turned down tons of work because people expect me to lose money so they can get the quilt they want.

Etsy is a good example. Often sellers assume the reason why their items aren’t selling is due to the price. I usually don’t find that the case at all. Typically low sales are due to bad photography, a poor description or a combination of the two.  If you’ve got good photography, a good description and you’re still not selling you need to take a look at the market. Maybe baby quilts sell better than twin size. Maybe quilted placemats sell better than crib quilts. Find out what works in your area and online and make those items. What’s popular this season will change in six months. You often have to figure out what fabric is hot right now. It’s a moving target and your price point isn’t always the factor that makes it sell.

Losing money just to get sales doesn’t make sense.  I think setting the expectation of your budget-conscious clientele so they understand what they can get as far as size, complexity of the blocks and quilting design they will respect the prices you set.

Comments

  1. Excellent!
    Few people take the time to figure it all out. We all need to protect each other and jump in the right bandwagon.

    • Wilma Evans says:

      Your stated fee of $11.00 per hour – Is that strickly labor? Do you add the costbof materials to that price?

      • It’s an arbitrary number. My point was some people charge less than minimum wage for their time. My opinion is they should charge more. The cost of materials should be calculated separately.

  2. I think you have actually underestimated the cost of materials. I agree completely with your post. When we sell a quilt, we are selling a one of a kind piece, and it should be marketed and priced accordingly.

    We all buy clothes that are deeply discounted because they are made in Asia out of cheap materials. We wouldn’t expect to go to a professional seamstress and pay the same price for something they have made for us. At the same time, we don’t feel guilty buying a $5 T shirt at Walmart, and neither should someone feel guilty buying a $30 quilt at Walmart, if that is what they want.

    We have to realize, though, that it would be very tough to make a living selling quilts in North America. There is not a big market for quilts as art pieces – and unless you are really good, or have created a niche for yourself, you are not going to sell that many. That is probably why most professional quilters make their money with books, patterns and teaching.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly, we must place the proper value on our time, materials, and skill. I am asked the dreaded “how much” question all too often. Obviously there’s not a universal answer, but the muggles just don’t know what they don’t know. I can whip up something simple in an afternoon or take months to make something really elaborate.
    I recently caught some flack for selling my tshirt quilts too cheaply. But, what my rabid quilter friends didn’t understand is that this is a basic grid, with no extra piecing other than 12″ tshirt “blocks”, minimal quilting, and inexpensive backing and batting. The muggles I am dealing with on these em empty quilts aren’t looking for heirloom pieces. They are looking for way to hold on the the memories those shirts represent, in a practical and inexpensive manner. If I make $75-100 for an afternoon of work, I’m ok with that. I always let them know that commissioning me to make something that I design from scratch, use quilt shop quality fabrics, (I never use anything threadbare from Walmart, even in my “economy” version quilts) and spend time intricately piecing and quilting, the price will be much different. I have had a few people over the years who have understood the difference and been willing to pay it.

  4. EngrSandi says:

    Thanks for the great post, Katie. Good information for sellers and buyers alike.

  5. Thanks Katie for a great post, I agree selling ones hard work is a real experience, I have sold some of my previous artwork, as for quilting I just completed a beautiful one for my cousin, my own design, she supplied all the fabric, and she is covering the cost of shipping to another country plus gave me what I asked for. She realizes this is a labor of love & I wouldn’t just sell my quilts to just anyone without charging them a decent price. A lot of work, utilities, materials plus my time go in to these quilts.

    Presently I am working on another quilt for myself and will probably make numerous more for myself, besides making some special lap quilts for some special friends and family. eventually I would like to make and “sell lap quilts” but again I would charge what they are worth. Thanks for your fantastic post here.

  6. This is such an excellent post! I sell quilt pdf patterns online for $9.50 and you wouldn’t believe the number of people who think I am selling a custom made completed quilt, including shipping for $9.50. It’s unreal that people could think that’s all it would cost. I’ve sold 2 custom made quilts. One was a t-shirt quilt for $400. It was a twin size and I didn’t charge enough to make anywhere near minimum wage. The other custom quilt is one I just got a pre-paid order for this morning. It’s a baby quilt for $300. It has appliqué and simple piecing. I’ve made one like it already, but didn’t keep track of my hours so I am not sure what I’m actually paying myself, but I know I can get the supplies for about $150 or less if I can find sales. Fabric, etc. costs a lot more in Canada than the US so it makes sense that quilts made by Canadians should cost more, but I doubt they do.

  7. This is a great post, and the different perspectives are interesting.

    Yes, we certainly need to educate buyers on our costs and process, and I guess we are doing that, but it’s slow going. The majority of people who ask me to a quote on a custom quilt never even reply. I guess they’ve passed out from the shock. My DH has gotten very good in those awkward social situations where someone seems to think I will make them one. “Oh, you couldn’t afford her,” he says. “Her quilts are works of art that sh ships all over the world. Here, let me show you here website…”

  8. On the other hand, I’ve discover numerous people who shop on Etsy who have WAY bigger budgets for gifts than I do, and don’t seem to flinch at the prices. They’re also generous with praise about the quality in their feedback.

    I do worry about undercutting others, but I don’t think we all do have the same costs. I always use first quality fabric, but I buy on sale and almost never pay full price for it (median cost: $7.00 /yd.), and I buy batting at half price, thread on sale, etc. Those making a full-time business of this are buying their materials at wholesale. Also, the style of most of my quilts (for sale) is such that I make them very quickly. I’ve kept track and done the math on exact times and materials for many of my projects. There are different formulas for pricing (3 x CT of materials

  9. (3 x cost of materials, materials +labor+profit, etc.), and I’m happy with the amount i make on each one of my crib and throw quilts. When I do the math for the twin or larger quilts, it gets into serious sticker shock, and I don’t enjoy them as much, anyhow. Also, I charge more for commissions because there’s more time involved designing and going back and forth with a customer (when it isn’t a basic T-shirt quilt or copy of something I’ve already done).

    I do respect others’ perspectives on this issue. Well, as long as no one’s selling finished quilts for $9.50, shipped! Wow, people!

  10. When people ask me what it would take or how much would it cost to make them a bedsize quilt, I usually answer one of two ways 1) I never sell any of my bed quilts for less than their appraised value then I tell them what the lowest $ amount is to the highest to date; or 2) I look them in the eye and smile and tell them they most likely wouldn’t be able to afford my prices. When they insist on hearing how much I would charge, they always, always, come back with “I could get the same sized quilt at Target for $25…I tell them to go for it! I’m sorry but the only charity quilts I’m doing is for “Quilts of Honor” or for the local hospitals for children. I love to make quilts for my family and those are usually gifts. I don’t claim to be a professional quilter but I do now that I put a lot of time and money into what I love doing the most…making quilts!

  11. Stephanie says:

    Great post Katie! I have a stack of baby quilts that I am hoping to list on Etsy. I know that I am a great quilter with a quality product but because of the low ballers out there I’m afraid to list them for what I know they are worth. Thanks for giving me the confidence to list them for ALL that they are really worth.

  12. Just have to say, we quilters ARE NOT paid nearly enough. I have a friend who made a hand embroidered quilt, then had it custom quilted. She’s going to ask 800 dollars. When you consider the kit cost (180), the cost of the quilting (over 200), backing, batting, thread, embroidery thread, etc, the price is not out of line. I really think it’s time to tell family and others what the REAL cost of quilts are. They will appreciate them much more. I have a mental list of family that are on my quilt receiving list. Not everyone is. Some love my quilts and realize what is into them… some end up using them as truck bed liners (NOT OK!).

  13. I keep it simple – I multiply the total cost of supplies by 5. That covers everything, wear and tear on my machines, my time etc. it’s an easy answer for those asking how much, coz once I start listing of price per metre of fabric and batting, threads and backing, it not only let’s them know the quality materials and amounts involved, it lets them start the mental arithmetic for themselves. By the time I give them an approx dollar total they’re already there, and its a clear yes or no.

    Also want to add, before you use stay to help decide your prices, be sure you’re comparing with work compatible in quality to your work. There’s some pretty seedy stuff out there that a muggle can’t pick by a picture whereas an experienced quilter can. If you’re a beginner that’s fine, but charge accordingly coz burnt consumers take future dollars back to retailers like Walmart.

  14. Great information!! This really helped me, as I’m new to selling my quilts. Most of them are lap quilts, which are quilted and embroidered, and I’ve been checking around, trying to find out how much to charge. I know I’m the same as everyone else, using quality quilt material, paying about $7. a yard (which I only get on sale). So now with this information I know about how much to charge for my time, which was hard for me to determine. Thanks so much, this was very helpful to me!!!

  15. I agree 100%. When I began my longarm busines in the 1990s, I took every single thing into account and charged $10/hr. for my time. It worked out that I charged $4/sq. ft. when I started, a little less than 3 cents a sq. inch. That was high for the time, but I included absolutely everything in that fee, even the Quilter’s Dream batting. Ten years later, I’d only had to increase my fee twice, and it was up to $4.75 when we sold our home and went RVing full time. I found that people appreciated what I did, and they didn’t mind paying for it.

  16. It’s just the same as with artwork. I paint and people often go “you want HOW much to paint my portrait!?”. Well, let’s see… there’s the time I spend doing the artwork, the price of the materials, the amount of money and time I spent getting myself to this point and you expect me to make you a 27″ portrait for 30$?
    I’m only just getting into quilting and I am trying to get out of the 9-5 grind and make a living with artwork and craft… It’s not gonna be easy.

  17. Many many thanks for this posting!

    When in Germany, you pay far more for fabric and everything else to do with Patchwork and Quilting as in the U.S. so our Patchwork Quilt Prices should be for that reason higher than you calculations 😉

    Travelling to the fabric store, washing powder, pins, rotary cutter cutting mat etc. should also be included in the end price 😉

    How do I make my next point without offending anyone???????
    I am totally for making Patchwork Quilts and Gifts to be sold for charity, church funds etc. However the prices asked for are waaaaaaaaaaaaay to low and are as bad as ebay, Walmart usw. People sewing for charities to make funds etc should demand that the costs of the items are real – if not, they are as ‘bad’ as ebay and the likes.

    I am of the opinion, that if we only take a little money for the things that we produce, how can we expect, that others value are creativity, time, skills and love? We cannot!

  18. Very interesting. I’m always afraid to charge too much for quilts. I find that I make more quilting professionally than I can actually making and selling the entire quilt. The cost of materials is much lower that way. I totally agree that you underestimated the cost of materials. There’s no way I could only use $1.34 in Aurifil thread. I’d most likely go through a whole cone at $12 each just quilting the thing:) I guess it always comes down to what someone is willing to pay for a product or a service. Good luck to all those out there trying to make a living by selling quilts online!

  19. This is a wonderful topic that you have put together for quilters.

    Most of the quilts that I have made I have given them away as gifts. I have made a few commission quilts and was sadly underpaid for one. I have also made several aution quilts. I will never make another aution quilt and as for selling quilts, I have learned much from other quilters and from the passage of time of being a quilter.

    Thank you much for the research that you have put together for this post.

  20. Pınar Yalçın says:

    Bir patchwork yorgan için maliyet çıkarmak profesyonel bir biçimde ! Benim için çok şaşırtıcı oldu. Yaklaşımınıza tamamen katılıyorum.

    Tüm patchwork yapanların ortak sorunu bu sanırım, Benim ülkemde daha böyle bir pazar bile yok denilebilir. Gerçek ise şu: Bir sanat yapıtı üretiyorsanız bunu satmanız gerekir ; yaratıcılık ve üretkenlik ancak böyle devam edebilir. Satarken de değerini bulmalı ebette.

  21. Excellent article! This should apply to any hand crafted item. If I knit or crochet with cheap acrylic yarn, and make a lap or baby blanket It can sell for a lot less than something made from high-end hand-spun fibers.

  22. Great article! I’ve recently started researching quilt prices and was shocked at the diversity of prices I found even on sites that are meant to be solely handmade (I’m looking at you Etsy).

    I started sewing a couple of years ago and felt confident enough last year to make a few things (including a king size quilt which took about 8 months) as Christmas presents for family, so did not worry about pricing then. But since then I’ve started thinking about selling on Etsy (I already have an established scale dollhouse miniature food shop so I’m pretty familiar with the site). Currently I like to make wall hangings with teeny tiny hand-sewn paper piecing (I just can’t get away from miniatures!) but I have no idea what to charge. Material costs aren’t too bad as my average patch size is about an inch so I use a lot of scraps up.

    But the labour costs? Half the time I’m not even sure how long it took me to make something as I just do a bit each evening when I have a moment spare. Currently it takes about a month of evenings to complete one wall hanging 42″ x 42″. I would estimate that’s at least 30 hours’ work which seems a lot for the size of the thing, but my pieces are complicated. I haven’t seen many items on Etsy with the equivalent level of complexity (good I suppose) so I don’t blooming know what’s ‘standard’. I might just ignore everyone else and actually charge what it’s worth. If it doesn’t sell, well that’s one more Christmas present sorted for next year and I know someone who would love it!

  23. Excellent article. Quilters need to remember that no one would be asking for their services if the Chinese made quilts were of the quality of a U.S.A. made custom quilted quilt. It’s easy to spot a Chinese quilt from a mile away. You can’t compare your product to what is selling at Walmart. For the people who don’t know the difference, the Chinese quilts are okay. But there are many people who recognize the qualit of fabric, the batting, the border, the applique, the overall feel and look etc. You can’t get it in a mass produced Chinese version.

  24. Wilma Evans says:

    Dear Katie, I quilted a flannel wall hanging from scapes leftover from another quilt. I sold the new wall hanging for $75.00 I also put 4 large machine embroidered snow flakes on it. Size when completed wad 32″ x 32″ I feel I charged too much. I did not keep track of my time. I never anticipated anyone buying it. It was a sort of a friend. What would you have done.

  25. I charge $20 per hour labor. I make them to order only. I do not sell ones I have already made. I give them an estimate and ask them to buy the materials up front (commitment!). So, it’s labor and materials in my estimate. Most of the time they don’t want it after they hear the price, but once and a while I get a serious buyer that will pay me $600 for a twin quilt. I don’t need the money. I’m lucky to have a job that affords me things, but I’m not going to sell them cheap. I’d rather give them to friends and family rather than devalue my craft! Thanks for the interesting post!!! I’m bookmarking it! I might have people read it before giving them an estimate!

  26. Greetings, this is an excellent article. Quilters are gifted,artists and should be paid well for there knowledge, skill, and professionalism. If you are serious about making money as an entrepreneur, ask for your price. Decide the category that you want to specialize in for example, niche market, formal quilting, school t-shirt quilter, etc. I think as women we put too much emotions into business. You must separate the two. If you are quilting for a labor of love that is one thing. If you want to make money see what you do as a business.

    What seems to be missing with the quilters are business skills. I have looked at businesses such as, The Quilt Cafe, price range for quilts $125-$703. T-shirt Quilts of Texas, price range, $162-$540. Project Repat, $59.99-$239.99 Another,company started by a 26 year old. Stitch’Tshirt quilts http://www.stitcht.com price range $70.00 for a pillow to $500.00 for a king-size quilt. Lastly, Campus Quilt Company. Price range $129.00 (Lap) -$419.00 for a king.

    I am a retired nurse, who is researching whether or not I want to start a home- based business. I have over 50 years of sewing experience. I am going to do my research and business training before I start sewing for money, because I like the posts want to get paid for my work. From reading the posts, my assessment is that the artistic quilters are not business women. However, you can build a successful business as a quilter. There is a market for your work. Just do the research and target the market who is buying handmade quilts. Stay away from people who wants something for nothing. They do not appreciate art.

    My aerobics instructor, asks me to make a T-shirt quilt for her daughter, who is graduating from high school next month she wants to give her a gift made from her old t-shirts. I am not a quilter and have never made one. However, I have gone on the Internet and researched this T-shirt project. From how-to, cost, pricing, etc. When I make this quilt for my teacher, it will be made with a labor of love. I am going to ask for a donation of $65.00 for a lap (9 T-shirts) or $80.00 for a Twin. These items will be sewn on the machine. There will be no sashing. Just a simple binding with a fleece backing. The instructor is sending the gift to college, for her daughter to place on her bed. I will ask her to purchase the supplies. I do not like quilting. For those of you who have a passion for this craft you must determine is it a hobby or a business? For a hobby you can negotiate the price. For a business ask and get paid the money you want for your work. You must master marketing.

    Much Success!

  27. Tina L. Grady says:

    KD thanks so much for the info I’m starting my business for the first time since I started quilting in 2005 and I’ve never known what to price my merchandise as thank you so much and I will not d value my time Tina

  28. Great article. I’m actually making a quilt for some one and was trying to figure out what to charge. She already had the materials. Thanks for the BIG help. Liette

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