The Quilt That Never Was
I had to give some devastating news today. A work colleague had asked me months ago to make her a quilt: a commissioned, fully requested, this is what I want, and I will pay you for it, quilt. Knowing I couldn’t take on a full project until some other WiPs were completed, I asked that she give me until August. So for months I have been brainstorming ideas in the background that would fit her style, and hopefully, fit my design aesthetic as well. I really didn’t want another Bartering for Flowers situation so soon.
Last week, the time finally came to sit down and let our ideas co-mingle. “I want an all white quilt.” The penny dropped. Um. Not exactly the bold and bright that I was hoping for. Then I asked her to describe the quilt to me, gimme some words that she wanted reflected. “Crisp, Sunday mornings, bright, early, clean, and fresh.” Okay, now that I can work with. It immediately went from just a white sheet, to an undulating cascade of whites to wrap up your loved ones in a bay window before emerging for a brunch of pancakes and berry compote. See how descriptive words can help?!
Remembering the scrappy Trip Around the World quilt-demic that swept through the community earlier in the year, I wondered how that might be constructed with all white fabrics. Everyone else made a bright, scrappy version, so I thought a Trip Around the World quilt devoid of colour would be right up my alley. I like to explore the antithesis of quilting–a rule breaker, if you will–and this could be the perfect opportunity. I also thought it would be an unexpected, delicate dance of romance and elegance. So I went to work.
I decided to make a few test blocks, utilising a solid white homespun as the central, diagonal fabric, while all other fabrics are completely white tone on tone. I adore the result. It is exactly the delicate piece I wanted to create. Romance, and elegance, indeed. Then the inevitable happened, as I had to remove the art, and start playing economic hardball. I sat down to formulate a proposal for the client.
Her request was for a queen, verging on king-sized quilt, (100″+ square) which, I enlarged to 120″ square to allow for shrinkage, and to keep an even multiple of 12″ — simply, 10 x 10, or 100 blocks. That’s a big quilt. Y’all know I like big things, but this is bazooka big. But I kept going. I factored in paying $24.00 / yard, which are typical Australian LQS prices. I thought that might be on the high end of fabric pricing, so I didn’t charge for thread, or fabric needed for binding, design costs, transport costs, shipping costs, or even a carbon tax.
I calculated how many square inches of fabric are needed for each block including the seam allowances (240 in^2), and then for the entire quilt top (240 in^2 X 100 blocks = 24,000 in^2). I then calculated how many square inches are in a yard of fabric with a WOF of 42″ (1,512 in^2). To determine the total approximate yardage needed for the quilt top, I divided 24,000 in^2 / 1,512 in^2, which equals 15.87 yards, or simply 16 yards. Remember that, 16 yards.
I made the assumption that the quilt back would be a solid fabric, with only two seams, as full WOF could be joined together in three runs. The size of the quilt back would need to be 126″ square to allow for the long arm quilting process. Three runs, each measuring 42″ wide and 126″ long (126″=3.5 yards), equates to 3 X 3.5 = 10.5 yards. Remember that, 10.5 yards.
My long armer extraordinaire Quilt Jane, charges ~$3.50 / square foot for an all over design. Since this quilt has 100 blocks, each finishing at 12″ square, that’s pretty easy, works out to be 100 ft^2.
From this stage, I needed to calculate the accumulated supplies cost because all these numbers were starting to make me dizzy. (I’m sure you’re dizzy right now!)
16 yards X $24.00 / yard = $384.00
10.5 yards X $24.00 / yard = $252.00
100 ft^2 of quilting X $3.50 = $350.00
Supplies Total = $986.00
I hadn’t even added in my labour. I knew things were getting out of control, but I forged ahead. I’m a new quilter (although, completely fabulous!) so I’ll only charge $20.00 / hour. I bet once I get my groove on I can get these blocks done in, let’s say, a half hour each. That means I have 100 blocks X 0.5 hour, equates to 50 hours for the block creation. Okay, whoa, so I’ll throw some major chain piecing, and I’ll down a few Red Bulls, and I should be able to factor in cutting all the fabrics, piece all the blocks together, piece the back, create the binding, sew the binding down (machine, definitely) and label the sucker all in 50 hours. (Rolling my eyes even thinking about it now). But, in a perfect world where I could do that, 50 hours X $20.00 / hour = $1,000.00.
Labour Total = $1,000.00
I see some of you completely nodding in agreement. I see some of you thinking to yourself, “it doesn’t cost that much to make a quilt,” and I see others thinking quizzically, “what’s a square inch?” It’s okay, suffice to say, this is a big quilt, and it’s a big price.
After all of my calculation and numerations, I presented this to my colleague today. We got to the end of the supplies cost explanation and she declared that was totally in her budget. Oh, then I showed her the additional second number representing the labour. “Oh, right.” I have to say though, my colleague was completely, and utterly the most professional about it. She agreed that wasn’t in her budget, but she also was very quick to point out that it was in no way an insult to my craft, and that she completely valued the work I did, and I should expect that cost, if not more, for what I do. Agreed, sister, agreed.
That leaves us here. Two blocks down, ninety-eight to go for the quilt that never was. The good news is that my colleague and I are working together to find a way to simplify the pattern, and decrease the size so that it will work into her budget. At this stage, we are thinking of 12″ squares of two tone-on tone white fabrics only, creating a white-on-white checkerboard. The backing will become homespun to decrease that fabric cost, and the simplified pattern means less labour charges. The quilting will then become more the hero of the quilt, and I’m totally okay with that.
It’s disheartening to know the quilt I was so very excited about is now just a light, romantic dream. However, this was an extremely important exercise for me to go through. It’s taught me a lot about my economic worth as a quilter, the cost of supplies, how to budget for a quilt, and how to convey that sincerely to the client. I’m not quite sure how this new quilt is going to wind up, but I now know that us quilters are worth a helluva lot.
Linking up with Em at Sewing By Moonlight and Crazy Mom Quilts because this quilt was finished before it even began.