TGIFF – No Value Does Not Equal Free

Well, when I checked in with a few of you in the break room a few weeks ago, I discovered that many of you are totally The Last Donut type of people. Gurl, I hear ya, sometimes you just gotta do, what you gotta do! So now that you’ve had a few weeks to digest, let me show you how all that white powder came together (oh, and you’ve got some on your nose!)
I’m sure you can sympathise with how difficult this mutha’ is to photograph. I promise you she’s all white, but she easily reflects ambient light. For those new to this project, a long while back I daydreamed of an all white quilt, and then put together a brief costing sheet for a colleague. We both looked at the price, stunned, realising that was out of her budget. However, I wanted to forge ahead, and determine the true cost of making this quilt. That’s how the Quilt That Never Was turned into No Value Does Not Equal Free.

So I began collecting white tone-on-tone fabrics from all sorts of places: a trip to Canberra, my own stash, from fans around the world (:::waves!:::), and my local quilt shop. I settled on thirty-six fabrics, and made thirty-six unique, Trip Around the World blocks. Each block contains six fabrics, and finishes at twelve inches. You can see from the photos that only the quilt top is finished, and I’m still determining the best course of action for the quilting. At this stage I really am leaning towards silver, metallic thread though. I think it could give it a couture edge, without being too Versace: House of Gaudé.

I wanted to do this all white version as a direct response to two things. First, to all of the scrap-vomit, (and let’s just be perfectly honest, fugly) versions of the Trip Around the World quilts that hit the Interwebs last year. Whoa! No need to write the hate mail! I’m just saying, some of them kind of hurt my eyes. 
Secondly, I created my version in response to the Low Value / Volume phenomenon that is still omni-present, and in my opinion, an over-used trend. But what do I know? You want low volume, how about no volume!? You might even call this an art quilt, with all this feverish, quilty commentary on existing trends and current costs!
Now, let’s look at where I’m up to on the cost, and let me explain a few things. I’m sure you’ll have something to say about it–and I encourage it! Let’s talk.
  • All fees are quoted in Australian dollars, however it is nearly on parity with the US dollar.
  • The design concept fee is a one time fee to cover the cost of time spent on figuring out the project with regards to aesthetics, fabric choice, fabric quantities, cutting and assembly procedure, and general pondering time.
  • Fabric for the front was purchased at all different rates, throughout the world. Fabric in the US is typically around $8-12 per yard, fabric in Australia is typically $18-24 / yard (metre). I settled on an estimated cost of $15 / yard.
  • Fabric for the back was purchased last week from during a flash sale they had. Michael Miller Mirror Ball Dots in Snow for $6.29 / yard.
  • Multiple shipping charges are estimated for various purchases at $50.00 (this is low).
  • Regarding time spent during production, I timed myself at each step, even pausing the clock if I had to make myself lunch, etc. I felt I was sewing efficiently, chain piecing when I could.
  • I paid myself $30.00 / hour. Whoa! I hear you saying already. Okay, let’s chat about this. I did some research and found in 2011 the median wage (not mean/average) in Australia was $57,400 / year. That equates to $29.05 / hour. Based on inflation, and to make calculations a bit easier, I rounded to $30.00 / hour.
  • Still, the median? Are you sure you deserve that much? ABSOLUTELY! In my day job I work in the facilities and maintenance industry, and pay vendors industry rates of $60.00 / hour during the day, and even $120.00 / hour during evenings and weekends. Considering I’m usually sewing in the evenings and weekends, asking for $30.00 / hour (when the plumber is making $120.00) seems completely acceptable to me! You have to make your own judgements here, but my sassy ass is worth more than $10.00 / hour.
  • Long-arm services, and times for sewing the binding have not been factored in yet.
  • I have added a 20% profit margin, because otherwise I’m just breaking even. The goal is to make money with your wares, right? (Yes, yes, I know the joy of sewing is all you need to survive).
  • And well, you add it all up (less quilting and binding), and this 72″ square quilt top is valued at $1616.34 (formula calculation error!) $1,421.34 AUD. No value does not equal free.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and to continue the discussion! We Are $ew Worth It!

Linking up with TGIFF and Crazy Mom Quilts!

Molli Sparkles ain’t cheap!

105 Responses

  1. Anne says:

    Wow, it's stunning to see this finished, and I bet it's even better in person. I will forgive your comment about the fugly scrap vomits, but not sure I can forgive your sass about low volume! (I kid, of course)

    That price sheet is fairly mind blowing. I need to stop giving away quilts. Jesus.

  2. Quiltjane says:

    Based on these figures I have given away millions of dollars of quilts over the years !!!! … and I work for less than $3.50 an hour.

  3. Charlotte says:

    that is fascinating. First, it is a beautiful quilt and I love the concept. Secondly, if I ever sell anything ever again I am going to charge a boat load more and work it out properly. Thanks for sharing – real food for thought

  4. Am L says:

    Martini's aside, we are kindred spirits on the scrap vomit & low volume over-kill fronts. This must be gorgeous in person, because it is beautiful here. I'm in accounting, and would argue your hourly rate is your "profit", but I would also say your rate is too low. I don't know about the Australian tax system, but in the US, you automatically pay 15% in self-employment taxes, plus income tax, so $35-40/hour is more accurate. That rate makes up your 20% profit rate.

    • tricialee says:

      The accounting side of me said the same thing about the profit margin, lol. Seems like double dipping, by taking both a wage and an extra 20%. The quilt is beautiful and way too many people sell quilts for too little so it is always nice to see a breakdown like this.

    • Kari says:

      I'm not an accountant but I'm pretty sure all businesses need a profit margin, not just a goal to break even to pay for time and materials. That goes towards costs like machine maintenance and upgrades, hours working that aren't directly on a project, utilities, etc. In any case, it is hard to place a value on a creative work and even harder to make any sort of living making quilts and selling them.

    • Arthur says:

      There has to a profit margin over and above the labour rate charged. If there is not, then you're simply working for wages, and not even getting employment benefits for doing it (Factor in holiday, sickness, pension, social security, etc and that $30 starts to diminish real fast). Any business that only covers it's costs is a failing business. There has to be a profit margin as well, or there is no business. Consider if you got really busy with commissions and you had to hire someone to do the excess work. You'd be paying them the hourly rate you're charging and you'd be making not one red cent from the additional business. Plus you'd still have all the employment costs, additional overhead, etc to cover. That is what the profit margin is FOR. Any 'accountant' who think otherwise is no accountant I'd want anywhere near my business.

    • Auraprez says:

      There has to be profit to cover the hidden costs – electricity, maintenance, etc. – then when those costs are subtracted you get net profit after expenses. 20% is probably not enough and should be more like 30%.

    • Wendy says:

      They're called overheads and are classed as part of the cost, they don't come out of the profit. Profit by definition is the money made that doesn't need to be used to pay anything at all. You have profit before tax and clearly tax comes out of that, but profit after tax is… profit.

  5. Kerstin says:

    Oh, I'd love to see this stunner up close and personal! And I just also realized the millions of money I gave away…

  6. Vera says:

    Feeling much better than I'm not the only who got hurt during the scrap vomit fever. Vomit in low volume is quite acceptable for my eyes. It's quite interesting to see the quilts from this perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  7. hydeeannsews says:

    about 15 years ago, I naively and excitedly visited an amish market in the northeastern u.s., hoping to get an authentic amish quilt. I knew I could buy "handquilted" patchwork quilts in department stores for about $100 – $150, but didn't really know what exactly that meant (prequilting days) although I did understand that the handwork was done overseas, likely in asia, on the cheap. so I figured an amish quilt would be more expensive, but not too far out of range. I took about $250/$300 cash with me. and quickly found out I was way off. all the quilts I saw in the market were in the $700/$800 range. I was crushed and wiser. apparently the amish know how to value a quilt properly. also, this summer I saw a beautiful, queen-sized, japanese sashiko quilt at a farmer's market in the seattle area going for around $1000. so there are definitely quilts out there on the pricey side.

    as for your estimates, I think maybe the design concept fee is high. does it really take you 8 hours ($30/hr) to figure the quilt out?

    also, are you charging for only the fabrics you actually used on the front or for everything you bought to use? your top fabrics called for 9 yds and your back only 5. surely you have some scraps leftover from this.

    there are definitely ins and out to be figured and that could be debated several ways. once you add your long-arm services and binding fee in, i'm pretty sure you'll be around $2000. this does seems on the high side for a medium-small quilt. but it just goes to show how much value is really in these pretties.

    by the way, i'm a full-time, homeschooling mom. i'm worth way more than I get "paid", too. most people couldn't really afford me if they had to write out a check for what I do. the mr and I agreed in the beginning I was worth half of whatever he made, just to keep it even, because we are equal partners in this venture. fortunately, my investment is going into my 7 children and that can't be measured anymore than my value as a mom. =)

    beautiful quilt and fun discussion!

    • You would be surprized about design time. I have spent more time picking fabrics and doing layout than sewing on some quilts. I haven't made quilts to sell, but I have made tote bags, placemats, etc. It is very hard to get what thay are worth, I just hope someone who can afford to pay will come along and want these. I just want some spending money. Is that too much to ask for?

    • I sell some of my quilts and I'm sure I do not get "what I'm worth" for them. I love your comment about your worth as a stay at home mom. We make choices in how we spend our time and sometimes I think quilters get a little too prideful of their creations and time spend creating. If you can market your quilts for what you think they are worth, go for it. But if you just love to make quilts and would like to sell them for enough to be able to make another one, that is fine, too. Do what you love and love what you do. They money is secondary.

    • Judy MacLeod says:

      I have a commission now in this price range and have already spent 4 hours on research and the layout/design of the very center of the quilt. I haven't begun to think about fabric selection yet or the rest of the layout. 8 hours for design time is nothing in a custom quilt.

  8. Adrianne says:

    Love the work you're doing around making people aware of the costs that go into making a quilt and their true value. TBH, knowing the amount of work that goes into making a quilt, I think $1,600 sounds cheap. I'd love to see this quilt in person – maybe you can send it on tour. It's definitely a statement quilt!

  9. Melissia says:

    You may want to check out crazy mom quilts. She is currently selling some of her quilts online. That may give you a comparison.

  10. charlotte says:

    Great quilt top. It is very elegant looking to me. I can't wait to see how you end up quilting it. I am glad we are finally looking at the cost to make a quilt realistically. I think the next time someone asks me to make them one, I will just show them your post. And yes, we are SEW worth it! Thanks, Molli!

  11. pennydog says:

    I love that you don't follow the trends. I made a brown quilt recently because at the moment it's cool to hate brown. I love your white quilt and totally agree with charging what you are worth.

  12. Sheila says:

    Fabulous,Call it art Josh and you can treble the price, at least. Our Quilt valuation committee puts a per hour cost of $20.00 per hour on making a quilt. My Flower Garden , hand appliquéd and machine quilted by me, was last year given a replacement value at $3, 200. ( Not much for 18 months work). The design and planning work for your quilt was already done by Bonnie Hunter, as it is a free pattern on her website. The white on white concept is unique to you, but to add on $250 is a bit excessive IMO. I believe there is a small error in your spreadsheet. On line 2 of "Production you have estimated $135.00 for 1 hours work . Although this sounds as if i am nitpicking , i cannot but agree with your estimate of the true cost / value of a hand made quilt, I don't make quilts to sell, but i do want them to be valued by those i choose to give them to. Keep on challenging yourself and us as you explore this addiction called quilting

    • Cindy MW says:

      I agree, with the Pattern being Bonnie Hunters and that the $250 is a lot for borrowing someone else's pattern.
      But, I can't find any amount in the Production being for 60mins of work amounting to $135.00
      Line 2 of production clearly marked as 60 mins, being 1 unit and has been charged accordingly at $30/Hr.
      Molli, I do love the breakdown tho and as a sewing Machinist for a living, I WISH I could get anywhere near that, AM I WORTH IT?, hell yes, but I am never going to get it.
      I will just have to keep reading you blog to see if you have by now got this actual figure.
      I do love your Quilt Joshua.
      Cheers, Cindy.

  13. I have to disagree with some of your pricing points; and agree with hydeeanesews' comments above –specifically about the design and concept and charging for the fabrics used. I feel that it's overpricing by charging for fabrics you've not used, regardless if the piece was bought with a specific project in mind. If I buy something from a store, I won't pay full price if it's broken or missing pieces (so to speak) so it seems a bit much charging for a full fat quarter if the majority of that fat quarter is 'missing' as you've only used a couple of strips from it.

    I also find your hourly rate a bit much for the job at hand. We all deserve more than what we do get, but realistically, considering textiles/seamstresses etc aren't on the highly paid list and I find $30hr to be an extremely good wage (!!), a casual employee basis of $18-22 is probably closer to where I would think the wage should be if you were to charge for your time per hour.

  14. This is so fascinating! I am so glad you are tracking the costs for this. (Frankly, I think you could write it up and shop it out to a magazine.)

    I wonder if the reason "we" sell our quilts for cheap is that Western society seems to have a hugely screwed-up system of valuation for art and artists in general. Rarely is someone who makes or writes beautiful things compensated properly. For all the emphasis the English-speaking world places on beauty, we're never willing to pay for it.

    You cheated yourself on thread and binding I think. Will batting be added in the longarm expenses? And I often spend more on backing!

    Finally, the top is stunning. It turned out so beautifully! So much texture in the different whites.

  15. Paula says:

    Wow. The finished top is every bit as stunning as it promised to be from the sneak peaks you have posted to date.

    When it comes to cost I do wonder if it is ever possible to put a true cost on such works. In pure commercial terms does the real monetary value of a quilt comes down to what the maker is willing to sell it for, what the buyer is willing to pay, or what it actually cost to create? In your costing excercise the single largest cost is really related to the hourly rate charged and how much work is involved. How this rate is determined will always be a point of conflict. Should it be comparable to others in the sewing profession, and if so then whom? Should there be a ranking according to the skill level of the quilter, according to their popularity/acclaim as a designer/artist? I very much doubt there will ever be any real agreement on what exactly it should be.

    As a hobby quilter I rarely make quilts for sale. Those that I have made have been favours for family and one close friend and I have just I charged the full cost for all of the materials I had to buy to make the quilt (whether I use them all or not) and a nominal fee on top of that. However, were I to make quilts specifically to sell or on a comission basis I would consider doing so a job and would charge considerably more for my time, probably still a flat fee, but one related to the intracy of the quilt in question.

  16. Laura says:

    You're just a leeetle bit scary….

  17. This is one of the most helpful/useful blog posts in our community! Thank you so much for putting this concept down so clearly.

  18. I say Hell. To. The. Yes! on the silver metallic thread. Great idea! In regard to your pricing…if we lived in a fair world, I'd say you should get more for this quilt because it's not only stunning, it's unique. A lot more, actually. But the world is not fair and handmade items are sadly so undervalued. That's why I tell most people they can't afford me. 😎

  19. Sheryl says:

    I so appreciate the breakdown you're giving on the quilt costs here. Because while my sewing is something I love to do, I could never bear to part with it for barely more than the materials costs … and outside of a few designers that seams to be what most people are selling their quilts for. Gifting is one thing, but putting all that love into making something and then selling it cheap seams a bit of a tragedy to me.

    Also speaking of the quilt itself, the all white is wonderful. It sort of glimmers and hints at all sorts of texture and contrast and I'm sure the fabric must look even more amazing in person.

  20. I love a statement quilt, and this one makes so many! It is gorgeous, and it drives home a point that anyone who has tried to make an honest buck sewing has had to deal with. Thank you for hosting this conversation. You are a great advocate and a true artist.

  21. Jenn says:

    Amen to Trip Around the World vomit (I get car sick) and still haven't really hitched a ride onto the low-volume craze….

    Love your No Value, it's stunning! And silver thread? Mmm… Thank you for taking the time to document this process. I made a quilt for my husband's boss and one of the coworkers wanted to know what it was worth. I just looked at her and said, "Five hundred, a thousand, somewhere in there." Turns out it was closer to $1500 (USD). Awesome.

  22. I'm liking the silver thread idea…

  23. Aoife says:

    I've only recently started thinking about monetary value and quilts, and I've been reading (and nodding emphatically) to all your posts on this quilt. When it comes down to it, I still hesitate to big up my skills. Maybe I need to make a quilt and then use it and wash it till it's feeling like its been on Spring Break for a year and see how it holds up. Reduced to threads or still as hot as ever?

    Btw, yes yes yes to the silver metallic thread! Yes. (And you are not wrong about the scrap vomits!)

  24. Taryn says:

    The quilt is a stunner! I bet it looks even more fabulous in person. I love the idea of silver thread. Adrianne is right, you should send it on a tour when it is finished!

    You are so awesome for doing this breakdown! I especially like how your broke down the task list. I don't think most non-quilters realize how many steps there are and how many of those steps don't involve sewing at all! I actually don't see it as overcharging to not subtract the exact cost of scraps. I just made a king-sized twister quilt which created a TON of scrap, but that is just the cost of picking that design. If I had to pay out-of-pocket for the fabric (collegiate, ugly, will never use again, etc.) that didn't end up in the quilt, it would have not have been worth it take on the task. Though I don't know if that is much of an issue with these Scrappy Trips. The seams on those teeny-tiny squares take up a bunch of yardage! Charging for creative work is so hard. I thought quilts would be easier to price than graphic design work, but that couldn't be further from the truth!

  25. I have loved this quilt from your first mention of the concept! Your thoughts on valuation are fascinating. I got to meet a quilter last week who won a $200,000 prize at an art contest this year! That's more like it if you ask me.

  26. Andrea Q says:

    I imagine that the scraps from the fat quarters are going to be used as binding? If so, the material costs seem accurate, except that you haven't included batting as a line item (though it may be included in the long-arm quilting cost).

    Love the metallic thread idea!!

  27. Katie R. says:

    Most of the people commenting on here don't know what they are talking about. $30/hr is a perfectly reasonable wage for a designer, especially a fashion designer. How much do you think Calvin Kline, Hugo Boss, and Tommy Hilfiger make? And everything TH sells is red, white, and blue, ha! Also profit margin and wages are not the same. Wages go to an individual, for whatever an individual wants; profits are for the business, and things to help with that. That being said, her calculations are too low. The cost of the sewing supplies, machine and machine upkeep, electricity, etc should also be included in the calculation. Also, when calculating prices for supplies, you always use the regular price of the items, not the sale prices. Your costs need to cover buying more of the same material to make another, exact same quilt, and you may even need to allow for prices going up.

    Beautiful quilt, though!

  28. Jeannie says:

    Hmm, I don't charge design fees unless the client requests a unique piece to never be replicated (if I'm going to make twenty of them in different colors and sell them, then I don't feel right charging a 'design fee' for this one). I charge my time at $12.00 per hour for quilting, but for stuffed animals I bill out differently – I spread the cost of my time over batches, since I rarely make one at a time. For example, my little elephants take about 40 minutes to make if I'm making one at a time, but if I'm working in batches I make about 5 an hour, just because I'm doing small repetitions of steps. My quilting work I charge by the square inch ($0.10 per) plus materials, plus hourly, plus a 25% overhead/profit. So a 6' by 14" growth chart usually comes out around $125.00. For extras I add on small fees – my most design intensive one came out at $240. Then I make a large hippo (33" from nose to tail) that takes me about three hours, $40 in materials, and I sell them for $190, because I use a completely different formulae for large stuffed animals. My husband (the accountant) helped me work out a system that works for me, that results in my projects usually selling at shows the first time around – I like to take into account that I don't want to haul products home with me. 🙂

  29. Toye says:

    Thank you for the breakdown! A co-worker tried to volunteer me to make a quilt the other day for her friend. For $350! What the fuck was she thinking? I told her there was no way. My time is way too valuable! I think also I'm not ready to do commissioned work. I don't like feeling obligated to make something I probably won't even like working on. I'm totally worth $30 per hour plus pofit.

    • Samantha says:

      If close friends or family ask me to make them something I will charge them material cost plus $50-$100. If anyone else wants me to make them a quilt I make them pay. Usually for a lap quilt 60"x60" I charge from $325 for a simple quilt on up depending on difficulty. I also refuse to be "volunteered" to make anything since then I never feel like working on it and I don't get it done when it is supposed to be done! Just as well I suppose because then the people involved won't ask/tell me to make them something again.

  30. Nice dream….good thing I am retired and getting used to a limited income!

  31. Lyric says:

    I'm speechless! I am also a newbie to quilt making as in literally just asked a girlfriend to school me about two weeks ago. She got me started cutting the 2.5" strips for my first scrap quilt.

    I followed a link to this post via FB and the poster there mentioned how expensive a hobby quilting can be. As an unemployed person I therefore will be reaching back to times past in making my quilts; i.e., sans rotary cutters, self-healing mats, plethora of rulers. Geesh, I simply want a quilt, not a Gucci.

    • Banaghaisge says:

      That is false economy if you plan to make more than one quilt. I bought my rotary cutter, self healing mat and ruler in the US in 1987 before quilting even was invented in Australia (haha) and over 300 quilts later I am still using them (with, however, a new blade or 100 along the way :).
      And it is also false economy to take all the time (see above) to make a quilt from op-shopped clothing that has already been worn and washed 50 times if you want to make a quilt your grandchildren will still be admiring.
      One of my friends was very poor and she bought new pure cotton sheets, and dyed them when she started quilting. And made stunning quilts, too!
      Additionally, hand cutting by scissors hundreds of pieces of material will quickly lead to inaccuracies and RSI.
      Bite the bullet – buy the biggest self-healing mat you can afford, a 6"x 24" ruler and a rotary cutter. It is a GREAT obsession to have!!!

    • I disagree with Banaghaisge on reusing fabric for a quilt. I think it is a great way to start if you don't have the money. It is quite an experience to cut with shears and a template like people use to do and it makes one appreciate the work ing old quilts more. If you really like quilting then invest in supplies. Lyric, It might be good to have your quilting friend help choose the clothing to recycle. Do look for all cotton and very gently worn. I wore out my quilt that my grandma made from old clothes and the white from old shirts that had been bleached wore out first. Reused is a good way to go while practicing the basics and tomake yor mistakes with instead of expencive fabric.

  32. Serena says:

    I agree with an above commenter about your profit coming from your hourly wage, and not an extra fee on top of everything else. My husband is a painting contractor, and that's how he makes his profit. If he underestimates the time a job will take, his profit will be less. I think that $30 per hour is completely reasonable, if not low, for the type of work you do and skill you must have to make a quilt. At the same time, I guess it's six of one, half dozen of the other on how you figure profit: higher hourly wage vs lower hourly wage + profit on subtotal.

    Regarding materials, though, I disagree with those who say you should not be charging for a full fat quarter or whatever if you've only used a tiny strip. If a material is purchased for a project, the cost goes into that project. Just because a little bit was used doesn't mean you're getting the rest of the material for free. My husband might have a gallon of paint left over from a five gallon bucket, but he doesn't get to return that gallon; he still had to pay for it, and it is part of the expense of the job, and was usually tinted for that job. Of course, he does his best to keep the cost of materials down and buying with his contractor's discount is part of that, but that doesn't necessarily apply to a quilter. With a quilt, I think that specialty materials are going to be more the norm than the exception. The only thing I can think of that would be a 'normal' material that could be bought in bulk would be batting, and even that could be specialty–wool, or extra thick, or something. If it's a custom quilt, the purchaser could stipulate that they want all unused materials purchased for the project, but partially used materials should always be charged for the full piece's actual price paid.

    Regarding pricing of handmade things in general, whether someone is willing to pay an appropriate price or not really depends on how knowledgeable they are of hand-crafted items. I recently knit a shawl and have gotten several inquiries about how much I'd charge to knit one to sell. The materials cost for the shawl was less than $50 (with some yarn left over, but I'm counting every bit in the cost! 🙂 ), but I wouldn't charge anything less than $200 to make one. It simply would not be worth my time. Even at that price, I'd be making less than $10 an hour.

    • Serena says:

      I'm so sorry, I didn't realize my comment had gotten so long! The 'preview' is very misleading with having to scroll.

    • Jenelle says:

      That's true about wage…for a contractor of services where the contractor is not making money on transforming raw goods into a tangible, improved product. The customer of a service contractor, like a painter, is paying for the expertise of the contractor itself (materials are usually paid for at cost). Mollie is a producer or manufacturer (in the most stripped down sense) of a product. The product itself is the good being purchased, not the service of making the quilt. Also Mollie is essentially hiring himself to make the quilt, so the wage is figured in as a distinct cost in the production of the product. Mark-up is added after adding up all the production costs to ensure a profit. The wage rate (essentially just a cost in making the product) and the profit margin are thus two very different concepts. I know this might sound kind of technical, but the two business models, service and production, really operate very differently. I think that might be where some commenters are having questions. I hope this helps!

  33. Teddi Taylor says:

    There are MANY other costs associated with determining the value of this quilt depending on how you were to sell it as well: Time searching and shopping for the right fabrics, thread, etc? The capital costs and maintenance of your sewing machine, iron, pins, all the other things you own in order to make this quilt? Time sitting at a craft sale waiting to make a sale? Time creating posts like this? Time taking and editing flattering pictures of your quilt for internet sales? Time loading all those pictures and writing proper descriptions for your online shop? I disagree that your wage is your profit. If you were a business paying someone else to make quilts for you to sell, you would not get to count their wage as your profit. It is NOT double-dipping. And in fact, your 20% profit is nowhere near enough to cover all the additional expenses of running a business and the cost of selling this item, if that's what you were to do. I would say the retail value of this quilt is upwards of $3000.

  34. This quilt top is beautiful. So stunning and softly spoken. As for your calculations…it is the reason I give all my quilts away. You can never recoup what you spend so might as well send them out into the world with love.

  35. amylouwho says:

    exactly why I do not sew for money. People don't really want to pay art prices for *handmade* items. When in reality – it's art!!! Thanks for sharing!

  36. What a stunning quilt! White on white fabrics are absolutely to die for, and silver metallic thread for quilting? Yes please!

    This is such an interesting conversation on pricing of quilts. I definitely agree that a design fee should be included, as even if its a pattern or inspiration from somewhere else, you still had to figure out the concept, shop and choose fabrics, and make a plan to complete the project. In my day job, I work at a Marketing Agency and graphic designers get paid by the hour, usually upwards of $45 per hour, to concept and create DIGITAL files for ads, etc. – things that are not even tangible. A quilt like this, or any quilt made by an experienced quilter, is more than "just a quilt" as some commenters said, but its an heirloom, 100% unique, one-of-a-kind, and something that can have value way beyond the point of sale. Bravo for putting a price to your hard work and realizing you are worth it!

  37. Sandi says:

    I love your quilt only in white. I can't wait to see how you quilt it. Your figures are true. If you can look on the Quilters Club of America website, look for Marianne Fons' figures for selling quilts in a video. It's very interesting.

  38. Katy Cameron says:

    Heh, I thought I might be only only one thinking that about the Vomit/Tripping out! No really, fugly at big size still looks fugly in small size…

    I costed a quilt out earlier in the year, and I didn't factor in design time, was paying myself nearly minimum wage plus not trying to make a profit and it still came out at almost £700 o.O

  39. Rachel says:

    I work in finance so instinctively I did similar math for my very first quilt and figured I need to sell the quilt for about 2500 USD to break even. Then I figured I payed hundreds of dollars to put myself through school to make a living in my current profession so I would need a similar investment when it comes to quilting. Now I look at it as initial investment till I can get an advanced degree in quilting:)

  40. Becca says:

    I'm glad you've taken the time to put all of this together for the community. The only comment I can make about the quilt itself, is that as a long-arm quilter, I wouldn't want anything to do with metallic thread no matter how beautiful you think it will be. Granted, this could just be a hold over from some horrible metallic thread in my past, but I still cringe thinking about all the thread breakage that could happen. Although, I did just do a quick poke around Superior's site and I think they have something I would be comfortable trying.

  41. Jane S. says:

    Beautiful quilt, has lots of texture but is still soothing to the eye. I appreciate that after seeing the riot of colors that so many Trip quilts have!

    I don't have any problems with how you've priced your work. If someone doesn't want to pay the price, they don't have to buy it!

    It's a shame that many people don't think handmade can equal art. Quilting is still considered "something Grandma used to do" so therefore it can't have value other than sentimental value, right? Pshaw! Just because something is made in "spare" time doesn't mean it's worth less, you know?

    Selling something at a low price can put into a buyer's mind that it is a low value item. Women in particular seem to have difficulty putting a fair and marketable price on things that they make. Is that because men are thought of more as the breadwinners? I don't know. Just seems like men are more comfortable putting a price on their time than women are. I appreciate getting a good deal on a handmade quilt but not at the expense of a woman selling herself short.

    Thanks for this discussion topic, it has been really interesting reading everyone's comments!

  42. Angie says:

    I just finished a T-Shirt Quilt which was my first for my daughter. When I consider the research, 2 quilting classes,batting, designer backing fabric, a walking foot, threads, binding fabric, my sore hands from hand stitching the binding and on top of this my time…..I decided that I could not put this kind of investment into something like this unless it was for someone I loved dearly!

    And the white quilt is beautiful and worth every bit of the expenses you have listed.

  43. I feel your pain. I have a 48×72" quilt hanging on my wall that I wouldn't charge less than $5,000 for, also known as, I'm never going to sell it. You can see it here if you want. And I love how this quilt looks. I've always loved tone on tone prints, and the white on white is beautiful. I'm sure that the photos do not do it justice.

  44. Pip says:

    Your quilt is stunning and I say YES to the silver thread, I totally agree that $30 an hour is a reasonable rate for making a quilt.

  45. Renee says:

    I made a queen size quilt for my brother this year (as a birthday gift), and kept track of my expenses along the way. By the time I was done with the quilt top I was up to $800–and that was assuming only $15/hr. I easily doubled the price/value of it with the amount of time I spent quilting it. But you know, I'm kind of kick ass at this whole quilting thing, so I'm sure my time (as devalued as the time of a stay at home mom is) is worth at least the $30/hr you've reasoned…So yeah, that quilt would easily be over two grand. Also agree with your comments on the trip around the world quilts and the low volume (two band wagons I haven't gotten on…thanks I'll walk).

  46. The O's says:

    Love the top, I'd be hitting it with a variegated thread in silvery tones. I have a feeling this is where my inspiration came from for my twist on the MSBHQAL. But I am a sucker for white, it's one of my favourite colours.

    Your costings… I have a friend I do a lot of sewing for and she wants to pay me an hourly rate based on my paid job but I won't let her. Sewing is my hobby and it is mesmerizing to sit in front of the machine and get in the zone and away we go. It is a meditation to me. I never ask for money for sewing I do for her and her daughter but if she wants to pay for the fabric that suits me fine. She always pays me and I feel bad taking the money because I have had some me time and I don't feel I should be paid for that. Once someone makes sewing into a job for me I don't think I would enjoy it as much. Interesting to see what I could be worth though!

    Can't wait to see the Molli special touch on the binding… will that be WoW or a punctuation of colour I wonder…

  47. That's one expensive habit we have! But it's totally worth it – just look at what you've created!

  48. Lee says:

    Okay, honestly, at first I wasn't on board with this "no volume" idea of yours. : ) But now that I see it finished, I'm picturing how amazing it will look draped over a couch in a sleek, modern, gray-and-white room. Just goes to show that sometimes the things that are really punchy and attention-grabbing in a blog post don't make the best accent pieces in a home!

    Also, great cost breakdown, thank you for doing this. People really don't understand what goes into a handmade quilt, and that's exactly why I don't sell mine. Although I do agree with the commenters above about not taking a profit on your hourly wage. Maybe add 20% profit to the cost of fabric, thread, and other supplies purchased (since it takes time and effort to procure them), but not to your hourly wages for labor?

  49. Rebecca says:

    Look at you , you bad ass getting all technical and controversial with your accounting ledger!
    Love the quilt top very Audrey Hepburn sleek and chic…..and I agree with every word….just too scared to sit down and actually do the math, that's why you Sparkle 😉

  50. Books_Bound says:

    "First, to all of the scrap-vomit, (and let's just be perfectly honest, fugly) versions of the Trip Around the World quilts that hit the Interwebs last year… Secondly, I created my version in response to the Low Value / Volume phenomenon that is still omni-present, and in my opinion, an over-used trend."

    I really enjoy your bracing honesty. 🙂

    I can't decide if I find your cost evaluation interesting, or completely depressing. I guess those aren't mutually exclusive. I view quilting as a hobby, for sure, and that relieves it of its anxiety for me. I've never done a quilt for money, and I think this is why I couldn't, though I'd consider quilting for someone if they paid for all of the materials and weren't bitchy about how fast I got it done.

  51. And this is why I only make quilts for family as gifts, and I also choose who I give a quilt to. I realised a very long time ago there is no profit in quilts or handmade items. Best wishes wendy

  52. Dawn says:

    You and the quilt are priceless – it is beautiful.

  53. Samantha says:

    I gift quilts. I have made quilts for friends at cost plus $50 but only after explaining to them that if they were not my friend they would be paying a LOT more and when I told her the figure her eyes about fell out of her head. I wanted to make sure she knew the true value and wouldn't be telling people I could make them a quilt for what I charged her.

    My formula for what I charge is size of quilt in square inches divided by 1296 (square inches in a square yard) then times 3.5 (materials, front, back and batting including seam allowances) then I tack on a premium per square inch for how intricate the piecing was and then another premium for my quilting per square inch. After I come up with that if I seems to low I'll tack on a couple hundred bucks to pay for my time. Even though at my "real job" I make about $100 a day before taxes and a quilt take WAY more than two, 8 hour days to make! 😀 I think your calculations are low. If ALL quilters who sell their work would get on board with charging what things were really worth then it would be great. For now though I try to be more realistic with what I can actually get, as opposed to what it's really worth. All that said, I've only sold a couple of things and they were at my close friend discount rate. LOL!

  54. this was a great breakdown Molli. Canadian prices are very similar, but the average wage is actually much lower ( about 13/hr) I get requests all the time for quilts from people but once they hear the final cost they back out. It is very hard to explain that I can't even buy fabric for the amount they are willing to pay. May I link to this on my blog? (subsequently, my hubby asked me how much my hobby costs a month. I politely ignored him)

  55. Annie says:

    Can't comment without a quick word about the scrap vomit, low volume issue. Personally I love scrap quilts – I find them more interesting to make and own as the variety of fabrics is a constant source of delight – my motto is why have one fabric when you can have many? Having said that I agree that some of the scrap vomit and scrappy trip quilts are way too ugly, but there are a lot of fabrics I wouldn't give house room either. I suspect that the trend for low volume (or neutrals) in quilts was in part a reaction to all this disorganised scrappiness and in part an attempt by the fabric manufacturers to increase the sales of their more neutral fabrics.

    On to the true cost of making a quilt. Apart from the initial design fee (which I thought was quite high unless you spent eight hours considering many other options before coming up with this one), I am not in the least bit surprised by the cost. I have been asked to make quilts on quite a few occasions and I always tell the potential customer the cost of the materials before I do anything else. I rarely hear from them after that! I occasionally sell baby quilts on Etsy and my prices are high compared to some. I want my work to be valued and treasured and putting a fair price on it encourages this. If, as quilters, we undervalue our work we cannot expect anyone else to appreciate its true value either.

    • rappy says:

      I don't think the design concept fee is high. When I'm planning a quilt, I spend easily 2-3 (if not more) hours in the fabric store agonizing over fabric selection. That time should definitely be included in the calculation, as should the time for sketching the idea, scaling it, and doing all the math for fabric requirements.

  56. Love the quilt, it will be stunning when it's quilted and bound. Love the cost breakdown, you've got it figured, bang on! Now, go pour a glass of champagne and call it a day! You deserve it after reading all these comments! Whew!

  57. giddy99 says:

    You know, it would make an interesting statement to print your final tally and total on fabric, and include it on the quilt label (or as a secondary label), just to get that message out there – what does it cost to make a quilt?? And then sell it to a quilt museum, instead of a private owner, so that others can see what goes into a quilt for all time and eternity. Just a thought. 🙂

    p.s. EXCELLENT choice of the Mirror Ball dots for the backing! 🙂

  58. I love your quilt concept and all the discussion regarding cost breakdown. For me, there is a difference between 'profit' and 'overhead'. Overhead being all those costs mentioned that could be considered 'behind the scenes' – taxes, utilities, tools and supplies – typically it's a percentage added onto the labor + materials cost. Profit is the amount added on above the overhead + labor + materials. Overhead you have to cover in the pricing, Profit is the part that moves your business bigger!

  59. As a professional writer (former journalist and freelancer, current grant writer), I completely understand the issue of under-valued skills. One thing I haven't read about in the comments (although I may have missed it) is the issue of time to learn the skills, and thus relative time to complete the task. I can write in 15 minutes what may take someone else an hour or more. I can structure a narrative in my mind while collecting data, and write in 10 hours what another person would take 30 or more to do. Of course, I've been trained and have done it for 30 years too. And I do have a talent for it. My point is, when you are determining an hourly wage, you shouldn't be penalized because you do it so well you take less time. You should be paid for your hours of training and experience. I think $30/hr is low for a skilled laborer, much less an artisan. Your pay should take into account the fact that you know *how* to do the task – it was a not inconsiderable effort to learn it. Your precision in cutting and putting it together are additional trained skills. Of course the market determines what cost range customers will consider, but just because some people accept a lower fee for whatever reason doesn't mean that a *valuation* shouldn't take into consideration a more reasonable assessment of the skill involved. When you pay a plumber $120/hr, you aren't paying him just to unscrew a blown pipe and screw in another. You're paying him to analyze the situation, identify the problem, know the solution to the problem, and effectively resolve it, in a timely way. Whole other ball of wax from a weekend renovator with a how-to book. Just a few comments on the issue of hourly wage :). The quilt is lovely, and I too completely endorse quilting with silver thread!

  60. Guess you gotta pay the rent ! And the utilities. I have a challenge over paying an "hourly rate" and an additional "built in profit of 20%". I believe you are worth it and I love you took the time to analyze it all.

  61. I saw this shared on FB and shared it, too. If you quilt, you do it because you love to do it (well, most of it). I have made small items like tote bags to sell, but I don't do many, because I really don't like the pressure of needing it perfect to sell. My quilts have only been giveaways and much of the fabric has been given to me. One recipient was so overwhelmed by the gift that he gave me a craft store gift certificate after receiving the quilt so I could pursue making more quilts. He also gave me a book on the topic that I used for the quilt to use as a reference while making it.

  62. Every other year I make a king-sized quilt that is auctioned off to a charity that raises money for Thurd World relief. This year my quilt is made from Oakshotts and Robert Kaufman organic cotton. To say that this is my most expensive quilt to date is an understatement. I pay to have my cousin do the long arm quilting–she is an absolute artist. She only charges me half her regular rate as it a charitable contribution. I haven't added up my actual expenses yet but they will be considerable. I will probably get a "fair market value" contribution value of about $800. Whoever wins the bid will get to write off what they paid minus the $800. I'm not complaining because I know this going in, that I will spend a boatload of money. But I know lots of hurting people will be helped. If I were to place a value on this quilt to sell and keep the money myself, it would probably be in the $3000 to $4000 range. As a side note, the last quilt that was auctioned off sold for $5900–seems about right.

  63. I love this post and your spreadsheet so much!!! Thanks for sharing.

  64. Regina says:

    The quilt is stunning. I can't wait to see it quilted. We all know that we can not and will never receive what we are worth in the marketplace. So quilting for fun is the way to go and maybe "accidentally" include a cost sheet with each gift or donation you make. Tee Hee!

  65. At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna:I agree the money value isn't usually acknowledged. But for me, I love the stress relief-escape of life's challenges in a eco-friendly,healthy way that ultimately enhances someone else's life. There are times I need that full on mind & body escape (altho my shoulders sometimes don't agree) that quilting gives me. The pluses also include the connection that we get with other quilters -includng thru the technology of our world. Love you all and my quilting.

  66. So my price quote of $1500.00 for a king size, one of a kind, custom made, lifetime lasting, heirloom quality quilt is right on the money. I'll be. The reason I quote 1500, is because I don't have to make some idiot a quilt that they will never appreciate! I never costed itout like you did, so thank you!

  67. Patti says:

    People are always asking me to sew/quilt something for them. I always tell them 1. they can't afford me 2. I only sew for people I love and make what I want them to have. Also, it's on my schedule and not theirs since any deadline (i.e. "Oh, whenever you get the time.") becomes a project drop dead date and they must have it immediately. I also need a few hours to ponder the project and decide how to tackle it.
    I am just finishing a queen size hand-pieced, hand-quilted quilt. My husband objected when I told him I am giving it to my daughter. He thinks I need to sell it to recover the cost of the materials….foolish man!
    I agree you need to sell the post to a quilt magazine but they might not want the "true" cost of a quilt published.
    Keep up the good work! I loved this article and your quilt is beautiful, silver thread would look wonderful for the quilting.

  68. Sarah Craig says:

    Any time someone wants to commission me to make a quilt for them, I tell them I will give them a detailed estimate of the cost and then we can discuss it. After discussing exactly what they want, I prepare an estimate similar to yours, including materials and labor for cutting, piecing, quilting and binding. Then we meet to discuss the estimate. Of course, some folks decide not to go through with the commission job once they see the price, but others appreciate knowing how I arrived at the cost and understand that they will have a one-of-a-kind quilt. Those are the people I want for clients anyway!

  69. Emma says:

    I only ever make my own custom-designed quilts, although I do on occasion make variations of my own designs. Designing a quilt can be a long process, with all the decisions, sourcing etc., so I like your idea of a fee for it. But to make things more complicated, I think it would have to be a sliding scale, depending on the size/style/originality/complexity.
    And while I think your hourly rate is reasonable, I don't necessarily believe that fine arts degrees immediately translates to quilting skill such as that which can be gained from years of experience. I do note that you're relatively new to quilting – however, please understand, I am making no judgement whatsoever on your ability or the quality of your work (apart from anything else, I don't believe that can be properly assessed based on photos) so this is merely a discussion point.
    I guess this leads to my conclusion that not all quilts are created equal – myriad factors influence the costs and value.
    If only more people (including quilters, customers, family and friends) were able to both understand and afford the true cost of quilts!

  70. Glad someone out there isn't afraid to be honest about quilting!

  71. Leo says:

    which is te reason why it's a hobby for me – they will only ever go away as presents to people who know a bit about hand craft and actually appreciate it.
    It is sort of the reason why I stopped following large blogs (you aren't quite that large yet) because for them it's all about money sell patterns, sell kits, sell their fabric lines …
    I don't ave any money, for me it's actually easier to sew some place mats with bargain fabric and "give the time" than to buy good ones from a store … This year there won't be any Cristmas quilts I simply can't get any batting at the moment …
    I also don't know if I want to be paid for the quilts … that would be a whole new stress factor, and I'm sewing to have fun…
    I wonder where the rich customers are supposed to come from?

  72. rappy says:

    This quilt is magical, Molli, and the post is honest and helpful. I've come to similar pricing for my larger quilts (they aren't sold, I just tot up the costs and time spent) and it's true–few people would be willing to afford me. I've come to the conclusion that if you want to make any kind of money in this field you have to sell small things that don't take long to make. Sad, because making large quilts is fun and challenging and rewarding, but true.

  73. WOW, I don't look at your blog for a week and come back to this S**t storm!!

    I think you are fabulous… I think there are TONNES of fugly quilts out there, I am afraid I have inadvertently contributed to this mass (tho at the time I think it is fabulous!). So what, such is life… who cares!!!

    What I do care about is that $30 an hour is WAY too cheap… $60 an hour is much better! I don't care if people agree or not, that is my opinion and that is why I only donate my quilts. I would never be paid what I think it is worth. I'm cool with that. Those that have respect for the amount of effort it takes… they will pay. Simple. Fact, there's not many peeps out there like that!

    Love out to you Joshua
    PS… you dished on my town and I didnt even cry about it, not once! hahahaha!!
    PSS… you are brilliant and fabulous and DO NOT change a think about your fine self!

    Bek from the {awesome} Berra!

  74. Firstly I'm not critical of your pricing….. I'm struggling with my own formula. It is really difficult. I think I probably want to earn more by selling more – Which means earning less per item. My quilt and room divider formula is something like material cost (just materials) x 2. Ive struggled with this for two years. This is what works for me.

  75. A list of books to read for the women here, it's all about mindset and recognizing that you are the CEO of your Brand (insert studio, shop, etc., here)
    Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
    Secrets of Six-Figure Women by Barbara Stanny
    The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth
    Wild Money by Luna Jaffe
    Money: A Love Story by Kate Northrup
    The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napoletano

  76. Lisa Gassman says:

    thanks for the info!! I keep thinking I want to do this myself when I make a quilt. I'm in school full-time and work part-time so my quilt-making time right now is hit and miss. Also, since I hand-quilt mine the total would be "outrageous" according to most.I look at it like this; you get what you pay for!! You want quality as well as originality then you should recognize that those take time & effort and should be compensated for. I can spend upwards of 100 hours just on the quilting of a King-size! That alone is worth the price to me. I've had several people ask me the cost of a quilt; I ask them "what size, what pattern" those determine the starting price for me 🙂 At that point most will not ask anything else. Those that get past that point start asking for break downs and I give it to them!!! Fabric isn't cheap; at least not if you want a quilt that lasts! My time isn't cheap either! 🙂

  77. Renee says:

    So I just sold my first quilt, and used your spreadsheet to figure out the value of it (see that here:–thank you for continueing with this conversation! The more people that hear about the cost of materials, time it takes to make a gorgeous, unique piece, the more they will appreciate it!

  78. Jacki says:

    Molli, I posted this on my blog lil red needle box ( giving you full credit. thank you for reminding me that my spare time is worth something.

  79. SewPsyched! says:

    omg, Molli!!! I love the one-up you've given the trip around the world trend! hahaha! And I just want to say that all of these commenters who are nit picking about this and that on your cost analysis are completely missing the point. having read your and April two eighty's posts on being yourself and growing your art, I can see how a newbie quilter would read these comments and be discouraged to ever move forward, to ever have the courage to grow, to give up as not being worthy. By focusing on the particulars of what you charge and why they are seemingly 'incorrect' in the commenters' eyes, these commenters are willfully ignoring the art, the person, the creativity and joy. And why?? To be 'right' at your expense. Now that's not what the quilting community is supposed to be all about. And I hope every new quilter/entrepreneur out there will not listen to such squabbling. But will choose to listen to those who offer support and a means or tutelage to reach their goals. Which was your point. (and btw, of COURSE you would charge a profit!!! You need that in order to turn it around and plow it back into the business,in order to grow; just like every corporation does.) XX!

  80. And this is why I don't gift my quilts, except under special circumstances. Nor do I entertain discussions about commission quilts, particularly when most people seem to want a t-shirt quilt. They fail to understand just how much work would go into such an item, regardless of the provisioning of the t-shirts.

    I know I'm worth the money.

  81. Jeanette says:

    I love the sophistication of your quilt top, Simple, stunning, gorgeous….can’t say enough.
    I also feel your $30/hr is low. I don’t see anything about overhead. Believe me if you spent that many hrs sewing and designing then you burnt that much electricity. And what about space…even if you use your dining room part time, it’s part time use your family doesn’t have. It’s a horrible reality that getting the true price for any handmade product is next to impossible but looking at the costs like this is a good way to have us all rethink what we do today and even how we talk to folks who are interested in our creations. We need to start spreading the word that we do have value and expect others to acknowledge it.

  82. Sharon says:

    I have just seen all these posts and discussion about your pricing. Hats off to you. It just kills me when I hear what some sell their work for. Goodness. I’m a long arm quilter and recently heard someone tell a new group if quilters. ” long arm services are super expensive. They can do a quilt in 15 minutes and charge a fortune. “. I heard this right after I spent one hour on the phone with a customer discussing how she wanted the fabric pieced for her quilt. How about I piece it based on how much fabric you sent me?!? I don’t have a line on my invoice sheet for this time ……..

  1. November 14, 2015

    […] fantastic resources available to read about in the We are $ew Worth it! movement (and the popular Molli Sparkles discusses this on occasion). On the other hand, I have seen firsthand that there are a lot of […]

  2. December 5, 2016

    […] Molli Sparkles – No Value Does Not Equal Free post […]

  3. January 16, 2018

    […] Molli Sparkles’ post about the true cost of making a quilt […]

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