TGIFF – The Cost of a Cushion

A few weeks ago I had a work colleague request his own cushions for Christmas. He wanted something mid-century modern, and when I showed him the Art Gallery Urban Mod fabric range, we both knew that was it. “Oh, and I am gonna need you to zip me up.” And he wasn’t talking about his sequined gown! Except, I’d never sewn a zipper before. “Oh, and I want you to charge me.” Except, I hadn’t actually sold anything before! I’d obviously put together costing models, but cash had yet to be exchanged.

The cost of a cushion. The cost of a cushion. You wouldn’t think it would be that much, would you? Throw some fabric together, zip it up, lay back, Mai Tai, and relax. Well, I got there in the end, but it is worth a whole lot more than I initially thought.

But first, that zipper! I’m so thankful that I was involved in MsMidge’s Cushion for Christmas blog hop (winners announced here) because I got to see Gemma at Pretty Bobbins show how she puts in a side zip. The first one was touch and go, but once I got my rhyme and reason on, there was nothing stopping me. Scary? Not any more! The world is your oyster and all that!

I used Art Gallery Pure elements for the backings, and a Spotlight homespun for the linings of the top half that is quilted using Aurifil thread.

Some notes on creating this costing sheet:
  • This is for one cushion.
  • I didn’t charge a Design Concept Fee because there wasn’t much to it, and the client had a pretty clear idea about what he wanted. 
  • For the fabrics in the supply section, I converted metres to yards, currency to USD, and only included the quantity of material used, based on width of fabric being 42″. (e.g. There are 1,512 square inches in a yard.  I calculated how many square inches I used of each fabric, divided it into 1,512 to get the exact yardage used). The batting was 92″ wide, so I adjusted calculations based on that.
  • The thread I approximated. 
  • The shipping was approximated as part of a larger order from the United States.
  • I billed for three hours of work. The first one actually took me about five hours: reading the tutorial twelve times, and learning what I was doing. But that’s on me. The others progressively got shorter, but not much less than three hours.
  • For my quilt costing sheet I charged $30.00 / hour because I felt that was contingent on local labour wages in Australia, and on my experience with quilting (14 quilts made). However, this represented the first time I had made a cushion with a zipper, so felt reducing my hourly wage in half was appropriate. The minimum wage in Australia is greater than $15.00 / hour for any job.
  • Contentious as it may be, I still charged a 20% profit margin.
  • The total for each cushion came to $71.70 USD.
  • Taxes are not included, and I bare no claims to knowing what tax laws are where ever you live.
I charged my work colleague $50.00 / cushion, because I still felt like $71.70 was too expensive for what my experience brought to the project. I, as well, am a victim of not valuing myself enough. That being said, I told my colleague what each cushion was approximately valued at, how I derived my costs, and he was still happy to pay $71.70. (May Mary J. Blige bless his soul!) I considered this part of my Christmas gift to him, as well as my own apprenticeship in zippers and cushions, so I was happy not to recoup my calculated cost. 
To note, all things remaining the same, I would have to charge $9.00 / hour for labour, to meet the $50.00 / cushion goal. 
I share all of this with you, my friends, to further illustrate how much you are worth. Maybe you are only making $9.00 / hour, and you are completely happy with that. That is solely your decision. But whatever monetary path you choose, own it, believe it, and don’t settle for anything less because We Are $ew Worth It.
Linking up with TGIFF and Crazy Mom Quilts!
I don’t know if I can afford me!

32 Responses

  1. Paula says:

    Beautiful cushions, and great job on the zippers. Oh and don't forget that the full cost of the cushion should include the filler cost too.

  2. memmens says:

    Love these, what I love more those is your costings and sharing them. I did a commission this week and probably undercharged, I didn't include profit but it was for a very lovely lady who wants me to teach a group of ladies from her church so some of the work is marketing and future work. I completed another commission a few years ago and quoted which was agreed on, I then told her that it actually cost more and she insisted on paying the extra – win, win on that one. Thanks for the food for thought.

  3. Great cushions and well done on the zips! You make very valid points and i hope Mary j blesses you too 😉

  4. Auntie Pami says:

    Beautiful. I've got my eye on some Kate Spain pillows and they so worth it. Very nice job!

  5. Love seeing this! I've been working on a commission quilt and keeping tabs on the time in the hopes of doing an exercise like this too. It's a real eye opener. 🙂

  6. Leanne says:

    Your pillows are lovely, and I wonder if you saved some time by quilting the tops as one piece and then cutting them into two? There is a tutorial for an invisible zipper here: It is beyond easy to install. I think that some people who sew for profit are able to also buy some or all of their materials at wholesale prices, which helps some. I also note that you have not included in any of your admin costs, time spent sourcing materials, making invoices, promoting your business, invoicing and collecting, etc. Having said all that, if one looks about, $50 for a simple handmade pillow seems to be in the market range so maybe the trick is to find ways to reduce the costs and time to make them.

  7. Love these zippers – and when I made my first pillow I have the same eye opening experience. They are certainly not cheap. These are gorgeous and he is going to love having them!

  8. I just made up some pillows for Christmas gifts…and you are right….it sure adds up!! Even using leftover fabric, it is not an inexpensive gift!
    Great job mastering that zipper! They always seem a lot more scary that they really are 🙂
    love the pillows!

  9. audrey says:

    These look so posh. But then, everything you make is posh! I made some cushion covers for Christmas. Can I tell my mom they are worth $71? Each? 🙂

  10. I love these pillows. I practically drooled when the pic popped up in my IG & bloglovin' feeds and I like your pricing structure!

  11. Sheryl says:

    $50 for a cushion cover seems entirely fair – in fact, it seems a little like a steal. It's so easy to forget how much of our time and energy go into this work and if while there's nothing wrong with selling our creations we shouldn't sell ourselves short in the process.

  12. Toye says:

    You so rock! I love these post.

  13. Am L says:

    Wait, so that means the cushion I made for my daughter's gift exchange went well over the $20 max! I did know that, but it was my guinea pig cushion, so I didn't mind. I need to try a zipper soon, hopefully this weekend for more pillows. Merry Christmas!

  14. Katy Cameron says:

    I always suspected those cushions weren't so innocent in the cost stakes ;o)

  15. Renee says:

    These pillows are great! Love the colors together, and the zippers look fantastic! Glad your friend was willing to pay what it was worth–a true testament to how much he values you and your work!

  16. Deb says:

    LOVELY! I need to make some pillow covers and love the looks of yours. Have a wonderful holiday!

  17. Susie says:

    Stunning cushions. Perhaps I'll try a zip now

  18. LOVE the fabric! So much so I made myself a quilt. I have lots of leftovers and need to make a few cushions to go with it. Thanks for the inspiration! I totally agree with your valuation. I recently made a large, complicated quilt on commission and undervalued my time, efforts, designing, etc. I appreciate what you are posting! For me, this is not just a little hobby. To We are Sew Worth It, I say, "Oh yeah!"

  19. Mara says:

    Wow, this is a fantastic post, I was just thinking of trying to sell cushions, so thank you very much for this post. Of course if we changed this to the Greek hourly rate you would see it go down a whole bunch.

  20. mumasu says:

    So, Josh I translated this into English Pounds and came out with £43.89. You can go into any department store and pay this or more for a mass produced cushion here. I think $71.70 is a GREAT value price for this product. So you had to learn how to do a zip, well once you've done one you've done a hundred and you did only charge for three hours and not five on the first one. I do think cutting your hourly wage by half is over doing it a bit.

    These cushions are great, you were commissioned, he was happy to pay, you are both geezers and he would not ask his boss to pay him less if he was given a new task. It's that old confidence bug bear again! Next time they'll be old hat charge $30 an hour 🙂

  21. jeifner says:

    They look great and I'm glad you put a price on them that you felt was fair. I wouldn't be surprised if he came back again for more commissions.

  22. Jasmine says:

    I am glad that you included the information about minimum wage. I definitely think I am worth more than minimum wage! (Which is why I charge supplies plus an hourly wage on commissioned quilts!)

  23. Anne says:

    I always appreciate your eye-opening posts. Much to ruminate on. (I don't have anything more thoughtful to say because I'm trying to sort through my thoughts on it all.)
    Your cushions turned out gorgeous, of course!

  24. Rebecca Bird says:

    Divine squishy squares!

  25. Alison says:

    Stunning cushions Josh. Thanks once again for the costing information, and we are sew worth it! The time and effort we put into making our quilts and cushions do need to be quantified and a fair value placed on them.

  26. Alison says:

    Stunning cushions Josh. Thanks once again for the costing information, and we are sew worth it! The time and effort we put into making our quilts and cushions do need to be quantified and a fair value placed on them.

  27. Thank you for sharing this. A lot of people only price materials and do not pay themselves. What worries me is when I factor it all in, my items are "too expensive" and I am afraid I will sell none. I know quality v. quantity wins, but I am no big name designer and I sell to local moms, because I love creating. It would be great to pay myself the rates I get for the day job, but I can't see it happening soon.

  28. Dominique says:

    Quite the eye opener… I make cushions (pieced, and sometimes appliqued) for my kids to give at birthday parties instead of buying 15$ plastic gifts from big box stores…

  29. I don't know how I just discovered your site. I'm really enjoying you WASWI posts (I'm a big follower of Sam Hunter). I love the way you've laid our your costing. It makes a lot of sense to me. I'm in the tough position of being an Australian who lives in the US, and not wanting to accept a US average wage, but knowing that very few people would pay an Australian average wage. That, and I'm up against people who seem to be selling at very little more than cost price (why, I have no idea).

    I'm not sure that we undervalue ourselves, so much as society undervalues sewing and quilting as skills. If my friends are amazed by anything, it's not that I can put together a quilt with several hundred pieces, make fiddly patterns, or match diagonal seams: it's usually because what I've made looks pretty, and occasionally because they know I've been working on it for months and never thought I'd actually finish it. Far too many people assume the skills we possess are easy to come across, but everything I make a culmination of being able to use a sewing machine for seventeen years, and two years of quilting.

    Everyone is shocked when I tell them how much the cost price (materials and quilting services only) of the quilt is (and I could make them for less if I didn't want custom quilting). It's not information I offer up unless people ask. I occasionally get an offer to buy something at cost price plus ten or twenty dollars. So, apparently my time is worth about $0.02 an hour.

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