TGIFF – No Value Does Not Equal Free … It Equals $2,252.40.
It’s taken an entire year–literally, to the day–for my quilt, No Value Does Not Equal Free to come full circle on my blog. It all started with a few innocent sample blocks, that bloomed into what I consider to be one of my greatest works. It took a lot of time … and as they say, time is money!
I’m not cheap. If anything, I am a high-class, Rodeo Drive, “I would have stayed for two thousand,” type of girl. (But if any of you would have paid four, you just give me a holla!) This was evidenced last November when I posted a seemingly innocuous post called TGIFF – No Value Does Not Equal Free. In it, I showcased a finished quilt top, made entirely of white fabrics, using Bonnie Hunter’s Scrappy Trip Around the World block tutorial.
My original artist statement from November 2013: “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, [some] fugly versions of 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.”
My hooker boots paraded a bit further down the sidewalk though. I took the opportunity to record the cost of all my materials and track the exact time spent in making the quilt top. I then assembled these details, along with other figures into a costing sheet to tally the cost of the quilt top only. The response was so feverish, I almost Pirates of Penzanced. Once Sew Mama Sew shared it with their readers (thank you!), it snowballed from there. It’s still my most viewed blog post, sparking divisive commentary, and leading to other costing articles about cushions and baby quilts. Overall, a tumultuous, yet blog-changing experience. Suddenly, people knew my name, and were Truth Tea-ing me before I had even put the kettle on. There was so much, loudness surrounding that article (ironic really for a quilt with no volume) that the actual quilt got a little lost.
Let me share a few notes on the finished quilt before we jump into the economics of it all! It contains 36 scrappy Trip Around the World blocks. However, they all use Kona White as their centre, diagonal stripe to give a pure white point of reference. You definitely see its brightness in certain lights. The magnificent long-arm quilting was done by Jane ‘Quilt Jane’ Davidson in Brisbane, Australia. The brief I gave her: masculine, feather-free, architectural, Vogue Living, and include the words No Value Does Not Equal Free. She chimed back: graffiti, over-sized text, circles, and staccato. She really gets me! As one astute viewer remarked at the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair, “This quilt wouldn’t be nearly as magnificent without the quilting.” Slap: I love a good back-handed compliment!
After all the drama the first, and subsequent, costing posts created, I felt I wanted to reference that in the backing. So I created twenty-six friendship stars (#cantwealljustgetalong), using Kona White as the centre, and other whites for the surrounds of each individual star block. I ran these in a horizontal stripe across the entire back, surrounded on either side by yardage of Mirror Ball Dot. I adore how luxe it looks and feels!
For the binding, I used a white tone-on-tone city map print that Alyce of Blossom Heart Quilts sent me from Japan. A city map print for a Trip Around the World quilt–doesn’t get much more perfect than that! Of course I had to include my glitter-flecked binding (GFB); it’s subtle, but it’s there!
I’m completely confident in my costing model methodologies, but if you don’t like my methods, you certainly don’t have to use them. That’s not to say I’m not happy to discuss them, my reasoning, and why I am fabulously worth it. I’d love to hear your ideas, too! If you’re looking for further discussion about the economics of quilting definitely check out Sam Hunter’s many musings about the topic at Hunters Design Studio. She founded the We Are $ew Worth It campaign which also influenced this project. A special thanks to Sam for her work in this arena!
So that’s the history, but $2,252.40 AUD for a 72″ x 72″ quilt made from 1,296, 2.5″ squares? (You want the back, too!) Surely not? Surely so! I’ve used my own Costing Template (free download links at the end of this post) to outline the full breakdown of costs for this quilt. I’ve included everything from artist’s fees to thread. If I ever had any doubt about exact timings or costings of a particular item, I rounded down. Do realise that what you are about to see is how much it cost me to make this quilt in Sydney, Australia, where everything is more expensive than say, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Fear not, I’ve included a US version as well!
So let me explain a few of these things. My panties are already in a wad over in the corner, so don’t get any ideas!
- The Australian dollar is nearly on parity with the US dollar.
- The Design Concept Fee is a one time fee to cover the cost of the artist’s project idea. This also includes time spent on figuring out the project with regards to aesthetics, pre-sketching, fabric choice, calculating fabric quantities, cutting and assembly procedure, layout decisions and general pondering time throughout the project. This charge has nothing to do with the free pattern / tutorial by Bonnie Hunter. If I had created an original pattern / tutorial, the Design Concept Fee would be much higher.
- 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 $15.00 / yard. Purchasing fabric and thread solely in Australia would have increased the supplies cost by approximately $100.00. For the US costing model, I used an estimated cost of $10.00 / yard.
- Fabric for the back was purchased from Craftsy during a flash sale. Michael Miller Mirror Ball Dots in Snow for $6.29 / yard. However, I am of the opinion you should charge full price for supplies, as this is what it would cost to replace them. I have thereby billed it at $15.00 / yard.
- Shipping charges are estimated for various purchases at $50.00 (this is low). I’ve included minor, miscellaneous charges here such as fuel while purchasing fabrics, needles, utilities, and sewing machine maintenance.
- 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. In Australia in 2013, the median weekly earnings for full-time employees was $1,152.00. (That’s from the Australian Bureau of Statistics). Based on a full-time, 38 hour work-week, that equates to $30.32 / hour. To keep it simple, I rounded to $30.00 / hour.
- Remember, this is in Australia. The median wage in your country is probably different. From what I can ascertain from the United States Social Security Administration website the most recently reported 2012 median yearly wage in the US was $27,519.10, which equates to $13.93 / hour. To keep it simple, I rounded to $14.00 / hour in the US costing model below.
- 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. To be honest, I think my ass is hot, and it is worth way more than $30.00 / hour!
- Long-arm services were provided by Jane ‘Quilt Jane’ Davidson in Australia. Her charges are reflected in the costing sheet. She deserves more. (Edit: Some of you savvy readers pointed out that the original custom quilting charge listed seemed low. I checked my invoice, and you were correct! I was looking at the wrong line item on an invoice of three quilts. The quilting price, and full total has been updated accordingly. Thanks!)
- I have added a 20% profit margin, because otherwise I’m just breaking even. Your labour wage, is not your profit margin on the item you are selling. If you were solely selling your services, such as hemming pants, you might build that into your wage. In this case, the wage is for creating the product, the profit is the additional monies charged on all particulars (wages included) to create that product. There is a difference.
- And well, you add it all up, and this quilt is valued at $2,252.40 AUD. No value does not equal free.
For those in the USA, where quilting is nearly a four billion dollar industry, I created a more localised costing sheet for you. As previously mentioned, I altered the fabric cost to $10.00 / yard, and the labour rate to $14.00 / hour based on the most recently documented US median wage. Based on these calculations, your final total comes to $1,546.06 USD. Even if you chose not to charge a Design Concept Fee, and a profit margin, this quilt still cost you $1038.38 USD in materials and labour. Maybe that’s why you have a safety pin holding your boot up!
Download Numbers Costing Template
I’d love to hear what you think! Hash it out in the comments, but please remember to be nice to each other. I’m the only one around here allowed to be a bitch! I’ll be replying in the comments rather than via email for this post to ensure some great discussion happens. If nothing else, know this: When it comes to a quilt, it must be difficult to let go of something so beautiful, so just make sure you take care of you.
Title: No Value Does Not Equal Free
Size: 72″ x 72″
Pattern: Scrappy Trip Around the World, tutorial by Bonnie Hunter
Fabric: miscellaneous whites from around the globe
Binding: hand stitched with Aurifil 50wt, colour 2024 White
Backing: Pieced backing of Friendship Stars using scraps from the front, and Michael Miller Mirror Ball Dot