You Charged What?!

You ready to get the truth tea on the cost breakdown of my latest quilt, Lost Feathers of an Angel? Thank you to those who fathomed a guess last week; it really showed the dichotomy in how we think about pricing our quilts. It’s a tough one, I know! Until I started costing my quilts, I never would have figured there was so much cashola wrapped up in them. Some of your guesses were way low, and others were spot on the money! (My work here is done! :::shoulder shrug::: Woot! Woot!) 
If I may have a serious moment, let me preface the pricing conversation by saying that I charge $30.00 AUD per hour ($23.50 USD) when I’m making a quilt. Some might feel this is pricey, but I think it sits about mid-range for speciality creative labour, especially in an urban metropolis like Sydney. (e.g. A plumber charges $60.00 per hour). The original values in my costing sheet are in Australian dollars, but they are converted to US dollars in the notes column. Current exchange rate is $1.00 AUD = $0.782 USD, which has held semi-steady over the past six months, so I’ve used it as the exchange rate for the fabrics I purchased in the US late last year. 
Summing up all the components of this queen-sized quilt equals … $3500.00 AUD ($2750.00 USD)!  Can you even believe?! While that might be a bit shocking for some, I’m really not surprised. Quilting takes time. You know I don’t even need to say it, but time is money. The labour charges for this quilt account for about 72% of the total cost. I think I best take out some insurance for my magic hands! And yes, I did add in a 20% profit margin to reiterate that all retail items include some form of this hidden charge whether you think it is fair or not.
Now let’s be clear, I’m not showing you my costing sheet so we can squabble over semantics. You might think my hourly rate is $5.00 too high, or it’s not fair that I charge retail prices for my fabrics when an actual retailer would purchase them wholesale, or that you don’t believe quilters should charge design concept fees because that’s the fun part of the process. What the F ever. The point is that I encourage you to take ownership of your creative economies and know that you’re worth way more than you think! The first way you can do that is start tracking your own costs, and simply showing the true cost of that quilt to the recipient. Imagine how much more they’ll love it when they realise you’ve just spent thousands of dollars on them. (Unless of course they wanted diamonds instead … um, awkward). Anyway, feel free to grab my costing sheets below, adjust them as you want, and see how much money your quilt is really worth.
In an effort to provide full disclosure to my readers, I want you to know I didn’t charge this full amount. As this quilt was created as a farewell gift, I dropped my labour rate to $25.00 AUD per hour ($19.50 USD), and didn’t charge a profit margin. I still showed the recipient this costing sheet though, and it made the quilt feel all the more special and luxurious. Everyone loves a discount! Let me end by saying I’m not telling you what to charge for the amazing things you make, but if you asked, I’d probably tell you that you’re not charging enough.

37 Responses

  1. MareMare says:

    Rock on with your bad self! Love it!

  2. Geez Louise your plumbers are cheap! We get slogged lots more here in the West trying to keep them from going into the mining industry lol! Massive respect for charging what you're worth, it's a damn fine quilt ūüôā

  3. Rike Busch says:

    You are so right! And its not as easy as most people, who don't now about patchwork and quilting, would ever pay. But they pay sooooo much money first other art without loosing a word about it.
    Greetings from Germany, Rike

  4. mumasu says:

    said it before say it again worth every penny ūüôā

  5. Leo says:

    ohh I wasn't too far off indeed … those final numbers are rather impressive – being a student that quilt is worth about as much as a half year of my allowance/income, scary – I have to admit I have no concept of really what that much money "is".

  6. Katy Cameron says:

    I must have spent the bast part of 40 hours already this week just prepping to make a quilt – working out cutting directions, drawing templates and making myself diagrams of the different sections that need to join together. I dread to think how long it's going to take to cut (even with a sizzix for some of the more repetitive bits) and then sew together, never mind quilt and bind, it may turn out to be the most expensive quilt I've ever made o.O It's for me though, so I'm worth it :oD

  7. Steve Turner says:

    Wow – when you see it like that it is an eye opener! There's also rotary blades, machine needles, wear and tear to rotary mat, sewing machine servicing, heating/cooling

  8. Steve Turner says:

    Lighting, property insurance, building rates, council tax etc.. All allowable business expenses to the taxman so should all go on to the customer!

  9. memmens says:

    This fills my heart with joy and words like 'too bloody right'. I have given 2 quotes recently and not heard back from either person, funny that! I sort of want to email them and say 'what did you think?' but I won't waste any more time, after all preparing a quote takes time and you can't really charge for that if they don't take you up on it. I am so grateful to you for sharing this I will be sharing it too.

  10. Thank you Molli Sparkles! I did a small charity quilt last year as part of a fundraiser for a local organization that helps mentor children. Was a bit disappointed in the final bid. Still planning to contribute another quilt this year. Maybe I should put a value on it so people really understand the cost!!!

  11. Auntie Pami says:

    The gift part is priceless. And this is just gorgeous.

  12. memmens says:

    And why the heck not charge profit? Surely that is how many people make a living/can afford to live not just scrape by.

  13. Tiffany says:

    I love this! Your friend has awesome taste and I love that he was willing to pay what this piece of art is worth! It seems like that doesn't happen very often!
    I have to ask your opinion on something, though. Let's say I want to try selling quilts in my Etsy shop (or something similar). Do you think it would be wise to include a cost breakdown sheet in the actual listing for all to see, or is that more like something you would do for a specific customer requesting a custom quilt? I think you are right that people need to be informed about the time/money it takes to make quilts, but I have no idea if it's bad form or not to advertise these things from a small business standpoint – if that makes any sense…

    • Perhaps by putting in a costing breakdown sheet you will be educating both sellers and buyers of actual values of personal work. We are our own worst enemies when it comes to pricing. I recently had a customer who commented that I only charged "x" dollars last time. When I looked up the last time was actually 5 years ago and this quilt is much larger. I now price my work to actually reflect the time and effort needed. If I don't get the job then I work on my own quilts. Custom work at E2E pricing is not fair for anyone.

  14. How wonderful that someone was willing to pay what a beauty like that was worth. You're doing a service to all of us quilters, no matter what the nay sayers might say. You're pushing the value of our work up and empowering us to charge what we are worth, so thank you!

  15. Abso-effing-lutely! And most are given away for love! Good Onya Molli. By the way, where can I get a trade that cheap? Electrician, plumber here in the west…..$110 / hour.‚ô•

  16. Farm Quilter says:

    This makes me feel soooo good! I made my daughter a wedding quilt – king size – where I designed 2 intricate borders and did custom quilting on…someone asked me what I would charge to make another one just like it and I told them $10,000! I told her to insure it for 10K too! We definitely undercharge so much for our quilts!!!

  17. Love the cost sheet. We have found with quilts donated as fundraisers a cost breakdown like this helps with the bidding. You may not come close with the bids but it gives people an idea of what goes into the making of a quilt.

  18. Renee says:

    This is about the same amount my quilts of similar size come out to!

  19. Cheryl says:

    I love this cost sheet, I need to send clients to it when they come to me to start discussing custom quilts. I had someone approach me for a very large lap quilt (almost a twin size), custom made within 2 weeks and wanted "to keep the price below $300". I said that time line was not doable and his budget was 3-4X too low. I hope he found someone else ūüôā

  20. Paul Burega says:

    You rock!

    How can I get you to be my agent?

    Great Quilt.

  21. So well written. You remind us of the kind of worth that is priceless – SELF worth.

  22. JB says:

    This is so interesting! I made some feathers for a bee recently (2 individual feathers) and am trying to recall how long they took me. The fact I can't remember exactly is interesting because I would not have any idea how long it would take me to make 28 sets of pairs (which I think is what I've counted there) if someone asked me to do so. This is why I always end up racing towards quilting deadlines, because I always assume things won't take as long as they do (naive optimism)! I'm sure people who buy homemade quilts are the same, in that they can't imagine how long it actually takes to make one.

    And that's just the time – I note that your supplies costs alone represent a very generous gift. Thanks for sharing this – it's certainly got me thinking about how to be better at calculating realistically how long things will take!

  23. Anna says:

    I would say that "profit" margin could also be billed as "overhead expenses," i.e. wear and tear on the machine and your tools, electricity for ironing, lights, and the machine, water for washing the fabric/quilt (depending on whether you pre-wash or not and whether you wash the finished quilt before sending it out), even rent on your studio space (whether that's part of your house or a separate rental space), etc. There are a lot of hidden costs that go into making a quilt, that most people don't even consider when pricing out a quilt.

  24. Victoria says:

    Excellent post! Thanks so much for sharing this and your cost breakdown, very interesting and well done. Because I tend to work in an improvisational manner, and pull from fabrics that I've had for years, (and often just small bits) I find it difficult to do effective breakdowns of material costs. Over the years I find it more effective for me to do a cost per square inch. I had estimated your quilt to work out to approx. 35-.36 cents per square inch, which works out to $3402 – $3499, so I wasn't to far off the mark!

  25. Amy says:

    I am going to print this out and hand it to everyone who says I should try and sell my quilts (as nice of a complement as that is!), when I breakdown the cost of supplies their eyes bug put of their heads!

  26. Brenda says:

    Just remember that that plumber's charge (around here) starts from the time he/she leave the shop and just manages to make it to your door. Pleased that my estimate was close!

  27. Paula says:

    Love that you share these costing and that you are getting paid properly for your stunning work. Please never stop because this is an issue that people need to keep hearing about and beacue it is inspirational to all the rest of us to stay strong and to charge what we're worth or delcine to make the requested freebies.

  28. Just started following you! Found this pricing post and I think your assessments of costs and the value of time and creativity are spot on. I had a quilt appraised by an AQS Certified Appraiser in 2011. Queen sized, hand and machine pieced, hand embroidered, hand quilted. Appraised at US $6855 due to the fabric and work involved of comparable quality (for insurance replacement cost for entering a show). My "Antiques Roadshow" moment! Thanks for keeping the real costs of quilts and quilting in the forefront of our thoughts; we quilters tend to undervalue our work.

  29. Jasmine says:

    When someone asks for a custom quilt, I begin by telling them how much the supplies alone will cost. Most of the time they have already changed their mind before I mention labor and other expenses. Many people don't realize what quilts are worth. So glad you included this.

  30. How do you keep track of the amount of thread you use? Also, does that include piecing the top, sewing the binding on and then hand sewing the binding? Just curious. I love that you broke this down. I love to crochet and sew and I think I'm going to start doing this for all the items I make and sell and keep a little book on hand at shows for when people ask me how I come up with a price.

  31. AdrienneF says:

    Excellent outline Molli! People who don’t do this truly don’t understand the value we build into fabric as quilters. Our guild had a disappointing result from a charity quilt auction (part of a much larger event over Christmas) – our wonderful local hand-quilting group created a STUNNING hand quilted whole cloth queen sized quilt. It garnered $2100 at the auction (about equal to AUS $). The documented hours of work were – 40 for design, 40 for marking, 180 hours of hand quilting, plus time to sandwich and bind. Cost of materials in the $300 range as well. Obviously, for the next quilt for the event next year, we will be approaching it very, very differently. But we are very proud of that quilt! It is a beauty.

  32. As someone who works as an animator, the hourly rate for quilters is disgraceful considering the amount of work/time involved. For those who are clearly not charging enough, know what your time and value as an artist/craftsman is.

    Very impressed with people in any creative community that can raise these pricing concerns publicly. Thank you for sharing!

  33. Diana Kastelic says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Molli Sparkles! Well done, you are a credit to your artisanal profession. I don’t think I would ever sell a quilt of mine, it takes me waaaaay too long to plan, purchase, design, cut, piece, trim, lay out, baste (ouch! my knees!), quilt, trim and bind to ever consider pricing it too. No one would appreciate it. Better just to share my talents with loved ones only. But your pricing sheet sure comes in handy for those who think they’d like to own one without working at making one… Either they get an appreciation of the art it really is, or an education as to the true price of this “hobby”.

  1. April 26, 2016

    […] recently came across this really helpful article and handy spreadsheet by Molli Sparkles¬†about professional quilt pricing. It’s well worth downloading the spreadsheet and putting […]

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