Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1

Sunday’s post on why I don’t sell quilts struck a nerve and generated some great comments about valuing our work. There are a few things I’d like to highlight, including a few other resources and views.

First, as I noted in a comment, price and value are two different things. Value is subjective and will differ for each person. What I value highly is not necessarily the same thing you value, and vice versa. Price is objective. It is a set amount for which the transfer of goods or services will happen. The transaction happens when the buyer agrees that the value is at least as much as the price and the seller agrees that the price is at least as much as the value.

Second, an essential part of making those agreements is education. Quilters need to be educated on the value of what they do, as many have not thought through all the elements in a cost/benefit way. “The market” needs education, too. Buyers will not buy if they don’t know what went into making a quilt. I’ve read scores of anecdotes about people who didn’t appreciate the value, either as potential buyers or as gift recipients. How can they appreciate it if they do not know? Those of us who do know have a responsibility to educate those who don’t. Maybe we need to talk about words and phrases to use to convey the information.

Third, it seems like there are three types of quilters. This may apply to other arts/crafts, too.

Businesspeople: those who sell and attempt to price their quilting services or products to account for costs, including materials, overhead and depreciation, time, and profit margin.

Non-business sellers: those who sell without calculations of cost and profit.  They may be motivated differently than the businesspeople, or they may not know how to calculate costs, or they may believe their market will not bear the cost.

Hobbyists: those who choose not to sell their quilts, for whatever reason. This is a terrible word to describe this group. Anyone want to offer a more accurate word?

ALL of these are valid positions. I read a blog post from a woman in the second group who sells on Etsy. She doesn’t care a lot about getting paid for her time.  She said she gets a thrill out of the sale, she loves quilting, and she wants to earn back enough to buy more fabric. Her motivations are not the same as mine, but she has a right to her value-calculation, whether or not I agree with it.

Many of those who choose not to sell, including myself and many who commented here, make that choice because to us, the value of the quilt is greater than a price we could command. Maybe the high value is because of sentimental reasons, or maybe we’ve actually done that cost calculation and believe price would come up short. That’s okay, too.

But for those who want to sell quilts and be paid “fairly” for all costs including their time and a profit, knowing how much to charge is confusing.

It’s easy to think of materials that go into a specific quilt, but there’s a lot more. These can be broken into direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are the materials and labor that directly go into a specific quilt. Indirect costs include overhead of space and equipment, or other costs that are harder to attribute to a specific quilt. All of these need to be included to objectively value your quilt.

If I go on, this post will be really long. To keep to one topic at a time, I’m going to break it up. Look for Part 2 tomorrow. I’ll talk about what costs to include, and how you might price your work to incorporate all of that. 

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs






15 thoughts on “Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Selling quilts: What I’ve discovered so far |

  2. Pingback: Quilt Value and Price | The Snarky Quilter

  3. KerryCan

    You have me thinking about all this. I still can’t imagine selling a quilt I made but I may someday sell my weaving–I need to think about pricing that will be fair to me and other weavers, and will honor the craft itself.

      1. KerryCan

        Honestly? I looked at the going rate for similar chocolates on Etsy and just picked a dollar amount. If I took the time to figure out what I’m actually clearing as “profit” after the cost of ingredients, packaging, and my time, I’d never make candy again, I think. And there are tons of people selling candy on Etsy for far less than I do!

  4. Lisa in Port Hope

    I wanted to add a comment to your series about comparing to other artists. My husband is a superb saxophone/clarinet player, and strives to do an excellent performance, but it is not his full time job. He has been offered $500 for a small-town theatre show in April. His expenses would include transportation, some meals, and nominal wear and tear on his instruments. His sunk capital costs are 2 instruments worth over $3000 each, plus his skill and talents. This show is of course on the weekend, so he is giving up 3 weekends, plus 3-5 evenings prior to the first show for rehearsals. So this stipend probably works out to $5/hour or less. It’s another example of how the reimbursement is in no way sufficient compensation for many artists. (Audience tickets would be $26).

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      This sounds very familiar. I grew up in Peoria, IL, which had a very active amateur theatre community. Almost everyone was volunteer — all the actors, most of the crew… But our musicians were union and were paid scale. It was the right thing to do. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’d read (and liked) your post before, but it was good to re-read. Also I’ve seen Fallert’s calculations and appreciate her answer there. Without really thinking it through, most of us would miss including a lot of the expense of making a quilt. I’ll have a few more things to say about this before I’m done. Thanks for linking your post. As I said, it was good to read again. STILL valid!

  5. pamelajeannestudio

    I don’t normally sell quilts either. I do longarm quilting for other quilters–who understand the value of my work. But you are right, it is very hard to get non-quilters or non-sewers to value what we do. They have not even a clue as to the cost of materials–especially if they think of what we make as a “blanket” or a $30 quilt from Walmart. I have gifted quilts to family members but only after they have been well taught the value of my work. I have also donated quilts to school auctions only to have them bring less than the cost of materials. Just not worth it.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, fortunately I heard that quilts at auction do badly before being personally disappointed that way. And generally my gifts to family and close friends have been well-received and much used. But I doubt they understand dollar value of materials or have a clue about the time involved. I’ll need to work harder at that. 🙂

  6. Debra

    My mother-in-law quilts. She has given us a couple of quilts now and I think of them as the most precious objects we have. I think of all the HOURS of labour, the time and love in carefully selecting the colours and fabric and I am blown away by her generosity. As a person who is terrible at sewing I understand just how difficult this art form really is. Her quilts are priceless. But if she were ever to sell one I would hope she would get a fair price — like fine art fair price or art gallery fair price.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      This is a wonderful comment, Debra. Thanks for sharing it. I can only suggest you take 5 minutes and write her a note, telling her the same thing you just told me. One of my favorite gift recipients is my son’s best friend. In the last 5 years he has told me SEVERAL times how much he loves and uses the quilt I gave him for college graduation. Guess what… he’ll get another quilt someday! 🙂

      1. Debra

        Oh, I have told her many times before but I can do so again! They really are just so amazing and so beautiful. It is kind of humbling really to receive this kind of gift.


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