Tag Archives: Quilts on commission

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

 

 

 

 

You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, with Commentary

Scene 1
[Setting: small town library reading room. Characters: paint artist and quilter.]
Artist: You should sell those!
Quilter: No one would pay me what they’re worth.

Scene 2
[Setting: quilt shop. Characters: quilt shop clerk and quilter.]
Clerk: For the women who make the quilts we sell, it’s really a labor of love.
Quilter: If I’m going to put that much love into a quilt, I’ll give it to someone I love.

Scene 3
[Setting: quilter’s living room. Characters: professional musician and quilter.]
Musician: You should sell those!
Quilter: No one would pay me what they’re worth.

The End


All three of these scenes have happened to me in the last few weeks. I relate these to you because there’s been a lot of discussion recently about the value of hand-made crafts. I’ll use quilting as my frame of reference, but the discussion surely applies just as well to other crafts.

The question focuses on value. How much is it worth? My take on the question is shaped by my own quilting, but also by my education in economics and my knowledge of the history of quilting.

My quilts are my original designs. A small quilt I made recently had at least 50 hours of work in it, for both design and execution. The value of materials was about $40. That includes fabric (including waste,) batting, and thread, but doesn’t include mileage or search time for the fabrics I used. As a skilled designer and high-skilled laborer, my time is worth substantially more than U.S. minimum wage of $7.25/hour. I don’t work another job now, but the value of my time is the minimum I’d require if I rejoined the workforce. Given that, to charge for time and materials for that little quilt, I’d charge between $1000 and $1200.

Who would pay that? Would you?

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