Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Price Your Quilt

74" x 53" quilt for sale
You'd like to sell a quilt you made, so how much should you charge?
Follow along with me as we consider all the things that go into setting a price. There are some formulas in this post, which can help you explain your price to a buyer. But only you can set the price to ask.

Let's get one thing out the way first...
Your Quilt's Value = PRICELESS
That's right, nobody else could have made that quilt in the way you did. It is priceless, and should only be given as a cherished gift. There is no amount of money that could possibly be equal to the materials, time and loving creativity you put into it.
That said, let's look at what really has gone into your quilt. We are talking about a quilt to use, not an art quilt for the wall.
I will keep the math as simple as possible!

There are so many variables, what we are looking for here is some ballpark figures to guide our final pricing decision. Please feel free to round up those decimals!
You may have receipts for the fabric you bought, and that could help. But chances are that you used some new and some from your stash. It doesn't matter where the fabric came from or when you bought it, the money you'd have to spend today to replace it is how to figure it's worth.
Quilts, Inc.reported in 2010 the average cost of a yard of fabric used by quilters was $9.90 (the 2014 survey of the quilting industry will come out in the Fall). A quilt appraiser will value the fabric today at $11 --13 per yard, more for batiks.
If you have the pattern, add up the yardage required and multiply by an average cost per yard.
Or take the measurements of the quilt and figure the square yardage in it:
Side A" x Side B" = Square Inches 
Divide Square Inches by 144 (Square Inches in a Sq. Foot) = Square Feet 
Divide by 10.7 (SF in a Square Yard_ = Square Yardage of the top...but...
that's just the part you see. Add another 1/3 for the seam allowances (more if you have lots of seams).
Here's the quilt above:
74 x 53 = 3922 sq. inches...  Divided by 144 = 27.23 sq. feet...Divided by 10.7 = 2.54 sq. yards 
(or divide the Square Inches by 1512, which is Sq. Inches in a yard...this is what calculators were made for!).
Add 1/3 more for the seam allowances (in this case 2.54 divided by.84) and we have 3.38, which I am rounding up to 3.5 so my head won't hurt so much. 
Keeping it simple, double that amount to include the backing, and add 1/2 yard for binding, so we have 2 x 3.5 = 7 1/2 yards.
That's $75 in just fabric...for a lap size quilt.

This quilt is right between a Queen size and a Crib, so we need a Twin Batt about 72" x 90".  I just averaged the cost of 5 batts at JoAnn (cotton, poly and mixed) and got $20 (range was $11.99 to $27.99).
How about thread? First you piece or applique, then you sew the top together, then you quilt. Whew!
Aiming at ballpark averages again, let's say $4 a spool...Coats & Clark is cheaper, top quality is higher, bobbin thread (60 wt.) is different, and the quilting thread could be higher, too.
But let's say you use 2 spools to piece the top (including bobbin) and then another 4 spools for the quilting.
That's a very conservative $24 of thread, for a minimal amount of quilting, as in our example. You could easily use 8 spools for quilting.
If you pay a long arm quilter, that entire fee needs to be added to your costs. I did the one above, but it could have cost between $60 and $225 (and worth every penny, as the long arm quilting relieves you of the basting, too!)
So at this point we have $119 in materials, if you do it all yourself. That does not include the thread/basting spray ($6.50) and needles used, not to mention the electricity for the sewing machine...or wear & tear on that machine, rotary cutter (you used up a $5 blade, too), scissors, pins, etc etc etc! Those would be valid business expenses, but for our purposes we will chalk that all up to doing this because we like it. Always remember that a "hobby" is not free, and being an amateur means you do it "for love", not that you are no good at it.

So that's our big sticking point: we did it for love, so how can we charge for that?
But maybe you hated making this quilt (that's why it's for sale), or you've run out of room for more quilts, or you really DO want to make some money (even if it is for more fabric!).
How long does it take to make a quilt?
Unless you've punched a time clock, that is hard to answer! It goes from "X years (your lifetime of experience)" to 20 hours for a small simple quilt to 4 hours for a printed panel you bordered and cross hatch quilted for a baby quilt. 
You chose a pattern, shopped for fabric, cut, sewed, quilted and put on the binding (which, BTW would cost about 35 cents per inch for someone else to do...about $88 for our example!).
So ask yourself: would I work a job for minimum wage? That runs between $5.15/hour in Georgia to $9.50 in Washington, DC, with some cities even higher. In this state (FL) it's $7.93.
Or maybe how much do you pay a babysitter? Probably $10/ hour. How about house cleaning? Angie's List says that averages $25--35 per hour.
Even a "beginner quilter" is not unskilled labor... how easy is it to find "someone who will make a quilt for you"? (see The BUYER below!)
So the minimum cost of labor would be a cheap $100 for that 4 hour job...but you certainly have more than 20 hours put in, a value of $500 at $25/hr. But even at $10 it's $250.
This is why quilts are truly PRICELESS.
So if you are selling, don't just give it away.

Yes, at this point we are quite confused. Too many variables! So let's fall back on a simple formula that has been used with some success:
Cost of materials x 3
That's 1 for the materials, 1 for your labor, and 1 for everything else, which includes your PROFIT...something we haven't even begun to discuss!
Some people will say "x 2" but that means you have left one of those things doubt your profit.
Now for the example quilt (fairly easy and not a lot of quilting) we are talking about a price of $357.
One of the best work-arounds I found was a lady who charges $350 to make the quilt, and the buyer goes shopping with her for the materials, and pays for them! 

And now we come to the other side of this issue. 
Most reasonable people will talk about "fair market value", which means " the amount a willing buyer may pay a willing seller assuming they both have equal knowledge of the item".
Those are my italics, because here's the Big Problem: the buyers do not have equal knowledge. Oh, they are sure they would never be able to make a quilt themselves! But they are also bombarded with  stores selling King Size Heirloom Quilts for $35! Or maybe they have ordered a quilt from a better store online and paid as much as $300... for the very same King Size Heirloom Quilt! The ads love to say "heirloom" but unless you are the grandchild of someone in a Chinese labor camp or a sweatshop in India, these are not your heirlooms. What they are is imported quilts that are made with cheap materials by cheap much do you think a person is being paid for all their work when an item is selling for $35?
Now that very inexpensive bed-covering may be exactly what somebody wants, especially if they don't mind replacing it in just a few years and never, ever being able to clean it.
But the quilt you made will last a long time and will probably survive cleaning, even in a washing machine.
The kids might "use it up" over time, but chances are also good that the quilt can be passed down through many years...and that would make it an heirloom!

You may have been asked to make a quilt and received a shocked reaction when you just started by saying how much the fabric would cost. You may have tried to sell a quilt and been told the price was "TOO HIGH!" 
The example quilt here was for sale last year...and remained unsold at a price of $125. It may be that nobody liked it. It may be that the other same-size quilts for sale were being "given away" for $70. Maybe those quilters were happy to get $70 and don't care about all the rest. Some quilts are priced low because "that's what they go for around here".
Everyone has a right to ask what they want for their quilt, but...
We have to help the buyers understand what they are getting. Even if you sell for a bargain price, they need to know what an incredible deal they are getting. 
Our work will never be valued even near the proper amount of we fall into the trap of believing buyers who think it's the same as the "store bought" ones.
Your quilt is made with better quality materials, with colors and patterns carefully chosen by someone who was personally invested in the making. It is not a mass-produce item.
If someone is offended because the price is too high, then maybe they just can't afford it, or they are unwilling to pay. It is not because you are wrong. 

You bet your quilt is a handmade quilt...even if you used a sewing machine! Handmade that means made with the hands, and that the hand of the maker is evident in the item. Your hands are used for cutting and are on that quilt through every step. It is not a factory product.
I have never been able to set a stack of fabric beside my sewing machine and come back later to find a finished quilt.
It may not be hand- quilted (which actually would put premium on the price), but you have put an awful lot of handwork into the process! Even if it's been long-arm quilted (which is another entire skill set...for another post!). 
Plenty of handmade furniture has been produced with power tools, and a home-baked pie still requires an oven.

When you sell a quilt, tell about all that went into it. The person who's buying it is getting something is the only one there is!...and they need to understand that, even if you ask only a fraction of it's worth.

There are so many other issues connected with this topic, I hope you leave some comments so we can talk some more! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Value vs Color

What would you do with a luscious collection of 20 Jinny Beyer batik fat quarters?
I mean actually DO, after much petting, arranging, and showing off?
I'm thinking of cutting squares, and inserting strips of the opposite value into each one.
So, as a prelude to cutting into them, I decided to sort the collection into two values: Lighter and Darker. 
Then each pile was sorted to run from the lightest to the darkest.
I thought I was doing pretty well until I got out the red plastic thing to look through...and found I did not have a nice smooth transition of values. 

If you've done this, you know who the trouble-makers are: the brights and the reds! I know there is a green plastic thing to look at the reds, but I don't have one. Heck, I had to do some serious rooting around just to find the red thingie! Usually I just depend on my extremely poor vision, and take off my glasses to squint at a set of fabrics.
I made a few adjustments and came up with these sets. On the right is LIGHTEST at the top and on the left is DARKEST at the top.
Light to dark                                  Dark to light

See how that bright turquoise sticks out? But that's where the red plastic "said" to put it!
Then I remembered my little camera has a setting called "COPY", which really means it changes things to black & white...just values, no colors at all. 
Now I could really see this:
Lights                                      Darks
So my camera agreed that the bright turquoise should be moved up to the lighter fabrics.
But take a look at the bottom fabric on each side...they are exactly the same! Which is how running the values in opposite directions on each stack should come out. A quick glace at the first pic, with the colors, sure does have those 2 looking different! Maybe they are in the wrong stacks?

So I just moved a few pieces around, checking with the camera. Sometimes I even had to put my finger on the piece to be moved, as I looked through the lens. When the color is gone, these guys all look alike!

Here's the new arrangement:
Lights                         Darks
Now that's what I call a nice smooth transition!
So what happens when the color comes back in?

Lights                                    Darks
No wonder everybody gets confused by this stuff!
But that still doesn't mean it is not important. You have to take it like all the other "rules"...don't be set by them, just be guided.

This was a very helpful exercise. 
When I start to cut and sew, I'll take the very lightest one (top left) and put it with the dark that is least dark (bottom right). That will make for a good contrast between each pair.
And If I don't like any two together...I'll change them!
I'd like to say a Big Thank You again to Connie at Stepping Stones in St. Simons Island, GA for sending me these fabulous a thank you for designing her Row by Row Experience pattern....
and leave you with an old Scottish proverb:
When the lights are out, all cats be gray!
The cat is always gray at my house!