Cost of craft work

6 11 2011

For my most recent quilt, I sort of kept track of my fabric and thread usage and time and got a BIG surprise:

  • 16x batik fat quarters (@ ~$7 each = $112; offcuts of this fabric made the binding)
  • 2.5 metres backing fabric (@$22 per metre = $55)
  • 0.5 metres yellow border fabric (@$22 per metre = $11)
  • 1 metre blue border fabric (@ $22 metre = $22)
  • 500 metres Superior thread ($15)
  • 500 metres bobbin thread (~$10)
  • 2.5 metres bamboo batting (@ ~$30 metre = $75)
  • Pattern from Four Paws Quilting (~$10)

So, the supplies alone for this lap quilt cost a surprising $310!!! PLEASE NOTE: Australian fabric prices are more than double what people in the US pay. We pay between $22 and $30 a metre for fabric (compared to the US prices of $9 to $12 a yard [2013 prices]), and at least $6 for a fat quarter. Our prices for batting, backing and thread are also much more expensive than US prices.

Time taken (approximately):

  • Choosing main fabrics and ironing them prior to cutting: 1 hour
  • Figuring out pattern instructions: 1 hour
  • Cutting main fabrics: 3 hours
  • Sewing top together: 8 hours
  • Choosing, ironing, cutting and sewing on border and binding fabrics: 3 hours
  • Sewing extra blocks into backing fabric: 1 hour
  • Laying out the three layers and pin basting: 2 hours
  • Quilting on the HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen: 10 hours (some 84,000 stitches!)
  • Final ironing, squaring up, trimming ready for binding: 1 hour
  • Adding binding (all by machine): 1.5 hours

Total time (approximately): 31.5 hours

I didn’t count electricity usage (sewing machine, quilting machine, iron, room lights) or amortisation of the costs of the sewing or quilting machine, or factor in annual servicing for both, or attendance at courses/retreats to learn new techniques.

If I charged $20/hour for the time taken (that’s less than a cleaner makes in Australia!), the base cost of this quilt would be $940 ($630 labour + $310 supplies), before looking at any profit. Adding a 25% profit margin would make this quilt $1253! I just can’t see anyone paying $1250 for a lap quilt.

Let’s do some more sums, assuming fixed costs for the supplies ($310) and a fixed profit margin (25%) but changing the labour rate:

Wow! I’m charging WAY too little for my quilts on Etsy. That said, people still baulk at more than $100 for a lap quilt. As you can see from the above, the supplies alone cost more than $300, without factoring in time or profit.

After all that, this quilt is going to a friend as a gift. That’s my choice.

But I tell you what, after looking at the real costs of making a quilt, I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon. I’d be going backwards trying to compete with some of the prices on Etsy, and would be getting nothing for my time, let alone any profit margin. I can’t see how someone can make a lap quilt and sell it for $100, unless they are getting the fabric for nothing and have a team of slaves elves to help them.

It’s all so very depressing… How can an artist/craftsperson make a living doing their craft? How can they charge a fair price for their labour, so that they aren’t in the poor house, yet the customer feels they are getting value for money?

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Blue, yellow and green all over – new quilt

6 11 2011

Today I finished a lap quilt that I started last weekend. I used a pattern I’d been meaning to try for some time — it reminded me a little of a Gustav Klimt painting.

I haven’t made a quilt from a pattern for ages, so this required a bit more discipline than I’m used to 😉 That said, I did adapt and modify a little… The pattern required 8 different fabrics in half-yard pieces, but I didn’t have much in half-yard lengths, so I used 16 fat quarters instead. All batiks (except the border and backing fabrics, which were cotton). I chose a blue/yellow/green theme and I’m quite pleased with how it came out.

To echo the very geometric nature of this quilt, I free motion quilted the main top with squares/rectangles in one continuous line using a pastel variegated thread in yellow, pinks, greens and blues, then did a sort of curly grass motif in the yellow border with the same thread, and a large meandering stipple in the blue border in a dark blue variegated thread.

When I finished making the blocks, I found I had two left over, so I incorporated them in the back of the quilt. I like that they add a touch of interest to what would otherwise be a pretty boring back!

Click the thumbnails below to see an image in larger size, then click again to zoom in to see the stitching etc.

This quilt is going to a friend, but I kept track of my costs and got very depressed…