Tuesday, February 17, 2015

(Why) Are you paying too much for your quilting?

EDITED - Updated Link

I have come under fire for my quilting pricing before, and I will most likely be under fire again for this post.  I do not charge the 'going' rate for my long arm quilting.  I love what I do and I am lucky enough to be able to do it.  With that being said, here's what the quilts at my house look like. Take a few moments to click on the photos and read the captions.

As you can see the quilts at my house are very used and loved.  Just everyday quilts that we love.  This is the way I want it, this is the way I love it.  

Now let's talk numbers...

My rate for quilting is .01 per square inch.  Let's do the math for a simple quilt.  If you send me a 100" x 100" quilt I am going to send you a bill for $100 for the quilting.  The going rate for most other long arm quilters is in the range of 015-.020 per square inch for simple edge designs and that does not always include the thread.  If you are paying .015 the same quilt quilted by someone else is going to cost you $150 and if your quilter's rate is .020 you are going to pay $200 for the same quilt.   Why would/do you pay an extra $50-$100 for quilting?  

This is for edge to edge quilting not custom quilting, custom quilting can and SHOULD cost you more. It's .010 for just about any design that I carry with no additional charge for the thread.  I might charge you extra if you send me a really wrinkled top or backing, but most of the time I will just press it and move on.  If I do charge you, most likely you will find my fees lower than the 'going rate' of other long arm quilters.  

Often I hear "you get what you pay for".  Maybe, maybe not.  I quilt hundreds of quilts each year and feel that I am a very experienced and confident machine quilter.  I am not attempting to get rich or make a name for myself, I just like what I do and am lucky enough to be able to do it.

Recently a blog post was written about Quiltonomics: The Real Cost of Quilts.  Yes, quilting is expensive.  The cost of the material alone can blow a normal budget out of the waters for a month or two.  However, statements like the one below tend to make me a little crazy.

Link above may be unavailable, so here's another link....

"Every time one person undersells, it creates the expectation of the buying public that a low price is the going rate,” Hunter weighed in. “We need to raise our prices to a living wage for the sake of all. We are no less skilled than plumbers and mechanics that charge $100 an hour.” 

The problem I have with this statement is this:

 I believe we will eternally need the services of plumbers and mechanics to keep the plumbing and mechanics of our lives working.  The need will never go away; it is job security.  It isn't a trend to follow, plumbing is pretty much plumbing.  It was plumbing 5 years and will be plumbing 5 years from now.  

In case you are wondering what I'm talking about in the paragraph above, I remember a few years ago when scrapbooking was all the rage.  Now it seems to be quilting.  When will it end?  Will it end?  Who knows?  I don't believe anyone really does.  Yes, there are the eternal diehards that will remain quilting, but will the industry be as strong 5 or even 10 years from now?

I know of several gals in my guild who only make quilts to give away.  They have made more quilts than their families can use or want.  Hard to believe for some of us, but it does happen, and I have seen it.

Is every quilt a fine work of art? Is it really going to be a true heirloom?   Should we/you expected to pay a higher price just because someone thinks their time is valued at a high dollar amount and who sets the standard?  After all isn't this considered a 'craft'?  I don't know of a college out there that offers classes or a degree in quilting.   

I'm sure if you ask the plumbers and mechanics of the world  
they will most likely tell you they do  not feel they are in the 

same category as the quilters.

Another thing...I have known quilters to 'hang a sign' and begin quilting customer quilts just weeks after purchasing their machines.  They would charge the 'going' rate?  WAIT!  What happened to the learning time?  What about the pre-professional pricing?  I certainly didn't begin with the highest price possible.  I have quilted many, many free quilts to learn before even thinking about charging.  Just because you own a machine does not mean you should charge the same price as someone who does superior work.  It's like paying the same amount of money for a Chevy as you would a Rolls Royce.

With all of my heart I believe that if you have made a show-stopping quilt you should expect to pay more for the quilting, but if you have made a quilt to be loved and used, you may want to think about this post and ask yourself… 

Am I paying too much?

thanks for checking on me,

love to hear what you've got to say.........


WoolenSails said...

That is a hard one, since I can see both sides of the coin. On one hand, I charge less for my epatterns than some designers, but more than others. I do what I do, because I love it and I love that I can make patterns that people can afford and get instantly since some cannot get out or don't have stores nearby. I will never make enough to pay off my bills or get rich, but it makes me happy and it makes others happy and that is good enough;)


Colleen Yarnell said...

Yes!! I agree! Definately! This was the missing piece from that really great article. i fellt like I agreed but some aspect was missing. We should not be over paying for the quilting to pay for a persons machine. I feel that is how some are priced that I have researched.

Terry said...

I'm not paying too much because you already do my quilting for me! But I know it's hard to price things that are hand made...quilting, quilts, crocheting and knitting. I don't know too many people that are able to get paid what they're really worth. Thanks for the great job you do! :0)

JudyCinNC said...

Wow, Joanne - Really feeling like my "head in the sand kind of thing" here with not knowing about all the discrepancy in the quilt world. I so totally agree with your post and where would we be without the honesty you feel and talked about. The article by Jennifer Moore was enlightening also. My children will just have to deal with my obsession, which happens to be waning. Downsizing house wise also meant downsizing quilt-room space. Now if I could just get the energy to make the backings for the tops still not quilted.

Thank you for this post ... it answered a lot of questions for me and others. Hugs from Judy C

lmno said...

I would like to become a customer of yours for several reasons. I like hearing how much you like what you do. Especially that many quilts will be finished with your encouragement as well as your skills and this approach. You are proud of the work you have put in to produce a good result. Your experience on choosing applicable motifs is to be appreciated.

Yes, I could sell a quilt for the work I put into it. Whether it is $300, $600, or $800, or more I also keep in mind that anything is also valued based on what someone is willing to pay. That means I can make what I like and give it away having really enjoyed the project. Or, I can work on a design and colors commissioned by someone else, make money, and not be as satisfied. When I sew it has to be something I have created and been interested in from start to finish. I do not always require $10-$20 per hour to have someone using a quilt. Plain and simple, I like sewing and I especially like something finished. Quilts are so much fun to share.

Great message for many who are sewing these days. It is something worth thinking about. I wonder how it might affect their work and they way they invest their time and energy in the future.

JudyCinNC said...

Not sure what happened to my comment I left yesterday. Joanne, thank you for all this information. I did not know there was so much difference in pricing and the reasons for it. You have certainly helped me understand. Thank you my friend. Judy C in NC

KaHolly said...

Well said.

QuiltSue said...

I know this is quite a contentious subject, and I can see both sides. In principle I agree that people should charge a living wage for things, but, in terms of quilting, I am inclined to think that most of us are doing it cos it's fun and we enjoy it. Certainly that is true for me, in which case, just charging a minimum rate is great as it just tops up my fabric fund a bit. I have never, ever expected to get rich from my hobby.

Kary Miller said...

Very well said and appreciated by those of us who could otherwise not afford to make as many big quilts as we would like. Thank you!

JudiNH said...

Love your quilting and all the help you give me to finish my creations!!

Anonymous said...

I guess my question would be... at the 1 cent a square inch are you making a living wage? When you pay your expenses, overhead and the like after that are you making at least $10 an hour for the quilting you do... If not then I think you are cheating yourself and setting a rotten president for those who do quilt and charge an amount that actually pays the bills and it not just "pin-money".

Of course you are free to do as you want, I just tend to think that we best think of others when we do.

Maddie Kertay - The BadAss Quilter

Susan said...

I charge by the hour because I don't like measuring the quilts. Also, then I don't have different rates for the density of the quilting. If it's more quilting then it takes me longer. My goal when I opened my business was to get more people to quilt, especially younger ones. My grandmother quilted and I don't want it to be a lost art. I love the tax benefits and really don't care whether I make a lot of money. It supports my fabric habit. Lol

Sam Hunter said...

Hi, I'm Sam Hunter, the "Hunter" that was quoted in both your post and the article you pulled the quote from. If you want to read more about me, start here: http://huntersdesignstudio.com/ew-worth-it-2/
I don't agree with you in the least (see my post today). You are absolutely welcome to charge what ever you want to, but by lowering your prices, and labeling anything higher as "too much" you are hurting the business of others. Obviously you are in a delightful position to claim you don't need to make more money, but that's not the case for many in the industry. There is certainly a difference between a $5 meal deal at McDonalds, and a gourmet meal fixed by a top chef - and we should expect to see the same in quilting. Rather than just calling out just your price per square inch, I would love to see you follow this up with a realistic calculation of the price per hour you earn on that $100 quilting job, especially once the equipment you own is factored in. My guess is it's close to minimum wage - which is adequate for an unskilled job, but yours isn't. Your skill is not only special, it is something you have obviously invested in, and should thusly be compensated for. Quilting has been alive and well for centuries, and I believe it will outlast us all. Wouldn't it be nice if we could actually be paid in accordance with our talent? And as for the plumber thing... yes, quilting is perhaps not as important as plumbing when you have a blocked drain. But people also hire plumbers when they want to do unnecessary things like remodel their kitchens, and we pay equally well for that talent. Please stop undercutting everyone - and if you can't do that, then at least don't disparage your sew-sisters for claiming a living wage.

Flaun of I Plead Quilty! said...

I think you're missing the point. Those of us who quilt for a living deserve a livable wage. Would you ask the person who paints a mural in your home to work for $0.01 per square inch, or would you pay them commensurate to their skill, giving them the opportunity to support their family while giving you a lovely work of art? I charge $20 an hour for my skills. I have honed my craft and create my own quilt designs. I write patterns and co-own a quilt shop. If you are doing it as a hobby, fine, stop charging your clients. I, however, feel you ought to be paid for your time and that you should charge appropriately without denigrating or undermining your sister and brother quilters.

sillyewe said...

Yes, Sam Hunter! Yes! Thank you.

Robin said...

The problem for those of us who don't machine quilt is how are we supposed to know who in the quilting world is the novice or the professional? It's too bad there isn't some way to earn a certification so that's it's legitimate to charge a higher price. I think we all have our freedom to choose and I admire you feeling brave enough to tell us how you feel.

KT said...

Oh, the cutthroat world of quilting! Of course, charge whatever you want, but I don't think you need to denigrate the rest of us. No one is "getting rich." Longarm machines are expensive, and it is skilled work. I don't think that someone who charges one and a half cents per square inch, and makes perhaps $20/hr (not including the expense of the machine), and has put in years of practice, is charging an unfair price.

I have a feeling the market will bear out. If you charge under market rate, your customers will "pay" in another way (very long turnover time). Robin, most quilters will show you pictures of their work, so you just have to look at it to tell what you like. The density of the quilting is another factor--if one does a big, loopy style, $.01/sq in would be fine. I prefer a denser, more decorative, freehand style.

Before I had a longarm, the last bill I paid was from 2009-- computer quilted 92" X 92" totaled $237. It included batting and backing, but I thought it seemed high. Quilting seems to be a profession where the reimbursement rate is declining over the years. Once again, it is typically "women's work", not as valuable as what men do (like plumbing).....I guess.

KT said...

Welcome to the cutthroat world of quilting! I thought it was just a pleasant hobby, with a sprinkling of longarmers who deserve to have their labor eventually cover the cost of their machines, and perhaps make a bit of money after that.

Anyone can charge what they want, or do it for free, but does one really need to denigrate others in the business? No one is getting rich here.

Robin, you can tell by just looking at the quilting. Most quilters post pictures of their work, and you can pick what you like. Big, loopy quilting can be done very quickly, and in that case 1 cent per square inch is fine! Personally, I like it a bit denser, and I prefer hand guided quilting to computer quilting. But, I really don't think we need regulation & certification.

Before I got my longarm, the last time I paid someone to quilt for me was in 2009. It was a computer quilted, and frankly I thought it was expensive. I had gotten price quotes for 2 cents and 1.5 cents per square inch, and the less expensive one then tacked on a lot of "fees". The guy who sold me the longarm said 1.875 cents per square inch was rock bottom. I charge one and one half cents per square inch, I make about $20/hr, without consideration for the expense of the machine, or the years of practice i've put in. I don't think most people would call this "too much."

This seems to be one of the professions where compensation is declining over the years. But, it is just mostly women, whose labor is apparently not worth much. Especially if they have husbands, who are......well, plumbers or something.

Nancy said...

I agree with you Joanne. If I had to pay a higher price for as many quilts as I make in any given year, I'd be broke by now. I make the type of quilt to be used and loved. Some are nicer than others and some have more meaning than others. But, I want them all quilted and Joanne does a wonderful job at an affordable price. I have used about 6 different long arm quilters and I have to say Joanne is every bit as good if not better then some of the other ones I have used, including a professional company that advertises in quilting magazines. So thank you Joanne for being my long arm quilter.