On Nov. 2, 2014, Becky Groska posted on the “Just Us Quilters” group the following insight and I thought it worth sharing here:
“I want to take this opportunity to provide a PSA to non-quilters about the value of our (quilters’) work. It seems most non-quilters perceive what we do along the value lines of what’s available in the retail market at places like Target and Walmart.
ALL of us do it because we love it. MOST of us gift our creations, as most of us know, all too painfully, that the “market” will not bear the true cost of our labors. Many of us have been asked to make quilts for people we know, and when we struggle with what to tell them, not wanting to undervalue the bare minimum of what’s involved, and then finally tell them something between what they want to hear and the truth, they walk away. I want to extend some information to help educate the non-quilting public about what’s involved in the creation of our craft.
Let me provide an illustration of what it might cost to produce one of these marvelous creations: the average cost of fabric for a quilt is somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-12.00 a yard. (Most of the time, these kinds of fabrics don’t go on sale, at least not into deep discounts.) It usually takes about 6-8 yards of fabric to make a fairly ordinary quilt top — and by ordinary, I mean not paper-pieced, or appliqued, or any fancy blocks or stuff like that (I’d say queen-size down to twin) PLUS the same yardage to put a backing on it. In between the backing and the pieced quilt top is batting, which retails for about $15.00 a yard. Most quilts take at least 2-1/2 yards of batting. I’m just going to be liberal for a moment here, and round everything up. So, on materials alone, not counting electricity to run your machine, and thread, or maintenance on your machine which grinds away for hours to produce the wonderful work we do, for the average quilt, you are talking about roughly $250.00 JUST for materials.
Now, that’s just the stuff that goes together into making a quilt. See, there’s this really cool thing called QUILTING — that’s the stitching that goes on the top of the quilt, and actually joins all three layers of your quilt into a final work of art. I have always done my own — either on my machine at home, or by renting a long-arm machine at a local quilt shop (and I PAY for the rent, usually $25.00 an hour — oh, and I had to take a class to do that, which cost $150.00 before I could have the privilege of renting it — but then the labor is mine, I’m not paying somebody to DO it, and the longest time it took me to rent to do one was 4 hours, so that rental was $100.00. And btw, that’s a computer-driven machine. I pick the design, tell it how big the quilt is, start and stop it, and the machine just does its thing. Not too much of me involved.). I don’t know what exactly the going rate is for a long-armer to do a quilt, it depends on the design, whether it’s a consistent design that goes ALL over the quilt, or whether the stitching is customized to the quilt blocks themselves — that’s very spendy, as it takes a lot of extra time and attention to do it. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if the low-end of average for this is around $250.00.
So, just with those two things involved, you’ve got a piece of art that on materials and SOME labor, has $500 put into it.
Now. The matter of labor. None of the quilts I’ve given away were quick sews. I’d say that some have taken a huge amount of time, and some have taken less…but for the sake of debate, I’m going to say I spend about 60-80 hours on an average quilt, including cutting, sewing, pressing, and finishing. Let’s pretend I’m only worth $10.00 an hour on the labor market. That’s another $600.00 – $800.00 in labor.
So, the average value of one of my ordinary creations? $1,100.00 – $1,300.00.
Anyone wanna buy one? Yeah .EXACTLY. THIS is why we don’t sell quilts.No one wants to pay us what they’re WORTH. And btw, my labor value is much greater than $10.00 an hour. An unskilled laborer can get more than $10.00 an hour.
I am sharing this with you to educate, enlighten, and perhaps, spread the word for myself and my fellow quilters whose work is often severely undervalued.
Call it my crusade. For now.
Oh, yeah, and here are a few pix of my “ordinary” creations (pix omitted from repost). I use the quotes because I have also seen far too many talented quilt artists demean their work. I think virtually everything I see is an amazing masterpiece. Many are not to my personal tastes, but the craftsmanship that goes into them is amazing, awesome, and inspiring. And I want to stand on the rooftops and shout it out…for ALL us quilters.”
My Footnote: I choose to use the highest quality cottons available and the cost per yard can often run as high as $15 per yard. In addition to the beauty of simply pieced quilts, I more often than not go far beyond what is considerred “average” in the making of a quilt. I do my own custom quilting on my smaller pieces, but for quilt tops larger than I prefer to “wrestle” on my home machine, I do pay a skilled long-armer to apply the quilting stitches and I must pass that cost along when selling a quilt.
As an artist and quilt maker who does sell her work, I appreciate that my clientele generally seem to understand and more fully appreciate what goes into the making of my quilts. I feel honored to be able to provide ‘creations’ for those who genuinely value owning unique works of functional art made from the highest quality materials possible worthy of passing down for the enjoyment of generations to come.