Molli Sparkles is here today to share a little about the value of a quilt. He had a recent post called No Value Does Not Equal Free which we shared on our Facebook page. We loved the conversation it prompted both on Facebook and on the Molli Sparkles site so we asked Molli Sparkles to continue the discussion here today! Learn more about Molli Sparkles in his introduction, and be sure to stop by the Molli Sparkles blog for the “Sunday Stash with Molli Sparkles” link-up, the No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee and more.

We want to hear from you! Have you done a cost break-down for any of your quilts? Do you find ways to save money so you can quilt even more? (Here’s our recent Thrifty Quilting post.) Do you sell your work? If so, do you make a profit? Why do you quilt and how do you place value on your work? Let’s talk!…

How loooow can you go?! In grade school I was a Limbo dance champion. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. You know what else is true?– The amount of baby quilts I seem to have to make for friends, family, and random pregnant strangers all of a sudden claiming to be my beeeeest friend when some other random stranger tells them they “know a guy” who quilts. And I thought I was a shady lady! Don’t make me purse my lips at you! Hmm, I digress.

So those baby quilts, we’ve all made them right? Out of love, friendship and, let’s face it, sometimes obligation. But do you know how much money you’re gifting with that baby quilt? (Yes, and the gift of love, most definitely love. But love ain’t gon’ buy Molli a new pair of shoes! Honey, no!) With that question in mind, I set about to discover how much a baby quilt is worth, and what is the cheapest I– and you– could make it for. This is what I found: Lovelies, forget the batting, it might as well be stuffed with cash! While everyone else brought a twenty-five dollar set of onesie pajamas to the baby shower, you brought a gift worth hundreds of dollars. I just hope you realize it.

Let me walk you through my process and how I derived my cost, then I’ll leave you with some sparkling costing templates that you can use for your next project. I knew I had to select a quilt design that basically had no design to it. Oxymoronic, I know, but I stand by charging a Design Concept Fee to cover my skills as a designer (which can be as a designer of a specific block, the layout of blocks, the creative implementation of an existing pattern, the selection of colour combinations, the selection of fabric combinations, and/or all things derivative of this). However, for this exercise, in order to eliminate this fee, I employed a simple 5″ charm square layout, consisting of 100 charm squares, in an easy 10×10 grid. I chose blue and green, kid-friendly bright fabrics from my own stash in about ten minutes. While I still think fabric and color selection should be a chargeable skill (some people have it, some people don’t) for something this quick and effortless, I’ll consider it a freebie.

So I had my design, I had my fabrics, it was time to create. I tracked each step of the process, down to the second. I even turned Mr. Sparkles away when he wanted a hug. (“Sorry, I’m on the clock!”) Let me tell you, I worked fast and took as many appropriate shortcuts as possible. I ironed like a house on fire, rotary cut my fabrics, pre-wound my bobbins, chain pieced at 1500 stitches per minute and machine bound the binding. You’ll notice I’ve employed a pieced backing, half broadcloth/homespun and half Japanese import. This did take some additional time, but since the quilt top is 45″ square, it was required. For future projects such as these I would consider making the quilt top smaller to utilize a single, width of fabric backing.

Also, I eschewed any long arm quilting fees by doing this myself with my Juki sewing machine. I originally had planned to quilt down either side of the seam lines. Then with some quick math, I deduced that would be 36 quilt lines to sew. However, if I stitched across the diagonal of each charm square, that would only be 20 quilt lines (some of them obviously quite short in length). This saved time and thread! This methodology also created a secondary pattern, adding a subtle design element. I’ll take what I can get!

All that being said, it still took me approximately eight hours to make this quilt at a final size of 45″ x 45″ that at its core is simplistic, and virtually design free.

So here we are. I’ve got a baby quilt across one arm, my faux chinchilla coat across the other, and I am ready to take both to that baby shower. But can I afford to? (Let me tell you, faux chinchilla is not cheap!) As I did for my No Value Does Not Equal Free quilt top, I assembled a costing sheet to determine how much I could afford to charge for this baby quilt. Since the No Value Does Not Equal Free costing blog post and associated discussion, I have learned quite a few things about my position in this price war. To hopefully dispel any questions about my process, I have provided my own detailed costing sheet.

Design Concept Fee – $0.00:

  • As I previously stated, I chose not to charge a Design Concept Fee for this exercise, but I encourage you to do so if you feel it is appropriate.

Supplies – $69.04 AUD ($60.08 USD):

  • In all calculations I have used inches and yards, despite purchasing some materials in metres.
  • The typical cost of quilt shop quality fabric in Australia is $24 AUD per metre (39.37 inches). Tell me about it!
  • This quilt contains a few DS Quilts fabrics from Spotlight (our version of Jo-Ann’s) which are slightly cheaper, and it also contains some fabrics I sourced in the United States, even cheaper again.
  • Considering the varying fabric sources, and the cost at which I would have to replace them, I chose $15 AUD per yard as an appropriate average.
  • The back is a combination of homespun/broadcloth purchased at $7 AUD per yard and a Japanese import purchased at $15 AUD per yard, an average of $11 AUD per yard.
  • I only charged for materials used. That is, I took the square area of the fabric in inches that was actually used in the quilt. I then divided that number by the number of square inches in a yard of fabric that has a forty-two inch width, to determine the total yardage for each fabric. (e.g. 100, 5″ charms = 2,500 square inches. Divide that by the 1,512 square inches in a yard and you get 1.65343 yards).
  • This methodology is debatable, but since I love scraps, I know the off-cuts will get used in other projects.
  • The one exception to this was the Gutterman thread, as I couldn’t accurately keep track, so I charged for half a spool.

Labour – $166.50 AUD ($144.88 USD):

  • For this type of simple sewing, I have adjusted my labour down to $25.00 AUD/hour.
  • Bearing in mind higher labour rates in Australia, as well as the cost of living in an international capital city, this falls between the median wages of a seamstress and graphic designer in Sydney, Australia.
  • The minimum wage in Australia is $16.88 AUD (industry-based), the minimum wage in the United States is $7.25. There are a multitude of factors and benefits that are included or not included that make comparing these numbers virtually impossible.
  • If the sewing were more difficult, I would feel comfortable charging more.
  • My wage is not your wage. But, and this is a big “but,” we, as quilters, sewists, designers, crafters, artists, hell, just people who create, deserve and should demand more than the minimum wage in your country. As the owner of your creations, you get input into how much they are worth!

Profit – $23.55 ($20.49 USD):

  • I would typically charge a 20% profit margin, however, to minimize this cost model, I have elected to reduce it to 10%.
  • I am still conflicted about the right amount for me, but I think if I were making a larger, more complicated quilt, I would adjust back to 20%.
  • For those that don’t understand why I choose to place a profit margin on quilts, Jenelle from Echinops & Aster explained my thoughts perfectly:
    “Wages alone are for a contractor of services where the contractor is not making money on transforming raw goods into a tangible, improved product. The customer of a service contractor, like a [house] painter, is paying for the expertise of the contractor itself (materials are usually paid for at cost). Molli Sparkles is a producer or manufacturer (in the most stripped down sense) of a product. The product itself is the good being purchased, not the service of making the quilt. Also, Molli is essentially hiring himself to make the quilt, so the wage is figured in as a distinct cost in the production of the product. Mark-up is added after adding up all the production costs to ensure a profit. The wage rate (essentially just a cost in making the product) and the profit margin are thus two very different concepts. I know this might sound kind of technical, but the two business models, service and production, really operate very differently.”

Final Total of $259.09 AUD ($225.45 USD) for my simple, charm square, baby quilt that took eight hours to make.

So you got all that? Ladies and gentlemen, I know. It’s tough monetizing and analyzing something you love so much. It’s like looking at your skin really close in one of those magnifying mirrors. Eeew! (Those should really be outlawed, by the way!) The final total of $259.09 AUD ($225.45 USD) is about as low as I can go and still respect my process. I know in my heart and my bleeding fingers that I can not, and I will not, contribute to any practice that devalues– intentional or not– us as creators. Yes, eighty dollar Etsy quilts, I’m lookin’ at you!

Just for the sake of it, I ran a few cost models to see how that was even possible. The only way I could get even close to that was by charging $9.00 USD per yard of fabric, $12.00 USD for batting, $7.75 USD per hour for labor, and 0% profit, which still created a final value of $95.41 USD! I understand those charging break-even (and below) prices for their quilting may be doing so simply out of the necessity to keep quilting. Since I am not in that circumstance, I wouldn’t dare offer judgement. However, if these creators are doing so because they feel they don’t deserve more money, more respect or more value: Let me remind you, in the grand words of Sam Hunter, We Are $ew Worth It.

A final reminder, these values represent me, and this is how low I can go. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Molli ain’t cheap, ya’ll. But now I want to see how low you can go! Download the template, put in your rates, your own cost of fabric and your own time for whatever project you want. I implore you to see exactly how much your creations are worth. You’ll then know that when you arrive at that shower, with that baby quilt on your left arm, it will be worth way more than the faux chinchilla on the right. Now, step, snap, stomp and werk!

For more information and templates for valuing your work, check out the We Are $ew Worth It series by Sam Hunter at Hunter’s Design Studio. 

This post is sponsored by Contemporary Cloth. Contemporary Cloth specializes in original fabrics with bold modern designs by today’s hottest new fiber artists. If you want your creations to be your own and have an individual, uncommon “look,” Contemporary Cloth is a great resource for unique fabrics including Japanese prints, hand printed fabrics, Oakshott Shot Cotton and more.