Pricing of Custom Work
Pricing: What to Expect When Requesting Custom Handcrafted Work
Lots of people admire what I do, but very, very few actually realize the amount of time and expense that goes into a handcrafted project. I think it’s really about perception.
A hundred years ago, people understood. But the advent of mass-production techniques in modern times has changed things. Sure, it’s wonderful and amazing that we can buy mass-produced products of passable quality. But while we were getting used to the low prices, we also got used to the lack of real workmanship – the T-shirt lasts only a season, the bedding maybe two or three before the colors are out of fashion and the fraying begins. And thus spins the wheel of planned obsolescence and consumerism.
Consults available on any sewing challenges you may be having with your own projects. $60/hour
People are often surprised to hear some of the baseline costs that a quilt craftsman needs to bear. But it’s important to remember that we are talking about heirloom-quality quilts that may last multiple lifetimes as they are passed down through generations.
A majority of modern quilters use an electronic sewing machine. Costs vary from $800 to $12,000 for a computerized electronic sewing machine. A decent quilting/sewing machine combo will easily run you $1,500 or more. If we delve into more sophisticated equipment like sewing/embroidery or longarm quilting machines (almost necessary for the most elaborate designs these days), we are talking of machinery that can easily cost as much as a new car.
Then there’s the fabric. Top-quality quilt fabric of the sort appropriate for heirloom designs costs in the neighborhood of $20/yard. Even the small stuff quickly adds up: supplies like needles, pins, rotary cutters and mats, sewing cabinets, irons and ironing boards, rulers, lamps, batting, stabilizers, thread.
Minimum wage is $8.23 per hour in Colorado as of January 2015. This is the rate of pay for unskilled, entry level jobs. I have been honing my craft for forty years, my quilts have appeared in national contests, and I produce commissioned pieces that reflect the needs and tastes of the purchaser. Please don’t expect to hire me as a professional seamstress, particularly for these kinds of projects, and expect to pay the same price as you would at a location that makes a factory-produced product and pays minimum wage—or even less.
If someone requests a custom quilt from me, I always discuss price well before we get started so that expectations are firmly established. I want the price to be fair to the customer and to me. When people do commission items from me, I know that they will be loved and used – because someone cared enough to pay for handcrafted, unique items. Except for art quilts that are meant only for display on a wall, quilts are meant to be experienced and enjoyed—wrapping yourself before the fire in one that has been created from your own memories.
Yes, you can find someone to construct a queen quilt for $100 + materials, but just how long will that be around? Will it already begin to fray after the first washing? Will the stitches pop when a grandchild innocently jumps on it in the happy way children do? Will it fade away, because it was made with cheap fabric? Or will it be something you can share with pride with your daughter on her wedding day?
Pricing is one of the most difficult decisions I make as a fiber artist. My work, like the work of many other quilt artists, is priced by the square foot. (Currently the median price among such artists seems to be around $200 per square foot.) It is a practical way to predict ahead of time what a commissioned piece might be worth.
My Quilts range in price from $100-$250 per square foot. So what factors go into that square foot price? I take account of the length of time it takes to design the quilt and prepare the paper pattern. For me, the design often takes longer than the actual piecing and quilting. I consider how long it takes to piece, as well as how long it takes to baste, quilt, and bind. My four decades of sewing experience allows me to work efficiently and productively. I consider artistic development, materials, amount and type of embellishment.
I welcome opportunities to create commissioned artwork for individuals, groups, or professional organizations. My goal in accepting commissions is for the process to be both gratifying for me as an artist and pleasurable for those who have chosen to integrate my art into their living or working environment.
Once we agree on a general size and theme, we can begin to outline the price and a timeframe for work to be completed.
The time it takes to complete a composition varies depending on the size and complexity of the design. Deadlines and delivery dates can be negotiated, but it is rare that even a small quilt can be completed in under two months or that a king-sized quilt requires more than twelve. The final selling price may be increased for rush deliveries.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is an heirloom quilt? What do I mean when I describe my quilts as being Heirloom and or Art quality quilts?
An heirloom is a family possession that’s handed down from one generation to the next. Any quilt that has been handed down within the family is an heirloom. So when I say that I make heirloom quilts even though they are new, I mean that it is of the quality to be appreciated and handed down within the family. It does not mean “do not use”. I want it to be because someone kept it out of love, out of all the fond memories of years of picnics and couch forts, and I want all the patches and repairs to be part of that.
I wish for my items to be an excellent example of the craft, as any heirloom piece would be an excellent example of whatever craft it represented. An heirloom art level quilt should be treated as any work of art, with gentle care. Generally these quilts are not meant to be used but put on display. And that’s because most of them have elements of different fabrics, embellishments and materials.. velvets, brocades, crystals, or embroidery.
Can the client choose the fabrics to be used?
Generally, no. I want to take account of the client’s general conception, preferred colors, and desired mood, but the final selection of fabric is a critical component of ensuring the highest-quality production. Exceptions can be made.
My goal for every design is to create a balanced and beautiful composition, and to use high-quality materials. I purchase my fabric and thread from a handful of trusted sources that I’ve worked with for years. Such consistency and predictability allows me confidence in the quality of the materials so that the focus can be maintained on the artistic decisions.
I will create an initial drawing and will provide fabric samples if you like. These are to be used as a guide, so that we can agree on a general color scheme and tone.
If you want to commission something using special materials like silk, rare textiles, family heirlooms or clothing, that can usually be accommodated but may increase the final price.
Can the client see the design before I begin?
Yes. I will provide an initial drawing before production begins on the final artwork. At that point we will have another conversation to make sure our expectations for the project are in line with each other. This is the time to address any concerns or changes in the design.
Can the client see the artwork while I am making it?
I regret that my answer to this question must be no. I do not provide “in progress” photos or visits while working on commissions. The piece may go through several drafts and variations before I am satisfied with the design, and sometimes the final version is very different than earlier stages. I have found that sharing photos during different stages is confusing to the client and slows down the whole creative process.
With every commission, my goal is to meet or exceed the client’s expectations. During the creative process, if for some reason I find that a major part of the design or construction needs to be changed from the original drawing, I will communicate with the client to explain my reasoning and we can discuss the options. I take my responsibility on creative decisions very seriously.
Are payment plans available?
Yes. I am always willing to consider payment arrangements, and I also accept credit cards.
Please click below for a PDF breakdown of prices.