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The True Cost of Quilts

As a quilt addict, I am in many, many Facebook groups for quilting, and I follow many hashtags on Instagram.  I browse Pinterest every so often, and I read oh-sew-many blogs. 

In one Facebook group I belong to, a quilter asked this question:
"I had someone reach out asking if I could make them a queen sized quilt. I have only ever quilted for myself. What would someone charge to make a quilt from beginning to end? Hourly? I also have a longarm so could do the final quilting. Any tips would be appreciated. I have not committed to doing the work yet. Feel free to send me a private message if you have had experience with this and can share any tips. Thank you!!"

All of the responses from other quilters were them trying to encourage the person to charge what she's worth, and not less.  This is admittedly very hard to do, because people who do not sew or quilt have no idea what's actually involved.  Never mind just the cost of materials, but the amount of time it takes to make something!  This person's comment, though, really struck me:

"With fabric reaching $20/m now, the cost is very high. I like to compare quilting to carpentry. We both take a material, cut it up and put it back a different way. We both use expensive tools which require knowledge and skill, and both are time consuming. Would you ask a carpenter to work for $2/hour? Would you expect a wood crafter to do an intricate inlay for no charge? Why is fiber art treated with so little respect?"

How true!  And if you noticed in the person's original question, she owns a long-arm machine.  They cost thousands of dollars!  They are huge machines that are big enough to be able to quilt large quilts, because small, home domestic machines don't have a large enough throat space to fit a quilt in it, so that you can reach the center of the quilt!  

Here is a domestic home sewing machine, that a retailer will tell you is great for quilting, except you never actually use all those fancy, tiny stitches, and you can't fit anything in that throat space / arm hole/ neck hole/ harp space (that hole has many names), in the $700 price range:

Domestic home sewing machine

Here is something a little bigger, known as a Sit-down Mid-arm machine, around the $3000 price range:

Sit-down mid-arm sewing machine


Here is a Long-Arm sewing machine, with a smaller size frame, around 6 to 8 feet wide, probably in the $6000 price range:

Small frame long-arm machine

Here is a Long-Arm machine, in a 10 or 12 foot frame, the price is at least $10,000:

Long-arm machine with large frame

I don't know too many people with one of these mid- and long-arm machines, but the ones who do have them either quilt professionally, or make many, many quilts!  

Has anyone seen this meme? 

Why do quilts cost so much?

The True Cost of Quilts - in Canada

Not taking into consideration educational costs, machine maintenance costs, utilities consumption costs or the cost of acquiring all the tools and equipment needed to produce a quilt, here is a breakdown in average 2019 Canadian prices, not including any taxes or shipping, of the materials, and time needed to produce one Queen sized quilt (the mattress is 60” by 80” so if you wanted a 12” drop on all sides, the finished quilt would be 84” by 92”).

Material costs:
Pattern: $15
Fabric for top patchwork: 6 meters @ $17/m = $102
Fabric for backing: 5 meters @ $17/m = $85
Batting: 2.5 meters @$15/meter = $37.50
Fabric for binding: 1 meter @ $17/m = $17
Thread for patchwork piecing, depending on desired brand of 100% cotton: anywhere from $10 to $40+, we’ll go with the cheaper option: $10
Material cost for the maker: $266.50  (remember, we haven’t added tax or shipping, because each province charges different amounts of tax and not everyone has a shop nearby so they may have to order online)

Construction and labour at $12/hour, if you are only going to pay yourself minimum wage for all your years of expertise, because we all know that anyone can make a quilt, that’s why you are being asked to do it.  Yes, you are detecting sarcasm.
Patchwork for top (cutting, pressing, pattern placement, and sewing time): 50 hours @ $12/hr = $600
Basting the quilt sandwich (assuming thread basting): 2 hours @ $12/hour = $24
Domestic machine quilting, simple all over design: 6 hours @ $12/hour = $72
Making the binding (cutting strips, pressing, stitching together): 2 hours @ $12/hour = $24
Attaching the binding (sewn to one side, hand stitched to the other side): 10 hours @ $12/hour = $120
Thread for quilting (we’re going with the less expensive thread again): $10
Labour cost: $850 (at minimum wage rather than at a skilled workers wage at a more reasonable $20+ per hour)

Total cost of the quilt: $1116.50 (and remember that’s on the low side because we aren’t adding all variables mentioned)

As you can see, making a quilt isn't cheap!  So when you get a gift of a quilt from someone, you now know what went into it.  And as a tip to quilters out there wondering how to charge someone who asks you to make a quilt, take the advice of someone else who commented on that same Facebook post above:

"I under priced a quilt that I made for a friend and resented it because it was a lot of work and it turned out really well. A fellow crafter once told me to charge what you feel you are worth and if someone is willing to pay that, then they also think you are worth it and you both end the transaction with respect."

Take my advice and ask for half the cost up front to at least cover all the costs of materials.  Show them the receipts so they see that you aren't making it up.  Worst case scenario is they don't pay you for your labour in the end, and you can sell it to someone else, or be prepared to give it as a gift.
Or, just give the quilt as a gift, and don't charge for anything.  
I generally do that last one.  I make a quilt as a surprise gift for someone using fabric that I think they will like, and a pattern that I really wanted to make.  Or I make a quilt with no one in particular in mind, but give it away when it's done, because really, the fun is in the making of the quilt.. and how many quilts does one person actually need?   ;)

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  • Carolyn on

    Wow, I truly understand where you are coming from… I have had that same thing happen to me. No one ever appreciates “Work of Art” To me that is what a Quilt is… a Work of Art. Same thing goes for Cross Stitch. No one ever thinks Cross Stitch is a Work of Art either. I have also got the same problem with one quilt that is a King. There is no way I will get what I truly have in the Quilt. So I have it put up and will not give it away. I will not post it to cut my throat. Hang in there.. We all need to work together and keep the price at a price that makes us feel that we are not just playing … We take pride in our work and should be compensated for it.
    Thank you for this post.

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