Why does a quilt COST SO MUCH?

***WARNING*** This is a bit of a long read, but WELL worth it. For bottom line costs, see the bottom of the post. Thanks! ūüôā

I field this question a lot, often worded differently. When people ask me the price for making them a quilt (mostly this comes with T-shirt quilt requests), they frequently reply with shock at the price tag. I get that when all they know about quilts is the crappy mass produced/imported quilts for sale at Cracker Barrel or Walmart for <$100.

At first that frustrated me, and then I started thinking they didn’t know the value of the purchase they wanted to make. I realized, it is really ignorance (I don’t mean that negatively) – these folks probably don’t frequent the local quilt shops and have no idea how much a yard of fabric costs, or what is entailed in making a quilt. It’s not part of their world. Just like I wouldn’t know anything about the cost of running a resort in Fiji.

So I am here to dish the details, but I’m going to try to keep it simple for easy understanding. REMEMBER: this is MY information in MY area of the country. I can tell you that just 4 hours south of me fabric costs $1 more PER YARD. I am positive that other areas of the country have a bit of variety in cost as well.

Let’s take a large lap sized T-shirt quilt as an example. Let’s say this quilt measures 60″x60″ (5′ square). Understand that with larger sizes, the cost goes up because the top is bigger, the back is bigger, the center is bigger, the edging is longer and the labor is definitely higher.

Here is the breakdown:

1. Fabric. Even with a T-shirt quilt, there is a lot of fabric to be purchased. Sold by the yard, you CAN find cheap fabric at Walmart or Joann’s or various other craft stores. But if you EVER have the chance, go in and FEEL those fabrics. They are CHEAP for a reason! Generally a looser weave, they feel scratchy and are not as densely woven, which will result in a less soft quilt, potentially more shrinkage and faster fading,¬†and one that will fall apart or procure holes much more quickly.

For this size quilt, the yardage requirements are as follows: top for sashing 1 yard, top border 1 yard, backside of the quilt 4 yards, binding for the edge can probably be obtained from the extra backing after the piece has been quilted. Total yardage: 6 yards. I only buy fabric from the local quilt shop, so the fabric will cost anywhere from $8/yard (for solids and muslin) to $13. The most common price I pay for fabric is $11.29/yard. Total fabric cost: $67.74 (plus tax).

2. Stabilizer. This is REQUIRED for any T-shirt quilt to properly be made (in my opinion). True, not everyone uses it, but when people bring me T-shirt quilts to quilt for them, I insist. It just creates a mess when the shirts are not backed with stabilizer. They stretch when put together and end up forcing creases in the shirts when quilted. There are many brands and types, costing anywhere from $0.99/yard (only 17″ wide) to $6.99/yard. So let’s go with an average for simplicity sake: mostly I use the $2.99/yard 17″ wide medium weight stabilizer. The shirts will take probably 10 yards of stabilizer, so the total cost of stabilizer: $29.90.

3. Batting. This is what goes in the center of the quilt. With a lightweight batting (just like with a lightweight stabilizer) the batting will not add weight, but you can get a high-density batting if you want it heavy and thick. Different battings have different requirements for how far apart they can be tied or stitched, so if someone says they’re going to stitch around the outside of the shirts only, then your batting WILL fall apart – that’s not close enough in. Generally I use a cotton polyester blend for T-shirt quilts, which costs $8/yard. Needing about 2 yards for this project, total batting cost: $16.

4. Quilting. While this IS labor, I put it separately because some quilt makers send the quilts to someone else for this service, or tie the quilt (which technically makes it not a quilt, but a comfort). I perform it myself, but the rate is different than how I¬†figure general labor. In this geographic area, we generally charge $0.02/square inch of the quilt top for an all over (aka edge to edge) design. Custom quilting brings a higher charge.¬†So this quilt 60″x60″ = 3600 square inches. 3600 x $0.02 = $72. I also charge a $5 thread fee. Total for quilting: $77.

5. Labor. This is the real variable. While time = money, more importantly EXPERIENCE = MONEY. You will DEFINITELY get what you pay for. Much like fabric, the rates can vary depending on where you live. I am very efficient,¬†and I charge $25/hour. Some people have asked why I charge so much “just to sew”. Well, while the words from my mouth were sweeter than¬†in my head, the response was basically, if you don’t want to learn to do it yourself, don’t question what I charge for my expertise.¬† That being said, a quilt this size usually takes me 8-9 hours, but I charge 6 hours of labor for the assembly. Total labor: $150.

6. Binding. This, too, is labor, but again, a separate calculation. This is the edging around the quilt. For binding prep and attachment by machine both front and back I charge $0.30 per linear inch around the edge. You may find someone that charges less, but they may not have mitered junctions, or mitered corners.¬†If you want the binding attached to the back by hand, expect to pay more. 60″ x 4 edges = 240 linear inches x $0.30 = total binding cost: $72.

All this being said, here is a few photos of what I produce, for comparison purposes. You can see the finished product is crisp and clean, very professional looking.

ole miss t shirt quilt

NO Saints SB Tshirt quilt

NO Saints SB Tshirt quilt

Tshirt quilt with precise instructions from the mom

Tshirt quilt with precise instructions from the mom

Assuming I haven’t forgotten anything, here’s the tally:

  • Fabric (est tax incl) $73
  • Stabilizer¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $30
  • Batting¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $16
  • Quilting¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $77
  • Labor¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $150
  • Binding¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†$72
  • TOTAL¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $418 (before tax)

Amazed? You shouldn’t be. Honestly I am amazed when some people charge such low fees for their work. I gather they either value their time differently or are using REALLY cheap fabric. Bottom line: THIS IS THE COST. IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU THEY CAN DO IT FOR LESS, UNDERSTAND THAT THE DIFFERENCE WILL COME FROM ONE OF THESE AREAS. And to ensure you are protecting yourself, see my blog about questions to ask prior to buying a T-shirt quilt.

 

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Monthly Block – October

October quilt

October quilt

I saw something, can’t remember exactly what, but I think it was a movie¬†where they were trying to decipher some problem. The advice given was to change only one thing at a time so that they could determine the root cause of the issue. Well this month I didn’t follow that advice.

I had already decided to use Halloween colors, and when I drew up my plan, I thought this month could be different if I offset the blocks.

october drawing

october drawing

The result is that there are partial blocks along the edges (which, because I sew by memory, equated to a lot of seam ripping because I sewed whole blocks when I should not have). You can see from the photos I switched the purple and orange. I just happened to like the orange I had (sparkly) and the purple (solid) not so much.

But I ALSO made the blocks bigger. That wasn’t the plan, originally. I did it because when I cut the squares of the focus fabric, I realized the full cuteness of the fabric was lost, so I needed to cut bigger squares to show more of the whole pattern (which is why it is also the border). I had to do a little quick math to figure out what size I needed the other parts to be, but it worked out pretty well.

In fact, I LOVE how it turned out! The only thing I’m not over the top about is that the black with orange dots reads more as a brown…

black with orange dots

black with orange dots

The larger blocks also helped me to not have to make as many blocks, but have a good sized quilt in the end. Something to consider…

cute fabric

cute fabric

So let’s compare again:

“The” block –

"THE" block

“THE” block

January result – all scraps in turquoise, bright pink and green (and white)

finished quilt top

finished quilt top

February result – scrap white and purple dyed, sashing matches center blocks (focal fabric)

February quilt

February quilt

March result Рdifferent center, but magenta and purple and white match it. I placed the white and purple triangles specifically to ensure the pinwheel came out

march quilt

march quilt

April result – crayon box threw up. center squares were inspiration, all brights were scraps that matched lines in center squares. totally random placement

april quilt

april quilt

May’s version – I think this should be called sunburst

may version of monthly block

may version of monthly block

Here is the quilt WITH the border –

may quilt top with border

may quilt top with border

I keep these two photos in here because¬†I think it’s SO important to include a border on quilts. It makes a frame, which is¬†like¬†closure for your¬†eyes.¬†I think it makes a quilt look finished.

And here’s June –

June version quilt top

June version quilt top

And, July

Julys quilt top

Julys quilt top

While I like the more complete/less sparse look of July over June, I think if I made this quilt top in different colors, with something lighter than the red, that I might like the finished product even more.

August:

August monthly version

August monthly version

September:

September monthly version

September monthly version

And, October:

October quilt

October quilt

I think I have a new favorite…

See how many different quilts can be made with just one block and a little imagination? Don’t be put off by a quilt pattern photo in colors you don’t like – give the pattern a good, hearty look, and consider how YOU could make it with fabric you DO like! Or change the setting, add alternating blocks even!¬†It might end up becoming your favorite quilt!

 

My stash is consuming me

Honestly, I don’t know what else to call this post. I mean seriously, I have SO MUCH fabric, and yet I seem to have to buy more for projects, backings, borders, customers, various other excuses… uh I mean REASONS. Legit reasons!

So anyway, here’s the problem (I think): I see the amazing and vast potential of every fabric I find, and I see what it could ultimately become. But I don’t have the time to actually execute the idea I have about the fabric.

I make it a point to go on as many retreats as possible. I made it to only one last year (very busy year), and have made it to three this year, so far, and have two more planned. Wait, make that four already Рforgot about the one I was invited to last minute in AZ.

Anyway, I have been to some retreats that were not well, um…. well appointed. I.e. one ironing station for 12 people, two cutting stations for 20. See what I mean? So I prep before going to a retreat so WHEN I GO TO THE RETREAT, I sit and sew and sew and sew. I don’t have to stop production waiting for the iron or cutting table. I precut most of what I can to be prepared to just GO.

Which means I complete A LOT. I usually finish 4-8 tops (mostly not bordered tho) at a weekend retreat.

Which brings me to this (quilts needing borders):

need borders

need borders

Then there is the stack of quilts that HAVE borders attached.

have borders

have borders

And these are probably getting these borders…

maybe borders

maybe borders

Then the quilts that are ready, WITH backing prepared for them.

quilt tops with backing

quilt tops with backing

And then the quilts that I somehow actually got quilted, that now just need to be bound.

need binding

need binding

Never mind the two rag quilts awaiting their turn…

So when I went through all this I brought home about 15 yards of solids from the quilt shop and found all my other large pieces and measured and tagged them. These are potential backs:

backings

backings

First count I had about 8 needing borders, 5 needing backs, 15 needing quilting and 4 needing binding. I got 2 quilted, 5 bound and 3 with borders attached. Which leaves me with 5 needing borders, still 5 needing backs (because I matched a few more up), 17? needing quilting and one still needing to be bound.

Honestly the problem is that I am a long arm quilter by trade, so everyone else’s quilt gets top priority over mine (including any charity for the guild or QOV). So I just rarely quilt my own projects!

And to think, I’m heading to retreat Friday morning to create more tops! OI VEY!