Quilters get asked a lot what it costs to make a Queen/King size bed quilt (generally 100-108" square) and the answer is - it varies on the complexity of the quilt, the number of fabrics, the amount of waste in piecing, etc. So naturally we quilters all take a SWAG at what we think it might be and provide an answer that might or might not be so accurate. And if we are planning on selling that quilt, we might cut ourselves very short or practically give our months of labor away. Great for the buyer, not so great for the quilter.
In this post, I am going to be purely mathematical and using this quilt that you see here, I'm going to determine how close to that swag I am. Warning, this is very heavy in math and if you aren't into these types of calculations, you might want to scroll to the end and look the final numbers <smile>.
So let's get started....
The pattern for this quilt is called "Not So Giant Dahlia" by Marti Mitchell. So the first calculations come from that pattern which includes the center medallion and the first pieced border around the center. I used 9 different fabrics and her supplies list specifies 4 3/8 yards of fabric for the center only. I should probably mention here that most quilt cotton fabric is approximately 40-44" wide on the bolt, but we will use 40" as the fabric width for estimating how many strips we need to accommodate the pieces we need to cut from that strip. In the case of template cutting, as this was, there is always additional waste of the fabric because you are fussy cutting and not just straight one size blocks from those strips.
For the first border, the supplies list specified 2 3/8 yards of fabric. Again this was template cutting for the blocks that make the inside of the diamonds, the diamonds themselves, and the outside of the diamonds. I used 2 different fabrics in this border. Of course if it was a simple border of only one fabric, you would use less overall fabric because you don't have the 1/4" seam allowances, the fussy cutting for the templates, etc. as you will see in border 3 and 5. To summarize, for the "Not So Giant Dahlia" pattern which is 50" x 50" finished size, we used 6 3/4 yards of fabric so far. (Note: finished size means without the seam allowances which are 1/4" on each side you have to piece something together - so unfinished it is 50 1/4" x 50 1/4" because we have to have that extra 1/4" to sew on the next border).
Now we are going to get much more mathematical because Marti so graciously provided the supplies list for the first part, and now we have to figure out our own supplies list. As quilters we have to first decide what the border will be and then calculate how much fabric we need to make that border. The picture to the left here outlines which border I will be referencing as we go forward.
For the second border, I used 3 different fabrics and a special corner block so that it appears that each color is complete like a picture frame circling the center of the quilt Each strip is 2 1/2" wide by 50" long, and I needed 4 of each fabric in that length, not including the corner blocks. That equated to 200" of fabric at 2 1/2" wide per fabric. 200/40 = 5 strips of fabric * 2 1/2" = 12 1/2" = just over 1/3 of a yard required for each fabric. And since there are 3 fabrics, that's 1 yard of total fabric and then for the "just over 1/3 of a yard" plus the fabric needed for the corner block, I finished the estimate on this border as needing 1 1/4 yards of total fabric. Now we are at 8 yards of total quilt fabric and the quilt size is 62"x62" finished.
On to the third border, which is just one fabric. This border was cut 5 1/4" wide and for the two sides, I needed 62 1/4" long strips. After sewing those on, the other two sides are now longer and needed 72 1/2". That's 270" by 5 1/4" = 270/40 = 7 strips of 5 1/4" = 36.75" of fabric needed. This is just over a yard, so I would finish the estimate on this border at 1 1/4 yards of total fabric. (Note: as we are figuring yardage, please remember you have to cut the fabric piece to square them up on the one end, sometimes more than once, and you never want to run short of a fabric. So generally I will add 1/4 to 1/2 a yard to any fabric purchases. But in this post, we are just estimating the cost of goods made so I'm not adding in that little bit extra but still need to keep that in mind as part of the expense of making this product). Adding 1 1/4 yards to the 8 yards total, we now have 9 1/4 yards and the quilt size is 72"x72" finished.
The fourth border has a couple of variations in it and so the calculations are a bit more complex. One is the flying geese pattern on both sides of the quilt and then you have the top and bottom purple strips that are finished off with corner squares that were embroidered. We'll look at the flying geese first. Each measured 3" tall by 6" wide finished. There are 24 of them per side or a total of 48 flying geese on the two sides. Based on this web site which I found when I googled how to calculate the fabric used -- No Waste Flying Geese Cutting Chart -- to cut fabric for flying geese, you add 1 1/4" to the width so that would be 7 1/4" and you add 7/8" to the height so that would be 3 7/8". In order to make 4 flying geese you need 1 of those 7 1/4" blocks of your triangle fabric (gold in this case) and 4 of the 3 7/8" blocks of the surrounding fabric. I can get 5 of the 7 1/4" blocks out of one strip of fabric and if that makes 4 flying geese per block, I need to cut 3 strips of 7 1/4" to make 48 flying geese = 66" of fabric. I can get 10 of the 3 7/8" blocks out of one strip of fabric and I need 4 of each block to make 4 flying geese, so that equated to 1 of those blocks for every flying geese = 5 strips of 3 7/8" = 20" of fabric. The flying geese fabric required for this border is 86" or 2 1/2 yards.
For the second part of the fourth border, we need two strips of the purple, which is 6 1/2" wide by 72 1/4" long. The corner blocks are 6 1/2" x 6 1/2" so let's add that to the 72 1/4" making the overall fabric length 85 1/4" and we need 2 of them = 171/40 = 5 strips of 6 1/2" = 32 1/2" or approximately 1 yard of fabric. Added to the 2 1/2 yards for the flying geese, that puts the fabric requirement for the fourth border at 3 1/2 yards. We are now at 12 3/4 yards of fabric and the quilt size is 85"x85" finished.
The fifth and final border is just a single fabric cut at 6 1/2" wide. We have two strips that will be 85 1/4" long and then 2 strips that will be 98 1/2" long. That is 368" of fabric = 368/40 = 10 strips of fabric * 6 1/2" = 65" = almost 2 yards of fabric. The top is now finished with 14 3/4 yards of fabric and the quilt size is 98"x98" finished.
But wait, that's just the top, we still have 3 more fabric elements to add to complete the estimate of cost of goods made in this quilt. There is backing fabric, the batting, and then the binding fabric to finish the quilt.
Backing was purchased with 108" width fabric and I bought 3 yards, which was barely enough as you need extra around the quilt when quilting - generally 4-6" all the way around.
Batting also needed to be 108"x108" or slightly larger - generally the same size as the backing fabric.
Binding is cut in 2 1/2" strips and at 40" per strip you need 3 strips per side * 4 sides = 12 strips of 2 1/2" = 1 yard.
So at this point we have added 3 yards of 108" wide backing and another yard of regular width fabric. The binding yardage will join the yardage for the rest of the top bringing that to 15 3/4 yards. Whew! This is a LOT of math, right?
Well we are at the costing portion now that we know all the materials that will go into this quilt. i'm going to break it down into categories.
40" wide fabric required = 15 3/4 yards = average cost at $8/yard = $126.00
108" wide backing fabric required = 3 yards (should have had a bit more) @ $12.99 yard = $40.00
Batting for a king size quilt (Warm and Natural or equivalent package on Amazon) = $40.00
This brings our estimate for cost of goods made to $206.00. That's really close as I've been known to say materials for a quilt this size is about $200.00. But now I have the numbers to kind of back up that estimate or swag. But wait....there's more....
That's right, this is only materials. What we haven't included is overhead things like use of the electricity, sewing machine, scissors, rotary cutter, rulers, pins, thread....well you get the idea. And then there is the labor hours. But this is also the hardest areas to equate. So we're back to swag to finish off this cost estimate.
First for overhead, I have a calculation in my Paper & Spark Inventory sheet where my overhead is about $6.00 per product, so we'll use that. Now we're at $212.00 before labor costs.
For labor, now this is where I'm going to really swag because I didn't track my time making this quilt. The only thing I do know for sure is that it took me 6 hours to quilt it at the quilt store where I rented the long arm and the rental fee was also $125.00. So for this portion, if I put my hourly rate at $15.00 (and that's really low folks for custom work), then we're talking about $90.00 + $125.00 rental fee = $215.00 just for the quilting portion. As for the number of hours spent on piecing this quilt top and putting on the binding at the end, and knowing that it took me about a month or so to piece this, I'm going to estimate my time 50 hours (5 hours per day on weekends = 10 hours a week * 5 weeks). And frankly that might be a little low, but we're going with that for now. 50 hours at $15/hour is $750.00. So for total labor and long arm rental fee, we are adding another $965.00 to the cost of goods made and bring our final total to.......
Wow, even I am amazed after figuring this out. I might have said I'd sell this quilt for $750.00, but I would have been reducing my labor rate per hour to....hold on, more math..... $750 - $206 material costs - $6 overhead - $125 rental fee = $413.00 / 56 hours = $7.38 per hour for a custom hand made product. Minimum wage in Texas is $7.25. Somehow as a quilting professional and small business owner, I would value my work more than at minimum wage, wouldn't you? And for any business, large or small, to make a profit you have to cover cost of goods made and then you have a markup for profit. So what would you sell your quilt for? I think my asking price would be somewhere between $1200-$1500.00 based on my cost of goods made calculation.
Ok now that most of you have fallen off your chairs, if you even got to the end of this post after all the boring math, you're probably thinking no way. I can get a quilt, a nice quilt, from a high end department store for WAY less. And yes, I get that. I don't have $1200-$1500 just to buy for a blanket on the bed. So if that is what you are shopping for, then please go to the department store and buy one of the quilts that are made on a machine in mass quantities. But if you are looking for one of a kind, custom made, hand down from generation to generation, quilted treasure........well you get it. Ultimately it depends on what you are purchasing and why doesn't it? I can tell you one thing....I have a small quilt that I made in a class with a Master Quilter (Sharon Schamber) which she autographed right on the quilt. And that is a one of a kind quilted treasure. It isn't one of hers that she made, but because it has her signature on it, I wouldn't even begin to know what kind of price value to associate with it. And that is the difference between a quilt and a hand made quilted treasure. So...now it's up to you....I've broken it down into numbers, dollars, and the actual cost of goods made.....you choose, and thanks from all us quilt professionals out there as you now have a better understanding of what goes into one of our quilts!
Qualifications for Quilt Professional
Some of you don't know me from the gal next door or the grandmother down the street, so you ask yourself, what makes her a "quilt professional" to rate her work at more than minimum wage? Good question and I'm adding to this original post to clarify this question just a little bit....
First, I am not an author of a quilt book nor am I a Paducah Quilt Show or Houston International Quilt show ribbon winner. Those are, in my opinion, master quilt professionals whom we all look up to and learn so much from. But I have received a ribbon or two from my quilts judged in the West Michigan Quilters' Guild quilt show, which was very exciting, and a story for another time.
When I look at myself as a quilt professional, I look at a couple of aspects of my quilting history that I believe qualifies me.
Here's my list.....
Have been quilting since 1999.
Have taken classes from master quilters and published artists too many to name here, but here are some that I truly admire and look up to --Sharon Schamber, Caryl Bryer Fallert, and a personal friend and mentor Beth Ann Williams.
Have produced well over 100 quilts using various techniques, including some that were displayed in the local quilt store in Michigan.
Have taught basic quilting classes at the local quilt store in Michigan.
Active member of an over 400 member Quilt Guild in West Michigan where I:
Served as newsletter editor for 3 years and as such was a part of the governing group for the guild
Participated in numerous quilt shows including the creation of the Show Book for 2 shows
Participated in assisting the judges at the quilt show and was able to observe their criteria for judging hundreds of quilts
Active member with the guild in various other functions and sponsored charities
Active member with a local quilt bee associated with the guild
Have made quilting mistakes that you don't recover from, and others that became "design decisions"
Am a fabricoholic and my stash is a testament to it
And lastly....I am passionate about the art of quilting and embroidery and take pride in what I produce for myself, friends, family, and my customers!
So that's it....that's why I consider myself a quilting professional and I hope that bit of history will help you to understand where I come from when I post articles on my web site just a bit more....thanks for reading!!