What is a handmade quilt worth?

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Today I started and finished quilting a baby quilt using a much simpler, open stitching pattern than the one I posted yesterday.  I decided to give myself a little break by doing some overall loops with a few repeating details mixed in rather than densely quilt this one, especially since it’s for a boy.  In general, I think males are much less interested than females are in pretty flowery patterns with all kinds of intense detail and embellishment.  They usually find more important the fabric theme and color and the fact that the quilt keeps them warm!

Rather than simply post this newly finished quilt, and because the piecing pattern, size, amount of fabric and basic products used are exactly the same as those in the baby girl’s quilt posted yesterday, I decided to use this opportunity to share some thoughts on what goes into a quilt and how much it’s actually worth, comparing the two.

Firstly, no two quilts are exactly the same, even when made by the same quilter!

Here are some things to consider if you are comparing quilts at craft sales and markets, or deciding between handmade and store-bought items:

WHAT YOU CAN SEE:

  • fabric colors and prints
  • piecing pattern (blocks, strips, triangles, borders, etc.)
  • hand or machine quilted
  • hand or machine finished binding
  • the design of the stitching pattern: dense patterns use much more thread and retain more stiffness while a more open pattern drapes more softly – both are choices and neither determine overall quality as long as there is enough stitching to properly contain the batting, and as long as stitches aren’t too big or loose that they will catch and snag

WHAT YOU CAN’T ALWAYS TELL JUST FROM LOOKING:

Is the batting synthetic or all natural fibres or some combination in between?  Each quilter has preferences, batting types function differently and have very different prices.  The type of batting also determines how close together the stitching must be to hold it together well over time.

What kind of thread was used?  Quilting thread is available in various fibres, weights, and qualities, some being more than double the price of others. Each quilter has their preferences based on their intentions for the quilt, the style of stitching, their machine and how it works best.

Is it good quality fabric? Fabric is available in various thread counts which determine overall quality, and prices differ greatly.

So in looking at my two quilts, you can “see” that they look the same except for the stitching pattern.   Both have cotton/bamboo blend batting, both were stitched with the same brand of thread (although the girl’s quilt clearly used far more thread), and both are made of good quality 100% cotton quilting fabric.  I would estimate the cost of basic materials for each at $55, not including thread, and both are about 46″ X 48″ before washing.

Now let’s compare the stitching pattern:  the girl’s quilt has a much more complex design, used about four times the amount of thread, and took at least four times as long to quilt.  This will account for a noticeable difference in price when I sell them – even though to some they will “look” the same – because the amount of time and artistic effort in it make it a much different product than the one I did today, and it will appeal to a different kind of buyer.

The choices when buying a quilt are numerous, and will be determined by what’s important to the buyer overall in the end product.  Not everyone “needs” a handmade quilt.  While many appreciate the creativity and time that goes into them, not everyone wishes to have them, especially at high end prices. And that’s perfectly OK!  I use no name brand grocery items for many things, but my ketchup and mayo have to be top quality, I prefer refinished antiques to brand new furniture, and I can see beauty in art without ever needing to have a painting in my house.  We all have different tastes.

But if you do want a handmade quilt, especially one that’s intricately quilted, think of it as buying art.  Basic math – using the size of these baby quilts – shows you that a full bed sized quilt could easily cost $250-$300 just for materials.

I’m asked regularly if I make custom king size quilts (or queen sized, or even twin sized) and my answer is always “no”.  My reason for this is that they would simply cost more than most people would ever want to pay, and rather than go through a lot of communication and details to determine something I’ve found to be true over and over again, it’s just easier to say “no” right at the start!  While there might be one person here and there who won’t mind spending several hundreds of dollars on a handmade quilt for their bed, most are comparing costs with retail outlets without comparing the items on the list above!  By the time I explain it all to them, they’ve changed their minds.

TRUE CONFESSION: I wanted a big white quilt for my own bed recently, and I had no desire to do it myself because I knew how much work it would be and I wasn’t feeling the desire to do such a huge project.  So I grabbed a lovely one at a store one day and it works fine for me.  There are certainly differences between it and one I would make myself:  I’m sure the batting is nowhere near the quality of the one I use, some of the stitching skips, the looser threads do get caught on my fingers when I’m making the bed, and I haven’t tried to wash it yet so that will be enlightening!  One day I might tackle a big one just for me, but for now I stick to projects that are marketable and virtually stress free, because they must be FUN!

(Frog quilt has been sold.)

 

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2 thoughts on “What is a handmade quilt worth?

  1. I’ve thought a lot about pricing quilts. As you say, there is a very small number of people who would be willing to pay what a bed quilt is worth, in terms of the time that went into it. I “priced” placemats recently and found that I’d have to charge about $35 each to get the value of my time out of them. Here is my recent post, and at the bottom of it are links to others I have written about making quilts, and the price vs. value comparison. https://catbirdquilts.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/how-much-are-those-placemats-worth/

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Melanie! And thanks for sharing your own references re pricing. I don’t personally make a living from my handmade items, so I don’t always take into account the full labor cost – even though I probably should! – because sometimes it just seems too high for the local market. I definitely price things to get back the cost of what I put into them, plus some extra for the work I do, but the “hourly” wage doesn’t always amount to much! I quilt for my own enjoyment though, so I also take into account the fact that I’m doing something I love, I want to keep doing it, and I can’t possibly keep everything I make… haha

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