Monday, 19 March 2012

"How long does it take you to make a quilt?"

I am often asked that question by non-quilters. It's a bit like asking how long is a piece of string.

So, for this quilt, I've worked out how long it took.

I took one jelly roll and some contrasting fabric; 1/2 an hour...but it would be a whole lot longer normally when pulling fabrics for a quilt if I hadn't used the jelly roll so let's say

1 hour.

To cut into 2 1/2 inch squares and sew a row together took half a hour

There are 26 rows in this quilt x by 1/2 an hour .

13 hours.

It took 10 minutes to sew each row together x 24 seamed rows.

4 hours.

Splice the backing fabric down the middle and add in some left-over 2 1/2 inch squares and seam two rows.

45 minutes.

Quilt it with simple diagonal lines.

1 hour.

Cut a 2 1/2 inch wide binding, press in half, machine stitch to quilt.

45 minutes.

Hand-stitch down.

2 1/2 hours.

So 23 hours to make a quilt measuring just 38" by 38"

Now let's introduce a 'how much' element to the equation.

The minimum wage on the Little Island is £6.15 an hour. Times that by the 23 hours it took to make the quilt and you get to £141.45

Then there is the cost of all the materials themselves.
You'd have to have bought crib size batting (60" x 45") for this quilt - approx £10.
Backing fabric - you'd need about a metre and a half:

Just for interest, this is how much quilting style fabric is per metre on the Little Island...

 ...which is not to say I pay this amount because I don't.
So approx £7 a metre say imported from the USA at a metre and a half.
Jelly roll - approx £15 going on the assumption this has also come from the USA.

Then you need to factor in postage for said items to arrive at your front door, thread, wear and tear on your machine, electricity used to give it a spin in the washing machine, time spent clipping off loose threads etc etc
Let's add on another £20 for that.

Now the total is £196.95.

What do I conclude from this?

  • That to earn a living from making quilts is impossible
  • Non-quilters will never 'get' the amount of hours that go into making a quilt
  •  That my hobby is everso-slightly-more-expensive than I first thought
  • That giving a quilt is an incredibly generous thing to do...if someone had just had a baby would you have gone out and spent nigh on £200 for a present for baby?
  • That I still enjoy doing it despite all of the above


  1. So true. And quilts made as fundraisers(as I am just doing for a school)have my time donated, and will still not make much more than the cost of the materials.
    Good thing I have a passion for fabrics and quilting!

  2. Very true and you're right, they make very expensive but beautiful presents! Lucky baby to be receiving such a gorgeous quilt!

  3. That quilt it amazing and has enough HSTs in it to send most quilters doolally! Quilters quilt because they love it. To make a living, as you have stated, is nigh on impossible. What gets me are how little is asked for some quilts on Etsy. Therefore people are left with the impression that the true cost is too much. There are lots of quilters selling them without ever taking into consideration the time and energy they have put into making the quilts.

  4. Very true which is why I rarely embark on quilts as presents. It's not that I am being 'tight' money wise or time wise. I just can't face the thought of investing in a quilt that people look at, shove in cupboard and think they'd rather I'd given them a baby grow two pack from M&S that cost a tenner. :-S

    Oh and when I make quilts you can double the time it took you lol

  5. SO true, and then the people that see all the effect (family and friends) can't understand why people don't understand that a handmade quilt is well worth the $100+

    regardless, your quilt is beautiful and i will definitely be referencing this post

  6. I think you forgot to factor in basting the quilt ;)
    You are right making a profit on quilting is near impossible to do!

  7. I would love to link to your post on Facebook, just as an answer to the people who say "will you make me a quilt, I'll pay you $50?" I ran the currency converter and today, 200 pounds = $317!!

  8. Thanks for doing the maths - my Mum keeps on saying I should sell stuff I make - yep, if people would pay £200!!

  9. Fab post! This is exactly why I cannot be bothered to put more effort into selling the quilts I make. I get far greater pleasure in making something I love and giving it to people I love.

  10. Very interesting and slightly depressing post!

  11. I love your quilt! The shadowy quality to the background fabric makes it brilliant. I'm thinking about printing out your post and keeping it for future conversations from the ignorant.:)

  12. what a nice post, I get asked that so many times too and then I'm also asked the cost and again that all depends too, if I try to sell a quilt I won't get the money I'd want for it, but I have no problem buying $40 worth of fabrics for a baby quilt and giving it away, but if I'd include the time and then my long arm rate I charge customer's it would get close to 150 - 200$ funny right?

  13. I thought it was bigger!!
    I like it a lot too.
    Well done.
    It would take me double to make it as I sew so slow....Lol.

  14. I try not to think about it! I make quilts for gifts all the time, but if I didn't the fabric would just sit in the closet. After all, how many quilts can I actually use in my own home? It is a pleasure to make things for friends and family, and the process of creation plus the joy of giving is my reward. So far, everyone I have gifted with a quilt has been bowled over (or very good actors) and that, as the Mastercard commercial goes, is priceless.

  15. I think you sew faster than me and that if you were quilting for a living you would certainly expect more than minimum wage. People who sell hand crafted things rarely price them properly either. However, if you are making a quilt for the joy of it, and give it because you want to that is wonderful. By the way, your quilt is very beautiful!

  16. Great post! And indeed much more expensive than you would've thought starting this hobby.
    But loving it AND the blogging community!!
    I've only given quilts to people who DO appreciate the work that's gone in it.
    My mum handmade a (supersized) double weddingring, working hardon thatin 6 months, gave it to my brother and his wife to be who said: it doesn't match the curtains in our bedroom! (my mum couldn't quilt for half a year).
    So from that I learnt that consultation with the receiver is absolutely necessary (at least that).
    Thanks for this great post. I'll try and link it to FB somehow.

  17. The quilt is stunning. And your point is well made. I only give quilts to crafty people who appreciate and have a clue as to the time and effort and skill involved. I am ver selective that way, having been burned before. Nothing pisses me off more than when people think a handmade gift is the "cheap" way out. I look at the cost as part gift and part my entertainment...for example my current sweater I am knitting will cost about $180 in materials alone when done, plus 4 months of my effort. Would I ever buy myself a $180 sweater? Hell no! But I had fun making it (aside from all the cursing). The damn thing just better fit! I full heatedly agree that you could never make a living as a quilter. I have had some friends or just people reading the blog ask me if I sell them, but I tell them that I charge material cost plus hours billed at dentist rates ;) About $2000 a quilt at my slow pace, I'd say! That usually sends them running!

  18. I really appreciated this post! I've made a few commissioned quilts, and I always feel torn that I'm not charging enough, and worried that people will feel that I'm overcharging them, because it's so hard to quantify how much goes into the making of the quilt! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one taking note of this!

  19. I think you are a pretty fast piecer! I would have had to charge extra time for trimming the hst to size :) And the quilt is Stunning!

  20. Firstly the quilt is lovely, I really like the background and given the hours I have spent trimming HSTs, I am in awe! Its really interesting to work out the time spent on a quilt. So far I have only given away quilts made for close friends who have had babies and family members with "big" birthdays. My reasoning is that I enjoy it as a hobby so am happy to donate my time as such for free so the cost becomes just the materials which as we know can still be significant. Even if mine were ever good enough to sell I wouldn't as I wouldn't be willing to give my time for free or next to nothing. And I think sewing would then become an obligation rather than a hobby. I really enjoyed this thought provoking post though.

  21. Absolutely true! I think about this so much as I sew/quilt queen and king size quilts for each of my brothers and sisters. I know they love their quilts, but am sure they just don't 'get' how much time and money are involved to produce said quilt. I just hope they know how much I love them each time they cuddle underneath that blanket.
    Your quilt is gorgeous, hope that 'someone' feels your love from it too!

  22. I love most of the math involved in quilting - resizing blocks, figuring out borders - but not this part! Who needs to know that their stash could have been a really good retirement savings? Not me! I guess it's better than being addicted to something like World of Warcraft, right?

    And that quilt is spectacular!

  23. Wonderful quilt. I'm a sucker for the rainbow spectrum as a feature in a quilt. You pull it off wonderfully. Thanks for breaking down your $$ figures. I am always glad to be a part of the finances to crafts. My "real" job is as a nurse and I can't think of making what I make doing that in sewing. I wish it were true. Keep up the beautiful quilting.

    ps- congrats on the spotlight today.

  24. I like this quilt and if your the maker of the quilt that looks like stacked lava lamps, i love that one too! I saw it on you photo stream, also on tools from Modern Quilt Guild, very artistic. I would like to link to this post, hoping someone I have made a quilt for sees it..they don't seem to realize that saying "this didn't take you long did it" sounds like a slap in the face. I always wanted to say " Here give it back and I'll run to walmart and buy you $10 burp cloths from china with who knows what sprayed on it, instead of the organic fabrics, i made you baby quilt and extras with it". Just my two cents

  25. I calculated the cost of quilting a while ago and after discussing it with my husband, he commented that at least I wasn't out drinking and whatever the female equivalent of womanising is. Fair enough!
    I also buy the vast majority of my fabric from fabric shack in the US - home of half price shipping ($8.50) and they always list their parcels as worth $20 so never get stopped for customs duty. But I didn't tell you that!

  26. Your conclusions are so very accurate--and you make a quilt quickly. Mine usually take much, much longer. One of our church members (who is an oil painter) suggested we raise some money by selling some quilts for $40 or so. After I picked up my jaw, I explained that I'm not willing to put in 20-40 hours of labor, not to mention cost of materials, for those kinds of wages! Non-quiltmakers truly haven't a clue!
    Love your quilts (and I'm a very traditional quilter so far).

  27. Only quilter can understand it....Every time it is needed
    to explain, brrrrrr....Thank you, well done!

  28. I love this quilt. For some reason it makes "Navajo Indian Blanket" spring to mind. You are so right about the time and cost of making. I do it for fun .... period. I give most to charity and some to those I care about if I think they will love it.


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