Saturday, 15 October 2011

Do you sell your quilts?

Quilt making for me has always been about relaxing from real life, enjoying experimenting with new ideas with the end result being things to give away as gifts or to take part in a swap.

Quilt making for me has never, nor ever will be, about making quilts to sell. Then pressure steps into the equation and the whole point of quilting is to get away from pressure.

A few years ago my father 'volunteered' me to a lady he played bridge with, who was looking for someone to turn her 'lifelong collection of batiks' into a quilt. I wasn't wild about the idea but felt I had no alternative to say 'yes' if they were to remain happy bridge partners.

A couple of weeks later two big boxes arrived at my house...full of old clothes. What no one had told me was that this Malaysian lady's collection of 'batiks' was in fact her old saris and such like that she had worn over the years and the fabric required to make the quilt would be provided by cutting off all the cuffs, pleats, button holes, hemlines etc etc. The note with the boxes thanked me for my kindness and said she would be pleased to receive a 'super king size' quilt.

I won't go into how I felt at this point suffice to say I knew it was going to be a very simple pattern that I attempted. Many months later the requested quilt was completed and then came the awkward question of 'how much?' I had spent  hours and hours on the quilt but I just felt asking for what it would have cost if I had charged myself out at an hourly rate would have been so mind-numbingly huge, that I chickened out and asked her to 'pay me what you think it is worth.'

She sent a cheque but it was so far short of the mark that it made me realise that non-quilters really have no idea of the hours we actually spend creating something and that if I was going to do it again, it would most definitely not be a super-king size quilt and I'd only do it if I had control over the design and the fabrics. I also concluded you're not going to be taking early retirement just by making quilts so I will only make for others infrequently and when I do, whatever is spent on supplies, I will double for my time which I do realise is still well short of a quilts actual worth.

Fast forward to a month ago and a work colleague asked me if I would make a quilt for her to give to a friend with a 'nautical' feel.  I thought about it for a bit, memory sufficiently dulled by the batik experience and said yes. In my head, nautical was all about bits of driftwood, a beachy, laid back kind of feel and I thought I could achieve that. She thought that too but unfortunately she didn't think her friend would; she thought his idea of nautical would be:

and this:

I don't dislike them...but I don't really like them either.  So I needed to find a way to work with them to make them more modern and hopefully I have found it:

All I did was cut up 6 1/2" squares into half-square triangles, played around with the pattern and colour until I was happy with it and then sewed them all together.

I really like it now.

On with the quilting.


  1. I too have had similar experiences with selling quilts. If asked the first thing I say is, "it won't be cheap" and then go from there. I consider my time as valuable and my time spent working on someone else's project is just as valuable as working on something of my own choice. Love your nautical quilt.

  2. Great plan for the nautical quilt. I often get that as well - people choose the novelty fabric for their quilt (e.g. someone wanted me to make a Canadiana quilt and suggested some Canada flags and kitschy maple leaf fabric....) It was a hard one. I think if I ever sold quilts I'd probably stick to quick crib size quilts and easy patterns.

  3. I totally agree. I like to make quilts that I want to make, not dictated by others. When I'm asked how much it would cost I am very up front about the cost of all the materials, and then I add in, "And then of course there is my time." They usually get the message. Some go ahead, and I have finally gotten to a point of not feeling guilty when I say that will be . . . .

    Love the way this commission is turning out, Can't wait to see how you quilt it.

  4. I am totally with you - if I was in this to make money, I know for certain I would make about 1p every twelve hours of labour - I wouldn't even want to put a quilt in a charity auction for fear that £200 worth of fabrics would sell for £30. Commissions are really tricky because none of us actually want to spend precious time making something we dont like with fabrics we don't like. Having said that, the colours you've chosen for the solids in this quilt make it a really striking, modern, funky quilt.

  5. I completely agree - yesterday a friend admired a quilt I had hanging over the bannister so I showed her the quilt I want to sell. She really liked it and asked how much I was going to sell it for and I replied that I wasn't sure but the fabric, wadding and threads had cost £85 so it would have to be more than that. I'm not sure whether she was shocked at the cost of the raw materials or what the end price would be - I offered to give her it but she wouldn't take it and neither would she just pay £85 and asked me to think about I'm stuck and don't know what to do! (Added to which she prefers the first one but I don't think I can part with that!) You've done a great job with the quilt - I think I would have put my head in my hands when I was given the theme fabric but your quilt is a wonderful example of how you can use some fabric that's not your taste and combine it with others to make something that feels modern and fresh - inspiring!

  6. You are very clever to turn awful fabric into a great but appropriately themed quilt - I think I would have walked away from that one - don't do things I don't like very well!

  7. I can't even figure out how much to price a Christmas ornament for a craft fair so a fat lot of good I would be at quilt pricing! Love what you did for the nautical quilt though!

  8. I completely agree. It scares me sometimes when I add up my material costs just how much one quilt costs. Then if I had to come up with a realistic or unrealistic figure for labour on top of that I can totally see why most people can't afford or want to pay that much for a quilt. I would love to be able to make stuff to sell but when I do it will not be quilts. On the plus side I love how you've taken these obvious conversational prints and turned them into something more fresh and modern. I also love the way the HST's look like signal flags on old ships!

  9. Check this out ...

    Great nautical outcome though - well done.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. You've done great things with that quilt top, it's really modern. As for selling quilts, I've only sold baby quilts so far for the very reasons you describe...! I think I'd only take on a quilt commission if the design and fabrics were down to me and the customer had already seen and liked my style!

  12. Beautiful nautical quilt.

    I`ve never sold a quilt.All the quilts I`ve done were for me or gifted to family who love quilts and know the time I spend sewing it.

  13. Good use of that fabric...the solids make it look good. Did you use your Go Baby to cut them up??

  14. I just made a quilt for commission, but the fabric was cheap - mostly white and scraps, except for the backing but most importantly I LOVED the pattern. It was a joy to make so it was worth the not quite minimum wage hourly pay.

    That batik quilt is a horror story. I think the thing to do in any situation is to say, "I do this for fun - if I am not in love with the fabric or pattern I don't make it, sorry." But people don't get it because they are paying a lot of money, and it's a job right? But it is not a job, it is a hobby, something I do for fun and relaxation because I want to.

    All that being said, I think you did make a silk purse out of a sows ear. :) Great job.

  15. I dont even do well when the person im making the quilt for has different tastes than me. I have one christmas present for a girl and i just cant bring myself to decide what to make her because shes into the black and skulls and stuff... so not me! good job on the nautical quilt... and the batiks, what a nightmare!

  16. Love your quilt you did a great job and it has a lovely feel. I do sell some quilts but am not doing any more commissions, it's so hard making them to someone else's taste and I have an order now in a fabric colour I'm not happy with (it changed from the original spec and I didn't want to pull out having said yes) that I really am concerned about.

  17. I like your idea and i hope they do too. it looks great!

    Ahhh...the "can you make me a quilt..." question...
    I'm dealing with that right now! I have a friend that asked me to make "baby clothes" quilts for her 3 daughters. She said she had a huge box of clothes of all of theirs and she'd pay me to make them. After tons of research online I realized to have someone make them it's really expensive for even just a small size. I wanted to make them lap size for teenagers. So i told her I'd charge $250 each. Which is on the low end, but still some money for me. BUT it's TONS of work, I don't like it and I've barely started and it's been months. Come to find out, most of the clothes are knits and sweaters!! WHAT?? What am I supposed to do with these!! I've managed to work with the knits but the sweaters are all going back to her!

    the only other quilts I'll make and sell are ones that I have all control over the fabric and design. they can tell me what colors and look through my "favorites" on flickr and request a pattern they see on there, or leave it up to me. It's only been a couple quilts, so it's been ok. The only other time I'll attempt to sell quilts is when I've made them and then list them on etsy or something and it will be basically at cost to cover the materials. It's so hard b/c there is a lot of time involved and to sell a quilt at a reasonable cost you end up getting paid less than a few dollars an hour!

  18. No, a business in making AND selling quilts was never my objective, too.
    If people ask me if I'll make them a quilt, I say, Fine, but you'll pay for the fabrics, have patience and I'll do the rest.
    So far only one good friend of mine has asked me. Size and pattern have been chosen, fabrics too, but I don't think she's bought any yet. I can be patient too.
    Yes, what you think of 'nautical' isn't always what another person thinks. Difficult. Goof of you to talk that through!
    I love your quilt: it reminds me of all the flags used on boats.
    Though I only know the Blue Peter one, I know there are lots of others and they (in the quilt) look like a colourful bunch of flags!
    Well done.
    Steered clear out of a tricky corner!

  19. That batik story is awful. I agree people do not realise how much work goes into making a quilt etc. I made a large cake a while back for a special occasion and it took me three days to complete...cake, icing, sugar paste people and decorations, etc. I did not really have any price in my head as it is so hard to put a price on some things that other people know nothing about. When I dropped the cake, off, I was handed an envelope with 20 quid in it. Needless to say I felt like crying. So I know how you feel. I sometimes wish I was more assertive and not afraid to say a price when asked to make something.

  20. Your design for the nautical quilt is PERFECT. Modern, but incorporating some traditional themes. I love it.

  21. I like your quilt too - it's nautical and fun; and reminds me of the colour coded flags they use at sea!

  22. I don't make quilts to sell, but I have sold some of them. Some to colleague's or friends, and then I charge only the cost of the materials. Some to strangers, and then I double the price. People tell me that's too expensive, but that's because they are used to seeing King size, Chinese made quilts for 25€. I know I don't get paid for all the hours I put in it, but I'm lucky enough to have a job, so I don't depend on any "income" of my quilting. I don't do commissioned quilts (although people ask about it) because I want to be free to make the creative decisions about my quilts. It's MY hobby after all...

  23. Wow thanks for saying what we all were thinking! Thats pretty wild to see so many other people commenting who can all relate! I think it was a relief to read that so many other crafter/sewing/quilters feel the same way because those who are not in this headspace totally miss how much time and creative energy goes into these projects. I made a dumb choice this spring to make a patchwork skirt for a local acquaintance who was always goin on about what I wear... and she gladly provided the fabric... and I hated every single piece of it. I loathed it the entire time and even found myself getting irritated with the person I was making it for! I finally got it done and it looked just ghastly (IMO), but i packaged the sucker up just glad to be done with it and shipped it off to her side of the island. I didn't charge her for it... i couldn't (altho it didn't stop me from resenting the time it 'stole' from my life and kids).

    I have never sold a quilt... and... I highly doubt I ever will after that experience and reading that its okay not to haha. I feel that if I have to (to some degree) put my kids off to sew... then it either needs to pay REALLY well... or be therapy for me so that when I am all theirs it gives them a happy more relaxed mommy. my time is worth a LOT... more than I could ever justify charging for a quilt!

    Oh but I do have one friend I just love sewing for. She is just truly thankful and so overjoyed for everything I make her and she never asks for a thing or voices her 'needs'... she makes sewing and knitting for her a blessing for me too hah... its the first and only experience I've had like that.

    Anyways... thanks for the honesty! it was refreshing and nice to know I'm not alone!

  24. What a great topic and firstly - I am outraged for Siobhan, can't believe people think £20 would go anywhere near the mark for a special cake!!
    I did a cot sized commission several years ago - customer's choice of fabric that I didn't enjoy using. I logged every minute and at minimum wage I charged her £100 over & above the fabric - she just managed not to faint and I vowed never again.
    If I feel like making one for a special event like a relative's wedding I usually ask if they want it first,saying "please don't worry about saying no". To make any sort of money you would need to find a niche market. I know someone locally who felts old wool blankets and then does simple applique on them, has sold to the likes of Nicole Kidman.........

  25. ha ha, I hear what you're screamin'! After a similar bad experience I now tell people that my fee is it should be! :)


01 09 10