Monday, July 14, 2014

Yes! My quilts are expensive!!!

Yesterday I had a conversation with a few friends about pricing their work - not necessarily quilts - and that prompted me to write this blog post today.

Until this year, I wasn't selling my major work. Smaller quilts, pouches, aprons were the ones I concentrated on and was happy with it. This year I have started selling some of my major works.

The first reaction I got from people was "Wow! Thats expensive!" or sometimes they never came back to me after I quoted a price - just never replied. A few told me that they loved my work but they could not afford it. A VERY FEW told me that yes, the price was worth the piece but unfortunately at the given time they could not afford it.

So let me start out by saying what all of them had in common. "Yes! My quilts are expensive!"

And that is because I work hard on them. I ignore my family when I work. I set aside specific time everyday and go out of my house and work on my quilts.

I also buy the best of the material. And if that means buying a spool for Rs 400 instead of the Rs 10 one - yes I do it. I even  buy the best sewing machine needles!

And more than everything else, my work is done from the heart. Every stitch is there for a purpose. For every 10 pieces of fabric there lies a piece that has been discarded because it "just did not look perfect". My work goes home with me in my head. I get up in the night some times with a head buzzing with ideas!

When I exhibited my work recently. A lady approached me when my stall was packed full and asked me the price of a quilt. I told her it was Rs 8000.

And she asked, "Why?"

I realized that she genuinely had that question. Then I asked her, "Do you know what goes into making a quilt?" When she said she didn't, I explained to her the entire process of making that quilt. she stood there quietly. She just said "Wow! I did not know that"and went away. I was dissapointed in loosing yet another customer. 20 minutes later she was back with the money and she bought that quilt! I was so happy.

Today I will tell all of you who do not know what goes into making a quilt.

First, its just an idea in my head. Like the White Rainbow quilt. I just knew I wanted to make a quilt for someone who cannot see it. This stage usually happens while having tea, in the shower or even while driving!

Later that idea starts taking shape and I start my sketches. These take an awfully long time. You will find numerous notebooks with these sketches in my studio and my home! If i were to make every quilt I sketched, I would have over two thousand quilts by now!

Then I start choosing my fabric. And this stage usually means a LOT of mess! I remove fabric from its shelf, pour out bins and then make decisions. This too takes a very long time.

Then comes the actual cutting and sewing. Compared to the other stages, this stage usually lasts the shortest. Even when I make portraits, I spend more time over whether the piece is the right colour than actually appliqueing it and sewing it down.

And how do I calculate the price?

First, I calculate the material that I use. And that includes fabric, batting and thread. I usually know how many spools I used for a certain project. I just add up that cost and that is my Material Cost (M). For a twin size quilt, I usually need about 6 yards of fabric for the front, about 5 yards for the backing and one yard for the binding. So that makes it 12 yards of fabric. In India fabric on an average costs Rs 150 - 300 per yard. Let us say it is Rs 250 per yard. The cost of 12 yards will be 3,000/-. I will use 2 spools for it. So that adds another Rs 800. So my total Material Cost (M) = Rs 3,800/-

Then I calculate the number of hours I spent making the quilt. This includes only the time I actually spent cutting and sewing it and not the designing stage! Then I multiply it by a basic hourly rate which is my labour charge (L)

The most important question is how much should be my labour charge. This is a decision that entirely up to you! What is your time worth? In the US people charge about 10-15$ per hour. But lets be realistic, you're not going to get that in India. So ask yourselves a few questions.
How much does your hair stylist charge you for a haircut? She spends maybe about 20-30 mins on your hair and charges you anywhere between Rs 200 - 600 depending on where the parlour is, right? Aren't you even half as talented as her? So why dont you give yourself Rs 150 per hour?
I normally spend about 20 hours making a twin quilt. So that will be 150 x 20 = Rs 3,000/-

Now consider your rent, light & phone bill, stationary, electricity and all the other overheads! Consider them even if you are not paying them at the moment. Because if you do not consider it now when your business grows and you have to shift to new premises, your clients will have to bear the cost and they will grumble about the price hike!

How do you calculate this charge? Lets assume a monthly figure of Rs 6000. It covers your rent, electricity bill and phone bill. Now divide it by 30 to get a day's amount. It will be 200. A day will be 8 hour long, so per hour it will be Rs 25. Now multiply it by the number of hours you worked to get the Surcharge (S)- 25 x 20 = Rs 500/-

Now here's your price for the quilt. M + L + S = 3800 + 3000 + 500 = Rs 7,300/-

Is that your selling price?


It is the Cost Price!

Now add a profit. @ 10% Say Rs 730/-

So Selling price should be Rs 8,030/- Lets round it off to Rs 8,000/-

While calculating here, I have assumed a few things
1. You own the place. You do not pay rent for the place where you make your stuff. If you do, the Rs 6000 is surely not going to take care of it!
2. You are not selling in bulk to retailers. You are selling the stuff directly. If you are selling bulk,
M + L + S + Profit = your bulk price (B)
and B + profit = your retail price.

So now you know why my quilts are expensive.

Do you also worry when you price your work? I hope my post is helpful to you.

Just remember, if you do not value your work, nobody else will!!!

Do tell me if it is!



  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. I do think that it is difficult to price handmade items, no matter if it is a pouch or a quilt. Certainly, your quilts are beautiful and it's obvious that you have poured your heart into them. I try to keep in mind the amount of money that I would be earning hourly, in my real job (although I'm a teacher and really work a lot more hours than I am paid for - I guess that would be like the quilting design process!). When I put an hourly rate on my time, I don't charge as much as I would make teaching, but it helps me feel more confident in the price that I do want to charge.

    I had not even considered the cost of rent, electricity, etc… I'm sewing at home and don't anticipate moving into a paid studio space, but it is good to remember to include this in pricing.

    I like making bags a lot, and just had someone tell me (again) that I should make some to sell…. well, I'm just wondering who would pay the $150USD that I would need to charge….

    Thanks for all of the information for thought!

  2. Shruti
    This is a question that taxes all of us I think. I have observed that whatever be the price whether Rs.8000/- or Rs.2000/- there is always someone who thinks it is expensive. After all you get a Bombay dyeing duvet for about Rs.2000/- so should yours not be cheaper is what I am told.

  3. Don't forget wear & tear on your non consumable supplies, your machine, mats, cutters, etc. It all adds up.
    I find it helps to say up front, that it will not be cheap, & my feelings won't be hurt if you decide not to have me make it. Sometimes I have to say, the cost of the materials alone will be about xxx plus my time at $xx/hour for xx hours. I often also say, there are less expensive options out there if that's a factor for you. That usually tells them & me if they want to pursue the project. I think it's really, really important to explain why something costs what it does, quality hand made goods aren't cheap. Period!

  4. Pricing can sometimes be an issue, but it certainly has lots of good reasons to be. Just have a real good bead on each of the factors at play, such as the financial and accounting matters, so as not to only amply justify it, but to have an accurate view of the situation as well. I believe in doing so, you can move ahead from a real wise place. Good luck!

    Clyde Hudson @ Stewart Technologies

  5. Lovely. DO you make laptop cases?


Thank you for your comments... I try to reply to all of them personally, but sometimes life is just too fast to do that... But I love hearing from you...