The Cost of Quilting -Part 1

Do you know how much it costs YOU to put a quilt on your quilting machine? No, I am not talking about how much you are charging your customer to quilt the quilt. I am asking, do you know what the how much the business expenses are for your machine quilting business and how much of what you charge – per quilt – cover those expenses.

Right now you are probably saying “Huh? What is she talking about?”

Let me explain – Every business has expenses that make the business run. Here are some examples:

Computer Charges – the monthly fees for an on line service, software expenses (if you use your computer and the internet for your business – reading and writing blogs, business email, etc., this is a business expense.)

Bank Charges – monthly service charges, over limit fees, credit card processing fees (if you accept credit cards)

Dues and Subscriptions – Guild dues, magazine subscriptions

Use Taxes – talk to your tax professional about this

Fabrics – not related to a specific project, but fabrics to be used in your business, such as samples, etc. Fabrics for personal use should not be in this category.

Meals – you are out delivering quilts or at a quilt related meeting, you get hungry and buy a sandwich or lunch.

Business Insurance – note: most homeowners insurance does NOT cover home based businesses. Talk to your insurance person about this NOW!! Each insurance company and each state have different requirements. If your insurance person seems clueless about your quilting business, invite them to your studio and show them your machine and work area. Many people think a longarm machine is just a big sewing machine. The other “magic words” to say to your insurance person is “inland marine.” I am not insurance person, but when an insurance person hears these words (and I have no clue what they mean) the light bulb goes off and they have a starting point. (Note: I am not an insurance expert. I just make my insurance payments.)

Marketing – Christmas Cards, small gifts for your best customers, imprinted pencils or pens


Books and Patterns – we need our patterns/pantographs and books which are directly related to the quilting process or our business

Copies – if you have a copier and use it for business forms, the supplies needed for it is a business expense. 

Professional Fees – CPA, Accountant, legal fees

Small Equipment – usually one time fees, such as a digital camera, new gadget for your machine, new fax machine or equipment that is too inexpensive to depreciate.

Studio and quilting supplies – costs directly related to having a Longarm quilting business; needles, marking utensils, rotary blades, pins, etc.

Office Supplies – computer paper, printer cartridges, paper clips, pens, etc.

Telephone – you may have a dedicated phone line or cell phone for your business.

Rent and Utilities – especially if your business is in a retail location or away from your home.

Vehicle expenses or Mileage – for example, when you are driving to and from business meetings, guild meetings, delivering quilts, etc., keep track of your mileage in a notebook that you can keep in your vehicle. Some vehicle expenses such as fuel, repairs and vehicle insurance may be included. Talk to your CPA/ Tax Professional about this.

Note:  I am not including batting, backing fabrics or threads in this expenses list.  These items, in my opinion, should be sold separately and are considered inventory and they are accounted for differently.

At this time of the year, with everyone working on, and filing their taxes, you may be able to look at last year’s “numbers” and get and good idea of what your business expenses were. If you are a new quilter, just starting your business, you may have to make some assumptions of what your business expenses would be.

Here is my challenge to you – keep very careful track of your business expenses for this month. Write EVERY business expense down in a notebook or document it in your accounting system. Even if you think that an expenses may not be a business expense, write it down in a different column, page or space.

At the end of the month I want you to total up all these expenses. Each person will have a different amount of business expenses depending on how many quilts they work on and if they are working full time or part time.

If you have other business expenses that I haven’t listed, or would like to have a business expense explained a little more, please leave a comment.

About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 10 and quilting forever!

9 Responses to The Cost of Quilting -Part 1

  1. Tina says:

    How do you or can you, expense an amount every month for wear and tear of your long arm machine? It is probably the biggest expense.

    • Cindy Roth says:

      You ask an interesting question which I don’t have a firm answer for. Most longarm quilting machines – especially the “big girl” machines such as Gammill, APQS, Nolting, A-1, Innova – are workhorse machines and will do an AMAZING job for MANY, MANY years and they usually keep their value for a long time. (My Gammill is 11 years old and still going strong!) It is hard to say how long a quilting machine will last and how much value it will loose each year.

      I would suggest talking with your tax person and seeing about depreciation of your machine, especially if you are quilting as a business. I am NO tax person, but here is a thought – let’s say your tax person says that you have $500 depreciation on your machine each year (I have no clue if that is even a reasonable number) and you quilt 100 quilts per year. If you divide $500 by 100 quilts you will allow $5 per quilt for depreciation.

      This would work if you wanted to recover the cost of your quilting machine over a period of years. Let’s say your machine cost $10,000 and you want to recover the cost over 5 years. Here is the math – $10,000 divided by 5 years = $2,000 per year. Again, lets assume you are quilting 100 quilts per year, then divide $2,000 by 100 quilts = $20. From what you would earn per quilt, $20 of that amount would / should be “set aside” to cover the cost of the quilting machine.

      If you have more questions, please contact me.

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  4. Maureen says:

    Great info Cindy; time management is something I think about; the time it takes to come up with a design for a particular quilt can sometimes be rediculous! Sometimes I’ve spent a huge amount of time with a client who can’t decide what they would like done; one woman, after an hour actually left with her quilt still unable to leave it with me and make a decision or entrust it to me the quilter to come up with the design—eventually she did bring it to me and said you decide.

    There is a lot of time spent doing “everything” when you are the “only one”!

    It all eats away at our “hourly wage”!

  5. H Davis says:

    This is an important article and I think Cindy is right that most of us don’t really consider all the “little” expenses that eat into our profit.

    We account for some of the things mentioned directly but others are hard to track. For those we make an educated guess and include some amount of expense in our calculations for those things we can’t, or chose not to, deal with directly. For example, we don’t charge customers directly for thread or needles but we do include an amount in our pricing calculations when we determine the total charge for the job.

    One item I see missing from Cindy’s list however is the quilting machine itself. This is probably the largest expense we have. If you’re in business you are probably depreciating this item on your tax return but do you include this expense in your pricing? It’s significant and the fewer quilts you do in a year the more significant it is because you’re amortizing that cost over fewer quilts?

    If you do other work for your customers using your domestic sewing machine that’s another significant item you should be depreciating on your tax return and including in your pricing.

    Inland Marine insurance is often used by craftsmen that do shows. Your normal auto insurance and homeowners insurance cover only your personal property, not your business property or the property of others. Inland Marine insurance will cover your business property or the property of others in your possession during transportation to a show and at the show. If you think this is unimportant take it from someone that did shows for years theft, storms, clumsy customers, uncontrolled animals and just bad luck are all rampant at craft shows.

    Inland Marine coverage can be included as part of a business insurance package that covers you for liability or damage to your equipment and customer’s property at your place of business

    • Cindy Roth says:

      Thanks about the info on the Inland Marine insurance. I really never knew what it was.

      I will be talking about the cost of the quilting machine and other business expenses in my next post.

  6. lisa says:

    Nice post Cindy! There are indeed many hidden costs to running a longarm business and you’ve done a good job capturing them.

  7. Pat Barry says:

    YES! You make the point so succinctly ! There are many quilters who are retired from the corporate world (a nice way to say we used to make serious money) and we are more concerned with having a vocation that brings us joy, let’s us express our inner-artist, and lets us be ‘nice’. I don’t know if that is good or not – but I know I am having a great time =)

    keep up the good work Cindy!

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