The T-Shirt Quilt Story

I belong to several online, (group) email lists which are hosted at YahooGroups.com.

(Note: if you don’t belong to a group(s) like this, I would highly recommend it. Go to YahooGroups.com, and in the search box, enter the brand of your quilting machine, and join this group. The other group I would recommend is the Machine Quilting Professional group. This group is open to ALL machine quilters, no matter what machine you have, no matter what your skill level is, and no matter if you have a business or not.)

A few days ago, someone posted that they were looking for a different way of putting together a T-shirt quilt. Here is my response –

A few years ago I did a t shirt quilt for a customer who had ALL different sizes of t shirts, logos, etc.

I started with a 3 x 6 grid and then determined which parts of the t shirts would go where on the grid. Then I cut assorted fabrics into 3.5 x 6.5 “bricks” and began building the quilt.

Here are some photos of the T-shirt quilt I made, from start to finish. Click on any photo for a larger view.

For more photos of this quilt Click Here

tshirt1

tshirt3

I got several nice responses from people on the list. Then there was an post asking about how much I charged for the making and quilting of this quilt. Here is my response –

<<could you tell me what you charged for this quilt?>>

Of course, and there is a story behind this quilt. 

In about late October/early November, a friend called and said her (female) boss wanted a t shirt quilt done for her son for Christmas and would I be able to do it. I really didn’t want to do it, but, my friend insisted that I should. So I told my friend that I would do the quilt, but here were my conditions – 

The price would be between $1,200 – $1,400, 
I needed half that amount as a non refundable down payment, 
I would have complete control over how the t shirts were placed on the quilt
I would use fabric from my own stash (I had a great Fat Quarter collection for the quilt) and
I would have to have the t-shirts within the next few days. 

I truly thought that my conditions would discourage the customer. Guess what? 48 hours later, my friend is at my front door with two HUGE bags of t shirts and a check for $700! I got the quilt made for Christmas along with a couple of throw pillows. 

If you think that $1,200 – $1,400 for a Queen Size quilt is too much $$, check out my article about Pricing for Commission Quilts at 

http://longarmuniversity.com/Bookstore%20pages/pricing_booklet_sample_article.htm

Again, I got several positive responses from my post – and one FABULOUS response! With permission, I am posting the fabulous response I received below.

Cindy,

Thank you for being so generous with sharing this sort of information. It is too easy for us to all undervalue our work. A car mechanic, or electrician would not think of working for the kind of low wages that many quilters charge. We are skilled craftsmen/woman. We to consider that we should make just $10.hr or less in some cases is just way out of line and not at all reasonable. We have over head and years of experience to consider. Even someone new to longarm work most likely has years of experience in sewing. We invest in our machine, dedicate a large bit of usable space of our home, we do research and pay association dues and engage in on going education. We cannot give our work away. I think it is important to educate new quilters so they can educate their clients.

I just don’t understand how some customers can readily pay $60 – $100 per hour for some work and then expect to pay so little for skilled work.. and in many cases artistry!

now that I have gotten on this soap box, I might as well let it all out..

I find it down right offensive that essential services like dental care (that is one of my pet peeves) can amount to even $900 per hour! I find that even immoral! True the dentist has lots of overhead and years of training and support staff. But compare that to what we do – surely our training, equipment and overhead deserve to be considered. .. .. and not just getting by on what comes out to some minimal hourly rate. So… I say… do the very best you can.  Always be improving your skills and do not be afraid to charge what you are worth!
Thanks again Cindy!

Gail in CO

Gail – I couldn’t have said it better! 

I contacted Gail to get her permission to put her email on this blog. Here is her response –

Well thank you, and please do include my contact. If you like you can include my websites at www.gailsegreto.com or www.facebook.com/QuiltingMemoriesEveryday if you feel it is appropriate.

I live in an area where there is a lot of other long arm quilters. And I know the tendency is to undercut to get your business started. Well that is just a terrible idea because it is too hard to raise the prices later. And when starting out, a quilter may not feel their skill is up to the standard of the other quilters. So, I just charged for edge to edge at the going rate and increased fees as I was able to increase skill and add some custom work. I still charge the same for my edge to edge work only now I can get it done faster. : )
(feel free to insert that too if you like)
Thanks for all the great resources on your long arm U site! Gail

Gail, you have said exactly what I think!

Both Gail and I would love to hear your responses to this post. Please feel free to leave a comment!

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About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 11 and quilting forever!

8 Responses to The T-Shirt Quilt Story

  1. Julie says:

    Cindy and Gail, thank you for your comments. They are much appreciated as I have just purchased a long arm and am looking forward to starting my own business.

    Gail in Co: One thing I do take exception to is the comment about dentistry and the prices being charged as being ‘immoral’. As someone who has worked as an accountant in the dental field for over 15 years (BTW, Most dentists also think of themselves as artists who do everything in tiny spaces, and backwards in a mirror), all the costs of the overhead, supplies, staff payroll, benefits, payroll taxes, lab fees, EXPENSIVE dental equipment, EXPENSIVE dental instruments, hand pieces, etc. have to be taken into account on what the dentist fees must be to break even. Dental school costs are well over $250,000 plus (after getting an undergraduate degree). That does not include all the start up costs of starting one’s own dental business and/or purchasing another dentist’s. (Usually $1,000,000 plus). I am also married to a dentist.

    It is a risk to take the leap of starting one’s own business regardless of the profession. ALL costs and expenses must be taken into consideration. Thank you for pointing out these expenses, including but not limited to self employment taxes, along with others.

    Julie

  2. Fran Foskey says:

    Thank you for giving me support in this important subject. I too feel I am not charging as much as I should, and now I have the support and encouragement to charge the full price not just what I feel like because of the person or situation. This article is timely and appreciate you sending it to everyone on your list. Thanks Gail too, she explained the situation so well.

  3. Deborah says:

    I love that you stated a price and some one was willing to pay, a wonderful compliment to your work. I have been in the craft/sewing field for over 30 years and have always ‘paid’ myself a fair wage just as if I was working a 9-5 job. If an item was not profitable enough to pay me first it would be removed from my list. I charge 15.00 an hour and feel I am worth every penny! Of course friends and family usually get the free discount because I love what I do. I will never run out of projects!

  4. Vicki Ryan says:

    I am almost finished with a t-shirt quilt of Harley Davidson logos. After trimming they are 12 x 15…. I have sashed them the traditional way 4 across and 5 down as that is what the client wanted… I have gone over and over what to charge and adding the sashing, batting and interfacing and charging $15 per block, (40 blocks) it will probably be around $565. After reading this article I am once again in a quandary about how to price as I thought the $565 was a good price…. eek,

    Vicki Ryan fourkatsinwi@aol.com

    • Cindy Roth says:

      How about rounding your charge to $600 or $650? This would give you a little more $$ for your time and effort.

      Cindy Roth

  5. Cindy, when I was a new longarmer, I took one of your classes at your home. It was hands-down one of the best investments of my time and money. I strongly urge your classes (either online or in person, if you still do that) to my other longarm associates.

    You said in this article that you provide an estimate sheet from Quick Books. Could you provide a sample of that? I also use Quick Books and having something like that would be too awesome for words.

    Right now, I don’t use anything consistently and find myself re-inventing the wheel … that’s cumbersome and inefficient.

    Thanks for your wonderful instruction from the class and any help you can offer now. 🙂

  6. Pat Barry says:

    Hi Cindy,
    My comment is – You Go Girl!! I think I would have just said ‘no’. I think your advice about profitability is very sound, and everyone should ‘run the numbers’ for at least a month. Most quilters would barely make minimum wage. I believe there are plenty of us in business that don’t need the $$, so we allow lower costs which we think will help our friends, and it makes us feel good – and significant – and like we are nurturing our sisters, and we might be!

  7. Angela says:

    I totally agree with Cindy and Gail! We often undermine the value of the services we provide, especially when first starting out. I used to have a stained glass business and potential customers would stammer when I quoted my work at $90-100 a square foot. I learned early on that if I cut my price in order to get the business, inevitably that customer and/or project would be the most costly in terms of materials and aggravation! On the occasions that I gift my work, I try to make sure the recipient knows the value of the quilt based on materials and labor expenses. My daughter-in-law does photography for a living and I’ve repeatedly told her not to de-value her work by charging less than her competition. As Gail said, it is difficult to raise your prices once customers are accustomed to paying a certain fee. And thank you Cindy for all the information and education you provide!

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