Challenge Update #1

Last month about this time I challenged you to time yourself when you are working on any quilt, whether it was for a customer, for a charity, for family or for yourself. I am hoping that by doing this, you have discovered some interesting information.

To begin discovering some of this interesting information, let’s start with the obvious.

To determine how much $$ you made per hour when working on an individual quilt, take the total hours worked on the quilt (from when you timed yourself on this quilt) and divide it into the price you are charging.

If you go back to my post from last month, (to view that post Click Here)I documented two customer quilts I worked on. The first one, Starry Night Quilt, 74 x 83 inches, took me 4.83 hours to quilt. I charged my customer $250 for the quilting labor. So, $250 divided by 4.83 = $51.75 per hour that I “made” when I was working on this quilt.

The other quilt I documented was All My Scraps are Stars, 91 x 108 inches, with a LOT of detail quilting. This quilt took me 14.57 (rounded down to 14.5) hours to quilt. I charged my customer $500 for the quilting labor. So, $500 divided by 14.5 = $34.48 per hour that I “made” when I was working on this quilt.

These numbers do not include any business or operating expenses or any self employment taxes. A very general calculation would be – one third of your hourly “wage” goes to business and operating expenses, another third goes to self employment taxes and possibly recovering the cost of your quilting machine, the remaining third is your profit or what you actually make! Yes, all this can be individualized to your personal situation.

If you track what you make per hour, per quilt, over time, you should be able to come up with two important pieces of information. You should determine 1) the average time it takes you to quilt a quilt – you can break that down into quilt sizes like King size, Queen size, etc. – and 2) you should be able to determine an average hourly rate / wage you are making when you are working on these quilts depending on the pattern / technique you are quilting.

For example – I can quilt a Queen size quilt with medium density, “light” custom, free hand quilting in about 6 – 8 hours. If I charge, on average, $300 to quilt a Queen size quilt, then my hourly “wage” will be between $50 – $37.50 per hour. ($300 divided by 6 hours = $50 per hour, $300 divided by 8 hours = $37.50 per hour.)

Knowing this information, when I am consulting with my customer about quilting designs – and I have been tracking the time it takes to quilt the patterns / designs / techniques – I can recommend quilting designs that are appropriate for that quilt, that I can quilt in 6 hours, maybe less, but no more than 8 hours.

Also knowing this information, if the quilt says it needs a pattern / design / technique that will take MORE time, then you can start raising your price accordingly for that project. Estimate how many extra hours it will take you to quilt the particular pattern / design / technique, multiply that by your hourly “wage” and add that to your price.

Example – Let’s take the Queen size quilt from above and even though I may be doing somewhat simple quilting in the body of the quilt (let’s assume there are many busy prints in the body of the quilt) my customer decides she wants a feathered cable design in the border. I quilt the feathered cable design with templates, which is a more complex, time consuming technique. I have to determine HOW much extra time I will need to quilt this border design. Let’s assume that I estimate that it will take an extra 3 hours to quilt the border. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say I have an hourly wage of $30 per hour. Because I KNOW all this information, I will ADD an additional three hours to my estimated time of quilting and ADD an additional 3 hours of my hourly wage to this quilt ($30 x 3 = $90, rounded up to $100 to make things easy.) An estimated price then would be in the $400 range, for quilting labor only!! Batting, backing, thread and binding are all charged separately and not included in this price.

What if you don’t know how much extra time it will take you to quilt a different pattern / design / technique? Then I add percentages such as an extra 25%, 50%, 75% or more, depending on the complexity or difficulty of the quilting.

For our Queen size example from above with $300 for “basic” quilting, 25% extra would be $75, which I would probably round up to $100, which is about 30% of the basic price, 50% extra would be an additional $150, etc.

I can hear some of you right now saying, “Cindy, you are a crazy woman!! I could NEVER charge my customers that much money for my quilting!!” And I would answer you by saying “Why not???”

YOU are a highly trained, skilled, professional person. If machine quilting were so “simple” your customer could do it themselves – but they don’t. YOU have invested thousands and thousands of dollars into your quilting machine. YOU have invested hours and hours of your life learning how to use your quilting machine. YOU have invested more hours and hours and hours practicing, practicing, practicing your quilting skills. YOU can do things with your quilting machine that your customer CAN’T do and they are paying YOU to do this!

I travel around the country and talk to other quilters about their businesses. So many quilters are “locked” into the length x width x XX cents per square inch pricing. They will do all sorts of fancy, complex quilting – free hand, pantograph, computerized, templates, etc. – and NEVER charge anything more than length x width x XX cents per square inch, AND they will spend HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS working on the quilt with NO idea of how many $$$ they are making (or loosing) per hour!

Let’s say you are thinking of putting a deck or porch on the back of your house. You want the deck to be 7-1/2 feet x 9 feet. You talk to a contractor about this and he says a basic deck / porch, no railings, nothing fancy will be $500. You think that having railings around the deck / porch might be a good idea, especially when the kids and /or grand kids come to visit. You also say that you would like to have a cover over the deck / porch, seats built into the railings and some planter boxes on the top of the railings. Is the contractor going to do all of the extras for the same $500 cost? I don’t think so!! He would – and he should – raise the price he is charging you according to what you want to have done to your deck / porch.

Why are YOU any different from the contractor in this example? If you haven’t figured it out, 7-1/2 x 9 feet is 90 x 108 inches, the same size as a Queen size, pre-cut batting! Think of yourself as a “quilting contractor” – the more quilting your customer wants, the more YOU SHOULD be charging for it, and they should and WILL pay for it!

Trust me, I have a LOT more to say about this, but for now, let’s finish with this – keep timing yourself on every quilt you work on. Begin to collate and group your information by quilt size, technique, pattern, etc., and see what information is starting to emerge about YOUR quilting.

As always, please leave a comment – I WILL be wearing my flame proof underwear or maybe I should make it a flame proof suit!

If you would like, send me a personal email at longarmu@aol.com

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A Post on Pricing

While I was on a FaceBook group, someone posted this link to a blog about pricing items for sale. I read the blog post and it is a great post and brings up many different thoughts and comments on pricing. The pricing that is talked about in the blog post is for hand made items such as knit, sewn, crocheted, jewelry, etc., but the information is just as accurate and timely for a machine quilting business.

The blogger who wrote this is in the UK so the pricing is done in “pounds” not dollars – just substitute a $ for the pound sign.

To view the blog post Click Here 

PS Usually summer is a slow time for machine quilters. If it is slow for you, what a GREAT time to raise your prices. Then, when things pick up in the fall, your prices are higher and you will be making more $$$!!

Let me know your thoughts about this blog post.

 

Playing the Pricing Game

I belong to a couple of Facebook groups where people post photos of the projects they are working on or have completed. These groups are open to quilters of all skill levels – there are some professional machine quilters but most are “regular” piecers and (home sewing machine) quilters. Some of the quilt photos that are posted are quilted, most are not.

As I was cruising the photos I noticed photos of a very, very nicely, professionally quilted quilt. Then I read the caption with the photos, which read in part,

“The quilting took 10 days and 15+ bobbins…. the client is thrilled.” That REALLY caught my attention!

Note: I am specifically NOT posting the name of the Facebook group or the name of the quilter, who I don’t know. I have NO issue with the quilting that was done on this quilt and I am not criticizing the quality of the work.

From what I saw in the photos, and making a few assumptions, the quilt looked like it was a larger quilt, maybe even a King Size and it had a LOT of quilting on it. From looking at the photos, there appeared to be no ruler work, just all free hand. (The caption also said ” I don’t have a computer, this is all hand guided.”)

With this all stated, let’s begin to play the “pricing game.”

The quilter states that it took her 10 days to quilt this particular quilt. To me, that is worthless information. Did the quilter work on this quilt 10 – 12 hours per day or, did she work on this quilt when she had family visiting and could quilt only one hour a day?

(The quilting, which is very nice, is not THAT difficult to quilt and I probably could have done it in about 10 hours. There were a lot of feathers and free hand horizontal and vertical line fill in stitching. Also, in the Comments section, someone asked how long she had been quilting and she stated she has been quilting for 18 years.)

Let’s assume that the quilter DID work on this quilt for 8 hours a day. Let’s also assume that during that 8 hours she took a couple of potty breaks, a lunch break and had a couple of phone calls, for a total working time (standing at the quilting machine, actually working on the quilt) of 6 hours per day.

So with the assumption of 6 hours of working time, multiplied by 10 days equals a total of 60 hours working on this quilt.

Let’s do some math – Let’s assume she charged the customer per hour for this job.

60 hours x $10 per hour = $600
60 hours x $15 per hour = $900
60 hours x $20 per hour = $1,200
60 hours x $25 per hour = $1,500
60 hours x $30 per hour = $1,800

I am willing to bet that the price she charged was NO WHERE NEAR these numbers!

I looked up her name on the internet and found a website that had her name on it. (I am assuming that the person on the website is the same person who quilted this quilt. ) On her website she had her quilting prices listed.

Here is the price posted on the website –

“Custom quilting – $0.025 to $0.030 (per square inch) depending on the intensity of the quilting.”

Let’s do some more math –

Let’s assume that this was a Queen Size quilt, 90 x 108 inches, which is 9,720 square inches (si). At her high end of 3 cents per square inch, the total labor cost would be $291.60! (9,720 x .03 = 291.6) Let’s be nice and round that up to $300.

Let’s take the (assumed) 60 hours of quilting time and divide that into $300, which equals an hourly rate of – drum roll please! – $5 per hour!!!

Let’s assume this is a King Size quilt, 120 x 120 inches, which is 14,400si. Doing the same math as above ( 14,440 x .03 = $432) the hourly rate would raise dramatically to ….. wait for it ……… $7.20 per hour!!!

FWIW – the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour (http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm, the minimum wage in Washington State where I live is $9.47 per hour and in Seattle, the minimum wage is now $15 per hour!

You can draw your own conclusions about this!

Why do I bring this up and write about this? I feel that many, if not most, professional machine quilters FORGET to add the numbers of hours they take to complete a quilt into their pricing equation.

Using the King and Queen size examples above, if the quilter could have done the quilting in 10 hours, her hourly wage would be about $30 per hour for the Queen size quilt and about $43 per hour for the King size!

And remember, you need to allow for your business expenses from these numbers!

I highly recommend that you begin to time yourself when you are working on EACH and EVERY quilt. You are not playing “beat the clock” to get a quilt completed in a certain amount of time. You are trying to determine how much TIME it is taking you, on average, to complete a quilt.

When you are standing at your machine, working on a quilt, write down the date and your start and stop time. Then, when you are finished with that project, total your hours and then divide that into the $$$ you are charging to find out how much you are earning per hour.

I know you will be amazed at the (low) hourly wage you are making.

How can you change this? I’ll write about that in the next post.

For the record – the last quilt I worked on was a large 93 x 110, Yellow Brick Road flannel quilt. It took me 4 days to complete the quilting. I did free hand feathers and swirls in the body of the quilt and a little more detailed free hand feather design in the borders. I put the quilt on the machine so that the long edge was attached to my leaders.

Sherrees-Quilt

Click on the photo for a larger view

Note: I drove a school bus for nearly 20 years and we did our time cards, etc., in hundredths. So 15 minutes would be .25, 30 minutes would be .50, 45 minutes would be .75. This is how I keep track of my time when working on quilts and it is easy (to me) to calculate.

Day 1 – put quilt on the machine – .75 (45 minutes)

Day 2 – marked and quilted most of the top (as attached to the machine) border – .75

Day 3 – remainder of top border and body of the quilt – .75 + .75. Total of 1.5 hours.

Note: I was having problems with a sore muscle in my right arm and could only quilt about 45 minutes at a time before having to stop and rest.

Day 4 – two sessions of .75 each and 1 session of 1 hour. Total 2.5 hours

Total time worked on this 5.5 hours and I added an extra .5 “just because”, for a grand total of 6 hours working on this quilt.

I charged my customer $375 for the labor (93 x 110 = 10,230si x .035 = $358, rounded up to $375) which I divided by 6 hours = $62.50 per hour!

You can draw your own conclusions about this!

I welcome your thoughts and comments!

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I received a comment about quilting the borders and I have been trying to post a photo in the comments reply section and I couldn’t do it. So I’m responding here –

No, I did not have to turn the quilt. I was able to quilt the border design at the same time that I quilted the body of the quilt.

Here is a photo of the border design drawn out on the quilt border.

Feather Design in the border

Feather Design in the border

I used the Expo Bright Stick markers on top of Plexiglas to draw the design. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The white lines are registration lines I marked on the quilt top and the pink lines are the quilting lines.

I used Signature cotton thread “Latte” for the quilting – you can’t see the stitching lines, just the texture.