The Process of Pricing

I recently taught a Longarm University, Machine Quilting Basics class, where I teach people how to use their longarm machine and how to run a successful machine quilting business. As part of this class, we do some role playing where they (the students or one designated student) is my customer, I am the (professional) quilter and we go through the steps of taking in a customer quilt.

I also do quilting for my favorite charity, American Hero Quilts. I usually have about 6 – 10 quilts that need to be quilted and when I’m done with them I drop them off and take a few more home for quilting.

In this class, I used one of the American Hero Quilts from my “stack” and we discussed quilting, timing, possible problems, etc., etc. The more I looked at that quilt, the more I WANTED to quilt it – like, right now!!! I had a lot of commitments coming up and knew I couldn’t quilt it, like, right now.

But life is strange! The commitments were postponed a week or two, and suddenly, there WAS time available to work on this quilt! So I did.

In the process of working on this quilt, I decided to write about my process of pricing a quilt, timing the quilting and other things. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the quilt before quilting, but you can see from the finished photos, the quilt turned out really, really nice!

Click on the photos for a larger view.

Let’s start at the beginning

This quilt is 67 x 85 inches (5,695 square inches) and nicely pieced. There were some thick seam joins, but the quilt laid mostly flat and square. (I have no clue who pieced the quilt.)

In all my many years of quilting and piecing, I don’t recall seeing a block setting like this quilt. (There may be an adaptation of it being made in the not too distant future.)

As I was looking at the quilt, I knew that an all over design, either a pantograph or a free hand all over design, was not going to be quilted on that quilt. I also “saw” lots and lots of feathers in the quilting! Which means that the quilt will be custom quilted. (Custom quilted being defined as different patterns in different parts of the quilt.)

I knew that I was going to change the color of thread to match the colors of the fabric.

I estimated that it would take 6 – 7 hours of quilting to complete this quilt.

With the above information, here is how I would determine a price for the quilting –

My base price for quilting (which is in my brain and NOT published anywhere – except here) is 3 cents per inch. So I did the math (5,695 psi x .03) and came up with $170.85. Which, for what I wanted to quilt, was TOO low. So I did the math again at .035 cents per square inch and came up with $199.32 which I rounded up to $200. This is a better price, but I knew the quilting would take more time, so I added another $50 and determined that $250 would be the LABOR ONLY price of the quilt.

Note: this price is for free hand quilting only. If I were going to use templates on any part of the quilt, I would add at least an EXTRA 25% minimum ($62.50 rounded up to at least $70) to the labor price.

If you want to take the math a step further, the price of $250 divided by 5,695 si = .0438 cents per square inch.

To recap, this quilt, 67 x 85 inches, will be free hand custom quilted with feathers, no templates, for $250.

When working with my customer, they know NOTHING about my calculations and they are presented with the labor only price.

I also estimated that there would be a $15 charge for thread and $15 for Soft & Bright (Warm Company) polyester batting, which was purchased wholesale.

For an blog article about the cost of thread Click Here

I am also putting the binding on – making the binding and applying it with my home sewing machine. For this I charge $3 per running / perimeter foot. This quilt has 26 running / perimeter feet x $3 = $78 for binding.

The total charge for this quilt (if I were charging for it) is

Quilting labor $250
Thread $ 15
Batting $ 15
Binding $ 78
Total $358 + any state sales taxes

Quilting Time

My quilting time break down is – (time is measured in hundredths – 15 minutes = .25, 30 minutes = .50, 45 minutes = .75

Putting the quilt on the machine: .50
Stitching time: 2.75 07/28/18
Stitching time: 3.00 07/29/18
Total hours 6.25 hours

Quilting details

All the quilting was done free hand. I did mark registration lines on the quilt top so that the curves of the feathers were consistent (not perfect). There was a little more time used because I changed my threads two or three times in each workspace** and I did “turn the quilt” to quilt the side borders. I chose to turn the quilt because I was using a different color of thread in the borders than in the body of the quilt. (For information on Turning the Quilt Click Here)

** I find that this is the most efficient way of quilting mostly equal sections of same color fabrics in a workspace.

Hours / Pricing break down

It took me a total of 6.25 hours to finish this quilt and I would be charging my customer $250. If you divide $250 by 6.25, that equals $40 per hour! Not too shabby!

Binding Break down

It has been a long while since I have actually timed myself on adding the binding to a quilt and I was very pleasantly surprised at the results. I estimated it would take me about 1-1/2 hours to put the binding on, but it took a little less than 1 hour!

Here are the details –

Making the binding – cut strips selvage to selvage, stitched them together and pressed wrong sides together: 20 minutes
Stitching the binding to the back of the quilt : 20 minutes
Top stitching the binding in place on the front of the quilt: 20 minutes
Total binding time 1 hour

Cost of binding $78, time to do it 1 hour. No math involved and I LIKE those numbers!!!

If you are not offering binding services, I beg you to re-consider. You are losing $$$ – a LOT of $$$!! I know that you will not bind every quilt that comes to you, but if you offer binding services, you CAN make a substantial profit!

I hope that this has given you some insight into how I price a quilting project and how the timing of your work on a project can help you determine if you are making a profit – or not!

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Please feel free to leave them in the Leave a Reply box below. Or, if you would prefer, you can send me an email at longarmu@aol.com

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Make it Happen!

Happy 2017!

new-year-lgI hope that 2017 is a year of great things, many quilts, and great prosperity for you!

Make 2017 be the year YOU “make it happen” in your quilting business life.

How do you “make it happen” in your quilting business? First, decide what “happen” is. Is it more customers? Is it more $$$? Is it getting more inspiration or creativity? Once you can decide what you want, you can then work on getting it!

I know, it sounds so simple, but sometimes it is the hardest thing to do! I am going to take the next few blog posts and write about some of these “wants.”

You want more customers.

If you want more customers, think about who your customers are, where are they, and how are you going to let them know what you do?

We are machine quilters and if you ask, who is your customer, you usually respond with “anyone who makes a quilt!” But let’s try to be a little more specific. If you say ANYONE who has a quilt is a customer, and someone brings you the worlds ugliest quilt that is poorly pieced, has LOTS of threads hanging from it, it does not lay flat,  it’s not square and it (literally) stinks – your customer is known as the local cat lady – and the customer wants you to quilt it for el-cheapo prices, will you quilt it? Before you answer that, ask yourself – Do I REALLY want this person as a customer? If your answer to both of these questions is NO then something has to change.

Let’s also assume that the last few customers have been like this. You may have to play detective to find out how they found you. When you learn that, then you can do what is necessary to get your information off the “bad customer list”.

Now you have to find out how to get your information onto the “good customer list” and find “good” customers!

Here are some of the typical ways of doing this –

  • Join a quilt guild in another part of your neighborhood, city, county, etc.
  • Work with other quilters doing other quilting “stuff.” Is there is a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sit-and-sew in your area? Join it. Work on your projects, but bring completed works for show and tell!
  • If you can teach piecing, teach at your local quilt shop or even teach in your home or community center. This is double $$$ for you! For a fee you teach them how to make the quilt and then charge them for quilting the class project!

Here are some other ways to find new customers –

Find out who the teachers are in the local, or not so local, quilt shops and offer to quilt their class quilts for a discounted fee. (In general, I’m not a fan of discounts, but this is one place where I feel it is justified.) Many quilt instructors teach at several shops and your quilting could be shown in a wider area. I would get an email or physical address of the teacher and send any discounts directly to her/him.

A while back when I was teaching out of state, I was talking with a quilter who said they were concentrating on getting customers from a specific zip code. (This zip code was in a large metropolitan area.) I asked why that zip code? The answer was “that is where the rich people live!” This quilter was doing what was necessary, in that zip code, to contact, connect to and work with new customers.

I have talked with quilters who live in smaller towns and they say they “can’t” attend guild meetings out of their neighborhood because of where they live, etc. I am a “big city girl” and I don’t really understand this way of thinking. You have the courage to purchase a quilting machine, learn how to use it, practice, practice, practice some more and start a machine quilting business. You do all that and you don’t have the courage to go across town to a quilt guild meeting? YOU have to choose what is best for YOU and YOUR business. I say, take the deep breath, bring your show and tell, and GO to the meeting. You might be surprised – you should get a warm welcome, and possibly some more customers!

Where is it written and what “rule” says that your customers are ONLY from your area? Have you ever thought of getting customers from away (maybe far away) from where you live?

Do you live in a tourist area? Are there any gift shops you could put some quilted items (pillows, coasters, table runners, possibly lap quilts, etc.) for sale? Of course on all of these items you include a label and / or business card with your contact info, maybe even stating that you quilt for others.

You might offer a “drop off” service, where the customer who is coming to your area for vacation can drop off their quilt with you to be quilted. When the quilt is completed, you ship it back to them for a shipping fee. Or you might offer a “pick up” service where the customer ships to quilt to you before their vacation and they can pick it up when they are in the area. Note: You MUST be able to get the quilt done before their vacation time ends!

If you have things planned properly, the out of the area customer could drop off their quilt at the start of their vacation and pick it up at the end – assuming the vacation is more than a day or two. I consider something like this to be a “rush job” and a rush job usually requires more $$ to do! And, if the customer wanted the quilt back in a few days, and you can do it, that would be a MAJOR rush job with MORE $$$ added to the cost!

You will have to be a little creative to find these customers, but I know it can be done!

Does your local quilt shop have a Block of the Month quilt where you have to attend a mini-class to get the next part of the quilt? If so, join it even if it isn’t your favorite type of quilt. Be there at every mini class with something that you made – and quilted – from the previous mini-class. You could make tote bags, table runners, lap quilts for a charity, etc. But SHOW what you can do with your quilting! Bring business cards but don’t do a “hard sell.”

Do you have a special technique or style of quilting that would appeal to other piecers and quilters? For example –

I know of a quilter who LOVES Judy Neimeyer quilts!  (For information on these quilts Click Here) She has pieced and quilted several of these quilts and is targeting other piecers who love this style of quilts. Quilting this type of quilt (foundation pieced with many, many,many small pieces) has many challenges and, because of this, a lot of extra $$$ can be charged to quilt this type of quilt.

Another quilter I know loves Civil War Reproduction quilts. Not only that, she lives in an area that is a Civil War battlefield tourist area. She is “targeting” other Civil War Reproduction quilt enthusiasts and working with local businesses / charities, etc., to showcase her quilts and quilting in their advertising and in their businesses.

Personally, I love doing Sashiko on quilts and I promote my Sashiko work on my personal blog  (To view some of my Sashiko Quilts Click Here)  And yes, I have done several quilts for people from other parts of the country who saw my work online and sent their quilts to me to quilt.

This should give you some ideas of how to get new customers. YOU have to think a little “out of the box” but I know you can do this.

I know that there are even more ways than these to find new customers! If you have another idea please send it to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com or put it in the comments section.

In my next post I will talk about getting your information out to others!

 

 

 

A Bad Quilt

At this moment I am working on the worst customer quilt I have ever worked on! I have been a professional quilter for almost 20 years and haven’t seen anything this bad. Yes, I am whining and complaining and I could have refused to work on this quilt. The only reason I am working on it (and I have had thoughts of sending it back to the customer only half done) is that if this quilt was being quilted by a new quilter, the new quilter would quit the business!

Here are some of the details – it’s a t-shirt quilt that is made with all sorts of t-shirts – cotton, poly, sweatshirts, and anything else that has a stretchy fabric. There is NO fusible backing on ANY of the fabrics. The seams are not straight, nothing fits, there are pleats and puckers in the stitching lines. The seam allowances are anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1 + inches and none of the hems of the t-shirts were removed and they are in the seam allowances!!!

Here are some photos. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Here is the right side border. The red fabric was cut this way.  If you look at the seam between the red and blue fabric, the blue fabric has the hem of the t-shirt still attached.

B-T-shirt 1

Here is another photo – The beige t-shirt is 100% polyester and all the other shirts are heavy cotton or sweatshirt material. If you look close enough (expand the photo) you can see the red fabric seam allowance above the flag graphic. The seam is 1-1/2 inches from the top of the flag.

B-T-Shirt 2

 

A few more things – the seams are so thick that my machine can barely get over them, and that is just to move the machine back and forth. The seams are so thick that I CAN’T quilt over them. And, of course, this quilt is HUGE at 94 x 110 inches! I also have to trim the quilt to a rectangle and put binding on it.

I did talk with my customer and tell her of the issues, documented many of the problems on the worksheet and I’m charging for the work at custom quilting prices.  For this quilt, my motto is “I can only do the best I can with what I got!” And I told this to my customer too!

Why am I writing all of this – I need some sympathy and someone to tell me I’m doing the best I can. I am also trying hard to make a positive out of a negative.

As a  quilter – professional or hobbyist –  I know that you have had “bad quilts” that you have worked on.  If you would like, share your bad quilt experience by either posting about it in the comments section, or send me an email and I will post it for you. Please, no customer names or locations. If you have photos send them too.

If anyone can learn from our bad quilt experiences, then the bad quilt will be a good thing.

I’ll let you know what happens when my customer picks up the quilt!