Quilts are expensive because of the labor required to make them. Quilts require pieces of fabric to be evenly cut and sewn together to get the basic shape of a blanket. Then that piece must be sewn together with batting, backing, and binding to create a finished blanket. Some quilts even have topstitching, which adds a stitched design to the quilt. Add the cost of materials and the time required to market and sell that quilt, and you must charge a higher price to cover all costs and make a profit.
Quilters often have expensive sewing machines that allow them to add a variety of stitching designs to quilts. These machines can be hundreds, even thousands of dollars. That entire expense is not going into the price of one quilt, but it must be paid off through the sale of quilts, so a portion of the sewing machine’s cost is factored into the price of each quilt.
When you compare all the steps required to make a quilt versus, let’s say a basic comforter, you can see how much quicker it is to sew a comforter and why it costs less. A comforter requires two large pieces of fabric to be sewn together along 4 edges, with batting sandwiched in between. It may use a similar amount of fabric, so those costs are about the same, but it requires much fewer hours to sew a comforter.
MAKING MONEY QUILTING
If you’re a sewer selling quilts, you must charge a high enough price to be sure you’re getting paid back for any money you spend on your business, for all the hours you spend on your business (hours x hourly wage), and are making a profit.
Here’s a QUILTING PRICE FORMULA to follow to ensure your costs are covered and you’re profiting…WITHOUT overpricing your quilts.
People who quilt for a hobby may not care about being paid for all their hours (or being paid a decent wage). But if you’re trying to build a business so you don’t have to work for someone else, you need to be paying yourself at least minimum wage, preferably more.
There are also many more hours involved when you’re making quilts to sell, versus making quilts for friends and family who have requested one.
When you make quilts before you have buyers for them, you must spend several hours:
- Photographing the quilts in a professional manner
- Listing them online (on Etsy or your website)
- Packaging and shipping the quilts
A lot of time and money goes into running a quilting business, outside of just the quilt materials and time to sew a quilt.
A business must not only make back the money they spend but also make a profit.
QUILTS COST MORE WHEN SOLD THROUGH A STORE
If you plan to sell your quilts through a retail store, your prices must be even higher because the stores expect to buy your quilt at a discount so they can sell it to their customers at a higher price than they purchased it from you for. This ensures they’re making money when they sell your quilt.
If you sell a quilt to a store for $500 and the store was to sell it to their customers for $500, the store isn’t making any money.
This is why, when you’re selling a quilt for $500, a retail store expects to be able to buy that quilt from you for $250 (wholesale price). Then when they mark the quilt back up to the retail price ($500), they’re being paid back for the $250 they spent and making $250 to cover their store’s costs (e.g. paying for the employee’s hours who sold the quilt) and make a profit.
So the wholesale price of your quilts must ensure you are being paid back for the money you spent making that quilt and give you a profit.
In that example, if $500 covers your costs and hourly wage, and gives you a profit, you would then want $500 to be your Wholesale Price. Because most retailers expect Wholesale prices to be 50% off the retail price, you would need to mark that quilt up to $1000 to get your Retail Price.
Retail Price is what customers pay and Wholesale Price is what retailers pay.
I wouldn’t suggest selling your quilts wholesale through stores, as labor-intensive products generally aren’t a fit. And that’s okay. If you can find outlets online (e.g. Etsy or your own website) or in-person (e.g. craft shows) to sell your quilts, you don’t have to sell wholesale.
I explain more about wholesale pricing for quilts and how to price your quilts instead, in this article.
HOW TO LOWER YOUR COSTS
If you’re selling handmade quilts and are finding your prices are too high (consumers aren’t willing to pay them), you can lower your prices by lowering your costs.
Only you know how you spend your time and money on your business, so you must take a closer look at those hours and expenses and determine where you can cut back.
When you calculate the return on investment (ROI) for each expense, you can find what is worth spending time and money on and what isn’t worth it.
For example, let’s say I spend extra money on buying premium, organic batting. That batting increases my costs, and thus, my prices. But if the premium organic batting isn’t helping me make any sales, I’m not getting a return on my investment. I would consider using a basic batting I can buy in bulk at wholesale prices.
To keep things simple, think of return on investment this way:
Does spending money on something directly lead to sales?
For example, does spending money listing quilts on Etsy make me money? Do I get sales from Etsy? If all my sales come from selling at craft shows, Etsy is not giving me a return on investment and I would consider not putting any more money into it.
This applies to your time too. You would simply look at the hours you spend in a week or month on a specific task, and how many sales were a direct result of those hours.
For example, if I spend an hour each day posting to Facebook, and I want to be paid $20/hour, that’s $140 in wages I’m spending on Facebook. If no one was interacting with my posts and zero sales were a result of my work on Facebook, I’m not making a return on my investment. I would not invest any more time in Facebook.
Of course, there are some tasks that don’t give you a return on investment right away but have the potential to. Watch those tasks closely to determine if they’re helping to move you in the right direction.
For example, if I just started my Facebook Page and am spending 7 hours on it each week, I likely won’t see much engagement for the first few months. I would make sure that I was starting to see some growth after a month or two, otherwise that $560 in wages each month I’m not being paid back for.
Look at every task you spend time and/or money on and consider if it directly helps you make sales. If it doesn’t, consider cutting back on it, or cutting it out completely to save costs.
Lots of little cost savings can help you lower your prices significantly.
Here are a few other ideas for helping you reduce costs for your quilting business:
Obviously, the more small pieces you use to create your quilts, the longer it will take you to cut those pieces and sew them together.
Create bigger sections with fabric that has more pattern or texture to create interest that way, instead of using lots of small squares.
You may even build a quilting business around your ability to mix and match patterns and that create beautiful combinations. You could simply use one patterned fabric for one side (and one large piece of fabric), another patterned fabric for the backside, and then another pattern or color for the binding. Simply adding topstitching may be what adds the “quilting” element, rather than stitching hundreds of pieces together.
You could even focus on lightweight quilts so you can skip the batting, which saves you the material cost and installation cost.
CREATE IN BULK (& BUY IN BULK)
Instead of each quilt being one of a kind, create a design and sell that design over and over. Not only does this technique allow you to buy your material in bulk and save money, but it also helps you speed up production.
If you want to sell one-of-a-kind pieces based on customer requests, charge more for those custom pieces, as they will definitely cost you more to make.
When you make one quilt from start to finish, it will take you much longer than if you complete each step in bulk.
For example, I may cut pieces for 10 – 20 quilts at once, then pin pieces together for each quilt in another step, then sew all pieces together for each quilt in another, etc.
Instead of switching between stations, tools, and different levels of concentration and skills, you’re sticking to one station, tool, and skill (e.g. cutting) for an entire workday. This will speed up your production, which lowers your costs.
KNOW YOUR TARGET MARKET
You cannot try to sell your handmade quilts to the consumer who wants to go to Walmart and buy a quilt for $100; they are not your customer.
Knowing who you’re targeting won’t necessarily help you lower your cost (although it can if you know exactly where to find them, how to market to them, and how to make that sale, as speediness in these areas will lower your costs to make a sale).
Knowing your target market will allow you to charge what your quilts are worth.
Imagine trying to sell a luxury car to someone who can’t afford it and just wants a vehicle to get them from point A to point B. To actually sell them that luxury car, you’re going to have to lower your price to fit their budget, and then you’re not making any money.
But if you make luxury cars and target consumers who care about those high-quality details, and care less about the price, then you’ve properly matched the product to the consumer.
That’s what you must do when it comes to your quilts.
Find a target market willing and able to spend money on a handmade quilt, find out what they care about most when it comes to a quilt, and create quilts for them. Then you’ll be matching the quilt to the consumer.
Check out HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS to help you with choosing the right target market for your business.
I hope this article has helped explain why quilts cost so much 🙂