Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Putting a Value on Your Quilts and Hand Crafted Items

I have been sewing for more than 45 years and quilting for at least 35. Until recently, I never really sold my quilts, most were made as gifts and given away to my family and friends. On rare occasions in the past, I have made quilts for close friends and they paid me to do so. I really didn't make money on those, they were priced at a cost of goods to make the item plus a few bucks to cover incidentals and a small portion of my time.


Now that I am retired, and needing to downsize my stuff, including my quilts and stash, I have decided to try and sell some items. I was hoping to generate some income in doing so, to help pay bills and keep my savings intact. I am trying two venues to sell items. One will be etsy, the well known website where many people have built successful businesses selling their handmade goods. The other is a new local gift shop.

Etsy is easy. You post beautiful pictures and descriptions of your items and post them on your own store within the site and pay a small fee per item to list them. Keywords are used to help potential customers find your items when they search the site and the web. Customers use paypal or credit cards to send you their payment for the item and for shipping and you package up the item and send it to them. The shop owner determines the selling price, shipping costs and which items to advertise, as well as being the one responsible for ensuring the customer receives the item in a timely manner.

Selling items on consignment is a more passive method of getting your goods to market. The consignment shop owner is responsible for advertising, photos, goods placement, marketing, inventory control and ensuring the artists gets paid for their items in a timely manner. In exchange for use of their space and time spent selling your items, they get an agreed upon amount of the final sale price. Terms of the percentages of their take and yours is typically based in a contract or agreement. Consignment rates vary from shop to shop. I believe all are negotiable. Some want a 70/30 split, or 60/40 split where the artist gets the 70-60% and the shop keeps the 30-40%. I think you will find that many shops want a straight 50/50 rate, where you each get half of the selling price of the items you consign.


What does this mean to the artist? Someone is making money off the items they sell and market for you. You have to be willing to price your items fairly and at price points where the items will move, instead of sitting on the store shelves for extended periods. It can be difficult to allow someone to have 40-50% of the price of an item you worked hard to create. However, if the shop has a good established customer base and is located in a market where the economy supports your pricing structure, you can both benefit. For those of you that prefer to create instead of sell, this could be the perfect situation. The artist makes and delivers the items they wish to sell and the shop does the post production work to get the items sold. I highly recommend offering items at varying price points to see which items sell easily in their shop.

The hardest part of all of this is determining what the market will bear in regards to certain handmade goods. Only once in my life did I have a customer refuse to pay what I wanted to charge for a large bed sized quilt. He had purchased the item as a wedding gift for his sister. He felt the queen size quilt should be priced around $60-$100 and I wanted $300 for the quilt. Keep in kind that a queen sized quilt contains at least 7-8 yards of fabric on each side plus 1 yard for the binding and an appropriate sized batting. While I buy my batting at wholesale prices, the cost of the batting would be approximately $25 for quality cotton batting. The fabric costs for quality cotton run approximately $10-11 per year in the current market. If I used 15 yards of fabric @$10 per yard, the estimated cost of goods invested into creating that item would be $175 initially, not counting thread, design and construction time. Even at $300, the quilt took me 20 hours to complete including the binding. Dividing the remaining $125 over cost for manufacturing the quilt, and it works out to be $6.25 per hour I would have earned to make that quilt if it sold for $300. Long story short, I wasn't willing to sell him the quilt for less than $300 so I kept it and he had to find another gift for his sister. We are still friends...


Here are my thoughts on this. Yes, customers can buy a quilt in the local department and discount stores for under 100 dollars. You do not know the origin of that quilt or the content of the materials used to make it, labels are often incorrect. Often these hand stitched quilts are inferior quality fabrics, filled with poly blend battings and when washed the fabrics will shrink, get lumpy and fall apart. They are not built to last like the quilts made by real quilters. They are quilts made by big manufacturers to be marketed to to the masses to look like someone hand made them for you. You can even find quilt bargains on websites such as etsy, ebay and amazon.com. I have been known to buy vintage and antique quilt tops to finish from ebay. I feel like I have a quilt rescue service going sometimes with this treasures.


As a professional quilter and basket maker, I believe I am entitled to make a fair wage for the quality of the items I craft. Many people that do not sew or craft, do not fully understand the amount of work and skill involved that goes into making one basket or quilt. This is one of the reasons I enjoy teaching so much. The most common question I get when displaying my quilts is, "How long did it take for you to make that?" I wonder if they really want to know or that is just their way of being polite and they don't know what else to say when looking at my work. I have found that some of my customers are also quilt makers who truly understand the time, materials and effort that goes into each individual creation.


#quiltvalue #consignmentterms #handcrafted #pricingquilts
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