If you know me, you know I’ve been making quilts since I was 16. I love it, but there are a few reasons I don’t do it more often:
- It’s an emotional roller coaster.
- It’s physically painful.
- I not only have to find the time, I have to find the space.
- It’s expensive.
I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, and inevitably there is at least one point while assembling the top where it doesn’t line up quite the way I want (read: need) it to (for my sanity and happiness) and I go through a phase where I question the whole project. Then comes the fact that I stab myself with pins pretty severely during the actual “quilting” process (keep in mind, I don’t do any fancy designs, but in the future I would like to have one of those deserves a whole room to itself long arm quilting table contraptions). I have drawn blood from various points on my hands, with the occasional arm and leg getting itself mixed in there, and many choice profanities have accompanied these stabbings. Along with this, I spend hours bent over a table, on the floor folding (and re-folding) before sewing rows, and can barely use my hands anymore (if I do all the quilting in one sitting) from feeding all the fabric through the machine (the poor feeders can only do so much, regardless of the machine you’re on). By the time I am done, I am physically and mentally exhausted, and more than deserving of a massage appointment.
Most of the quilts I make end up being at least the size of a full comforter (minimum about 78″ x 86″); my last two projects, t-shirt quilts, we’re all within the queen range (minimum about 86″ x 86″).
Most people don’t have open areas in their homes to accommodate this, and I have been known to lay out and tape down heavy-duty plastic in our two-car garage for assembly of the backing, batting, and top piece which averages an hour on its own (laying everything so it’s even/straight which often takes longer than desired even with two people, pinning throughout, cutting edges so it all is the same size, and starting to fold it so it can fit in the machine to start quilting).
Lastly, I said it was expensive. So, how much does it all cost? That varies slightly with design, fabric used (all fabrics are NOT created or priced equal), size, and whether or not it is a t-shirt quilt, etc. As an example, let’s look at one of the t-shirt quilts I did recently (pictured above)…
Materials (calculated from receipts):
- Sashing: $22.46
- Muslin to back t-shirts (some skip this step, but it ensures the integrity of the shirt over time): $13.50
- Spray Adhesive (per can): $15.99
- Thread: $5.99
- Backing: $57.70
- Batting: $52.75
- Binding: $6.87
Materials total: $175.26 before tax, with no coupons
*Note – this does not include cost of rotary blades, mats, tables, electricity, fabric scissors, the actual sewing machine, needles, etc.*
It is also noteworthy that the cost of fabric on t-shirt quilts is probably an underestimate of the cost of a traditional quilt because a lot of the top is composed of old shirts and not fabric bought specifically for the project.
Now let’s look at labor (approximate, and can vary greatly):
- Time spent planning/measuring (and re-measuring/calculating…you get 1 shot at it) before cutting: honestly, days. For these purposes we will just say 6 hours
- Time spent cutting: about 3 hours
- Time spent putting shirt pieces on muslin: about 1 hour
- Time spent pinning and sewing the top together: at least 8 hours
- Time to assemble: about 1 hour
- Time quilting: at least 6 hours
- Time for binding (highly variable based on whether bought or made, coupled with whether hand or machine sewn; this case is bought/machine): about 10 hours
That is a grand total of 35 hours. Now assuming your time is worth $10 an hour, you would pay yourself about $350 for this quilt.
All of that put together (cost of materials + cost of labor) would make the price of this quilt $525.26.
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this is to inform the general public. When I make quilts for people, they tend to be because of a special occasion (commemoration of a family member who had tons of t-shirts that were meaningful to other members of the family following their death, as a gift for a wedding, that kind of thing), and it is because I have offered. Although I don’t mind doing that every once in awhile, gifting quilts is not sustainable financially, and I feel that this is the best way to explain that.