Monday, July 25, 2011

I am ornery: Why I would suck at making custom quilts.

This week I got a request I have received a couple of times before, and it never gets any easier. "Will you make a quilt for me??? I will pay you."

This request never fails to make my stomach churn with panic. I'm not mad at the people asking...let's be clear about that. It's nice that someone thinks you do a nice job.  I know there are tons of quilters who delight in and even seek out commissions. Why does it make me feel so nervous? I have compiled a list of reasons why I would suck at making quilts for money.

1) It's a sweat shop. I hand stitch my binding. I set my seams. I trim every.single.half-square-triangle. Add up all those time consuming things. Subract your materials. Divide by your commission. Ouch, right??

2) Some people do not care enough. My friend Ryan recently brought a handmade quilt to a church picnic. She bought it at a consignment store for $8. That means the owner parted with it for $5 profit. If I could meet the person who made that quilt, I'd give them a hug for that. 

3)Some people care too much If I were a painter, I'd be the person who turned around and walked away (probably cursing in French) when you asked me to paint something to match your couch. I'm not saying I don't care about what you like. I'm saying if your artistic vision is so strong you feel the need to tell me how to do a quilt right down to the pattern and fabric, maybe you should take up quilting. I would be happy to show you how....I mean that!

4)I am completely overwhelmed. I have three kids at home and it's summer. Whoever coined the whole "lazy days of summer" was obviously not a stay at home mom. It was probably a child...or a teacher (like my sister who gets very smug each June). Right now I need to make 2 baby quilts, 2 houndstooth quilts, 2 moda bakeshop quilts (which I always give to my kids), and a Great Pumpkin Halloween quilt (fingers crossed it will be before Halloween!).  These are things I have taken on voluntarily mostly for my family.  I love doing things for my family.  I know those quilts will not end up being priced at $8 in a consignment store. 

5)It's ok to be selfish sometimes.  I say that to convince myself.  I don't actually believe it.  This is what I do for fun.  This is what I do for me.  Some people get a mani pedi.  I piece blocks.   I don't want it to turn into an obligation.  I can get a little fierce guarding my "me thing."

So, guys...have you had any experiences making quilts for people.  How did it turn out?  If you don't do it, how do you kindly let people know?  My inquiring mind is dying to know!


  1. The closest I get to this is making about one quilt a year for my sister to sell at an auction for a charity which which she is involved. I get an ulcer every time.

    Something invariably goes wrong, and I hate the way I fixed it. I'm sure no one will even bid on it. If someone does purchase it, I'm sure it will fall apart in the laundry. I would NEVER, EVER quilt for money. I just couldn't take it.

  2. My boyfriend wants me to make him a quilt based of the Moda Quilt of Valor pattern and it's turning into a war. He's up my butt like a hemorrhoid asking if I've started on it yet. Well, no I haven't because you can't make up your friggin' mind!

    And he doesn't realize that I just don't have the money for it right now. He doesn't get how expensive the fabric is and sure as heck doesn't understand the time that's going into it.

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  4. (Sorry first post had typo)..
    I love making quilts for my family and the people I love. They know I'm a quilter and they know what it means for me to be a quilter. When they get a quilt from me, they love it, they use it because they know that is what I expect and they show me that they appreciated every dang stitch I put in it.
    I have a problem when an acquaintance discovers I quilt and feels it's okay to ask me to make them a quilt. Oh, and they will pay. They think that tacking one the "they will pay" will make up for the time I put into my work, the emotional investment I put into each stitch...
    Recently a co-worker's fiance casually commented that she should ask me to make we a quilt on consignment. I immediately told her I don't quilt on consignment. She asked me why, since my work was so lovely... Told her that I love what I do and would never make it a chore and, for me, quilting for money would take the love out of it, making it a chore. I also told her that people didn't realize that a hand made quilt was VERY expensive and the price alone would make the $30 quilt in a bag from Target very attractive. When she asked how much a quilt like the one I had just finished cost, I gave her a roundabout figure... Her jaw dropped a bit and she responded.. Oh.

  5. I've made one custom quilt, and the customer was a former blogger and FB friend. Everything went smoothly, except the long-arm quilter made an error! My customer was cool with it, and loves her quilt. She tells me, via FB, all the time. I'd do it again.

    This was my main stipulation to my customer, I'll do it if you're not in a hurry. She was great.

  6. I just say no thank you. All of your reasons are dead on. I give them as gifts with the understanding that it would be an insult if they didn't use it. If something I made with such tender love ended up sold for $8, well, I can't even imagine the hurt.

  7. I've used the same reasoning with people wanting me to make quilts for them.

    Don't feel bad about saying no. You don't have to defend yourself. You have a very important job that takes most of your time and energy. Why should you take on another one?

  8. I love this post! You capture the points well. Amen, amen!

  9. I was just forwarded a message asking me to hand quilt some quilts for someone. I haven't done this for 'pay' before. I don't know what to charge, or, if I'll even do it. I guess it's better than going to the office, especially since my 'office' only gives me a few hours a week if I'm lucky. Decisions, decisions.

  10. I think you must be the smartest quilter in the world! I didn't figure it out soon I DO think there are some good reasons to say yes, but very few! I am having to learn when to say when one of my fbook friends had a bed for sale. I needed a bed. So I contacted her and asked "how much?" Her answer was, "well, since it's YOU...". That was a little over a year ago and I still haven't finished that quilt. Other projects have just had to come before it and I've carried such guilt, it has kept me from blogging because I know she reads my blog. Now I can just hardly WAIT to get it finished and outta my house and off my mind! It has definitely sucked the fun right outta quilting for me. Lesson learned.
    Phew...feels good to get that off my chest! Thanks for listening.

  11. I'm currently making a quilt for a friend of mine. She bought the fabric, she's paying for the long arm quilter and she's paying for the shipping to send it to her when it's done. she also wasn't in any particular hurry. She had an idea for the design, but when I suggested something different, she said I was the expert and went with my suggestion. It's the best of all worlds. If it wasn't someone who would give me creative control, I probably wouldn't bother. There isn't enough money in the world to pay me to make an applique quilt.

  12. I too am not an on demand quilter. You don't ask me to make you a quilt, because I don't want to make what you want when you want it. I want to quilt what I want to quilt when I want to quilt it.

    So I rarely make baby quilts for new babies, most of my grandchildren have a quilt, but it is bigger and was the vision I had for them after knowing them for a while. It is not selfish, it is just being true to our creative selves. If you want color coordination, go to the department store and buy one.

  13. My brother's girlfriend found out I make quilts and asked me if I could make her one for her birthday (which was only a week away from when she asked me!) Fortunately I have a toddler and a baby so I am able to use them as an excuse :)

  14. They use and abuse. I have made a new rule for myself that I am going to blog about next monday. NO COMMITMENTS. At all. My family gets put last because of this quilt or that. No more. My son is 13, will be 14 in January and has yet to receive a quilt from his mom. That will change this year.

    As for doing it...when I did commissioned quilts, I started with making them purchase all of the fabric, batting, thread, etc up front. I made them shop for it. I would go and help but I wanted them to see the cost involved. Then I would keep a log of hours spent. And then when I give them a total and see that I am only making a couple of bucks an hour then they don't complain.

  15. I thought about the points you make, all valid. My family receive quilts from me, and I know they'll be respected and never fetch up in the dog's bed, like in a couple of horror stories I've read. Having said that, I made a quilt for our dog, I know, I know, and he sleeps on mine too, but by invitation only! I'll still make baby quilts as gifts, they are small, quick, and I can keep control over how it's done. There isn't enough money to pay me for the time put in on a quilt!

  16. lol (with a snort) -- that's what you have to do when someone asks you to sew for them. i don't tell anyone anymore that i sew because they all think it's fast and easy. it's not. i'm meticulous, scrupulous, and driven to perfection. i also needlepoint and crochet. so, when someone asks me to do something for them, i tell 'em it will cost $500 (to, say, sew on a button). that's the last time they ask! my time is valuable, and the things i make are precious. those who've been the recipients of my finished items understand and prize the gifts they've received -- they're labors of love, beyond value.


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