Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Making Quilts: The costs Involved

I don’t do production work. These are words I find myself saying more and more in regard to my machine embroidery. I take the compliment intended when someone says they should buy something that I make. Unfortunately, whatever it is I’ve made isn’t usually for sale! The politest thing I can say is that I really don’t do production work.

While I love making quilts or small embroidered items to give as gifts, it’s just not worth the time and effort to make these things to sell. Contrary to popular belief, making things on our own is not less expensive than buying it from a store! The only true benefit we get is by creating a one-of-a-kind item that is exactly what we want. If that option was readily available at stores, we would be expected to pay top dollar for it.

However, when someone wants us to make something for them to buy, they don’t seem to understand the true costs involved in making quilts or stitching intricate lace by machine embroidery. Instead, they see prices at stores and think our prices should be the same.

I can pick up a decent quilt for around $100 at a local chain department store. However, just the fabric costs to make one on my own far exceeds that price. This doesn’t include the costs of prepping the fabric for use, the time it takes to make, or any of the additional quilting supplies needed. The few times I have sold quilts, my minimum price for a crib size quilt is around $100. While my wanna-be customers have no problem paying that price for a designer name, they think my homemade crafts should be cheaper. The responses I get to my price quotes are sometimes quite rude, but I don’t mind. I just smile with the knowledge that I’ve, once again, gotten out of having to do production work!

When it comes to machine embroidery projects, I’m even less willing to stitch for others. The cost of thread and stabilizer alone would put me in the poor-house if I only charged what these folks wanted to pay. Of course, they don’t understand that there is a cost in maintaining our expensive, and very well loved embroidery machines, as well as an intricate inventory system for making sure we have the right needles, threads, and other embroidery supplies for our basic projects. If the person just insists that I make them something, I direct them to very expensive linen stores online. I ask them to compare the prices and let me know what they feel a fair price is. In all but very rare cases, this also has me smiling that I got away with not doing production work.

You may be wondering what my aversion is to stitching for money. Well, I consider what I do to be an art form. If I create for cash, it’s not artistic for me. It’s just work. Instead, I would rather spend my precious time stitching beautiful embroidery patterns for those I love. I love to spend rainy afternoons making quilts for all the babies that crop up in my little corner of the world (meaning … hubby’s co-workers). Sometimes, I like to just create an embroidery project or quilt just to do it. No reason. Nowhere to put it. Just pure, simple creativity.

Now, if someone wants to buy one of those things I’ve made just for the creativity, I will gladly sell them.

And, if you’re like me and feel guilty when saying “no” to people, just learn this simple phrase … I don’t do production work.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Simplifying Quilting and Embroidery

Whether it’s making quilts or digitizing machine embroidery designs, I seem to be in a constant state of confusion lately! Since I make my living doing both, this is not good!

Years ago, I could happily check the state of my quilting supplies and just get to work on whatever idea popped into my head. Or, I could choose an embroidery design from my collection and make pretty things as often as I wanted. Then, I began teaching classes and all that changed!

Instead of just stitching for my own pleasure, I now had class samples to create; these had to be certain styles and consist of the new in colors, regardless of my own personal preferences. The longer I taught, the harder it was to just make a quilt. My mind was always revolving with class-type ideas. My stash of fabrics and threads began being dominated by the latest trends instead of what I love.

I let this sorry state of affairs continue for much longer than I should have! My reward was to lose my love for my fabric arts. It is said that artists do best creating from the heart instead of the pocketbook, and I can vouch that this was true for me as well. My beloved stitching became work! Oh, no!

It took me a while to realize the full effect of this; I then wasted more time brooding about it! Finally, a little at a time, I began working to change the habits that had filled my brain and held me back from the love of my craft.

I can honestly say that I am back to making quilts for fun and stitching embroidery for the love of beauty! It took me some time to get to this point, but it was so worth the effort!

If you’re a stitcher who has lost your way, let me help!

First, you need to decide what you love. If you enjoy making quilts, what colors and styles speak to your innermost heart? What embroidery patterns are your favorites? Whether you write it down or just think about it, this is the first step to reclaiming the love of your art.

Is there a certain reason why you’re not creating what you want? Too many gifts? New babies? Charitable work?

When making gifts or quilts for newborns, it is difficult to just use the colors we like. We must think about the recipient. But, it is still possible to put our personal stamp on it by choice of pattern and other finishing touches. The recipient will love it no matter what.

When making quilts for charities, many quilters err on the side of false frugality. Many of the quilts look like the quilter used the worst fabric in their stash and didn’t really care if the finished product was attractive or not. While I understand that quilting can be an expensive endeavor and that these quilters may be doing the best they can, these quilts do not look like much love went into them. So, if you are making quilts for charities, why not take a little bit more of your time to create something completely from the heart?

Another thing that had held me back was that I am the only woman in a household of men. Even most of our pets were male! Since I’m not a frilly type of gal, keeping things neutral wasn’t that hard, but I was craving some of my favorite colors … pink, purple and fuchsia. I was tired of my bedroom being in shades of blue and tan. Actually, the whole house was in those shades!

In a fit of rebellion, I made a quilt in very light shades of pink and sage that just scream out that it is feminine. Strangely, even the men in the house love that little snuggle quilt. As a result of that, my whole home now reflects my taste in all shades of red without making the men feel like they are in a ruffle palace.

Not only did I reclaim my love of quilting and use of what makes my heart sing, but I made home my haven. That is the best testament to the power of making quilts from the heart.

Take charge of your art and make yourself happy!