Why Does My Longarm Quilter Charge ‘So Much’?

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Why Does My Longarm Quilter Charge "So Much"

I belong to several FaceBook groups for quilters. One of these is for those of us who make our living (or TRY to) from longarm quilting. Recently one of the longarm quilters showed a beautiful customer quilt she finished that took her sixty hours to complete. S…I…X…T…Y…HOURS…! She did an AMAZING job, and everyone was in awe of the quilting she had done on the quilt. It was obvious she had used all of her talent, training and PASSION for quilting to turn this top into a show stopper. And do you know how much she earned for all of this hard work? Around $13 per hour.

Now some of you may be thinking, “well that’s pretty good, I wish I made $13 per hour”, but let’s put it into perspective. The Federal minimum wage rate is $7.25. In my midwestern state, which is NOT known for high wages, minimum wage is $8.50 per hour. That is the wage for entry level workers with little to no experience or skills.

I don’t know about your town, but in mine I can earn $10 – $11 per hour working at an entry level position at WalMart or McDonalds. Which means I need NO artistic talent, NO hand-to-eye coordination, NO investment in a large piece of machinery that I need to learn to maintain myself, as there are no dealers nearby. When it’s slow in the store, the chain store employees still gets paid. (As a business owner if I don’t find new customers to bring me quilts, I don’t get paid that week.) Even if the chain store employee just does a so-so job, they will probably not get fired. They have very little responsibility – they don’t have to find customers, advertise, make decisions that can make-or-break the business. THEY JUST HAVE TO SHOW UP AND RUN THE CASH REGISTER OR STOCK THE SHELVES.

Keep in mind, MINIMUM WAGE is the starting salary for UNSKILLED workers. Longarm quilters are definitely NOT unskilled. First off, we purchase a major piece of equipment that can run from about $5000 for a limited entry level machine, to over $30,000 for a top-of-the-line computerized machine. Next we have to take lessons and learn how to use the thing. That takes anywhere from 3 – 6 months or more of practice before we are comfortable doing SIMPLE quilting. Then we need to add in the cost of classes…patterns…books…videos…rulers…etc. We spend HOURS looking at other quilts, coming up with design ideas, deciding WHAT to quilt, consulting with other professional quilters. And CUSTOM quilting takes more time and practice to become proficient at. (This article will help you learn about what is meant by E2E or Custom Quilting).

When you own a business, you are responsible for EVERYTHING that happens. You have to market yourself and find new customers. You have to take the blame if someone doesn’t like what you quilted on their quilt. You have to set up the schedule, deal with difficult customers, order supplies, answer the phones and emails, do the invoices, pay the bills, etc., etc.

And when you are self-employed, there are overhead expenses. While most longarm quilters work from their homes (eliminating the cost of rent) we do have other expenses such as advertising, insurance, computers, internet, websites, utilities, etc. Oh – did we mention self-employment taxes? And those people making minimum wage at WalMart get benefits – health insurance, paid vacations, sick leave, etc. As a business owner, if I don’t work a day, I don’t get paid for that day. I have to pay 15% for self employment taxes, I don’t have any money going into retirement accounts (unless *I* put some there). And after 8 hours on my feet driving around my longarm, I may need a massage or chiropractor appointment to keep my body in good shape. Guess who pays for that? Me!

So it’s not unreasonable to figure that only about HALF of what I bill my customer ends up to be my take-home pay. So that $13 per hour my online friend made – really ends up to be only about $6.50 per hour. How many of you want to take on all that responsibility for $6.50 per hour?????

For those of you who send quilts out to a longarm quilter to be quilted, have you ever had one tell you they are no longer doing custom work? Oftentimes customers want custom work at an edge to edge (E2E) rate. Many do not realize that custom can take 2 – 5 times as long as E2E. And that not all longarm quilters will do custom – some don’t want the pressure of it, some don’t want to spend that much time on one quilt, and many are not TALENTED enough to do it. Sometimes the customer ‘just wants something simple like SID (stitch-in-the-ditch)’, not realizing that on a longarm, SID is one of the harder techniques, requiring the use of a ruler and much slower stitching than E2E to keep the stitching straight and actually in the ditch.

A while back, I was getting burned out doing custom, and actually DID stop doing it for a while. However, I missed it. I ENJOY doing custom, I just wasn’t making enough money at it. So when I went back to doing it, I changed how I priced it.

First off, a lot of what I see being labeled Custom is actually HEIRLOOM work. So I defined four categories of non-E2E work, based on how easy or complicated they were. Then I went back through my invoices and calculated how long each of these type of treatments took me. Basing my prices on a goal of $25 – 30/hour (because of course that is NOT what my ‘take home pay’ would be after expenses/overhead/etc., I’d probably only end up with 1/3 to 1/2 of that), I was able to come up with a PSI (per square inch) rate to give estimates to customers. However, I do explain that I charge for custom work BY THE HOUR. I give them a ballpark range, and if it’s too much, they can choose a simpler treatment or take it to another quilter.

Yes, I have had people take it elsewhere. I had one customer with a Judy Niemeyer paper pieced quilt that I quoted about $800 for. She sent it to someone else. You know what? I’m fine with that! I’m not going to work for less than $10/hour, when that is being paid to unskilled workers at McDonald’s or WalMart! If another longarm quilter chooses to work for pitiful wages, that is their decision, but not one I have to live with.

I don’t think we need to stop doing custom work, however we may have to remember that custom does NOT necessarily mean SID every seam, teeny tiny fills in every background, etc. We can keep custom simple and still have a pretty quilt. If the client wants drop-dead show-stopping quilting, then they should be willing to pay for the extra time and talent that we provide. If not, we can choose a treatment that is still pretty, but doesn’t require us to give away many hours of our talent for pitiful wages. We need to be clearer about the difference between Custom quilting and Heirloom quilting so that our clients can choose what is right for their budget. You can see my definitions and pricing breakdown on my website.

Here is another way to think about ‘giving away’ our work – if a customer goes into a quilt shop and wants to piece a top that would be a knockout in high end batiks, but her budget only allows her to buy the close-out, discounted calicos, does the shop owner ‘give’ her the more expensive fabric for the cheaper price because it would make the project look better? Does the dress shop owner ‘give’ a woman a designer dress for an off-the-rack price because it would look better on her? Does the butcher shop ‘give’ a customer prime rib at the same price as hamburger because it would be so much nicer for her dinner party? Then why the heck are longarm quilters ‘giving’ so much away?!?!?! Some quilters say they do it because they have passion for the craft of quilting, and the quilt ‘needed it’, but we are doing a disservice to ourselves, and other longarm quilters everywhere, when we give away our time, talent and expertise. Please, PLEASE, value yourself and your talent!! Explain to your clients how the different types of quilting vary in time and expertise. And remember that YOU are in charge of how much you charge for your different services. DO NOT let your client dictate how much you charge. Offer them 2 or 3 different designs choices and let them choose the one that fits in their budget.

Longarm Quilters – Has this changed how you think about your pricing structure?

Longarm Customers – Do you have a better understanding of why your quilter charges what she does?

Or am I totally off the mark with my ramblings?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please share your comments below, and share this post with your friends so we can see what they think…..


167 thoughts on “Why Does My Longarm Quilter Charge ‘So Much’?

      • The piecer deserves the ribbon. The quilter should be acknowledged as such and credit given to them for the actual quilting; but you provided a service the piecer paid for and they own it.

        • I think both the piecer and the quilter should receive ribbons! After all, the quilt wouldn’t be a quilt and wouldn’t even be allowed to be entered into a show unless it was quilted. Why should only one of the two people who worked on a quilt receive a ribbon? I think it is time for the quilting guilds and quilt shows to recognize and reward ALL of the people with hands-on work on quilts when that quilt wins a ribbon!

          • I actually agree with this. If someone else other than the piecer quilts the quilt, then it is actually a 2-person job. Usually quilts that win ribbons are excellently quilted as well as excellently pieced–thus, the quilter really should get a ribbon too. But if they started requiring the piecers to do their own quilters, we would probably just get people who said that they did, when they didn’t. Long armers have my complete respect! You are a special breed of artists!

    • You are spot on! I consider myself to be a beginner hobbyist. I purchased a entry level machine phaff grand quilter 8 years ago I did 2 quilts for people I know. I quickly learned that they were people that wanted something for nothing. The one lady was mad cause i charged a fee to take her borders off and square her quilt. She replied just quilt it with overlapping border fabric. I decided that if this was gonna be more than a hobby for myself I would need to have a contract of some sort. This was for that reason and I didn’t want my name associated with shity work.

    • I was a long arm quilter and we lost our shop, we charged way to little because the others in our area were. They didn’t have a shop so they didn’t have as big of an overhead. Now I wish we would have charged what we told to charge.

    • Thank you for sharing, I’t truly gave me a better understanding of your talent. I believe a long arm quilter is an artist. Making a living at it, incredible, good for you, it shows you value yourself and your work. Very well said. I’m in my second year of quilting and I’m learning tons! Making a quilt, especially if it is for someone else is a special gift because of the time and cost.

    • Your article about being a small business owner was very informative, but I wish you could have mentioned minimum wage without stating your opinion that they are unskilled. After 40 yrs in professional jobs I quit to take care of ailing parents. I came back to the workforce at Walmart. I bring many skills to my job that make a customer’s experience more enjoyable. When was the last time you took care of 82 customers in 4 hours and sent them on their way with a smile on their face? Please, charge what you want, but quit justifying it at the expense of others.

        • I agree. I worked at McDonalds for 9 years. I made breakfast every morning. I also make quilts. I can’t do machine quilting except on very small things, with straight line quilting. I appreciate the two people who do quilt the quilts that I don’t hand quilt and I do not quibble about what they charge.

          However, making breakfast for hundreds of people, keeping orders straight and getting things out fast, hot and the way they want it, is not something everyone can do. Believe me I worked with many who could not handle that job.

          • Good comment, Barbara! Any job can be difficult. That’s why we call it work. I know this is veering off the original topic, but I’ve had every kind of job, from entry level, to highly professional. Every one of them had their challenges.

        • Jean M, you are right on the mark with your comments. Working with the public can be difficult, but also rewarding. To be considered unskilled is unfair.

        • Jean, I totally agree. I was going to comment that many of us have worked for minimum wage at professional jobs just to have a job. If you live in a university town, as I do, wages are much lower. It’s just a fact of life. So I wish that minimum wage earners weren’t dissed in this analysis. Otherwise, I truly understand and sympathize. I will never own a custom quilt because I can’t afford it. But I wish only the best for those who do this work.

          • Plus, folks are finally waking up to the fact that the minimum wage is outdated by about 30 years. You’re going to see it start to come up to something more 21st century.

      • I didn’t mean to imply that the PEOPLE in the minimum wage jobs are unskilled. I was referring to the fact that the JOB DESCRIPTION for most of those positions is “no experience needed” or “willing to train”. I too have worked several of those types of jobs, mainly early in my working career, and yes, they can be challenging. But as a new employee, if I gave someone the wrong food order, or incorrect change, there was a senior worker there to help me correct my mistakes.

        Can you imagine how your quilt would turn out if someone who had no knowledge or experience with quilting quilted it during their first week of training/practice? Since they are the business owner and usually only employee of the business, who would be there to help fix any mistakes they made? And would the mistakes BE fixable? What if it were a one-of-a-kind heirloom quilt top?

        The main point I was trying to make by comparing to minimum wage jobs is that LA quilters should be able to make at LEAST as much as minimum wage for the skill set we have, and unfortunately at some of the rates I see people charging for custom/heirloom work, they are probably NOT netting even that amount.

    • I read the article and every comment, so I came back to reply with lots of thoughts, but they all fall under just a couple of areas — main one – value your time, yes, but value your work at THIS trade appropriately. Second, don’t take offense to the “unskilled worker” comparison – please – it’s not the skills and talents you brought with you to Wal-Mart, McDonald’s etc. – it’s the requirements that those entities require just to be hired – not retained.

      Can you as a long-armer go out and hire just anyone if you were to add a second machine to your service? “Hello there, would you like to come work for me? I need you to be an artist.”

      Back to valuing your work, I agree with the 4 levels of quilting (Basic meandering, pantograph, custom, heirloom) and I too have done waaaaaayyyy too much on a quilt time and time again because I treat each quilt as if it were my own, see?

  1. I only quilt for myself. I am fortunate. I can’t imagine charging anything less than $30 per hour for it. I agree that many Longarm quilters do the industry a disservice by charging too little for their work.

  2. I totally agree with you, and I appreciate you sharing this in such a way that our customers can understand as well!

    • My mom and her friend do guilting services and charge a flat rate which I think is not enough when it comes to very large quilts. But there are customers who say she just charges too much. Some people just want something for nothing. They charge one price regardless of design. So they are fair prices. It’s hard work and long hours and sometimes I think people can be alittle ride about the pricing.

      • I am a longarm quilter and have to compete with someone that charges a flat rate. I tell my customers that I charge by the square inche on E2E and a bit more for custom quilting. I don’t do the Heirloom Quilting, just maybe different on borders. I can’t compete with the flat charge and I don’t try. If someone doesn’t like my pricing, it’s probably better that they go to someone else. My income supplements our pensions. I like the extra money and helping people, and I keep my turn around short, Could I use more business yes, but I don’t want the extra stress of an unhappy customer.

  3. Great post, Andi! I think it comes down to valuing ourselves – both the longarmer and the customer. I loved all the examples in the last paragraph. If, as the customer, we value ourselves, we aren’t looking for someone to give her work away, whether that’s quilting, fabric, dresses or meat. I know of a man who always adds 10% to what he is quoted for a job. He figures that the person will put more in the job and he will value it differently. Thanks for writing this. I’ll share.

  4. I have a computerized Gammill and I agree with everything you said. But I do understand how it feels from the other end (customer’s). That’s why I bought my longarm – basically for myself – however, I do quilt for others. If I was a free motion longarmer – I would charge a GREAT deal of money for ANY type of quilting!

      • While a computerized machine can make doing intricate designs easier (no marking) and more perfect, it can also take more time to properly size a design to fit an area. A human can make minute changes to a design (a smaller swirl or feather) to compensate for imperfections in piecing. The computer cannot do this without human intervention, which in many cases takes longer than hand-guiding. When I had my computerized machine I did consider charging more, as the equipment is more expensive, but as I used it mainly for overall designs, I charged the same as I could be working on something else while the robot stitched away.

  5. I’m so glad it was me (and a whole lot of others) that inspired you to write this. That quilt really changed my future quilting world in many ways!! You are spot on Andi!

    • I’m curious, Faith, if you are a customer or a longarm quilter? I’m not sure why you think it is complaining if I try to educate the general public about what is actually involved in this job that I, and many other longarmers, chose to do?

      • She is not complaining. She is simply stated what goes into her work. It is very important to educate the general public of this.

    • I didn’t read any complaining in this post. She is educating the public about our work and how little it is valued. Especially how other longarmers value little about themselves too.

      Thanks Andi for taking the time and writing about this.

  6. If the industry standard is higher because we will not except a lower price per hour, then that higher price becomes the new normal….which then makes it easier to say out loud -This is how much that service costs!
    Iove everything you said and your custom break down is great. I am reevaluting as I type! Way to go. Spot on!!

    • Lisa, when I was in business several colleagues pointed out to me that even though materials or equipment were paid for I should continue to charge as though they were not because at some point I would have a service/repair bill or the need for replacement. That is the way other manufacturers operate! After all we are “manufacturing” quilts for our clients.

  7. This should be required reading for anyone longarm quilting for pay. Those under charging do a disservice to all of us! You are spot on!

    • I totally agree with you Andi and many of your points are right on the mark. Tina, is right in saying , “those that under charge are doing a disservice to the rest of us.” I try not to judge why they think their worth is less, although, I know in some cases, they have bought a cheap used machine, have a few paper pantos and don’t spend money on classes and quality threads or pay taxes on her earnings. Maybe,no one gives them any value in their personal life. Those of us who really are professionals should be compensated fairly.
      I just had my taxes done today and my CPA doesn’t give me a break and she shouldn’t. She is a professional, as am I.

  8. I entered this field coming from running a successful Marketing/Advertising company a decade and a half ago and so when I started I had a completely different pricing structure than all the other quilters and word got out that I was good but expensive. I ran it totally as a business figuring in all related expenses and even – dare I say it – profit! I never priced my work based on a square per anything. Soon the work I was doing was worth it for many customers and my lead time was rarely less than 6 months and even grew to a year +. Many would only bring me the heirloom work and after my ski crash where I did not quilt for 6 months and was not totally healed for 10 months; I really took a hard look at what I was doing and why. I made the decision to only take quilts from a few selected quilters and friends per year and quilt when I want to or feel like it. For years I taught a class at major quilt shows called “The Business of Quilting” and the thing that astonished me no matter where in the country I taught this was how few of my students approached it like a business and even fewer who had any real understanding of the money they were or (or truth be told) were not making. So many price their work based on what others are doing and have no real understanding of what their true costs are. So we keep perpetuating what in many cases is bad practice and just like the quilts coming from China that are sold in the big box stores devaluing the quilts we make, so too has this pricing mindset lowered the standard/acceptance for the whole industry.

  9. Fortunately, my machine cost was recouped many years ago. If I charged what my quilting is worth, no one in my locale would come to me! I’m currently stewing over the fact that my hairdresser charges $100 for a cut & color that takes 90 min. He says he’s worth it, and yes I pay it. But quilting??????

    • Why not for quilting, Alicia? I paid $60/hour for the plumber the other day. Yes, I realize plumbing is a ‘need’ and quilting is not, but how many other not really necessary items/services are people willing to pay big bucks for? I still remember when I wanted to buy my first LA. Hubby went with me to a show, saw the cost, and was amazed that some women bought them just for fun and not for a business. ‘How can they justify that?’ he wondered. I asked him how much he had paid for his boat which was ‘just for fun’? That shut him up in a hurry! 😀

      • Yes! Yes! Yes! People pay for a lot of objects & services that are “just for fun”. That doesn’t decrease their value. No difference in buying a quilting machine, boat, ATV, etc, or paying for quilting services. Yes, it does mean that in hard economic times you may temporarily lose the customers that struggle to pay for simple quilting, but honestly, they will be lost anyway. $20-30 difference in quilting isn’t going to make or break their budget, if spending $100 on backing, $200+ on top fabric and batting doesn’t. The people that aren’t spending on fabric, etc aren’t going to spend on quilting services either. They are going to try to do it themselves or tie quilts.

        • I do mostly custom FMQ and feel that my pricing balances the going rates in the area, plus my need to actually make some money I have no problem if potential customers decide that I charge too much–I always have quilts of my own waiting. But I do get irritated when I know that a couple of customers routinely purchase fabric from online sources (several times per month), take classes, participate in BOM, have expensive machines and equipment–but gripe about quilting costs! I think this is because it’s the part of the quilt that they are relying on someone else–and for some reason think that others should be supplementing.

      • I think Quilting is a need. If I go to all that work on a project, I wanted it finished. And that is the quilting. If any one has priced the machines, they understand. I hope one day to own a machine. My problem is what to quilt. Some there is to much quilting and looks ‘ Busy’. And others there is not enough quilting and looks sad. I know this is a whole other discussion. I will be quiet.

        • OMG — my hairdresser charges $250 for my color and cut, and I pay it — plus tip! — and keep going back because for the first time in my whole life, people complement me on my hair and it looks good in every photo instead of hanging off my head like a stringy mop. That is what the best long arm quilters do, by the way — they take that quilt top with all its imperfections and limitations, discover what is beautiful in it, and then create a quilting design that can turn a so-so top into a masterpiece. The big difference between an awesome haircut and an awesome quilt is that you pay for the quilt once and it can last over a hundred years, but I have to keep going back to my hairdresser and paying for her services every six weeks!

    • A haircut will last couple of month, a quilt can last for generations. We also have skills that rival that of hairdressers, we should be re-evaluating what we charge.

      • Good point, Shelley! A haircut takes about 1/2 hour, and the charge runs from $20 – 40 (or more, depending on where one lives). That’s $40 – 80/hour for something that needs to be done again in 6 weeks. Love this!

  10. This is very well written . . . YEAH AND YEAH AND YEAH!!! I have moved away from customer to E2E and love it! I only ‘custom’ my work or one or two a year.

  11. Very well written, Andi! Three or four years ago I allowed myself to be underpaid. You know, how many of us start out; lack of confidence, wanting to grow the business, and I just passionately loved custom! It only took two, maybe three custom quilts to wisen up and follow what the long-time pros were saying.

    I will be sharing this information, and thank you for writing this!

    • You are a wise woman to learn that lesson after only 2 or 3 quilts, Mary! It’s taken me much longer, and I still feel ‘guilty’ sometimes about what I charge, but I’m getting better at not giving my work away.

  12. absolutely correct and don’t back down. I work in a Local Quilt Shop and often am asked to recommend someone for “inexpensive custom quilting” (and usually for a King Size Quilt !!!) With a smile, I tell them that inexpensive, custom and king size don’t go together. It costs what it costs. And they should consider that they are asking the long-arm quilter to put aside things in her life that she might rather be doing, to make their project a success

    • Bless you, Susan! We need more advocates like you out there. Reminds me of a saying – you can have things good, fast or cheap, but only two at a time.
      You can have it fast & cheap – but it won’t be good.
      You can have it good & cheap – but it won’t be fast.
      You can have it fast & good – but it won’t be cheap.

  13. Fabulous article. I own a shop that does not have a longarm in store. I try to explain this to customers who are looking for a quilter. I’ll share this on our Facebook page to help our customer better understand a longarmers pricing.

  14. As a customer, I absolutely do not begrudge my quilter the hourly rate she charges (yes, she charges for time, not square inches). You are spot on with your analysis. I can’t afford her work very often, but that’s my problem not hers. Happily she has a steady clientele that can and do, so hopefully she will stay in business despite my budget.

    • I can’t afford her work very often, but that’s my problem not hers

      I love this, Joanne! Thank you for recognizing the value of your quilter’s work!

  15. Thanks for the encouragement to value our work. It can be discouraging to calculate your ‘take home pay’ as a longarm quilter. I strive to quote a price I consider fair and not take it personally if the customer takes the quilt to someone else.

  16. Hallelujah! This is an excellent piece that many women, sexists, quilters, crafters, etc., should read. Having been in a one woman sewing business for 15 years before retirement I know there are many fellow professionals, customers, and resellers/retailers who find it difficult to value themselves and their work and don’t understand that is the reason they have difficulty making a living and having a personal life as well. We don’t do anyone a favor by giving ourselves away!

  17. I totally agree with you. I only do pantographs, but I still have to make sure the design suits the top and is evenly placed. Panto’s are expensive. People don’t take that into consideration. I have sent many customers to other longarmers that do custom or heirloom quilting. I know a lady that sends her quilts away to someone who does any size quilt for $30 and they look like it. You can’t have fast and cheap and expect you quilt to look good.

  18. Yes, spot on….And yes I value my time and talent as every year I try to take a couple of LongArm courses to upgrade my self and I always give my customer good value for their money.

  19. Your post is very true. I have raised my rates recently, and no complaints, but I am also not taking new customers, and (trying) to schedule time to quilt my own quilts. I think another factor that we all need to consider is the popularity of very dense and complicated quilting. Double straight lines and lots of ruler work, plus millions of tiny pebbles, etc. I make sure that if someone wants that type of quilting they know it is going to be expensive.

    • I believe that is part of the problem – many longarmers call anything not E2E “custom”. However, what you are describing (dense fills, tiny motifs, labor-intensive designs that need to be measured and marked and quilted with rulers) should be called HEIRLOOM and up-charged accordingly.

  20. Spot on. Only part of the reason that quilters often don’t get paid enough is because they don’t charge enough. When they say they are struggling to make it, I respond with, “Aren’t you in charge of your business?” They say “yes”. I say, “Then change your prices so that you can make more, otherwise you can’t complain about not getting paid enough.” People will pay you exactly what you are willing to accept.

    • So true, Jessica. We need to first see value in ourselves, charge in accordance with that perceived value, and only then will others value us and pay what we are worth.

      • If we don’t value ourselves, treating ourselves with respect & worth, others won’t either. On the flip side, that means that quilters have to run their business like a business, not a hobby that they might make “pin money” to be taken seriously as a business. It’s fine to do it as a hobby and even charge a little here & there, but that’s a very different approach then running it as a business to feed your family. One thing that put it in perspective for me was when I HAD to start supporting my family on quilting wages and people would ask if I could squeeze them in, but were offended when I said that would be an extra charge for the overtime. They were literally shorting me money that went to feed and house my family, as well as asking me to take time from them. Instantly, I became very aware of what all my time was worth.

  21. I think my long arm quilter is amazing and frankly I don’t think she charges enough. Even so, I cannot afford to have her quilt everything I make, so I ask her to do my “special” quilts, and I cheerfully pay her whatever she asks. I’m going to start doing what one person said a gentleman does, I’m going to give her at least 10% extra, 20% if I possibly can. I tip my nail tech, my stylist, my server. Why not my long armer?

  22. I have a very lovely woman who quilts my larger quilts for me, all done E2E, She does a fabulous job and her turn around time is only a few weeks. She once allowed me to jump in front of the line to do an anniversary quilt that I had not finished earlier (my own fault) and said she would not charge me extra. I said she was crazy and put a hefty tip in the check I sent – she earned it. She is amazing and I hope she never stops longarming!
    This article was really spot on – thanks for putting it out there.

  23. Think that it depends on the area you live and quilt in. I live in a depressed area so have to charge what the market will allow.

  24. An excellent article! I am going to rethink my pricing structure and start keeping track of how much time it actually takes to quilt the quilt! Thank you.

  25. Andi, This is a wonderful, well written article! Thank you so much for this. I am sharing. (And I did not hear one word of complaining in your post, just the facts.)

  26. I am just starting out as a Long Arm Quilter for others and this post today made my day. I thought all the competitors prices I found were so low, and they are! I don’t feel bad now about rising above them. If you can, are you able to share the facebook group you belong to for long arm quilters?

    • Hi Ellen – I’m glad you found this helpful. The FB group is called Professional Longarm & Machine Quilters. Good luck in your new career!

  27. My machine keeps track of the time that it runs. I keep track of how much time is spent on each quilt I do. I know that the machine time does not include the time it takes to put the quilt on the machine, any marking that is needed or changing colors of thread so I charge enough per hour to cover this. I feel that charging by the time spent on each quilt is fair whether the quilt is E2E, custom or heirloom.

  28. An excellent read. I think it’s important to note that if someone had pieced a top and spent countless hours designing and stitching and placing and unsewing and resewing ad infinitum they should conclude that the longarmer has the task of actually improving and finishing a fine work that with a little care will be around long after all of us are gone. With that in mind let’s pay them what the piece is worth for the decades and scores of years that the quilt will love and be loved. Will your great grandchild care or know that you paid $250 for a 3 border custom throw? Probably not. Will they know that in a time gone by someone with a valuble skill put needle and thread to squares of fabric and had it quilted to last so that they could feel love long passed? We can only hope.

  29. I totally agree. I am tired of people thinking our services should be cheap, especially other quilters. If they want to give away their work that is up to them, though it hurts everyone. The reason people think quilts should be cheap like the ones you can buy at Walmart or JCP is because quilters and longarmers tell them they are right buy not charging for the superior product they are producing. I will not do it, people want everything for nothing.

  30. I totally agree with what you said. I used to try and convince customers to choose custom over e2e because I prefer that. I now have 2 machines. 1 of which is solely for e2e. I raised my prices on those and my business grew. Now I only do 4-5 custom a month and my stress has gone down.

  31. I agree with your post. My husband has the same issues as a “National Master Electrician”. People do not take into consideration your time, tools, classes and such. Lucky for me, I have a local lady who does my quilting, but some day I would love to learn to do it myself.

  32. Excellent article, thanks for the explanations that customers should understand. All hobbies are expensive. Customers that quilt for a hobby should know that. Even my husband will tell anyone who will listen that Quilting is NOT an inexpensive hobby, neither is fishing, hunting, boating, golfing, crafting, scrapbooking, owning horses, and the list goes on. Why should long armers feel they should be the “cheapest” part of the equation?

  33. Thank you do very much for this. Very well said. Of cause wages are different here in Australia & well as the costs of epuipment & supplies & I to have worked that long & even longer on custom quilts & don’t make/charge near that amount & cringe @ myself for why I do it. Lack of confidence to soft for my own good not sure which one both. I’m just finishing of a quilt that took me 2 days just to stitch in ditch then there’s 111 6″ blocks set in triangles & large border which I turned the quilt to make it easier on my self. I’m thinking 7 days in total & was going to charge $500 that’s $9 a sq foot. I am now going to reconsider that !!!
    Thank you
    Kathy

  34. A very well-reasoned and well-written post. I am not a quilter, but my sister is a fabulous LA quilter, and I saw this link on her FB feed. I have to say, though, that if you change a few words so that instead of referring to ‘(independent) LA quilters’ you are referring to ‘independent music teachers’ (of which I am one), you could be arguing the same thing: we need to treat what we do like the business it is, respect ourselves enough to charge a fair price, and look askance at the many people giving lessons for peanuts because it’s all they think they are worth, or because ‘they enjoy it’ or ‘if they charge more, they will lose all their students’. If you were to read the posts on the music teacher Facebook group pages, you would hear the same laments, the same older and dare I say wiser teachers urging the new ones coming up to quit giving it away …. you would recognize it all!

    And, not to be sexist, but noticing that ‘most’ of the quilters I know and see at the big quilt shows, in roughly the same proportion as music teachers in national organizations and conferences …. are female. And apparently we females still have a long way to go, to not just stand up for reasonable pay, but even to consider we are worth it.

    Excellent post and excellent comments. You quilters rock.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Kathy. I love that you added the perspective of another predominately female occupation – I think you hit the nail on the head that it is a gender-based bias. How many men do you think would work for ‘peanuts’ just because they enjoyed doing (whatever). No, they respect their talents, and charge accordingly.

  35. Excellent article and very informative. When my husband and I started quilting two years ago we sent our first quilt to a local long armer who did a beautiful job on it E2E. Her price reflected her expertise and reputation. I had the opportunity to take LA classes at my local shop and I did a panto and then some free motion. I fell in love with free motion so I rent the machine at the local shop for $80 a day and do all of my own quilts. I think this helped me really appreciate the women that have made a business out of it because I know how much I stress over my own quilts. They should charge an amount that reflects the work and quality. If you have never long armed yourself you have no idea of the number of things that take extra time and the number of things that can go awry even with a professional. When you get that quilt back from your long armer – treasure it!!! And trust me it is worth every dollar you paid!!!!!

  36. I think your anger about it is hard to swallow. I know that I will never make what I am ”worth” if I only count money as demonstrating the value of my skills, experience and knowledge. I see value in the relationships built and the skills which continue to be acquired. That said. Everyone may charge what they wish for their services and not have to feel belittled by the opinion of others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Oh, don’t get me wrong, if money were my only motivation, I would NOT have chosen quilting! There are many more lucrative ways to earn a living. I quilt because I love to create…because I want to keep the tradition of quilting alive…because I like honing my skills…because I enjoy the look of joy on my clients’ faces when they see their finished quilt…because I have a left a little of myself in their heirloom. But does that mean I should not earn a living wage? I’m sorry if you feel I came across as angry. I just know that women in particular tend to undervalue their worth, and I was hoping to get some of them to realize that they may need to reevaluate how they perceive themselves and their skills and talents. Thank you for your comments.

  37. Andi, I am so glad you put this out there. We could also add what skilled labor makes in the public sector. How much do people pay their electrician, plumber, painter, repairman, etc. per hour?

  38. Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I live in a rural community where most of the quilters are retired or have very little expendable income. I belong to the local guild and the members think that I should be more than willing to do all the LA quilting for the charity quilts that we, as a group, make each year. For three years I quilted about 50-60 of these quilts a year because I was trying to perfect my LA skills and I also wanted to build my LA business. I was told by one of the members of the guild that my pricing was twice what their LA was charging and so I lowered my e2e pricing so that it was about $5.00/quilt. I also suggested at the time that maybe the LA that they all “liked” could do their charity quilts at no cost. The reply back was that “she wasn’t a member of our guild” so doing the charity quilts was not a service they “expected” from her.

    Last year, they all took their paid quilts back to the LA because she had been invited and joined them at the yearly retreat and my small business fell off to nothing. I think I did less than a half dozen paid quilts and they were only the small lap/baby quilts.
    So, I announced last fall that I would no longer be quilting the charity quilts, explaining that it took too much of my time, and that I would only quilt a few of the larger quilts that we make for various raffles in our community. I assumed that if my work isn’t good enough for their paid jobs, than it must not be good enough for the charity quilts and that they can all go back to tying them. My quilting is as good as, if not better than the LA they use (she only does e2e pantographs). I have done several quilts for them that were custom quilting for a extremely discounted price, but decided I won’t do that any longer after reading your article. Your point about them paying full retail pricing for quilt store fabrics hit the nail on the head. All of them will pay full retail for the fabric to make the perfect quilt, but don’t want to pay a reasonable price for the LA work.

    • I’m sorry about your experiences with the guild, Yvonne, I’ve heard of situations like that all too often. It’s hard to stick to your pricing when there are other quilters who will do it for so much less. It’s taken me several years to get to this point, but I no longer worry about what other people charge. I set my prices to meet my needs, and if it’s too much for some clients, they can find another quilter. I’m fortunate that there are enough people in my area who recognize the difference in quality and not just the difference in price, so I’ve been able to keep busy even with some clients going elsewhere. The charity quilt issue is something else that I’ve thought about lot in the past – maybe I’ll have to do another blog post about that!

    • Wow. Just wow. That is such a sad experience. They were using you. Now you should have time to create your own works of beauty.

  39. Just perfect. I’m the same way with my quilting even just the top. I’m not going to use cheap fabric very often – when I do it is still a name brand quilt shop quality fabric that has merely been sitting around as an unpopular color or print, but happens to fit my needs and is reduced from $11-12 a yard to $8 yard. Then my acquaintance wants a twin sized quilt out of my fabric stash for $50-75. She can get that quilt at Wal-Mart and she should. She’s got to be a best friend or immediate family to get it for those cheap prices.

  40. The analogy I use is this. If you think about quilting as a PRODUCT, $1,000 or $2,000 (or whatever the number) seems like a lot. If you think about quilting as a SERVICE, your perspective changes. Have you ever had someone paint your house? Landscape your yard? Design your home renovation? When you look at it that way, the price doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.

  41. I have no problem with the charges from the wonderful person who does most of my quilting. She’s creative and brings so much artistry to the quilts. If my quilt is entered into any kind of competition, she is always given credit for the quilting …. as she should be. Great article.

  42. I am a customer and I can tell you that I SO appreciate what my longarmer does for me! Yes it’s expensive, so I’ll usually try to do simple quilting on my own little home sewing machine and just send the “special” quilts off to be quilted. It’s worth it! Also any time I enter a quilt in a competition I ALWAYS give my longarmer credit. I think that should be required. The work they do can make or break the final product! (and 99.9% of the time, it gives it the “winning” look). Thank you longarmers!

  43. I think you are spot an. Too many artists and craters undercharge. You deserve a living wage like any one else. I take maybe two quilts a year to the LA, the rest I quilt myself.
    BTW Walmart employees usually don’t get benifits. You might want to change your example to Costco. I have family members who’ve worked both places.

  44. Doesn’t it all come down to the free market, and what prices it will bear? If prices rise to what you think the job is “worth” but very few can afford that, then what has been accomplished? My husband and I own our own business (non-quilting related) and I can tell you he puts in very long hours, going to work at 4:00am many days and not returning until after 7:00 in the evening. A vast number of small business owners will tell you the hours are long and your time is usually not generously rewarded. We’d love to charge more for the products made but again, market forces are in play. Throwing a hissy fit won’t change that.

    • Yes it does. You can price yourself right out of the market because “You deserve it”.

      There’s a reason for the term “starvin’ artist”.

      The problem the article is about could be applied to any “artsy” type of work. Very few in any of these types of businesses get what they are (probably) worth. Painters, crocheters, embroidery work, wood workers, etc. They could have written a similar article.

      Some choose to just do it for a hobby because they don’t know people who will pay the prices that they know they are worth.

      Much will depend on where you live in the USA and your sphere of personal contacts.

  45. Such a great article. A balanced and well thought argument. In reading all the comments from this post I can’t help feeling that as women and quilters we have a long way to go in changing the way we think of our own worth. But we also have to recognise that we are running a business. A business is dependent on the economy it works within and the demand for the service you are offering. For a business to be viable it has to offer a service that is in demand at a reasonable and fair price. That price needs to cover all the expenses inherent in providing that service for the business. One of the costs in providing a service is a fair return for your labour. If you choose sometimes to forgo a personal return for your work because you are doing charity work you still have to meet the costs of running a business, including providing for yourself. Other professionals also do pro bono work, but that does not stop them from charging for their services. Giving back to the community is part of being a professional as is a fair price policy for your work. If a person chooses to make their income from quilting, this is no more a free service than is nursing, child care, food preparation or any of the other activities which have traditionally been regarded as “women’s work” and therefore should be provided without charge or with very low pay with the expectation that this is just what women do. Just because I get other rewards from my quilting like pride in achievement and creative inspiration and pleasure in filling my days with quilting doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t get paid for it.

  46. Excellent! So hard to value our work appropriately, but this is insightful. I’ve read something similar about pricing for an entire quilt (piecing and quilting). That’s where customers really think you work for $5/hour!
    Thanks for a well written article.

  47. I had a longarm business for ten years and was sometimes told I charged too much, but I always figured if someone thought that, they could go find a cheaper quilter. Now I’m on the other side, and I still think that. I’d love to be able to afford heirloom quilting on all my quilts, but some of them aren’t worth it, and I don’t have that kind of money anyway. I APPRECIATE a longarm quilter who gives me options so I can make it work for my budget!

  48. Funny that a friend posted this today. I have been LA quilting for 16 years. Really haven’t raised my prices in all that time. I had just made up my mind to take a few months off. I want to play try new things and new threads etc on my own. When I begin doing customer quilts again the rates will be going up. Thanks for your post it helped me make this decision too

  49. Although I am not a long arm quilter I do do my own quilting on my sewing machine. I am having a stall at our summer Carnival in our village, selling things I have made. I have made a few lap quilts and baby quilts and quilted them myself and I am having the problem of what to charge. The material was bought for other projects so can be regarded as scrap, as well as the batting so it is an extra project if you like but then how do you cost something like that.

    Some good friends have said the same, not cheaply, as that then lets everyone down but then you don’t want to price it out of the market. It is a very difficult subject. I have seen some sites that calculate the cost of a quilt with some added on for profit and I think I will try and use that.

    However I am sure that people will see the price and say “I’m not paying that” and that I am afraid is a product of our cheap society where everyone wants something and pay as little as possible for it.

    Thanks for the article.

    Susie

  50. Hear! Hear! I agree totally. I am a customer, but sometimes rent time on a longarm. With my simple quilting, it still takes time – costing me money and backaches. To have professional quilting done, you have to PAY FOR IT!
    If a customer thinks you charge too much, they are wrong – not you.

  51. Boy! I needed this today. What a great post! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I especially enjoyed the idea of a butcher giving away a top cut of meat for the price of ground chuck. It seems so silly in that context. Just because I work for myself from home doesn’t mean my time and talents are any less valuable.

  52. A wonderful article! I too used to charge too little, but when I became serious about my business & made a business plan (I know, I know, wrong order!) It really put a lot into perspective for me about what I needed to charge. I now charge by the hour for custom & only take the work I really want, mostly quilting edge to edge. This arrangement works well for my sanity, my business & my customers!

  53. Thanks very much for this great post. I found it through Abby Glassenberg, a great supporter of being paid what we’re worth. I’ve written a lot about quilters (quilt creators) being paid fairly. I’ve linked to your post in my blog today. If you’re interested, here is the link:
    https://catbirdquilts.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/quilting-for-pay-the-longarm/

    As to the small number of negative comments, I hope you’ll be able to ignore them and not take them to heart. Those who complain about women standing up for themselves often mean women except themselves… 😉

    • Thanks, Melanie! Just visited and signed up for your blog ;). I actually found the one or two negative comments on my post kind of amusing. Thanks for your kind words!

  54. I get where your coming from.and I am actually in the market for a new long armer, my previous one has retired due to health issues and I am looking.. In the meantime I came across your article, and I get it, your worth every penny you choose to make, and I don’t have a problem paying a longarmer for her services, I want a good quality product, I never want a quilt that is overall the same stitch, and yes I like SID quilting also.

    However, I think your overlooking that some people don’t have a choice and while it’s ok to compare your wages to the average walmart worker, how about comparing it the same way to people who go to college get their degrees, then end up in jobs that are paid like they wasted their time going to college, such as teachers, they absolutely they do not make enough money, and money they do make is sometimes spent on supplies they need for class. Teachers are asked to give a lot of their time to grading homework, staying after school to babysit children that parents are late picking up, they are sometimes social workers, and various other tasks that are heaped upon them all for a pretty low amount of money. Every job/career is different, some people are in very high paying jobs that makes you wonder why they deserve that much money per year for the little bit of work they do, and others work their tales off for nothing.

    It’s not that I don’t think you aren’t worth the money you charge for your services, I just hope you’ll keep it in mind that some careers, like even a social worker working for the city went to college and she/he isn’t earning enough money but puts in far more hours than she/he probably should. People don’t always do it for the money, they do it out of truly wanting to help others, or for the love of the job itself.

    • Oh, I absolutely agree about careers like teaching, social work, etc. I’m constantly amazed that our society thinks it’s okay to pay singers and actors and sports figures hundreds of thousands (or more!) of dollars a year, when all they are doing is entertaining us – it’s not like we HAVE to go watch a movie or attend a professional ball game. But the police, firefighters, teachers, social workers and other professions that protect us or can improve lives are paid such a pittance! It’s a sad commentary on where many people place their values.

      The point I was trying to make is that most longarm quilters, and other creatives, are self-employed. They set their own wages, and unfortunately I’ve seen this figure to be way too low, as they don’t consider the overhead, taxes and benefits that they would most likely not have to pay if they were working for someone else. It’s also common for women to undervalue their worth, and I hoped to inspire some of them to re-evaluate their pricing, especially when it comes to custom and heirloom quilting. In my mind, custom and heirloom are a very different skill set and require more time, talent and experience than overall quilting. They should be charging accordingly, just as a tenured college professor with a PhD would earn more than a first year elementary school teacher.

      Thank you for your comments!

  55. Andi, your article is spot on. The quilting on a quilt is what makes the quilt standout. I appreciate the talent, skill, experience, etc of a good LA quilter. When I have a quilt done my label ALWAYS gives credit to the LA quilter. Doesn’t matter if it’s a baby quilt or a King size. I recently needed a LA to work with prairie points on a quilt. One LA said they would just quilt over them. Defeated the purpose of having prairie points. Found a wonderful LA that used a ruler to keep the Prairie points from being quilted over. I didn’t care how much she charged. The quilt was beautiful. Shout out to Cabin Creek Quilts in Shelton, WA.

  56. Andi, this was a great post. I’m one of those LA who does not take custom work any longer. I was spending way too many hours stressing over what designs to stitch, detailed marking and planning the design, and being less than proficient in freehand quilting, it took me too long to charge what it was worth to me. We have many, many LA in my area that do Heirloom type quilting and many have computerized machines, so I refer any special custom customers to them. I’m so much happier, and my turnaround time has improved greatly. I’ve picked up customers too because I can deliver more quickly than the Custom/Heirloom LA. They charge sufficiently for their skills and are very good, so they are in high demand. These are our ribbon winner LA for those wanting to win at local and regional shows. I want to spend my new found time gaining skill for custom quilting my own tops. They are piling up since getting my machine.

  57. I agree with 99% of what you said. My only critique is the scorn for minimum wage workers. At least half of them ARE skilled, but for one reason or another, they needed to take a job well beneath them. I know of 3 folks with Masters degrees who were forced to do this. $7.50 per hour is too little for any job, and except for the grace of God go I. So lets not deride them for something that they have no control over. That said, $30 per hour is a fair and reasonable wage.

    • Perhaps I didn’t word things correctly, Sandra. I was not commenting on the quality of the PEOPLE in the minimum wage job, what I meant is the JOB DESCRIPTION for those positions generally does not require one to have any particular kind of experience or talent. In fact, many of these jobs advertise ‘willing to train’ or ‘no experience required’. Yes, it is unfortunate when someone who has an advanced degree and years of experience has no option but to take a minimum wage job.

  58. I agree with everything that you have written. I am looking to embark on my own LA business. I still have a ways to go before I finalize my pricing by doing my own work and getting a more accurate time required for each kind of project. I have decided to do a price structure that is based on what I know I can do, and what I feel is a fair price, NOT by comparing what others charge in the area. If I lose a potential customer because they feel I charge too much, that is OK. It just means that I only have to quilt one project to make the same amount as another who charges less, and has to quilt more to make the same amount of money.

    One thing that I have not noticed is the fact that we are not just providing a service, we are creating ART. The simple prints you pick up in the home decor section of Wal Mart has much less value than a piece of art an artist custom created for your home. Honestly, the only way things are going to improve is for people – quilters, piecers, and non-quilters to be educated. Explaining the materials, training, and practice that goes into this craft will show that we are worth a decent wage for our talents. Afterall, if it was easy to do, then everyone would do it, right? I remember when I first got into quilting. I thought people were crazy to pay more than $100 for a “blanket”. It wasn’t until I started making my own tops, that I realized I had WAY more than $100 in materials alone, not to mention the time it took to learn the craft and all the tools needed to make it. Now that I have my own LA, I realize that it takes a LOT more talent to FMQ than it does to piece. When piecing, we have tools and guides to make things “fool proof”, FMQ, is so much less forgiving, and Heirloom quilting takes a lot of TIME – time to design, time to mark, time to quilt. It is TIME we start charging what we are worth!!!

    • Good for you, Christie, for not worrying about what others are charging when setting your pricing. Sounds like you are off to a good start in your new business!

  59. Well said! I have raised my prices with no slowing of quilts in the door for custom. I still really don’t earn the same as for e2e work though….
    So few are offering custom quilting these days because of quilters burning out!

    • I heard someone say once that if you are TOO busy you should raise your prices. Although you will lose some customers who are just looking for a bargain, you will be able to make the same income quilting fewer quilts. I’d much rather quilt one $500 quilt than five $100 ones. Fewer client meetings, only have to load once, only have to make one decision on pattern and threads, only have to do one invoice, etc.

      Since there are fewer quilters offering custom (I’ve noticed that in my area too), you can charge a premium price, as you are offering something others are not.

  60. Wow….an amazing post. I am new to longarming having invested 17K+ in $$$ and months of my time honing my skills (with a long way to go…just not as far as it was on Day 1!) I find that I love doing custom work…mainly heirloom style on my many quilt tops and the ones my mother left me when she passed away. Seeing all the effort and TIME it takes to do a good job on these I’ve recently begun to wonder whether I would ever tackle someone else’s quilt with the same vigor and investment knowing that people would balk at paying what it’s worth. Your post has given me considerable food for thought as you’ve articulated so well what many of us think. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Kathy, I’m glad you found it helpful. I love doing the custom/heirloom work as well, but I’m no longer going to do it for clients unless they’re willing to pay enough to make it worth my while. Enjoy the honing process!

  61. Very well written! I have had my longarm business for over 12 years. I stopped doing custom work about 5 years ago. I was stressing over it too much and not enjoying it. I try to educate my customers on what goes into quilting their quilts. I think 99% of them appreciate it and understand.

  62. thanks for the info. I would like to have my “Quilt of Valor” quilted for my boyfriend, who received a purple heart for injuries received in Vietnam. Its about 63″ by 84″ no special way. Whatever you think would be the best. Guesstimate on cost, and how much time do you need? Thanks Rita S.

  63. In my opinion, it all comes to down your business plan. What are you charging? Who are you targeting? How are you getting the word out about your business? Do you have a website? Do you rely on local guild/quilt shop for business? Are you waiting for customers to come to you? Do you have a Marketing Plan?? Do you do Google ads, or have an SEO plan?

    Our original business plan (in 2001) assumed business from the guilds, newsletters and local quilt shops. However, most of the quilt shops around here have in house quilters. Scratch that. That $25 ad in the guild newsletter nets us 1 or 2 jobs each year. Whoo hooo.. I renew the ads each year as it lends us creditability and keeps our name in front of the guild members.

    Actually, very little of our business actually comes from the local guilds or quilt shops (LOTs of them in the Houston area), we advertise in the local guild newsletters, but that is NOT where our business comes from.

    First of all, we limit how much ‘custom’ work is done. To us, that is a money/time suck. E2E is our money maker, and we keep the machine running 10 hours a day, 5-7 days a week, averaging $50 -$100 hour. We do have the IntelliQuilter, (which paid for itself in the first 6 months). We can ‘multi-task’ while the IQ is quilting, which is why our hourly wage is higher. Our original plan (back in 2001) thought the optimistic amount would be $27k a year. Revision, and changing in our marketing plan each year has us over grossing over $140k the last 2 years.

    Betty
    http://www.TShirtQuiltsTX.com

  64. Completely agree…longarmers need to realize that super custom is no longer only 4.5 cents/in…you may need to charge over $1000 if you are doing a big quilt with lots of ruler work and tiny details…(maybe more!)

  65. I do not quilt, I crochet and I feel the same way. I spend weeks working on a blanket and people expect to pay $20 – 40 for a full size blanket. That doesn’t even pay for the cost of materials. About a year ago I cam up with a pricing chart that goes by the square foot and the intricacy of the stitches. While I don’t sell as much, what I do sell goes to more appreciative customers.

  66. I agree and showed your article to a local LA, she said that’s all well and good but if I charged that price I wouldn’t have any business at all. She does nice custom work and depends on her LA income. Most LAs can’t afford to price themselves out of business.

  67. Excellent piece of blog posting…Thank YOU! I will be providing a direct blog link from my blog to yours for my customers to enjoy and become ‘enlightened by’…;-)

    ~Deb

  68. Great article! I hear a lot of longarm quilters saying that they can only charge what their local market will allow, but quilting and piecing customers are great talkers! My mom does professional longarming, and pulls clients in a fifty mile radius of her location. The immediate vicinity won’t support her, but that hasn’t stopped her from doing great work at a price that will keep her afloat.

    • You are so right, Jenny. Just because your local area can’t/won’t pay your prices, doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who will. You may have to work a little harder to be known, but as you say word of mouth can do wonders if you are good at what you do. Glad your mom has found success!

  69. I quilt about 200 quilts per year (60% custom) and have timed myself on every quilt for the past 5 years – a lot of data to help me feel confident about my own pricing. Your post mimics in many ways the Lecture that I gave last year at a Statler Conference, called Pricing Confidence. ‘Glad that you wrote your blog post, and that it will help other longarm quilters be more confident about charging clients an appropriate amount, based on their investment in equipment, supplies, training, knowledge, and years of experience! Keep writing!

    • Thank you Ruth. The more we can educate both the general public and the longarm quilters, the more both of them will realize the value of what we do. That will in turn lead to earning what we are worth.

  70. I found it a well written article. There are a couple of areas that were not discussed. First was those beginning longarmers who under-price to get, or establish their business. Customers must take into account that when they are in those situations that they are being ‘experimented upon’. They also tend to think that ‘established’ longarmers are over charging and that all longarmers produce less than good results. Similarly, those who get a longarm machine for their own use and end up doing friends’ quilts as a favor push down price expectations as well as customers’ satisfaction of ‘sending a quilt out’.

    • Hello! I agree with all of the comments here, but I have a question, since I am a new long armer. How do I set up a pricing schedule so that I’m not undercutting anyone, but I can get potential customers? I’m having a hard time deciding what I
      can charge. I can do stippling, pantographs and simple freehand pretty well, but not
      ready for custom. I would love to hear your advice. Thank you!

      • While many people base their pricing on what OTHERS are charging, I think you must decided how much YOU need to make. How much is your overhead costing you (machine costs, utilities, insurance, training, supplies, etc.). How much ‘take home’ pay do you want per hour? How many hours will you work per week? Also track how long it takes you to do certain kinds of quilting. Answering these questions will give you a better idea of how much to charge. Here are a couple of resources to help you – Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio has an entire series of articles called “We Are $ew Worth It” – here is just one on how she tracks time. And Cindy Roth of Longarm University has several resources on pricing.

  71. I an a painter in acrylics. My goal, as an artist, is to make as much as a plumber does. There are so many things done before a painting is painted….. I was once asked how long it had taken me to do a painting. I said “66” years, my age at the time. In one very important way, this is true. Everything that has happened in your life goes into your creative work, your quilting, your painting

    • Excellent point, Roxanne! Yes, we do need to factor in the years of experience in our chosen field, whatever that might be. And while I focused my article on longarm quilters, it does apply to MANY other occupations – crafters, artists, woodworkers, musicians, etc.

  72. I do both E2E and custom work. I make sure I am never making less than $20 per hour for E2E and when it comes to custom, I am pricing at $35 per hour. Take it elsewhere if you can get it done for less but don’t complain to me about inferior work afterwards! I’ve spent 10 years improving my custom skills and taking classes at MQS. I’ve never had a complaint about pricing as long as I give them the estimate up front as to what it will cost.

  73. This is a great post! I no longer do custom due to the physical challenges it puts on my back, shoulders, hands, legs and feet. Taking the “easy” road here on out…

  74. One more point no one has mentioned. Numerous studies have shown that people tend to value more highly the goods and services for which they pay more money. Undercharging for quilting, especially for custom and heirloom work, can actually SCARE AWAY customers! If someone has spent several years hand stitching an appliquéd masterpiece and they are looking for a long arm quilter whom they can trust to do that quilt justice, the “cheap quilter” working for pennies is not projecting the image of a skilled professional. Think about it — do you want Dollar Store quilting for your special show quilt, or do you want Nieman Marcus quilting for your masterpiece?

    Long arm quilters are providing a luxury service, not a basic necessity like health care or food. If every quilter in your area can afford to hire you for every single top they piece, then chances are good that you’re not charging enough for your services!

  75. You have probably presented the most cogent argument for pricing that I have seen. Started with my own business when I was 12 or 13 and have had some type of “side business” ever since, retired now. Most of the time, those businesses didn’t support me, but did support my hobby, or provided extras – car rather than bus, health/dental care, etc. – that I would not have otherwise been able to afford. I was a very skilled worker with a business/community ed degree, a master’s in business and economics and lots and lots of practice. I can no longer handle my long arm well enough to charge and simply do edge to edge charity quilting to keep me happy. I recently completed a special quilt top, looked at it and knew I couldn’t do justice to it if I quilted it. I called a friend, one of the two top quilters in town and asked him if he could do it for me and what it would cost. I knew I couldn’t afford custom quilting and told him so up front. He did a beautiful job! It was custom quilted, although it was not saturated quilting. He made the most of my top and the story it told and I am so happy with it. I know he spent time with the top on the wall, studying it and he may have “practiced” from his latest classes. But the end result was more than wonderful!

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