There are some lovely quilt pics below, but first a few words on how I handle sewing and quilting on commission:
I’ve made quilts for commission before, as well as clothing, sewing alterations, etc; usually for clients I do not know but who find me through word-of-mouth, or a recommendation from the shop where I used to work. The biggest challenge is always trying to estimate one’s man-hours up front. My advice for calculating your time; break it down into steps of the project. How long you expect it to take you to cut everything out? How long will it take to piece, how long will basting AND quilting take you (or if you plan to hire a long-armer, find out their cost up-front), and how long to make binding, attach the binding and label the quilt? Don’t forget any steps as you want to try to estimate your time as closely as you can. Once you total up your man-hours, decide on an hourly rate for yourself (I use $15, currently, but I may give myself a raise soon as it’s been at $15 for a while now) and multiply that by the total hours. Then, add 20%. YES. Add 20% to the total estimated cost of your labor. Why? To cover your butt when you grossly underestimate your time; because you will. We always do. Now, this doesn’t mean I take advantage of my customers. On the contract (ALWAYS have a written agreement before you purchase anything) I include a note that labor is estimated to the best of my ability, but should it take less time to make than estimated, the customer will be discounted accordingly. The client will appreciate the discount, appreciate the clarity and your professionalism, and it’s is always easier to discount something, than it is to go back and ask for more money.
Now, if I make mistakes while working on the project, that cost me time, such as sewing blocks together wrong; that is my mistake, not my customer’s. Therefore, I do not include un-sewing and re-sewing time as part of my labor cost. (If I underestimate my time, my customer gets a break because I don’t charge more than my original estimate).
As for materials, my advice is to calculate your materials, at FULL cost (even if you are using your stash, scraps, or sale items) because you should be charging what it would cost to replace those materials for future projects.
So, on to my most recent commission. A friend of my sister’s asked me last Autumn if I would make a quilt for her daughter’s “big girl bed” (a twin size bed she would be moving into this summer). The little girl’s Daddy is an architect and I knew they wanted something modern and contemporary to fit the decor and style of their (very cool) mid-century modern home. I told her do an image search with her husband on Flickr and Google to find examples of quilts they liked and we would develop an idea for Amelia’s quilt from there. They did, and they came back with this:
They really wanted THIS quilt. The problem? The pattern makes a quilt that measures 38″ x 51″. Hardly twin size. So, my hubby and I went to Kinko’s on a Sunday evening, played around with enlarging the pattern until we got the size I thought I needed; and made a bunch of copies of the appliqué pattern at 183% (or something like that–don’t take my word for it, but if you really want to know the %, email me, I probably have it written down somewhere). And at home, I taped them all together to re-create the appliqué pattern. At the bottom of this pic is the original pattern, and the top is the enlarged version of the same area:
After tracing my pieces and pressing onto fabric (which I did at one of our MQG Sewing Days), I started working in quadrants, like this:
I appliquéd as many pieces as I could while only working with one quarter of the fabric, then I sewed the four pieces together before finishing the appliqué (This made it A LOT easier to maneuver at the sewing machine and minimized my chances of pulling and stretching the design area).
Because this quilt was going to a three-year-old, I didn’t want to have the white fabric along the edge where it will be handled the most; exposed to oils in the skin, etc., so I added a double 4.5″ block patchwork border to finish it:
At this point, I sent it off to my business partner, Trina, to quilt on her long-arm. She did a spectacular job, as always…
Love how she finished the tree trunk:
The backing is a Moda Bella solid but I do not know which color it is.
Each leaf, branch and bird was stitched around a second time with the long-arm to reinforce the appliqué. I did a little hand embroidery, to give the six little birdies legs and eyes, and I used a pink variegated DMC floss to embroider her name on the label of the quilt:
I made two mistakes at the end of this project. First, I should have added Trina’s name to the label, and secondly, I didn’t pull my phone out to capture the joy Amelia expressed when I delivered this quilt–pure, un-adulterated, three-year-old, jump-on-the-bed, joy. EVERY handmade gift should be so well received!
The bottom line is, if you decide to sell your handmade goods, don’t undervalue your time and your skill. Contractors are paid well for their skills; as are Electricians, Musicians, Graphic Designers, Woodworkers, Painters… why should handcraft skills be worth less?