Now, I used to really lay into people who asked questions like this, which may explain why I have so few friends from my 20s. These days, I can recognize the question for what it is, a very kind way of saying "Gosh, to my untrained eye, your work seems very professional. Or at least I'm willing to pretend it does." And I'll respond, depending on how interested the complimenter really appears, by explaining one or more of the reasons I would never, ever, ever think about doing this for a living:
1. Competence: If you are telling me I should do this for a living, I can assure you I am nowhere as good as you think I am. As I have emphasized before on this blog, in fact, my skills are well below those of the average serious amateur. Just as an exercise, let's compare my most recent full-sized piece (left) with a standard, middle-of-the-pack piece from the 2006 Pacific Northwest Quiltfest (right):
See what I'm saying? So, thanks, but let's just keep our feet on the ground, here.....
2. Quality of Life: Five or ten hours a week, at a leisurely pace, it's a great way to relax. Forty hours a week, with a mortgage hanging over your head, it sounds like an especially lonely and nerve-wracking express route to repetitive stress disabilities.
3. What? And give up my lucrative social work career? You may have seen price tags on sale quilts, and made the superficially logical conclusion that "Quilts are expensive, therefore selling quilts must be a good way to make a lot of money." Or, on the other hand, you might be one of the people who have said something to me like "my cousin is having a baby, and I'd love to give her a quilt. If I gave you the fabric, would you make something for me? I could give you a little money for it."
Well, let's run the numbers. We'll take the little crib quilt I discussed last week as an example:
Materials: Well, I said that this one was basically free, but what I meant is that I didn't have to go out and buy anything specifically for this quilt. Of course, all of the fabric had to be purchased at some point. Conservatively, the material in a quilt like this, some of which is high-quality quilting fabric and some of which is cheapo JoAnnes-quality stuff, would run around $15. Toss in another $3 for thread and batting. And, if we're going to have a proper economic analysis, we should add a materials cost for use of tools, sewing machine, storage cabinets, blades, needles, pins, oil, and all of the other apparatus that keeps the quilting enterprise moving forward. Call it $2 for a nice round $20.
(As for the idea of "I'll give you the fabric" -- well, no you won't. Fabric selection is probably the most important single step of the process, and if you need MY services you aren't to be trusted with it.)
Labor: As close as I remember, I worked on this for 3 hours on Sunday the 3rd, an hour on Monday the 4th, two hours each on Wednesday and Thursday, and another hour on Friday the 8th. That's, let's see, nine hours.
Now, here in the great state of Oregon, minimum wage is $7.80 per hour of labor. So, you would need to pay me at least $70.20. Now honestly, I'm used to making a little more than that per hour, but that's cool. After all, I'm doing what I love, right? I should be paying YOU!
Total: But I'm not. So, for this absolutely minimal quilt, the lowest price I could POSSIBLY ask would be $90.20.
So, My Point Is....
If you've ever suggested I quilt for a living: Even if it sounded like a pleasant way to make a living, the business plan would never fly. I couldn't price the quilts high enough to pay for their own construction.If you've ever casually asked me to throw together a quilt for you: If you've got the wherewithal to cover materials plus $20/hour -- the minimum I would ask for working on your project instead of mine -- let's talk! Otherwise, this perfectly serviceable set of baby blankets I found on the Wal-Mart website might be a good choice. Four for $8.88!