What is Quilting Worth?

Several people have asked me if I ever sell my quilts.  My answer is usually that I have tried to sell them but it is almost impossible to get anyone to pay what they are worth.   What I mean by that is that hand quilting can NOT be compared to machine quilting when it comes to the time invested, but people think that it should be the same in selling price.   A quilt can be machine quilted in a rather simple pattern in a day.  I can get a quilt basted for hand quilting in a day.  They just are not the same.  I hand quilt because I enjoy it, and I love the look of hand quilting, so If I never sell any more I can live with it.

But what is hand quilting worth?

I get all of my quilts appraised by and American Quilters Society certified appraiser.  One of the things she has to do when assigning a value to one of my quilts is to determine what it would cost to hire someone to hand quilt a similar quilt in a similar pattern.  There are several places that will do hand quilting…do an internet search for hand quilting services…and they  generally charge for quilting based on the number of yards of quilting thread used.  The quilters cut the thread into 1 yard lengths and keep a count of the threads used.  The charge is about $1.50 per yard of thread.

Here is one service.  

here is another

and one for $1.10 per yard (more for 10 SPI)

I took the last yard off of another roll of thread today while working on my whole cloth quilt.  That makes 1200 yards so far.  If I were paying to have the quilting done my bill would now be up to $1800.  my guess is that I have an additional 800 + yards to go so the quilting would cost $ 3,000.

I don’t think I would ever want to sell this quilt but if I did I don’t think I could ever get anywhere near the actual monetary value.  In the end I don’t think the value is in the money.  There is so much more to a quilt than cost.

So here are the progress pictures (click to enlarge)

Happy Quilting


44 thoughts on “What is Quilting Worth?

  1. Jim Smith says:

    Well written, Tim. Jim.

    • Susan says:

      I agree. Well written, Tim. So often people do ask why don’t you do these to sell? Just as you said above, no one wants to pay the price of what the work actually costs the quilter in time and supplies. I quilt for family and friends, weddings, births, anniversaries. You can’t make back what you put into a beautiful quilt like the ones you show here. I don’t think people understand that. They always do that “tilting the head” thing and don’t understand when you try to explain. They say, “but surely someone would pay $300 or $400 for a quilt like that!” and just don’t get it when I explain the cost of the fabric, batting, thread, and your TIME. What can you say….they just don’t understand.

  2. Barbara Clarke says:

    I agree with you completely. There is, to me, nothing more beautiful than a hand-quilted quilt. The little dimples, the softness, and just knowing the time and patience that quilt required makes them really priceless. Thanks for another great post.

  3. karen says:

    it is hard to put a price on hand quilting. it is so different from machine quilting. If a person wants to sell a hand quilted quilt though you have to get past what you think it is worth and decide if you really want to sell it and then just put a price on it that you think would sell. I have sold 3 queen size quilts and tons of baby & couch size quilts and none of them did I put a price on it that I really thought it was worth but more what I thought I could get for my area – each area of the country is different – what kind of income do people in your area make? if you price things really, really high they will never sell unless you are a really well known person in the quilting world 🙂 I am normally satisfied with the prices I get for my quilts – because I am not trying to support my family on my quilting — I am however supporting my hobby by making enough to pay for almost everything I buy to make my quilts each year and still have plenty of quilts left over to enjoy and give away.

  4. Susan says:

    You said: A quilt can be machine quilted in a rather simple pattern in a day. More like an hour and a half….

    I have made a few quilts that I consider heirloom… and the daughter that divests herself of those before I am gone will be on my crumb list for a very long time….. much rather have the quilt back if storing and using it is a problem. But your whole cloth quilt is in a much different league so I would not be surprised if “one day” a collector pays thousands of dollars for it.

    • timquilts says:

      LOL….an hour and a half…I guess that is true if you have the right machine!….but Im with you on the heirloom …I can not imagine anyone parting with a hand quilted treasure!…after I am gone I guess it doesnt matter (perhaps I will take them with me)

  5. gonerustic says:

    I love your hand quilting – so intricate and beautifully executed! My opinion is that if someone wants it enough, they will pay the full price. I put 2 large quilts out for sale at what I considered to be a good price because I didn’t really want to sell them … guess, what – they sold! So I think you should just put your price on your quilts, and not undersell your talent and time =D

  6. Sue says:

    Hi Tim. I do so agree with you on the hand quilting front. And in my opinion this one would be in the priceless category. It’s just so beautiful…and all those hours you have put into it. Just lovely.

  7. jean says:

    Speaking as a certified AQS appraiser I can tell you this…..the whole thing is based on what the current market will bear. I am finding that very few people hire out to hand quilt as compared to the dearth of machine quilters out there – and yet most who do hand quilting do not get what many invoices I see show for the fees charged ( and paid) by today’s long arm quilters – esp. those doing custom ‘heirloom’ work. I remember in my early appraiser days telling a hand quilter that she wasn’t charging enough and she said, ‘that’s all I can get’….and that, like it or not, is what we mean by ‘current market’. It takes much longer, etc etc…..if the public doesn’t value it and therefore PAY for it, those that do it for hire have to take what they can get – and most seem to stop doing it because of that.

    • timquilts says:

      thanks for the insight Jean….its good to hear that from an appraiser….and its also so sad that people just don’t do it anymore because people aren’t willing to pay for it. I guess I am a real hand quilting snob, but I just can’t see hand work and machine work as the same thing…bot can be beautiful….but they are different

  8. Lee says:

    I am completely in love with all of your quilts, but your whole cloth ones are absolutely exquisite. I also agree with everything you have so eloquently written in this post.
    Back in the day, I used to do quite a bit of hand smocking and French handsewing for the marketplace, and I can tell you that very few people are willing to pay for the time and difficulty – not to mention the skill level – involved in fine needlework of any kind. Everyone wants it, but getting a fair price for it is nearly impossible. Hand quilting is certainly an example of this.
    I’ve just started quilting in the last year or so, and you are at the very top of my “inspiration short list.” Thanks, Tim!

    • timquilts says:

      Thanks Lee
      I have always been so impressed with some of the beautiful work of smocking…end all handsewing for that matter. It is so sad that hand work is becoming such a rarity…….even if we can’t sell it for what it is worth its a tradition that should not fade away

  9. Gaye Ingram says:

    Thanks for this fine piece. It provokes us to think again about what we value of a quilt. Do we want an ever-growing pile of finely wrought tops that have been industrially quilted? do we want finely wrought tops that are finely hand quilted? What makes a really fine quilt? In many parts of the South and Midwest, there is a 20th-century tradition of a maker’s producing a top and then handing it off to someone who specializes in quilting to finish it. Prices, generally based on the number of spools of thread used, have always run from nominal to mildly costly to expensive, if we want fine quilting. But few have ever really paid a “living wage” for such work. Now everyone must make a decision about what really creates the value we desire in a given quilt, for the quilting process is more costly. There are some things for which real value cannot be measured in cash in the present time, though cash value seems more reasonable with their age. This piece makes us apply all those fine words we accord to the value of an predecessors’ time and ask ourselves how we measure up by them. I appreciate your raising the questions, showing the current possibilities, and generally addressing the value of the much neglected subject of hand-quilting.

    • timquilts says:

      Thanks Gaye
      many questions and I am not sure that there is a correct answer …value is, in many cases, a function of emotion rather than logic. I do believer that the value of time is unmeasurable I always remember the sundial at 12 Oaks in Gone With the Wind which had the inscription….do not squander time..it is the stuff life is made of

  10. Teddy says:

    Another appraiser chiming in here. I remember twenty years ago when machine quilting created a surface much like a mattress pad, quilters with a backlog of tops were happy to pay the then going rate of $80-$90 to have a top quilted. Today, many of my clients are providing receipts for as much as $900 for longarm quilting. I write appraisals day after day and week after week for these quilts. I ‘m sure there are those who cannot afford to pay that much for the service, but the number of appraisals I write suggests that many people are, indeed, paying this much for the service.

    • timquilts says:

      Thanks Teddy!….that part of quilting I didn’t know about since I have not had any long arm quilting done…..Having seen some of the beautiful work that some long arm quilters do I guess it does make sense that they would be able to charge so much (and knowing what those machines cost! it should not surprise me)
      I notice that at quilt shows and in magazines most quilts are labeled with the name of the quilt maker and then quilted by:_____________ It seems as if the long arm quilter should get 1/2 the prize!! I do think that hand quilting is a different thing, both hand and machine can be beautiful, but they really are apples and oranges

  11. njquilter24 says:

    great post and your right the value in a quilt is what someone would be willing to pay as well in the end. I think you should start considering entering your hand quilted quilts into shows with prize money. This quilt would win I bet.

  12. Carolyn Black says:

    Love today’s post about what hand quilting is worth. Those that don’t hand quilt, don’t get it. I recently heard someone say that the newest luxury is “Hand Made.” I own a small shop that often has machine quilted quilts and people are appalled at a price of $700 to $1,000 for a quilt. I quote hand piecing, fabric, batting, backing and the cost of quilting as being a factor and they still don’t get it. I am a hand quilter and never sell anything I make. I know that no one would ever be willing to pay me for my time much less the love I put into my quilts. I was happy to see the breakdown of what hand quilting would cost as I thought that if I charged it would be exorbitant, but in retrospect, I probably would have been too cheap.

    • timquilts says:

      That is so great….the newest luxury is hand made…luxury now was once a necessity. how times change!
      as you say people dont think $1000 is a reasonable price, but then they would if they made it!….people want “hand made” luxury with factory import prices….Im glad you havent sold your hand quilted treasures for less than they are worth!!

      • Susan says:

        people think they can compare the “made in wherever” quilts that they see in the department store with what a talented home quilter can turn out….much more quality, will actually last, and is sooooo beautiful….since i quilt i have had well-meaning friends give me as a gift at times a “quilt” from a department store….saying….”look, I found this one for $45 at WalMart”…..so…they are never going to understand the difference so I just keep on making and enjoying and giving away as gifts….some understand and appreciate your time…but they would never dream of paying at the department store what your quilt is worth.

  13. That’s great information, I wouldn’t have known but it makes me want to keep track of the yards of thread I use. I was once told that I would be surprised what some people will fork out for a quilt so maybe it’s about the right buyer at the right time.
    The cheap chinese quilts have done us a lot of damage when it comes to value in the market, not that I want to seel any of my babies.

    • timquilts says:

      I dont always remember to keep track of yards of thread…but it does help the appraiser when I do
      you are right about those imports destroying the market!!

      • quiltmaker1 says:

        There are several types of ‘value’ – only one is monetary…a price cannot be put on sentimental value and that seems to be what we who love handwork are talking about. Those of us that say a hand quilted piece should ‘get’ more money have to ask ourselves if WE would pay that. Unfortunately, like all things, the $$ value of anything is what someone will pay for it…be it houses or quilts.
        Actually, the yards of quilting thread used should not matter to an appraiser when estimating a replacement value unless there is proof that you (or those in your area who hire out hand quilting) can verify what they actually get paid for doing the work. One can ask whatever you want to ask for your work….if you get it then that’s what someone will pay. If you never do, then you know that the monetary value to a buyer does not match your sentimental feelings OR the number of hours you have spent or the amount of thread you have used. Cruel world!

      • timquilts says:

        when an appraisal is for replacement vale….which Is the appraisal that Get done for my quilts….there is absolutely no value at all placed on sentiment….only actual cost to replace….so the cost of hand quilting must be determined…there are hand quilting services (see links in the post) and they do charge by the yard of thread. this is the only way to place a monetary value on the quilting..using these fees ….the appraiser looks at what it would cost to pay someone to make a new quilt….the cost of materials and labor are added up and a value is applied. The appraised replacement value is a vastly different thing from the estimated sales value….this is where unfortunately the sentiment comes into play….as well as the hours of work!….I have over 700 hours into my current quilt but I doubt that anyone would ever want to pay an hourly rate for that work

  14. Chris says:

    Where I live we have a large Mennonite community. They are avid quilters and they are fast at the task at hand. They charge by the yard of thread and it use to be they would charge for a basting fee also. Sewing tayloring, knitting, crochet and hand work are something that has no value to most people. They figure their neighbor or their Grandma can make it cheaper. I do hand applique and everyone sell it, but what do you charge and is it fair. I try and do for family and when I am gone they can try and sell it for a price or keep it. I admire you put a value on your work and it is well worth the money if you are a true collector. Chris

    • timquilts says:

      Thanks Chris
      some day I hope that all my quilts end up with real collectors who will appreciate the value

    • Peg says:

      Chris, your blog caught my attention and interest. I really could use a bit of you advise as someone who appliques quilts. I have a Country Bride quilt that I have cut out for a gift for my daughter, but I’ve been so busy lately I simply have had to put it on my to do list.Lately I have talked to someone who would do the applique and I was wondering what a fair price would be to pay her for her services. It is a full size quilt top and ,all the pieces are cut out. Would be so grateful for some of you wisdom. God bless you, Peg Languerand

      • timquilts says:

        I am not the right person to ask. I could tell you about hand quilting, but I dont do much applique, and I dont know the pattern. I think the person to set the price needs to be the person who does the work.

  15. Byrd says:

    This is such a good post and it is an issue that runs through my mind quite frequently. It’s the love of all things quilting, particularly hand quilting, that keeps me doing this. It is what I turn to each and every day for relaxation. I look at it as a meditative practice with it’s repetition and stillness. I know when I’ve done hand-quilting demos, people always comment on how peaceful the process is, which is why I encourage them to try it. I could not support myself doing this, as much as I would like to, but I do get commissions, and I donate quilts to causes I believe in so that they can raise money. All of this is payback for me. Machine quilting is just another technique and by all means try it out, but no machine can come close to hand quilting, and your exquisite work, Tim, is proof of that. Previous commentator, Carolyn Black, nailed it when she said ‘the newest luxury is hand made’. Hand made requires time, and a lot of it, and if there is one thing we are all short of these days, it’s time. Hand quilting is my quiet-riot, my mini-mutiny against time, and what a beautiful rebellion it is. Take care, Byrd

  16. Cathi says:

    There is so much food for thought in this post and in the comments. I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than a well pieced and beautifully hand quilted quilt. But putting a price on them is such a difficult thing. I’ve been asked if I’d sell some of my hand-pieced tops to those who want to quilt them and have been absolutely stymied trying to come up with a price to out on them.

    • timquilts says:

      It is a real question…do we put an hourly rate on our work….or a flat fee….I know how much time goes into hand piecing one of your beautiful quilt tops….but would have no way to say what to charge ….and as far as worth …how do you put a price on something that is priceless

  17. Patti says:

    Tim, I know what you mean about putting a value on your handwork. I spent 2500 hours working on my Dear Jane quilt. It was all done by hand, and since I was only using blues and muslin, I decided to assemble the blocks on point with 144 alternating plain blocks separating the pieced and appliqued blocks, and a prairie point binding instead of the usual scallops that a lot of Dear Jane’s have.

    It was a real slap in the face to have it valued at only $2800, despite the fact that it won 3 first place ribbons in our quilt show. It definitely didn’t give me any inspiration to enter anything in our next show.

    Probably as a joke a couple of the guild members had asked me if I was going to put a price on my quilt to see if anyone would show an interest in buying it, so I did. I put $17,000 as a selling price and was told by the appraiser not to expect it to sell since I was asking so much more than what she had appraised it at. I told her that her idea of value had nothing to do with with the price I would be willing to part with it for. I did have two ladies come and ask me questions about it, and both seemed to think I was still selling myself short.

    I know I did make one humility block in the quilt, but no one has ever found it, and I would be hard pressed to find it again myself. The appraiser had brought her Dear Jane quilt to a trunk show a year or two later that I attended with my niece and her 6 yr old son. When the Dear Jane was lifted up to be shown, the 6 year old picked out two faults in the way the triangle borders fit on two of the sides. Someone asked her what the value of hers was and she said $7,000 and the 6 yr old piped up with a comment about it being worth a lot more than mine was. Out of the mouths of babes.

    I love looking at your work Tim, it is awesome to say the least.

    • timquilts says:

      wow!…that is quite a story….I bet it is a beautiful quilt!! sounds to me like you got a bad appraisal….. I wonder if the appraiser is AQS Certified? A certified appraiser will give you a written appraisal and it will contain an embossed stamp or certification. you might consider having a different appraiser look at it as well here is a link to the certified appraisers http://www.americanquilter.com/quilt_world/appraisers.php I hope that a low appraisal did not discourage you from continuing to do hand work. and also remember that there is a big difference in value between market value ( a price that the appraiser thinks you could sell a quilt for) and replacement value ( what it would cost to have a new one made in case of a loss)
      Thanks for visiting my blog!….sharing my work is a lot more fun than trying to sell it!!

  18. […] a hand-pieced top as that would make them incredibly expensive. Tim wrote a great blog post, “What is Quilting Worth,” on the value of a hand-quilted quilt, which got me thinking about what a hand-pieced quilt […]

  19. Shirley Malcolm says:

    I found your site when I was trying to price the quilt I am currently working on. I need my head examined and after more than 20 years as a quilter I should have known better. I have enlarged a two year old baby quilt to almost queen size. I originally had done it as a gift for a friendcs first grandchild. They supplied fabric. I am almost finished hand quilting it in a hoop as I could not get it on my three rail frame. I was thinking about $250 as I am not completely happy with the backing and will NEVER undertake a project like this again. s she grows up the appliqued bunnies can be rwmovwd to give her a big girl quilt.


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