WASWI Resources – Snappy Comebacks!

To make hand-crafted things is to be the target of blunt questions and statements that disparage what it takes to make art, and leave you smarting a bit. I’m not always fast on the draw with my snappy comebacks, but over the years I’ve amassed a few good ones.


Take note, and rehearse a few with your sewing pals to have them at the ready! I usually deliver the lines with a slightly patient and patronizing air (awww… they don’t get it… bless their hearts!) and always with a sense of humor :-)

And please add yours to the comments so that we are all armed the next time someone says “I could make that.”

“My grandma could make that.”

So could mine, but it wouldn’t have the same unique character to it.

“Art is easy.”

Tell that to Michelangelo!

“Everybody can sew.”

You mean like everybody can cook?

“It’s easy to sew… why should I pay for that?”

It’s easy to cook too, but you still eat at restaurants, yes?

“How long did that take?”

About 20 hours, and about 25 years to get good at making it in 20 hours.

“I could buy one at Walmart.”

You could buy a cheap imitation at Walmart, but the quality would be missing.

“I could buy one at Target.”

But so can everyone else. This is a one of a kind thing… you’ll have the only one.

“My sister/mother/auntie/bestie quilts too.”

How cool! Then you KNOW what kind of time and skill it takes to make a quilt.

“How do you make this?”

I’m happy to give you private lessons. I charge $$ an hour. Let me get you my card…

“No really, just tell me how you do this so I can go make one.”

No really, I’ve invested a lot in my mastery… you should invest in yours.

“My kid could make that.”

Chuckle… we parents always think our kids are prodigies, don’t we?

“Can I get a deal if I buy two?”

No, it doesn’t take any less of my resources to make the second one.

“Can I get a quilt as a donation? It will be great exposure for you.”

Did you know you can die of exposure?

“Can you sew this project for me? It will be great exposure for you.”

If only my landlord accepted exposure in lieu of rent!

“Can I have it for a really super low price because I’m doing it for Amazing Worthy Cause?”

How great that Amazing Worthy Cause has your support! If you like my product that much, I would be honored to have your support too!

“People who sew charge too much.”

It’s a specialized skill, just like carpentry or fixing cars, and you pay way more for those.

“Quilting isn’t a necessity, like plumbing is when you’re toilet isn’t working.”

But you hire a plumber at full price when you’re doing a snazzy remodel, which isn’t a necessity either.

“There’s no way I’d pay that.”

Then you’re not my customer. Have a great day!


Go here for more info about We Are $ew Worth It


BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!


WASWI – Molli Breaks it Down

I wrote the original We Are $ew Worth It post almost two years ago, and have been thrilled to see it take laps around the world. When it went viral, it reached our cousins in Australia, and one cuz in particular took it and ran, wearing high heels!

Through the course of emails about WASWI, Molli Sparkles and I have become friends, and today, Molli has given us a great and transparent look at his No Value Does Not Equal Free quilt, a stunning tour de force in shades of white. Read it HERE.

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with "Hell yeah!" permission!

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with “Hell yeah!” permission!

I encourage you to read to the end of the post – there are many important and subtle details in there, and Molli gives us the reasons for every number in the projects sheets. He also generously gives you a version of them to use for yourself (a super beefed up version of my original simple time/materials sheets).

Perhaps the most important sentence in the post is this:

“For those in the USA, where quilting is nearly a four billion dollar industry, I created a more localised costing sheet for you. As previously mentioned, I altered the fabric cost to $10.00 / yard, and the labour rate to $14.00 / hour based on the most recently documented US median wage.”

We help generate $4 BILLION for this industry, and I know many of us struggle to charge $10 an hour.

You are worth so much more than that. We all are. We ARE $ew Worth It.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

Thank you, Molli!


BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

WASWI – Where Should You Buy a Quilt Book?

One of my readers, Rebecca R., kindly wrote me last week, concerned, regarding the price of my book on Amazon. As she put it, “Amazon is price gouging you.” Yep, pretty much.

As I say a lot, I’m committed to being as transparent as possible in the name of sharing information that will benefit us all as part of We Are $ew Worth It. So here’s what I know about the numbers surrounding my book – a peek behind the green curtain, with some hard math numbers. I would love for anyone else to chime in with more knowledge in the comments.

1. A publishing company spends between $30-50K to produce a book. They edit, photograph, design, print, and distribute it, using a combination of salaried and contract staff. C&T Publications/Stash Books is my publisher.


2. I did not receive an advance to make my book. I have no idea if more established authors in this industry get advances. An advance means you get some money up front, your royalties pay for that until the advanced amount is paid off.

3. The rest of the quilting industry (fabrics, batting, notions, etc.) helps authors by supplying materials and tools in exchange for exposure in the book. In my case, that was about 90% of the materials I used. This was seriously helpful, especially with no advance. Everyone who helped is listed in the back/resources pages. You should read this to see which companies help out the most, so you can support them. Yes, it seems rather incestuous, doesn’t it? But trust me, without this help designers couldn’t make new stuff for you.

4. It took me 8 months to design, write, piece, test, and quilt the projects for my book, and it was pretty much all I did for those 8 months (the pattern side of my business, my bread-and-butter income, was neglected). I had a couple of group sewing days where friends furiously paper-pieced letters for me, and another where a friend showed up to help spray baste everything. I sent out only one quilt to a long arm artist (and as it happened, we didn’t include that project). It was an intense and grueling time.

5. It takes about 12 months from when you deliver the manuscript and quilts before the book gets out into the world. During those 12 months, I have had more deep commitments in the editing, technical editing, design review, and especially the marketing end of it. The author is expected to do the brunt of getting out the marketing word across any and every platform possible. So while I turned everything in a year ago, my time is still being consumed by this. And will be for a while yet.

6. Pricing: My publisher determined the price of my book to be $24.95. It has 144 pages, and a jumbo pullout pattern sheet for the letters. This seems to be good value in comparison to others… I’ve seen 112 page books for this price.

7. My royalties on this book are 8%, which means 8% of the price that the publisher sells the book for after returns and other things that can eat into that number. Most shops that will buy the book will buy it for $12.50, which means I earn $1 per book. I assume (but don’t know) that bigger outfits like Amazon, or chains like Barnes & Noble or Joann’s might get a discount on their wholesale deal. If they do, my royalties for those units go down with that discount, too. If the publisher gives the book out as a complimentary/free copy, I get 8% of free, which is zero. Royalties get paid quarterly, so I’ll see my first check for Quilt Talk probably next January – which will be a full TWO YEARS since I started working on it.

7a. My royalties on an ebook are 15%, with the book priced at $14.99 on C&T’s site. I have no idea what the likes of Amazon or libraries might pay for the right to distribute ebooks. Let’s hope I get $1 apiece for these too.

8. What ever you think about Amazon, they are the juggernaut that drives how the market operates. Their ratings determine my future, as they drive my internet popularity, which is how far up the list I appear when you type my name into a search engine. Few people look beyond the first page of an internet search, so coming up on page one is very important. Your leaving me reviews on Amazon matters mightily to that search rating, not to mention influences other buyers. And I’ll be nudging you about reviews later, because that’s part of my marketing obligation.

9. Obviously, Amazon buys in bulk and spreads profit and loss across millions of products, and so they can afford to discount. I have no idea what they will pay for my book, but I do know that I’ve seen the price of Quilt Talk fluctuate on their site from $18 to $22 (they have algorithms for this based on YOUR buying and browsing history). Add the lure of free shipping (whether you buy more to get to the $35 free ship threshold, or have a Prime account) and it’s easy to see why book sales elsewhere are a struggle.

10.  Stores: I assume the big chains get a break. I know the independent stores don’t. They will pay $12.50 for my book, and hope that you’ll buy it from them (rather than come and look at it and go home and buy it on Amazon). Remember, if you want a quilt store or independent bookseller in your town, you actually have to buy things there. Amazon will survive you not buying the occasional book. The quilt store might not.

11. Book signings: I’m doing several book signings at stores… no one is paying me to get to them. It is not customary for the author to get a cut of the sales action the book signing generates, beyond royalties. Book signings help stores the most, so if you can, it’s good to go to them. Even if you don’t buy my book there, it’s lovely to meet supportive people.

12. Quilt Market: If I want to promote my book at Quilt Market, I have to get myself there, and that costs about $1000-$1200 for plane, hotel, taxis, and food. I’ll be doing a School House Session at Market in October, which is a half-hour event where I pitch the book, tell shop owners how to sell the book, which projects make good workshops and classes (and I’ve already written the class outlines for those), and which products they can tie into  sales (rulers, cutters, mats, papers, etc.). My publisher is picking up the cost of this (they have to buy the School House slot from the Market people), but they don’t foot the travel expenses. While I’m there, I’ll also be signing at distributor booths to generate interest. Again, for no payment… basically, if I show up, these people will use me as best they can. Why do it? I hope to get contacts for teaching and speaking gigs out of this.

13. Pre-sales: Amazon is doing pre-sales, so I decided to as well. I chose $20 as my pre-sale price, but still need to charge shipping. This book is heavy, so my shipping options are $4 for media mail (slow to you, and a trip to the post office for me) or $5.60 for Priority Mail ($5.05 if I print at home). Regular old first class is around $7, so Priority it is, and I rounded it down to $5. I’ll be paying $12.50 plus shipping for my book, so let’s call it $13. So if you buy my pre-sale for $25 (which includes the shipping) I’ll make my $1 royalty, plus around $6 (I lose about $1 to Paypal), out of which comes mailing time, printer ink, mailing labels, order management time. I would love to be competitive with Amazon, and offer you the book for $18 including shipping, but at that point I’m making barely $1 in profit (not including the royalty $1) and frankly, it’s not a cost effective use of my time to do all that mailing stuff for break even numbers.

14. Book Plates: I’ve decided to do signed bookplates for those of you that want a signature scribble from me, but won’t see me, or want to support your local quilt and book stores. I thought I would be able to mail them to you for free, but the cost of printing the bookplate, putting it in an envelope I have to purchase, and then putting a stamp on it comes out to about $1. Which is my royalty on the book you purchased elsewhere. So I’m charging for bookplates or again, it’s not cost effective.

So in short:

  • If you want to help the author the most – buy directly from the author on her/his site, or at an independent function such as a guild lecture.
  • If you want to help your local quilt or book store the most – buy directly from the quilt or book store.
  • If you need to save a few $$ (and really, we’re talking the price of a couple of fat quarters or a frothy coffee drink with a tip) – buy from Amazon under one of their free shipping deals.

I would love it if you add any knowledge you have to the comments!


BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

Great Exposure!

PigeonbitsImage from the delightful Melanie Gillman of pigeonbits.tumblr.com

As this lovely year comes to a close, I want to thank each and every person who has written me from the We Are $ew Worth It posts. Every story, be it a win or not, has resonated deeply with me, and because of that, I have some big plans for the campaign for next year. Watch this space, keep the stories coming, and have a wonderful new 2014… you really are worth it!

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!



One BadAss Market, coming up!


If you don’t know this lovely lady, do let me introduce you: she’s Maddie Kertay of the BadAss Quilters Society.

Maddie is a force of quilting energy, and sweetly caters to many of us who consider ourselves on the fringes of that unfortunate sector of quilting that thinks it OWNS the Quilt Police. You know the one… it stares you down when you use a little salty language (Pardon your French? That didn’t sound like French to ME). At BadAss, Maddie has made a home for a more relaxed approach, full of bright images and positive reinforcement no matter how straight (or not) your seams are.

The Houston Quilt Market is nearly upon us, and of course, Maddie decided to put on a party. She has put together a networking event for everyone, where we get to eat fab snacks, play business card swap, and listen to people talk about stuff they think is important in our industry. The line up of speakers is sweet, and I’m thrilled to say she’s letting me have the microphone for a few minutes to talk about that thing I’m always talking about – art and craft have VALUE.

The official title of the gig is the BadAss Quilters Society Networking Gala – The Big Wing-Ding! Follow that link to read more about it. And yes, she’ll add me to the official published line-up as soon as I email her one of the photos that my pal Larry took of me last week! (Yes… I procrastinated getting head shots done… doesn’t everyone?!)

Not going to Market? Fret not! Maddie is going to videotape all of us (gulp!) and make it available for you. I hear there might even be some live streaming! So go follow her post to keep up with the latest, or catch her on Facebook here.

Oh… and about that head shot… what do you think? Me and the Ultimate Power Tool! Yeah!

Sam Hunter HS1

What’s it worth? Part 2 – A Bigger Picture


Last November I dashed off a blog post about calculating the value of a handmade quilt. At the time, it got modest attention, but in January the post saw a flurry of views, most of them coming from Pinterest, and a week later, Ravelry (it seems that this question applies to more than just quilting in the world of the handcrafted item). And then a week or so ago, it exploded across Facebook, resulting in a landslide of comments coming to my inbox.

Thank you! I loved reading what you had to say.

This is something I’ve thought about deeply over the years I’ve been making quilts, and by the responses from so many people, I’m far from the only one. Many of you wrote to tell stories of the times you were offered a pittance for the beauties you’ve made.

We have some obvious passion here, so let’s have a dialog about this. I’m really interested in your thoughts, and I want to use this social group-think to advance my perceptions, and so that I can be part of what turns the tide to a higher regard for what we do.

So first of all – a couple of ground rules. By DIALOG, I mean a well-reasoned conversation of give and take, where we address the concepts rather than nit-pick people’s grammatical prowess (or how homely their dog is). I am, after all, inviting you into my house for a chat, and in my house we play nice in disagreement. I find myself wanting to say up front that OF COURSE I don’t speak for everyone (how on earth could I?) and OF COURSE my generalizations don’t apply to everyone (how on earth could they?) And for the record, OF COURSE I’m a feminist – as in a person who will fight for the rights of women (aren’t you?) and OF COURSE I’m not uptight about profanity! And that said, if you hate what I write, please just quit reading and unsubscribe – no fanfare needed. Please don’t be the person who keeps watching porn so they can keep protesting how terrible it is!

So let’s begin!

I recently read a wonderful quote about complaining… don’t complain – either fix it or let it go. I’m not willing to let go of the idea that we can elevate the perception of the value of a quilt (and for the sake of ease I’m going to use “quilt” instead of “handcrafted item” but feel free to substitute what works for you – my intent is inclusive). So how do we fix this?

I think we have several perceptions to work on – external and internal – and by that I mean what others think of what we do, and what we think about it ourselves. 

So in the world of external perceptions, it seems that people think what we make does not have the value of a living wage. And when we try to claim that wage, there is outrage and disbelief, and even smack-down – like we have no right to even ask for payment. How did we get to place where we will pay a plumber $40 an hour, and deny a quilt-maker $5 an hour?

I think part of it is good old fashioned patriarchy: the guys got to set the rules about men’s work having a higher value a while back and the mostly female craft world is still playing by them. Some of us willingly, the rest of us because that’s often still the playing field available. Men in general don’t seem to have an issue with monetizing things – for example: a friend told me about the time she got into jewelry making. She made some beautiful earrings, and showed them to her husband, saying wouldn’t this be a cool gift for so-and-so? Her husband immediately asked where she was going to sell them. Women in general have not been cultured to think this way, and many of us still need to drop-kick the idea that earning good money is a sordid affair.

Another part is the availability of cheaply made goods – stuff that comes from overseas, made for barely subsistence wages in developing countries. We’ve become used to a $6 T-shirt, and a $100 bed-in-a-bag (sheets, pillowcases and comforter, all Martha-matchy-matchy). The general public is so removed from a truly handmade item that they have no frame of reference. A quilt is a quilt is a quilt, right? While we were getting used to the low prices, we got used to the lack of quality – the T-shirt lasts only a season, the bedding maybe two or three before the colors are out of fashion and the fraying begins. And thus spins the wheel of planned obsolescence and consumerism (and this is such a huge topic that I’ll just poke it and move on rather than disappearing down that particular rabbit-hole today!)

These factors also weigh on our internal perceptions. In a culture that has bred a disregard for the work made by women, we’ve adapted to the discomfort of this particular pot of boiling water like the proverbial frog.  And in a lot of cases, we’re not being held down by the old rulebook as much as we’re pushing our own heads under the bubbles. How many times have you seen a woman give away something too cheaply? How many times have you been told by a woman that what you made isn’t worth what should be charged? How many times have you thought “She’s asking WHAT for that?” and walked on to the next booth?

I’m treading carefully here because, like many of you, I’ve given my time and fabric to some wonderfully worthy causes. I believe in the karmic value of these gifts, and I can’t imagine how the world would look without the thousands of quilts (pillowcases/knitted hats/etc) made by the big hearts and nimble hands of We Who Make Stuff. These are specifically not the quilts I’m talking about, though I do wonder if the fact that we give these so freely doesn’t hurt our cause.

I am talking about the fact that many women don’t value the work of other women. We secretly roll our eyes at prices we feel are uppity, rather than honestly calculate what it took to make it. We don’t support other makers by paying a fair price for what they make – instead we think, hell, I can make that at home, forgetting that it’s not just the materials in the price tag but the creativity and hours of construction too. Of course you can make it cheaper – you’re not charging yourself for the time. We guilt trip our friends who skip the charity sewing day into feeling like they grew horns and a tail for choosing to sew on something of their own instead. We photocopy patterns to distribute amongst our group, rather than honor the effort it took to get it into our hands by buying a second copy. We cave when someone barters us down, not because the barter is fair, but because we’ve been told that looking like we have a spine is unattractive. We hush our friends into caving too. As guild program chairs, we grumble that the speaker who would like to stay in a hotel (rather than a member’s home) is a bit big for her pantyhose. Just last week I got asked to lower my teaching price for a guild I’m told can well afford me (and I know from research that my price is hardly out of line).

On my original post, quilt appraiser Bill Volckening commented “Quiltmakers are intelligent enough to know how to produce cost-effective quilts for the realm of commerce, should they wish to do that, but they don’t seem to wish to do that.”

I concur that we women are incredibly smart and creative in our business endeavors. But I would argue that making the quilts cost effective is the only part of the equation (and before you pillory Bill, it was not the only point he made – go read up before your fingers leap to the keyboard). There’s only so much money to be saved on materials and only so much time to be efficiently squeezed unless we think that creating a different breed of sweatshop is a good thing. The root of it is a bigger game… we have to UP our own perception of worth, and we have to UP our support of others that are doing the same, and BE SUPPORTED in this by ALL, men and women both. That cost-effective price that Bill speaks of needs to go UP, up far enough to support the making of the quilt, and it can’t all be done on the shoulders of efficiency and sale fabric.

So I go back to my original call of action… keep records to accurately calculate your price. State and own your worth. Make sure your under-informed customer gets some the education as part of the transaction. And even if you have to settle for less, do it less often, and never without the lesson. I get that we can’t change this all in a weekend, but I bet we can up the game together.

And I really, really would love to read your thoughts!


Image credits here and here.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

An insane day of traffic! – UPDATED – with comments turned on!

Update at 9pm: I did this original post from an iPad, and forgot to turn on the comments – OOPS! Guestimates are welcome until noon CA time on Tuesday March 26 2013 – and I will choose two winners to make up for goofing this up! ~ Sam

And another update! To clarify… I will count the insane Monday PLUS Tuesday till noon!!

Well, well, well! There’s been an incredible flurry of traffic coming to the site today! It started building over the weekend, and has launched like a rocket today.

It seems that you, my fab followers, have been rabidly sharing the post I wrote back in November, on how I calculate the value of a quilt.

And many of you have left great comments furthering the conversation about the fact that what we make has value beyond the mass produced. The dialog has been wonderful, and I appreciate that it has all been so respectful ( not always the case in the blogosphere!)

The number of views was over 1000 when I got home from early morning yoga, 1500 when I headed out for the day a couple hours later, and it just headed over 3500! It’s nuts, I tell ya! Insane! I’m tickled beyond description!

So let’s have some fun with this, shall we? Leave a post below with your estimate for the total views for today. I’ll look at the numbers tomorrow morning, and whoever guessed closest gets some Sassy Buttons in the mail. So lets play!


Comments now closed!