Monthly Archives: February 2013

So You Want To Sell Your Quilts

Many folks in the quilting world sell quilting services – hand and machine quilting, fabric, patterns – but fewer have set out to sell their quilts.  I know only one or two quilters who actively market their quilts and they are art quilters.

So, where would you go to sell your quilts?  There aren’t many places that sell just quilts.  New York City has a quilt gallery and towns in and around Amish communities often have quilt/fabric stores. Of course, those stores feature Amish quilts.  Luckily, the internet has opened up a vast marketplace, unfettered by your geographic location (unless FedEx, UPS and the like don’t serve your area.)  Unluckily, that vastness makes it hard to reach a likely audience for your quilts.

Since business people are quick to spot opportunity, websites that specialize in crafts markets have popped up. They serve as go-betweens, offering a “store” to display merchandise, web links for purchasing items, and other accoutrements of trade.  This can be a great boon to individual craftspeople who don’t have the expertise, time, and/or resources to do all that from scratch.  Of course, there are fees involved when you list your items, even if they don’t sell; and more fees and/or a percent of the sale price when you sell an item.

I’ve been learning about crafts e-tailing through Selling Your Crafts Online, by Michael Miller.  Since I don’t plan to start selling my quilts I skipped much of the fees information and the step by step instructions for setting up accounts, and concentrated on the online marketplaces. If you’re considering online selling this book seems like a good place to start, especially if you don’t want to create your own website. Some of the business and pricing strategy seems like business 101, but it never hurts to restate the obvious.

Like most crafters I knew about eBay, the behemoth of the business that sells any and everything, and Etsy, which is handmade crafts oriented.  However, Mr. Miller introduced me to Artbreak, Artfire, Artful Home, Artist Rising, Artspan, Bonanza, Craft Is Art, Crobbies, Funky Finds, Handmade Artists Shop, Handmade Catalog, Hyena Cart, Made It Myself, ShopHandmade, Yessy, and Zibbet.  Talk about A to Z!

eBay has page after page of quilt listings, but the offerings range from old quilts to ones made yesterday, with quilt tops and supplies thrown into the mix. Unless I were cranking out lots of similar baby quilts I wouldn’t use eBay to sell my quilts. Etsy lists many quilts in all styles and price ranges, though you’re more likely to find modern style quilts there.  I think Etsy is a better fit for many quilt makers, unless they create high end art quilts.

Only a few of the other sites listed quilts for sale at the time I checked them out. Artful Home displays gallery quality art and contemporary quilts. Craft Is Art has a few quilts for sale, mostly wall hangings and table runners. Handmade Artists Shop offers quilts that are craft, not art, oriented; as does Handmade CatalogYessy had a strange mix of quilts, many from one maker.  There sure are a lot of people trying to sell their crafts.

Time for me to have a cup of tea. I’m exhausted from that shopping trip, and I didn’t even take off my slippers.

11/15/2014 UPDATE

A reader of this blog has suggested that folks may want to check out the web services offered by Shopify, an e-commerce service, to sell their quilts. I have no experience with this outfit, so I can’t give any opinion. I do see that the basic charge for this service is $29 a month, plus a per credit card transaction charge. You can try it out for free, according to the website. My personal take is you’d want to compare costs with other online sales services to see what might work best for you. You’d need to have enough inventory to justify a recurring monthly charge for a “shop.”

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Pix From QuiltCon

EQuilter’s Luana Rubin has posted her pictures from QuiltCon in Austin, Texas.  I think the intent of the modern quilting movement is summed up by this quilt made by Elizabeth Hartman.


I’ll leave you to browse the pictures, but here are some that struck me.


I’ve made this up in very different colors, but I do love yellow and gray together.


This quilt is the quintessence of negative space to me.


For me these two quilts sum up what’s different about modern quilting.  The one on the left takes the traditional block structure and fills each block with unique asymmetrical symbols.  The bubble one cuts off edges and uses the darker gray to give weight to the composition.  Both use solid color fabrics.

I’ll be interested to see how this movement evolves.  Some of the quilts exhibited seem like traditional quilts made up in non-traditional fabric while others are more like art quilts with unique original designs.

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It’s All About Process

I’ve been working on my Gloria Loughman type piece over the past few weeks as my slow quilting project.  And I’m using some of my “pretty” hand dyes in it.  They’re keeping company with fabric by Ricky Tims, Jinny Beyer, Marcia Derse, and some anonymous donated stuff. Once I decide whether I’ve gone far enough (or too far) I’ll be ready to add stitching to each piece and then sew them together.  The white outlines are stabilizer backing that will be removed once the stitching is done.


My inspiration was a mosaic piece I found on Pinterest.


I developed a full size pattern so I could make freezer paper templates of each large piece and figure out where to place the fusible applique.


Then I cut out my fabric and stay stitched each piece to embroidery stabilizer.


Next came playing with the applique. I used both Wonder Under and Steam a Seam.  My iron is still trying to recover.


The applique got more elaborate.


I added circles with Paintstiks and came close to calling this step done.  I’m still playing with a few additions.


Filed under In Process

An Ohio Quilting Star

Nothing beats admiring quilts in person. I did that recently when Shirley Stutz gave a talk about quilt borders. For folks who don’t know her, Shirley has been quilting for 30 years from her rural Ohio farm, and her quilts have won numerous national awards. She has moved with the times, going from scissors to rotary cutters, and from hand quilting to longarm machines. Shirley is a teacher, designer, lecturer, and author of Easy and Elegant Lone Star Quilts; as well as a frequent contributor to various quilting magazines. And she’s funny!


I was fascinated with Shirley’s repertoire of approaches and techniques. Just when I was enjoying her quilts as excellent examples of traditional quilts, she’d pull out one featuring thread painted squirrels. I stopped keeping track of the number of techniques she used in each quilt – applique, paper piecing, paintstiks. Many of the quilt designs she drafted herself in response to some effect she wanted to achieve. Talk about boldly going where no quilter has gone before. Two constants distinguish her work. Her workmanship is excellent and her color sense is painterly.

Here are just a few of the borders she devised for her quilts.


Shirley used a huge elephant print in the quilt above, and worked out the border spikes through hand drafting a pattern. The weird curve is the edge of a table, not in the quilt itself.


Shirley often uses piping and rickrack to add an edge of color. Note the contrast between the swirly feather and the straight line quilting.


Here’s just one block from a basket quilt Shirley made from her mother’s house dresses. That material is poly-cotton, not the easiest to work with. I just love the appliqued birds.


The quilt’s border is made up of all these tiny baskets. The half square triangles are half inch finished. That level of precision is way beyond me.

Some tips from Shirley:

  • If there are a lot of points at the edge of your quilt, add a narrow coping border in a fabric that matches the quilt’s background before you add the other borders. This will help disguise any unevenness in the points and give a floating effect.
  • When auditioning border fabric, fold the fabric to the border width you plan. A fabric that seems overwhelming in a ten inch width may be just right at two inches.
  • For a pop of color just inside the binding, use high contrast piping or wide rickrack positioned so only one of the wavy edges shows once the binding is sewn on.

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What’s A Quilt Worth?

Recently Country Living magazine featured a woman who started selling her quilts.  There’s nothing newsworthy about that, except the price given for one of her quilts  – $1900.  And the quilt in the photo?  Lap sized, consisting of broad solid stripes set at right angles to each other on a light solid background.  In other words, nothing complex.  It was hand quilted and the cloth was hand dyed.

My companions (all quilters) who read the article were aghast at the price, given the nature of the quilt.  According to the article, the woman has set up a business making quilts that employs a few people.  To me that implies she’s selling enough to pay other folks to do part of the work.  I was impressed that the 24 inch pillows for sale on her website were priced at $255. Interestingly, the woman’s background is textile design and fiber arts, so she may be approaching pricing from a gallery perspective.


The reaction to that article started me thinking about how to put a monetary value on quilts.  Certainly there are appraisers for antique/vintage quilts; and an old quilt’s value will depend on its scarcity, uniqueness, condition, complexity and visual appeal.  And quilts that are really works of art made from fabric are often priced like other fine art and sold in galleries.

Then, there’s a vast gray area of quilts that fit more in the craft category.  Many of these are offered for sale on Etsy, eBay, individual websites, and at quilt shows.  In addition, quilters offer custom commissioned quilts in a variety of styles.  How are these prices set?  Time and materials?  Size of the quilt? What the market will bear?

My Etsy search for quilts returned 256,109 items. Probably about 25,000 of these weren’t really quilts, but to be conservative, let’s say there were 200,000 quilts for sale.  The types of quilts offered varied wildly from door hangers to “authentic reproductions of traditional quilts.” Prices for completed quilts ranged from about $25 to $50,000 (just one.) That’s quite a spread, though there were five pages of quilts priced from $2000 to $4000.

I became even more confused when I checked out quilts on eBay.  How do I explain to my in-laws that it’s reasonable to pay $1000 for a handmade king size quilt when they can buy one on eBay for $100 plus shipping?  As you can see from the photo, pillow shams are included. This is listed as a new “tea dyed, primitive, Americana wedding ring” quilt.  No country of origin is given in the ad, but I suspect it isn’t American made.

As I clicked around eBay I was struck by the number of old quilts offered for sale at prices ranging from $40 to $150.  Some have condition issues, but it breaks my heart to see a hand pieced, hand quilted snowball quilt described as in good condition with a high bid of $49. I defy anyone to make a twin size quilt for that price, even if you don’t include labor.


But to return to how to price quilts and the diversity in pricing, the TV documentary “Why Quilts Matter” touched on this when it talked about the divide between art and bed quilts.  Here’s Caryl Bryer Fallert’s formula to determine an art quilt’s price. Many of the costs she mentions are often overlooked by quilt makers.  I’ll leave it to you to work out the math, but my takeaway is her concluding sentence, “You are so right, too many people undercharge and give their work away…”

As for bed quilts, even more people undervalue these, in my opinion.  After all, if you can get a quilt with matching shams for $100, why should you pay more?  Well, there’s the uniqueness of the quilt, quality of the materials used, the complexity of the quilting, and the degree of customization and originality (colors, pattern, size.)

Unfortunately, quilters themselves may contribute to low prices for bed quilts. Witness the group of us exclaiming about a $1900 price tag on a quilt. I don’t think we fully realize the cost of making a quilt.  If you add up just the cost of fabric for the top and backing (assuming it’s commercial fabric), the batting, the thread, and quilting (if done by someone else); the total can easily approach $300 to $400 for a double to queen size quilt.  And that doesn’t account for any labor costs.

The Amish quilters ask more, and get it, for their quilts, but they’ve done a canny job of marketing.  Buyers can feel they own a piece of that simpler life and still use electricity.

Alas, it may simply come down to marketing and reaching your target audience rather than the intrinsic quality of the quilt.  So, forget those quilting classes if you want to sell your quilts.  Focus on marketing and merchandising ones instead.


Filed under Commentary, Snark

What Do Lizards and Pin Cushions Have In Common?

No, a second grader who loves riddles isn’t the guest blogger.  Yes, I have a non-snarky answer.  And that is – ground walnut shells.  Bear with me a moment as I relate the back story here.  My modern quilt guild is having a pin cushion exchange.  Once I decided to participate I went looking for pin cushion ideas.

Apparently a goodly number of Pinterest boards are devoted to the things.  And I’m not talking your humble tomatoes or modest squares and rectangles.  Picture frames, jewelry boxes, tea cups, mason jars, cookie cutters, and flower pots have all been turned into pin cushions.

Here’s my nomination for the most twee – a baby shoe pin cushion.  I can hear the awwws now.


After I got my jaw back in position, I decided that the only twist to my pin cushions would be their shape.  I made two triangular pin cushions out of scraps, using a log cabin pattern. I also made a small nine patch square one.  Once that was done I had to find some stuffing.  I rejected poly batting as too loose and sand as too messy.  Then I read that some cushion makers were using ground walnut shells.  I was relieved to find you could buy this product rather than pulverizing shells yourself.

And where do you buy this product?  Here’s where the lizards come in.  It seems the creatures like to dig and burrow in ground walnut shells when they’re kept as pets.  And so pet stores stock this stuff by the quart.


I now own 5 quarts of ground shells which are “ideal for desert dwelling reptiles like bearded dragons, monitors, desert skinks, uromastyx.”  And this was the smallest bag I could find.  I don’t mean to become a pin cushion wholesaler (or a reptile owner.)

And here are my stuffed pin cushions.  I’m pleased that the ground shells give enough weight to the cushions that they won’t be flying off the table all the time.  We’ll see if they help keep pins sharp.



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What A Revolting Development This Is

You might think I know how to read directions.  Well, you’d be wrong.  I started my sliver circles with the assumption that I had the mechanics under control.  I made freezer paper templates for my block pieces.  I cut out strips for my slivers, angle cut them, and sewed them in the fabric folds.  Then before I sewed the arcs together I saw that I needed eight slivers for each arc.  Guess who had only seven slivers for each arc and was out of some of the sliver fabric?

Yup.  I’m now pawing through my stash in search of compatible striped fabric for those elusive slivers.  I’ve been trying various combinations but haven’t been ecstatic about any of the choices available in the confines of my sewing room.

circles 2

Circles 4

Circles 5

I can do the yellow and green arcs with no sliver fabric substitutions, but run into trouble with the cerise arcs.  I lack three slivers of the original stripe. Believe me, I’ve fossicked through the trash to find any bits of that fabric.  Maybe I can piece one more sliver from my orts, but that’s about it.  So, my quandary is whether to just go with four mismatched slivers in those arcs or try to make my mistake seem less like one by inserting a few different slivers in the yellow and green arcs.

Maybe someone needs to start a blog called Quilting Bloopers.  All too few quilting bloggers seem willing to admit to errors, bone-headed or otherwise. Based on the blogs I read, everyone but me decided to take up quilting as a lark, immediately made three quilts with wonderful color and quilting that were Internet sensations, and then published a book.  (Note:  I realize that I’m exaggerating –  a bit.)

Recently I read a post by Janice at Better Off Thread relating her difficulties with quilting a voile quilt.  I loved what she wrote. “I’ve heard quilters complain that the quilting blog-land is all puppies and rainbows and beautifully finished quilts.  Where is the process?  Where are the mistakes?  Well, here you go.”

Another courageous blogger, Jenny at Quilt Skipper, recounted her sad experience when she confused a bobbin filled with water soluble thread with one loaded with regular thread.

Well, quilting comrades, I’ve been in blooper hell, too.  Maybe a bit more transparency is in order.


Filed under In Process, Snark

Thank You, Jacquie

I decided to watch an episode of the Quilt Show that featured Jacquie Gering after I received an evite for a free episode.  Jacquie is co-author of one of my favorite books on modern quilting, called “Quilting Modern.”  I raved about this book in an earlier post and have had no reason to change my opinion.  In fact, just this past weekend a friend was using one of the pillows from that book as inspiration for her improv piece.

But, back to Jacquie.  In conversation with Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson she revealed several of her tips for quilting using a walking foot.  While I already use masking or painters tape as quilting guides, I finally found out how she gets all those wonderful wavy lines, as shown below in her hexie quilt.


She uses a decorative stitch, called a serpentine stitch, on her machine!  How easy is that? According to Jacquie, she had seen this effect on a friend’s quilt and had tried to duplicate it with free motion quilting.  When the results didn’t look the same she asked her friend about it.  The friend said, “Oh honey…” and proceeded to reveal the secret.  A friend of mine tried out the serpentine stitch on her Baby Lock machine and exclaimed it was way easier than free motion stitching.

And it is.  I found that my Janome 6500 doesn’t have a serpentine stitch as nice as that on my friend’s Baby Lock, but it has something similar.  The stitch in pink is another decorative stitch I was trying out, but it’s definitely not a favorite.  I wish sewing machine manufacturers would let you know why they include some of the decorative stitches.  And don’t say look at your manual.  Mine spends pages on the buttonhole attachment (which I’ve never used) but maybe a half page on all those decorative stitches combined.


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