Customer wants payment for quilt
by Barbara Kolch
(Lake Havasu City, AZ)
A client brought me her table topper to top stitch. She knew I only had a Janome 1000. She picked out the stitching pattern.
She stated she didn't care what the back looked like as it was intended for use as a table cloth. The backing is a medium green. I tried to use a green in the bobbin, but it didn't work. The top thread was white and the green showed on the top. So I chose to use white in the bobbin too.
I used a wave-like stitch. It didn't feed correctly. The result is a short group of stitches and than a group of regular stitches. However, you can't see the small group of stitches on the top as it is white with white thread. The back of the table topper doesn't look bad.
Here's my problem. The client doesn't like it. She wants me to buy the tabletop for $631. It's not worth $631. I wanted to remove the stitches and give her back the quilting cost of $90 and let her go somewhere else.
She wants me to sign a form that I will pay her $631 if I can't correct it to the original state when she gave it to me. I told her I would pay for the new material for the back and batting if I damaged it. If I damaged the front than I would give her $300 which, in my opinion, is high for a table topper top, unfinished.
My question is:
How does one come up with the price of an item you've made.
Thanks so much for your help.
Since your question went live on the site and my posting, you have received several responses from other quilters. Cynthia even taught me something about 'quilting insurance' that I didn't know before.
My response is long, but please don't miss the responses from other quilters. There's good information that should not to be missed lower on this page!
But I promised you my response and here it is.
This, however, is only my opinion. I quilt my own quilts and have never used the services of a professional quilter, except for a recent raffle quilt where I was part of the committee. (See Stars of the Prairie
). To the best of my knowledge, we, the committee, did not have a written contract with the long arm quilter, it was all done on a verbal agreement. We met face-to-face with her and discussed design (we did have some specific suggestions that our quilter agreed with) and thread choices, both color and type. The final quilting really adds to the quilt. So my one and only experience with a professional quilter has been quite good.
With that as my only background with a professional quilter, I can only give you my impression of the description of your transaction and not a working experience.
Given that she didn't care how the back looked, I, too, would have used matching needle and bobbin thread. Even if your tension is perfectly balanced on your practice sandwich, there are times that the threads will pull 'out of balance' during stitching. I see this on several fill patterns that I use. Our quilter also used matching needle and bobbin thread on 'Stars of the Prairie'. The backing fabric is the same teal as used in the dog tooth border. The thread is a cream colored shiny thread. The back of the quilt looks
like a whole-cloth quilt.
Since the quilt wasn't feeding properly, if I felt I'd done everything possible to fix it and it still wasn't 'right', I would have called her at that point and offered an alternative to her requested stitch pattern.
If her decision was to take the quilt elsewhere, I would have removed all of my stitching and returned a pressed quilt top and the batting and backing she provided to her. Obviously without charge as I was unable to complete my end of the transaction. This would be to make things right and to maintain my business' reputation.
My problem with your situation is the $631 to compensate her for her quilt top. To be perfectly honest, if her quilt top is returned in good condition—meaning the same condition as it was given to you—even the $300 you offered, in my humble opinion, is overly generous on your part. The only thing she is out of is time.
I would NOT sign any form saying I'd pay her if the quilt wasn't returned in the original state. The only person able to determine that is her and she benefits by saying there's a problem. You can't win for trying in that situation. And again, the $600+ remedy is ridiculously high.
As to your specific question about how to determine the price of an item you've made...
For the cost of materials, if I knew the pattern, I take the yardage off the pattern envelope, add it up and multiply by the going rate of quilt fabric in your area and then add another $10 for thread (I like to use Aurifil).
If I didn't have the pattern, I'd take the unfinished size of the quilt. Multiply length and height. This give the total number of square inches in the quilt not including seam allowances. Divide by that number by 1440 (this is the number of square inches in a yard of 40 inch wide fabric). The resulting number is how many yards of quilt fabric was needed to make the top. I'd then multiply by 1.20 to find 120% of the yardage used. If fabric was purchased specifically for a top, the quilt pattern yardage is usually generous to accommodate possible cutting errors by the quilter. Multiply by the cost of fabric in your area. Again, I'd add another $10 for thread.
I wouldn't even guess as to how to account for the cost of someone's time. There are just so many variables for that...their skill level, how fast they are, etc.
But again, as long as you return the quilt top in good condition with any supplies that she sent along with it and a refund of any quilting fees she's already paid you, I just don't see paying her for her quilt top.
Readers, do you have any suggestions for Barbara? I would appreciate your input regardless of whether you a professional quilter or one who has their quilts quilted by others. Both views would be helpful; just use the 'comment' link below.
To those of you who have graciously added your wisdom, I am grateful to you for your help. It helps make this site a better place to be!