The quilt has a well-established history as a labor of love. By definition, it is a multi-layered textile traditionally comprised of three layers: a cloth top, a batting also known as the middle layer, and a cloth back. All three layers are combined with the technique of quilting (the process of sewing the layers together). The outer edge is finished off with a binding. Women (and some men) use quilting as a creative outlet. The hobby, itself, has many social and mental health benefits.
The average person does not generally understand the length of time it takes to make a quilt. The whole three-layer process is a time consuming venture. Some of the steps involved include cutting, pressing, and sewing. In the absence of a pattern, there is time up front spent on design (where you need to rely heavily on your mathematics skills). Seams need to match up which usually means pinning. Accuracy is important throughout the entire affair. Then there is the quilting process, probably the most demanding step. Your standard, top of the line sewing machine, was not designed for quilting.
The long arm is a piece of sewing equipment that shaves off a significant amount of time during the quilting step. They range in price and options — similar to your vehicle. I sometimes tell people that I have the equivalent of a Honda CRV in my basement bedroom…and not just the base model!
Currently in our country, if you want a custom quilt made, you would need to know a quilter. Even then, finding a quilter friend willing to take on an extra project even if you offered to pay them is near impossible. Most quilters would not even know where to begin when assigning a dollar figure to one of their quilts. This is where the “love” part comes in. Quilts are only given as gifts to family members, friends, and charitable organizations.
When I looked at the idea of venturing into the business of memory quilting, I shelved the idea four times. I wasn’t sure that someone could possibly earn a living purely by manufacturing custom quilts. It simply is not being done in Canada. After many hours of research and several months on unemployment, I eventually took a leap of faith and combined with a solid business plan, I opened Memory Quilts by Marnie in 2017.
Fast forward three years, and I still have a hard time justifying (in my mind) the prices I need to charge in order to pay myself a moderate wage, and cover my overhead costs. Even with all of the proper equipment, the whole quilting process is still very time-consuming and time equates to labor and labor equates to dollars. As a manufacturer of quilts, the material cost is almost negligible. Quilts are simply not an affordable option for some people. And that makes me very sad. In the case of memorial quilting, where a quilt is made from the clothing of a loved one who has passed this life, the conflict actually deepens whenever the phone rings and the conversation turns to pricing. I do offer courses so that I can teach others to “do it themselves”. This has somewhat aided with the conflict that plays out in my mind; but only somewhat.
What I do know is that I have done everything within means to ensure my customers receive a unique quality product at a price that is as low as possible. I am set up like a small production line. Every process has been streamlined and refined and I am constantly looking at new ways to save time. My website is an information haven. This also makes a tremendous difference.
I hope that as time continues to pass I will have found peace surrounding the cost of a quilt. Perhaps this conflict, in itself, will teach me something more about who I am and who I esteem to be – now wouldn’t that be a positive result to come from all of this emotional turmoil.