Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread - Tips, Tricks & Great Resources for Hand Embroidery

How to Charge for Embroidery?

I am thinking about "hanging out my shingle" -- trying to get commissions or being hired to do embroidery, and have no idea what one can charge.

(I'm used to getting $60/hr doing webdesign and graphics, but I know I can't charge near that for needlework.)

I am very interested in hearing what others are charging for their embroidery work.
cynthia_baxter
Joined: 6/21/2011 10:11 am
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

It's a great question, Cynthia. I'm eager to hear what others have to say, too. I've had this discussion too many times to count, especially with people looking to commission a work. You'd be surprised at the offers I've received - one offer (silk and goldwork piece) would've worked out to about $1.05 / hour. :shock:
MaryCorbet
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

It also depends upon the subject matter that you embroider. Add the words "church" or "ecclesiastical" to something and the cost triples. So if you were to focus on religious items (stoles, altar cloths, etcetera) you would be able to charge much higher prices, generally speaking. I say nothing about the morality of that :)
barcelona33
Joined: 6/21/2011 2:19 pm
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

barcelona33 wrote:It also depends upon the subject matter that you embroider. Add the words "church" or "ecclesiastical" to something and the cost triples. So if you were to focus on religious items (stoles, altar cloths, etcetera) you would be able to charge much higher prices, generally speaking. I say nothing about the morality of that :)


This is funny, and a very interesting point! I think you're right, in the case of someone who is "working the church market" as a skilled embroiderer, but isn't involved in the whole religious side of ecclesiastical work. But I'd say most skilled embroiderers who work things up for their own church, their altar guilds, their clerical or religious friends, and what-have-you, probably don't charge enough (if they do charge anything).

The whole "cost" question is a complex issue. If you're offering something of value, charging too little for it tends to devalue it. But if you charge what you believe it is worth - considering your time, your materials, your skill - it may never find a buyer. I suppose there's a delicate balance ... and a little bit of compromise ... involved in fixing the right price!
MaryCorbet
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

18 years ago I started an embroidery group at my own church. The girls initially had to do a canvas-work sampler which they paid me for teaching them. Then we began on church work. I was paid for my original designs for sanctuary cushions, chair seats and backs, a big font hanging and three sets of canvas-work altar frontals. The Altar Guild paid for all the supplies. My supervision and time spent embroidering was free. The girls did not want to learn goldwork so I did all the burses and veils, etc.

We have had a wonderful time and our church does look beautiful, but I would never think you could make a living out of church work unless it was for major projects in cathedrals or very large congregations.

Mary, I think your new 'Ask and Share' is a really wonderful idea.

Victoria G.
victoriag
Joined: 6/21/2011 5:59 pm
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

I found the same issues in the scrapbooking world. People would see my scrapbooks and then ask if I could do one for them. When you consider the enormous amount of time, creativity, supplies, etc. it takes to put together a scrapbook - no one wanted to pay the price. Supplies alone can run into the hundreds of dollars for quality scrapbooking supplies. You can slap together a scrapbook quickly but then it looks like it's been slapped together and it isn't creative. The creativity is what drew the people to ooh and ahh over my scrapbooks in the first place.

I'd be very intersted in hearing if there are embroiderers out there who do charge for their work and how they come up with a price. Do they charge for time and materials by estimating the amount of time it will take them to complete the work?
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir
HappyStitcher
Joined: 6/21/2011 8:53 am
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

I have to agree with it being a touch n go basis. Right now I have had a lady come to me to have a Quilt-Pillow Top embroidered for her Granddaughters quillow. Any how, I was so happy she came to me off a referral from the owners of the fabric store across the road from my house, I didn't bother to think how much to charge her. After considerations... I figured $25 as there are a total of 5 motifs... $5 per motif. Now, when she heard that, I thought she was going to pull me through the phone and smack me for being stupid. She thinks I should charge her more! Go figure! We agreed that I would work it up and then go from there. The $25 basically would keep me in supplies (thread, transfer pen and stitch heaven). Had she not provided the material, I would have charged her more for the costs of the material (she paid $9 for the yard).
Melissa (SewNSane) Schermerhorn ;)
SewNSane
Joined: 6/22/2011 11:38 am
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

I know a number of people who sell hand embroidered items on Etsy, and I sell some items on Etsy too (but I'm only just starting, so I don't have a lot of highly involved items up yet, unlike a lot of Etsy embroiderers!!).

My theory is that if I make something up and set a fair price, then if it sells great, if not, fine! Everything sits in a box in my storeroom until sold, and it doesn't bother me if some things never sell.

For instance, I bought a handbag mirror kit for $30 at my local needlework store. I spent 5 hours making it up, and decided once finished to sell it online. I decided to set the price at $60.00 - the cost of the item is the main reason its priced so high. But really, is $5 an hour for my time reasonable? I don't think so - the ladies I work with said I should set the price at $120 - but then it would take longer to sell, and who would buy a handbag mirror for $120?!?

So I am resigned to the fact that yes, it is expensive for what it is, but it IS homemade. If it sells, great, if not, it'll look great in my own handbag!!

My sales just help pay for my supplies anyway - I'm nowhere near breaking even let alone making a profit, but its more for the fun of it for me!
I love stitching - I would stitch all day and all night if I could! www.sewnbysaliba.com
SewnBySaliba
Joined: 6/23/2011 2:12 am
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

I once took a class with John Marshall, who is an artist in silks and dyeing using Japanese methods. He told our class that as a man, he is not surprised just how often women in the art/craft world vastly underprice their artistic items. Women also underprice their teaching skills as well. He's one of the highest paid artisans on the teaching circuit, because he demands the higher price for his skill and time, and he doesn't apologize for it. He figures either folks will pay him for his time, or he can use that time to do what he wants to do. Folks do pay him for his time and it was well worth what he taught us.

These words from him stuck with me. I mainly do historical garments, and I price my time and skills as is suitable for what I know. While I don't do a lot of commission work, this is fine with me, because my time is important and I won't undersell it. I can easily spend it doing what I enjoy, including spending it with my family. Amusingly, mostly men hire me to create their items for them. Women seem to prefer to either do it themselves, or find someone cheaper to do the work they want - and then complain to me later when they get exactly what they have paid for. :|

On a more practical note, there are books on the subject of pricing your work. They go into details, like not only your time and skill level, but also the cost of overhead like electricity, notions, and other factors that most forget to put into their price charges. They also get into legal paperwork you might need, and other business forms. If you are interested in doing this for real pay, and not just 'pin money', it really is worth checking the books out from the library at least.
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KimikoS
Joined: 6/22/2011 11:37 pm
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Re: How to Charge for Embroidery?

KimikoS wrote: Amusingly, mostly men hire me to create their items for them. Women seem to prefer to either do it themselves, or find someone cheaper to do the work they want - and then complain to me later when they get exactly what they have paid for. :|


I don't know why, but this made me laugh out loud! Isn't it true?! I've had the same thing happen - I've actually had people come back and ask me to "fix" something that they had someone else do cheaper...

This is all very good advice!

On a more practical note, there are books on the subject of pricing your work. They go into details, like not only your time and skill level, but also the cost of overhead like electricity, notions, and other factors that most forget to put into their price charges. They also get into legal paperwork you might need, and other business forms. If you are interested in doing this for real pay, and not just 'pin money', it really is worth checking the books out from the library at least.


There are two books out on this topic right now that have gotten pretty good reviews:

1. Craft, Inc.: Turn your Creative Hobby into a Business, by Meg Ilasco
2. The Handmade Marketplace, by Kari Chapin

I've not read either one thoroughly, but I did skim them once upon a time, and they look like they might be useful for folks considering going the Etsy route, etc.

MC
MaryCorbet
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