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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Hand Embroidery Cost: The Price Tag of the Medallion

 

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After posting the finish on the Medallion Project yesterday, I received many comments both on the website and via e-mail that were so kind, enthusiastic, and appreciative of the finished project and the whole process of creating the Medallion. Thank you so much! Your comments really cheered me, especially when suffering the inevitable “let down” after a major project! I will do my very best in the upcoming days to answer the questions that are still lingering, especially those involving technique. I have a few instructional tips to share with you still!

Surprisingly, this is the first time I’ve had more comments via e-mail than on the website. My inbox hosted some 300 e-mail yesterday, and although I’d like to answer them all (haven’t yet – still trying!), I’ve certainly been reading them, and I thank you for sending them!

For those of you who asked specific questions, I made notes, categorized them, and will try to answer them in general here on the website.

Cost of Embroidery Supplies

One recurring subject after yesterday’s post concerned cost, in one way or another. Many readers asked about the cost of the project overall, many wished to know about substitute materials to reduce the cost of such a project, others wanted to know how I charge for such a project, others asked what I charge for such a project, and still others asked whether or not compensation for this type of project is actually worth the value of the piece of embroidery.

The subject of Cost, in all its facets, is vast! It’s something worth thinking about, and it’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. Instead of addressing all facets at one time, though, this is definitely a subject that must be broken down. To reach reasonable conclusions, I think we have to take various paths that finally converge on one concept: Value.

Cost of Embroidery Supplies

Today, let’s take one path: the question of Material Cost. How much did the Medallion cost to make? If you look at the photo above, all the supplies used in this project are within the frame of that photo (some are under the white cloth on the right), with the exception of the ground fabric. Doesn’t look like much, does it?

Cost of Supplies

In breaking down the cost of supplies for you, I am not considering the notion of “leftovers” on spools. Below is what a person would have to spend, to have enough of all the supplies necessary to complete the project. When you’re working an embroidery project, if you end up with a partial spool of this or that thread at the finish, that’s neither here nor there. To get the part of the spool that you used, you had to pay for the whole thing, right? The only exceptions to this are noted in the breakdown below.

Fabric
Linen, Cotton Backing, Wool Felt: approximately $20. The bulk of this is the linen, which is $90 / yard, but I’m just estimating the cut here.

Silk Threads
6 spools Soie de Paris (1 each of pink, white, green; 3 red): $24
1 spool Soie 100/3: $3.30
3 spools Soie Ovale: $7.50
14 (approx) 5-meter skeins Soie d’Alger: $60.20

Metal Threads
1 spool Elizabethan Twist (2%): $19.00
1 spool Check Thread: $13.50
2 spools Tambour Thread: $19.00
5 (1/2 yard ea.) Bright Check Purl: $22.50
1 yd lizardine: $10.50
1 yd pearl purl #2: $11.50
1 yd pearl purl #1: $10.00
3 (1 yd lengths) pearl purl very fine: $19.50
18k gold Japanese thread ($125 for the hank – used about 1/4): approx. $30
Grecian Twist (medium): $9.50

Total: $280

The total does not include the shipping on supplies ordered, the cost of needles (specifically ordered for this project), or various miscellaneous supplies (silk thread for couching gold, beeswax, wheat starch, pounce, vellum, drafting paper, etc.).

So that’s the Material Cost of the Medallion Project.

And now that we’ve covered that question, this is where the whole discussion separates into various lines of consideration.

Cost of Embroidery Supplies

For now, though, I’ve outworn my welcome! Time to cover up those supplies and take a break!

Do you have any particular thoughts or questions on the subject of expense? Do you think $280 in materials for this project is extravagant? Are you surprised at the cost – did you expect it to be more, or to be less? I’d love to hear your take! Have your say below!

 
 

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(131) Comments

  1. Your articles are always so well written and informative. I honestly figured the materials cost of this project to be much higher but I think it’s because I keep thinking the piece is larger than it is.

    It turned out beautifully. Congratulations on finishing!
    -Carmen

    3
  2. That price does not surprise me in the least and I’m sure you are being somewhat conservative. I just bought supplies for a picture…and I already had some of the fibers…but pattern and fabric with fibers was well over $50. And I’m just using 6strand cotton. Its for my nephew so he’s worth it! I still have to put in my time.
    You piece is just beautiful! Thank you for showing us the process.

    5
  3. No, i do not think that material cost is bad at all.
    Esp. considering the noble use for the medallion.
    It is breath-taking.
    Chris
    The larger cost is your time.

    6
  4. HI Mary, We’ve run out of superlatives to describe the Medallion! Have to admit I was also curious about the cost/value. The cost of the materials seems low when judged against the result which is pure art.
    To me the greatest value lies in your talent and ability to make this. It isn’t only the hours given to the project but the judgement required, and the meticulous workmanship.

    7
  5. Hi Mary: I do not think $ 280.00 is extravagant…It was a long term project…Quilters can spend that kind of money even before they are done making a full-size quilt…

    8
  6. Hi Mary,
    No, the cost wasn’t surprising at all. I have learnt through my projects, needlework (not to mention goldwork), can be very expensive.
    Expensive yes, but satisfaction in seeing the piece completed………….PRICELESS! ๐Ÿ™‚
    It is absolutely beautiful.
    Colleen in Canada

    9
  7. The outcome is priceless. Just like you feature timeless pieces in your blog, perhaps someday in the future someone will be featuring this timeless piece of needlework in their blog.

    The journey has been wonderful to follow. It is like a serial drama where we tune in next time to see if Mary has stitched or ripped out.

    10
  8. Good Morning Mary: The costs does not surprise me as all the Gold threads and pearl purls are expensive plus the Japanese threads. To me if you are going to put in the time and effort why not use the best out there. The project is only as good as what one puts into it. This project is beautiful and was a pleasure to watch it come alive with a great designer and with such patience.Great Piece Mary and very beautiful,exquisite.

    11
  9. First I did not get a chance yesterday to say how truly beautiful this project is completed! You are to be commended for creating such a needlework so gorgeous and in finishing it (a problem I would have had!). And to answer today’s question, yes I am actually surprised at how low the cost of materials are compared with the beauty of the finished object….I wish more “uneducated” people could understand this concept of needlework…..taking a small (in the eyes of the world) amount of material and floss and through the amount of time and talent end up creating such a beautiful object, especially one to be worn in the Glory of God!!! You have once again inspired me to push myself and I am humbled.
    Dottie J

    12
  10. I am not surprised at the cost, but I find it a bit sad that it has to be so expensive. When my husband complained I spent ยฃ30 on fabric (almost 2/3rds of it for a table cloth for my sister) I showed him an email with prices for quilt kits, and he could do nothing but shake his head…lol

    I save up for a few months in order to go to one or another of the craft fairs that come up in the UK and Scotland. We are not yet in a financial position where I can just up and go…still have to plan it. But I am fortunate in that my husband is a trainee doctor, and his salary goes up each year, so even though we are struggling a bit now we will be very good in the long run. I know there are a lot of people who may be extremely talented but who have no financial means to pursue it. I just wish everyone could afford it as it gives a good feeling creating something with your hands:)

    13
    1. I feel 280$ is way more than a bit much. I will likely never try goldwork due to the cost. I usually buy fabric on sale, and have not purchased any “kits” since the 90’s because I was never able to finish the two I did purchase because they did not provide even close to enough floss. It was frustrating that he kits were so expensive, and then people have to spend more to get enough floss. For me, it turns out to be much cheaper if I watch for sales and plan ahead. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also agree that it is sad that some have no financial means to persue thier talents. It is even sadder still that many who may have the talent never even learn they have it.

  11. Your project is I think, for the ages! the expense did not surprise me as I have worked on church vestments and ordered fabric for $$$$. Also I would guess another $300 plus for equipment. Hope that is discussed too.

    15
  12. I also figured that the materials would have cost more. I used to be on an altar guild at my church, and when we had to order linens or vestments, the price seemed so high. So we had to keep in mind this very thing – the cost of supplies and the work that went into them. And the things we ordered were machine embroidered, not done by hand! The church who receives this chausable is very fortunate indeed to have such an heirloom. Thanks for including us on your journey.

    16
  13. If I had to guestamate the cost I probably would have put it a little higher. This is probably because
    a) I keep thinking that it is bigger that it actually is
    b) Materials are more expensive in the UK
    c) My Japanese embroideries cost more than that and they don’t have the variety of metal threads you have used.

    The thing that surprised me most was how little the linen had cost. I expected that to be a big part of the overall cost.

    17
  14. Mary—You’ve done stunningly beautiful work! Thank you for sharing so much of it with us…As for the materials cost, I expected it to be much much more!

    18
  15. G’day Mary,
    Although I had wondered about cost, I really hadn’t given much thought to it. So, the $280 was kinda, oh $280, okay! The value of the finished article will be a different story though. My mind is boggling already.
    Cheers, Kath.

    20
  16. Hi Mary,

    Wow I’m so glad someone or many someone’s asked about the cost of the Medallion project. I was afraid you’d thInk it was rude. Personally I thought it would cost more money in materials but glad to hear it didn’t. When seeing the cost break down like that it makes it seem doable. By the way where do you get your linen and how do you buy it? For example is it by yard?

    Thank you,

    Melissa

    21
  17. Hi Mary!
    I was thinking around $300-325.I don’t think it’s extravagant.This is one of the most beautiful projects of yours.Congratulations!

    22
  18. I certainly thought the material cost would be much higher! As for value, your time, talent, and expertise… priceless. A vestment with handmade adornment rather than machine made, priceless and will be treasured for generations. I am hoping you will include a fabric tag to be sewn in the vestment with your name and date?
    Thank you for sharing your talents with us!

    Michelle Ross
    Alabama

    23
  19. I tried to estimate a modest cost of the work involved. I would think that since the amount of time was so much, it is not like it could be a part-time job. At least your work does not look as if it is part-time. In order to support yourself, as an artist and craftswoman, you would need to charge something in the area of $10,000. I would estimate that the rarity of someone able to complete this project with the skill you demonstrate, the price would vary by 5K higher or if my perception of what people will pay despite the labor and skill, about 3K lower. This estimate is based on the 450 hours you noted that it took you to complete. Am I high or low?

    My mother is an artist, and she might say that the calculation is done something like that. Of course, if you have a bidding customer base, you might get more.

    24
  20. Hi Mary–I’m not surprised at the cost. Whenever I enter a piece of needlework in a national show, like Woodlawn or Callaway, I have to provide a dollar value for the piece that includes materials, time spent, and finishing.

    Where I always get surprised the value of the time spent. I don’t think I do a good job of estimating/keeping track of the number of hours I spend on a project, so I will be interested in reading that post!

    The medallion is beautiful! It’s been fun to follow the progress. Can’t wait to see what your next project is.

    Carol S.

    25
  21. I really expected it to cost much more!
    I recently bought around 50 1/4hanks of Appleton wool and two small pieces of cotton satin and that was about 1/3 of your cost. And I got a good price on my wool:-)

    So – this information about your costs makes me think about trying goldwork out. Not now (for heavens sake!) as I need to use up some of the crewel wool first and practise a lot, but later. It definately seems to be possible even on a budget.
    Thank you for this information. For some reason crafters – the novices(like me) and the Masters (like you) never seem comfortable to talk about the costs of what we love to make.
    I’m sure that your information has given a lot of us a much better and realistic idea about the cost of materials for goldwork – and that we could afford to give it a try:-)

    26
  22. Must admit I am surprised but it is common for me to not calculate the expense involved in a project. The results are worth the expense and you do have some materials left for another project. It was a very interesting project to follow.

    27
  23. That amount doesn’t strike me as too too much off the top of my head, but I keep thinking that the medallion is about a yard in diameter, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The problem I have is how to pay myself for the labor–if I paid myself as much as what I make at my day job, this sucker would be hugely expensive and I can’t imagine anyone paying that much for something. But then, I continue to be surprised at what folks are willing to pay.

    It’s gorgeous, and I’m a little let down at its finish too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    28
  24. You material cost sounded very reasonable. I’ve spent more than that on thread kits for needlepoint projects (excluding cost of painted canvas), but then I live in the San Francisco Bay area where costs can be quite high.

    The real cost is your labor and time (to plan, stitch, worry, and exult).

    Value = priceless!

    30
  25. To me, the project is several things. First, I find most “church work” to be a meditative prayer during the entire process. There can never be a price set on the value of that. Second, it is a wonderful work of art. Again, priceless. Third it is a blessing to all those who see it, and again, what price can you put on that?

    31
  26. Mary, I knew this was going to be expensive, because of the quality of the materials.

    Me, I am a simpler person, I work with cotton threads on cotton fabrics and am happy to have the fun I have with the projects, so I had no way of guessing how much do silk threads cost.

    As for commissioned work, I think the tough thing is to find someone who appreciates the work that goes into the project and thinks the result is valuable enough to pay what it costs, in materials, in time and in skill.

    While I do not agree with the value of an ecclesiastical embroidery, I value so much the chance to see the process that led to it and learn so much about materials I have never seen up close or touched with my hands. Your skill is remarkable, it is a joy to see you work through a project like this.

    32
  27. First off, let me say that the medallion is beautiful! It is so nice to see such lovely work. For me, this would be totally extravagant. My husband and I are missionaries and money is very tight. But,everyone is different and extravagance is not a black and white thing. Enjoy not only your ability to create such a beautiful piece but also your ability to purchase the supplies to create it. It certainly is a masterpiece.

    33
  28. Dear Mary, The end result of the project is magnificent. I feel quite chuffed on your behalf! ๐Ÿ™‚ Regarding the cost, I am not surprised. At how much you should charged? That is a difficult question. My Mom use to say you can’t really pay enough for someone else’s handiwork. People don’t realize the hours you have put in such a project and the love and care that go in that as well.
    Kind regards Elza Bester Cape Town. xxx

    34
  29. Colour me surprised! I thought it would have cost quite a bit more. Although I was not surprised by how many hours (480 I think you said?). That seemed about right for such a massive and complicated piece.

    35
  30. The cost is very reasonable considering the embellished goldwork throughout the Medallion. God has blessed you with this talent so the cost and time put into it should be unlimited.

    36
  31. I think this is reasonable. I was expecting more. I am still interested in finding out how you charge for such a commission (by the hour/by the project etc.)
    The medallion is amazing. I am so inspired by your work. Will you be posting a picture of the finished garment??

    37
  32. Mary, I guess the cost really doesn’t surprise me.
    I guess I think of it in terms of enjoyment, education, beauty and stress relief.
    You seemed to enjoy making this glorious piece and probably didn’t buy everything all at once.

    I would question the cost a bit if they were supplies you HAD to buy for a class that you didn’t know if you would like the technique but you obviously loved this one.

    Of course, what I never want to know the cost of is my stash; things I bought and never finished, threads I purchased because they were “pretty” not knowing what I was going to use them for

    38
  33. I have a question to add to the pile. Do you sign your work Mary? Paintings and sculpture are signed and it isn’t felt that this detracts from the artwork, but with embroidery (other than samplers) the artist rarely seem to put their name to their work. I’d love to hear your opinion.

    39
    1. Lisa, I love this question. Quilters are always encouraged to put a label on all quilts so that the history of the quilt and the artist can be traced, and most embroidery patterns have the name of the designer on them, but the actual stitcher is often lost in the threads. I vote yes, sign your work even if it is only initialed in a manner that people have to research to decifer the meaning.

  34. I feel that the cost of the materials for the medalon are well within reason. All I keep thinking about is how do you charge for your tme and talent. When I was with EGA we were told to charge the amount of the materials pluse 1/2 of that cost for our time. Is this still true or do/can be charge on hourly rate?

    40
  35. Not too surprised b/c when you use quality materials, they cost more. I’m still overcome with how beautiful it is and how you paid such minute attention to every detail!

    41
  36. Mary, I’d spend more than that on supplies if I could produce work like that. And, I would have expected it to be a lot more. The goldwork supplies are expensive as well as those awesome silks. I’ve been refraining from asking (don’t want to be impolite) but would you tell us what you are going to get for this? The supplies are such a small part of this – all those hours of work!!!

    42
  37. Hello,
    Iโ€™ve enjoyed following along on your Medallion project and thoroughly enjoyed every comment and illustration. Hummmmmโ€ฆ question todayโ€ฆ.is $280.00 too much for material costs? Ha, you worked approximately 450 hours and the materials cost $280.00 that works out to .62ยข per hour. Pretty darn cheap entertainment in my books. I sure hope who ever is receiving this will pay you well plus tip.

    Bunny Goodman

    43
  38. I finally realized where ‘below’ is … it’s to click on the sentence telling us to click below.

    I’m one of your emailers. Sorry about that but I didn’t know how else to reach you or your Comments.

    No, I do not think the cost expensive based on everything, including your time.

    44
  39. I’m a little surprised the cost is as low. The beauty of the finished piece is simply staggering. I can’t even imagine what you would charge for such a thing. It is clearly priceless and lucky is the cleric who gets to express glory to God wearing it. You are amazing, and I am very grateful for your generosity in sharing your talent.

    45
  40. I’m glad you are addressing cost. It was the uppermost question in my mind; how much did it cost to make and how much did you charge for your labor (nearly 500 hours)? You have created an amazing and beautiful piece of embroidery, one worthy of being considered a museum piece one day! It’s the gold threads that are costly and frankly I thought it would cost more than $280 considering the price of gold these days. Thanks for sharing these details!

    46
  41. I was shocked at how low the cost was. However, the major ‘cost’ is actually your time. If they had hired it done what would have been the cost?

    47
  42. I didn’t get a chance to comment yesterday because I have been out of town. BUT WOW, WOW, WOW!!! What a beautiful finish! You must be so proud. I am really amazed by it’s beauty and your stamina. Over 400 hours of work. This piece is truly priceless.

    The material costs seem reasonable and pale in comparison to what the labor costs would be.

    Thanks for sharing this journey with us Mary! And congratulations on a truly gorgeous work of needleart.

    48
  43. Diana,

    I think its beautifull, no matter the cost because,.
    it is the inspiration of the heart, your heart. You love to do it.
    And you do it so perfectly, wow

    Bravo, i clap my hands for you.

    49
  44. Cost didn’t surprise me—the finished product is worth every penny and more! Such lovely work! I stitch just with linen and hand-dyed threads so know the cost there. Now when you add your valuable time it will really go up! But after all is said and done it is PRICELESS and I hope it is treasured!

    50
  45. Mary, following along on your project has been like a great novel. I have throughly enjoyed the journey. It has been so much fun to watch your progress and now to see the completion. It is certainly a masterpiece! I was recently at my granddaughters 1st communion far from home and admiring the beauty of the back of the priest’s vestment was a reminder of all your stitching dedication. You are an inspiration! xo.

    51
  46. Very reasonable costs – considering the use for which it is intended. The advice given the the older Church Embroidery books always is to use the best available materials and workmanship for the Lord’s House. I love reading those older books because they know how to value workmanship, craftsmanship, and created these types of magnificent pieces with the intent that they would be in service for the church for many years.

    The authors of the old books even go so far as to say, if the budget is limited for a very small or poor parish, make one very nice set, rather than splitting funds and trying to have six very poor quality sets. The Medallion Project is right up there with the beautiful work of old, and because of the care and workmanship executed by Mary, will be around for hopefully the next 100 or more years. Split the cost out over that time frame – and it is nothing.

    Congratulations, Mary, on creating a piece that is the equal of those used in the great Cathedrals of England.

    52
  47. The material cost is a bit less than I would have expected, but the linen is cheaper than the silk and silk/metal grounds I’ve used in Japanese embroidery.

    Do you keep the small precious metal bits and send them for recovery?

    53
  48. These material expenses are well within the norm and about what I expected. The price of the linen per yard was the only item I found a bit high. However, short cuts of ecclesiastical specialty fabric are always pricey. As to the philosophical notions of value, cost and price – the discussion is endless. The value that we, your followers, have already attributed to this project is priceless. Indeed, the benefits of this blog alone, in inspiration and instruction have generated, and will probably continue to stimulate, a profit far beyond calculation.

    54
    1. Then again, I failed to mention perhaps the most important parts to you personally: your design, your expertise and your labor. I hope that you will receive ‘something’ for these parts – at 450 hours of stitching alone was it? Oh my!

    2. It is curious that at least two people have commented on how expensive the linen was. I have seen embroidery quality linen here for $160 per metre (Australia). I believe the linen prices quoted in the other comment were for dressmaking linen. I thought the linen cost for this project was very reasonable.

  49. The medallian is beautiful. I have appreciated being able to watch the progress and now see the completed medallian. Knowing how expensive fabric, thread and actually how much costs have risen on sewing projects the costs to make the medallion is mostly reasonable however such a project is beyond my budget. I am speciality is quilting which at $12.00 a yard for fabric ridiculous. Thankfully quilt shops have sales or give quild guild memebers a small discount. You did a beautiful job. Thank you. Judy Neil

    55
  50. The Medallion is fabulous and priceless. I thought the materials would cost more.

    Thanks so much for posting your journey with the medallion, it has been fascinating and so inspiring.

    I am looking forward to hearing how you prep it for the applique.

    56
  51. This type of embroidery is new to me so I had no idea how much some of these things cost. Let me just say that considering the quality of the work and the beauty of the finished medallion, I would expect nothing but the finest fabrics and threads. I have so enjoyed seeing the progress of this project. I hope you are well compensated for your artestry. I have been a decorative painter in the past and had to deal with people not wanting to pay for my talent just my supplies. I eagerly await your next project. Inspires me in my embroidery.

    57
  52. HI, MARY! I AM FOLLOWING UP WITH MUCH ATTENTION YOU MEDALLION PROJECT. CONGRATULATIONS FOR IT HAS COME TO A VICTORIUS END!!! GREAT WORK! WONDERFUL!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR LETTING US SHARE YOUR MARVELOUS WORKS!

    58
  53. Mary,

    The material costs are extremely reasonable. Since you used a variety of metal threads, will they tarnish at the same rate?

    59
  54. Hi Mary !
    No, I did not expect the cost of material to be as high as you mentionned. But in fact, it is worth it. And everyone knows that goldwork embroidery is expensive. This costs would be extravagant for a beginner project – but for a skilled embroiderer, this is ok.

    60
  55. The cost of the supplies is a pittance compared to the hours of work and the knowledge and expertise required to complete this project.

    61
  56. The price is low compared with the cost of the satisfaction of many enjoyable
    Hours of stitching. Creating something unique is very rewarding.

    62
  57. Thank you for addressing the “cost” related to this magnificent project. It has been in the back of my mind for several weeks, especially those times when you “unstitched”!

    I expected the amount to be near what you listed, maybe alittle less, but there were items I failed to list in my calculations.

    Your love for embroidery has to be considered into your payment as it would be impossible to charge for the hours you have invested.

    63
  58. Quality materials cost money, so no I’m not surprised by the cost of the materials. Of course it is the labor that put these all together to create the exquisite medallion. And that of course is worth much more than the materials.
    Cutting corners wouldn’t have the same results

    64
  59. Mary,
    You have created a one of a kind, heirloom quality hand embroidered piece of art. It has cost you approximately $300.00 and you have devoted 450 hours to the project. We know that a production line manufacturer could create a similar looking medallion with lower quality material which would cost less and probably take less time. However it would not be an heirloom quality tapestry. We all must consider cost but the VALUE of what youโ€™ve created is in the doing something you love and sharing the techniques with hundreds of others.

    Thank You!
    Alice

    65
  60. I”m not surprised and when charging for the work one does need to add in the cost of shipping the supplies on to the customer. While not actual materials and I appreciate that you broke it down for those of us to see where the expenses are, but along with the thread shipping is often a big expense as well and it can not be discounted completely. We do not often think about the $$$ that we have tied up in fabrics, thread and notions, but if we only store them and don’t use them they still bring us joy and add value to our sense of well being. One cannot put a $$$ value on that.

    66
  61. I had figured that the cost would be in the 250-300$ range but sometimes the lure of the project is so great that the costs become a secondary factor. This is truly a labor of love and the effort and thought you have put into this project shines through in every stitch. A Fabulous finished piece!!!

    67
  62. I actually expected the cost to be much higher – because I keep forgetting how small this piece actually is! The amount of detail you have packed into a small space is tremendous. When I look at the photos, I feel like the medallion must be at least 2 feet across instead of only a few inches.

    But the materials are only a small part of the whole. When you consider the number of stitching hours – whew!

    Mary in MN

    68
  63. I think the price of materials are expensive but fair cause you can’t use cheap materials in such an EXCELLENT work so it can last and worth the time inverted. Congratulations!!!!! My husband and me follow your work and love it.

    69
  64. The material cost of your beautiful medallion is probably very minor in comparison to the labour cost.

    I’ve just returned from a holiday on the island of Madeira. They produce absolutely stunning handmade embroidery. When you visit the embroidery shops, what strikes you is that
    the products are very,very expensive, and – simultaneously – that the embroiderers must be really underpaid.

    70
  65. You were using quality materials for a quality project, so $280 is a reasonable supplies cost. It certainly was worth the result, and then some!!

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  66. I was surprised to hear it was under $300. And to have the supply costs broken down makes me feel that I could afford to use some of those products as well especially when dealing with Silk, Linen and gold thread. Also have to take in account that the better the quality the better chance it has of surviving the ages.

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  67. Yes, I am surprised. A few weeks ago I was surprised to see how small the finished article is, therefore my surprise was even greater.

    Maybe I have underestimated how much some of my projects have really cost, but I can’t help thinking that it’s probably best not to know. Most of them are priceless to me, for the pleasure thay have given me, both when I have been making them, and when I look at them now or when I parted with them as a gift

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  68. Just thinking – did you keep track of all the time spent, including the design considerations and the practice piece?

    I do hope everyone who sees this appreciates the care and expertise which have gone into this beautiful piece

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  69. Mary
    No matter what the materials cost or the time involved. It is so beautiful that it is priceless!!!
    The most beautiful piece I’ve ever seen!!

    I guess my thoughts are that if you enjoyed doing it then it is worth all the time and money spent. I would charge depending on who I was making it for and what I could afford to lose money wise, and what I felt the other person could afford to pay for it.

    In all the arts most people never break even on their education and the money they’ve spent or the time they have spent acomplishing great art.
    It is all about love of the art.

    Thank You so much for Educating and sharing with us Mary.

    Robin Marks

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  70. WOW…it’s beautiful, but let’s cover your time too!! Do you feel it’s worth the total cost? A lot of people never add that into the figure (my DH) because we love doing it, but that’s a huge part of it all. It really rocks my brain when I keep track of something I work on the hours that go into it!! It’s a very lovely piece and I was happy to watch it in progress. Thanks

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  71. I can’t tell you how amazingly gorgeous this medallion is. What astounds me most is that you designed it as well as stitched it. Thank you very much for letting us all see your progress.
    I was wondering all along about the material cost so thanks for the answer. I would have thought the cost would be much higher. Just mention gold, you know!

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  72. Mary, I have been getting your emails since shortly after you started this project, you have given me a love of embroidery although I had only ever used a few very basic stitches. I have been waiting for the end to see the whole design, but now I wonder what I will look for on my emails with the same wonder and excitement.
    I hope the recipients of your magic will appreciate your hard work, I personally will be waiting and hoping for another magical journey you may share with us.

    Lesley graham

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  73. Aloha Mary,
    As to cost, in seems in line with the finished product. Had you gone with cotton floss, non-gilt threads it would have been cheaper and definitely shown. Your real bargain was the 18 k hank at $125. That thread is superior in color due to the
    carat weight.
    I’ve seen 200 year old Spanish vestments with silver work that is tarnished but still recognizable due to the purity of the silver.
    Quality materials make all the difference.
    Again, a beautiful job well done.
    Best regards,
    ji

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  74. Mary, For me, the cost of the materials and additional materials not included in the cost, the cost you listed is certainly in keeping with the quality of the work being done. In comparison, I have spent far more on a cross stitch kit. If I compare your medallion to heirloom sewing, the cost is consistent. The medallion is breathtaking! How can you compare cheap with priceless?!

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  75. I am not surprised that the supplies for the project cost $280, considering their fine quality and also the large surface area covered.

    Cost, to me, has always been a crippler to creativity. The good angel on my right shoulder imagines the great things I might create with the finest materials . The bad angel on the other shoulder scolds that it might turn out poorly and be a waste of money, or that I might not even finish it and have all those beautiful things wind up in the back of a closet.

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  76. The piece turned out amazing! You do such beautiful work. I am glad you are addressing the issue of cost. I wanted to ask also, but didn’t want to be “rude”. I did a cross stitch piece about 20 years ago for my mother and mentioned it to a friend. She asked about me making one for her, but when I told her the cost (number of hours times minimum wage) her face fell. And that did not include materials. (Besides which, I never make more than one of anything.) The cost of materials is about what I expected, although I noticed you did not include some of the costs. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s difficult sometimes to include all the “little” supplies, things we always have on hand so don’t count in the total cost. I guess that’s where the love of the craft comes in. I look forward to the rest of your posts on this topic. Inquiring minds want to know!

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    1. I agree, when you tell people about cost (even at minimum wage) thier brains fall out. It is sad that so many do not realize what actually goes into hand crafted items. I mean people spend ungodly amounts for paintings (like Jackson Pollock drip art) but hand embroidery should cost the same as the machine embroidered stuff at Wal-Mart.

    2. Sorry, I forgot a couple of words when I posted that. People spend ungodly amounts for paintings (like Jackson Pollock drip art) but FEEL that hand embroidery should cost the same as the machine embroidered stuff at Wal-Mart.
      By no means do I think your medallion should be sold for 9.99$.

  77. Mary, I am curious as to why you didn’t include shipping costs? I’m sure I’m not alone when I calculate my “best deal” on something, to include the shipping as part of that item’s cost-to-me. And, your incidentals listed at the bottom are not insignificant. Not sure what your shipping tallies up to, but we’re talking $350+ probably, right?

    I’m with another commenter who said they keep thinking this project is a yard wide! With all that gold it would be unsupportable. So another question …

    How much does your dinner-plate sized finished item weigh?

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  78. I am not a bit surprised to find the cost. You used good quality threads and supplies and the outcome shows it. It is beautiful and very inspirational.
    Don’t know why you would say you wore out your welcome though.
    Your instructions have been invaluable. Thank you.

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  79. Mary, your patience and perseverance with this project are amazing and the end product is just stunning. I’m not in the least surprised by the cost of the supplies.

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  80. Dear Mary,

    Well done – what a magnificant project and it looks absolutely fantastic.
    Could you please let me know how you started and finished the Grecian Twist?

    Thank you & cheers,
    Lyn

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  81. Not at all expensive for such a beautiful piece of work. The hours you must have put into the work must say that is a miniscule amount to pay for such beauty.

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  82. I too have enjoyed watching your project grow into the beautiful finished piece. Having down needlwork for many years the price seemed very normal to me. Thanks again for taking the time to share your progress and chart your hours as well. (It does come in handy when someone says “Oh, did you do that this past weekend?)

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  83. I would have thought the gold thread cost more! Of course, given that it is a 9″ circle, it SOUNDS like a lot, but I’ll bet I’ve paid close to the same just on an ordinary kit!

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  84. Mary,
    There was no comment box on the previous post, theregore I had to send an email with my congratulations and comments.
    I believe that a complete charge for materials, including postage and taxes,if paid,and hours working on them, should be added to the total cost. This is the way we have been taught by our quilting teachers when we price our quilts for sale.
    The Party that requested this gorgeous piece of embroidery, that took so many painstaking hours has the financial ability to reimburse all of your costs, and then some.

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  85. Oh, Mary, I thought the materials would cost ever so much more! Do you buy them retail or wholesale? Do you buy in bulk for colors you would frequently use?

    I know it is your labor that would cost so much more, given your skills and the design, so I will be interested in that. Charging for my labor has always been my weak point, as I tend to underestimate my worth. Of course, doing work for a parish or a religious is always tricky for me, as I feel terrible “charging God” so to speak.

    Thanks again for sharing all of this with us, you are too kind.

    Yours,
    Peggy

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  86. I’m not at all surprised at the cost. I have just purchased $200 worth of gold threads and when you receive it it really doesn’t look like much. However, I believe you said the work took you 450 hours to complete, so at $280 dollars the cost is 62c/hour. That’s pretty cheap entertainment if you ask me! I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than embroidery. If at the most it costs me 62c per hour, I reckon that’s great value! Of course pricing works like these for sale is extremely difficult. You can never price it high enough to compensate for all the hours spent in creation. In the end you have to price the work so that it demonstrates it’s real value without making it so expensive it is out of anyone’s reach.

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  87. Hi Mary,

    No Mary I am not in the least surprised at the cost in fact I thought it may have been a little more, just doing my own projects it is a shock when you go and get your list of supplies and come away with a tiny paper bag worth a $100 or more dollars, how are you going to calculate your time??? or do you have a formula.
    By the way your work is beautiful.
    Regards
    Flora

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  88. No the cost of the materials does not surprise me. When I did the one Tudor style rose, i priced out the supplies, i.e., silks, real metal threads, etc., and i believe it came up to about $40 (not including the fabric) which is why i used DMC stranded cotton and Kreinik metallic threads on cotton, way out of my budget. However, that being said, your medallion is without exception the most beautiful hand stitched item i’ve ever seen. i admire your skill immensely and, if i had your level of skill, i’d work with the real stuff too!!! One last comment, no matter how much you were compensated for the medallion, it could never be enough, considering you have put 450 hours, i believe you said, into it, in my opinion. again, thank you for taking us along on the journey, it’s been priceless.

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  89. Mary,
    Interesting way to continue the series on your medallion project. Please continue.
    No, I’m not surprised at the cost of the materials. You have picked high quality threads, etc. to achieve your vision, expertly accomplished. This medallion will serve the recipient all his (?) life, and probably could be used beyond that. It’s wearable art of a very high standard. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.

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  90. I am so pleased that you will be discussing the issue of cost. It is something that we seem to avoid, believing it is somehow beneath us to talk about it or that it is ‘dirty’ or something.
    When I was studying (architecture) we had to do a unit on this stuff, so I learnt a little about it although it becomes very complicated after a while. My husband is a fine woodworker (furniture, boxes etc)/sculptor and he has often ‘lost’ commissions because people want a top-class job at rock-bottom prices. And I would imagine that you have faced this too.
    Will you be paid adequate compensation for the 450 hours of work that you put in here? The $280 for materials is nothing really. Even if you pay yourself only $20 per hour, that is a further $900 – and if you pay yourself something reasonable that figure will go up accordingly.

    I can’t wait for the next instalment.

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    1. Even at minimum wage (8$) it is 3600$ for labor. I think 20×450=9000. I think you missed a zero.

    2. Oops, sorry, maths was never one of my favourite pastimes. Of course I missed a zero, thanks for pointing that out RM.

      Is $8 per hour really the minimum wage for a skilled adult worker? That seems so low, I think even the kids who work in MacDonalds here get quite a bit more than that. And we pay out house cleaner $25 which is the going rate for such things.

    3. Math wasn’t my best subject either, I got that figure when my brain told me there were too few zeros because 900 is only 450 twice, and she spent more hours blogging about the medallion than two. ๐Ÿ™‚ No, minimum wage here just means that is the minimum salary that can be offered a worker, even if it is a 16 year old in an after-school position. The 8$ is just in my state. In most states here it ranges from 7$ to 8$ maybe a bit more, and yes, in most places, it is not enough to live on. Skilled workers often get more, and there is no specific minimum for skilled workers because each company has thier own definition of “skilled”, but no one, skilled or otherwise, can be offered less than 8$ per hour.

  91. You are the perfectionist. May be many of us can try to do something similar with the commitment. But the perfection is your very own gift, which we really can’t think of.
    Hand embroidery is definitely an art that is vanishing. But Mary, you are definitely giving it life, by giving us a lot of motivation and desire to accomplish something like what you have done. And this also gives some business for the manufacturers of these wonderful supplies.

    Price wise….When we buy a goldwork kit, we may need to pay atleast 1/4th of what you have spent . And the design in kits cover only smaller area. So covering an entire circle for $280 is much reasonable.

    Man hours wise. 480 hours is 60 work days, which will near 3 months. I don’t know if people are really willing to pay the 3 month wage + supply charge. For that reason, I prefer to decorate my own wall with what I make.

    I need to mention, I am bit disappointed when I can’t see an image with greater resolution. I really wish to see a larger image of the Medallion, and enjoy the placement of each individual stitch. I hope you consider to add one…

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  92. an artwork of this quality is actually priceless & timeless
    it would be ridiculous to not use the best products available

    I feel lucky to have been able to see how work of this quality is done

    thanks
    Kay

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  93. I am surprised the cost was that low. The cost of the material and supplies for the children’s clothes that I make often run much much higher than that. Well worth it !

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  94. I have had great pleasure in watching this project unfold. Thank you. The costs have not suprised me – I do much simpler projects and I know that the costs rise very quickly.
    What would you charge for your labour in such a project? Is there a minimum wage in the US? In the UK it is about ยฃ7 per hour. That’s just over ยฃ3,000 – at an unskilled labourer’s rate.
    Or do you do it for love?

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    1. Yes, there is a minimum wage, I believe most states have thier own and a couple of states just use the federal minimum wage. I believe most states minimum wage is between 7 and 8 dollars an hour. That is 3000$-3600$ for labor. I am not saying that she should only be paid minimum wage, that is just an easy way to calculate labor costs.

  95. The cost of the materials didn’t surprise me and I think that, if you are going to put that much time into anything, you should use the best materials you can afford. It’s not going to take you any less time with cheap materials and you’re going to be disappointed.

    How do you estimate whether the time was worth what you put into it in either time or money? You can’t and that’s why you shouldn’t work on anything that you don’t love!

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  96. Somehow I thought it would be more. But for this project, no, $280 in materials is not extravegant. With care, it will be beautiful for decades, perhaps longer. Who knows, in a couple of centuries, someone may be looking at it in awe, pondering the very same questions we have when looking at needlework from the 1800’s and earlier.

    Which brings up a question that may have been covered in a past post. Did you label it somehow with the details of when and why you stitched it, and who it was for? It’s often assumed that those details will not be forgotten (or don’t matter?), but after a while they are. Or the story changes after retelling so many times, as we’ve seen so many times on Antiques Roadshow.

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  97. The cost for materials is justified. In a world where everything is wanted at the cheapest we can get it, we forget the reals stuff costs. Add to that the hours of actual work and I can see this project easily costing in the $10,000 or more range.

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  98. Cost, price, value and market value are wildly out of skew for high-skill artisinal crafts and artist products compared to commercial and industrial production – even for one of a kind special purpose items. Let’s take a dispassionate look at it.

    If I were to do a cost basis analysis to determine price as an item of specialty manufacture, I’d get something like this:

    Cost of goods – $280 (seems low to me, I’d have thought more in the neighborhood of $350-375, but let’s go with the stated number)

    Cost of labor – just under $4,000 at average US minimum wage; highly skilled labor is about triple that. Let’s call the skill level at median between min wage and the highest end (a blatant but cost effective lie), and assume all hours are regular time and not overtime – $8000

    Cost of overhead (all the semi-tangibles that accompany a labor in for-profit enterprise, facility, insurance, utilities, etc.) – roughly 25-30% more. Let’s go low and assume 25%.

    Fee or profit – Usually 10% for commercial contracts.

    So I get a nominal “price” of $11,350 before fee or profit even kicks in. With fee/profit, it’s $12,485.

    Now. Is the market willing to pay $12.5K for a stitched piece? Not a chance. Even if this were going to an art collector and not to a religious/non-profit client. At most, it could probably garner about a third to half that in the right gallery venue, if it were promoted as an art object and Mary’s national reputation as an artist was similarly known and appreciated.

    So we see again that “priceless” (what I think this item is), works out to be a synonym for “beautiful, but undervalued as a work product by labor cost analysis.”

    The conclusion is that we do this sort of thing for love, not money. And that magnificence is more appreciated by the eye than the pocket.

    Kbsalazar

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    1. Wow! I think I’m going to have to quote you!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Excellent analysis and absolutely spot on when it comes to the definition of “priceless” and the contrast between eye and pocket!

    2. Agreed. It is sad that people would certainly think that the price for a drip art piece by Jackson Pollock is worth many more times that 12.5k (but not in hours, as he could not have spent 450 hours on ANYTHING he did) but hand embroidery is not even considered art by most people.
      My theory about that is because most real art (like DaVinci or Monet etc) cannot yet be replicated by modern technology. Not meaning printing duplicates, because someone still has to do the original. But because computers cannot yet create artworks like Michaelangelos David or VanGoghs Starry Night (just examples) independent of extensive human programming. And then the art would be of the programmer, because they cannot yet program a computer to “think” about what the computer thinks is pretty or elegant etc. Who knows how long the programmer would work to program a computer to replicate Gainsboroughs Blue Boy (without printing duplicates).
      Plus inventing the machine that would paint or sculpt the replicas (out of stone or canvas, not plaster molds or paper) would be horrifying as well.
      Because embroidery can be “”duplicated”” (cough cough) by machine many times over in a day, with minimal programming time, and the fact that many do not realize how much time is actually put into a piece because many have likely never seen embroidery being done, is why (in my opinion)embroidery projects less than 100 years old are not worth much to many people outside museums.
      My definition of “art” is based on age, if an adult completed it but it looks like something a child could bring home from kindergarten on Mothers day (like much of Pollock), it is not art, and (to me) worth much less than what I would pay for what the child brought home. Embroidery is different though, most people start out with thier stuff looking the same almost regardless of age. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I think that one of the reasons embroidery is not included in art classes in schools is financial. Teaching kids to paint is cheaper, a box of watercolors and a piece of paper, (here you go kid) and viola! art. Another reason is likely time, many kids would not be patient enough to spend the time to complete even a small project, despite the hours they sit, nearly motionless in front of thier video game screens at home. The third reason is likely because parents would complain about how “little” thier kids were learning in art class if all they brought home was one embroidered item a month (for example), with paint etc they get an item a day. Also they would complain about the teachers salary, why is she being paid that much when all I get is a few pieces of thread and felt and a kid complaining of boredom. Anyhow, those are my opinions and I will stop now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  99. Hello my dear lady,
    Could you possibly remind me how you used wheat starch? I have done a search on your blog and not turned up anything relevant…..

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  100. This project is absolutely stunning! I’m so glad you’re sharing so much of it with all of us! I know you have a million questions on your plate, but I wonder if you might share with us how many hours you have invested? I feel like I’m the slowest stitcher on the planet, and I know you’ve been working on this for months. I just wonder if you tally your hours, and how that works with commissioning.

    This is truly a marvel to behold! I hope you swell with pride when you look at it!

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  101. Your medallion is exquisite. I was amazed at how much the material cost was. Of course, if the material is not completely used in one project, then it can probably be used for other projects which would technically reduce the cost of the medallion.

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  102. I thought it would be more and think the cost was really reasonable given the amazing one of a kind piece of art that you created. Awesome job. Heather

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  103. I have to admit, I’m mostly shocked at the price of the linen. $90 a yard! I’m in Australia, and mostly see linen going from between $10-$45 a metre – if the linen you use different from the linen used for clothing?

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  104. Dear Mary,
    The Medallion is just exquisite!
    450 hours; as in all things crafty you will never be fully paid for your time. But what a thing of beauty it will be around for heaven knows how long. It is a wonderful legacy so it is especially hard to put a price on. I don’t think the cost of materials is too much.
    I assumed that you would price it by maybe calculating the cost of materials and then add “a figure” for your time, if the quote was by the hour would you be able to add in unpicking and just thinking and worrying about it (lol)

    You deserve a gold star for completing your homework, well done.
    Sandy

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  105. I am very interested in your costing from the point of not selling yourself short.

    You have done the right thing by whole and not part there of.

    you have created a most beautiful piece of art and don’t forget there is yet to add the miscellaneous.

    then I hope that in order to sew this is the wage compartment. Not sure of American wages but you should I feel, charge a Master craftmans wage as you certainly are a competant master in your field.
    Never blush or make excuses for you charges they are what they are my only concern is, that you did not say if you had a set price or limit for the commission?!

    Mary well done and congraulations for an outstanding beautiful piece of embroidery.

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  106. This is all most interesting to me. I did some currency conversions (to Euros) and regret to say that every single one of your materials would have been much more expensive over here, like double perhaps? And quite a few would have had to be shipped from the States so the postage would have been even more.

    But as a couple of your commentators pointed out, when one loves a hobby / art form, you pay what you have to to create what it is you have envisaged. And if you can’t afford the best, then you substitute until you manage to bring it within your price range. Truth is, I expect that if you were a millionaire you could have spent LOADS more on materials!!!!!

    Anyhow, its so very beautiful, and most inspiring….now where is the husband’s credit card???

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  107. Your work is wonderful I thought the materials would cost a bit more.Since I do cloth dolls and quilts I know that the work itself can never be totally appreciated. I hope you get a very good price for all the time and effort you have put into this project. Thank you for sharing your good days and bad days.

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  108. I just wrote you a HUGE email and before I could press the submit button, the whole letter disappeared.

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  109. Speaking of costs and extravagance I thought that the article in Quilter’s Newslettter June/July 2012 was great. A quilter from AUstrailia had made a Victorian Crazy Quilt and priced out the hourly rate and costsd and put a price tag on it of ove $70,000 American, more to let people think about it with no real thiught that anyone would buy it. She was wrong, a art collector bought it for her price. I share this as incentive for thoseof you who wonder how to price your work. Pick a value that you believe you are worth and multiply it by the hour or the square inch or how ever you choose to price your work and let the market show you if you are right. You can always lower the price if no one bites, but raising your price after you have put a lower price on it does not happen very often. I recently had someone from a church altar guild tell me she would not let me do the work to hem a large curtain for the price I offered and paid me twice what I thought I was worth. I know that my hourly rate is right on target for what people are willing to pay after that, even though at times people have told me I am expensive, I know I get way too much work to be over priced, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that people are willing to pay more than I thought.

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  110. I’m surprised that the cost was so little! With 450 hours of work into it, I don’t see how anyone could afford to do this work and sell it. At your level of expertise, you’d be giving away your work at $30 an hour, which would make the finished medallion $14,000 at cost. Under normal pricing conditions, that would make the ultimate price at least $28,000!

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