1. It’s a hobby.

I spend what I can afford for a hobby or leisure activity, and that way I don’t need to “recover” any of the costs. I can take all the time I want, and not worry about charging for my hours or the costs escalating.

2. I make what I want to make.

Unless a buyer had exactly the same tastes as me, I would have to compromise and make something I didn’t want to make. I’m just not prepared to reduce my enjoyment of making in order to sell.

3. I get a buzz out of giving to charity.

I make big quilts, but I make smaller lap sized quilts. Periodically I sort through these and give some away – to friends, as raffles for fundraisers, Project Linus, or any other charity appeal that takes my fancy.

4. I’m not a quilting business.

This is the most important reason. I have been in business as a crafter. I understand that you have to act as a business – buying materials and tools at trade rates wherever possible, knowing your target market and what products (yes, your quilts will become “products”) they will buy.

Most importantly, you have to “make to sell” – designing your product so you can make it cost effectively, which almost always means compromise– either sourcing cheaper materials, using simpler techniques, or modifying the design to make it quicker and easier to produce.

For example, my original design for Tweedy Bears were the smaller completely hand sewn ones in the picture. My compromise was to increase the size, machine sew, thread joint, and hand finish. I also purchased boxes for them wholesale. I produced these in quantity (about 500 or more before I stopped) and sold at a price that made a realistic income for the hours involved.

My owls were another design compromise. The size allowed 6 to be cut from two 10 inch squares of fabric, I used recycled button eyes, and filled with rice – knowing that my main buyer was not quilters, but people using them as paper weights or ornaments. At £3 each, even with the local craft outlet’s commission deducted, there was still a good profit on my time and materials and they sell well. If I was making one as a gift for a quilting friend, I might do it differently.

You can download the owl pattern here

You have to be business-like in your dealings – contracts for commissioned work, accurate quotes, business accounts, tax, advertising and marketing (which takes up far more time than you think), business insurance, understanding product safety and quality issues, and more – and this applies to part time businesses as well. Making to sell is not something to enter into lightly, though as I have experienced, can be a wonderful job if you go into it with eyes wide open.

Small quilted wall hangings made for the local tourist market

And for the record, I couldn’t find a way to make those bags in the header image cost effectively, so they just got given to friends I knew would appreciate them.

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