Thursday, April 26, 2018

Squealing Over Scalloped Borders for My $10,000 Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt!

First of all, thank you so much, all of you who have been weighing in with advice and opinions about my pineapple log cabin quilt.  I got a good night's sleep last night for a change, and woke up with some fresh new ideas buzzing around in my brain.  I think this is my final, FINAL design plan for this quilt, and I couldn't wait to share it with you because I'm SO STINKIN' EXCITED about it!

5 x 6 Layout Plus Half Block Border and Scalloped Edges.  LOVE!!
I'm so giddy; it's like I've just down a gallon of high-test espresso (I swear I've only had one latte today).

(I apologize for the poor quality of that picture, by the way.  There is probably a way to add half blocks and scallop the borders in EQ8, but I don't have time to learn how to do it right now so here's what I did instead.  I added an additional row and an additional column of pineapple log cabin blocks in EQ8 for an 8 x 7 layout.  Then I printed a photo of that design directly from EQ8 with my inkjet printer, cut the outer blocks down the middle with scalloped edges with a scissors, and drew my coral binding onto the edges with a red Sharpie marker.  I lost a lot of resolution when I scanned the printed photo back into my computer so I could share it with you).

Here's why I love this design:

  • It's a really clean and simple layout visually, keeping all of the attention on the impactful pineapple log cabin blocks.  And what I loved about this 19th century quilt, what made me want to create my own version of it in the first place, is how utterly MODERN this design looks when I update the color palette.  I mean, do you look at that design and think, "Oh, it's another 19th century reproduction quilt?"
  • Adding the half blocks further emphasizes the secondary pattern that emerges when multiple pineapple blocks are combined.  Now it looks like the blue and green "stars" are the blocks -- no more "half stars" all the way around the edges of the quilt like I had when I only had full pineapple blocks.
  • What I most love about the pineapple log cabin block, especially when it's pieced with skinny little 3/4" finished strips like mine, is the strong illusion of curved lines.  I'm able to bring that out even more by scalloping the borders of the quilt.
  • This design gets me to the size I need to fit my bed properly even if I have 10% shrinkage.
  • The partial block, scalloped edge border is my own idea, not something I got from anyone else.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with following quilt patterns exactly, but I personally get a much bigger thrill out of seeing my own ideas come to life in fabric.  So this design also gets bonus points (yes, I am giving myself bonus points now) for being more original than just adding another row of blocks or slapping on some kind of border.
  • I've never made a quilt with scalloped borders before and I'm looking forward to giving it a try!  I like to learn new things with every project.

So, here's the nitty-gritty about the sizing:

Doing My Quilt Math
The partial blocks in my border are a bit larger than half blocks, more like 5/8 blocks, because I wanted to grab all of the red center square from each block and then curve it out even more to get the neutrals in my scallops.  Each full block finishes at about 17 3/4", but my partial blocks will add 10" to each side at the SP (short point -- the edge of the red square) and 13" at the DP (deepest part of the scallop).  So my 5 x 6 layout with partial blocks added to all four sides should result in a quilt top of approximately: 

126.5"SP/132.5"DP wide x 108.75"SP/114.75"DP long BEFORE QUILTING

When I factor in 10% shrinkage from moderate to severe longarm quilting plus laundering, I estimate a finished quilt of approximately:

113.75"SP/119.25"DP wide x 97.75"SP/103.25"DP long AFTER QUILTING

In yesterday's post, I calculated my personal minimum dimensions for a finished quilt that would completely cover my extra deep pillow top mattress on all three sides.  Those dimensions were 104" wide x 100" long.  At first glance, you might be thinking that I'm cutting it too close with the lengthwise dimension, since my new plan would result in a quilt that ends up to be 2.25" shorter than my calculated minimum length.  However, when I put the quilt on the bed I'm going to be aligning the deep point of the scallops with the top edge of the mattress -- I'm not going to pull the red squares all the way up to the top mattress edge and then have the scallops extending off the cliff, so to speak.  (If you need a visual on that, scroll back up to my math photo and check out my little diagram in the lower left corner of my scrap paper).  The difference between the SP and the DP on each partial block is 3", so if I align the DP with the top edge of the mattress, I actually exceed my minimum length to cover my mattress by 3/4" at the short point, even factoring in 10% shrinkage.  The perfectionist interior design tyrant within me is adequately satisfied that this design will result in a beautiful custom fit for my bed.

...And Now What, You Ask?

Well, I've already spent approximately 216 hours piecing 36 blocks for this quilt so far (that does not count any of the time prewashing or cutting cutting up fabric into strips, shopping for fabrics, or any of the considerable design time that I've invested in this project).  And now I have a design that calls for only 30 complete quilt blocks plus 4 quarter blocks and 22 half blocks.  Unfortunately, that means that 6 of my finished blocks are going to get cut apart and 3/8 of each of those blocks will be wasted.  Ah, the curse of mathematics -- naturally I had to calculate how much time I spent on the portion of the blocks that will now be cut off and scrapped.  I will be removing and discarding 3/8 of each block.  I spent 6 hours piecing each of these blocks, and 3/8 of 6 hours is 2 hours and 15 minutes wasted per block.  Multiplied by 6 blocks getting amputated into partial blocks, that means I have wasted a whopping 13 1/2 hours.  Please join me in a moment of silence while I mourn 13 1/2 hours of my life that I can never get back again.

Thank you.  Moving on!

So my corner quarter blocks are actually 3/8 blocks, and my half blocks are really 5/8 blocks.  If each full block took 6 hours to piece, then each 5/8 block should take me 3 hours and 45 minutes and each 3/8 corner block should take me 2 hours and 15 minutes to piece.  I have 6 full blocks that I am going to dismember into 5/8 blocks so that means I only need to make 16 more of those, plus 4 of the 3/8 corner blocks...

Okay, Math, I'm ready to be friends again.  Let's have some fun!

My estimated remaining piecing time for this quilt top is 69 hours for the partial blocks plus however long it takes me to lay out the blocks the way I want them and piece them together into a quilt top, carefully pinning and matching all of those seams along the edges of each block -- easily another 10 hours there. When all is said and done, I will have spent well over 300 hours piecing this quilt top, plus at least 5 hours cutting fabric and a good 10 hours or more (VERY conservative estimate) in design time.  Now, my hourly rate interior design services ranges from $95-150/hr depending on the project, but I know the commission quilt market doesn't support those rates.  The average Money Center Clerk at Walmart -- kind of like a Head Cashier, with additional responsibilities beyond a regular sales associate, is making $25 per hour here in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they even get benefits on top of that.  So I'm going to be generous and quote my labor at just $25/hr for this example, as if designing and creating a quilt like this was something any cashier at Walmart could do.  If I was making this quilt for hire and I charged $25 per hour for my skilled design and piecing labor, this quilt would cost $7,8750 in labor alone, not including any cost for materials.  But a pieced quilt top still has a long way to go before it's a finished quilt, doesn't it?  Once the blocks have all been made and pieced into a quilt top, there would be a labor charge for layering the quilt top with batting and backing fabric, quilting through all three layers, and for making and attaching the scalloped, hand stitched binding.  This quilt will be custom quilted for sure, and the going rate for custom quilting is around five cents per square inch and up.  My California King quilt top will be 13,680.625 square inches before quilting, so that works out to a minimum custom quilting labor charge of $684.  Most professional longarm quilters would probably have a surcharge for the scalloped borders as well, since they will require special handling throughout the loading and quilting process, but I'm not factoring that in right now.  A professional longarm quilter is also going to charge a flat fee of about $35 to cut and join enough bias binding strips for this enormous quilt, and the scalloped edge will increase the required amount of binding by about 50% (I know this from calculating material requirements for a bazillion window treatments with scalloped edges over the years -- just trust me).  So this quilt will require approximately 668" of binding.  Again, looking at published current rates charged by professional longarm quilters, a typical labor charge for machine stitching regular straight binding to the front of a quilt is 11 cents per inch, but binding a curved edge without puckers and pleats is MUCH more involved, so I'm going to double that and go with 22 cents per inch.  That would make it $147 to machine stitch bias binding to the front of this enormous quilt -- but the binding will need to be stitched down to the BACK of the quilt completely by hand, with tiny invisible applique stitches spaced about 1/16" apart.  As I discovered when I timed myself stitching the binding by hand on my Math Is Beautiful quilt, hand stitched binding takes a REALLY LONG TIME!  There is a reason why my professional drapery workroom charged in the neighborhood of $40 per yard or $40/hr for hand stitching trim!  Since it took me 6 hours to hand stitch 200" of binding on my Math Quilt, I can confidently estimate that the scalloped binding on THIS quilt will take me about 20 hours to hand stitch.  So that's another $760 in labor to finish the binding by hand.  Are you keeping track of these numbers as we go along?  We're up to $9,501 in labor alone for this quilt.

And yet, not being Rumplestiltskin, I cannot spin gold out of straw or make a quilt without materials.  Based on the yardage requirements in the Fons & Porter pattern, this quilt uses approximately one yard of fabric per block for the top, binding, and backing.  My whole and partial blocks for this quilt design add up to 45 total complete blocks, so that would equate to roughly 45 yards of fabric required to make this quilt.  Although I did use some fabulous individually marbled hand dyed fabric that go for $42/yd, most of my fabrics were commercially dyed prints priced around $11.75/yd, so that's the number I'll use in my calculations.  45 Yards x $11.75/yd = $528.75 for fabric.  It cost me $118 to to print all fifty-six 18" x 18" foundation paper piecing patterns on the large format printer at the FedEx Office shop.  I'll need 5 yards of Quilter's Dream 120" wide batting for this quilt at $20 per yard plus shipping, so that's $120, and I may use a layer of Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Polyester batting as well for additional warms as well as to ensure that I get a nice "puff" between my quilting stitches.  At 5 yards of 120" wide 80/20 batting x $13/yd plus shipping, that would add another $75 to the cost of this quilt.  Finally, throughout the entire process of piecing, quilting, and binding, I'm going to add in $50 worth of needles and thread.  That's probably a very conservative figure, considering that there are 97 seams in every single block and I need different colors and weights of thread for piecing, quilting, and binding.  So my materials for this quilt come out to $773.75 plus 7.25% North Carolina Sales Tax -- and my grand total for materials for this quilt comes out to $829.85.  

$9,501 Labor + $829.85 Materials = $10,330.85

Wow.  Outlandish, you say?  Before doing all the math, if someone had asked me to make them a quilt just like this one I might have thought $5,000 was a fair price, and I would have felt uncomfortable asking for even that much compensation.  But with $829.85 of that eaten up by the cost of materials, that $5,000 figure means I would be working on someone else's project for 380 hours, and giving up 380 hours of MY precious free time -- nine and a half full, forty-hour work weeks -- for less than the $11/hr a fast food worker gets for taking your order at McDonald's.  And forget about making this quilt for someone else for free, just passing along the cost of materials.  Would you have the nerve to ask anyone, even one of your closest friends, to spend that much time working on something for you "as a favor," just because they know how to do it and you don't?  I wouldn't ask an accountant friend to do my taxes for free, and I wouldn't ask a plastic surgeon friend for a free tummy tuck, even though that would be only asking for a few hours of their time -- not 380 hours!  ;-)  Yes, $10,000 is the minimum commission I would accept to make this quilt as a commission for someone else.  When I finish making it, I think I'll get it appraised.  It will be interesting to see how close my estimate is to what an appraiser would come up with.  

But even if someone offered me $10,000 to make this quilt for them, I would still probably turn them down. 

That's right.  By accepting a commission at all, even one that pays me fairly for my time, I would still be giving up my stress-relieving hobby that keeps me sane, trading those restorative hours in my studio for endless boring and stressful hours spent making something for someone else, worrying over every little imperfection...  With a commission quilt, all of the design work would need to be completed and agreed upon up front, too.  I would lose creative control.  I couldn't completely change the setting midway through the project or do a completely different quilting plan on a whim.  I'd probably be working with colors and fabrics I didn't really love, either, and that's going to affect how much I enjoy or despise the time I spend on the project.  

So, how DOES anyone get Rebecca to make a quilt for them if she won't even do it for $10,000?

Remember Jeff Burmbeau and Gail De Marcken's wonderful 1999 picture book, The Quiltmaker's Gift?

That king wanted the quiltmaker to make him a quilt more than anything.  He was rich, so he offered her all kinds of money, and he was all-powerful, so he even threatened her with imprisonment and drowning, but she still said no.

I Love This Book.  :-)
Like the quiltmaker in the story, I'm am probably not going to make you a quilt for any amount of money.  BUT -- If you love me, if you are one of those special people who shine light into my darkness, who care for me when I need to be cared for, or who look out for my children when I can't be there to watch over them myself -- if you are one of those truly amazing people, I might just sneak up behind you one day and wrap one of my quilts around your shoulders for free.  

And now I'm off to Ardrey Kell High School to see my son perform in the first evening's competitions of the Improv Olympics!  Yippee!

I'm linking up with:


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

What can I say but WOW -- the design is great - your numbers- well most people do not know what goes into a quilt do they. I use quilters dream batting and pay less than your figure though - I can get a king size 120x120 batting for about $45-50 - you might want to check into that in case you can save a little bit there. So nice that you have your long arm now so you can save on the quilting too.

Quilting Nonnie said...

I think it's worth every penny! You only counted up fabric, material etc. If selling, you have to add a margin of profit. Do think of a percentage and add that too! I absolutely love those scallops! What a gorgeous quilt!

Rebecca Grace said...

My quilt top will be 132”, so a packaged 120x120 batting is too small. That’s why I’m planning on ordering 5 yards of 120” wide batting from a bolt, to accommodate the longest dimension of the quilt without piecing the batting.

the momma said...

yes Yes YES!!! This is definitely the way to enlarge this. Woohoo!! Thank goodness you got a good night's sleep!! It's going to be fabulous!!!!

I make commissioned quilts for pay, and I only charge a measly $10 per hour, plus materials (and I'm sure I estimate low on those....) and still I feel badly about my prices (I fully believe the quality of my work is worth that and more, but still - it's a lot of money for 'a blanket' (rolls eyes) in my neck of the woods!!) I donate my earnings, and I believe in the ministry of the organization I donate to, so that helps me not lower prices further - to my mind, the women are worth $10 a hour, even if people think *my* services aren't..... I would say that over half of the people that ask about me making them a quilt, end up not wanting one after all, once we've discussed price.

Unknown said...

Wow the layout is very nice! Love it!

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks. :-). If I was making quilts as a business, I’d purchase fabrics wholesale and the markup to retail pricing would give me that profit. That’s how it works in the interior design industry, too.

Rebecca Grace said...

If you enjoy making commission quilts, you should absolutely charge whatever you feel comfortable with that your market will bear. However, how long have you been doing this? You get better and better every year. Maybe you deserve a raise due to your greater expertise compared to when you started? If you gave yourself a 20% raise to just $12/hr, you would be able to donate the same amount of quilting profit to charity even if your higher prices scared away one in every 5 potential commissions— and you’d have 20% more free time to work on your own projects!

Caroline said...

LOVE the scalloped edges, LOVE how you mocked it up, and LOVE all your calculations!

shoshu said...

it's beautiful, your final choice is the BEST. BUT... don't mourn the "wasted" hours,without them, you wouldn't have gotten to where you are now. yes, to someplace else, but not here. think of them as stepping stones that sunk into the creek behind you as you passed! great when you needed,them and gone now that you're someplace else!

SJSM said...

You did it! A fabulous new option. Isn’t it amazing how the mind works on a problem while you sleep? Your solution is an epiphany from that REM state of mind. Congrats on the break through.

chrisknits said...

My MIL, who I love, is always trying to get me to knit a blanket for some other person who I have no physical, spiritual, or mental connection with. She did it again this past weekend. She sees me knit baby blankets for each of her great-grands, my great-nieces/nephews, and probably doesn't understand when I say I don't knit baby blankets. I need to start saying I don't knit them for people I do not love. Baby blankets = 600-1000 yards of yarn. I don't even have any idea how much time that means, and I don't want to know. LOL

Janice Holton said...

Rebecca, NO! NO! NO! Those cut off pieces of half blocks will not be wasted hours down the drain! Save them and make an improv pillow or baby quilt out of them. If you don't want to do that, send them to me and I'll do it. I can't bear to have you throw them out. By the way, your new design is absolutely perfect. And congrats to you for such a brilliant solution!

Preeti said...

I have that book. A non-quilty friend gave it to me. I love it.
One day this quilt of yours will be an heirloom piece, and then $10K is just peanuts :-)

Jenny K. Lyon said...

And those who are lucky enough to be in that circle are blessed by your quilts. I LOVE the solution to the border!!!

KaHolly said...

I have that book, too. It’s one of my prized possessions. I love your quilt even more, now. Janice has a great idea!

Lynette said...

Hi, Rebecca!! You said it so very perfectly there at the end, regarding whether I'll make a quilt for someone or not. :) I made a king size double wedding ring quilt in the traditional manner for our 25th anniversary a few years ago and kept careful track of the time and expense it required, and that quilt also came out to just over 10K. When I shared it on Facebook, I even stated up front that before anyone asked me to make one for them or joked that it might turn up at their house, that its materials-and-time cost was that much - and if anyone was willing to pay that price, they were free to ask me. I was very confident nobody would, so I was safe. :D :D (P.S. I've been overwhelmed in real life and away from blogging for a few weeks - had to come check on your place first off as I sit here and dive back into my bloggy world.)

colleen said...

You know I have tried to encourage you to make these pineapple blocks. I have not read this long post but I will I just skimmed through it.
Making quilts for others I only make quilts I want to make and I do give to babies of people I love and I am making some special doll quilts with a friend to give to children who are physically
The first quilt I made completely my self I gifted to my husband for Christmas and his response was well ..... he was disappointed..... he was looking forward to his usual slippers.
That was my fault I should have gifted it to me.
Now back to read about my beloved pineapple 🍍 quilt

colleen said...

Oh my
For some reason I have not been getting/reading your past 3/4 blog posts and these pineapple blocks have been my pet project to encourage you to sew 'em up.

I love the finish design.

For your curved edges you need to do more research

It is my opinion that you don't cut that curve edge until after the binding is sewn onto the quilt.

But it is your quilt/design/thought.

I'd encourage you to use the "extra" whole blocks for custom pillows

For the corner and side blocks I would encourage you to add an extra 2 or 3 inch strip on the outside edge just to have something to hold on to the leaders and the side holders of your quilting machine so you are not pulling on those 3/4 inch pieces

I so want you to finish this quilt this year

Jill said...

Well, Rebecca, this is a very informative and educational post which is appreciated by many. I am math and story-problem challenged. You figured it out perfectly! Time is valuable and should be prioritized. Consumers do not pay for handwork period. I have had three antique quilt appraisals and it is sad the value that is placed on them. They were all totally sewn by hand and in unused condition. The older (American grown and picked) cotton is much softer and colors more vivid than we have available today. I love a scalloped border. Your scallops are gentle so it should not be an issue especially if you use the walking foot mode. All layers will feed evenly. Ask me how I know. :-)

JustGail said...

Your quilt is gorgeous, and I like the scalloped edges. I'm in the camp of don't throw away the pieces you trim off. If you have no ideas right now, let the bits marinate in stash for a bit. I see pillows have been mentioned. What about add to curtains as trim, or window valence? If still nothing, then perhaps someone else may have just the project for them.

It's unfortunate that people put so little value on our time and textile arts & crafts that they'd pay a pittance for hand work, whether it's a quilt, knit or crochet baby blankets, hemming pants, or replacing a button. I'm sure we all have read the many discussions and ventings on how little our time & knowledge is worth to others :-) Thanks for doing the math, even for me it was an eye-opener!

Paula said...

I've loved these blocks since you started making them. Seeing them with the scalloped border design just makes me love them more! I've wanted to make a pineapple quilt for years, and this may be the push I need. I'd love to have a quilt in this design for our bed. Thank you for sharing your lovely work.

Pam said...

This is a WOW! Funny thing about actual costs of something we make. I saw a cute sign the other day...."Why buy it for $7.50 when you can make it for $95.00?" Excluding labor of course. You are going so great on your new long arm.

Mama Spark said...

I don't even know where to begin with the wow factor on this one! It is just beautiful! I adored all the quilt math too. I may need to post a link to this on my FB page. People I know are always asking for quilts and you summed it all up so well. THANK YOU for sharing and this is gorgeous! Can't wait to see how you quilt it.

Sandra Healy Designs said...

Wow! Those figures are amazing and also kind of scary. I have never calculated the cost of making a quilt in that manner before. I'm not entirely sure I want to know! The scalloped edges will look fab. I'm looking forward to hearing how you got on with them.

Duchess B said...

This blog post is just fascinating and so full of information. Embarrassed to say but I started a pineapple log cabin quilt in 2002, I can't believe it was that long ago. This was back when I had a double bed, now I sleep in a twin so there's not so much quilt to make. This post is going to help me figure how to make my quilt the right size. Won't be jumping in to finish this yet as there's a few others to finish first but it sure has moved up the list quite a bit. The scalloped border is definitely a great idea.