What determines the price of a handmade item?
I’ve heard it said (or whispered) dozens of times at craft fairs. “It’s pretty but it’s so expensive!” Yes, handmade items are going to cost more than something you can buy at your local giant discount store. Mass marketed products that come from China are cheap. Handmade items can’t be cheap. And here’s why:
Every handbag I make uses about a yard of quality quilting fabric. It runs somewhere around $10 – $12 a yard at my local fabric store. I try to only buy it when it’s on sale orwhen I have a coupon. That can sometimes bring my cost down to around $6 a yard. Every bag requires at least a 1/2 yard of interfacing and a 1/2 yard of batting or a fleece lining. Add another $5 per yard for that. A spool of thread is $3-$5. You want your bag to have a zipper? Add $4-$5 for one 12″ zipper. Bead trim? $5 a yard –.IF I’ve found a great sale. Then there’s the cost of the pattern. While that piece is reusable, there is still an initial investment of anywhere from a few dollars to almost $20 for a handbag pattern. Pearls, vintage buttons, doilies, lace trims, ribbons…they all add to the cost of the finished product. Cha ching, cha ching, cha ching! Before I even begin the project I have a minimum of $20–usually more–invested in materials.
I next consider how long it takes me to produce the item. Cutting out a pattern and then pinning, cutting fabric, and sewing the simplest handbag will take several hours. Sewing a bag that is more complicated can take a couple of days. Bags which are embellished with things like buttons and rhinestones– those additions are all sewn on by hand and it is a time consuming process. I can easily put 8 hours of work into a bag from start to finish. When you go to work at your job for 8 hours how much money do you expect to make? Crafters and artists also have bills to pay and they need to charge enough for the pieces they create to make it worth the time they have invested. Even so, most crafters charge for only a fraction of their time and many are lucky if they make minimum wage.
When you buy a handmade item you are supporting a local artist. You’re getting a high quality product that is built to last. You’re helping the environment by buying a product that hasn’t been manufactured in a huge factory and one that hasn’t been shipped halfway around the globe. “Go green!”
Yes, you can buy cheaper products manufactured in China. But before you leave your next craft fair or Etsy shop empty handed, I hope you will consider paying a little more and supporting a hand made artist. Your purchase may cost you a little more, but it will also certainly be a higher quality and more interesting and unique, one-of -a- kind find that you’ll be excited to show your friends.