WHAT EXACTLY IS THE REAL COST OF SOMETHING HANDMADE?

After having someone comment on how “pricey” my pieces are as compared to stores such as Target or Forever21, I felt compelled to write this. Especially since I believe my pieces are meant to be timeless, but affordable.

Handmade, custom made, one-of-a-kind items are special – they are personal, they are unique and they are not cheap!

I don’t think consumers take into consideration what it means for us who enjoy making handmade items, so maybe I can shed a little insight into the economics of it all.

Before I was comfortable enough to send my work out in the world, I invested hundreds of dollars into classes and into learning material that would allow me to become a knowledgeable sewist (And I still have so, so, so much left to learn). Not to mention, the countless hours of research and sleepless nights that occurred while everyone else was sleeping and the hours missed with my husband and kids. And even tho, I enjoy soaking in all this knowledge, developing this skill is an investment of precious time and money, and that has a real value!

Along with developing my skill, I needed tools. A sewing machine can cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. Mine was only a couple hundred, but you don’t just sew pieces of fabric together – I needed scissors and a rotary mat to cut my fabric. I needed a ruler, seam ripper, pins, needles, bobbins,…and really I could go on and on…but you get the idea right? I’m pretty sure I invested hundreds of dollars on tools alone, over the past 3 years.

So now, I have my tools…but the tools would be useless if I didn’t have fabric to sew. And here’s the biggest cost, fabric costs anywhere between $4.00 to $40.oo dollars per yard (and sometimes higher). The nicer ones are very rarely cheap. Most of my scarves need at least 2.5 yards of fabric and with this, I also need thread which is regularly about $3.00 a spool (specialty threads cost a little more). Threads are supplies that are consumed each time I sew, so I need to keep buying them. Of course I try to shop sales and bargains whenever I can, but they still cost money. I have recently started working with patterns too, and guess what…those cost money as well!

Then when my project is finished, I take the time to style and photograph the item and send to my client as a courtesy. After that, I need to ship it and that costs. Yes, my client pays for the cost of shipping the item to them, but there is a cost for the protective bag I put the item in, and a cost for the shipping envelope and the paper the shipping label is printed on. Then once it’s all packaged, there is also a cost for the gas I use to get to the post office.

All of these costs add up: the investment it takes to build on my skill, the tools and supplies, and the time it takes for me to create and ship out a one-of-a-kind, handmade piece.

I really don’t think you can put a value on a handmade item, especially if it’s a gift, but  the simple truth is, handmade items/gifts are definitely NOT cheap.

4 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Handmade

  1. I agree 100% to what you say. A lot of people think that we just take the fabric and the machine and put the pieces together like that. Oh no, that’s not how it goes, like you said, we have to purchase all of our materials, fabrics, tools, etc. Then we have to maybe learn the measurements of the person you’re sewing for, lay out pattern, or maybe make (sketch) one, cut the pattern/fabric, etc, etc, etc. It’s a lot to being a sewer/seamstress, dressmaker, etc. Purchasing from Target, Walmart or whatever, you’re not going to get the same affect as if you’re purchasing from someone like you, me, or any other sewer. We know.
    I would love to network with a few sewers, and we come up with some type of business, and become a success story. Taking ourselves all the way to the top (New York) style.

    1. Raemelle, so you glad you can relate! But so sorry you also know the pain! lol …It really, truly has been a test of patience and tolerance with me on this issue. But I realized perhaps they really JUST DON”T KNOW what the start to finish looks like. I feel now that I have somewhat explained this, whoever reads it might think twice to take that approach with anyone else who dreams and crafts. Excellent idea about networking! That would be something fabulous! I always say, speak it out into the world…and the world will conspire to make it so! haha!

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