Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why handmade is "so expensive"

I recently found this blog post and just HAD to share it with you. 
For the original blog post, go HERE
“$70 for a t-shirt?!”
“I love your website, but everything on it is overpriced!”
“Your stuff is too expensive.”
“Are you rich or something?”
“I could make that for $5.”

“Sorry, but that’s a rip-off.”
“$80 for a hoodie? You’re not Gucci.”
I’ve heard it all. At first it hurt my feelings and made me worry that my prices were too high. Now it only baffles me that someone would say something so rude. This is my job. It may not be like your job. I don’t have a boss or regular hours, and I don’t have to drive to work or even get dressed for it (heh), but this is how I pay the bills.
I’m always tempted to asked these people, “How about I come down to where you work and tell your boss you’re overpaid?” Because that’s essentially what they’re saying.
But I’m too polite to do that.
Instead I decided to write this article to shed some light on the work that all of us that run a handmade business are doing… including all the behind-the-scenes stuff you probably never even think about. (And that some of us don’t charge for.)
Sure, some people will still be rude doucheballoons. That’s life. But maybe I can just make a few people think, “Oh, I hadn’t realized how much work goes into that!”

Step 1: The design phase
I sketch most of my ideas before I start cutting. Sometimes it’s completely spontaneous. I just start doodling and see where it takes me. Other times I have exactly what it will look like all planned out, and I want to get it down on paper so I don’t forget anything.
It’s usually just a quick scribble of pen or pencil on paper. Other times I take more time. I’ll add color with colored pencils or do the sketch 4 or 5 times before nailing down a particular design.
Since most of my sketches are quick, we’ll say the total time spent sketching one piece is 5 minutes.

As you can see, my sewing skills do not translate to pencil and
paper skills.
Sketching: 5 minutes

Step 2: The drafting phase
Unlike a commercial outfit, I don’t have each of my patterns drawn up in every single size.  For custom orders, I redraft my pattern each time to match the customer’s measurements.
Likewise, even for non-custom pieces, I don’t have patterns for each possible combination of styles I make. For example, I have a single t-shirt pattern that I customize depending on whether or not I’m making a tank top, a hoodie, or a tee. I don’t have one scoopneck pattern, one v-neck pattern, and one crewneck pattern. I have one pattern for a t-shirt that I change each time I use it, depending on what I’m making.

Random tip: I like using old Tyvek envelopes for patterns
because it won't rip!
This shirt is pretty simple, so it only took about 15 minutes

Step 3: The cutting phase
This is another step that varies from piece to piece. My fairytale coats take at least 2 hours to cut because there are so many pieces. A simple tube top might take me 20 minutes. A zip-up hoodie takes an hour or more.

Start snipping!
Again, this one is pretty simple, so it only took 30 minutes

To read the complete post, click here, but the main idea in a nutshell is this...

Grand total
Sketching: 5 minutes
Drafting: 15 minutes
Cutting: 30 minutes
Sewing: 75 minutes
Photographing: 13 minutes
Measuring: 5 minutes
Photo-editing: 30 minutes
Listing: 15 minutes
Marketing: 20 minutes
Shipping: 10 minutes

218 minutes or 3 hours and 38 minutes. At $20 an hour, that’s $73. That’s only time/labor. Materials for this top cost $18, bringing our total to $91. Now go see what it’s actually listed for on my website.
Yep… $75. Less if it sells during a sale.

This article is just so great, isn't it? Next time you think that an artist's work is expensive, please remember that this is their job. This is their way of paying their bills and it's definitely not easy! The most important thing to remember when supporting handmade is that you aren't padding some big CEO's pockets. You are supporting the artists who create these things with their love and talents. If you love the items created, then chances are you love the artists who create them too. That bond is what makes handmade items special and what makes them worth the price.


  1. Awesome post Rebecca. Kudos to you for standing up and for breakin' it down.

  2. Thank you! Her post was just too awesome to not share. This is a message that needs to be spread to as many people as possible.

  3. Bravo--people just don't understand that it actually takes a lot of time from start to finish to create what we make--and our time is as valuable as anyone else's!

  4. totally agree. it's so funny that we should have stumbled over this article at about the same time! :o)