Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The Economics of Dyeing.
In a recent post, I asked you for feedback about pricing hand dyes. Louise said, "I think you're wrong to try to compete pricewise with commercial fabrics. You should instead educate ppl about the individual nature of hand dyed fabrics and quality of fabrics you use so you can get a decent return on your investment in materials, time and expertise. Otherwise you might as wrap them up with a bow (because you're giving them away and not honouring your own work). Just my opinion."
Thanks, Louise. You are absolutely right, in many ways. However, it does depend what you think the cost of commercial fabric actually is. Dyers in the UK are working at a disadvantage compared to dyers in the US; our raw materials cost us significantly more here. Mind you, commercial fabric for quilting, much of it imported from the US, can cost up to £15 a metre; that's $23.50 at time of writing. E-Quilter puts the price of a yard of Hoffman Batik at $11.50, less than half. A typical quilt shop price for a similar batik (I checked) would be £13 or just over $20 per metre. There's a statement to make your eyes water....
Most quilt shops in the UK offer Fat Quarters at about £3. That's the price I also charge for my simple low immersion dyed cloth, like this piece here.
I'm not disrespecting my work; I'm setting the price at what the market will stand. I'm about to make a sweeping statement here, and I'd love to be corrected, but I believe that the average UK quilter doesn't value hand dyes above commercial cloth. Explaining that it's unique, unrepeatable, complex, takes a lot of time and effort to do, just doesn't seem to cut the mustard. People here buy on price. Which is why I don't think I'm likely to sell much cloth that requires more than one process, no matter how lovely I think it is. I've put a couple of Fat Quarters up on Etsy of double dyed fabric, like the piece at the top of the post. I'm charging £4, just to see if anyone will buy. I should probably be charging upwards of £5, but I doubt if anyone would pay that in the UK (or anywhere, come to that)
Despite rises in the price of cloth, I've not been able to raise my prices since I started doing this. I have, of course, got much better at it, and therefore faster, so my time costs are probably lower. Actually typing this, I'm beginning to wonder why I bother, to be truthful. I have no intention of stopping; I just think that I'll stop trying to sell it, and dye for specific projects. That may sound defeatist, but at the end of the day, I have to make what sells. If it doesn't sell, I can't buy more fabric or dye, and on it goes. In a recession, it becomes harder and harder to make money as an artist or craftsperson. I love being able to inspire people; I would love it even more if someone bought some of the inspirational fabric or work from time to time....
I'd love to hear what you think about this topic. What is it about hand dyes that makes them difficult to sell? If you want to see more detail shots of the fabric at the top of the post, you can see them here