Saturday, 14 September 2013

What Price Your Tatting?

This post came about after reading a thread on the In Tatters forum.  The gist of it is, one of the members there was asked by a casual friend to tat a round tablecloth.  At the writing of this post, she has not decided whether to proceed with tatting the tablecloth or not.  If you are a member of In Tatters, you should be able to read all the responses by clicking on this link, Tatting Tablecloth.

I have also been asked a number of times, if I would consider tatting a piece though not as large as a tablecloth.  On each time, my response can be either of the following:

A) I do not have the time to work on anything new at this time.
B) I don't take custom work and would prefer to teach you (the person asking) to tat so you can make your own.
C) I don't think you will agree with the price that I am going to ask from you for the piece.

I know response C) sounds patronising or condescending, but I usually say it with the sweetest of smile. Harsh though it may sound, I think it is still the most to the point.  Let me illustrate this using the Mystery Doily that I am currently working on.

I have been working on this doily for 24 days now, averaging one hour daily.  That makes it 24 hours of tatting.  I am only at one-third of Round 4 and there are two more rounds to go.  Assuming that I may take another 24 hours of tatting to complete the whole doily, that takes me to 48 hours of tatting altogether.  I am assuming the final measurement, using size 40, to be about 24cm wide or 10 inches.

Based on a conservative rate of RM9.00 (USD2.80) minimum hourly wage, I should be charging at least RM432 (USD135) for my time spent.  I am ignoring any material costs for the purpose of this illustration.

Now, another tatter would easily understand the calculations but, to a non-tatter, these charges may seem rather exorbitant.

Now, are you willing to bring down the charges to the expectation of others, or keep to what your worth is?

I am not!


  1. Hrm. I'm with you. I don't do commission knitting, but I'll always offer to help teach them. Doubly so for tatting, which is slower (for me) than knitting lace.

    1. I agree with you, Garpu. Tatting takes up longer time compared to some other fibre craft, something that may not be obvious to some one who does not tat.

  2. I have thus far chosen to tat only for those I care about and wish to give a gift of my time is a time consuming, incredibly beautiful, and heirloom quality craft. I, personally, give my tatting only to those whom I both care enough about and whom I know (or at least hope) will respect the gift that was given. The day may come when I sell my tatting, one can never say never...but thus far, my answer has been no.

  3. Never, never, NEVER bring charges down to a level that means our craft is devalued. I was once demonstrating at Anne Hathaway's Cottage (sorry, name dropping) about 30 years ago and was asked by a passing tourist (lovely American) what I would charge for a huge motif based cloth I was making. It was large. I told him a realistic to me price and I could hardly see him for the smoke trail he left behind as he made a quick exit. If we charge too little we undervalue our craft but having said that I see many small items on Etsy that you could make in a very short time with an extortionate price on them. I think you have to decide whether you love to tat or tat to become rich. I've not yet met a rich tatter!!!

  4. Great subject to bring up! I go to these antique places and buy and find tatting and other lace dirt cheep! and the sad thing is I feel I am the only one who know the time it took! I mostly give tatting to people too! The sad thing is, people that don't tat can not tell the difference in the time/quality of a piece. That is why it is frustrating. And I tat every chance I get and it is recreation for me and we all get better the longer we tat. So like many artiste this will be truly appreciated long after I gone. Finally If selling tatting It's worth what someone is willing to buy it for!

  5. I finished a doily this last spring. 78 and a half hours. My sister in law wanted it. She wanted to know how much and I couldn't tell her. She ended up paying my $500 dollars for it. It ended up measuring 29 1/2 inches around.

  6. Yeah, what Jane said. There's a reason why handmade lace has always been expensive. Non-crafters may look at it and think it's just a bunch of holes surrounded by thread, and they don't understand the time that goes into it, especially when you insist on doing your best quality work. Other fiber artists will understand, but I don't think the general public does.

    Professional musicians get the same thing (I'm talking real musicians, not pop stars). We have this same discussion periodically on the Harplist. People think our music should be free, or nearly free, because we just come to a gig for a couple of hours, and we have fun doing it, right? They don't understand the amount of time we have to spend practicing to get ready for that 2-hour gig, or that we may be playing music we don't want to play to accommodate them, or that hauling a harp around in an evening gown is, in fact, not that much fun. Some people think we should play their event for free because "it will be great exposure for you"; yeah, we have a saying-- you can die of exposure.

    I sometimes play harp for a charity event for free, if it's a cause I really believe in. Likewise, I'm willing to donate my tatting to the sale held by my parents' church, because I know the money is really going to help people who need it. (Besides, it gives me and outlet for my tatting, which would otherwise just pile up in my apartment.) I also give tatting as gifts all the time, but only to people who understand the value of handwork. People who just want something lacy and don't want to pay too much for it would be better off buying something machine-made.

    Like it or not, we live in a world where the amount of money something costs largely determines how much people value it. Therefore, if we want people to value what we do, we must never undercharge for it. And this means that most people won't be willing to pay what we need to ask, and most tatters won't be able to sell much of their tatting (although I greatly admire those who can make a business of it!).

  7. I understand and agree. Many years ago I often would be asked to make something knitted and only a few times was my price agreed upon. I never changed my price for was either agreed or not done...period.. I do my needlework for me or gifts because many do not understand the time, money and expertise involved.

  8. My sentiments exactly too, Jon. And I have used answer #3 often, with the explaination of how many hours it takes to make something, and most here know that minimum wage is about $7.50 USD so the cost for your mystery doily would be $360.00 USD

  9. I think this illustrates the classic concept of amateurism: from the Latin word, Amo,to Love; we work because we love what we are doing.
    Tatting is just not definable in economic terms.

  10. When I think about the fact that lace has always been valued for its beauty, and that in earlier times only the wealthiest could afford it, I am not willing to undervalue my work. My lace may not be perfect, but it is time consuming and I love the way it looks. I also only gift my tatting to those who truly appreciate it.

  11. I completely agree, which is why I don't sell my work. I make it for fun and to give away as gifts. I also don't like the pressure of a deadline. It would ruin the joy of tatting.

  12. Some really thought provoking comments people have given Jon. I agree with my sister, would have to! But was also struck by Miranda's comments as sometimes I do give pieces of my tatting away to raise money for good causes. But Miradas last paragraph hit the nail on the head, and has made me rethink some of my pricing.

  13. I knit, I crochet and I tat. I tatted an alter cloth for a church building, as a service of love. It wasn't that large, but it took over 200 hours to complete. I filet chrochet name doilies. I charge $20.00 as a base price and $10 per letter for the name. I tell them that it takes an hour per letter on average. Very few people have accepted my rates. So when I do make them, I usually give them as gifts of love. My brother is a jewlery designer. We have traded my name doilies for his custom jewlery. I love my rings and ear rings. A good exchange.

  14. I agree teaching them to make their own is more the price they would be willing to pay.

  15. My husband and I do leatherwork, most recently at a large Renaissance Festival. We were in direct competition with a guy who has all his leather items made in China at, I dunno, 10 cents an hour? for the workers . . . He's paying shipping and warehousing and customs and I-don't-know-what-all, so we can actually price our handmade items not too far above him and make, well, *something* for our time. And when people see us making the leather items, they understand Hand Made, and will pay a SMALL premium. But it's frustrating, to see what our competitor is doing.
    I have an acquaintance who's a professional dancer - Raks Sharqi (aka "bellydance"). She's frequently been undercut by students who'll take a gig "for the practice" and price accordingly, or who'll take what the entertainment-provider offers, not knowing any better. This makes it really hard for the pro's, who've devoted years to an *art form,* to make a living or even support their habit (classes and music add up, too). Also gives audiences a lower expectation of what this dance form should look like.
    Same with ANY art form.

  16. oh I so relate with every word you say Jon! I have had numerous frustrating occasions when friends asked me to make something for them and I told them I'd gladly teach it to them.

    I am sharing this post on my fb page! :)


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