Cost of Needlework Patterns

Chartpack-GeoDreams2After the kit cost breakdown, I promised you a breakdown of pattern cost. Happy to do it, especially after seeing yet another two arguments about how “my sharing my copy online doesn’t hurt the designers” in groups I’m in. I’m generally an optimistic lady, but I’m starting to get very frustrated.

Cross stitch charts are expensive. But they are only a drop of what we pay to create our masterpieces. And your favorite designers get very little of the cost of that chart. Let’s break it down…We’ll use a printed chart pack that retails for $14.00, a pretty standard price these days.

  1. To start with, we can drop that retail price down to $7.00, because the wholesale price is generally 1\2 of retail. (Don’t blame the shops. They’ve got an ENTIRE set of additional expenses to keep open so you can pet fibers, charts and fabric in person, and generally aren’t taking home more than I do per chart…)
  2. That actually wouldn’t be too bad for me. But most shops don’t have time to research and purchase from individual designers. So I have to sell that chart to a distributor.  Distributors usually pay about 30-40% of WHOLESALE to the manufacturer, in this case, me. Let’s assume the best and take 40%. That’s $2.80 of 7.
  3. NOW I get to begin deducting my costs. First, let’s take the plastic hang-bag. Yeah, I buy them wholesale. But it’s still 10 cents or so. So Now I’m at 2.70.
  4. Paper. I use good quality paper, because I want you to be able to use your chart for a while, and I had a medieval theme going when I started – so I used natural parchment. This is 4 cents a page, and a simple 14.00 chart is going to run about 8 pages. So. There goes another 32 cents. Now I’m at 2.38.
  5. Printing. I print my own. Most designers didn’t have that luxury until relatively recently, and had to pay for huge print runs at a printer, leaving them stuck with (and taxable for) whatever stock didn’t sell. It runs an average of 9 cents a page when I figure in the color page at the beginning. (It used to be that I also had to pay 30 cents for a print of the model photo and glue it to the front page. This is better by far!) So. 72 cents more for the printing. And that doesn’t actually include the cost of the printer, which will need replaced when it wears out… Now I’m at 1.66.
  6. Ah. Intangibles. I’m responsible for shipping costs to the distributor. That varies, but usually runs in at about $20.00 per 150 charts  or so. I can figure with that. That’ about 14 cents a pattern. So deduct that. Now I’m down to 1.52.
  7. Out of that 1.52 a pattern I still have to pay the electricity bill, taxes (self-employment as well as standard income taxes, and BOTH halves of my FICA), whatever I paid a model stitcher, cost of those per chart are dependent on how many charts actually sell…. THEN I can think about paying my mortgage and eating.
 Oh, and did I mention that the aforementioned distributors don’t actually BUY the patterns from me? They take them and sell them to the shops on consignment, and claim a number of them for themselves without payment for their records and to use in their marketing efforts. Sometimes I get a box of unsold charts back with a “sorry”. But the expense is still there.

And yes, I might still be able to save a few pennies by having someone else print the charts… but there’s a downside to that, too. To lower the price, I’d need to order at least 5000 copies. While I know designers who have, *I* have never sold 5000 copies of one chart! And if I have printed stock on hand, I have to pay additional taxes on inventory at the end of the year!!!!

So that’s why my charts are so expensive (and from discussions with other designers, my numbers aren’t much different from theirs). When someone copies one and gives it to thousands of their friends on social media or the sharing (should be called stealing) sites, they are taking away another 40 cents or so PER time that chart is DOWNLOADED that could go to paying my mortgage. Or for dinner. So I can create another design without taking another office job that will eat up my designing time and my soul. It’s no wonder designers are getting burned out even more these days than they did when printing was so much more expensive.

Edited to Add:

An acquaintance online was kind enough to point out that I left out the cost of materials (some of them come from the manufacturers gratis as a thanks for designing with them, but many many others don’t). I also left out the cost of finishing/framing/making up the model and the time to photograph it and fiddle with it in the computer until it looks like the stitching so you know what you’re getting!  So include the cost of computer and software, too.  When a designer says they only make 40 cents or so on a pattern, they mean it!

If this isn’t enough, you can see the analysis of kit prices, too!
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7 Responses to Cost of Needlework Patterns

  1. Thanks so much for doing this breakdown costing of chart packs (and the previous post about kit costs too). I’m sure most stitchers just don’t realise the costs involved, but even though I produce kits and charts too, it’s actually quite shocking to see it explained like this! And yes, it is so demoralising when you see your own designs being ‘shared'(stolen), and posted for free online.

  2. I AGREE 100% .
    The people who thoughtlessly copy and pass on charts are no better than someone going into a shop and stealing the pattern. There has been a lot of discussion recently, some of which has been very heated and unpleasant, about Copyright and Designers rights. It seems so clear to me, I don’t understand why other people struggle to see the right and wrongs of the situation, legally as well as morally. Are there really so few principled people around today that we have to explain why it’s wrong to copy & pass on charts ? My kids are adults now with young children of their own so I asked them what they thought and they both agreed copying is the same as stealing. I am so glad they have the sense of what’s right and wrong I tried to instill in them. Now if only all the parents in the world taught a sense of honesty rather than a sense of entitlement maybe the situation would improve.
    I know you don’t design purely for the money, but for the joy, pleasure, satisfaction and art of it, but no-one should think they can take money out of your pocket just because it’s easy and safe (at a distance on the internet) to do.
    Sorry for the rant, but things like this really get my goat. Grow up people, do what’s right.

  3. WOW that is a lot of money to publish a chart. I knew it wasn’t cheap but I had no idea about some of the costs. I will not complain again about the cost of a chart and I respect the copyright and only make a copy for my working copy and destroying it once finished. Thank you for not giving up on designing; I can imagine how frustrating it can be!

  4. Excellent post. I do get so frustrated when I hear people share copies of designs, thinking that it won’t hurt the designer. Most designers barely get buy earning an income for which they and their family live off by the income that comes from their designs. Thanks for writing this post and sharing your perspective.


  5. You didn’t mention the color photo that accompanies most designs. Sometimes, (rarely) the charts are in color which is more

    • Thought I did… Oh yeah. See #5: printing. I no longer print a color photo, but it was 30 cents when I did. Now the color printing page off my printer works out to about 8 cents a sheet, so when I have color instructions or charts (which I do sometimes) my printing cost goes up…

  6. Another brilliant post, which I’ll be sharing. I’ve gone down the downloadable PDF route, which does lessen some of the costs for customers but, as a designer, I’m trusting my customers not to print loads of copies and sell them on.

    As I stitch up my own models (to spot the errors in the first draft of the chart!) I’m nowhere near breaking even when you consider the hourly cost of my time and the materials and framing. I do it because I love working with colour and I’ve got something to say that I can’t say in my day job as a writer.

    What saddens me is the number of people who seem to think designers are wrong for pointing out that copyright belongs to them.

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