I was desperately trying to stay out of this topic. I probably should have, but honestly, I hate it when people complain about the price of plushies.
About a year ago I started toying with the idea of making MLP plushies. I have been sewing since I was a kid, since my family never had enough money to feed itself, much less clothe two children. So my mom taught me to sew. And so began my trek to make MLP plush toys. I figured a couple hundred bucks would square me until I really got up and running. That was a drastically low guess. I started with a sewing machine I got for my wedding. It was simple, but I figured it would do a good enough job. Now I needed an embroidery machine for the eyes, so I dropped 300 dollars on that. I figured I was set.
I bought my first pattern. It was 12 dollars, and because I had never sewn a plushie before, I figured it would be good enough. I started with some cotton fabric my mom had lying around. I made two plushies out of cotton before I figured I was skilled enough to start on fleece. Sewing with fleece was a whole different animal. It stretched differently, and now my plushies were no longer standing. Whatever. Minky was stiffer, so it would all work out.
So I made my started my first plush with minky. However, by this time my sewing machine was being found more and more lacking, so I bought another one. Better, with programable whatever. You can see it in the background of the picture below. 147$
Now, to do all this I needed:2 yards of minky. Figure about 15 bucks apiece full price from Jo-anne's.
Scissors, 2 pairs 18 total
Thread at 4 dollars apiece x5
Curved needles 7$
My sewing machine broke down. At this point I had a choice to make. The embroidery machine I had was possessed. My primary sewing machine needed repairs. I could wait for the repairs, or I could fork over the money and buy a brand new machine (again) fix the other two, and have them as backups. So that's what I did. Another 360 down the hole. I was now out of minky, and still wasn't anywhere close to selling quality. Another couple of yards of minky. Some more thread to match the new color. Turns out my printer was too small, so I forked over 150 for a printer that could print a bigger pattern.
My first pattern wasn't working for me. It wasn't exact enough, and I didn't know how to make one. Another 10. Nope, one more. 20. Well now! Now I'm finally getting somewhere. In comes my first beginning to end completely finished plush. Finally. At about 6 months.
Looking back on that plush now, she was a total wreck. The neck stitches were showing. She's lumpy as hell. I made her hair our of fleece, because that's what I could afford.
So I moved on to the next plush. It was coming up on Christmas, and MCM. And so for practice, I made my second plush, and auctioned her off for charity. She sold for 260, and I never saw any of that money, but I figured she was good advertising.
Extra bobbins and machine needles. Was running out of both. 25$
I worked my ass off to get her done on time. Those weren't colors I had, so I ordered them. The first order they sent the wrong color, so I had to order 3 yards instead of two. I couldn't return the first and wait for a second shipment, so I kept one of the yards to use later. I also ended up making a Twilight plush that went to the winner so I could try out a filly pattern; another 20, one for the auctioned plush, one for the filly pattern. Plus all of the thread for all of these things. I spent most of January toiling over that Twilight, but in the end, I was proud of my work.
At this point I started making my own patterns. More precisely, my husband did. My husband who has zero interest in ponies. My husband who through this all was encouraging me as I toiled to get these plushies right. Through countless hours tearing out seams because I had mis-sewn pieces. Or the pattern didn't line up enough. Or because I had mis-cut a piece. Every time I screwed up, it cost me money.
I needed a breather in February, so I took a break as some personal stuff went on. March I was back at it, and I made another Pixel, this time for a convention. I figured that plush, too would be advertising. She would be on our table, and people would surely ask about her.
Except nobody did. Not one person. And while I was working my ass off trying to put out a product that someone might actually be interested in buying, I watched as a member of the group I was with bought a plush fro someone else. Someone they didn't know; I was completely crushed, and I scrapped the Rarity I had been working on to start again on a new pattern, because I had foolishly thought that someone else could cut out the pattern for me. That was my mistake, and a costly one. I had already done all the embroidery, used a lot of fabric, and then entire thing ended up in the trash.
And so again I started on that Rarity plush, a brand new one this time, cut from all new fabric. As I assembled it, I came across even more problems. More sweat. More tears. More seams ripped, and pieces replaced, because you can only go over the same spot so many times. I've been working on this Rarity plush since April. The person buying in it showed interest in my work back in December, and for that I am profusely grateful. He is eternally patient.
All told at this point I am in over a grand in expenses, and I have not seen a single cent of that back. I have leaned on my husband to make patterns for me several times, and I've now crafted a few of my own, since none of the ones I bought worked for me. They were good enough, but not perfect.
I'm getting to the point where I am *just* about to sell my first plush for a profit. Expect that it isn't a profit, because that money is going towards covering all of the expenses. That doesn't even cover the hours I've spent getting to the point where someone *might* buy one. Plushie makers don't charge what they do because they want to rip you off. They charge what they do because this is a labor intensive project, and all of the money spent has to either come out of pocket or go on credit, which will make it even more expensive, since then you have to pay back the interest.
Most plushie makers burn out. It's just a fact, because people pick apart the work they do, the hours put in, their fabric choices, one stitch being off, the eye color being not perfect, whatever. At the same time, we have to work within the limits of the fabric colors, thread colors, what a pattern is able to do, etc etc. Every aspect is picked apart, and it's grating, because you just want to put out the best product you can. Then people complain about the prices. Do you haggle with a plumber when they come to fix your fucked up toilet? Your doctor? The grocery store? Because plushie makers have to haggle for many of the pieces they make, and because their art if considered frivolous and they aren't positive when the next order will come in, they have to bargain.
I didn't type all this up to make anyone feel bad. What I want is for people to understand that we charge based on the expertise we have, the practice put in, the knowledge we have. It's tiring. We work longer hours than most people who work a 9-5 because our income is completely dependent on us. As a barista at Starbucks do you have to worry about when your store has a bad month? No, because business will pick back up. But a plushie maker has only themselves to answer to if they can't pay the rent because they didn't work hard enough.
We charge what we do because we have to get by, too.