Jump to content
Banner by ~ Zero
  • entries
    6
  • comments
    38
  • views
    3,067

Why Are Plushies so Expensive?


Nervous Stitch

3,815 views

 Share

I thought I'd create this in-depth exploration of my expenses as a better resource for my pricing on my shop

:lol:

 


Why are Plushies soooo expensive?

 

I hear this a lot, and I see this a lot. I figure it’s past due to sit down and create a fairly comprehensive run-through that documents all the expenses and time involved. I fear this being interpreted as complaining – it isn’t! I wouldn’t create plushies if I didn’t genuinely enjoy it. It feels like a wise idea to clear the air a little, since not as many people are familiar with the process as I thought.

 


Note!


All of this is my experience. While I am sure other artists have similar expenses, I speak only for myself and the expenses I have faced! Perhaps others have found a better supplier or method of doing something…feel free to let me know if that’s so!

 

This is just a rough estimate. Some of these supplies will last me 1 pony, some will last me for the rest of my sewing hobby.

 


Equipment

 

 

 

Space

 

You can’t really plush without a place to plush. I live in a one bedroom apartment with my boyfriend and instead of a TV and lounge area, we have a sewing station! For about a year, I sewed on a 4’ folding table for $40 from Wal-Mart. Not only was this not enough horizontal space, I had no drawers to stick any of my haberdashery. There is a lot of haberdashery. We’ll touch that later, though.
My mother and I really love Ikea, and I’ll fight anyone tooth and nail who says their stuff isn’t any good! We picked up two Alex drawer units ($79 each) and a Linnmon tabletop for $35, along with way too much other Ikea goodies for her house.
$193 later and I have a working table – and boy, does it work. I have drawers for everything, they’re all labeled; no more searching endlessly for the other side of my embroidery hoop. One problem though – I’m still a little low on tabletop space. One more trip to Ikea, two more Alex drawer units and one more Linnmon later, I’ve doubled my space. So much room for activities!

 

 

 

Machinery


“You don’t need a sewing machine or embroidery machine to make plushies.” - I hear this often. Perhaps not everyone does, but I certainly do. To produce consistent, strong, stitches or applique or lovely cutie marks and eyes, you better have a sewing machine and an embroidery machine.
For my sewing machine, I have the Brother SE400 - $315 on Amazon. It’s a combination sewing machine and embroidery machine, which is fantastic for piddling around until you realize how long embroidery takes and you’re edging to sew, but you still have 3 hours left of watching your precious sewing machine be used for silly embroidery purposes…you splurge for a dedicated machine.

 


For my dedicated embroidery machine, I use the Brother PE770 - $586 on Amazon. I have zero complaints about this machine, to be honest. If I had to choose between this machine and my boyfriend, he better find another place to live.

 


Equipment Cost



Space: $386
Sewing machine: $315
Embroidery machine: $586
$1287 later, I have a lot of space, some machines and literally nothing I can sew or do. Whoo!

 


Consumables



Fabric


Minky is costly. I usually order from Fabric.com and pretend to be a ‘new customer’ for that 20% off coupon. Do I feed bad? No. Do I have a lot of email addresses? Yes. They cut this discount down to 10%, which nearly makes it useful to find another supplier. If Fabric.com doesn’t have what I need, I have to order from overseas. Plushaddict.co.uk has a lot of colors no one else does, but they’re $21.51 a meter (so, basically a yard) compared to the $12.48 I pay per yard at Fabric.com.
Any color I need, it’s useless to get less than a yard. A yard from Fabric.com is $12.48 and a half yard is $9.36. Ponies with a little bow or tiny accent of a color sometimes require purchasing a full yard; I’ve tried hard to stock up on colors so this isn’t often a problem.
I actually keep all my receipts from buying fabric. A quick calculation of all my fabric receipts put me at $493.01.

 

 

 


Embroidering Time!


Embroidery is a lot more time intensive than one would think. Let us run through the process!
Starting from square one, an embroidery machine is like a printer. You give it a picture and the right color thread, and it pops out that part of the design that requires that color. Sadly, the embroidery machine cannot just eat up a .jpeg and pop out a beautiful eye. There is a process called “digitizing” that enables the machine to read the new picture; and you’ve guessed it, this require its own program.
I use Embird, which is $164 for the software plus $150 for the Digitizing Tools. These programs can run from free (they’re buggy and not very user friendly) to over $1000 (they’re over $1000!). Embird works great for me!

 

Now, it is ready to shove on into the machine.
Or, I wish it was time to shove it on into the machine. You have to hoop the material first; and this requires some stabilizer on the front and back so the fabric doesn’t stretch during embroidery. A roll of Cut-Away stabilizer for the back is $12.95, and will last me awhile. For the front, a roll of Water Soluble stabilizer is $11.39. To get the Cut-Away to stay on the fabric, you need some temporary spray! For a regular sized spray bottle, that’s around $18. Now we can hoop the fabric.
Alright – the fabric is on the machine…we press the go button…and oh wait, there isn’t any thread!
Embroidery thread isn’t sewing thread. It’s thinner, decorative, and prettier. It mainly comes in Rayon and Polyester. I started with 2 sets of ~50 spools (that ran about $40 each) of Polyester off-brand thread. It looks fine, but it breaks too often and isn’t as shiny and textured as I’d like. It’s time for another investment!
Madeira makes some great Rayon embroidery thread, but I need around 100 spools to have enough colors to be happy. I recently picked up a set of 40 spools for $99, and I’ll buy individual spools as needed for $2.25.
On top of this, I use so much black, white and bobbin thread that I spent $21 to get some large, nice spools of these colors.
Rolling bobbin threads takes a little long, and it’s easier to make the investment to just buy a pack of pre-wound bobbin threads. For 144 pre-wound bobbins, $29. The embroidery can begin.
Of course, it doesn’t always turn out right. Sometimes the machine messes up, sometimes the design isn’t the right size, sometimes the world just hates you and wants to waste your time. That’s okay. Our embroidery is finally, finally done.


Sewing Time!


Alright, it’s over 1000 words into this and we’re just now taking a peek at our sewing machine…but not yet! First, we have to get our pattern pieces.
Pull out that master pattern you have slaved over and trace out your pattern. If your fabric is light, you’ll use your handy-dandy disappearing ink pens ($6.94 on amazon) so your pretty white pony doesn’t have lines inside her. If your fabric is black or dark, you’ll use your tailor chalk ($3.49 on Amazon). Sometimes if you’re lazy, you’ll just use a pen.
Let’s cut out that pattern! Since minky is furry, it’s a bad idea to use scissors; all that fluff will go more places than it would with an exacto knife. I probably have at least $20 in exacto blades, since fabric dulls them so quickly. We also can’t cut directly on our nice Ikea table…$18 for a cutting mat.
It’s time to fire up that sewing machine! I can’t speak much for how much sewing thread costs – I’ve collected it at garage sales and largely from a deceased older lady that has a distant relationship to our family. Since we’re using minky, we have to have a walking foot, or else everything will slide. Tack on another $31.35 for a walking foot. Pins? We have to pin our fabric. Since I’ve bought so many pins over time, we’ll go a little low on our estimate and say $5 for pins.
Our pony is sewn up! Time to clip the curves, with our $13 pack of two shears. We can’t use these scissors for anything but fabric, or they dull. Let’s stuff this pony.
If you just shove stuffing in her feet, she won’t stand very flat or well. I use plastic sheet in her feet ($2.16 a sheet) to keep her feetsies flat, as well as some poly-pellets ($81 for 25lbs) To give her some flatness and weight.
The polyfill I used to fill my ponies is around $10 for 2 bags (enough to fill 1 pony), although I can’t find it anymore.
Finally, I use thick stabilizer in the ears to give them some curve. $6 a yard for this stabilizer. As well as some wire for wing or tail stability – I use around $4 worth of wire in each pony.


Other Stuff


Some ponies have other stuff. Magnets are $6 for 12, and I use at least 2 for each magnetic item. Buttons, brads, hooks, snaps…I probably have $40 worth of weird haberdashery. Airbrushing? A $80 compressor and a $57 airbrush. Another $20 for a glue gun.


Cost
Fabric: $493.01
Embroidery: $586.34
Sewing: $182.94
Other Stuff: $203.00
Total: $1465.29

 

Shipping


The pony has to get there! It’s .68 cents for a box that I have to cut down, since most ponies are 14 inches tall and nearly 14 inches long, but not 14 inches wide! $16.88 for some bubble wrap, and $35 for some business cards with a misspelling on them, just for good measure. $10 or so at the post office to get the pony shipped.


Cost
Shipping: $62.56

 

Time


Time is money! I’ve timed myself on a few ponies. This time isn’t always involved time. I could be watching some Netflix while this time is going, and just maintaining the machine when it asks for some help.
For my pony base pattern, I probably have 80 solid hours of pattern testing involved. I’m not very quick at drafting patterns.


Time Break-down:
Embroidery Designing/Digitizing: 5hrs
Actually embroidering: 2 – 6hrs
Pattern Cutting: 1hr
Sewing pony body/head: 5hrs
Stuffing pony body/head: 2hrs
Sewing pony head to body: 1hr
Sewing pony ears to head: 2hr
Drafting mane/tail patterns: 3 - 5hrs
Sewing mane/tail: 5 – 7hrs
Stuffing mane/tail: 2hr
Attaching mane/tail: 3hr – 4hrs
Accessories (each): 1hr – 7hrs

 

Most ponies end up taking me around 25 hours. My longest is around 65.

 


Total overall: $2814.85 + lots of time

 

So…what does this mean?

 

I believe it’s a little frustrating when people see plush makers as overly expensive or just trying to make some cash. It’s hard to turn a decent profit, let alone make a living. It’s more profitable to work at Mcdonald’s, for heaven’s sake. Mcdonald’s doesn’t let you work your own hours in your PJs, though. That’s my saving grace.



Moral of the story? I love what I do. I cringe when I ask for over $200 for what I do. I cringe when I look at other artists that I aspire to be like who charge over $400. Is that what the product is worth? Yes, perhaps more. Is it still a lot for a stuffed pony? Yes, yes it is.

  • Brohoof 15
 Share

17 Comments


Recommended Comments

If you want a cheap plushie, you buy one of the crappy ones from Hasbro. If you want a good quality plushie that looks like it came straight out of the show, you gotta pay the price.

  • Brohoof 4
Link to comment

I'd love some plushies.... alas, I cannot afford a good one, and the cheap ones just are not good enough for my liking.

 

If I were to start making them, I'd save money on equipment, as I could borrow my moms embroidery machine and one of her many sewing machines... but I don't have the patience to learn the skills to do a decent job.

 

It could be argued that at lower prices you would sell more, and make more money in the long run (at least the equipment and furniture costs are generally one time costs, the materials being the main thing that has to be replaced), but of course it's a laborious process, and you have the right to charge what you like, which should include costs for time. It's certainly worth the price that you charge, and if people can't or wont pay, then they'll go without.

  • Brohoof 1
Link to comment

I try not to see them as stuffed animals but more as some sort of tailored item. If you can't afford a lovely tailored suit, and don't want a crap mass produced one, make your own. Don't have a sewing machine, well you've got hands.

  • Brohoof 3
Link to comment

200 for a custom plushie isn't that much, honestly. It is akin to many other businesses: they charge for both parts and labor to make their efforts worthwhile. My 85 cm raccoon tail cost something like 75 and would cost about that much to replace, and that's far simpler for multiple reasons than a plushie.

The space costs, while I never envisioned that for other people, I sympathize with. To make my bedroom very space-efficient and assist with food economy, I had to acquire multiple shelves that are large and can withstand large weight, plus a clothing rack. All that was about 150 or so.

  • Brohoof 2
Link to comment

I hate sewing, I tried to make a costume before and it was the worst experience ever. Plushies are still more of a luxury item, but I'd happily pay someone $200 who actually knows how to sew.

  • Brohoof 2
Link to comment

I appreciate the support, haha. Sadly, You folk are in the minority of what I've usually been approached with. I believe custom plushies (and you're right @@Swinton, I try to get in the habit of calling them "art dolls" rather than stuffed animals) aim a little towards the older bit of the fandom, or at least those with some bit of an income. Nevertheless, I can give up an hour or so of my time to create a 'guide' to avoid repeating myself in the future!

 

@,

You're honestly very right. A lot of what I do now is custom, which is what drags the process out. It's more profitable to make a pattern for, say Twilight, and create 5 Twilights and haul 'em off to a convention along with 25 of her closest friends. These folk who rarely bother with the 'custom' process (WhiteDove-Creations on DA comes to mind) have a little better business model. I kind of like doing 1 off ponies, though!

 

@@Roketsune,

My heart out to the fursuit and furry item artists, wow. Little off topic, but the work that goes into creating those suits is barely even considered 'sewing' anymore. That's some significant art. Sometimes I wish I was a little more into the whole suiting thing so it'd be worth trying my hand at, haha. 

 

Space is a pain in the butt. We have two people and a kitty in 600sqft, which works better than you'd think. Although, first thing you see in the living room is a bunch of stuffed ponies, which is a little off-putting to some...haha.

 

@@Melon Blitz,

I'm the same way with traditional or digital art. I speak about this with Sfyr a good bit - my art has a lot of money investment where he has a good bit of time. Some of my craft isn't skill, it's just having the equipment. You can draw with pretty much anything and still produce pretty alright stuff. 

 

I don't blame you for not liking costume sewing. I'm terrified of "actual" sewing, for clothes and other flat things. Just not my jam, can't get into it!

  • Brohoof 1
Link to comment

@,

Depends a good bit on what kind of dragon, haha. Or style, rather than kind, I guess. You're welcome to PM me if you want to have a chat about it, but no promises!

  • Brohoof 1
Link to comment

While I knew the materials weren't cheap and time and effort involved justifies fair compensation, I still wondered to what degree plushie makers do profit from their work.  On one hand, I knew you guys weren't price gouging us.  But on the other, I wonder if the old "charge what the market is willing to bear" was inflating prices to some degree.  Your comments here added some useful perspectives I didn't think of before.  :) 

 

I paid $300 for a well-made Fluttershy plushie from Space Voyager (you may have heard of her) and I love it.  But at that price, I'm not planning to commission another pony anytime soon. xP

  • Brohoof 2
Link to comment

@@Wingnut,

I'm glad I could provide some insight! You're very right that the market allows for some price inflation. The folk that are well known certainly have their (as my good friend likes to call it) "Good Luck Getting a Spot" fee tacked onto their prices. Can't say I'd blame them, or that I wouldn't do the same thing if I get a bit more well known! :P

 

Super familiar with Space Voyager! She makes those little Typhlosion chibis that are the cutest thing in the world, haha.

  • Brohoof 1
Link to comment

Huh, I understand why you charge as much as you do, and you get what you pay for, so I think that you did a lovely job on your pricing. Wish I had the money and talent to be able to do that.

  • Brohoof 1
Link to comment

Having commissioned you previously for an obscenely complex plushie that was probably on the top end of your 65 hour time estimation my heart goes out to you! The quality of your work and attention to detail belie the more than reasonable fee you charge for your services. Perhaps if more people realized before criticizing the seemingly high price of your plushies (ignoring the overhead like your equipment and space) that with just the cost of materials alone at the end of a 50+ hour plushie you’re making far below minimum wage for your time. It really seems to be a labor of love for you and I applaud your efforts and look forward to commissioning another plush in the future! 

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...