Customer Contact

When I was traveling and teaching classes during the summer I was talking about contacting customers long after their quilting was done. One student said that she only gets a customer’s phone number and then throws it out when she is done with the quilt. I was dumbfounded!

I asked if she ever sent a follow up letter or card or contacted her customers during the year. She said no, that she never had and never thought to do so.

So, my question to you is –

When your customer brings a quilt to you to quilt, do you collect as much of their contact information that you can?

Obviously, you should get their name and phone number. And you should include the following -

  • Complete mailing address – your customer may live next door, down the street or in the same town. Get this information from them.
  • Phone number AND cell phone number. Also ask which is a better number to contact them
  • Email address – yes, you need this too.
  • Social Media – do they do FaceBook, Twitter, etc. If so, get this information.
  • Birthday Month – you don’t need to know their exact date or year, but the month is important.
  • If you text, ask the following –
  • Do you accept text messages? Do you accept photos via text? If so, add this to your customer information.
  • You may want to ask what is the best way and the best time to contact them.

Yes, this may be extra work for you, but it is IMPORTANT!

The obvious reason you need all of this information is to let your customer know that their quilt is ready to be picked up. If you can’t reach them via phone, at least you have other contact info options such as email and their home address. And yes, there have been times when I have had to send a letter, via regular mail, to let someone know their quilt is ready. I have also sent text messages and, literally, have had customers stop what they are doing to come over and pick up their quilt.

But here is where you can set yourself apart from other professional quilters in your area. Because you have your customer’s complete contact information you can send them notices, updates, special offers, etc., during the year. You can establish a “relationship” with your customer which keeps YOU at the top of THEIR list when it comes to machine quilting.

I recommend that about every three months send your customers something via regular mail. This “something” can be as simple as a note, maybe revolving around the seasons or local events.

Since it’s October, let’s do a Fall theme. You could write –

It’s Fall! The leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter and we are getting ready for winter. The weather is getting chilly out – perfect for wrapping up in a quilt or two!

Now is the time to bring your quilts to (fill in your name or business name) for quilting!

Bring your quilts by (date) and receive (special offer).

PS – Christmas is coming! Get your gift quilting done early this year! Call (phone number) to make your appointment.

(Of course, you have ALL of your contact information on the card!)

You don’t have to be an eloquent writer! If you are a scrapbooker you could dress up and personalize the cards as much as you want. All you need is something to remind your customers that you exist and are ready to work on their quilts.

Note: we will talk about special offers in a future blog post.

If you have been keeping track of your customer information and the quilts that you have done for your customers, I would make a list such as –

Customers in the last six months, all of 2014, all in 2013, and as far back as you want to go.

Then decide which list to send the cards to. I would definitely send a card to all of my customers for 2014 and 2013. Then, depending how many cards you want to make, send them to customers from past years.

I would also note when I sent these cards out and see what kind of response I would get from them. Even if only one customer responds – that is one more quilt and more $$ you will earn!

Why would you want to know what month your customer was born in? Because you can then send them a birthday card – a card you make or a purchased card – with a special birthday offer. Send the birthday cards out early in the month and date the special offer for the whole month. For some people, this may be the only birthday card or greeting they receive!

Does that make YOU special! It sure does! Is it worth the extra effort? I feel it is. Does this make your customers want to come back to you again and again, YES! And that is what we want – happy customers who come back again and again, bringing us wonderful quilts so that we can “do our (quilting) magic!”

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts.

What the What????

I  belong to a YahooGroups for machine quilters. The following email was posted this morning –

“A new quilt shop opened in my area about a year ago. Prior to the opening the owner emailed another shop owner and LIED telling her she was opening a quilt shop in another State (Florida) when in fact it was across town. She wanted a lot of information about opening a new shop.  Since the opening, many new ideas have popped up at her shop that I’m sure were copied from not only this shop, but others. This owner has also asked for the names and phone numbers of other shops class instructors. The latest thing (that I know of) is that she has copied word for word from my long arm quilting website without my permission. I have had this information in my website and/or brochure for years. The only thing that has changed over the years is my prices. I know copying should be a form of flattery, but this is extremely UNPROFESSIONAL behavior and she is winning no friends, trust or respect with other shop owners. I am not a shop owner, but do not appreciate my work being copied. If she can’t come up with her own ideas, she needs to find another business. There—I’ve said it. Done.”

Ever since I read this email, I have been fighting with myself NOT to respond to it, but, as you can see, I have lost that battle.

After reading the above email, I have determined there are three things that the writer is angry about.

Item #1 – that a new shop has opened up in her town and that the new shop owners are “copying” what is working for other shop owners. Let’s assume that the new shop really was going to open in a different state, but things changed and they opened locally.

Item #2 –  that the new shop has been asking for information about (I am assuming) independent quilting/piecing instructors, and

Item #3 – that the new shop has copied some things from the writer’s brochure or website. I am also assuming that the writer is a longarm quilter and quilting for customers.

I am giving fair warning! I TOTALLY DISAGREE with everything this person wrote in their email. If you agree with the writer, you can exit out of this blog right now.

Item #1, about the shop owners copying ideas, information, etc., from other quilt shops – That is what businesses do! I belong to a marketing group and subscribe to several marketing / business websites, etc. One of the sayings of almost every business group I belong to is “if you find a business, or person, who is successful, copy what they are doing!

Nearly all businesses watch what other businesses like them are doing and copy each other! Do you thing McDonalds doesn’t look at what Burger King, Wendys, etc., are doing and then copy them?

Look at Starbucks. They started the coffee house trend. How many other coffee houses do you know of? Tully’s? Caribou Coffee? Many other regional coffee houses / coffee companies have sprung up, all with the same “footprint” that Starbucks has. Also look at the individual “Mom and Pop” style coffee stands that are on corners all around – well, at least here in the Pacific Northwest! With the mindset of the email writer, there would be only ONE coffee house – Starbucks!

Does that mean that years ago, when websites were starting to be popular, that a quilt shop couldn’t have a website because another quilt shop had one! No way! And today with FaceBook, Twitter and other social media – because another quilt shop or business has a presence on social media, you can’t!

I could go on and on with all sorts of examples.

FWIW – Martigale publishing is a great resource for quilt shop owners. Yes, they are selling their books and they want quilt shops to be successful – so the quilt shop can continue to sell their books. They have a website dedicated to giving shop owners FREE information on how to promote and sell books and other quilting supplies. I get their emails – even though I don’t own a shop I can find useful information.

Copying business ideas from other businesses is a sign of a good (and probably successful) business owner!

Item #2 – about getting information about teachers. For many years, before I became a professional machine quilter, I taught piecing classes at just about every quilt shop in my area. Most quilt teachers are “independent contractors” and are NOT exclusive to any one shop.

Maybe there are a few teachers out there that ONLY teach at one shop, and maybe they may have a contract that says they can ONLY teach at one shop. But I would be willing to bet that most of these teachers would jump at a chance to teach at another quilt shop (assuming it fits into their schedule, etc.) I know I would – and I did!

Again, just because one shop offers classes, does that mean another shop can’t??

Item #3 – copying your information.

Let’s face it, there is only a few ways that one can write about quilting for customers! If you look at almost any machine quilter’s brochure or website, it will say pretty much the same thing. Unless you have something totally different or exclusive about your brochure or website, you can’t PROVE they copied it from you. In fact, they might have copied the information from someone else’s brochure or website – which is just like yours – and that person can say YOU copied from them!

When you start a business – any business – and you put “stuff” out there, whether on brochures, websites, social media, etc., IT WILL GET COPIED! When you are a quilter and you put photos of your work online, whether it is your website, a blog, FaceBook, etc., others will copy it. It doesn’t matter if it is the piecing or the quilting, if you put photos or descriptions of you work “out there,” someone, someplace, will either copy it or be inspired to create a (new) version or variation of your work. If this didn’t happen, we would all be making only one or two kinds of quilts!

In my un-humble opinion, the ONLY way to avoid this is to NEVER post, NEVER publish, or NEVER tell anyone, ANYTHING about what you do! And as humans, who are social creatures, this is almost impossible to do.

And now, I am going to put on my (very big) big girl, flame proof panties (or a whole suit) and go put a customer quilt on my machine and quilt it!

Whether you agree with me or not, please feel free to leave a comment.

Wholesale and Tax Exempt

I was talking with a quilter yesterday who suggested I write about wholesale resources for professional machine quilters. I agreed it was a great idea for a post – and here it is.

About Wholesalers – Most, if not all, wholesalers require some proof that you are in a business and that you will be purchasing the bulk of the items for use in your business.  (Yes, you can get a few things “just for you” but you will need to talk to your tax person about how to track these items and how to document them on – and for – your taxes.) Each wholesaler will have their own requirements on what you will need to prove you are a business.  You need to follow the rules that are set up at each individual wholesalers.

Most wholesalers have minimum purchase requirements – again, you must follow their rules to purchase at their business.

When buying wholesale you need to purchase larger quantities of items. You will have to purchase a bolt (usually 15 yards) of fabric, not just one or two yards. You may have to purchase a box of thread (several spools/cones) instead of a single spool/cone. Items such as Fray Check and Sewer’s Aide, etc., come in boxes of 3 or 6 or more. You need to purchase the whole box, etc., etc. When it comes to batting, you have to buy a roll, sometimes 40 yards, or more!

When you purchase wholesale, the cost is significantly reduced from retail and most, if not all, wholesale purchases are exempt from state sales taxes.

The theory behind this is – when you sell the completed project, the state will collect MORE in sales tax than when you purchased the items from the wholesaler. (Note – I am not a CPA or tax person. This is my understanding and interpretation. Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

I am not getting into any discussion about what items need to have sales taxes charged, or if labor is taxable. These are questions you need to discuss with your CPA / tax person and you need to do what is right for your state, province, etc.

You will also be responsible for shipping charges to get your purchases delivered to you. Talk to the wholesaler when you place your order and they should be able to give you an approximate cost for the shipping. Note: Talk with the person who is taking your order – depending on the wholesaler, some items may not have any shipping charges if you order a minimum $ amount.

Tax Exempt – Let’s assume that you do purchase wholesale but you need only a single yard of fabric to put a binding on a customer’s quilt. You don’t want to get a whole bolt of fabric and you don’t want to wait for it to be delivered in a few days. You decide that you are going to purchase the fabric at the local quilt shop or big box fabric store (that starts with a “J”.)  Talk to the shop owner / manager and see if you can purchase the fabric/item tax exempt. You will have to pay the marked retail price, but you will not be charged sales tax for this purchase. The (increased) sales taxes will be collected when the project is completed.  Again, you will have to show proof that you are a business – the business documentation will be determined by the shop owner.

If the store you are shopping at has coupons, you can (usually) use the coupons with your tax exempt status. If you have any doubts, check with the store personnel before you checkout.

Purchasing fabrics / items wholesale or tax exempt is one of the good things about being a “legitimate” business.

Business Tip – I like to stock wide backing fabrics in my studio. These fabrics are purchased wholesale and sold to my customers at regular retail prices. I like to have a bolt of light, medium and dark fabric, sometimes a print but mostly marbled or texture fabrics, for this. It is amazing how much extra $$ you can earn by selling wide backing fabrics!

If you have a product or item that you really like to use, contact them directly to see if you can purchase wholesale directly from them. I am always amazed at the number of businesses who will do this. If they don’t, ask for the name of the wholesaler who does carry their products. You may learn of a new supplier.

I know of only a few wholesalers (the ones that I use the most), which I will list below. I know there are a LOT more, so please leave a comment with the name and contact information of any other wholesaler or your favorite  supplier. After a bit I’ll compile all the information and post it as a separate page.

E E Schenck
6000 N Cutter Circle
Portland, OR 97217
(800) 433-0722

 The Warm Company
Warm & Natural Batting
5529 186th Place SW
Lynnwood, Washington 98037
(425) 248-2424 or
Toll Free (800) 234-9276

I KNOW there are a lot more wholesalers and suppliers out there – let’s get them listed here for everyone to see.


Longarm U is Traveling!

Cindy Roth of Longarm University is traveling and teaching!

I will be teaching classes in North Carolina, Ohio, Northern Illinois and Michigan!

First I will be in North Carolina giving a presentation to the Carolina Longarm Guild on July 12. The meeting is being held in Fayetteville, NC. After the presentation I will be having a mini-class on the Business of Machine Quilting.

For details of this presentation Click Here 

On July 13,14, 15,  I will be teaching (all day) classes in Chapel Hill, NC. For details on these classes Click Here

I will also be teaching classes in Uniontown, OH on July 21, 22, 23. For the details of these classes Click Here 

Then I am off to Northern Illinois to visit with family for a few days. While I am there I will be teaching classes in Geneva, IL on July 29, 30 and August 1. For the details of these classes Click Here 

On August 2 I will be giving a presentation to the Northern Illinois Longarm Guild in Wheaton, IL.  Again, after the presentation I will be giving a mini-class on the Business of Machine Quilting.

For the details of this presentation Click Here 

Last, but not least, I will be teaching classes in Clinton Township, MI on August 5, 6, 7. For details on these classes  Click Here

It is going to be a busy few weeks and I looking forward to seeing my family – daughter, grand daughters, parents, siblings – and meeting longarm quilters!

I hope to see you in my classes or at the presentations. It’s going to be fun, inspirational, and educational!

Happy 4th of July!

From Longarm University and Longarm Classroom -

Happy 4th of July!flag-200px

Have a wonderful holiday with friends and family!

If you are a professional quilter, take some time off to relax and refresh this holiday.

If you are a causal quilter, start a new project or complete a project already in progress!

Don’t forget those who have served to make this country the best in the world! Take a few minutes to visit the American Hero Quilts website and help them provide quilts to our wounded warriors.

No matter what type of quilter you are, celebrate the independence and the freedoms that we have by living in this great country!


From Worst to Great

A few weeks ago I wrote about the WORST quilt ever! I recently got an email, with photos, from Charlotte in NH, about a t-shirt quilt she had made. Charlotte’s t-shirt quilt is one of THE BEST t-shirt quilts I have ever seen!

With her permission, I am posting her photos and her story about the quilt.

Click on any photo for a larger view.

Car t shirt 2


This all started when my husband was deployed to Kuwait. Somehow, Jim (co-worker) saw my Picasa album of my finished quilts. He said to John (husband), do you think there is a way to incorporate my collection of t-shirts into a quilt? John said – oh sure. John volunteered my services free of charge. I had never made a t-shirt quilt before but knew I could do it. Jim left Kuwait in May of 2013. Mid June I got a box with 15 t-shirts from Jim. These t-shirts commemorated road races that he participated in. He wanted someway to display and pass on his collection of t-shirts to his family.

Car t shirt 1

Because this is likely to be passed on for generations, I wanted a unique design. I took pictures of all the shirts and brought them into EQ7 to start the design process. When I spoke with Jim, he said that he wanted something like a ‘spoke’ with emphasis on the first race. The center medallion represents his first race then from upper left clockwise the others are positioned around the quilt.

Car t shirt 3

The backing of stars was chosen by John. He wanted something patriotic since both work for the Dept. of Defense. I quilted it on my HandiQuilter Fusion with ProStitcher using Quilter’s Dream Select Poly and Anne Bright’s design – Vanilla Cream. This is a big quilt – 100 x 110. I am very pleased with the finished product; I hope Jim is as well. The quilt was sent to him and he should be receiving it soon.  My charity of choice is Quilts of Valor. 

Cindy’s Comments – This is a beautiful quilt and you did an EXCELLENT job! I know he will be proud of the quilt.

Feel free to leave comments about this quilt. I will make sure Charlotte sees them.

Bad Quilt – Done!

My customer came and picked up her quilt yesterday. I think she was impressed with it but not overwhelmed by the quilting. She did say it turned out better than she thought it would. I think she was relieved that the quilt was done. Her daughter, who the quilt was for, came also and she liked the quilt!

I have had some emails about wanting to know how I worked on the quilt step by step. So, here is what I did -

I realized that nothing was straight on the quilt and, with no backing on the t-shirts, there would be a TON of stretching of the fabrics, so putting the quilt on my machine (Gammill Classic Plus) in my usual way would not work.

I took the quilt, backing and batting, to my daughter’s house and laid the whole quilt out flat on her front room floor and pin basted the quilt togehter. Fortunately, the backing fabric was relatively straight along the top and bottom edges.

Before I pin basted the quilt, I took some photos – this is the wrong side of the quilt top. (click on the photo for a larger view) Note the seam allowances and the hems on the t-shirts!


My daughter (who is six months pregnant) helped me position the quilt top on the batting and backing, but I got on my hands and knees and pinned basted the pieces together. (Thank you modern medical science and my orthopedic surgeon for hip replacements.)

Here is a photo of the quilt after pin basting.


When I put the quilt on my machine, I pinned the top and bottom of the backing fabric to the appropriate rollers and then rolled the quilt onto the backing roller.

The quilt top was so heavy and so stretchy that I couldn’t even float the quilt top.

When the quilt was on the machine and rolled up on the backing roller, it was so thick that the safety pins kept getting caught in my vertical channel lock. I had to put painters tape over the channel lock to keep it from catching on the pins. After I did a couple of  “roll ups” the pins didn’t catch anymore.

I was able to stitch a horizontal channel lock line across the top of the quilt, dragging my thread across the thick seams. When I did the stitching, I had to start and stop in each block and I changed thread to match the fabric. I did a medium to larger stipple – that was about all I could do in the space available.

I worked my way to the bottom of the quilt and did another horizontal channel lock line at the bottom. I had at least a straight line at the top and bottom of the quilt.

I took the quilt off the machine, turned it (I did NOT trim it yet) and then re-pinned it to the machine. I then did a horizontal channel lock line at the (new) top and (new) bottom. These channel lock lines gave me a pretty accurate trimming line on all four sizes.

Now I had to work on the binding. At this point the quilt was starting to look almost good! (I have photos on the previous post.) For the binding, I decided to make a 2 inch binding, which would act like a border for the quilt. I used a marbled black fabric and applied the binding with my home sewing machine.  Once the binding was on, the quilt was finished!

Here is a photo of the finished quilt.


The quilt was so big and heavy I couldn’t put it on my clothesline, I had to lay it on the ground!

To reward myself I got a Grande Mocha Frappachino at Starbucks and quilted an American Hero Quilt!

With all the challenges this quilt presented, I am glad that I did it. I know that this quilt will be loved and used for a long time.

Thank you for everyone who sent their stories of their worst quilts, I enjoyed reading them and knowing that I was not alone.

If you are a new quilter, just starting out on your professional machine quilting journey, this is not normal, but it does happen from time to time. There are lessons to be learned and I will write about them in the next few  posts.


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