Belated Happy New Year

I want to wish every one of you a Happy and Prosperous 2015! The holidays are over and things have (hopefully) calmed down in your life. You may be hunkered down under inches or feet of snow or listening to the rain on the roof during this winter time.

January was hectic and it has blasted past.  So many things happening at one time and now, I finally have a few moments to work on the blog. Actually, I have been working on this blog post in my brain for the last few weeks – now I finally get to see it in print!

With any business, the goal is to be prosperous and earn a few (or more than a few) $$, which is called “profit”. And, no, profit is NOT a bad word! Unfortunately, I know way too many machine quilters who are NOT making $$ and there is NO profit for them.

Since this is the (almost) beginning of a new year, let’s talk about the one thing many professional quilters don’t like to do and that is RAISE YOUR PRICES!

By raising your prices, you will bring in more $$ – which could mean a profit for you!

I would recommend reading, or re-reading, my blog posts about the Cost of Quilting – Part 1, and the Cost of Quilting – Part 2. (click on the highlighted text to view these posts)

Raising your prices is a fairly simple process – choose how much you want to raise them – then do it!

Let’s assume you decide you want to raise your prices a half a cent per square inch (.05 cpi) on all your levels of pricing.  Choose a date – I would recommend February 1 – and every new quilt that comes into your business gets the new price(s). This is easy, but how come it is so hard for some quilters to do this?

Let’s talk about some issues some professional quilters have about raising prices.

Many professional quilters think that their customers won’t “like” them if they raise their prices. You are running a business, not a popularity contest! Yes, I know, you have to keep your customers happy, but they have to understand that you ARE a business and that businesses, from time to time, raise their prices. Restaurants raise their prices, clothing stores raise their prices, quilt shops raise their prices, grocery stores raise their prices and on and on. Why not you?

Many professional quilters feel that they have to advertise their price changes in advance. That would be nice, but it is not necessary. I don’t advocate changing prices on quilts that are already in your possession waiting to be quilted, but new quilts coming into your quilting line up, those quilts can have higher prices on them. Most stores don’t say “We are going to raise our prices next week.” They just do it!

If you need to, blame your price changes on someone else. You can say, especially during this time of year when you have to get your “stuff” ready for taxes, “I have talked with my CPA / tax adviser and they say that I need to raise my prices.” You don’t need to elaborate any more than that. If a customer persists, you can always say “it’s way to complicated to get into right now.” In other words, mind your own business!

Many professional quilters feel that if they raise their prices they will loose customers. There is always this possibility, but in reality, you will probably NOT loose any customers. If you did loose a customer or two, don’t worry about it. They were probably not your best customers and they were the ones who brought you crummy quilts and were difficult to work with. Trust me, you don’t need them!

Here is my true story – Way back when, after quilting a few years, I decided to raise my prices. My prices were in the lower mid range in my area at that time. I was worried about losing customers, but raised my prices anyway. I did lose a few customers but my regular customers stayed with me and were supportive about the new prices. When I raised my prices, I began to get better pieced quilts and better customers who appreciated the work that I did for them.

Many professional quilters think that if they raise their prices they will become the most expensive quilter in their area and will loose business.  If you do become the most expensive quilter in your area, so what! You go girl! There are people(customers) who think that expensive means good! Many customers who you think may complain about your prices are actually bragging about their ability to pay your prices.

Customer “I just paid Jane Doe (quilter) over $500 (maybe more) to quilt my quilt.” Is this customer complaining about the price (this was a custom quilting job) or that she can pay it!”

Think about things in your own life. Have you every purchased something at an expensive store and (somewhat bragging) told your friends about it?

Speaking about being an “expensive” quilter in your area – where is it written that you MUST get all your business ONLY from your area? Think of ways to get business from other geographic areas. (I’ll write about this in the future. )

How about raising your prices without raising your prices? Let’s assume you have several levels of pricing – super simple all over patterns, free hand or pantos, at your lowest level, then two mid level prices, then (high) custom pricing.

Eliminate your lowest level of (super simple) pricing. You will still do that kind of work, but charge it at your next higher fee.  Yes, you can keep this level for the poor, elderly lady who is on a limited income, but I would be VERY selective of who I gave this price to. Think of combining the two mid level prices into one, higher price. This way, you HAVE raised your prices by not charging the lower fees.

What other ways can you bring income into your business?

If you don’t charge for thread, begin charging for thread. You will be amazed at how much you can make on thread charges. See my blog post about this by Clicking Here 

Learn how to put binding on the quilt and offer it as a service if you don’t do so already. Not all bindings have to be hand stitched. Learn how to use your home sewing machine to apply binding and you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is and how much $$ you can make doing this.

For information about an online class on how to apply binding with a home sewing machine Click Here

Carry some wide baking fabrics for your customers to purchase. Purchase the backing fabric at wholesale and sell it at retail prices. Yes, there is a little bit of investment in the fabric, but there is potential for more profit!

Specialize in a style of quilting. You can become the Feather Queen, the Sashiko Princess, the Template Goddess, etc. A specialized style of quilting makes your skills more valuable and you can charge more for ALL your quilting skills. If you are good at one thing, you MUST be good at everything! And of course you are!

I hope I have “kicked you in the butt” to raise your prices. YOU are a skilled crafts(wo)man! It has taken time to learn how to do what you do! Reflect this in your pricing and begin making a profit in 2015!






December Business

It’s December! Either you are in a panic or you have things totally under control. Personally, I feel like I am half way in between those two extremes – which is where most everyone is at this point.

In my “totally under control” moments, I have looked at my quilting schedule and I can quilt maybe two more customer quilts before Christmas. In order to tell my customers about these open quilting spaces, I put together a quick note and I’m sending it to selected customers.

I looked through my list of customers and their contact information. (To see my previous post about this Click Here) and chose about 10 customers to contact. They are fairly steady customers who live relatively close.

I am sending them a note through the mail which I have put into a pdf file that you can save and print out. Click on the highlighted text to download this file December Letter

You can see that I kept the note short and sweet – no discounts, no special offers – just that I can get their quilt done for them before Christmas ONLY if they call me ASAP.

I printed the notes on card stock and cut them in half. I will fold them in half and put a piece of tape on the bottom. They do need a First Class stamp, which I will get at the post office today.

If I have only one person respond, that would be great. If two respond, that would be wonderful. I am making about a $5 investment into this mailing, most of which is the cost of postage.

If you decide to do something like this, feel free to use my note as a guide. If you would like the Publisher file for this note, send me an email to and I will send it to you as an email attachment. You can open the file and add your own information.

I know that this can be a very stressful time of year – take a deep breath or two and try to relax!

I will let you know if any of my customers respond.

Your thought and comments are welcomed.


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!
Enjoy the day with family and friends.

Quilted Turkey

click on image for a larger view

Tedious Quilting?

I am working on a quilt that has tedious / boring quilting! The quilt (it is my own quilt, not a customer quilt)  is going to look beautiful when completed but until then, it is BORING to quilt! This happens every once in a while – it is just part of being a machine quilter.

Everyone has their own idea of what is boring or tedious to quilt. I personally think cross hatching is tedious and try to do as little as possible. You may love doing cross hatching, and that’s OK. Some pantographs and repetitive free hand designs are tedious / boring to quilt. Sometimes it may not be the quilting, but the QUILT that makes the project tedious. Maybe the colors are “ugly”, don’t go together well or it’s a piecing pattern that you detest!

What do you do when this happens? I have a smart phone with aps for radio stations, music and podcasts. I put my earphones in, plug them into the phone and get into my own little world.  If the quilt is large, I will number the rows so that I can see some progress in my quilting.

A quilting friend said that she keeps a dish of chocolate at the far end of her quilting machine. When she finishes a row of quilting she rewards herself with a piece of candy. (I like that idea!) If you don’t want candy as a reward, maybe a sip of iced tea or other (maybe adult?) beverage.

As I find myself working on some tedious quilting, I took a break and I’m writing this post. (Some may call this “stalling.”)

My question to you is – What do YOU do when faced with boring or tedious quilting? What do you do to make the job easier or at least not quite so boring? Post your answer in the “Leave Your Comments” section. If you have a story about a boring / tedious quilt, write about that.

I look forward to hearing about YOUR boring quilting suggestions!


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.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 723 other followers