Is it Good?? Maybe Not!!

I am writing about a recent customer quilt that I completed, which turned out to be a “learning experience.”

Here are the details –  Sunburst Quilt This is a pattern that is based on pinwheel blocks. IMHO pinwheel blocks ALWAYS have problems with “lumpy” and thick seam joins – which pinwheel patterns are notorious for!

Piecing hint – press any diagonal seams OPEN and the seam joins will be MUCH less bulky!

Because this quilt was done during the Covid pandemic, the quilt was dropped off at my front door. I did a cost estimate and quilting ideas which I sent to my customer via email.

Here is the Quilting Ideas and Estimate I sent to my customer

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Sunburst Quilt – 64 x 74 inches (4,736 square inches)
click on any photo for a larger view


Note – This photo is from the pattern cover.

I have two different ideas for this quilt.

#1 – All over “waves” which will go horizontally across the quilt. I am thinking a very pale yellow cotton thread (Signature, Sand Dollar color) See photos below, which are from another customer quilt from a few years ago.

 

#2 – Baptist Fan quilting as an all over pattern. The Baptist Fans (interlocking quarter circles) is quilted using circle templates and would be the higher of the prices quoted. I would use the same light yellow cotton thread as above. See photos below. These are my personal quilts.

  


Pricing

Thread – $10
Batting – $15 – Soft & Bright (Warm Co) preferred
Quilting – $175 – $250, depending on the quilting idea chosen

Let me know your thoughts and if you approve of the quilting ideas I have suggested.

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My customer choose #2, the all over Baptist Fans option, which I would charge $250.

At a quick glance, you might say, “Wow!! That is a lot of $$ for that size of quilt!” And, if you do the math, it is over 5 cents per square inch! And you may be thinking “Woo hoo, I am laughing and dancing all the way to the bank!!”

Before you do that, let’s put some more thought into this. Here is where the TIME factors into things.

Before I started the quilting, I had estimated about 8 hours of my life would go into this quilt. If I divided $250 by 8 hours, I would be making $31.25 per hour working on this quilt, which is barely above my minimum hourly wage goal.

Note: when I am in my studio working on a customer quilt, I want to make at least $30 per hour minimum on ANY quilt I am working on! This may seem like a lot of $$, but it also includes the operating expenses of my business of at least 30%. I would be making about $21 per hour after expenses. FWIW – minimum wage where I live (Seattle, WA) is $15 per hour.

That’s the estimate, the reality is that I spent almost 12 hours working on this quilt! Why did this quilt take so much more time? (How did I know it took me 12 hours to complete this quilt? Because I timed myself while working on the quilt and documented it on my worksheet. For details on this, check out my online class, Your Customer Worksheet by Clicking Here)

I have not quilted Baptist Fans for a while and I forgot how time consuming they can be to quilt. I use templates when I quilt the Baptist Fans and any templates (of any kind) WILL add extra time to the project.

Remember, this piecing pattern is based on pinwheels and I had to deal with the thick seam joins with extra starts, stops and trimmings – all of which added time. Even if I did an all over pattern or a pantograh, I would STILL have had to deal with the thick seam joins which would have added extra time to the quilting.

Let’s do the math on more time – $250 divided by 12 (hours) equals – $20.83 and if I allow 30% for my business operating expenses, my hourly wage would be $14.58, which is slightly below minimum wage in my area.

The lessons learned from this are –

1 – although the initial price seems high, when the quilt is finished you may be making LESS $$.
2 – don’t be afraid to charge more for more detailed or time consuming work. The MORE time it takes to do the work, the MORE $$ you should be charging.
3 – If you are using templates (of any kind), add MORE time and $$ to your estimate.
4 – the next time I quilt Baptist Fans, I WILL charge more – a LOT more!!!
5 – just because it cost more, it doesn’t mean you will be making more $$$

By the way, the quilt turned out fabulous and my customer was delighted!

  

Let’s do another scenario –

Let’s say that my customer chose Quilting Idea #1, wavy lines, instead of Baptist Fans, at $175. (.036 per square inch)

I could easily get that quilting completed in four hours. That would give me an estimated hourly wage of $43.75 per hour, less 30% operating expenses would equal $30.62 per hour!! Now THAT is a wage I can live with!!

If you have not been timing yourself when you are working on a quilt, PLEASE, PLEASE, start doing so!!! You will be AMAZED at what you can learn!

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Please leave them below or send them to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com.

Machine Quilting Zoom Meeting

On Thursday, July 9, 2020 I will be hosting a Machine Quilting Zoom Meeting at 12 noon Pacific / 3 pm Eastern. If you would like to attend, send me an email at longarmu@aol.com and I will email the log in information to you.

This meeting is open to ALL machine quilters and will cover a wide range of topics. We may touch a bit on business (depending on the questions asked) but this is NOT a business specific meeting.

This meeting will be recorded and will be available for you to watch a day or two after the event.

If you have a question about machine quilting or a machine quilting technique please send it to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com 

If you have a quilt you would to “Show & Tell” send it to me either embedded in an email or as an email attachment. Please send the photos as soon as you can.

If you have any questions about this, please contact me.

Your Customer Worksheet Online Class

I am hosting a NEW, LIVE, in person, Zoom class, Your Customer Worksheet and More!! on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 12 noon Pacific (3 pm Eastern) –

We will be talking about Customer Worksheets – why they are SO important, why you NEED one, what to have printed (disclaimers) on it and a WHOLE LOT MORE!! Including a little bit about pricing.

Also, we will also be talking about the Unhappy Customer. What do you do if this happens – and it WILL happen! Do you have policies in place so when you have an unhappy customer, you will be ready and can deal with the situation?

Do you know that your Customer Worksheet becomes a legal document? If your unhappy customer would take you to small claims court, your Customer Worksheet can be used to show what you did, or didn’t do.

This class will last about 2 hours or so. It will also be recorded. When you register for this class, you will get 90 days, 24/7 access to the class and all class handouts (downloadable pdf files.)

For more information and to register for Your Customer Worksheet and More!! Click Here 

I know that to many people, this is the “boring” part of the business!! In reality, this is the IMPORTANT part of being in business!!!

One more item – In early April I hosted a Zoom meeting about Machine Quilting Business During the Pandemic. This meeting was recorded and is now available as a FREE online class.

For details on the FREE online class, Your Machine Quilting Business During the Pandemic, Click Here

If you have any questions about any of these classes please contact me at longarmu@aol.com

I look forward to seeing you in class on Tuesday, June 30 at 12 noon Pacific (3 pm Eastern) 

Zoom Meeting #1 & 2

On April 2 I hosted a Zoom meeting where we talked about business ideas and strategies in the “new normal” of business during the Corona Virus. It was a great meeting and we all shared ideas, thoughts and suggestions. It was also fun to “see” other machine quilters from all over!

This meeting was recorded and if you would like to view the recording and get a copy of the class notes, send an email to longarmu@aol.com asking to view the meeting and I will send you the links and the pdf.

Since the Zoom meeting was so much fun, let’s do it again. Join me on Thursday, April 23, 2020, at 1 pm Pacific Time for a meeting. This meeting will be “free flowing”, meaning there is no set agenda and we can talk about what YOU want to talk about – all machine quilting related. We can talk about your machine quilting business and we can also talk about machine quilting in general. Allow about 60 – 90 minutes for this meeting.

If you would like to attend this meeting, send an email to longarmu@aol.com asking to attend. I will send you the information on how to join the meeting.

I hope to see YOU on Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 1 pm Pacific Time talking about machine quilting!!!

Pricing Survey Results

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Pricing Survey I posted a few weeks ago. It was fun looking at all the results and then compiling them so YOU can read them.

There is a little too much information in the responses to post directly on this blog. I made a pdf file of the responses for each quilt. Just click on the highlighted text and the pdf file should open. If you want, feel free to save the results on your own computer.

Feel free to comment on the results either by leaving a comment below or sending me an email at longarmu@aol.com


Quilt #1 – Scraps & Chevrons, 55 x 55 inches
3,025 square inches, 21.0 square feet, 2.35 square yards
To view the survey results for Quilt #1 Quilt 1 Results


Quilt #2 – Winter Night, 61 x 76 inches
4,636 square inches, 32.20 square feet, 3.60 square yards
To view the survey results for Quilt #2 Quilt 2 Results


Quilt #3 – Christmas Diamonds, 56 x 64 inches
3,584 square inches, 24.9 square feet, 2.77 square yards
To view the survey results for Quilt #3 Quilt 3 Results


Quilt #4 – Double 9 Patch, 60 x 78 inches
4,680 square inches, 32.5 square feet, 3.61 square yards
To view the survey results for Quilt #4 Quilt 4 Results


I welcome your comments, thoughts or anything else about these quilts and the responses to the survey. Leave your comments below or send me an email at longarmu@aol.com

 

 

Pricing Survey and Talking Business

A few days ago, I posted four photos of quilts and asked questions about how YOU would price the quilting on these quilts. If you have responded, thank you so much for doing so.

So far there have been only a few responses. Two of the quilts had 6 responses and the other two quilts have had only 2 and 4 responses. I know that world events have been in the forefront of everyone’s thinking. As we settle into the “new normal” of our lives, please take a few minutes to respond to the survey. I will leave the survey open for a few more days.

To view the survey, Click Here

On a more serious note – we are all struggling with our “new normal” of living under pandemic conditions which can / do include mandated self-isolation, social distancing, and other restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. At this moment, there is talk of extending these restrictions for another four weeks!

I KNOW this will not last forever and, deep in my gut, I KNOW we will all come out of this stronger and busier than ever before. But, until that happens, what do we do??? How will our businesses survive? I have to honestly say, I don’t know for sure. I have some ideas, and I’m pretty sure you have some ideas too. Maybe you don’t have any ideas – and that’s OK – but you are open to any ideas or suggestions.

Let’s work together and see if we can find some ideas, suggestions, thoughts and strategies on how to keep our quilting businesses going, and possibly thriving, during the next few months.

I am going to host a Zoom meeting on Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 1 pm Pacific Time. There we can talk to each other and share our ideas and thoughts on how to keep our business going during this time. This is a FREE meeting, but you do have to register. To register, send me an email at LongarmU@aol.com and let me know you are interested in attending. I will then send you an email with all the details for the meeting on Thursday afternoon.

In your email, if you would like, let me know what your biggest business problem / issue / situation is during these uncertain times. It may be something we can talk about during the meeting. And of course, no names would be associated with any problems / issues / or situations.

I don’t know if we will solve any problems / issues/ or situations, but talking about them will help us all!

I know that as women (I know there are a few guys here) we are VERY resilient and many times we do our best work when we put our heads together and work on our problems together.

Again, send me an email letting me know you are interested in attending this meeting on Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 1 pm Pacific Time.

If you have any questions about this or need more information, please contact me at LongarmU@aol.com

I am looking forward to talking and problem solving with you on this Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 1 pm Pacific Time.

A Pricing Survey

A few days ago, I posted about an upcoming class. Pricing Cost Analysis on March 23, 2020. (For information on this class, Click Here) As part of this class, we do a little exercise on what YOU would charge to quilt some quilt tops. I thought it would be interesting to do the same pricing exercise on this blog.

Here is how it works – this is totally voluntary and it is completely anonymous. I do NOT know who you are and I cannot “track” your answers. I am using Survey Monkey www.surveymonkey.com for the questions and answers. I do have a question at the end about your location. You can enter your State / Province or region (Midwest, Northwest, Deep South, New England, etc.)

Below are photos of four different quilts with all the information about them. The link to the pricing survey is included (and highlighted) in the quilt information. Each quilt / photo has a different survey. If you would like to answer the survey on all the quilts, you will have to answer four sets of questions. If you would like to do only one quilt survey,  you can do that. YOU choose how many surveys you would like to answer.

I will leave the links to the surveys “active” for a week or so and then I will close them.  I will compile the data and post the results here on the blog.

It will be interesting to see the range of the prices and if there are some other interesting data that is collected.

If you have any questions about any of this, contact me at longarmu@aol.com. Or, if you would like to send a private comment to me about this, send it to the same email. Feel free to leave a comment below in the comments box.

Please note – if you are attending the Pricing Cost Analysis class, the same quilts and photos will be posted, but it is a totally SEPARATE survey and will be open to only those who are attending the class.

About the quilts – I pieced each of these quilts about 15 or more years ago. I like using these quilt tops in this class because there is a wide range of piecing styles which will allow for many different quilting styles and quilting options.

Click on any photo for a larger view


Quilt #1 – Scraps & Chevrons, 55 x 55 inches
3,025 square inches, 21.0 square feet, 2.35 square yards
To take the pricing survey for the Scraps & Chevron Quilt
This survey is now closed

Quilt details
9 inch blocks with 1-1/2 inch sashings, 6-1/2 inch outer borders. The edges of the outer border are bias edges.


Quilt #2 – Winter Night, 61 x 76 inches
4,636 square inches, 32.20 square feet, 3.60 square yards
To take the pricing survey for the Winter Night quilt
This survey is now closed

Quilt details –
Outer border is a total of 9-1/2 inches – inner purple printed border is 1-1/2 inches, the pieced border area is 6 inches and the outer solid purple border is 2 inches. The snowflakes are 12 inches, the roofs are 6 inches deep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Quilt #3 – Christmas Diamonds, 56 x 64 inches 
3,584 square inches, 24.9 square feet, 2.77 square yards
To take the pricing survey for the Christmas Diamonds quilt
This survey is now closed

Quit Details – 
Outer printed border is 6 inches, inner border is 2 inches, blocks are 8 inches


Quilt #4 – Double 9 Patch, 60 x 78 inches
4,680 square inches, 32.5 square feet, 3.61 square yards
To take the pricing survey for the Double 9 Patch quilt
This survey is now closed.

Quilt details –
The small red squares are 1-1/2 inches, the 9 Patches are 4-1/2 inches, the large “solid” square is 13-1/2 inches. The outside edges of the diagonal setting blocks are on the straight of grain


If you have any questions about the quilts, need more information or have any comments, please contact me at longarmu@aol.com

I look forward to seeing and compiling the data for each quilt!

A Pricing Cost Analysis

A LOT has been happening over the last few weeks and at this time we are all in a state of social distancing and (possible) self-isolation! As quilters, as business people, and as women (as most of us are) we always seem to have a LOT to do and we will keep busy, no matter what.

This can be the time where not only are we catching up on backlogged customer quilts or working on our own quilts, we can be working on our quilting business!

Join me on Monday, March 23, 2020 at 1 pm Pacific Time, for a LIVE, in person, online class about a Price Cost Analysis and how to apply this to your business. I know that this sounds dull, boring and scary, but this is information you NEED to know! You NEED to know how your business costs affect your pricing structure.

For more details on this class Click Here

If you have been in business for a while – you need this class!!
If you are starting your machine quilting business – you need this class!!

Note: This is a great time to start a machine quilting business! If I am a piecer and I have to stay home, I am going to be piecing a quilt top or two. They will need to be quilted – and YOU can do it!

If you have been quilting for others for a while, this is the time to communicate with your customers and tell them you are ready to quilt their quilts! I will talk about this in a future blog post.

This LIVE, online class will be about 2-1/2 hours in length, possibly a little bit longer, and there will be time for questions, answers and discussions.

This is the time to take what you have learned in this class, apply it to your business and make your business more profitable – and the word “profit” is NOT a bad word!

For details and to register for the Pricing Cost Analysis Online Class Click Here

If you have any questions about this class, please contact Cindy Roth at longarmu@aol.com 

Stay safe, stay well and keep on quilting!!!

What Would You Do?

I received the following email from a quilter a little while ago and with her permission I am posting it. At the end is my email back to her.

What would you do in this situation? Please feel free to leave a comment on her post or my response or send me a private email at LongarmU@aol.com I look forward to hearing your responses and reactions to this email.

Note: Unfortunately, I have no photo of the quilt described in this email.

There is more to this story which will be future blog post.

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Hello!

I work for a sewing machine retailer and I use their long arm to quilt quilts for them as well.

I had a lady come in and wanted me to quilt a wall hanging quilt on my long arm. I told her what she wanted could be done on a regular sewing machine but no, she wanted it long armed. So I said okay.

Simple stitch in the ditch, nothing else. She came in, hovered over me the whole time and she would scrutinize every stitch I made. We discussed before I agreed to take the quilt to be quilted that we were doing stitch in the ditch. I showed her exactly with my finger where I would be going along in the seams and she agreed. I get this quilt on my long arm, she scrutinizing every stitch I make and then she is upset because you can see the thread barely along the edge of the white fabric pieces that she had.( she picked black thread)

Her pieces were not cut correctly and I used a ruler to quilt her quilt. She watched me the whole time and only after it had been done and I moved to the next section did she say something.

I don’t normally allow someone to stand over me when I quilt unless they are a silent spectator or interested in the machine.

Her quilt gets done and I pull it off. She comments on how multiple things need to be seam ripped and redone. So I do them. Then she doesn’t like her side pieces because there is a “bubble” in the fabric. I advised her to have the center of the panels quilted because it was a long piece of open fabric. She didn’t want that and didn’t like the results.

She was upset it wasn’t don’t that same day (I never agree to do a quilt in a day no matter the size) and was angry that I took a lunch break.

I redid the side panels for her (still poofy) and my boss said to not remove any other stitching since she agreed beforehand and didn’t say anything till it was finished. (The customers words were “I don’t need all that extra”)

My question is, is it ridiculous to ask the customer to remove the stitching if they don’t like it? My only fear is she made it seem like she wouldn’t pay me after I spent 8 hours on it plus having to remove stitching and re-quilting it. I feel like she was trying to be dissatisfied with the job so she didn’t have to pay me.

Where her problem was, the stitch is barely visible on her white fabric, and I told her originally that it may not be exactly in the ditch because of her seams and the fact that her blocks were not square. (her seams are curved) she said she was okay with that.

She agreed to pick it up today and then didn’t show up or call. If she does show up and decided she still doesn’t like it, I will just agree to disagree and remove my stitches and give her the quilt back. I’ve already decided to not do anymore quilts for her.

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Here is my response –

Thank you for visiting the Longarm U website and taking the time to write about your nasty customer.

First of all, I feel your pain and frustration! I have had a few “bad” customers over the years and I know what it is like. It is gut wrenching! After the dust settles, take a deep breath, forget about this and move on!

To answer your questions – in my opinion, it is not ridiculous to have her take the stitches out of her quilt if she is not happy with it.

This is what I would do – I would insist that she pay you for your work (no $$, no quilt back. You need to be paid for the time you already have into this quilt) and she takes the quilt home with her. Tell her she can take the stitching out and you will re-quilt it for her, but, she needs to bring it back to you within a certain amount of time, maybe one or two months, not any longer. If she brings it back re-quilt it, but I bet she won’t. I would document this all and maybe have a “coupon” or certificate made up saying she has X number of days to bring it back for re-quilting. Have her sign this and make a copy for your records.

If she insists that you take out the stitching, I would say something like, “I have already taken out some of the stitching. Every time the stitching is removed the fabric(s) are weakened and may tear. I do not want to take the risk of damaging your quilt. I know that you can take out the stitching more carefully than I can.” This way, SHE is responsible for any damage to the quilt.

If she would bring the quilt back for re-quilting, I would inspect that quilt with a fine tooth comb and take photos of every inch of the quilt before I start working on it. I would also photo document the work you are doing on it.

Personally, I don’t think she will bring the quilt back and is probably scamming for free quilting.

Some other things I thought about while reading your email –

I would set up a “no go zone” around your machine and working area. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, except authorized store employees, goes into that area. You DO NOT need anyone at your shoulder watching you work! And the no go zone needs to be enforced at all times!!!

I have seen some shops where they have a (physical) fence around the quilting machine to keep people away from it.

What would have happened if she accidentally bumped you while you were using a ruler and the hopping foot jumped onto the ruler? Or she tried reaching towards the needle while it was running and the needle went through her finger?

Do you have a worksheet that you fill out when you intake the quilt? Is there somewhere on the workshop that says that payment must be received before the quilt is returned to the customer? Did she sign and date the worksheet? If so, the worksheet becomes a legal document which protects you and the shop you work for.

Hang in there, this will pass. This customer will probably never be happy with ANY thing you, or any other quilter will do for her.

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I look forward to hearing your responses and reactions to these emails.

After the Quilting

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah and a great New Year!

The holidays are over, now it is time to hunker down and survive the winter weather! And to think about our machine quilting business.

January and February are usually slower months in the quilting year so enjoy this down time to work on a charity quilt or two or even quilt some of your own quilts! If you need a good project for both piecing and quilting, check out the Uneven 9 Patch online class. For details of this class Click Here

After a recent machine quilting group meeting, I received an email from an attendee who wrote –

How do people keep track of quilts (especially customer quilts) that they have completed? Do they use any special software? If so, what is it and what do they like / dislike about it.

I told her that I would write about it in this blog and see what YOU do “after the quilting!”

Please post your comments below or contact me privately via email at longarmu@aol.com

Here is what I do “after the quilting.” I am old school and I don’t have any special aps or programs for this.

When my customer brings a quilt for me to complete, I have a worksheet that I fill out and they must sign. As I work on the quilt, I refer to the worksheet and make notes, calculations, etc., directly on to the worksheet.

When I am completely finished with the customer quilt, I will make an invoice for the quilt, print out two copies and make a PDF of the invoice. (I use QuickBooks for my business accounting and it is easy to make invoices and PDF’s of the invoice.) I staple one of the invoice copies to the worksheet and these are stored in either a 3 ring binder or a large file folder and filed (usually) by date.

On my desktop computer, I have a file for customer quilts. There are sub files for each year, example 2018 Quilts, 2019 Quilts, and now 2020 Quilts. Inside that folder is where I have individual folders for each customer quilt.

I will save the invoice PDF in the customer folder along with any photos that I have taken of that quilt. Many times, I will take photos of the quilt “in progress” and send them to my customer as I am working on their quilt. Those photos are in this folder also along with the finished quilt photos.

Note – I could take a photo of the worksheet, both front and back and any notes, and include them in the customer file on my computer.

I like to send an email to my customer letting her know that her quilt is completed. I will attach to her email a zipped folder that contains the invoice PDF along with some photos of the finished quilt. I try to make a blog post with photos of her quilt on my personal blog before I send the zipped folder to her. (To view my personal blog Click Here

Here is a screen shot photo of the inside of a customer folder showing the invoice PDF and photos. (I have not yet put these photos on my personal blog yet! I know, I am WAY behind!!!) Click on the photo for a larger view.

In the Quilt Year Folder on the computer, I also have a file for Charity Quilts, Family Quilts or any other projects I am working on. If you do quilts for several different charities, you may want to make a special “Charity Quilt” folder and have sub folders for each charity.

Once you get started with this, it is fairly simple to keep track of customer information and customer photos “after the quilting!”

Let me know how YOU keep track of your customer information “after the quilting!”