The Power of Samples

A customer is in your studio and you are discussing what kind of quilting you would like to be stitching onto her quilt. The more you are talking with her, the more confused she is looking. You KNOW that she is not understanding one word of what you are saying.

Not only is quilting an art, quilting is a “language.” Depending if you are a piecer or a quilter your “language” is different.

Piecer language is – half square triangles, bias edges, quarter square triangles, jelly rolls, layer cakes, batik fabric, foundation piecing, etc. These are words and phrases that refer to the process of taking large pieces of fabric and cutting them into small pieces of fabric, then sewing them back together to form a large piece of fabric!

Quilting language is – feathers, stippling, fill in stitching, trapunto, template work, Sashiko, stitch in /near the ditch, etc. All of these words and phrases refer to the process of stitching the three layers (quilt top, batting and backing) together with thread to make these layers into a quilt.

Usually, a quilter will understand a piecer, but most of the time, a piecer doesn’t understand a quilter.
As a machine quilting business, you need to understand that most of the time your customer has NO clue to what you can do with your quilting machine.

I make this statement this with absolutely NO dis-respect to any piecer. To me, this is like the relationship I have with my CPA. I give my CPA my business financial information, he does his “magic”, and presto, my books are done and I know what I have to pay in taxes! I have NO clue as to how he does this, and, I don’t want to know how he does this. As long as it gets done, that’s all I care about.

This is where samples come to your rescue! If you have some samples of some of your popular quilting designs and techniques, then you can SHOW your confused customer what the design, pattern or technique will (sort of) look like. Of course, you will have to say “Remember, this won’t look exactly like the sample. I will be using different thread in a different area, but the quilting on this sample should give you a good idea of what your quilt will look like when I am finished.”

Obviously, you will not be able to make a sample quilt for EVERY quilting design, pattern, technique that is “out there”, but you should be able to make a Sampler Quilt with MANY different stitching designs and patterns and have it hanging in your studio.

Which brings me to a shameless plug for my new online class Free Hand Sampler V-2. This online class shows you 56+ different quilting designs / patterns that I use on my customer quilts, my own quilts and charity quilts. For complete details about this class Click Here

If you prefer, you can make your own Sampler Quilt with the designs and techniques that YOU like and use on your quilts and your customer quilts.

As long as you have something to show your customer when they don’t understand what you are saying, that is what matters the most.

Here are some suggestions for samples that you may want to have available –

Samples that show the density of quilting – You can piece a quilt with maybe 4 blocks (2 across, 2 down) with sashing and borders and then quilt each quarter with a different density of quilting. From very “loose” – maybe big stipple, to super duper, over the top, custom quilting.

Or you could make 3, 4 or more separate mini-quilts. I would suggest making them at least 18 – 24 inches square, and quilt them individually with super simple to super complex patterns / designs. Of course, each density should be priced differently, with the more complex patterns being the most expensive.

If you quilt only pantographs, this will work for you also. Make some mini-quilts  and quilt them with a simple pantograph and with more complex patterns. The look of each mini-quilt will be different and, in my opinion, the more complex pattern should be a higher price.

Samples that show different colors of thread – so many people are “locked” into having the same color of thread on the same color of fabric. In most cases, that is appropriate and works. But…. many times, by using a slightly different color of thread, maybe a shade or two lighter or darker, will make a HUGE difference in the look of the quilt. Maybe on one of your mini-quilts from above, you use different colors of thread!

Samples that show something different – When I quilt, 98% of the time I use the same thread – brand, color, weight, etc.,- on the top and in the bobbin. Many customers assume that the color of the bobbin thread will match the color of the backing fabric. I have several samples that show that when using the different colors of thread on the back of the quilt, there is another quilt stitched onto the back! When the customer SEES this, they understand, and it makes my quilting life a whole lot easier!

You may even make some mini quilts with the same fabrics, patterns, threads, but change the battings! And yes, different battings make a HUGE difference in the finished look of the quilt.

Since the samples are specifically for your business, the fabric and supplies you purchase for samples is considered a business expense!

Storage of samples can sometimes be an issue. I have big, big tote bins under my quilting machine where I store my samples. If I need a sample, all I need to know is what bin it is in and dig it out when I need to show it to a customer.

To view information about the type of storage bins I have, from the Home Depot website, Click Here

I also think it looks really cool if you are finding the sample at the bottom of the bin and all the other quilts from the bin are stacked around you and your customer. It makes you look like your really know what you are doing and that you are incredibly talented – which you are!

Start planning what samples you need to make for YOUR machine quilting business.

If you have ideas for other samples, please let us know by writing in the comments section.

If you have samples that you use in your business and want to send photos and an explanation, please send them to longarmu@aol.com and I will post the photos on this blog.

As always, I look forward to your ideas and comments.

Cost of Longarm Quilting – Response

A few days ago I posted a link to a blog article about the cost of longarm quilting. (To view this blog article Click Here) I also posted the same link on two FaceBook groups, Quilting Friends and Quilters Show and Tell. Both of these groups are open to all quilters and piecers who are at all levels of quilting. From the absolutely raw beginner to the very experienced and professional quilters.

After posting the link about the cost of longarm quilting, there were MANY responses and comments to that post. Most of the responses were encouraging and appreciative of what longarm quilters do for their pieced tops.

Then there was a somewhat negative response –

 If a longarmer ruins a pieced quilt top, does he/she carry insurance to cover the (at least) the cost of materials back to the customer?

Which another person replied –

Not likely!

Two responses to a post, SO MUCH to write about!!!!! Where do I start???

Let’s start with business insurance. If you are quilting as a business, YOU NEED BUSINESS INSURANCE! If you are working from or in your home, DO NOT  assume that your homeowner’s insurance will cover any business “problems!”

Note: I am not an insurance person and I don’t know anything about insurance except what I have learned the hard way. Always talk to an insurance professional with any insurance related question or problem.( If you are an insurance person, feel free to comment on this or contact me privately at longarmu@aol.com)

Talk to your insurance person and tell them you have a quilting business. They will probably have NO clue as to what you do, that’s OK. Invite them over to your home/studio so they can see what equipment, supplies, etc., that you have. Make sure your coverage includes your equipment and the customer quilts you have in your possession. You need to KNOW what the (insurance) definition of “ruined quilt” is, what is covered for a ruined customer quilt and how a value of the ruined quilt is determined. If needed, get this information IN WRITING from your insurance person and keep it in your files.

Tip – if your insurance person doesn’t know what kind of insurance you need, the magic words are “Inland Marine.” I have no idea what this means, but say that to an insurance person and their eyes light up and they know what to do!

Let’s assume that the insurance definition of a “ruined quilt” is where the quilt is destroyed in a fire, flood, or other type of disaster – which I hope and pray NEVER happens to you. In other words, the quilt is totally un-usable in it’s ruined/destroyed condition.

In most cases, it is up to your customer to provide receipts and records to document the $$ they spent on the fabrics, pattern, and any other supplies needed to complete the quilt top.  Generally, there is no allowance made for the time it took to piece the quilt top. Even if your customer says that the quilt top is worth several thousand dollars, if they can’t DOCUMENT that amount, the insurance company may pay only a fraction of that amount!

Now let’s assume that the “ruined quilt” is not destroyed in a fire or flood. For whatever reason, your customer is not happy with the quilting and she is saying that you “ruined her quilt.”

This is where you have to play detective and find out why your customer is saying this and what can be done to fix things.

There can be MANY reasons for your customer to be unhappy – from machine and tension issues to unrealistic expectations. YOU have to talk to your customer and find out what (in their minds) is wrong.

Did your customer say “do what you want” on the quilt and is not happy with what you did? Did you document that statement on your worksheet – that the customer signed and dated before leaving their quilt with you?

How long after picking up their quilt is the customer saying they are unhappy with it? Is it within a day or two or has it been six months or longer?

What is happening in your customer’s life at this time? Is she taking out her frustration from another situation on you?

What does the customer expect you to do about this situation? Her solution may not be as drastic and you think it is?

Hopefully you can work with your customer to come to a resolution of this problem.  This may mean re-quilting some areas of the quilt, or possibly giving the customer a refund, discount, or credit for future quilting.

I have a booklet, “Your Customer Worksheet” where I have an article title “The Unhappy Customer – What to Do!” (This booklet is available on the Longarm University website. For details Click Here)

For a short time, I will send you a FREE copy of the the Unhappy Customer article if you send a private email to me at longarmu@aol.com and request a copy.

You WILL, at some time in your professional quilting career, have an unhappy customer. This situation should be handled in a professional way and your customer (hopefully) will be satisfied with the solution.

I look forward to your comments.

Why Does Longarm Quilting Cost So Much?

I found this on FaceBook and I think it is important for all professional longarm quilters to read.

The writer of this blog post is spot on!

To read the blog post “Why Does My Longarm Quilter Charge So Much?Click Here

 

 

Timing App?

I am a firm believer in timing yourself when you are working at your quilting machine. I keep track of the time it takes to quilt nearly ALL the quilts I work on. If the quilt is customer quilt, it is critical that I keep track of the time, and if the quilt is a charity quilt or even a personal quilt (what is that!) I keep track of the time. At a later date, I look back on these records and see if I can find any trends or information that is important to me and to my business.

For example, many years ago I was doing a lot of sampler style quilts – many different blocks, most of which had borders and sashing. Not to mention the several outer borders, some with piecing and / or applique. By timing myself, I found that I was spending several more hours of my life completing this type of quilt than I was for a non-sampler type of quilt.

Because of this information, when I quote a price for quilting a sampler quilt, whatever my base price would be, I will ADD at least and extra 25%, maybe more, to the price. Why? Because I KNOW, from past experience, and from timing myself,  it is going to take me longer to complete this quilt.

Here is the math for this – Queen Size Sampler Quilt, 90 x 108 inches = 9,720 square inches. My “base price estimate” of cost is $300. (9,720 si x .03 cents per square inch = $291.60, rounded up to $300.) Because this is a sampler quilt, I would add at least 25% more ($300 x .25) which equals $75 for a total labor price of $375. If there is an applique border or any other “special” things that need to be done with the quilting, I may even round that up to $100, or more, for a total of $400. (Yes, you CAN charge this much for your quilting and YES, people will pay you for this.)

I have been timing my quilting  for nearly my whole life as a professional longarm quilter (20+ years), and now I want to come into the modern age!

I KNOW there has to be a app “out there” that can track my time for each quilting project.

I usually use the stopwatch function on my “clock” app on my (Android) smartphone. But, the last few times I set my stopwatch, I also was using a radio app on my phone. When listening to music from my phone with my earphones, somehow, the stopwatch function shuts off!

I have checked in the “app stores” and there are a ton of timing apps! They all say about the same thing and the reviews are pretty much the same also.

So my question to you is – do you use a timing / project app and if so, what is it’s name? Is it easy to use, do you like using it and is there anything else you would like to share about it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a little confused about the timing / project apps and options there are “out there.”

Please leave your comments, app suggestions and any other information in the comments section. Thanks in advance for your advice and input!

 

 

The Cost of a T-Shirt Quilt

I recently was helping a professional quilter to figure out what to charge for a start-to-finish T-Shirt quilt. Together we did a cost analysis and it was very enlightening! Then in an online group, someone else asked how to charge for making the same kind of T-Shirt quilt.

I wrote out the cost analysis, posted it to the group and I thought you would be interested in seeing it. And here it is –

T-Shirt Quilt, Start to Finish, Cost Analysis (or What to Charge a Customer for this Type of Quilt.)

This quilt is to be made using 15 T-Shirts, cut to 12 inches square – 3 shirts across, 5 shirts down in a traditional horizontal setting – with 2 inch sashing and 4 inch, straight set borders.

The approximate finished size of the quilt is 52 x 80 inches.

Let’s start with the quilting –

Backing fabric, 4.5 yards @ 10 per yard = $45
Batting, 2 yards @ $10 per yard = $20
Thread = $15
Binding, 22 running /perimeter feet at $3 per foot = $66.
Applied with home sewing machine, front and back. More if hand stitched to the back
Quilting Labor, 4,160 square inches @ .04 cents = $175
Yes, I know that this is high, but there can be ALL sorts of problems quilting on T shirts, even if you do all the    piecing.

For the quilting, my total would be $321

Now for the piecing –

Interfacing for behind the T shirts, 4 yards @ $4 per yard = $16
Sashing and Border fabrics, total of 4 yards @ $10 per yard = $40
Piecing labor, 15 hours @ $15 per hour = $225
I have made T shirt quilts and there can be a LOT of time involved even with “simple” piecing.

The piecing total would be $281.

Add the quilting total ($321) with the piecing total ($281) for a grand total of $602. For simplicity, let’s round that to $600. This would be the MINIMUM I would charge for this quilt.

Now, lets take $600 divide it by 15 T shirts used in this quilt, for a total of $40 per T shirt.

Let’s take this one step further. Let’s assume that you customer is not satisfied with 12 inch blocks in a traditional horizontal setting. She wants something “different” and you have to come up with a unique setting and work with MANY different sizes of T-Shirt logos, etc.

I would start at a price of $40 per T-Shirt then ADD A LOT of extra $$$. How much is a LOT EXTRA?? Only you can answer that question, but I would at least DOUBLE what I have priced in the traditional setting.  I would charge at least $1,200 for this type of quilt. If there was extra supplies / fabric / interfacing, etc., then this price would also increase.

Here is something else to remember. Be sure to receive at least HALF of the amount you are charging  – which is non-refundable – when the order is placed. You have to purchase supplies and your time is valuable! When the quilt top is ready to be put on the quilting machine, another one quarter or the cost is required and when the quilt is completed, the remainder of the fee is to be paid.

Be sure to document EVERYTHING about this custom order, from start to finish!

Let’s face it, making a quilt from start to finish can be a lot of fun, but it is our WORK! We should be paid a reasonable fee for our time and our skills to make a special, unique, one of a kind quilt that is going to last a long, long, time!

I look forward to reading your comments.

What Would You Do? Update

Thank you to all who made comments about the REALLY wonky quilt in the photos in the last post. (To view the post Click Here)

The “problem child” quilt is quilted and you can read about the whole process on the quilter’s blog.

There are two separate blog posts.

This is the post where the quilter describes the process of quilting the quilt. To view this post, Click Here 

To view a blog post, with photos, of the finished quilt Click Here

All I can say is – this was an amazing transformation of a seriously wonky quilt! And a big “You Go Girl!!” to the quilter!

Over the last few days I have received a couple of “problem children” quilt photos from other machine quilters. If you have any photos of your “bad” quilts – whether they are your own or a customer’s – send them to me as an email attachment and I will post them on this blog. I will not post your name or anything else to identify you or your quilt(s).

The “problems” could be piecing, quilting, construction, backing fabrics, or anything else. Maybe we can vote for the “Worst Quilt!” Let’s see what “problem child” quilts we can find!

What Would You Do?

I belong to a few YahooGroups and recently someone posted photos of a “problem child” quilt.

The person who posted these photos is a professional longarm quilter and this is a customer quilt she was working on. I contacted the quilter and asked permission to post the photos on this blog for your feedback. The quilter is graciously allowing me to post these photos (and the results) so that we all can learn from this experience.

The quilt is 96 x 96 inches and I will let the photos do the talking –

The quit is on the machine – (click on any photo for a larger view)

1-Bias Quilt

Here is one of the borders –

2-Quilt Challenge

One more thing – the piecier doesn’t trim her threads well.

3-Tangled Threads

This is what most of the back of the quilt looked like.

So, what would you do?

All comments are welcomed.

In a few days I will post the outcome of this quilt.

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