A Different Situation

I was contacted by someone earlier this week who was looking for some insight into a problem they were having. I think there is something to learn from this problem but I am not quite sure what it is. There are many questions that I can think of, most of which I have no answers. I am hoping that you can think about this and post your thoughts, suggestions, etc. Here is the situation as told to me –

The person who contacted me is a piecer, who pieced a king size quit for her daughter who is now at college. She took the quilt to a local machine quilter (I do not know who the quilter is or where she is located) for quilting. While at the machine quilter’s business, during the intake of the quilt, the customer insisted that the quilter write out a work order (which the quilter normally doesn’t do). The customer was very specific about what she wanted quilted and where it was to be quilted. According to the customer, this was all documented  and the quilter said that doing these patterns in these areas would be no problem. The customer has a copy of the work order.) The customer left a $200 deposit and waited patiently for the quilt to be completed.

After 5 months, the quilter called the customer and said the quilt was ready to be picked up. When the customer picked up the quilt, the quilter had quilted different patterns and designs instead of what the customer had chosen. The customer was not contacted about the pattern changes and did not approve of any pattern changes before the quilting was stared. When the customer asked the quilter why she didn’t do the quilting that the customer had insisted on, the quilter said “I felt that my choice of designs would work better on the quilt than yours did.”

The customer, who is very, very angry and upset about this, grabbed her quilt and left. The quilt is now in the possession of the customer.

The customer, who is the person who contacted me, is LIVID about this! She is saying the quilt is “ruined” and that she can’t look at the quilt without all these bad feelings, etc.

The customer was talking about contacting a lawyer and is wanting compensation for the quilting amount (which was about $500. I don’t know the exact amount), the cost of the materials of the quilt and the time it took her to piece the quilt. The customer says she can document the cost of the materials and that she knows how long it took her to piece the quilt.

In total, the customer is looking for “several thousand dollars” in compensation from the quilter.

Here are some of my thoughts on this situation –

If I were the quilter and this was my customer and I did not quilt what the customer insisted on – and which was documented – I would give back the deposit and offer to re-quilt the quilt for no charge.

I don’t know if I would offer to take out the quilting or have the customer do this. I would say (and document) that the quilt would need to be returned to me un-quilted buy a certain date, maybe three months in advance, and then give a date as to when it would be completed. I would do the re-quilting and give the quilt back to the customer as graciously as possible.

Hopefully, this would solve the problem and everyone is more or less happy.

When thinking more about this situation, especially where the customer wants compensation for the quilt, here are other questions / thoughts that I have. I don’t know if these are legal questions or if they would have any bearing on this situation or not. Let me know your thoughts about this –

The customer says her quilt was “ruined.” I don’t feel that the quilt was ruined. The quilt (I have seen photos of it) is nicely pieced, it is nicely / adequately quilted and it is in a usable condition. Even thought the quilt is NOT quilted the way the customer wanted it, but the quilt could be gifted or donated and someone would be thrilled to have it.

Even though the quilter quilted the wrong designs, the work was still done and the quilt is still usable. Should the quilter be paid for the work she did on the quilt?

Because the customer now has possession of the quilt (no matter how it was removed from the quilter) does that mean that the customer has “accepted” the quilt “as is”?

If there were holes ripped in the quilt or the cat or dog had babies on it, or something else happened where the quilt was totally un-usable, that, in my opinion, would be a different situation.

If the quilt is usable, should the customer be given / awarded compensation for the time and materials used to make this quilt?

If the quilt was un-usable, should the customer be given / awarded compensation for the time and materials used to make this quilt?

If the customer would be given / awarded compensation for the time and materials used to make this quilt, how much should it be?

Let’s assume there was $250 worth of fabric for the top, $75 worth of fabric for the backing, 100 hours of piecing time at $15 per hour = $1,500. The total documented time and materials is $1,825.

Let me know your thoughts by writing in the comments box below. If you would prefer to contact me privately, send me an email at longarmu@aol.com

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Looking for Legal Info

I have been contacted by someone about a quilting situation that they are involved in that may require legal help.  Is there anyone who subscribes to this blog that is a lawyer, para-legal, etc. that could email with me about this? All I am looking for is a legal opinion or explanation for this situation.  (I am NOT involved in this situation in any way.) If you can help, please send me an email at longarmu@aol.com

I promise that I will write about what is happening, but I can’t do so until I get more information.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Code of Conduct?

A while back, I received an email from a person who asked if knew of, or had, a “Code of Conduct” or a “Code of Ethics” for those who machine quilt for other people as a business.

I replied back to her that I had never heard of anything like that but it might be a good idea.

I have a couple of ideas, but before I write about them, what are YOUR thoughts about this?

Do you have a “code”, a principle or an un-written rule or two, or three, that you use in your machine quilting business? If so, post it in the comments section. Feel free to add an explanation of why.

Or, if you would prefer, send it to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com I will then post it to the blog.

Here is one un-written rule I follow –

Never say anything bad about another piecer /quilter / machine quilter – even if you are joking around! This will come back to bite you on the butt! Big Time!! Ask me how I know this.

I look forward to reading what other machine quilting business owners have to say about this.

A Post on Pricing

While I was on a FaceBook group, someone posted this link to a blog about pricing items for sale. I read the blog post and it is a great post and brings up many different thoughts and comments on pricing. The pricing that is talked about in the blog post is for hand made items such as knit, sewn, crocheted, jewelry, etc., but the information is just as accurate and timely for a machine quilting business.

The blogger who wrote this is in the UK so the pricing is done in “pounds” not dollars – just substitute a $ for the pound sign.

To view the blog post Click Here 

PS Usually summer is a slow time for machine quilters. If it is slow for you, what a GREAT time to raise your prices. Then, when things pick up in the fall, your prices are higher and you will be making more $$$!!

Let me know your thoughts about this blog post.

 

You Don’t Have to Justify!

A few weeks ago I was teaching a class about the “business end” of a machine quilting business. In this class, along with a lot of other things, I talked about offering additional services, such as binding quilts, to your customers. In my opinion, binding quilts is not that hard to do and you can make a fair amount of $$ at binding quilts.

In my quilting business I have four different pricing levels for binding. They are –

Binding #1, $2.50 perimeter foot – Trim the quilt, make the binding (straight binding, cut selvedge to selvedge) and apply the binding to the front of the quilt using my home sewing machine. The customer is responsible for hand stitching the binding to the back of the quilt.

Binding #2, $3.00 perimeter foot – Trim the quilt, make the binding (see above) stitch the binding to the quilt, front and back, using my home sewing machine. (This binding in totally applied with the home sewing machine.)

Binding #3, $3.50 perimeter foot – Same as Binding #1 except that I hand stitch the binding to the back of the quilt.

Binding #4, individually priced – This is Custom Binding such as bias binding, piped binding or any other type of binding that is different from Bindings #1 – 3. There is no “upper limit” to the price on this type of binding.

Example – a Queen Size quilt is 90 x 108 inches (the size of a pre-cut Queen Size batting) which equals 33 perimeter feet. (90 +108 x 2 divided by 12 inches per foot = 33 perimeter feet) Of course, the number of perimeter feet would be different on different sizes of quilts.

Using the example above my prices would be –

Binding #1 – $82.50 – and it takes me about an hour to make and apply this binding
Binding #2 – $99 – it takes me about 1-1/2 hours to make and apply this binding
Binding #3 – $115.50 – it takes me at least 2-1/2 hours, probably more, to make and apply this binding.
Binding #4 – is not included in this example.

I stated that of the customers who have me apply binding, they usually chose Binding #2. And, I love the $$ I can make applying Binding #2!

Everyone in the class seem receptive to the idea of charging for binding and for the prices I was suggesting.

Note: If you are NOT offering binding services to your customers, please think about doing so!

I would also like to say that in my business, only about 15 – 20% of my customers have me put the binding on their quilts. I don’t tell my customer how much time it will take to apply the binding to their quilt – I also don’t tell my customers how much time it has taken me to complete the quilting on their quilt.

A few days ago I received an email from one of the students in that class. Among other things, she stated that, in her opinion, I was “gouging” my customers in my pricing for my binding, mainly because it takes me such a short time to apply a binding (Binding #2)!

Fair warning – I am going to rant for a little bit!

In my classes, I tell people how I run my machine quilting business. I am not saying that my way is the “best” way or the “right” way to do things – it is the way that is working for me, at this moment in time. YOU are an independent small business owner. If you feel that my prices are too high or too low, you can charge what YOU want in YOUR business! I am NOT going to come and re-possess your quilting machine, or do harm to your quilts if you don’t charge the same as what I charge!

Here is a definition of “price gouging” from www.LegalDictonary.net  https://legaldictionary.net/price-gouging/

Price Gouging – The practice of raising prices on certain types of goods and services to an unfair level, especially during a state of emergency.

Also on the same page is this –

In most states with price gouging laws, the act is defined by the presence of three criteria:

Emergency or Crisis Situation – applies to abrupt price increases during a time of disaster or other emergency
Essential Items or Services – applies exclusively to items or services that are essential to survival
Price Limit – sets a limit on the price that can be charged for essential goods or services

In my mind, “gouging” the customer is also when you are the ONLY person in an area who can do “something” and you charge a huge amount of $$ to do so.

Personally, I don’t think my charges for my binding services fall within the legal definition of price gouging. (I am not a lawyer – if you are, and I’m wrong, please let me know.)

I do feel that something should be said about experience. I have been applying binding on my own quilts and customers quilts for well over 20 years. I am efficient at applying binding and I almost have a “system” when I do so. Because I can apply the binding efficiently in a relative short period of time should I charge LESS for my binding services? I say No!

The same could be said for my quilting. Because I can quilt some patterns efficiently and in a relatively short period of time, should I charge LESS for those quilting designs? Again, I say NO!!

Here is an example in my own life – In my backyard I have a tree limb that is broken and hanging in the branches of the tree. It is about 20 – 30 feet in the air. I am afraid that someday this branch will fall and wipe out my fence and possibly hurt someone or the neighbors dog. I can’t reach the branch, my son can’t fix this, neither can the handy man I hire on occasion. I have to hire an arborist to come and get this dead branch out of my tree. I will have to pay him $$, probably a lot, to fix this for me. He has experience doing this and will probably get it done in a short amount of time. Is the price he will charge me “gouging”? Probably not. Will I pay his price, YES! Will I grumble about it, possibly. But the job will be DONE!! And I don’t have to worry about that branch anymore! (He is coming and fixing the tree on Saturday.)

If my customer is willing to pay the $$ for me to bind their quilt, it is their choice. I do a good job and the job is done well. In my opinion, it is NOT gouging!

I am now finished with my rant and I hope that you will feel free to post your comments about this.

Spring is Here!!

Spring is here – even though many of you still have snow on the ground, rain, flooding and other weather related things happening to make it still feel like winter. As someone once wrote, “The first day of Spring and the first Spring day can sometimes be a month apart!”

Even though it may not feel like Spring where you are, this is the time to connect with your customers to remind them that you are still quilting and are ready for them to bring their quilts to you. It is also the time to remind your customers that weddings, graduations and other related events are coming and that they should begin their quilts for these events – or bring the quilts they have been working on, to YOU!!

How do you let your customers know about all of this? Send them a note or card through the (regular) mail! In your note or card you can also include a little goodie reminding them of your quilting services. I am not talking about anything imprinted or expensive such as pencils, mugs, etc. I am talking about some small, quilted items that are easy to make and easy to send through the mail.

On my personal blog  I recently posted how to make quilted mug rugs. To view this post Click Here

These mug rugs have a heart motif on them and could be used for Valentine’s Day, but you could easily substitute a Spring theme. What about a simple flower design, or, if you are ambitious, maybe piecing a simple flower or Spring-like design and then quilt them into mug rugs or pot holders, etc.

Depending on the number of customers you have and the backlog of quilts waiting to be quilted, you may want to be selective of who you send these quilted items to.

I am assuming that you have complete contact information about your customers including name, phone, physical address, email, etc.

Here are some suggestions –

Go through your customer list and categorize your customers as –

Level 1 – this is the “regular” customer that keeps you in business. They may bring a quilt (or more) each month or so, or at least on a somewhat regular basis.
Level 2 – these are somewhat regular customers, but you haven’t heard from them in about 6 – 9 months.
Level 3 – you have not heard from these customers in 9 – 18 months or so.
Level 4 – you have not hear from these customers for over 18 months. This could include the customers you have not heard from in years. If you have a number of customers that you have not heard from in a few years, you could categorize them as a Level 5.

After you have categorized your customers determine which ones you would like to send a “goodie” to. Personally, I would concentrate on the Level 3 and 4 customers and send a Spring note and goodie to them.

If you concentrate on the Level 3 and 4 customers, I would also include a coupon for a Free Batting. Why not! This might be the “nudge” this customer needs to come back to you.

I wrote about free battings in a previous blog post. To view this post Click Here

Since we are talking about Free Batting, why not include a Free Batting coupon that your customer can give to their friends!

For a sample of a Free Batting coupon (PDF file) for both your customer and their friends, click on the highlighted text Free-Batting-Coupon

Let’s not forget about our regular customers or the customers you have waiting for their quilts. I would figure out how many of these customers you have and make them the same “goodies.” When they come to pick up their quilt(s) this becomes a thank you gift! And customers love thank you gifts. (When was the last time you got something for being a good customer?)

It may take an afternoon to make something small for your customers, but the rewards can be great! You may even want to make a few extra goodies and save them to give to your new customers.

Here is a suggestion for a note to send to your customers –

Hi (customer name),

Even though the calendar says it’s Spring, it still feels like Winter! But I know that Spring will be here soon with green grass, flowers, warmer weather and much longer days!

I remember working on your quilt (name of quilt) in (month and year). You did an excellent (good) job of piecing and I hope you are enjoying your quilt as much as I enjoyed working on it. I would love to see you and your quilts again.

I have enclosed two gifts for you. Once is a quilted (mug rug/potholder/other) that I made for you. The other gift is a coupon for a FREE BATTING for you and for your friends.

Feel free to call me at 111-111-1111 to schedule an appointment to bring your quilt to me for quilting.

I have entered the computer age and you can contact me via text, email, or other way. (Include information about texting you or emailing you or any other way to contact you.)

I look forward to Spring and welcoming you and your quilt(s) back to my studio.

Sincerely,

Your Quilter

If you know how to do a Mail Merge this would be a great time to use it. If not, you can put the individual information into each note.

I urge you to “get to making something” for your customers, target your “lost” customers, thank your regular customer and – Make It Happen!

PS Feel free to post your comments. If you use this idea of goodies and Free Batting in your machine quilting business, let us know how it is working!

Make it Happen!

Happy 2017!

new-year-lgI hope that 2017 is a year of great things, many quilts, and great prosperity for you!

Make 2017 be the year YOU “make it happen” in your quilting business life.

How do you “make it happen” in your quilting business? First, decide what “happen” is. Is it more customers? Is it more $$$? Is it getting more inspiration or creativity? Once you can decide what you want, you can then work on getting it!

I know, it sounds so simple, but sometimes it is the hardest thing to do! I am going to take the next few blog posts and write about some of these “wants.”

You want more customers.

If you want more customers, think about who your customers are, where are they, and how are you going to let them know what you do?

We are machine quilters and if you ask, who is your customer, you usually respond with “anyone who makes a quilt!” But let’s try to be a little more specific. If you say ANYONE who has a quilt is a customer, and someone brings you the worlds ugliest quilt that is poorly pieced, has LOTS of threads hanging from it, it does not lay flat,  it’s not square and it (literally) stinks – your customer is known as the local cat lady – and the customer wants you to quilt it for el-cheapo prices, will you quilt it? Before you answer that, ask yourself – Do I REALLY want this person as a customer? If your answer to both of these questions is NO then something has to change.

Let’s also assume that the last few customers have been like this. You may have to play detective to find out how they found you. When you learn that, then you can do what is necessary to get your information off the “bad customer list”.

Now you have to find out how to get your information onto the “good customer list” and find “good” customers!

Here are some of the typical ways of doing this –

  • Join a quilt guild in another part of your neighborhood, city, county, etc.
  • Work with other quilters doing other quilting “stuff.” Is there is a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sit-and-sew in your area? Join it. Work on your projects, but bring completed works for show and tell!
  • If you can teach piecing, teach at your local quilt shop or even teach in your home or community center. This is double $$$ for you! For a fee you teach them how to make the quilt and then charge them for quilting the class project!

Here are some other ways to find new customers –

Find out who the teachers are in the local, or not so local, quilt shops and offer to quilt their class quilts for a discounted fee. (In general, I’m not a fan of discounts, but this is one place where I feel it is justified.) Many quilt instructors teach at several shops and your quilting could be shown in a wider area. I would get an email or physical address of the teacher and send any discounts directly to her/him.

A while back when I was teaching out of state, I was talking with a quilter who said they were concentrating on getting customers from a specific zip code. (This zip code was in a large metropolitan area.) I asked why that zip code? The answer was “that is where the rich people live!” This quilter was doing what was necessary, in that zip code, to contact, connect to and work with new customers.

I have talked with quilters who live in smaller towns and they say they “can’t” attend guild meetings out of their neighborhood because of where they live, etc. I am a “big city girl” and I don’t really understand this way of thinking. You have the courage to purchase a quilting machine, learn how to use it, practice, practice, practice some more and start a machine quilting business. You do all that and you don’t have the courage to go across town to a quilt guild meeting? YOU have to choose what is best for YOU and YOUR business. I say, take the deep breath, bring your show and tell, and GO to the meeting. You might be surprised – you should get a warm welcome, and possibly some more customers!

Where is it written and what “rule” says that your customers are ONLY from your area? Have you ever thought of getting customers from away (maybe far away) from where you live?

Do you live in a tourist area? Are there any gift shops you could put some quilted items (pillows, coasters, table runners, possibly lap quilts, etc.) for sale? Of course on all of these items you include a label and / or business card with your contact info, maybe even stating that you quilt for others.

You might offer a “drop off” service, where the customer who is coming to your area for vacation can drop off their quilt with you to be quilted. When the quilt is completed, you ship it back to them for a shipping fee. Or you might offer a “pick up” service where the customer ships to quilt to you before their vacation and they can pick it up when they are in the area. Note: You MUST be able to get the quilt done before their vacation time ends!

If you have things planned properly, the out of the area customer could drop off their quilt at the start of their vacation and pick it up at the end – assuming the vacation is more than a day or two. I consider something like this to be a “rush job” and a rush job usually requires more $$ to do! And, if the customer wanted the quilt back in a few days, and you can do it, that would be a MAJOR rush job with MORE $$$ added to the cost!

You will have to be a little creative to find these customers, but I know it can be done!

Does your local quilt shop have a Block of the Month quilt where you have to attend a mini-class to get the next part of the quilt? If so, join it even if it isn’t your favorite type of quilt. Be there at every mini class with something that you made – and quilted – from the previous mini-class. You could make tote bags, table runners, lap quilts for a charity, etc. But SHOW what you can do with your quilting! Bring business cards but don’t do a “hard sell.”

Do you have a special technique or style of quilting that would appeal to other piecers and quilters? For example –

I know of a quilter who LOVES Judy Neimeyer quilts!  (For information on these quilts Click Here) She has pieced and quilted several of these quilts and is targeting other piecers who love this style of quilts. Quilting this type of quilt (foundation pieced with many, many,many small pieces) has many challenges and, because of this, a lot of extra $$$ can be charged to quilt this type of quilt.

Another quilter I know loves Civil War Reproduction quilts. Not only that, she lives in an area that is a Civil War battlefield tourist area. She is “targeting” other Civil War Reproduction quilt enthusiasts and working with local businesses / charities, etc., to showcase her quilts and quilting in their advertising and in their businesses.

Personally, I love doing Sashiko on quilts and I promote my Sashiko work on my personal blog  (To view some of my Sashiko Quilts Click Here)  And yes, I have done several quilts for people from other parts of the country who saw my work online and sent their quilts to me to quilt.

This should give you some ideas of how to get new customers. YOU have to think a little “out of the box” but I know you can do this.

I know that there are even more ways than these to find new customers! If you have another idea please send it to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com or put it in the comments section.

In my next post I will talk about getting your information out to others!