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!

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Quilted Turkey

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

(click on the photo above for a larger view. You have got to see the details!)

I want to wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! Whether you are spending this day cooking in the kitchen or visiting with family and friends, let us all give thanks for what is truly important in our lives including family, friends and faith.

To thank you for your support of Longarm University this past year, I have put a FREE Online Class on the Longarm Classroom website. This class will show you how to make the cutest pillow top from a child’s hand and foot print. reinweb1(Click on the photo at left for a larger view.) It also makes a great gift for any child or grandchild! Also included in this FREE Online Class are instructions on how to machine applique using your quilting machine.

For complete details on this FREE Online Class, including photos, Click Here

For a list of other FREE Online Classes Click Here

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and travel safe!

Why We Quilt – Part 2

After posting my previous blog about quilting a poorly pieced quilt, (for that post Click Here) I asked that you send any photos of badly pieced quilts and that I would put them on this blog.

Gail S sent these photos and the following explanation – (click on any photo for a larger view)

“Last year a client gave me 2 old tops that she wanted made into a duvet cover. I was to mount the quilt top to a large piece of cloth that would become the duvet cover. The quilt tops were very soiled and I had to wash them before quilting. On one, the white fabric shrunk and the colored fabric did not, resulting in a very wonky top.

blue-2 blue-1 blue-3

There was no way to ease in these many areas of poof. So if there was going to be tucks and puckers, I wanted them to be securely tacked down. I chose a freehand baptist fan design and I varied the orientation of the “fans”. The owner and I were both pleased with the result.

The finished photo (below) shows the quilt top as part of the larger fabric that would become the duvet cover. I made a binding around the edge of the quilt so that if the owner ever wanted, they could cut the quilt off the larger fabric with just a small bit of work to hide the raw edge. In the done photo, you can see a bit of the quilt I put on the reverse side of the duvet cover.”

blue-4

Gail did a GREAT job and the finished quilt looks wonderful!

If you have any photos of wonky quilts or poorly pieced quilts, send them to me as email attachments to longarmu@aol.com with an explanation and I will post them on this blog.

Why We Quilt

I belong to a couple of machine quilting YahooGroups. A few days ago, someone from the group posted some photos of a quilt she was working on. I felt the photos would be of interest to those who read this blog and, with her permission, I am posting some of them.

What would YOU do if this quilt was on your machine?

emily-1

And here is a close up of the sashing –

emily-2

The quilter has written about her experience in quilting this quilt and has many more photos on her blog.

To view the post about this quilt Click Here 

It is well worth your time to read the post and view the photos.

If you have any photos of poorly pieced quilts, send them to me at longarmu@aol.com and I can post them on this blog.

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