A Quilters Dilemma

I recently received this email from a blog subscriber and she asked my opinion of what I would do. I responded and also suggested that I post this to the blog. She agreed, and here is an edited version of her email

I have been at this quilting for over 5 years and I have had my share of disastrous quilts.  My question is:  Is it more important to keep a quilt square around the edges or to build in the puffiness that is created from piecing, possible pulling an on point quilt, or maybe pulling the borders too tight with an on point quilt?

I am very conscientious with the customer who is a meticulous piecer, it is easy to spot problems and I try my best to keep the quilt square, straight, and work as hard as they worked to in their piecing.  But, when you get a quilt that has strings hanging all over, not ironed that well, and is definitely not square, borders are a mess, what do you do?

 Question #1 – Is there a reasonable amount of time that should be spent on making the quilt the best as possible? 

 Question #2 – Should we throw out any idea of square along the edges, is flat more important? 

 Question #3 – Does the customer really appreciate the time used to make her quilt wonderful?

 I do try to trim loose threads and iron any major creases; I have an iron station that is set up to handle un-ironed backings, so I do take on piecing and ironing imperfections, charging of course for the process.  Many of my friends do not feel this process is necessary, but I find that it makes my job easier – I find a lot of piecing mistakes during this process and it gives me a clue if the quilt is going to have issues.

 This has been my dilemma for years, I have recently been basting my quilts completely, before starting the quilting process. This does help give me some idea of what I am actually tackling or fussing with such as creases, puckers, extra fabric, or the notorious wavy, wobbly, puffy border.

Stephanie P.

Now it is your turn – what would you do, or what do you do in this type of situation? I know that this is an issue that we all struggle with and I would really like to know what you think. I will post my response to Stephanie  in a little bit.

About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 10 and quilting forever!

8 Responses to A Quilters Dilemma

  1. golfquilter says:

    I have had a few quilts that were not square. If the pattern allows I always check the top and bottom to make sure they are square. I load and try to keep everything as straight as possible while quilting. I did have a quilt that I had to remove the left border from halfway down and trim it down 2 and 1/2 inches to make it straight. Fortunately the quilter left the borders 8 inches wide and I did call her and ask her for permission before I did it. This was the worst mess I have found in 5 years and I didn’t charge her because I had done several of her quilts before and she has a medical issue.

  2. Wanda Black says:

    What type of computer software is best to track your quilting business?

  3. Maureen Epson says:

    The most difficult part of this issue is that the client sees her quilt as a family heirloom! It is really hard to find the middle point between explaining how much time you spent due to poor piecing or wavy borders and ruining her image of her quilt. I try to cope and make the quilt look acceptable. I have found that for the most part the customer is happy and I am too. I can’t just ignor it so most of the time I will do needed pressing with very little charge.

  4. Kay D. says:

    I do the best I can but also don’t do it as a business, just for pleasure and as a favor for a few friends. I agree that most piecers are willing to learn to do better, if not, they don’t piece many quilts.

  5. Joyce says:

    I just finished taking a top apart and putting it back together for a total of 12 hours-for which I did not charge the customer for various reasons. I STILL could not get the top flat or square. I just quilted the heck out of the puffy area and crossed my fingers on the rest./

  6. Jackie says:

    I am a relatively new long arm quilter but I’ve had my share of really bad quilts, and I have quilted them! I do tell the customer what the problems are, and use that opportunity to teach the customer ways to improve. And they do! I look at quilts with D-cups, wavy borders, and bad piecing as teaching opportunities – most of the quilters that have these problems are new quilters and can improve. Of course, I quilt as a sideline – not as my main source of income – so someone who does quilt for a living has to do differently, I’m sure. I recently quilted a star quilt that had wavy borders because of bias edges on the quilt, and had to make pleats and redo a border for the customer – I charged her a nominal fee, but before I did anything I called her and told her the problem. She was very embarressed, but thankful that I could fix it. And I have quilted several more quilts for her since then – each one pieced better than before. By the time I get really good at what I do, she will be there, too! I think that the most important part of the business is your communication with your customer. If you don’t have time to correct their mistakes, you need to let them know upfront. And, of course, charge for your services if you do correcting work!

    Love this business!

  7. Erica Birnbaum says:

    I think quilters should have minimum standards for what they will accept to quilt. Issues with quilts that conform to thoses standards should be addressed for a fee. For example, you don’t want to quilt’s problems to reflect badly on your quilting ability. If the quilt’s problems make you look bad, the customer can either take it back and fix it or pay you an hourly rate to correct its issues. I for one think the quilt must lay flat or the quilter will be blamed. If it is a large quilt, no one will see all four corners at the same time. It really only needs to be perfectly square if it is to be hung or entered into a show. A piecer should at least do her/his part if the quilt is to be displayed! Your time as a quilter is valuable. Why give it away? You are a quilter, not a doormat. Either quilt for people who give you quality work or for people willing to pay for your extra attention.

  8. Pat Goodman says:

    When you say “disastrous” quilts do you mean before quilting or after? If you mean before quilting, I’m right there with you because I’ve had many myself over the last 8 years.

    If I can’t quilt a quilt without taking tucks, etc., I refuse the quilt. I no longer press a top because, even if I charge, I resent the time it takes and I didn’t spend $20K on a quilting machine so I could iron. If a quilt has major creases, I tell the customer to iron it. Having said that, however, most creases in the top flatten right out once the quilt is loaded and basted – except for the top I got that was a queen and that the customer pulled out of a quart size zip lock bag…. I do tell my customers to bring me their top and back on a hanger to keep it as wrinkle free as possible.

    If a quilt has problems like borders that are too long or too wide, excess fabric built into the blocks, bias that continues to stretch on an on-point top because the piecer couldn’t be bothered to use spray starch to stabilize the fabric, etc., there is no way that a quilt can be square when done – it’s not even square after piecing. In these situations, I do my best to make the quilt look as square as possible but my main concern is keeping every thing flat and quilting without ending up with tucks or pleats on the front.

    I do not trim loose threads unless there is just an occasional thread. If there are a lot I tell the customer they can pay me $20 to trim or they can take the top home and trim the threads themself.

    I take a lot of measurements on a top before I load it and so this tells me if I’m going to have problems. I also like to be prepared. If there are piecing mistakes, though, that is the piecer’s problem. I really don’t care how badly a top is pieced as long as I can quilt it and have it look great when finished. And, obviously, the piecers don’t care, otherwise they would make an effort to piece better.

    As a friend of mine told me long ago – you can’t care more about a top than the customer does. This is so true. I do an excellent job and have a great reputation but I can’t make a quilt square if it’s not, I can’t cover up piecing mistakes and I can’t make an award winner out of a mediocre top.

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