Machine Quilting Myth #3

Machine Quilting Myth #3 is a “sort of” myth. This myth – If you have a quilting machine and want to start a machine quilting business, you will have instant customers and be very successful! can be true, but, in reality, you will have to work to get your machine quilting business going.

When I started machine quilting over 15 years ago, there were only a few machine quilters. There were no home quilting machines, only the “big girl” industrial style machines which cost several thousand dollars. Becase there were not many machine quilters (locally or nationally) anyone who wanted to begin a quilting business DID have an instant business.

When I was seriously thinking of purchasing a quilting machine 15 years ago, I had a couple of people who called me and asked if I got my machine yet and if I was ready to take their quilts! At that time, I had only told one or two people that I was thinking of getting machine!

Times have changed and so has the machine quilting business!

Today, there are many more machine quilters and many more quilting machines on the market. Many people are now purchasing a home quilting machine to quilt their own quilts and maybe charity quilts. Machine quilting is more accepted and I am always amazed at what machine quilters are stitching on their own quilts and their customers quilts. Personally, I think we can do more with our quilting machines than hand quilters can do with a needle and thread!

Because of all of this, it may be harder for someone to start a machine quilting business today than in the past.

This doesn’t hold true for everyone. You may live in an area where there are not many professional machine quilters or you may have a large circle of quilting friends that are waiting for you to begin your machine quilting business. If this is you, then congratulations! You are truly lucky! If this is not your situation, then you will have to “work” to make your machine quilting business a success.

There are many ways to begin (and grow) your machine quilting business.  One of the first things you should do is to go to the local quilt shop and ask permission to drop off business cards and brochures about your business and be sure that you bring samples of your work with you to show the quilt shop owner. You are enthusiastic about your new business and the local quilt shop may be receptive to new quilters.

But, sometimes the local quilt shop is not receptive to you and your new business. If this happens to you, don’t take it personally! There can be many different reasons for this.  (If you are a quilt shop owner, don’t worry! I’ll talk about your shop in a little bit.) There are many ways other than the local quilt shop to get your business moving.

The question for you is – What are the ways that you have started your machine quilting business or found new customers other than through the local quilt shop?

Please leave your answers in the comments section. I know that your ideas will be a GREAT help to everyone who reads this blog.

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About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 11 and quilting forever!

7 Responses to Machine Quilting Myth #3

  1. Fran Foskey says:

    I worked in two quilt shops and realized how wonderful it was to see all the machine quilters and their work. I was self taught on a short arm frame and decided after I quit the quilt shop to purchase my own Gammill. It was slow in the beginning, but now I have a 4 month wait list. it was all by word of mouth. Of course it did not hurt that I belong to two quilt groups, so that helped me out tremendously at first. I do have a website and am on Facebook, but they do not help me very much. Might just cancel the fees for the website and get out of Facebook. What do you all think?

  2. H Davis says:

    We’ve found that our connection with the local fabric/sewing machine store (they teach a lot of quilting classes) is the most productive for us. They have the usual block of the month club with about 120 participants. We’ll see about half of those in the year following the last class. With all the other quilting related classes they give we see quite a bit of business from their classes.

    The store also acts as a drop off and pick up point for folks leaving quilts for us that they didn’t make in the store classes. The owner and staff will recommend us if asked. It’s a really good deal for us.

    The second best source of business is word of mouth. We’ve noticed that our customers form little clusters. One person will find us and show our work at her guild show and tell session. Then we’ll get another customer or 2 from that. We had a local customer move to Naples, Italy because her husband was in the military. She got a quilting group going over there and soon we had 4 customers mailing quilts from Italy. That lasted for about 2 years until most of them rotated to new stations.

    If you have a customer that quilts she probably has a mother, sister, daughter or friends that quilt and they’ll all be your customers if your original customer likes your work. Over the years we’ve found several sets of sisters among our customers but it’s hard to figure this out with the married names involved.

    We have a web site but it doesn’t generate a lot of business; maybe 10%. I think it is useful though to convey credibility and we have a price estimator which gives new customers (or even old ones) a good idea of the cost of the quilting, batting and binding. This way they can make better choices about whether to supply their own batting or do their own binding. We also offer tips on the common problems we see so they can evaluate their own work.

    As others have mentioned, all the basics like business cards and local publicity are useful especially if you’re just starting.

  3. Pam Huggins says:

    I made up flyers and cards and left them at a local fabric store, which had a section in the store for that kind of thing. Several customers took cards and passed them around when people asked who had done their quilts. I made myself known at the local quilt guild. I once had a vendor table at a quilt guild meeting, displaying my current work with cards and flyers available. One quilt show i had a vendor table with a slide show presentation of quilts I’d done in the past year, along with a coupon for 20% off. Word of mouth has been good to me even tho i realize, it can backfire at times as well.

  4. Teresa says:

    I am very new to this and have taken on quilting some charity quilts for a local group of quilters in hopes that they will like my work and pass my name on to anyone they know who might need my services.

  5. Helen Thomas says:

    I started my business last December and have all the work I can handle. Business has been steady, although more experienced longarmers would no doubt want more business than I have. I’m still learning, taking out stitches, etc., so I’m slower than the longtime longarmers. Here’s how people found out about me:
    A PR friend mentioned me to a business reporter for a nearby large town’s paper, and the reporter knew me (I’m a former PR person), so she did a little blurb in her newspaper column about a month before I actually started taking quilt tops.
    My studio is in a suburb and I went to college with the editor of the local small newspaper. So after I’d been in business for awhile, I reconnected with her. She did a very nice story with pictures.
    I haven’t yet advertised with either of the two guilds I belong to, nor have I approached the quilt shops, because I know quilters are particular (as am I!) and I don’t feel I’m good enough yet. But those two newspaper stories really got me off on the right foot with locals who are not guild members.
    In addition:
    I have a Facebook page for my business and have received referrals from that
    I put cards in the local restaurants (and flyers when I have classes)
    I rent studio space from the woman who owns the salon next door, so she puts my cards out as well.

    I have received business from all of these venues.

    There are many, many longarmers in this area, but they are so busy there is a long waiting list for all of them. My niche for the current time is to service those people who don’t want to wait so long. I also teach people to use my machine and will rent it to those who want to use it. And, I teach piecing classes. Those things get my name out and will eventually turn into business.

    I’m anxious to hear what others are doing!

  6. Elaine says:

    I belong to a sewing group & they were my first customers. I also get a vendor booth at area quilt/sewing events (I’m usually the only longarm quilter there). I also have my business cards at most of the local quilt/fabric shops. I take my own quilts to my quilt guild meeting for show and tell. I’ve quilted store samples (at a reduced rate) for one quilt shop. After all that and 4 years of growing my business, I finally got busy enough to quit my part-time day job. However, this past summer & fall have been very lean. Several of my customers bought their own longarm machines & one of them is renting out her machine. Is it the economy? A cyclical downturn in the industry? Not sure.

  7. Word of mouth. I quilted for my cousin and she took those quilts in for show and tell at her quilt classes. She generated some customers from that. Also, showing my quilts at quilt shows brought in several customers.

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