An Intriguing Email

A while back I received this email from a fellow quilter – (Note, some information has been changed to protect the identity of the writer)

I am a Longarm quilter from an East Coast state. I was looking at your prices and was wondering if every quilt you do is custom quilted? Where I am, they want the cheapest thing I do which is meandering. They make a beautiful quilt (or not) but want it quilted as cheaply as possible.

It is very seldom I custom quilt a customer’s quilt or a even do a pantograph. I know I am much cheaper than other quilters in my area but figure this is a fair price since meandering (a big stipple) takes very little time compared to pantographs. (Sometimes that is all I can do to a quilt because it is so out of kilter.) Was wondering how you get them to want something besides the cheapest thing. I have been doing this (longarm quilting) for about 8 years now and as a part time business for about 6 years. There are so many longarmer’s in this area, it is not a full time business option. Thanks for your help.

I did write back to this person and told her to call me and we could talk about this. At this time, I have not heard anything from her. The more I thought about this email, the more I felt that the answers I would give to her are valuable information for other quilters. This one email is going to be the basis for a series of blog posts.

If you are the person who wrote this email, please call me. I included my phone number in my email back to you.

To answer the questions about my quilting business – Yes, most of the quilts I do for my customers are custom quilted. (Here is my brochure in a pdf file Cindy Roth Quilter Brochure 2013)  I occasionally do a pantograph although I do prefer all over free hand designs (AOFHD). The AOFHD many times are much easier and quicker to do than pantographs, which means I can make more $$ for the time I am working on a quilt.

An important thing to remember is, even though AOFHD’s and pantographs may be relatively easy and fairly quick to do, I DO NOT price them significantly LOWER than my custom quilting prices. In fact, I price them the SAME as my lower end custom quilting prices.

There is just as much skill involved in quilting all over designs and pantographs as there is in custom quilting! In my very un-humble opinion, a well done pantograph is better than poorly done custom quilting. And, not all quilts require custom quilting.

Personally, I don’t do “meander” – all over or otherwise – and I don’t do “regular” stippling. There is SO much more “out there” that can be done on a quilt top. I do several variations of stippling, including Ribbon Stipple and Landscape Stipple. (For a free video class on how I do these patterns Click Here) If a customer came to me and insisted that I ONLY do all over meandering on their quilt, I would probably refuse the job. Nicely, of course.

Then first the question becomes, “If I don’t want to meander, how I get the customer to change their mind?” Then the second question is, “How do I get paid more $$ to NOT meander?”

To answer the first question – When a customer comes to me with their quilt I usually ask “What is your vision? What do you see quilted on your quilt?” If they answer with – all over meander, stitch in the ditch, big stipple, etc., etc., I ask them “Why?” Their answer usually is something like “I don’t know why” or “It’s what everyone else is doing” or even occasionally someone will answer “I thought that is all you can do?”

Then I look at my customer and say very sweetly, “Let me show you something that I can do that will make your quilt look SO much better!” Sometimes, depending on the situation, I may even say something like, “Don’t you want your quilt to look different than everyone else’s? How about using this different pattern?”

Then, I show them either with other sample quilts (I believe in a LOT of sample quilts – which you should have hanging in your studio) or I pull out the Plexiglas, put it on top of their quilt, and begin drawing quilting designs on the Plexiglas. The goal here is to show them something DIFFERENT than what they have been used to. (To view a video tutorial on how to use Plexiglas Click Here)

Then this leads to the second question – How can I charge more? The easy answer is – because you are doing something DIFFERENT, you can charge differently! By that, I mean charge more $$!!

In the original email from this quilter she included her pricing which was

*Meander – .01 cents per square inch
*Overall design is quilted free hand all over the quilt.

**Pantograph – .02 – .04 cents per square inch, depending on complexity of design.
** Overall design from pantograph from border to border

Here is another question for you – If you are not going to do meandering any more, or on a very, very limited basis, why have it on your price list?

I would recommend TOTALLY ELIMINATING the lowest price you charge. (Has anyone fainted yet?) If the lowest price is NOT seen or posted, then how can you charge it or have your customers ask for it?

I would also change the wording of the above prices. For “Pantograph” I would change it to “All Over Quilting – either free hand or from pantographs, starting at 2 ½ (or better yet) 3 cents per square inch.” Don’t specify if the pattern is free hand or from a paper pattern. The customer usually doesn’t know the difference and really doesn’t care.

In one fell swoop, you have eliminated the meander and raised your prices. This is a win, win for you, and ultimately, for your customer.

If a customer absolutely insisted on all over meander, (and if I accepted the job) I would still charge it at my new “all over” price. If they resist, then I would highly recommend/insist they have a different pattern than meander or refuse the job.

I know, that is a lot easier said than done, but, believe me, I have “been there and done that.” It does take some (a lot of)  backbone and a couple of deep breaths and to do this the first time or two, but, with practice, it DOES become easier. You will begin to see that your quilting is looking much better on your customer’s quilts (not to mention eliminating the boredom factor) and you are beginning to see more $$$ for your quilting. And that’s a very good thing!

Soon I’ll write more about the other things in this email.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed and appreciated. Leave a comment, I know that we all want to know what you are thinking!

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Happy 2014!!

I can’t believe it is already January 2014! Where have the last few months gone? I don’t know about you, but they FLEW past for me!

Since mid-October, I have been busy, busy, busy! Between traveling and teaching, teaching classes here at my studio, writing, creating and of course, quilting for my customers, I FINALLY now have a few seconds to sit, relax, breathe a bit, and post a blog.

Since Mid-October, I have been wanting to write about surviving your “Christmas Crunch.” But, since I was so busy with my own “crunch” I didn’t have the time to write about it.

Now that we all have survived the Christmas Crunch, (time waits for no one) we can all relax for a day or two or three before we start all over again.

If you have some time, write a comment about how you control, schedule, survive or any other strategy you use to survive super busy times of the year – whether it is Christmas, graduations, weddings, quilt show deadlines, etc.

I know everyone is different with different ways to doing things. By sharing your experience with others, you will help them and maybe someone will have an idea for you to use in the future.

Just Click on “Make a Comment” or make a “Reply” and let us know what works for you.

I hope you have a creative, prosperous and wonderful 2014!