Bad Quilt – Almost Done!

Thank you to everyone who posted a comment about this T-Shirt quilt. I was feeling pretty low about working on it yesterday, but your words of encouragement and also your own quilting horror stories made me feel that I wasn’t alone in something like this.

The recipient of the quilt is a High School Senior (female) who is graduating in a few weeks. Her Mother made the quilt top for her and the quilt will be going off to college in the fall.

Here are a few more photos –

Side border piece of lightweight poly jersey fabric before quilting

B- Tshirt-5

And here it is after quilting!



Not too bad, but not real good. I did the best I could.

I got the quilting done a few minutes ago and laid the quilt on the grass so you could see it all.  Click on any photo for a larger view.



It doesn’t look too bad, but …..

Now, it’s on to the binding!


A Bad Quilt

At this moment I am working on the worst customer quilt I have ever worked on! I have been a professional quilter for almost 20 years and haven’t seen anything this bad. Yes, I am whining and complaining and I could have refused to work on this quilt. The only reason I am working on it (and I have had thoughts of sending it back to the customer only half done) is that if this quilt was being quilted by a new quilter, the new quilter would quit the business!

Here are some of the details – it’s a t-shirt quilt that is made with all sorts of t-shirts – cotton, poly, sweatshirts, and anything else that has a stretchy fabric. There is NO fusible backing on ANY of the fabrics. The seams are not straight, nothing fits, there are pleats and puckers in the stitching lines. The seam allowances are anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1 + inches and none of the hems of the t-shirts were removed and they are in the seam allowances!!!

Here are some photos. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Here is the right side border. The red fabric was cut this way.  If you look at the seam between the red and blue fabric, the blue fabric has the hem of the t-shirt still attached.

B-T-shirt 1

Here is another photo – The beige t-shirt is 100% polyester and all the other shirts are heavy cotton or sweatshirt material. If you look close enough (expand the photo) you can see the red fabric seam allowance above the flag graphic. The seam is 1-1/2 inches from the top of the flag.

B-T-Shirt 2


A few more things – the seams are so thick that my machine can barely get over them, and that is just to move the machine back and forth. The seams are so thick that I CAN’T quilt over them. And, of course, this quilt is HUGE at 94 x 110 inches! I also have to trim the quilt to a rectangle and put binding on it.

I did talk with my customer and tell her of the issues, documented many of the problems on the worksheet and I’m charging for the work at custom quilting prices.  For this quilt, my motto is “I can only do the best I can with what I got!” And I told this to my customer too!

Why am I writing all of this – I need some sympathy and someone to tell me I’m doing the best I can. I am also trying hard to make a positive out of a negative.

As a  quilter – professional or hobbyist –  I know that you have had “bad quilts” that you have worked on.  If you would like, share your bad quilt experience by either posting about it in the comments section, or send me an email and I will post it for you. Please, no customer names or locations. If you have photos send them too.

If anyone can learn from our bad quilt experiences, then the bad quilt will be a good thing.

I’ll let you know what happens when my customer picks up the quilt!

Customer Discounts ?

Many professional machine quilters give discounts to their customers. These discounts are usually about 10 – 20%, sometimes more, and can be for a variety of reasons – new customer discount, returning customer discount, sunny day discount, rainy day discount, showing up at the door discount, etc.

Personally, I don’t give discounts. I feel that you loose way too any $$ with discounts. Let’s run some numbers.

Example – Queen Size Quilt, moderate density quilting, it doesn’t matter if the quilting is free hand, pantograph or computerized.

 If you charge $250 for this quilt, with a 10% discount ($25) your charge (to the customer) would be$225, with a 15% discount ($37.50) your charge is $212.50, with a 20% discount ($50) your charge would be $200.

If you charge $300 for this quilt, with a 10% discount ($30) your charge would be $270, with a 15% discount ($45) your charge is $256, with a 20% discount ($60) your charge would be $240

Note: If you would charge a different amount, your numbers would be different.

No matter what discount you give to your customer, it still takes you the same amount of time to complete the quilting. If you calculate your cost per hour for quilting – the time it takes you to complete a quilt divided by the cost of the quilting only = cost per hour. (We will discuss “cost per hour” in an upcoming post.)

Again, some numbers – The Queen Size quilt in our example above took 6 hours to complete.

At full price of $250 divided by 6 (hours) = $41.66 per hour. For the discounted prices, $225 divided by 6 = $37.50 ph, $212.50 divided by 6 = $35.41 ph and $200 divided by 6 =$33.33 ph.

At full price of $300 divided by 6 (hours) = $50 per hour. For the discounted prices, $270 divided by 6 = $45 ph, $256 divided by 6 = $42.66 ph and $240 divided by 6 =$40 ph.

Note: NO operating expenses or self employment taxes have been taken out of the cost per hour amount.

You can see that the amount of $$ you are making per hour decreases significantly with each discount given.

Before we go any further, I want you to think about your customers. I would be willing to bet that most of your customers do not come to you ONLY because you offer a discount. Your customers come to you because they like your style of quilting, the quality of your quilting, your personality, your lifestyle, etc. Price usually isn’t at the top of their list when looking for a machine quilter.

OK, I do know that there are some people where price is the ONLY thing they look for in a quilter. Fortunately, these people are mostly few and far between and YOU get to choose if you want to work with them. Personally, if someone comes to me and wants me to quilt “cheap”, I just tell them – nicely – that I don’t do cheap quilting and it may be better for them to take their quilt someplace else. And yes, I have had to do this a few times in my machine quilting career.

So, if price is NOT the only reason your customer is coming to you, and if you routinely give them discounts, why? You may want to re-think your motivation behind your discount philosophy.

But, you want to give your customer an incentive to return to you, or you want to reward them in some way. I suggest that you offer them FREE BATTING.

I know, you are saying, wait a minute Cindy! You don’t give discounts, but you give free batting? Yes, I do! And here is why –

Batting is tangible. Your customer KNOWS what batting is and knows what the approximate retail cost of batting. Free batting also saves your customer time by not having to stop by the quilt shop and they may be able to bring their quilt to you more quickly.

Best of all, by offering the batting FREE, your customer knows they are getting a great deal.

Note: Batting should be a separate charge and not included in the price of the quilting labor.

Here is the best part for you, the machine quilter. Free batting will cost you less than most discounts!

You need to purchase your batting wholesale or at a discount. A Warm & Natural Queen Size batting, pre-cut, wholesale is $16.30 (Price at EE Schenck, Portland, OR, May 2014.) The suggested retail price would be $32.95 +/- Prices will vary for other battings and sizes or if purchased/sold by the yard.

For a $16 (+/-) investment, you don’t loose any $$ on the quilting labor that you would charge to your customer. This means that there is more $$ in YOUR pocket!

I look forward to your comments