Situation Update

I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the last post about a situation that a quilter was in. To view the original post Click Here

I have talked to the quilter a few times and I recently received an email from her. She has given me permission to post her email on this blog.

I hope you take the time to read her email – it raises more than a few questions for us, as professional machine quilters, to ponder.

Here is her email –

Cindy its taken me awhile to get back to you because I’ve had a lot of thinking to do about my future. Making a decision that will affect the rest of my life is not something to do quickly. Let me give you a bit more history before telling my plans.

I used to get most of my customers from three different quilt shops close to my house and by word of mouth. I never had any difficulty getting customers. There were only a handful of professional machine quilters in this whole area when I started. I was the only one on this side of the county. I thought of all my customers as friends and everyone loved to come to my house for some quilt talk or help with troublesome patterns. I had a steady stream of friends.

The years go by and life changes. The three quilt shops close so no more customers from them. The remaining quilt shop is on the other side of the county. Customers get older and stop making quilts. Cheaper quilting machines come on the market making it easier for customers to quilt their own tops. Classes are taught for how to quilt with a domestic machine and classes are taught for how to make an entire quilt with an embroidery machine. That means fewer customers to go around at the same time as more people decide to become professional quilters for hire.

The neighborhood where I live goes downhill and the crime goes up. People start moving away leaving mostly boarded up houses and high crime. If I am afraid to live in my own home how can I expect customers to feel comfortable visiting? I got tired of my car being stolen so often and so did the insurance company. I gave my car to someone who really needed it and started using public transportation. We don’t have Uber here. It costs twelve dollars just to get into a taxi here.

Over the years quilting machines get cheaper and easier to own. With cheaper machines comes newbies willing to work very cheaply in order to attract customers. Everybody needs to start somehow in order to pay for their investment. In all the years I’ve been a professional quilter I have yet to see a single newbie who had a real business plan before buying a machine. Its very difficult to convince a customer to go to a high crime area and pay five cents a square inch when there are several newbies who charge only two cents and are closer to home. I never understood why someone would pay top dollar for fabric, spend hours piecing a perfect top, then look for the cheapest quilter possible. I refuse to work for less than minimum wage in order to have customers! I have too much invested in myself and my business to do that. I doubt anyone would agree to work for one or two dollars an hour at Walmart or MC Donald’s or Kroger so why do it as a professional quilter?

Enter a couple of new longarm quilting machine sales shops with machines to rent opening. The remaining quilt shop also buys a couple of machines and hires people to be quilters. So why would someone travel clear across the county to a high crime area just to have a quilt done when its so much easier to go a few blocks and do it yourself? Meeting customers at those places is not an option. Meet someplace else? Hire someone to take me? That means I’m going out of my way to accommodate a customer who is not willing to pay minimum wage. Yes, some people do meet customers at other places but why? Aren’t you and your work worth meeting at your place of business just like any other business? Would the manager of a fabric store be willing to take a carload of fabric to a Starbucks so the customer can shop? Would that same manager cut the cost of fabric to make the customer’s hobby affordable? I’m sorry if this offends anyone but for far too long professional quilters have accepted less than what’s fair just to be in business. This is not the 1800s where a woman’s work is worth less than a man’s. Professional quilting is not just income from a hobby. It’s a business and should be treated that way. We are SEW worth it! (Cindy’s Note: YOU GO GIRL!!!)

Over the past couple of months I’ve been exploring business options and making notes for a new business plan. I’ve read the comments given by readers and I want to thank everyone for them. I’ve been approved for a home loan and have started looking at houses. Moving is going to take a few weeks at best. Instead of stressing about getting customers I plan to take this downtime to practice my skills and narrow my focus. I’ll use this time to concentrate on a really good plan for when I move into my new house. Kind of like starting out new all over again. Its fun looking at craft storage furniture and lighting options or designing new business cards. Currently I’m thinking of other options in quilting. Its possible I may not stay with being a professional machine quilter for hire. I have other talent besides quilting and may do something else. Focusing my attention on the future keeps me from thinking about the crime going on outside.

Once again, thank you and everyone who commented. The future looks much brighter today than it did a few weeks ago.

Please feel free to post your comments about anything that has been written.

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

6 Responses to Situation Update

  1. I’ve applied for other jobs locally, for this reason, but can’t seem to even get an interview. I’m still longarming and have gotten tired of people expecting to pay less than minimum wage for my work. So, on my work order form right below where I’ve put the estimated total and right above where the customer signs, I have a sentence that reads, “If labor cost is under minimum wage for hours of work done, minimum wage will be charged instead.” I know it’s a low blow for me, and I have yet to have to use that. But, I want my customers to realize that, at the very least, I am worth getting what others working minimum wage get. I KNOW that’s not enough money, but a lot of customers don’t care.

  2. So glad you are not giving up and see ;your future with the “glass full” rather then the “glass empty” staying where you are. We do have options in our lives and live in a country with opportunity. We must never forget that it is up to us to walk forward into those opportunities rather than lament thinking we have no options. Regardless of what you end up doing, you will be successful because you are taking the time to think carefully and plan. I wish you the best success and hope that you are still involved in the quilting industry to share your knowledge.

  3. You have a wonderful outlook for your future and I hope you realize it all no matter what you chose to do. Business or no, hearing that you are leaving the high crime area is the best news. Good luck

  4. barbara stroup says:

    This situation and the reactions to it are not limited to only a few quilters. When accomplished quilters stop taking work because of these concerns and other related problems, we have to know our business is suffering. There are lots of reasons, and many of them are mentioned above. Our trade magazines fail us as well, when they ignore current issues in the industry in favor of devoting space to new (regurgitated) patterns instead of to what’s happened in a few short decades to the pioneers in longarm quilting. Thanks for giving us a forum !

  5. Wow! The “dark side” of the longarming business. Thank you for an excellent and candid look at “life”. I can completely see this situation looming in my future, and have been forming an escape plan in the back of my mind. I am very glad you are going to be able to move away and forward! I hope your new area has an active quilt guild for you to join and share your longarming talents.

    Hopefully quilting forever! Nancy in Cali.

  6. Melanie says:

    Sadly, you can substitute many occupations for “longarm quilter” in this letter.

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