Wonky Borders – Part 2

I have waited a while to add to the Wonky Borders Quilt saga – I wanted to wait until the quilt was done and delivered to my customer before writing about it. I feel that this quilt was jinxed from the beginning and, if I wrote about it before being delivered, even MORE would go wrong!

I did take the remaining borders off of the (partially quilted) quilt and wrestled with the “octopus” (also known as “the quilt”) and re-stitched the borders. I kept the zippered leaders on for about three minutes before I decided to take them off – which made things a little easier!

After the borders were re-sewn, I then put the quilt back on the machine and finished the border quilting. It is AMAZING how much easier borders are to quilt when they are smooth, flat and square!

Then, to finish this project, I trimmed the quilt and put the binding on the front of the quilt. My customer is stitching the binding to the back of the quilt.

Here are photos of the finished quilt. Click on any photo for a larger view

This quilt is 110 inches wide!

The quilting in the blocks. The green “points” are folded and I could not quilt on top of them.

Quilting detail in the side borders.

The re-pieced bottom border. SOOO much better!

The borders on this quilt were the main issue, but like I said above, this project was jinxed from the start! Here is why I say this –

My customer lives 1,700 miles from me and she shipped the quilt to me. No problem there. My problem was that when it arrived, I was in the middle of having new floors installed in my house. My quilting machine was wrapped in plastic and pushed up against a wall for nearly three weeks! Nothing was getting quilted during that time! (The floors look great and I love them!)

Here is my quilting machine, all wrapped up, and my son installing my new floors.

By the time I could get to her quilt, it was getting near fall, winter and the Christmas holidays. I knew that this was going to be a big project, so I waited until I could block out at least a week of my life to work on this quilt, which brought me to late January.

I got the quilt out and start measuring it – which is the first time I have looked at the quilt since taking it out of its original shipping box. I realize that the quilt is 10 inches wider and a few inches longer than what my customer said it was! I start measuring the backing fabric. You guessed it, it wasn’t long enough! After several emails with my customer and after a huge snowstorm, I go to the quilt shop and purchase some fabric and stitch the backing together. Then there was the border issue and I finally finished the quilt.

But wait, there’s more!

I had to ship the quilt back to my customer. No problem – or so I thought! I charged her for the shipping, but, because the quilt was so big it wouldn’t fit into the box I was planning on shipping it in. I found a larger box (15 x 30 x 8 inches!) at the UPS store for only $10! Because the box was bigger and the quilt weighed a little bit more, the shipping was MUCH more than anticipated and what I charged my customer!

At least the quilt was delivered safe and sound and my customer LOVES the quilting and the finished quilt. That is all that matters!

Here is the question you may be asking – With ALL that was happening with this quilt, did I charge my customer more $$$, especially for the labor with the borders.

The answer – No, I did not. Here’s why.

I have quilted several quilts for this customer over the years and this is the first one I have had any problems with.

When I first put the quilt on the machine and saw the pleats in the borders, I should have worked on the borders then instead of waiting until I did. (Note – it is MUCH easier to take off borders when the quilt is un-quilted.)

If I had measured the quilt when I received it, I would have noticed the difference in the size of the quilt and the backing and could have worked with my customer at that time to increase the price due to the larger size of the quilt and the backing fabric issues.

I “absorbed” the extra costs of the shipping

I feel that some of these problems were my issues and should not be charged to my customer.

No matter how good a quilter you are, no matter how long you have been doing this, there are still times when the Quilting Goddess keeps you humble. Which is what happened with me. BIG TIME!

The good news is that my customer is working on sending another quilt to me! You can bet that I will inspect, measure the quilt twice – or three times – when I receive it.

FWIW – the new quilt is also HUGE, 110 X 134 inches!!!

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The Process of Pricing

I recently taught a Longarm University, Machine Quilting Basics class, where I teach people how to use their longarm machine and how to run a successful machine quilting business. As part of this class, we do some role playing where they (the students or one designated student) is my customer, I am the (professional) quilter and we go through the steps of taking in a customer quilt.

I also do quilting for my favorite charity, American Hero Quilts. I usually have about 6 – 10 quilts that need to be quilted and when I’m done with them I drop them off and take a few more home for quilting.

In this class, I used one of the American Hero Quilts from my “stack” and we discussed quilting, timing, possible problems, etc., etc. The more I looked at that quilt, the more I WANTED to quilt it – like, right now!!! I had a lot of commitments coming up and knew I couldn’t quilt it, like, right now.

But life is strange! The commitments were postponed a week or two, and suddenly, there WAS time available to work on this quilt! So I did.

In the process of working on this quilt, I decided to write about my process of pricing a quilt, timing the quilting and other things. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the quilt before quilting, but you can see from the finished photos, the quilt turned out really, really nice!

Click on the photos for a larger view.

Let’s start at the beginning

This quilt is 67 x 85 inches (5,695 square inches) and nicely pieced. There were some thick seam joins, but the quilt laid mostly flat and square. (I have no clue who pieced the quilt.)

In all my many years of quilting and piecing, I don’t recall seeing a block setting like this quilt. (There may be an adaptation of it being made in the not too distant future.)

As I was looking at the quilt, I knew that an all over design, either a pantograph or a free hand all over design, was not going to be quilted on that quilt. I also “saw” lots and lots of feathers in the quilting! Which means that the quilt will be custom quilted. (Custom quilted being defined as different patterns in different parts of the quilt.)

I knew that I was going to change the color of thread to match the colors of the fabric.

I estimated that it would take 6 – 7 hours of quilting to complete this quilt.

With the above information, here is how I would determine a price for the quilting –

My base price for quilting (which is in my brain and NOT published anywhere – except here) is 3 cents per inch. So I did the math (5,695 psi x .03) and came up with $170.85. Which, for what I wanted to quilt, was TOO low. So I did the math again at .035 cents per square inch and came up with $199.32 which I rounded up to $200. This is a better price, but I knew the quilting would take more time, so I added another $50 and determined that $250 would be the LABOR ONLY price of the quilt.

Note: this price is for free hand quilting only. If I were going to use templates on any part of the quilt, I would add at least an EXTRA 25% minimum ($62.50 rounded up to at least $70) to the labor price.

If you want to take the math a step further, the price of $250 divided by 5,695 si = .0438 cents per square inch.

To recap, this quilt, 67 x 85 inches, will be free hand custom quilted with feathers, no templates, for $250.

When working with my customer, they know NOTHING about my calculations and they are presented with the labor only price.

I also estimated that there would be a $15 charge for thread and $15 for Soft & Bright (Warm Company) polyester batting, which was purchased wholesale.

For an blog article about the cost of thread Click Here

I am also putting the binding on – making the binding and applying it with my home sewing machine. For this I charge $3 per running / perimeter foot. This quilt has 26 running / perimeter feet x $3 = $78 for binding.

The total charge for this quilt (if I were charging for it) is

Quilting labor $250
Thread $ 15
Batting $ 15
Binding $ 78
Total $358 + any state sales taxes

Quilting Time

My quilting time break down is – (time is measured in hundredths – 15 minutes = .25, 30 minutes = .50, 45 minutes = .75

Putting the quilt on the machine: .50
Stitching time: 2.75 07/28/18
Stitching time: 3.00 07/29/18
Total hours 6.25 hours

Quilting details

All the quilting was done free hand. I did mark registration lines on the quilt top so that the curves of the feathers were consistent (not perfect). There was a little more time used because I changed my threads two or three times in each workspace** and I did “turn the quilt” to quilt the side borders. I chose to turn the quilt because I was using a different color of thread in the borders than in the body of the quilt. (For information on Turning the Quilt Click Here)

** I find that this is the most efficient way of quilting mostly equal sections of same color fabrics in a workspace.

Hours / Pricing break down

It took me a total of 6.25 hours to finish this quilt and I would be charging my customer $250. If you divide $250 by 6.25, that equals $40 per hour! Not too shabby!

Binding Break down

It has been a long while since I have actually timed myself on adding the binding to a quilt and I was very pleasantly surprised at the results. I estimated it would take me about 1-1/2 hours to put the binding on, but it took a little less than 1 hour!

Here are the details –

Making the binding – cut strips selvage to selvage, stitched them together and pressed wrong sides together: 20 minutes
Stitching the binding to the back of the quilt : 20 minutes
Top stitching the binding in place on the front of the quilt: 20 minutes
Total binding time 1 hour

Cost of binding $78, time to do it 1 hour. No math involved and I LIKE those numbers!!!

If you are not offering binding services, I beg you to re-consider. You are losing $$$ – a LOT of $$$!! I know that you will not bind every quilt that comes to you, but if you offer binding services, you CAN make a substantial profit!

I hope that this has given you some insight into how I price a quilting project and how the timing of your work on a project can help you determine if you are making a profit – or not!

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Please feel free to leave them in the Leave a Reply box below. Or, if you would prefer, you can send me an email at longarmu@aol.com

Timing Challenge Update

I received this email a few days ago –

I’m reporting on your challenge! I have taken your challenge and mostly been able to stick to it by using a stopwatch feature on my FitBit, and when I forget to hit the button, I guesstimated.

I recently did a batik throw, measuring 48 x 41. (1968 square inches) Originally I was going to do an allover pattern but the quilt “spoke” to me so I ended up doing more creative things on it. Here are my statistics.

Setup on longarm, including quick pressing, winding bobbins, pinning on and basting. – 0.75
Quilting Time – 1.0 + 0.5 + 2.5
Finishing Up – rough trim, bury threads I missed, check over and recheck, invoicing – .5
Total time 5.25 hours.

At 0.4 cents per square inch, that invoiced out at $78.72, or $14.99 per hour for my time, which isn’t bad, but my “hourly” rate is $25, so this quilt either took too long or I am not charging enough. Basically it should have taken me three hours start to finish based on a $25/hour labor rate. No way could I have done this amount of work in that time, unless I had stuck to my original plan of an all over design.

I have eight more quilts lined up to go so I will continue the challenge and see how things really are… It’s eye-opening!

Karyn Dornemann
www. karynquilts.com
(posted with the quilters permission)

Here are some photos of the quilting Karyn did – Please click on the photos to enlarge the view. I left the photos large so that you can see the detail of the quilting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karyn, I am glad to hear that you timed yourself when you were working on this quilt – which, by the way, is amazing! You did a fabulous job on the quilting!

I agree, timing your work IS eye opening! When something like this happens to me, I call it a “learning experience” and I hope that I do LEARN something from it.

I would like to make a couple of comments-

I think all quilters, at one time or another, have had a quilt “speak” to them and they change the original quilting designs to something else. It always seems that the change(s) will take more time and be more detailed quilting.

All of these changes are assumed to fall under the “do whatever you want / quilt as desired” statement and documented on the worksheet and approved by the quilt’s owner.

Personally, if I choose to quilt a more complex, detailed design, then I “absorb” the extra time and the (potential) loss of the extra quilting $$.

I do not add extra $$ to the cost of the quilting job after I give a written estimate to my customer. Think of how you feel if something costs more (possibly way more) than what you were told it was going to cost at the start! (Think car repairs!)

I will still keep track of the quilting time involved so that the next time I use that technique, pattern, template, etc., I will be able to give a more accurate estimate due to the extra time involved when using that technique, pattern, template, etc., on the next quilt.

Let’s say you are intaking a quilt and the customer says, “I really like what you did on so-and-so’s quilt, (or seen on another quilt someplace else) can you do it on my quilt?” You know what pattern / design / technique that she is talking about and you know that it will take longer to complete. Or, you suggest a pattern / technique / template, etc., and you KNOW that it will take more time to complete. Whatever the scenario, in your mind, figure out how many extra hours it will take – then by all means, ADD extra $$ to what you will charge to cover the extra time it will take to for you to complete the quilt!

Going back to my contractor example from a few posts ago – if you were working with a contractor on a home improvement and you wanted to add something that would take more time and effort for the contractor to do, wouldn’t the contractor charge extra for this? Then why shouldn’t you, as a “quilting contractor” do the same thing.

Recently, I was working on a customer quilt and I came up with a new border design using one of my templates. I knew it was going to take more time, but I didn’t know HOW much extra time it would actually take. My choice was to go ahead and use the new design and assume it would take extra time to quilt.

The quilt was 96 x 96 inches and I estimated about 2 hours for the (original design) border quilting. The actual quilting time for the border, using the new design, was 4 hours! This was a “learning experience” for me (one of many.) If I use that design again, my choice would be to add extra $$$ – a lot of extra $$$ – to my fee! OR, I can do less intense quilting in the body of the quilt (less time) and the more intense border quilting (more time) and between the two, they would equal the time for a “normal” quilt, which I would charge accordingly.

I know, this is all as clear as mud!!

Going back to the Karyn’s quilt in the email – small quilts are NOTORIOUS for taking a LOT longer to quilt! (Ask me how I know this!)

I know that I will look at a smaller quilt and think “if I do this more complex, time consuming technique /pattern, template, etc., it won’t take THAT long!” Guess what? Most of the time it does take longer (sometimes a lot longer) to finish!

With a small quilt, I will generally over estimate the time / cost of the quilting. If it takes significantly less time to quilt, I can always reduce the price of the quilting, which makes my customer happy. But if it takes longer to quilt, then at least I have some $$ for my time and effort.

Having these “learning experiences” is how we learn what techniques take more time, and on the flip side, which techniques take less time to quilt!

By timing your work, over time, you should get a bunch of averages. You should get an average amount of quilting time on a quilt, which you can break down to Queen size, King size, etc. You should also get an average price for your quilting, which you can, again, break down to techniques, such as average price for template work, free hand work, pantographs, etc.

From all of this, over time, you will be able to figure out if you are really making any $$ with your quilting!

Yes, I know we all are having way too much fun quilting, but, if you are quilting as a business – and many of you are quilting as your main source of income – then you NEED to KNOW all this information and you need to KNOW if you are making any $$.

As always, I welcome your comments and I hope to hear from more of you about your results from timing your work.

Post any comments in the comments box or if you would like to contact me personally, send me an email at longarmu@aol.com.

What Happens Next??

I belong to a couple of online quilting groups and recently someone had posted that they had accidentally ripped a hole in a quilt they were working on. They were rolling up the quilt with the needle in the down position, the machine caught on something and BAM!! there was a small rip on the quilt top!

This is something the every quilter dreads! (Yes, it WILL happen to you. If it hasn’t yet, just wait! In fact, many people say that you aren’t a “real quilter” until something like this DOES happen to you! )

In this situation, it turns out it was the quilters own quilt and she was able to fix it. But ….., what if this was a customer quilt? What would you do?

As professional quilters, we all do our best to complete our customer’s quilts. But stuff happens and we have to deal with it.

Here is the scenario –

Just as above, you are working on a customer quilt. Somehow, you make a small rip, let’s say less than 1 inch long, in the quilt top. Let’s say it’s in the middle of the side border on a fairly floral fabric. After you get finished crying and yelling at yourself, how would you deal with this situation. Or, if you have had this happen to you, how did you deal with it.

Here are some questions for you to think about –

Would you contact the customer after it happened or wait until the quilt gets picked up? Or not tell them at all?

Would you fix the rip (I would use some fusible under the rip, then some Fray Check on the ragged edges and possibly slightly alter my quilting in that area to stitch over the rip) or have your customer fix it herself after she picks it up?

If you fix the quilt and the repair is not noticeable, do you tell your customer about it or not?

Would you give your customer a discount on the quilting fee or a discount on future quilting? Or not?

Just for fun, let’s have another scenario. This time the rip is more in the middle of the quilt top, in a noticeable area, maybe on a darker fabric and the light batting is showing through. What would you do and how would you deal with this?

Here is another thing to think about, what were you doing that created the rip in the quilt? If it is something that you have some control over, can you avoid doing it in the future?

For me personally, I avoid like the plague moving the quilt with the needle down. I know, a lot of you were taught to do this to line up patterns, pantographs, etc., but there are ways to move your quilt without the needle down.

Sometimes, you have no control over making a rip in a quilt. Many years ago, here in the Northwest, we had an earthquake. I had a friend who was working on a quilt during the earthquake and because of the shaking, a small-ish hole was ripped in the quilt. When she explained to her customer what happened, the customer said, “leave the hole as it is. That will be my reminder of the earthquake!”

Take some time to think about what you would do in this situation. If this has happened to you, feel free to share your experience in the comments below. If you would prefer, you can email me privately at longarmu@aol.com

And yes, I have ripped a hole in a few quilts over the many years of my quilting. My choice is to fix the hole the best I can, complete the quilting, tell the customer about it when the quilt gets picked up and, if the repair is somewhat noticeable, I will give a discount.

My last experience like this was about a year ago – I ripped a small hole in the backing fabric when I was taking out some stitches in an area very close to the raw edge of the quilt. I fused matching fabric over the hole and quilted over the fused fabric. I did tell my customer and, since it was such a small area, I did not charge her for the thread I used in her (super sized) quilt!

I look forward to reading about your experiences and your thoughts on this.

Take the Challenge!

Usually around the first of the year I write about raising your prices – which you should be doing –  but this year, I want to do something a little bit different.

I have a challenge for YOU! For the next 30 days, I want you to TIME yourself when you are working on ANY quilt.

No, this is not to play “beat the clock,” or “I can quilt faster than you can!” This is to show you how much time you are taking to quilt a quilt. By tracking your time for at least 30 days, you should see some interesting trends developing. Before we talk about interesting trends, let’s talk about what to “time.”

FWIW – I time myself on 98 % of the quilts I work on, and yes, I can give you all sorts of timing details on the quilts I have done!

What to time  – I break my timing into three major sections – putting the quilt on the machine, actual quilting time and “after quilting” time.

Putting the Quilt on the Machine – Why is this important information? Remember back to when you were a beginning quilter (even if you weren’t quilting as a business.) How long did it take you to put a Queen size quilt on your machine? If you were like me, it took about 3 hours, maybe longer. My thoughts were, there is SO much fabric and SO many big pieces and where to do they all go and what gets pinned, etc., etc. Today, after putting (literally) a thousand + quilts on my machine, I can put a Queen size quilt on the machine in about 35 – 45 minutes, if there are no major problems.

If you are a fairly new quilter, after more than a few quilts, you should see a decrease in the amount of time it takes you to put a quilt on the machine.

Once you are aware of the time it takes you to put a quilt on the machine, you may be able to figure out more efficient ways to put a quilt on your machine.

Even though you are not “quilting” when you are putting a quilt on to the quilting machine, I do consider it as “quilting time” and include it in the total time it takes to quilt the quilt.

Actual Quilting Time – This is the time you are standing at the machine and actually working on a quilt. It makes no difference if you are quilting with a computer or hand guiding the machine. It also makes no difference if you are quilting pantographs, doing free hand work, working with templates or doing super duper over the top super dense custom quilting. If you are touching the machine, the needle is moving, stitches are being made, bobbins are being wound or you are moving the quilt from workspace to workspace, this is actual quilting time! This will be the bulk of the time you are working on your quilt.

For many years, I drove a school bus and I had to keep track of my time on the routes, etc., Instead of counting minutes, we counted hundredths of the hour. Here is how it worked – the clock was divided into 100’s, so 15 minutes was .25, 30 minutes was .50 and 45 minutes was .75 of an hour. For simplicity’s sake, 5 minutes is calculated a .08 of an hour. This makes things so much easier to calculate and I continued doing this when I time my quilts. Example – if it took me 45 minutes to put a quilt on the machine, I would write down .75 hours. If I was quilting for 55 minutes, I would write down .91 (45 minutes = .75, 10 minutes = .16. So, .75 + .16 = .91) If I was quilting for 1 hour, 30 minutes, I would write down 1.50 hours.

Most smart phones have a clock / timer/ stopwatch function on them. Some people like to use the stop watch function, some people prefer to set the time for a specific amount of time and work until the timer goes off. However you like to track your time, do it and write it down.

Many times when I’m quilting I listen to podcasts, each of which is about 40 minutes long. I will keep track of the number of podcasts I have listened to when I calculate my time.

If nothing else, write down your start and finish time and figure how much time it was.

Note: I like to add the date to my times. Many times I am working only a few hours a day on a project – the project may take only 6 hours, but it might have taken me 4 days to do them!

While you are timing yourself, you can break the time down into categories / sections / repeats / rows / techniques, etc.

For example, when I quit pantographs, in addition to the time I am tracking on the whole project, I will time myself on the actual quilting time – the time the machine is moving – on at least one row of the pattern. Let’s say that for a queen size quilt, from raw edge to raw edge, one row of pattern took 30 minutes of quilting time. It took another 10 minutes to do the “roll up” and re-setting of the pattern, etc. You can calculate that it will take 40 minutes (.50 + .16 = .66 hours) to quilt one row. If your pattern is 10 inches wide and your quilt is 100 inches long, that will 10 pattern repeats. At 40 minutes /.66 hour per row that would equal about 6-1/2 hours to quilt.

I do a fair amount of template work. When I am working with templates, I will time myself per block / motif / border section / etc., when using that particular template, in addition to the total time it takes to finish the quilting.

As you can see, in addition to your actual quilting time, you can break your time into as many “pieces” as you want to determine all sorts of things.

Those of you who “float” the bottom of the quilt top, I would love to know how much time you take to “fuss” with the quilt top to keep it straight and smooth each time you do a “roll up” of the quilt. If some of you could send me this info, I would greatly appreciate it.

Then there is the “After Quilting” Time – What is after quilting? To me, that is things that need to be done to the quilt before the quilt is taken off the machine and before it is either ready for binding or to be given back to the customer.

For example – After the main quilting is done, and before the quilt is taken off the machine, I inspect the quilt both top and the quilt bottom / backing fabric to make sure the stitching is good, that there are no tension issues on the back, no un-quilted spaces, etc. If anything needs to be fixed with the machine, I do it at this time. Many times when I use templates I will drag my thread from place to place. These “dragged threads” need to be trimmed from the back, and yes, I time this too! The threads have already been trimmed on the quilt front during quilting.

I trim my quilts so that there is about 1-1/2 to 2 inches of backing fabric and batting from the raw edges of the quilt top before I give the quilt back to my customer, if the customer is applying the binding. (All the trimmings are returned to the customer, unless they are very small.) I generally don’t time this, but I will allow an extra 15 minutes (.25 hours.)

I like to make a chart and write everything down.

Here are some numbers from an actual quilt I did – click on any photo for a larger view


Starry Night Quilt, 73 x 84 inches
click on the chart for a larger view.

I like to round my numbers, so this quilt took me (rounded up) 5 hours from start to finish. This quilt was free hand quilted.

Here is another quilt – the photo is of half the quilt.

All My Scraps are Stars, 91 x 108 inches
click on the chart for a larger view

This quilt was quilted free hand, but there was a TON of quilting , LOTS of detail work and it was HUGE!! As you can see, this quilt took me 14-1/2 hours (rounded down slightly) over 6 days to complete! I also had some stitching issues that had to be taken out and re-quilted and those were included in the times above.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with more details, so I will end here by saying – accept my challenge and time yourself for the next 30 days and see if you can see some interesting trends in YOUR quilt and quilting.

I will write more about this in 30 days. Until then, keep on quilting!

Feel free to leave a comment and if you would rather send me an email, please do so at longarmu@aol.com

Code of Conduct?

A while back, I received an email from a person who asked if knew of, or had, a “Code of Conduct” or a “Code of Ethics” for those who machine quilt for other people as a business.

I replied back to her that I had never heard of anything like that but it might be a good idea.

I have a couple of ideas, but before I write about them, what are YOUR thoughts about this?

Do you have a “code”, a principle or an un-written rule or two, or three, that you use in your machine quilting business? If so, post it in the comments section. Feel free to add an explanation of why.

Or, if you would prefer, send it to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com I will then post it to the blog.

Here is one un-written rule I follow –

Never say anything bad about another piecer /quilter / machine quilter – even if you are joking around! This will come back to bite you on the butt! Big Time!! Ask me how I know this.

I look forward to reading what other machine quilting business owners have to say about this.

A Post on Pricing

While I was on a FaceBook group, someone posted this link to a blog about pricing items for sale. I read the blog post and it is a great post and brings up many different thoughts and comments on pricing. The pricing that is talked about in the blog post is for hand made items such as knit, sewn, crocheted, jewelry, etc., but the information is just as accurate and timely for a machine quilting business.

The blogger who wrote this is in the UK so the pricing is done in “pounds” not dollars – just substitute a $ for the pound sign.

To view the blog post Click Here 

PS Usually summer is a slow time for machine quilters. If it is slow for you, what a GREAT time to raise your prices. Then, when things pick up in the fall, your prices are higher and you will be making more $$$!!

Let me know your thoughts about this blog post.