A Different Situation

I was contacted by someone earlier this week who was looking for some insight into a problem they were having. I think there is something to learn from this problem but I am not quite sure what it is. There are many questions that I can think of, most of which I have no answers. I am hoping that you can think about this and post your thoughts, suggestions, etc. Here is the situation as told to me –

The person who contacted me is a piecer, who pieced a king size quit for her daughter who is now at college. She took the quilt to a local machine quilter (I do not know who the quilter is or where she is located) for quilting. While at the machine quilter’s business, during the intake of the quilt, the customer insisted that the quilter write out a work order (which the quilter normally doesn’t do). The customer was very specific about what she wanted quilted and where it was to be quilted. According to the customer, this was all documented  and the quilter said that doing these patterns in these areas would be no problem. The customer has a copy of the work order.) The customer left a $200 deposit and waited patiently for the quilt to be completed.

After 5 months, the quilter called the customer and said the quilt was ready to be picked up. When the customer picked up the quilt, the quilter had quilted different patterns and designs instead of what the customer had chosen. The customer was not contacted about the pattern changes and did not approve of any pattern changes before the quilting was stared. When the customer asked the quilter why she didn’t do the quilting that the customer had insisted on, the quilter said “I felt that my choice of designs would work better on the quilt than yours did.”

The customer, who is very, very angry and upset about this, grabbed her quilt and left. The quilt is now in the possession of the customer.

The customer, who is the person who contacted me, is LIVID about this! She is saying the quilt is “ruined” and that she can’t look at the quilt without all these bad feelings, etc.

The customer was talking about contacting a lawyer and is wanting compensation for the quilting amount (which was about $500. I don’t know the exact amount), the cost of the materials of the quilt and the time it took her to piece the quilt. The customer says she can document the cost of the materials and that she knows how long it took her to piece the quilt.

In total, the customer is looking for “several thousand dollars” in compensation from the quilter.

Here are some of my thoughts on this situation –

If I were the quilter and this was my customer and I did not quilt what the customer insisted on – and which was documented – I would give back the deposit and offer to re-quilt the quilt for no charge.

I don’t know if I would offer to take out the quilting or have the customer do this. I would say (and document) that the quilt would need to be returned to me un-quilted buy a certain date, maybe three months in advance, and then give a date as to when it would be completed. I would do the re-quilting and give the quilt back to the customer as graciously as possible.

Hopefully, this would solve the problem and everyone is more or less happy.

When thinking more about this situation, especially where the customer wants compensation for the quilt, here are other questions / thoughts that I have. I don’t know if these are legal questions or if they would have any bearing on this situation or not. Let me know your thoughts about this –

The customer says her quilt was “ruined.” I don’t feel that the quilt was ruined. The quilt (I have seen photos of it) is nicely pieced, it is nicely / adequately quilted and it is in a usable condition. Even thought the quilt is NOT quilted the way the customer wanted it, but the quilt could be gifted or donated and someone would be thrilled to have it.

Even though the quilter quilted the wrong designs, the work was still done and the quilt is still usable. Should the quilter be paid for the work she did on the quilt?

Because the customer now has possession of the quilt (no matter how it was removed from the quilter) does that mean that the customer has “accepted” the quilt “as is”?

If there were holes ripped in the quilt or the cat or dog had babies on it, or something else happened where the quilt was totally un-usable, that, in my opinion, would be a different situation.

If the quilt is usable, should the customer be given / awarded compensation for the time and materials used to make this quilt?

If the quilt was un-usable, should the customer be given / awarded compensation for the time and materials used to make this quilt?

If the customer would be given / awarded compensation for the time and materials used to make this quilt, how much should it be?

Let’s assume there was $250 worth of fabric for the top, $75 worth of fabric for the backing, 100 hours of piecing time at $15 per hour = $1,500. The total documented time and materials is $1,825.

Let me know your thoughts by writing in the comments box below. If you would prefer to contact me privately, send me an email at longarmu@aol.com

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You Don’t Have to Justify!

A few weeks ago I was teaching a class about the “business end” of a machine quilting business. In this class, along with a lot of other things, I talked about offering additional services, such as binding quilts, to your customers. In my opinion, binding quilts is not that hard to do and you can make a fair amount of $$ at binding quilts.

In my quilting business I have four different pricing levels for binding. They are –

Binding #1, $2.50 perimeter foot – Trim the quilt, make the binding (straight binding, cut selvedge to selvedge) and apply the binding to the front of the quilt using my home sewing machine. The customer is responsible for hand stitching the binding to the back of the quilt.

Binding #2, $3.00 perimeter foot – Trim the quilt, make the binding (see above) stitch the binding to the quilt, front and back, using my home sewing machine. (This binding in totally applied with the home sewing machine.)

Binding #3, $3.50 perimeter foot – Same as Binding #1 except that I hand stitch the binding to the back of the quilt.

Binding #4, individually priced – This is Custom Binding such as bias binding, piped binding or any other type of binding that is different from Bindings #1 – 3. There is no “upper limit” to the price on this type of binding.

Example – a Queen Size quilt is 90 x 108 inches (the size of a pre-cut Queen Size batting) which equals 33 perimeter feet. (90 +108 x 2 divided by 12 inches per foot = 33 perimeter feet) Of course, the number of perimeter feet would be different on different sizes of quilts.

Using the example above my prices would be –

Binding #1 – $82.50 – and it takes me about an hour to make and apply this binding
Binding #2 – $99 – it takes me about 1-1/2 hours to make and apply this binding
Binding #3 – $115.50 – it takes me at least 2-1/2 hours, probably more, to make and apply this binding.
Binding #4 – is not included in this example.

I stated that of the customers who have me apply binding, they usually chose Binding #2. And, I love the $$ I can make applying Binding #2!

Everyone in the class seem receptive to the idea of charging for binding and for the prices I was suggesting.

Note: If you are NOT offering binding services to your customers, please think about doing so!

I would also like to say that in my business, only about 15 – 20% of my customers have me put the binding on their quilts. I don’t tell my customer how much time it will take to apply the binding to their quilt – I also don’t tell my customers how much time it has taken me to complete the quilting on their quilt.

A few days ago I received an email from one of the students in that class. Among other things, she stated that, in her opinion, I was “gouging” my customers in my pricing for my binding, mainly because it takes me such a short time to apply a binding (Binding #2)!

Fair warning – I am going to rant for a little bit!

In my classes, I tell people how I run my machine quilting business. I am not saying that my way is the “best” way or the “right” way to do things – it is the way that is working for me, at this moment in time. YOU are an independent small business owner. If you feel that my prices are too high or too low, you can charge what YOU want in YOUR business! I am NOT going to come and re-possess your quilting machine, or do harm to your quilts if you don’t charge the same as what I charge!

Here is a definition of “price gouging” from www.LegalDictonary.net  https://legaldictionary.net/price-gouging/

Price Gouging – The practice of raising prices on certain types of goods and services to an unfair level, especially during a state of emergency.

Also on the same page is this –

In most states with price gouging laws, the act is defined by the presence of three criteria:

Emergency or Crisis Situation – applies to abrupt price increases during a time of disaster or other emergency
Essential Items or Services – applies exclusively to items or services that are essential to survival
Price Limit – sets a limit on the price that can be charged for essential goods or services

In my mind, “gouging” the customer is also when you are the ONLY person in an area who can do “something” and you charge a huge amount of $$ to do so.

Personally, I don’t think my charges for my binding services fall within the legal definition of price gouging. (I am not a lawyer – if you are, and I’m wrong, please let me know.)

I do feel that something should be said about experience. I have been applying binding on my own quilts and customers quilts for well over 20 years. I am efficient at applying binding and I almost have a “system” when I do so. Because I can apply the binding efficiently in a relative short period of time should I charge LESS for my binding services? I say No!

The same could be said for my quilting. Because I can quilt some patterns efficiently and in a relatively short period of time, should I charge LESS for those quilting designs? Again, I say NO!!

Here is an example in my own life – In my backyard I have a tree limb that is broken and hanging in the branches of the tree. It is about 20 – 30 feet in the air. I am afraid that someday this branch will fall and wipe out my fence and possibly hurt someone or the neighbors dog. I can’t reach the branch, my son can’t fix this, neither can the handy man I hire on occasion. I have to hire an arborist to come and get this dead branch out of my tree. I will have to pay him $$, probably a lot, to fix this for me. He has experience doing this and will probably get it done in a short amount of time. Is the price he will charge me “gouging”? Probably not. Will I pay his price, YES! Will I grumble about it, possibly. But the job will be DONE!! And I don’t have to worry about that branch anymore! (He is coming and fixing the tree on Saturday.)

If my customer is willing to pay the $$ for me to bind their quilt, it is their choice. I do a good job and the job is done well. In my opinion, it is NOT gouging!

I am now finished with my rant and I hope that you will feel free to post your comments about this.

The Power of Samples

A customer is in your studio and you are discussing what kind of quilting you would like to be stitching onto her quilt. The more you are talking with her, the more confused she is looking. You KNOW that she is not understanding one word of what you are saying.

Not only is quilting an art, quilting is a “language.” Depending if you are a piecer or a quilter your “language” is different.

Piecer language is – half square triangles, bias edges, quarter square triangles, jelly rolls, layer cakes, batik fabric, foundation piecing, etc. These are words and phrases that refer to the process of taking large pieces of fabric and cutting them into small pieces of fabric, then sewing them back together to form a large piece of fabric!

Quilting language is – feathers, stippling, fill in stitching, trapunto, template work, Sashiko, stitch in /near the ditch, etc. All of these words and phrases refer to the process of stitching the three layers (quilt top, batting and backing) together with thread to make these layers into a quilt.

Usually, a quilter will understand a piecer, but most of the time, a piecer doesn’t understand a quilter.
As a machine quilting business, you need to understand that most of the time your customer has NO clue to what you can do with your quilting machine.

I make this statement this with absolutely NO dis-respect to any piecer. To me, this is like the relationship I have with my CPA. I give my CPA my business financial information, he does his “magic”, and presto, my books are done and I know what I have to pay in taxes! I have NO clue as to how he does this, and, I don’t want to know how he does this. As long as it gets done, that’s all I care about.

This is where samples come to your rescue! If you have some samples of some of your popular quilting designs and techniques, then you can SHOW your confused customer what the design, pattern or technique will (sort of) look like. Of course, you will have to say “Remember, this won’t look exactly like the sample. I will be using different thread in a different area, but the quilting on this sample should give you a good idea of what your quilt will look like when I am finished.”

Obviously, you will not be able to make a sample quilt for EVERY quilting design, pattern, technique that is “out there”, but you should be able to make a Sampler Quilt with MANY different stitching designs and patterns and have it hanging in your studio.

Which brings me to a shameless plug for my new online class Free Hand Sampler V-2. This online class shows you 56+ different quilting designs / patterns that I use on my customer quilts, my own quilts and charity quilts. For complete details about this class Click Here

If you prefer, you can make your own Sampler Quilt with the designs and techniques that YOU like and use on your quilts and your customer quilts.

As long as you have something to show your customer when they don’t understand what you are saying, that is what matters the most.

Here are some suggestions for samples that you may want to have available –

Samples that show the density of quilting – You can piece a quilt with maybe 4 blocks (2 across, 2 down) with sashing and borders and then quilt each quarter with a different density of quilting. From very “loose” – maybe big stipple, to super duper, over the top, custom quilting.

Or you could make 3, 4 or more separate mini-quilts. I would suggest making them at least 18 – 24 inches square, and quilt them individually with super simple to super complex patterns / designs. Of course, each density should be priced differently, with the more complex patterns being the most expensive.

If you quilt only pantographs, this will work for you also. Make some mini-quilts  and quilt them with a simple pantograph and with more complex patterns. The look of each mini-quilt will be different and, in my opinion, the more complex pattern should be a higher price.

Samples that show different colors of thread – so many people are “locked” into having the same color of thread on the same color of fabric. In most cases, that is appropriate and works. But…. many times, by using a slightly different color of thread, maybe a shade or two lighter or darker, will make a HUGE difference in the look of the quilt. Maybe on one of your mini-quilts from above, you use different colors of thread!

Samples that show something different – When I quilt, 98% of the time I use the same thread – brand, color, weight, etc.,- on the top and in the bobbin. Many customers assume that the color of the bobbin thread will match the color of the backing fabric. I have several samples that show that when using the different colors of thread on the back of the quilt, there is another quilt stitched onto the back! When the customer SEES this, they understand, and it makes my quilting life a whole lot easier!

You may even make some mini quilts with the same fabrics, patterns, threads, but change the battings! And yes, different battings make a HUGE difference in the finished look of the quilt.

Since the samples are specifically for your business, the fabric and supplies you purchase for samples is considered a business expense!

Storage of samples can sometimes be an issue. I have big, big tote bins under my quilting machine where I store my samples. If I need a sample, all I need to know is what bin it is in and dig it out when I need to show it to a customer.

To view information about the type of storage bins I have, from the Home Depot website, Click Here

I also think it looks really cool if you are finding the sample at the bottom of the bin and all the other quilts from the bin are stacked around you and your customer. It makes you look like your really know what you are doing and that you are incredibly talented – which you are!

Start planning what samples you need to make for YOUR machine quilting business.

If you have ideas for other samples, please let us know by writing in the comments section.

If you have samples that you use in your business and want to send photos and an explanation, please send them to longarmu@aol.com and I will post the photos on this blog.

As always, I look forward to your ideas and comments.

Cost of Longarm Quilting – Response

A few days ago I posted a link to a blog article about the cost of longarm quilting. (To view this blog article Click Here) I also posted the same link on two FaceBook groups, Quilting Friends and Quilters Show and Tell. Both of these groups are open to all quilters and piecers who are at all levels of quilting. From the absolutely raw beginner to the very experienced and professional quilters.

After posting the link about the cost of longarm quilting, there were MANY responses and comments to that post. Most of the responses were encouraging and appreciative of what longarm quilters do for their pieced tops.

Then there was a somewhat negative response –

 If a longarmer ruins a pieced quilt top, does he/she carry insurance to cover the (at least) the cost of materials back to the customer?

Which another person replied –

Not likely!

Two responses to a post, SO MUCH to write about!!!!! Where do I start???

Let’s start with business insurance. If you are quilting as a business, YOU NEED BUSINESS INSURANCE! If you are working from or in your home, DO NOT  assume that your homeowner’s insurance will cover any business “problems!”

Note: I am not an insurance person and I don’t know anything about insurance except what I have learned the hard way. Always talk to an insurance professional with any insurance related question or problem.( If you are an insurance person, feel free to comment on this or contact me privately at longarmu@aol.com)

Talk to your insurance person and tell them you have a quilting business. They will probably have NO clue as to what you do, that’s OK. Invite them over to your home/studio so they can see what equipment, supplies, etc., that you have. Make sure your coverage includes your equipment and the customer quilts you have in your possession. You need to KNOW what the (insurance) definition of “ruined quilt” is, what is covered for a ruined customer quilt and how a value of the ruined quilt is determined. If needed, get this information IN WRITING from your insurance person and keep it in your files.

Tip – if your insurance person doesn’t know what kind of insurance you need, the magic words are “Inland Marine.” I have no idea what this means, but say that to an insurance person and their eyes light up and they know what to do!

Let’s assume that the insurance definition of a “ruined quilt” is where the quilt is destroyed in a fire, flood, or other type of disaster – which I hope and pray NEVER happens to you. In other words, the quilt is totally un-usable in it’s ruined/destroyed condition.

In most cases, it is up to your customer to provide receipts and records to document the $$ they spent on the fabrics, pattern, and any other supplies needed to complete the quilt top.  Generally, there is no allowance made for the time it took to piece the quilt top. Even if your customer says that the quilt top is worth several thousand dollars, if they can’t DOCUMENT that amount, the insurance company may pay only a fraction of that amount!

Now let’s assume that the “ruined quilt” is not destroyed in a fire or flood. For whatever reason, your customer is not happy with the quilting and she is saying that you “ruined her quilt.”

This is where you have to play detective and find out why your customer is saying this and what can be done to fix things.

There can be MANY reasons for your customer to be unhappy – from machine and tension issues to unrealistic expectations. YOU have to talk to your customer and find out what (in their minds) is wrong.

Did your customer say “do what you want” on the quilt and is not happy with what you did? Did you document that statement on your worksheet – that the customer signed and dated before leaving their quilt with you?

How long after picking up their quilt is the customer saying they are unhappy with it? Is it within a day or two or has it been six months or longer?

What is happening in your customer’s life at this time? Is she taking out her frustration from another situation on you?

What does the customer expect you to do about this situation? Her solution may not be as drastic and you think it is?

Hopefully you can work with your customer to come to a resolution of this problem.  This may mean re-quilting some areas of the quilt, or possibly giving the customer a refund, discount, or credit for future quilting.

I have a booklet, “Your Customer Worksheet” where I have an article title “The Unhappy Customer – What to Do!” (This booklet is available on the Longarm University website. For details Click Here)

For a short time, I will send you a FREE copy of the the Unhappy Customer article if you send a private email to me at longarmu@aol.com and request a copy.

You WILL, at some time in your professional quilting career, have an unhappy customer. This situation should be handled in a professional way and your customer (hopefully) will be satisfied with the solution.

I look forward to your comments.

Why Does Longarm Quilting Cost So Much?

I found this on FaceBook and I think it is important for all professional longarm quilters to read.

The writer of this blog post is spot on!

To read the blog post “Why Does My Longarm Quilter Charge So Much?Click Here

 

 

Happy 2016 and a Situation

I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2016 filled with LOTS of customer quilts for you to work on!

January is typically a slow(er) month for machine quilters. This is the time to take a break and re-charge yourself, clean your quilting room (mine is a disaster), work on some of your own projects, and maybe make some samples of new techniques and patterns you have acquired last year. You can then offer these new patterns and techniques to your customers at a higher fee!

The start of a new year is a great time to raise your prices! Even if it is only half a cent raise, at least it is a raise. If you are normally charging one and a half cents per square inch (,015), change it to two cents per inch (.02). You just gave yourself a raise – which you deserve!

You also do NOT have to let your customers know that you are raising your prices. Just do it! The next time your customer comes to you, quote them the new, higher price and don’t say anything about it. I will bet that your customer won’t even notice the difference.

Here are some numbers – A Queen Size quilt, 90 x 108 inches = 9720 square inch (psi). The old price of .015 cents psi would equal $145. The NEW price of .02 cents psi equals $194.40, which I would round up to either $195 or $200.

By raising your price by one half a cent, you just gave yourself a $50 raise! And, if you quilted 5 Queen Size quilts per month, you would have an extra $250 for doing the same kind and same amount of work you did in the past!!

I now want to change subjects completely.

I have been talking and emailing with a professional machine quilter and she has a very unique situation. With her permission, I am going to outline what her problem is and see if you have any suggestions to help her.

This quilter lives in a medium sized metropolitan city. The area she lives in, over the last many years has changed considerably and it now considered “un-safe to live in” (her words) and her customers don’t and won’t come to her home to drop off their quilts.

She has enough customers, does quality work, charges a very good price for her services and needs her quilting income to help support herself.

Because her area is has a high crime rate, she has no vehicle (too many times her car was stolen or vandalized) and must use public transportation to get around. If needed, she can – and has – rented a car for the day, but must travel by bus to the car rental office.

She is in the process of moving to a different, safer location, but that is still several months away, if everything works out well.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for her and her situation? If you do, please write them in the comments section.

I have given her some suggestions (I’ll post them later) and now we both would like to hear from you.

This quilter does subscribe to this blog and will be reading your comments.

I thank you in advance for any thoughts, suggestions or comments.

Wonky Borders

I have just added a couple of new pages to the Longarm University website where I talk about fixing wonky / bad borders.

To view these pages Click Here 

I would love to hear your comments on this.  You can send me an email with your comments via the web page, or respond with the comments on this blog.