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

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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

Looking for Legal Info

I have been contacted by someone about a quilting situation that they are involved in that may require legal help.  Is there anyone who subscribes to this blog that is a lawyer, para-legal, etc. that could email with me about this? All I am looking for is a legal opinion or explanation for this situation.  (I am NOT involved in this situation in any way.) If you can help, please send me an email at longarmu@aol.com

I promise that I will write about what is happening, but I can’t do so until I get more information.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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.

 

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.

Spring is Here!!

Spring is here – even though many of you still have snow on the ground, rain, flooding and other weather related things happening to make it still feel like winter. As someone once wrote, “The first day of Spring and the first Spring day can sometimes be a month apart!”

Even though it may not feel like Spring where you are, this is the time to connect with your customers to remind them that you are still quilting and are ready for them to bring their quilts to you. It is also the time to remind your customers that weddings, graduations and other related events are coming and that they should begin their quilts for these events – or bring the quilts they have been working on, to YOU!!

How do you let your customers know about all of this? Send them a note or card through the (regular) mail! In your note or card you can also include a little goodie reminding them of your quilting services. I am not talking about anything imprinted or expensive such as pencils, mugs, etc. I am talking about some small, quilted items that are easy to make and easy to send through the mail.

On my personal blog  I recently posted how to make quilted mug rugs. To view this post Click Here

These mug rugs have a heart motif on them and could be used for Valentine’s Day, but you could easily substitute a Spring theme. What about a simple flower design, or, if you are ambitious, maybe piecing a simple flower or Spring-like design and then quilt them into mug rugs or pot holders, etc.

Depending on the number of customers you have and the backlog of quilts waiting to be quilted, you may want to be selective of who you send these quilted items to.

I am assuming that you have complete contact information about your customers including name, phone, physical address, email, etc.

Here are some suggestions –

Go through your customer list and categorize your customers as –

Level 1 – this is the “regular” customer that keeps you in business. They may bring a quilt (or more) each month or so, or at least on a somewhat regular basis.
Level 2 – these are somewhat regular customers, but you haven’t heard from them in about 6 – 9 months.
Level 3 – you have not heard from these customers in 9 – 18 months or so.
Level 4 – you have not hear from these customers for over 18 months. This could include the customers you have not heard from in years. If you have a number of customers that you have not heard from in a few years, you could categorize them as a Level 5.

After you have categorized your customers determine which ones you would like to send a “goodie” to. Personally, I would concentrate on the Level 3 and 4 customers and send a Spring note and goodie to them.

If you concentrate on the Level 3 and 4 customers, I would also include a coupon for a Free Batting. Why not! This might be the “nudge” this customer needs to come back to you.

I wrote about free battings in a previous blog post. To view this post Click Here

Since we are talking about Free Batting, why not include a Free Batting coupon that your customer can give to their friends!

For a sample of a Free Batting coupon (PDF file) for both your customer and their friends, click on the highlighted text Free-Batting-Coupon

Let’s not forget about our regular customers or the customers you have waiting for their quilts. I would figure out how many of these customers you have and make them the same “goodies.” When they come to pick up their quilt(s) this becomes a thank you gift! And customers love thank you gifts. (When was the last time you got something for being a good customer?)

It may take an afternoon to make something small for your customers, but the rewards can be great! You may even want to make a few extra goodies and save them to give to your new customers.

Here is a suggestion for a note to send to your customers –

Hi (customer name),

Even though the calendar says it’s Spring, it still feels like Winter! But I know that Spring will be here soon with green grass, flowers, warmer weather and much longer days!

I remember working on your quilt (name of quilt) in (month and year). You did an excellent (good) job of piecing and I hope you are enjoying your quilt as much as I enjoyed working on it. I would love to see you and your quilts again.

I have enclosed two gifts for you. Once is a quilted (mug rug/potholder/other) that I made for you. The other gift is a coupon for a FREE BATTING for you and for your friends.

Feel free to call me at 111-111-1111 to schedule an appointment to bring your quilt to me for quilting.

I have entered the computer age and you can contact me via text, email, or other way. (Include information about texting you or emailing you or any other way to contact you.)

I look forward to Spring and welcoming you and your quilt(s) back to my studio.

Sincerely,

Your Quilter

If you know how to do a Mail Merge this would be a great time to use it. If not, you can put the individual information into each note.

I urge you to “get to making something” for your customers, target your “lost” customers, thank your regular customer and – Make It Happen!

PS Feel free to post your comments. If you use this idea of goodies and Free Batting in your machine quilting business, let us know how it is working!