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

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.


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!

Make it Happen!

Happy 2017!

new-year-lgI hope that 2017 is a year of great things, many quilts, and great prosperity for you!

Make 2017 be the year YOU “make it happen” in your quilting business life.

How do you “make it happen” in your quilting business? First, decide what “happen” is. Is it more customers? Is it more $$$? Is it getting more inspiration or creativity? Once you can decide what you want, you can then work on getting it!

I know, it sounds so simple, but sometimes it is the hardest thing to do! I am going to take the next few blog posts and write about some of these “wants.”

You want more customers.

If you want more customers, think about who your customers are, where are they, and how are you going to let them know what you do?

We are machine quilters and if you ask, who is your customer, you usually respond with “anyone who makes a quilt!” But let’s try to be a little more specific. If you say ANYONE who has a quilt is a customer, and someone brings you the worlds ugliest quilt that is poorly pieced, has LOTS of threads hanging from it, it does not lay flat,  it’s not square and it (literally) stinks – your customer is known as the local cat lady – and the customer wants you to quilt it for el-cheapo prices, will you quilt it? Before you answer that, ask yourself – Do I REALLY want this person as a customer? If your answer to both of these questions is NO then something has to change.

Let’s also assume that the last few customers have been like this. You may have to play detective to find out how they found you. When you learn that, then you can do what is necessary to get your information off the “bad customer list”.

Now you have to find out how to get your information onto the “good customer list” and find “good” customers!

Here are some of the typical ways of doing this –

  • Join a quilt guild in another part of your neighborhood, city, county, etc.
  • Work with other quilters doing other quilting “stuff.” Is there is a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sit-and-sew in your area? Join it. Work on your projects, but bring completed works for show and tell!
  • If you can teach piecing, teach at your local quilt shop or even teach in your home or community center. This is double $$$ for you! For a fee you teach them how to make the quilt and then charge them for quilting the class project!

Here are some other ways to find new customers –

Find out who the teachers are in the local, or not so local, quilt shops and offer to quilt their class quilts for a discounted fee. (In general, I’m not a fan of discounts, but this is one place where I feel it is justified.) Many quilt instructors teach at several shops and your quilting could be shown in a wider area. I would get an email or physical address of the teacher and send any discounts directly to her/him.

A while back when I was teaching out of state, I was talking with a quilter who said they were concentrating on getting customers from a specific zip code. (This zip code was in a large metropolitan area.) I asked why that zip code? The answer was “that is where the rich people live!” This quilter was doing what was necessary, in that zip code, to contact, connect to and work with new customers.

I have talked with quilters who live in smaller towns and they say they “can’t” attend guild meetings out of their neighborhood because of where they live, etc. I am a “big city girl” and I don’t really understand this way of thinking. You have the courage to purchase a quilting machine, learn how to use it, practice, practice, practice some more and start a machine quilting business. You do all that and you don’t have the courage to go across town to a quilt guild meeting? YOU have to choose what is best for YOU and YOUR business. I say, take the deep breath, bring your show and tell, and GO to the meeting. You might be surprised – you should get a warm welcome, and possibly some more customers!

Where is it written and what “rule” says that your customers are ONLY from your area? Have you ever thought of getting customers from away (maybe far away) from where you live?

Do you live in a tourist area? Are there any gift shops you could put some quilted items (pillows, coasters, table runners, possibly lap quilts, etc.) for sale? Of course on all of these items you include a label and / or business card with your contact info, maybe even stating that you quilt for others.

You might offer a “drop off” service, where the customer who is coming to your area for vacation can drop off their quilt with you to be quilted. When the quilt is completed, you ship it back to them for a shipping fee. Or you might offer a “pick up” service where the customer ships to quilt to you before their vacation and they can pick it up when they are in the area. Note: You MUST be able to get the quilt done before their vacation time ends!

If you have things planned properly, the out of the area customer could drop off their quilt at the start of their vacation and pick it up at the end – assuming the vacation is more than a day or two. I consider something like this to be a “rush job” and a rush job usually requires more $$ to do! And, if the customer wanted the quilt back in a few days, and you can do it, that would be a MAJOR rush job with MORE $$$ added to the cost!

You will have to be a little creative to find these customers, but I know it can be done!

Does your local quilt shop have a Block of the Month quilt where you have to attend a mini-class to get the next part of the quilt? If so, join it even if it isn’t your favorite type of quilt. Be there at every mini class with something that you made – and quilted – from the previous mini-class. You could make tote bags, table runners, lap quilts for a charity, etc. But SHOW what you can do with your quilting! Bring business cards but don’t do a “hard sell.”

Do you have a special technique or style of quilting that would appeal to other piecers and quilters? For example –

I know of a quilter who LOVES Judy Neimeyer quilts!  (For information on these quilts Click Here) She has pieced and quilted several of these quilts and is targeting other piecers who love this style of quilts. Quilting this type of quilt (foundation pieced with many, many,many small pieces) has many challenges and, because of this, a lot of extra $$$ can be charged to quilt this type of quilt.

Another quilter I know loves Civil War Reproduction quilts. Not only that, she lives in an area that is a Civil War battlefield tourist area. She is “targeting” other Civil War Reproduction quilt enthusiasts and working with local businesses / charities, etc., to showcase her quilts and quilting in their advertising and in their businesses.

Personally, I love doing Sashiko on quilts and I promote my Sashiko work on my personal blog  (To view some of my Sashiko Quilts Click Here)  And yes, I have done several quilts for people from other parts of the country who saw my work online and sent their quilts to me to quilt.

This should give you some ideas of how to get new customers. YOU have to think a little “out of the box” but I know you can do this.

I know that there are even more ways than these to find new customers! If you have another idea please send it to me in an email to or put it in the comments section.

In my next post I will talk about getting your information out to others!




Happy Thanksgiving

Quilted Turkey

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

(click on the photo above for a larger view. You have got to see the details!)

I want to wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! Whether you are spending this day cooking in the kitchen or visiting with family and friends, let us all give thanks for what is truly important in our lives including family, friends and faith.

To thank you for your support of Longarm University this past year, I have put a FREE Online Class on the Longarm Classroom website. This class will show you how to make the cutest pillow top from a child’s hand and foot print. reinweb1(Click on the photo at left for a larger view.) It also makes a great gift for any child or grandchild! Also included in this FREE Online Class are instructions on how to machine applique using your quilting machine.

For complete details on this FREE Online Class, including photos, Click Here

For a list of other FREE Online Classes Click Here

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and travel safe!

Why We Quilt – Part 2

After posting my previous blog about quilting a poorly pieced quilt, (for that post Click Here) I asked that you send any photos of badly pieced quilts and that I would put them on this blog.

Gail S sent these photos and the following explanation – (click on any photo for a larger view)

“Last year a client gave me 2 old tops that she wanted made into a duvet cover. I was to mount the quilt top to a large piece of cloth that would become the duvet cover. The quilt tops were very soiled and I had to wash them before quilting. On one, the white fabric shrunk and the colored fabric did not, resulting in a very wonky top.

blue-2 blue-1 blue-3

There was no way to ease in these many areas of poof. So if there was going to be tucks and puckers, I wanted them to be securely tacked down. I chose a freehand baptist fan design and I varied the orientation of the “fans”. The owner and I were both pleased with the result.

The finished photo (below) shows the quilt top as part of the larger fabric that would become the duvet cover. I made a binding around the edge of the quilt so that if the owner ever wanted, they could cut the quilt off the larger fabric with just a small bit of work to hide the raw edge. In the done photo, you can see a bit of the quilt I put on the reverse side of the duvet cover.”


Gail did a GREAT job and the finished quilt looks wonderful!

If you have any photos of wonky quilts or poorly pieced quilts, send them to me as email attachments to with an explanation and I will post them on this blog.

Why We Quilt

I belong to a couple of machine quilting YahooGroups. A few days ago, someone from the group posted some photos of a quilt she was working on. I felt the photos would be of interest to those who read this blog and, with her permission, I am posting some of them.

What would YOU do if this quilt was on your machine?


And here is a close up of the sashing –


The quilter has written about her experience in quilting this quilt and has many more photos on her blog.

To view the post about this quilt Click Here 

It is well worth your time to read the post and view the photos.

If you have any photos of poorly pieced quilts, send them to me at and I can post them on this blog.

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 and I will post the photos on this blog.

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