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.

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Customer Discounts ?

Many professional machine quilters give discounts to their customers. These discounts are usually about 10 – 20%, sometimes more, and can be for a variety of reasons – new customer discount, returning customer discount, sunny day discount, rainy day discount, showing up at the door discount, etc.

Personally, I don’t give discounts. I feel that you loose way too any $$ with discounts. Let’s run some numbers.

Example – Queen Size Quilt, moderate density quilting, it doesn’t matter if the quilting is free hand, pantograph or computerized.

 If you charge $250 for this quilt, with a 10% discount ($25) your charge (to the customer) would be$225, with a 15% discount ($37.50) your charge is $212.50, with a 20% discount ($50) your charge would be $200.

If you charge $300 for this quilt, with a 10% discount ($30) your charge would be $270, with a 15% discount ($45) your charge is $256, with a 20% discount ($60) your charge would be $240

Note: If you would charge a different amount, your numbers would be different.

No matter what discount you give to your customer, it still takes you the same amount of time to complete the quilting. If you calculate your cost per hour for quilting – the time it takes you to complete a quilt divided by the cost of the quilting only = cost per hour. (We will discuss “cost per hour” in an upcoming post.)

Again, some numbers – The Queen Size quilt in our example above took 6 hours to complete.

At full price of $250 divided by 6 (hours) = $41.66 per hour. For the discounted prices, $225 divided by 6 = $37.50 ph, $212.50 divided by 6 = $35.41 ph and $200 divided by 6 =$33.33 ph.

At full price of $300 divided by 6 (hours) = $50 per hour. For the discounted prices, $270 divided by 6 = $45 ph, $256 divided by 6 = $42.66 ph and $240 divided by 6 =$40 ph.

Note: NO operating expenses or self employment taxes have been taken out of the cost per hour amount.

You can see that the amount of $$ you are making per hour decreases significantly with each discount given.

Before we go any further, I want you to think about your customers. I would be willing to bet that most of your customers do not come to you ONLY because you offer a discount. Your customers come to you because they like your style of quilting, the quality of your quilting, your personality, your lifestyle, etc. Price usually isn’t at the top of their list when looking for a machine quilter.

OK, I do know that there are some people where price is the ONLY thing they look for in a quilter. Fortunately, these people are mostly few and far between and YOU get to choose if you want to work with them. Personally, if someone comes to me and wants me to quilt “cheap”, I just tell them – nicely – that I don’t do cheap quilting and it may be better for them to take their quilt someplace else. And yes, I have had to do this a few times in my machine quilting career.

So, if price is NOT the only reason your customer is coming to you, and if you routinely give them discounts, why? You may want to re-think your motivation behind your discount philosophy.

But, you want to give your customer an incentive to return to you, or you want to reward them in some way. I suggest that you offer them FREE BATTING.

I know, you are saying, wait a minute Cindy! You don’t give discounts, but you give free batting? Yes, I do! And here is why –

Batting is tangible. Your customer KNOWS what batting is and knows what the approximate retail cost of batting. Free batting also saves your customer time by not having to stop by the quilt shop and they may be able to bring their quilt to you more quickly.

Best of all, by offering the batting FREE, your customer knows they are getting a great deal.

Note: Batting should be a separate charge and not included in the price of the quilting labor.

Here is the best part for you, the machine quilter. Free batting will cost you less than most discounts!

You need to purchase your batting wholesale or at a discount. A Warm & Natural Queen Size batting, pre-cut, wholesale is $16.30 (Price at EE Schenck, Portland, OR, May 2014.) The suggested retail price would be $32.95 +/- Prices will vary for other battings and sizes or if purchased/sold by the yard.

For a $16 (+/-) investment, you don’t loose any $$ on the quilting labor that you would charge to your customer. This means that there is more $$ in YOUR pocket!

I look forward to your comments