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dreaming of a long arm

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I Made my first quilt, a log cabin, in 1979. It was a piece of work! Polyester scraps from sewing projects, the backing was an old bedspread. I had no Idea. I didn't attempt it again until 1986 with only slightly better results. But three years ago the bug bit me hard and I have completed about 30 quilts since then. I machine quilt them on my home sewing machine and I am ready for a long arm. My hubbie teases me that I will only use it to make my hobby more fun but I truly want to start a business so I can quit my"real" job. I need straight forward advice about which machine, which accessories, how much to charge, well advice and input about everything. I won't be purchasing my machine for about a year but I want to spend the whole next year dreaming about it (and making quilt tops of course!):P

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Guest Linda S

And what's wrong with making your hobby more fun? ;) If you depend on your income for the family budget, I wouldn't plan on making fistfuls of cash right out of the gate with your longarm. It takes a certain amount of time to become proficient at the different designs and styles, and then you have to consider what the demand is in your area. Are there lots of piecers around? How many longarm quilters? My area has about 16 longarmers that I know of, but we all seem to keep fairly busy. I'm still not planning on leaving my day job for another four years.


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  • 2 weeks later...


I'm sure that Linda wasn't trying to talk you out of your dream of making your next job your quilting job...I'm so sure it was just the total opposite. But maybe was trying to tell you to go slow and not just walk away from a good paying job without some major planning and some major thought put into it.

You won't make fist fulls of cash right away, and the job that you have right now could make the difference, between you being happy at your hobby or have you wondering why the heck you thought you could do this.

Taking your time planning and making sure that this is what you want to do when you grow up. A good well planned out game plan is needed.

Almost 8 years ago, I bought my machine and I was the only one in my area at that time...the closest competion was over 350 miles away, BUT EVERYONE was sending her their quilts, because she was trusted and an experienced quilter...it took me almost 3 years of taking ribbons at the local fair and the annual quilt show, not to mention several of my customers taking ribbons as well before I got even one of her customers to stay local and not send out her quilts...but by that time I had hooked up with a local quilt shop and was doing only quilts for them, so I wasn't even concerned about her anymore. AND not to mention that over 15 others had moved into the area and were trying to scratch out their own little area. It takes time to make your little quilting customer base...it doesn't come over night it takes time to learn the different designs and styles...you will even create several of your own. I meander way different than Linda does and she way different than say Linda Taylor (not that you are going to see any meandering on her quilts :P).

What I guess I'm also trying to say it that it takes time to dig each of our own little places. We all need to have dreams, and wishes, that is what makes each of us the special people that we are...but be realistic about how you go about it...well layed plans are great, having an optimistic mind is even better, but be patient and not think its going to come just because you have a longarm....

Its not as easy as in the "Field of Dreams" Just cuz you built it doesn't mean they will come.....

Good luck in your adventure, I do wish you the best of luck, and I do hope you continue to built your dream....its a dream worth having and an experience I would never want to give up.

Oh, did I mention that I worked for almost 2 years a full time job before I could make the break to go out and be on my own with only quilts.....;)


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That sounds good to make some time to do your research. It would be difficult to just quilt your job and expect that you would be able to match or come close to your income when you first become a longarmer.

There are several books that talk about getting a long arm and starting a business that would be a good place to start. One is by Linda Taylor, the other by Carol Thelan.

Try to go to a show where the longarms will be shown so you can see, touch and ask questions. Most of these shows will have classes that a newbie could go to learn more also.

After doing the above, you will feel more comfortable putting together a business plan. When I was researching my machine, I did the above, but also went to various shops that had LA's to see how busy they were, but also talked to them about what they liked or didn't like in their machines. Maybe I was just lucky, but the LA's owners that I talked to were very open about the business.

Do you have a quilt guild that you go to and participate in? The more people who are familiar with you, the better chance to get future business.


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I bought my first longarm last year, did my research before buying and also had myDH being skeptical of what I wanted to do and wanted reassurance that I was serious about starting a business which required a good cash investment. I was fortunate to already be a stay at home mom so I did not have an income that the household was dependent on to begin with. We did take out some of our equity in our house to pay for the machine and start up costs. 8 months later I have steady calls comming in and average around $1,000.00 a month in business. I also have turned away business at times too. I plan at averaging $2,000.00 a month in business this time next year, when all of my kids will be in school all day (currently my youngests, twin girls are in 1/2 day kindergarten).

When I left the work force over 10 years ago to be a stay at home mom I was making little over $2,000.00 a month at my job. My DH is amazed at how well my longarm business is doing, he is even bragging to his friends about what the ideal job I have, being able to still be home, make my own hours, indulge in my "hobby" and making money doing it.

I do have to add here though that my situation is not always the norm. I live in AZ which is a resort type state there is a lot of out of town retirees that stay here 1/2 the year in the winter months and in the communities/ resorts that they stay at promote quilting, golf, tennis and swimming as their recreational activities. I also have a real busy & supportive quilt shop in my area as well and the owner is always willing to hand out my brochures to her customers. I don't belong to any guilds, I haven't enter any of my quilts in any shows so I have no ribbons to show my potential clients. But I do offer consisentant even stitches thanks to the APQS stitch regulated machines, a quicker turn around time than most in my area, good/ fair pricing, a website of what I offer, brochures & business cards and a friendly/ honest atmosphere. I haven't had any formal business training either, I go on gut instincts and try to run my business from the customer view point, (since before I got my LA I went to a few other LAmr's in the are for my quilting needs and did not like the way they ran there business). So when I started building my I took what I liked about my experiences and learned from my bad experiences.

My suggestion would be to start by having one of your own quilts done by a local/ popular LAmr then make a list of pros and cons and see if you can offer the community a better alternative. Then go from there.

Good luck and let us know what you decided.


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