How busy is your quilting business? Also, computerized or not?


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Hi everyone,

I was wondering how booked up the quilting business is right now? Are you booked far in advance? Or only as busy as you want to be? Was it hard to start getting customers? I would especially like to hear from you if you are in the midwest states? Nebraska/Iowa area. I was wondering in this economy if quilters have slowed down using quilting services? Also, do you have a computerized system? Thanks for any info. Kerri

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Hi Kerri,

I am located in NW Iowa. Usually January and February are slow months for me but this year has been different even with the economy as it is. I have had twice the number of quilts come in as last year. There are at least ten other longarm quilters within a 25 mile radius from me and those that I know are finding the same thing. I am seeing a few smaller projects and alot of scrappy quilts ....maybe people using their stashes up. I entered some quilts in the local fair, quilt shows etc. and have mainly relied on word of mouth to attract customers. I have never advertised my business as I didn't see the need. I am very happy with the way my business has grown and am lucky to have a loyal customer base. :) I actually have quilted for three new customers since the first of the year and two of them are already repeat customers as of this past week....I love prolific piecers!!! Hope this answers from my area.... Janette

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I have been getting 24-30 quilts per month (I have been turning quilts away because I don't want to do more than this and some want their quilts done within 2 wks or less) My back log is usually 3-4 wks. I am content with where my business is at right now, no custom all pantos, not too many yet not too few quilts and their is no stress....I love my job! :)

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I am much busier this year then last and I am very happy about that. It takes time to build a business and I knew this going into it. I love what I do and cannot see myself doing anything else. I do not have a DH that gives me much support so it has been difficult. If you love what you do than that is all that matters.

Nora

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My wife and I are vacationing in Florida for Feb and March (a first for so long!) I worked like crazy to finish 40 quilts from 1st week Dec -Jan 31 (we left on the 1st of Feb) I thought I was going to go nuts, especially since I had worked like a fool to get 20 quilts done before the end of Nov for Xmas! Anyway when we left I had some quilts already to be done for April when we return. I talked to the staff at our store and they said that I also have bookings for May and June. So I will be busy when I return. Thank goodness for that, one is never sure how long people will wait, especially when you tell the you are goin on VACATION!. Good thing I love it sooo much. Believe it or not I miss the ol' girl (Helen Jane) especially when we have visited so many quilt shops on the way and even went to 2 quilts shows in Fla.

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I am getting started as a longarm quilting business and have started it last summer (2009). It started out with a bang, and then a lull, but now starting up again. So I don't really know how to predict the future of it. I also work full time M-F and have a family with 2 teenagers. I've done many of my own quilts, and am a affiliate with 2 local guilds where I pick up and quilt about 3-4 quilts a month for them. So I mostly can't say I've been idle much. This has been great for me, as I had so many tops that needed quilting, had been renting a mid-arm and not happy with it, quilting on my Pfaff and now have this lovely Millennium 2009 with all the bells and whistles. I chose not to add the computer to it as I really love the free motion work. I do not trace patterns onto the quilts, I just stitch them as I come to the top and I can visualize the patterns or just doodle... Anyway, my business is fine. I only work when I feel like it and that is the way I like to do it for now. :D

www.feathersandloops.com

Feathers & Loops

Quilting and Custom Quilts

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When I was in business which was 2 years ago, I did computerize my machine. I love my CQ because it can quilt pantographs in more detail and perfectly than I can. BUT the best part in having your machine computerized is that it takes the wear and tear off your body! Machines may glide easily but no matter what any one says, you are still starting and stopping all the weight all day long. I still use my CQ even though I am not in business.

I also love it for setting in motifs. Plus I can digitize my own patterns too.

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I use to do several hundred quilts a year with January & July being my slower months. This year I decided to take a year off from customer quilting & teaching at events. When I made that announcement the following week I got several quilts in the mail & emails saying to please put them on the list for when I started customer work again. I now only quilt for about a dozen people during this year "off". Some family, friends, and a couple of customers that I enter shows with.

When I started the quilting part of my business I decided that I wouldn't get enough of the type of quilting that I wanted locally, so I went on the web & haven't looked back. I suggest the same for people starting their own quilting businesses. Also go to message boards for piecers - quilting message boards for people who have quilting machines are great but they don't drum up business necessarily. Join some groups that are primarily piecers etc so that you can put that you are a longarm quilter in your signature. It will draw customers without being obnoxious about promoting yourself.

I have two machines & both have IQ on them. Granted I also digitize patterns & that's one of the reason for taking this year off from customer quilting. We've been very busy with our digitizing, pattern design, & pattern website, so something had to give for a little while while I got my ducks back in order, so to speak, so that I could actually have a weekend to do family stuff again once in a while. Love having the IQ on my machines, as that literally is the only way that I would get quilting done at this point. If I set them up with a pantograph I will generally have a good 20 minutes to get other stuff done while the machines quilt.

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Hi Kerri, I'm not sure if you are gathering info to possibly buy a machine and start a business, or if you're already at that point. But I think it is wise to make informed decisions on a major purchase like this before you dive in. I think a good resource is to check with your local small business agency (SBDC); they might know some demographics, or can point you in the right direction. Write up a business plan that is not overly ambitious. Start up costs (machine, tools, education, thread, etc) are expensive so don't expect to get a lot of customers the first year. It takes a couple of years to get a customer base and get the word out you are offering the quilting services. I think networking, word of mouth is the best way to advertise. You have received some great advice above. I bought my machine without the plan to go into business, just do my own quilts, so I saved for 3 years for a down payment before the purchase and paid the loan off a year later. But shortly after I got my machine, people heard about me and I started quilting their tops. I have a FT job outside the home, so my quilting biz is very part time and I only quilt average 3-5 tops a month, which is perfect for my schedule. My first year in biz (2008), as expected, my business was a loss, but this past year, (2009) I watched my expenses and ended up making a nice profit. It's been two years and now since that time, I have saved enough of my money (through business income and my own personal savings) to buy the computerized system (I do not want to get a loan) So, it's possible I might get the computerized system this year (I am interested in digitizing designs, too!)--we shall see---It depends on the advice from my CPA who does my business taxes.

Anyway, long story short, check with local SBDC, do some networking, get your feelers out. Save your $$, make a plan, and make pragmatic decisions that are not lofty goals.

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Thanks for the advice Shana and everyone else who posted messages. I do have a 2009 Millennium and I just quilt for myself. I will be adding IQ on it shortly. I was pretty much just wondering if there is a market for quilters in this area. Sounds like maybe there is somewhat here and maybe more in other parts of the country. I have no plans at this point to do any quilting for others except charity,gifts and my own quilts to finish. (Which is quite a few). But I was wondering sometime in the future if it is feasible. I will do a little research and check out the possibilities. I know there is a lot to consider. Thanks for all the info. Keep it coming. I really like hearing from everyone in the quilting biz. Kerri

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Originally posted by KerriM I do have a 2009 Millennium and I just quilt for myself. I will be adding IQ on it shortly. I was pretty much just wondering if there is a market for quilters in this area. Sounds like maybe there is somewhat here and maybe more in other parts of the country. I have no plans at this point to do any quilting for others except charity,gifts and my own quilts to finish. (Which is quite a few). But I was wondering sometime in the future if it is feasible. Kerri

Hi Kerri--

If you already have your machine with an IQ in your future and are happy with quilting your own tops and your chosen charities/friends---you already have the bones of a business in place. No pressure to pay off a machine and build a business as quickly as possible. You can hone your skills and work at your own pace.

Believe me, when your work gets noticed at the LQS or Guild, or word of mouth from your friends, the customers will flock around. Be ready when you take the leap by following the federal, state, and local laws. Easing into a business without a self-imposed goal as to amount of money earned will allow you to be stress-free--except for deciding what to quilt on a quilt--a delicious dilemma!

To answer you initial question--I am in Washington State with 30 local longarmers as competition and a part-time day job. I take in 8-10 tops a month and am booked through June. No computerized system.

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I am in NW Iowa. I started LAing about 2 years ago. the first 2 years have been kind of hit and miss. since last fall I have always had a few on hand. this morning a lady brought me 5! I have 3 upstairs yet to be quilted. I try to do 1 quilt a week. this is perfect for me. I did advertise off and on for the first year. I now have a few repeat customers. I do all freehand. no computer, no pantos. I like creativity!

I see some of you are doing 20 or more a month! WOW! but then I also have a farmer husband and 5 children whom I cherish. I like to spend time with them too. I'm hoping quilts slow down just a bit this summer b/c number 6 is due in May. It would be a lot easier if I don't have to feel guilty about taking so long to finish a quilt.

Carmen

Ireton, IA

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I'm in central/southern Illinois and have been doing customer quilts since Nov 2009 and currently have about 12 on the shelf to do. I finish about 6 quilts a month and do not have a computerized system. I have 2 small children and a PT job so quilting is a PT job for me as well.

My quilting will be in some shows in the next month or so so I expect to pick up more customers after that. Word of mounth IS the best advertising however I did run a little add in the paper and that brought in several new customers as well.

I do mostly pantos or freehand designs. No custom quilting (yet)

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Well, I think you are looking for people in your area, but I will tell you what I found here, in the KC MO area.

There are a lot of quilters here, and even more piecers. Of course I don't have computerized, but know some who do. I was very busy. Too busy. I felt I didn't have time to go anywhere or do anything because I had customer quilts to do. Also, I am a people person, I need human contact and was not getting it in my basement every day....day in ....day out. I felt I was missing out and quilting became something I dredded every day instead of something I looked forward to.

When the economy slowed down, I thought my business would too, but it really didn't. Finally, I went back to work full time and quilt when I want to, mostly my own things and I like it that way. If I ever do go back to quilting full time, I am going to have some kind of outlet that allows me to be with the real world.

So, yes I was very busy. I will say this. I had two customers that told me they had their quilts quilted by someone with a computer, but didn't like it. Most of my customers probably wouldn't have known the difference if I were doing computer edge to edge or panot/hand guided edge to edge. The problem for me would have been pricing. Even if it was computer guided, if the quilting is dense, I would have charged more money just like with hand guided quilting. If my customers were not willing to pay that, then the computer would not pay for itself and that is the bottom line for me.

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Guest The Quilting Diva

I'm slower than last year, but so are the other quilters in the guild (4). One lady told me last week she paid $280 for a computerized quilting from the LQS and said it was terrible. They did not size the images to scale for the quilt. Obviously they are passing the cost of the system on to the customers since they also have to pay employees to stand around with the machines, loading and unloading.

That's $100 more than I would have charged for a hand guided quilt with much denser quilting.

Cynthia

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Sure do wish I could figure out how to get even a portion of the business you guys have coming in. I've been told by piecers that quilters in my area are litterally up to a year behind so, I'd sure like to understand how I get people to call me and I'd be quite pleased if I could do 3-5 quilts a month. I'm not even 1 quilt a month. I've done local advertizing, have quilts in local shops as well as cards, etc. and the local quilters have known I quilt but, they just don't bring quilts to me and, honestly, I am not a bad quilter. Can't even get the piecers at our church to bring me even quilting for opportunity quilts, which I'd do for free, but instead they take them to another quilter who charges her. I'm trying to figure out how to be nice when one more quilter brings me a quilt simply because of the backlog of the other quilters but, they never come back.

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