Jump to content

Newbie Question about computerized long arm quilting

Recommended Posts

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen! Just reading all your posts makes me so excited to get started! I've been quilting for 25 years or more, but I have never done anything more to my tops than stitch in the ditch or yarn tie. I am thinking very seriously about making the plunge into the world of long arm quilting and possibly make it a business. I am hopeful that, between my Real Estate business and my transcription business, maybe a long arm quilting business, maybe I can make one full time income. Times are so hard for us all just now. Do any of you use a computerized long arm quilting machine? I had a lady tell me you can do a kind size quilt in an hour and a half. That true? How much can you make per year doing long arm quilting with or without a computer? Thanks all and God Bless!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say that if you are thinking about a longarm business, that you might want to learn the basics first, then add a computer later if you want.

By then you'll know if you like it, if you want to operate a full time business and you'll also have a better understanding of your machine.

And you'll know approximately how much you can make to know if you can justify the cost of a computerized system.

In my humble opinion, that is.

P.S. I don't have a computerized system. I enjoy the free motion, hand guided, so far.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the forum! There is an area on the APQS main page about starting a business, - there is alot of good information there.

There are a number of options for a computer program for a LA - research all well, as prices vary. I don't have a computerized system, but others do, and maybe they will chime in. There are other non-computerized systems that can help you get your patterns made as well that you may want to look at.

Good luck!

Joanne Flamand

Artistic Quilt Designs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know anything about computerized longarming...but you need to evaluate how many customers you can realistically attract in your area. We are over-run with longarm quilters here. I have only been quilting for others for less than a year. I average one quilt per month, and the quilts average out about $275 apiece. You must join guilds and show your work there before people will entrust you with their quilts, so there is going to be a learning curve and a lag between purchase of the machine and actual money being paid to you to quilt. The computerized quilters in my area are more expensive than the free-handers, and many customers don't want to pay the price. They would rather get an inexpensive E to E or panto. In my case, I do mostly heirloom quilting, so a quilt takes me forever. People who want simple quilting also seem to want quick turn-around, so it depends on the amount of time you have to devote to quilting. One very prolific quilter in the area said it would take you forever to pay for your machine with quilting, and she has been doing it for five years. Is it realistically a source of supplemental income....well, I'd say it is pretty hard for the first few years. Is it "possible"....yes. Is it probable...I'd say not very. If you want a longarm for yourself and as an artistic expression, that's fine. But thinking you are going to hit the ground running and rake in the money within three months, I think that is an unrealistic expectation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Newbie, :)

I am the Secretary of the Australian Machine Quilters Association and blow is part of my "blurb" when I get the question about starting a business. I hope it gives you something to think about and I do apologise that it is rather long.......................

Unfortunately there is no “I would like to see how it goes” in this business. I would think carefully about getting into quilting as a money making venture........ for the longest time, it will be a labour of love rather than money.

On average (talking with US quilting friends) it takes between one and two years to build enough confidence to take on customers and then it takes further time to build up a customer base. Some people can take it up super fast, others find the learning curve slow and arduous. Your work has to be good right from the word go or your reputation will be shot to pieces before you even get started. This is a reputation based business! There is a lot of practice time that you need to find. Remember, those that have been involved in the business can make it look a lot easier than it really is.

Even before you buy a machine, take a few classes and find out if you really want to do this. Join your local guild, if you haven’t done so as yet and borrow books and DVDs on machine quilting. Read up on the subject and see what the experts are doing. Sharon Schambers has a lot of free stuff on her website. Other great DVDs can be had from Myrna Ficken, Claudia Pfeil, Kim Brunner and Deloa Jones, just to name a few. There is the Pyjama quilter and various others who make beginner’s DVDs as well. The internet and Google will become your friends, as well as Youtube. There are lots of machine quilting video clips on Youtube. Just remember, that these people make it look easy!! It is not!

Equipment wise, there are a lot of different machines on the market. For a business, the smaller machines will not last. Most businesses are run on commercial machines, which even second hand will cost up to $45,000 or more (over here in OZ) if you are looking at computerised systems. The smaller machines are designed for the home quilter who wants to finish her own quilts. As a rule, the frame bars are normally not strong enough for business use and you still are using only a domestic machine with a small throat space. It will limit you in the designs you are able to use and the actual quilting space that you have available. How much space do you need? That depends on the machine you are going to get and whether you have a 12 foot or 14 foot table. As with all businesses you find time is money and you will want to be spending your time quilting larger areas rather than continually rolling the quilt. All Machine quilting companies seem to have smaller machines that are still larger than your average quilting sewing machines, so that might be an option as well. What ever you decide on, before spending money on anything, do as many test drives as you can. Every machine is different and just like test driving cars, you need to test drive the machines to get a feel of what you like to handle and which feels most comfortable to you. Visit the websites and forums of the different makes and see what the problems are that are being discussed, how people interact with each other (are they friendly etc etc) see what the companies supply as back up services. Are questions answered to satisfaction and quickly, is help available when you need it, what is the after sales service like? I have an APQS Millie and our chat site is more like talking to family than strangers.

If I haven’t discouraged you yet, make sure you do your market research. How many quilters are producing quilts in your area? How many Machine quilters are running businesses in your local area? What type of work are they asked to do.... a lot of custom and freehand or the utilitarian finish-this-quilt-so-I-can-give-it-away type quilting? Are most of the quilters in your area still hand quilting? Ask yourself what you want to do. I have friends who want to only do creative, heirloom custom quilting and others who just want to punch a design code into their computers and finish a quilt. What are your interests in the actual quilting process? How much can you charge for quilting in your area?

What ever decision you come to, do your research well. Make sure you have a business plan and your finances thought out. As with any self employed person, it takes discipline and commitment to work from home. Quilting without a computer is physically demanding and tiring. But as Georgene pointed out, it is important to learn the basics as well.

I hope this helps and I wish you luck and all the best.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a computerized (Intelliquilter/IQ) system on my APQS system. Computers for a longarm machine isn't cheap, it's fairly expensive, and simular to a CNC computer on milling, lathe, etc metal working machines. I don't feel that it's a lot faster then free motion, in fact I think it's slower sometimes but the designs are endless. You still have to hand load the quilt and set-up the computer. You also have to advance the quilt by hand (whether you have an electric advance, ratchet or crank. You save some time by not having to "mark" the quilt plus you can walk away from the machine while it is sewing. As for doing a "king size" in an hour and a half, I guess it could be done if you're doing a large pantograph. A lot also depends on the size of your machine throat and quilt area on the frame. The larger the throat and area, the fewer times you would have to advance the quilt. I do agree with Georgene, you should get familiar with your longarm (free motion) before going to computer. You need to know how it feels, it's tension, parts etc. You're not going to get rich as a longarm quilter. Do your home work because the machine can run 9-20 thousand dollars, a computer will be an additional 11-15 thousand, add onto that the thread, tools, computer designs (usually run around $15 each, but you'll get some with the computer). The great side is that it's fun and the beauty of a finished quilt. Just go into it with your eyes open.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are earning enough with your other jobs and this idea is to add to your income, I think that is a scenario that can work.

The initial outlay is huge for most people, and it will take years to recoup your investment, but as long as you have other income and can make any monthly payments without quilting income--why not?

If you have down-time with your other jobs so you can get in the practice and instruction you will need, that is a best-case.

Think of it like this--your husband enjoys yard work, has a beautiful garden, and likes to use his small tractor to mess in the dirt. He has two home-based businesses and wants to add earth-works to his resume. He buys a $30,000 back hoe/front-loader/grader so he can hire out to do heavy yard work locally.

First he will need training. Then he will need to find customers.

Will his new passion cut into his established income? Will he find enough work to add to your income and still afford insurance and repairs on the tractor? Is this just a creative outlet, or an income-producer? And where is he going to put that big machine? All questions we have asked ourselves as we started out!!:P

Good luck on your quest--it really is a great job!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Computerization more than improved my Business income. I can surely say that.

It also reduced the work on my body.

I still do alot of freehand quilting. Getting a Computerized system didn't make me not want to learn to quilt. That is a personal decision.

The designs available to those with a Computerized System has you quilting like a pro from day one. With respect to idea of making money I wouldn't be without my "Intelliquilter. I can easily do 2 to 4 quilts a day depending on the size of the quilt.

VISIT one of our Longarm Shows that are coming up soon like MQS, MQX east or MQX West. Houston also has a Huge show. You will meet many quilters who have been right where you are now. They are always willing to share their experiences with you.

Best Wishes to you. I hope it works out for you.

Grammie Tammie

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...