Thinking about getting a machine


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I am thinking of getting a machine but I want to know what I would be getting into realistically. Is it worth the financial investment to buy a machine and run this as a business? I have heard everything from there is a six month wait to can't get any business. I don't know if the difference is due to quality of work or location factors involved and I would appreciate your insight into this. I live in a very agricultural area. I plan to take a few longarm classes before making my final decision. At this point I had quilt or quilt on my Elna.

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Dear CybthiaSue,

I bought my machine last march and am just now getting enough income to make my payments. I am lucky I borrowed the money for our joint savings ( I am married). I love what I do but at this time I would have to say it is not an income but a hobby. It will be just not today. Being good at long arming is important and being connected to your community also helps. People have to know you finish quilts for money. Get in touch with the LQS in your area. Join a quild and go to all the functions. Let the churches know you are a LA\'er. Buy magnetic car signs ( best money I ever spent). Enter some of your work in a county fair or quilt show. Be realistic about how long it will take to be up and running. I wish you the best of luck.

Sincerely,Nora

Millennium

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Guest Linda S

Longarm quilting is like any business. You have to be prepared to devote hours to learning your trade and getting good at it in order to make money. I started taking quilts about 6 months after I got my machine. While my work was passable, it wasn\'t that great. It probably took me a year and a half to get pretty good at it, even though I had quilted for a few years on my DSM. I am just now (3.5 years into business) beginning to feel like I really have a handle on things and am making some good money quilting, but even now a tricky quilt will come up and bite me in the butt. ;) It\'s no walk in the park, but if you really love quilting and want to do it, I\'d say go for it. There is no place I would rather be than up in my studio stitching!

Linda

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Every market is different. If you live in a very rural area AND where people are not used to taking quilts to a LAer then you may have a slow go at it. However, if you are in a large metropolitan area there will be lots of quilters (hopefully!) and several LAers competing for business. BUT, most of us are helpful to each other. I am very new at this, I\'ve had my Freedom since mid-September. I\'ve only had one paying customer but that is partly because my husband left me and the kids and now I am selling my house, packing and moving to another house. So I really haven\'t had time to quilt that much. Aside from doing your homework about which machine, etc. Do your research about your market - who are the majority of the people in your area - like what age group. Is that the age group which may include lots of quilters, check out the quilt guilds in your area, are they well attended? ask at the quilt shops if they will give out your cards to prospective customers, etc. These are important questions to get answered. since I\'ve only had my machine a very short time, I still don\'t know it well but my work is already improving. Also, is your loan for the machine dependent on your getting paying customers fast?

Oh, and don\'t let Linda S fool you, she is VERY talented!!

Good luck!

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You bet Linda S. is talented!!!

There are lots of posts about how to research in your area as to competition and available customers. Read lots in this topic (Starting/running your business) and you will find lots of advice, including how to get business if you are isolated from a local customer base.

I have had my business running for almost three years. I still haven\'t taken in enough to pay for my machine, but that was never in the plan. I was lucky to be able to pay cash and the first year I quilted maybe 20 tops for money. Year two I did 35. This year I\'m on track for 50 or more. Now, this is with a full-time day job (30-40 hours a week.) I can manage one top a week and if I decided to quit my job, I would be able to do lots more but I think my customer base is maxed out. I haven\'t turned anyone away and I have a full load before Christmas and 12 in line for after the holidays. If I wasn\'t working my job, those 12 tops would take me less than a month and who knows if there are more to come. Do you see what I mean? In my life, I don\'t want the quilting to become a "job"--with pressures and anxiety about getting business, so I will continue with a job with benefits until I can retire. Then the extra income from quilting will be a supplement--just as it is now.

If you wonder if having a longarm business will replace your income if you have a day job---probably not---and certainly not at first. Do the reasearch and factor in the cost of the machine. We all would say--Go For It!!!---but proceed with eyes open and a plan in hand. We have every type of quilter here--full time/full bore-this is my livlihood quilter(who may have time to read the chat but no time to reply!!!) all the way to the hobby longarmer who bought the machine just to finish her mountain of UFOs!!!

You can fit in any where between and find lots of help and encouragement here.

Welcome CynthiaSue!!

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The core of a business plan considers four questions: What service or product does your business provide and what need does it fill?, Who are the potential customers and why will they purchase it from you?, How will you reach your potential customers? and Where will you get the financial resources to start your business? The anwers to these questions varies widely depending on where you live.

Janet Mohler

Colorado SPrings

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  • 2 weeks later...
Originally posted by JLM

The core of a business plan considers four questions: What service or product does your business provide and what need does it fill?, Who are the potential customers and why will they purchase it from you?, How will you reach your potential customers? and Where will you get the financial resources to start your business? The anwers to these questions varies widely depending on where you live.

Janet Mohler

Colorado SPrings

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For now I think I will look for a used machine. My BF is convinced I should buy new but I think if I can find a good used machine with a stitch regulator within a reasonable driving distance of my home in southern IA I will go that route. I think there is enough business to go around where Ilive and I know I can pull some out of the cityfrom folks there. Not enough to make a good living but at least enough to warrant a go at it.

Thanks to everyone for your advice ladies. :cool: At least I have a more realistic picture of what to expect and it is about what I thought.

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CynthiaSue, I am in southern Iowa. Are you by chance south of Lucas? If so, Betty has told me about your wanting to get started at quilting. I live north of Woodburn about 10 miles. I work a full-time job 32 hours a week; I quilt 2-3 hours every night, all day Friday, and about 4-5 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Normally 1 quilt a week, maybe two depends on the pattern. I have a good client base from my quilt guild and word of mouth. I bought a used machine due to "cost" from APQS and I\'m very happy with it. It does not have a SR, but after almost 2 years I\'m getting better at even stitches. I takes a lot of time to practice so be prepared to put in lots of hours. Also summer was really hard for me because I have a garden and flowers, staying inside to quilt took some discipline. My husband and I have discussed my doing this full-time, but as another said on this reply, it won\'t take the place of a full-time day job. If you want to discuss further, e-mail me direct and I\'ll be glad to answer any other questions.

Best of luck

Sharon

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I think if you love quilting and would want to do it anyway buy the machine. If your only reason to buy the machine is to make money you could be in for a shock. I first bought a used Ultimate 2 without a stitch regulator. That machine give me a feel for whether I really love to do this. I am now on to a APQS Millie that was a demo from the company. I\'m still quilting for myself and in the get better phase. I am taking my work to the guild show and tell. I am showing some work to shop owners but as yet I have not had a customer. It\'s O.K,. though because taking another\'s quilt in is a big responsibility. I am happy to be PPP ( practicing) on my own stuff and a few tops from ebay. I feel that when the time is right I will receive work. If I had to worry about making a machine payment with my machine I would not be a happy camper. This machine is an investment in me and my personal joy. I think that is the best way to think about it. A business plan and all of that will come when needed or you are really ready.

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Do you homework. Don\'t buy a machine because your heart tells you to, or because a sales persons persuades you. Do your homework and know what is out there. If you have a lot of quilters in your area and not very many quilters, and the quilters in your area are booked solid for several months, then you are headed in the right direction. Also, find out the going rate from quilting in your area. You don\'t want to spend $15000.00 and up on a machine only to find out piecers will only pay $50 per top to get the quilts quilted. It happens!!

Also be prepared. There are many, many more expenses involved, such as, classes, tools, supplies, books, videos, travel to classes, etc. Before you purchase the machine find out everything you need to know about the process of quilting. Then when you are ready to make the purchase of the machine you are well informed in what to expect. Oh, and don\'t forget the time factor. Just read through this forum you will find some who give up after a time because they didn\'t realize how much time it takes from their families. If you want a successful business you will need to sacrifice time in almost every area of your life to devote to your business. Not trying to discourage you....just trying to be realistic.

I have had my business for 3 1/2 years and I am just now feeling like I have a business....even though my year end taxes say I do not :):o I think it just takes time to "make money" and I am not trying to get rich, but just have an income....still waiting:)

If you do decide to purchase a machine....have fun learning. There are so many great teachers and resources out there. It can be so much fun.....

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Another thing to consider is that this business is not always consistent with business, you will find that you may have more quilts than you know what to do with one month and nothing for 2.

Like some others have said before there is more to this than it appears and does takes ALOT of hard work just to get you established and known as a good quilter. Not for the faint of heart but for the passionate quilter that will be able to absorb the cost of these machines even if there is little to no business to pay for the machine.

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Hi Cynthia Sue,

I bought my first machine in 1997, so I\'ve got 10+ years of experience under my belt and perhaps a little different perspective on things.

I see 99% of people going into this business planning to get business from "toppers", people who sew quilt tops and want to hire someone else, hopefully YOU, to finish the process and do the quilting.

What most people don\'t realize, or stop to think about, is that these machines can be used for SO many other things than just quilt tops. Here are a few.

1. If you\'re in an area of hand-quilters, offer a basting service. My sister did a lot of this before people realized, with her showing her work at quilt guild and hanging it in the local quilt shows, that she could quilt THEIR tops too!

2. Work with an uphosterer or drapery shop quilting yardage for bedspreads, and outling fabric motifs for upholstery.

3. Work with interior designers quilting yardage for bedspreads, cushions, chair pads etc. etc. etc.

4. Work with local clothing designers quilting yardage (silks, cottons, velvets, wools etc.) for jackets, vests, purses etc.

5. Quilt up pretty yardage for lap quilts and sell them at craft fairs. I just did 4 small quilts for my granddaughters, using the same backing and 4 different pretty florals on top. I used 4 different patterns and quilted them one after the other. They\'re the width of the fabric by about 60".

6. Specialize in something. There are many quilters who specialize in T-shirt quilts that are given as graduation or going away to college gifts.

7. Invest in 2 or 3 Circle Lord templates (Baptist Fan & Clam Shell) so you can start offering "perfect" Traditional Allover quilting within a couple of weeks of getting your machine.

I have a customer that did this because she worked a full time job and needed to offer something professional looking and "different" right away. She made a name for herself very quickly and is busy doing only template work. Unfortunately she\'s never had the time to practice anything else, but what she IS doing is bringing in the needed cash until she retires and is on a pension. Then she\'ll have the time to practice and expand the service she offers.

Put on your thinking cap. There are SO many other ways to use these machines than just for quilters who piece tops.

I know of one gal that quilts horse blankets for riders. Another fellow does quilt pads for their moving company. He also does the elevator pads on the machine.

I now have a CompuQuilter installed on my machine. My mind is exploding with ideas for ways to use it! I\'m designing patterns for placemats, cushions, Christmas stockings, tree skirts, rocker pads etc. etc. etc.

"Wherever 2 or 3 layers of fabric are together, there is a longarm machine in the midst of them."

Sorry for the sacrilege, but you get my point. ;)

Having said all this, there is something else to consider. I\'ve seen talented quilters go by the wayside because of 2 things.

1. You MUST present a professional image; as in clean clothing, and good grooming. If you work in food-stained t-shirts and sweatshirts, at the very least, slip on a white lab coat or a pretty flowered "lab" type top to greet your customers.

2. If people come to your house, it MUST be clean; at least the parts the customers see. Even if you have to work out of a dark basement or half of a garage, make sure it smells clean and IS clean. The customer should not have to worry about how their quilt will be cared for when they leave it with you.

3. Keep pets out of the studio when customers are there. Make SURE no pet hair gets on their quilt. Some are VERY allergic.

I could go on, but presenting a professional image will go a long way to gaining the confidence of your customer long before they even know the kind of work you do. First impressions and all that. :)

I hope I\'ve given you some things to think about. If you really LOVE to work with fabric and color and texture, AND you like to be your own boss, you couldn\'t pick a better way to do it! AND you couldn\'t pick a better machine than APQS. That is my VERY biased opinion! :cool:

Have a great day!

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I have a full time job away from home. For two years, I saved $$ and bought my longarm for me and my personal enjoyment with the added bonus that if I have a customer every once in a while that is icing on the cake. I didn\'t get this to dive right into quilting for customers. I am taking it slow and easy, building up my skills, experience, and good REPUTATION as a longarm quilter... and I plan to just let things happen the way they do. That\'s my plan, so far.

I am still a newbie longarmer (got my machine in April 07) and I am also a newbie business entrepreneur and I agree with Darlene about thinking bigger or more diversified. Don\'t just keep your business scope narrow. For example myself, I am making my own wall hanging quilts and table toppers, place mats, etc with Alaska wildlife and nature themes to sell to the tourists. These are big sellers and the tourists are Swooping them up and don\'t bat an eye at the cost. I try to keep them around $100 or a little more. Something easy to pick up and pack in luggage.

Here is an idea my DH came up with... Where I live in Alaska, it gets cold (yah, big news there!) and most folks have garages but the garage doors are not insulated and you can lose a lot of heat through the garage doors. So, he thought I should quilt a couple of "big" tops and velcro them to the garage door to help keep the heat in. Now, I have not created my "PROTOTYPE" garage door project yet, but if it seems workable and doable, I just might have a whole new business to branch into...making quilts for the garage doors! LOL! :P I bet I could sell a bunch of them. Not sure I wanna go into that line of work, but you get my idea about the possibilities.

I don\'t have the compuquilter (yet...maybe I will do that in a year or two) but I also have lots of ideas if I ever do get a compuquilter...I think I would use it a lot as a contractor or subcontractor to support interior designers in my area. I am going to start putting my feelers out but I don\'t think anyone in my area does this. The possibilities are so huge. Every day I wonder so many things. I see designs in furniture or pre-fabbed pillow tops or wallpaper that I could create on the quilting machine.. There are lots of opportunities and untapped resources!! :) Now I try to keep my eyes open and think differently and make mental notes when I am out and about...

PS: I am still a full time employed person in a job outside of my home, so my quilting is a little side business. I am 45 but maybe in 10 years or so I can retire with my pension and 401k saved and do quilting full time. We shall see how things pan out! ;)

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  • 10 months later...

I am thinking about starting long arm quilting. I am retired so time is not an issue. How do I find a used machine with a stitch regulator? Or, am I better off to purchase a low-end machine without one new and practice until I get things down pat and then upgrade? I only have the funds to purchase a low end model new or a used machine and I keep going back and forth in my mind. Can anyone clear things up for me?

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zincfly, I bought used because it was a great deal. I've had both used no SR and now used with SR and they are both great. I find that I still do most of my work without the SR. The SR is nice for use with rulers. I don't plan on upgrading to a new machine unless mine dies and can't be repaired. So that choice is completely up to you.

I bought my latest machine from this site and a private individual. I wasn't scared to jump in a fix it myself if something was wrong with it. So you need to consider that.

I am pretty sure that many APQS reps and other brands, have access to used machines and so you can get help from them. APQS also sells used machine from the factory, I believe, so they have also been gone over from top to bottom and should be good to go.

If you want used just keep an eye out and jump if you find what you want in your price range.

Michele

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Thanks for the suggestions and help. I looked at the forum list for used machines at least 3 times and never saw it. Must be one of those days. I think I am convinced to buy a used one from this forum. I will be May before I have my funds, so I will check then. I am excited to be able to do this. Thanks again.

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hi, Cynthia. I too wanted a long arm and my pocket book was limited, I bought a new Lenni just for myself and my quilts and my art. I decided to teach qulting classes just enough during the month to make the payments. That is working great. Now I am doing T-shirt quilts from scratch and the pay is good and they go quickly. Then the other time during the month she is mine, mine, mine. I can just look at her if I want and not even turn her on at all. I am a retired school teacher so I do have other income but Lenni helps me feed my fabric addiction.

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Hi Cynthia Sue,

There is an excellent book written by Cindy Roth of Longarm University you might want to read. It's not expensive, and you can find it at www.LongarmUniiversity.com

It's "Pricing for Your Longarm Quilting Business"

The topics are:

How Much are You REALLY Making?

How CAN I Earn More $$$ From My Quilting?

Calculating the Cost of Thread.

Pricing for Commission Quilts

Binding Quilts~More $$ for You!

My personal opinion, and I do live in a rural area of our community, is that you have to get yourself out there. Join guilds where you can show your quilts at Show n' Tell. Let the local quilt shops know you are in business. Do friends quilts, so that they can tell other friends, (word of mouth advertising) Quilt Shows. Advertising, advertising. I also like the magnetic sign idea for your vehicle that someone mentioned. You have to love machine quilting. Live, eat and breathe it! You will have to practice till your legs hurt, and your shoulder ache, and be really good! ---and love it through all that.

That said, I DON"T quilt as a business, and will only quilt for myself first (selfishly)-- charities I love, and even my close quilting friends approach me with caution and money (lots money!)---as I avoid quilting as a "job" and only do it for fun and when cornered by friends.;) Of course I don't have a lot of money invested in equipment either (used longarm)---and if I needed or wanted a job it would probably be something else that I don't like as much;)....I once turned (just once-lesson learned)--- a passionate hobby into a job.

It lasted approx. 5 yrs. Total burnout, lot's of paperwork and supplies involved. ( just like quilting)

To this day I still can't do what I did back then with the enthusiam I once had(floral design) which I totally loved-loved as a "hobby". I was very good at, had lots of clients, and enjoyed the creative process so much.

So, be careful how you approach this and be ready to not make money intially and organize your time wisely. Learn to say "no" at times, and take care of yourself physically (and yes mentally too) Clients, and the quilts can be challenging at times.:P

Good luck with whatever you decide, but walk into it totally aware and informed (this is no time for wishful thinking) and with patience and a passion for your work you can be successful.

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Zincfly,

On the home page there is a section (middle/right) which includes the link for used machines. This is a copy of that section:

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