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Thread: How realistic is it to make a go at the long arm quilting business?

  1. #11
    Super Member hobo2000's Avatar
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    I live in the DC area and if you want a quilt done in less than 3-4 months forget it. I do not know anywhere you can buy time on a machine. I send my quilts away to be quilted for about 25% of local cost and I get it back in 3 weeks or less, beautifully done. Is it needed, yes. Economically, you are safe here due to the gov. Money. Check with the LQS and Guilds to get an idea of needs. This is a growing industry, each year brings out more new Quilters. I do commission work for Architects and designers. They like to have fabric quilted to cover couches, etc. That is not something a reg. LAQ will do but it's a job for money.

  2. #12
    Jim
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    Super Member Jim's Avatar
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    another thing to think about is that it takes a long time to build up your customer base...we built ours up over the years and then moved 40 miles away and have kept most of our customers because we go back to that city alot and meet them anytime they want or they occassionally they drive to the country to meet us...we have a huge customer base here now from all surrounding cities....just don't create your business so large that all you do is work...Quilting is fun and worrisome as well and even more so when you are meeting the demands of the quilting public

  3. #13
    Super Member Flying_V_Goddess's Avatar
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    I admire your determination.

    I'm not sure how realistic it would be to get into the LA business for your area. If the demand isn't high in the local area perhaps internet orders are the way to go. On DeviantArt there are a few people I watch who do artwork commissions and they only have so many "spots" open. Like, for an example, they'll take 10 commissions and won't take any more until so many are done. Maybe you could do something like that if the demand in your area isn't high. If you do go the online route be specific on what your machine and can't do. A couple times I've seen claims that the machine can do anything only to find my imagination for stitching was beyond what the machine could do. Show examples of your work.

    But before you do any of that: PRACTICE. To quote a favorite musician of mine "Practice because you're not going to get it on the first try". I'd start off with the economical all over designs and get the hang of that before you branch out into the more customized work.

  4. #14
    Super Member ckcowl's Avatar
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    just because you plan to have a computerized machine does not mean you will not still need lots of time at the machine- you stated you have arthritis- how long are you going to be able to hold onto those handlebars before your hands are killing you? or your shoulders/back?
    a long arm customer base starts with one person- and grows- she likes the quilt you quilted-shows it off- someone else calls- you do hers, ect---it is not an instant - ok i'm in business---and quilting enough to cover any expenses-it takes time= and you might jump in and decide you hate it!
    it would be better to start with that bailey- get good- show off- pick up some business here & there if you want to- and as your customer base grows you can upgrade to bigger/fancier more expensive machinery- instead of starting with the expensive- and finding out it's not for you.

  5. #15
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    I recently started renting time on a long arm--Gammill--and the only problem I can see is trying to hurry so it doesn't take hours and hours. I did a quilt that was about 60 x 80 and it took me 4 1/2 hours. I think that is less that a pro would have cost. I did a simple pantogram and it looked pretty good--JMHO. The only draw back that I could see is working continously for that long (back ache due to fracture last year). I figured that I would have to make over 100 quilts to pay for the machine I would want to buy, and I don't think that would make it worth while. That and adding a studio to my house to accomodate the 14 foot machine. I have no desire to quilt for profit. Too much pressure to get it perfect.
    Sue

  6. #16
    Super Member sewmuchmore's Avatar
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    I have a long arm and love to quilt, however I do have shoulders that do freeze up at times, due to medication I took during chemo.I can not do it very long before my shoulders hurts. I think it would be wise to rent one for about 4 hours a couple of days just to see if you are going to be able to do it. :?

  7. #17
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    I was lucky enough to know a LAer who introduced me to a Longarm Guild in my area. I went to the monthly meetings and learned so much about what the business is really like from listening to the roundtable discussions. My suggestion is to visit your LQS to see if such a guild exists in your area. Your LQS most likely contracts with a LAer to quilt for the shop. Get a number and talk to the LAer. Join as many online LA forums as you can find. There are several Yahoo groups for long armers. There is also an APQS Yahoo group. Quiltropolis also has a group. It's really important to get as much "real life" information as you can. Not only about the machine, but about possible "trouble" quilts and how to work them, pricing, licensing, wholesale purchasing, advertising --- the list goes on. So arm yourself with as much information as you can to help you with your decision.
    Longarming is fun, rewarding work. I really am glad I chose to get into it. But the bottom line is that it IS a business and you have to treat it that way.
    One final bit -- for me, my work is sort of seasonal -- I am busiest in the spring because of quilt gifts for graduations and weddings and in the winter because of quilts given as Christmas and Chaunaukka. So the business can have "fat" times and "lean" times. The business is solely based on customer demand.
    Best wishes with your venture. If I can be of any help, feel free to PM. If I have bored you to tears with my bloviating, my apologies.
    Ruth

  8. #18
    Junior Member Xtgirl's Avatar
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    Thanks so much for all your advice and input. I will take many of your suggestions. I do plan on joining a guild to gain more information. I've talked to two quilt stores in the area to feel out the situation and got some positive feedback on the local area demand...seems like if I become good at this, the work will be there. still not sure what we are going to do. It's a huge decision, but id really like to start thinking of ways to generate income for when I retire. Thanks again:)

    I'm making my first t-shirt quilt tonight and loving it!

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