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Thread: Long armers, do you think there are enough customers...

  1. #26
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    I have a LA and the learning curve was sooo much more than I ever dreamed . I have had mine about 4 years and one thing I know is that most everyones experience is different, probably from area to area. So many LA's say they have a 6 month or more backlog but I honestly wonder about that. That would mean they are storing possibly 100 quilts or more before they get to them. I don't know anyone who has that much room or insurance to cover them if they had a fire. The truth actually may be that they only want to do so many quilts a month, so if they have a dozen or so steady customers, thats all they need. If they take extras, they are not in any hurry to get them done.
    I practiced at least a year before I would take paying customers. My first year of doing it as a business,I had maybe 12 quilts. I have a fairly steady business now but the first of the year was dead. So its a good thing I am not making payments on it.
    One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the physical side. It is hard work. Hard on your legs and feet and back. That needs to be an important consideration. Also to get started, you have an investment in your LA as well as thread,needles,insurance,patterns,classes and batting,maybe? You definitely don't have time to sew for yourself like you want and if you get a top done, you are last on the list to get it quilted. I agree with the suggestion to buy a used machine and try it before you invest in a more expensive new machine. While it sounds like fun, there are sure a lot of days, I have to push myself. Its a job. And you have to treat it as such.

  2. #27
    Super Member peaceandjoy's Avatar
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    On the up side of "expenses," keep in mind that you can take some of those expenses of a home business off of your taxes. Your supplies, electricity, phone/internet feess. Not sure if the rules have changed; when I had a business from home, you had to be able to show a profit w/in 3 years.

    If you have your taxes done professionally, you might want to check with them; if not, check with an accountant.

    I left the following on another LA thread. I find it annoying when I look at a website that is for business and there are links that do not work, errors, missing info, etc.

    If you do have a website or blog that provides information, please be sure that it is correct and complete. If I'm looking at posts/websites/blogs that have errors (typos, mis-spellings, etc.), links that do not work, or do not have basic information (quilting options, estimated pricing), I'm not likely to send a quilt that I've invested in to be quilted by that individual.

    Not having pictures linked somewhere is definitely a deal-breaker for me. One other thing that I dislike is having to pay upfront, even if it is "only" 50%. None of the quilters that are local charge prior to the work being done, and honestly, I don't know why this would be required anyhow. If you are trying to establish/build a business, I think you have to be willing to put yourself out there, and risk receiving a quilt that you don't get paid for. But you'd have the protection of having the quilt - so no payment, no completed quilt returned. On the other hand, if a top is sent out at the sewer's expense, plus payment made up front, what assurance does the sewer have that the quilt would be returned? I say, send or post pictures at completion and expect payment prior to shipping the quilt home.

    The recent addition of feedback should also help folks who are in business.

    My comments are not intended to upset anyone; rather, I hope that they will be helpful for anyone who is wanting to offer a product or service. They are meant to help those who are in business, and not to be taken personally.

  3. #28
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    I think the scariest concern about starting LAQ is the customers you have to deal with. Imagine doing a potential prize-winning quilt, having tension problems, cutting something that should not be cut, their piecing, etc mistake is blamed on to you when it does not look good. you have to know if your nerves can take those kinds of things. I do most of my own quilting but send the large ones out,they just look so much better & I don't have the misery of handling a big quilt. quilters here charge 1.5 psi, with fancy quilting going for 3-4 cents psi.
    there are a lot of machines in our area, many of them for home use. and out of all,3 or 4 are real talents.
    do it for yourself, if you can afford that. then when you get good & decide to do customer work,that will just be a bonus $$ for you.
    PS--would have one in a minute if had room & $$$.

  4. #29
    Junior Member txstitcher's Avatar
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    Lots of good advice here for those of us searching out a good LA quilter.

  5. #30
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    There is a LA quilter in my area that will charge you for a class, then let you quilt your own work for nominal charge, i.e., $125 for the class and $15 for your own quilt or $10 for a donation quilt. (We have a couple of ladies in our Church quilting group that quilt the tops us...the quilts are given to children in need.)

    That way you could see if you really wanted to purchase a LAM..it might save you a lot of frustration! And, remember, there is a HUGE learning curve on one of these babies! :-D

    Let us know what you decide! We'll support you!!

  6. #31
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    Everything everyone has said is true. You have to have a real business plan if you hope to succeed. It does take a long time and many hours of practice to get good, I know. You will not be able to buy your machine and start quilting for others right away. You would have to be able to make your payments yourself until you get some business lined up. Guilds are a good place to advertise along with quilt shops, craft shows ( offer your own crafts for sale), fabric shops and even the web. Remember people also like to buy thread art work you do yourself to sell. Good luck.

  7. #32
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    i also offer a class on my big machine, a person comes in, learns the machine,cleans it, changes needle, winds bobbins, threads machine, loads a practice quilt...practices on it using the laser with panto's we try a stencil, do some free hand, anything and everything. then after that 4 hour class, time can be rented on the machine for $20 an hour to quilt their own quilts. out of the people who have taken the certification class most come back (75%) and do another quilt of their own...then about 1/2 continue to quilt their own, the other 1/2 have decided although it was fun, they would rather i quilt their quilts for them.
    when my machine was first bought it was a 'family' decision...and the men in my world assured me i would probably never have to use it..the guys were doing this part (hubby, son, nephew) so we got the machine up & running everyone tried it out...hubby even did i think 3 quilts before deciding he had no motivation, or interest. son & nephew both moved to florida...so i found my self with a big machine sitting idle...with a hubby on his way out of my life anyway (surprise, surprise)
    i was unsure of my ability to do alot of quilting, i tore my shoulder up bad a few years ago. some days i can quilt for 4-6 hours in a day (i take breaks every 45 minutes) some days 1 hour and i done...
    you have to be able to stand for hours, use your arms for hours; it is physical labor. totally different from sitting in front of your sewing machine.
    anyone thinking about jumping into long-arm machine quilting should find classes, try out as many machines as possible and make sure you are physically able along with just liking the process. i have a couple customers who make absolutely fabulous quilts , who did not like this part of the process at all and leave it to me.
    we all look at pictures and think...if i had that big machine i could do that too...it is not that simple, it takes hundreds of hours of practice, it takes hours to quilt a quilt, it is labor. and the quilters who get backlogged....hmmmmmm. when i have 2 or 3 quilts waiting for their turn on the machine i tell people when they call...i'm a bit behind right now, looks like it could be a month before i can take in a quilt..if you need it quilted now here's a couple numbers to try. if you still need it done in a couple weeks, or just really want me to do it, call me back in a couple weeks to see where i am...i do not let them stack up, i don't want to be responsible for a stack of quilts if something should happen.

  8. #33
    Senior Member Aquarius's Avatar
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    I went to a quilt shop around my area and they had a long arm machine there so I asked how much it would cost to quilt a quilt. she told me $160. I'm on a limited income and could not afford to spend that much money to quilt my quilt when I can do it for nothing myself. It might take longer and maybe no fancy stitches but you do what you can afford. I wish I could find a place close to home cheaper. Sometimes I get so impatient waiting for a quilt to get done. But at least I know I've done it myself. And my kids seem to appreciate it more. Good luck. I even thought about buying a machine quilt frame and try using my own machine, but they are so expensive.

  9. #34
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    Gals, you are so right that it takes practice, practice and more practice. Our small quilt guild just bought an older model longarm (no frills of any kind) to quilt the quilts we make for people who lose their homes and possessions to fire as we did not have the money to have them machine quilted and too many of our guild are no longer able to hand quilt for various reasons. I have quilted a small charity quilt and believe me it would never do for one that was done for hire. several of the members thought it looked fine, but if you truthfully look and criticize your work you know it isn't. I am practicing on some bed sheets now on a pattern that we will probably use for some of our "fire" quilts and I am a LONNNNNGGGGG way from being reasonably good. I do enjoy doing it, but can see where it can be laborious as standing for a number of hours and using your arms and shoulders can be very tiring I am sure. Like several have said, buy it for your own use and then when you "know" you are good then try for some outside quilting. We have already had people ask us if we would quilt for them, and I politely but firmly tell them, it will be a long time before we are ready to quilt any quilts for hire (and most likely never will unless we need to raise money for more batting etc.) It certainly looks a lot easier to do than it is. One of the ladies that had wanted to learn on the machine when we purchased it, tried it and very quickly said, "that's not for me, you all have at it". I would love to have a newer machine of my own with a stitch regulator (which would be a must on any future purchase), but I don't have the room to put it or the funds to do it with for now and I am not going in debt for even a used one. So buy it for yourself and practice until you are blue in the face and see if you take to it like a duck to water. Some people never do. Just my two cents worth for the day. If you get a machine, have fun with it.

  10. #35
    Senior Member fancifrock's Avatar
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    In speaking with many other hand quilters, we all feel that too much emphasis is being put on the longarm quilting. What ever happened to all the beautiful handwork that went with quilting. Many pieces that we see are pieced beautiful but all of that "quilting" is taking away from the real work that has been done.

    I personally feel that some of the longarm quilting is beautiful but is overpowering the quilt pieceing and work.

    Longarm users in this area who bought their machines with the idea of paying for it by doing work for others are not making out very well. Thank goodness some are going back to hand work or just plain can't afford to pay to have their quilts done by someone else with the rotten economy.

  11. #36
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    Out of curiosity what are the going prices for long arms?

  12. #37
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    I have a used quilting machine, I have quilted for people and I'm always scared something will happen. I pray a lot before quilting someone elses. I don't use pantagrams I don't like them. I just stipple, my machine doesn't have a computer in it and I'm glad just something else to go wrong.
    It's a lot of work to quilt for yourself and the public, very demanding. I hope you make the right decision for yourself.

  13. #38
    Senior Member Hinterland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fancifrock
    In speaking with many other hand quilters, we all feel that too much emphasis is being put on the longarm quilting. What ever happened to all the beautiful handwork that went with quilting. Many pieces that we see are pieced beautiful but all of that "quilting" is taking away from the real work that has been done.
    As another hand quilter, I respectfully disagree with you. I think machine quilting keeps the quilting industry alive and healthy - if my LQS owner depended on me to keep her shop open, she'd have gone out of business years ago. :)

  14. #39
    Super Member Olivia's Grammy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moonwolf23
    Out of curiosity what are the going prices for long arms?
    I have over $8000. in my HQ16 and this is without the programed designs. That would be another $6 -$8000.

  15. #40
    Super Member Lori S's Avatar
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    [quote=fancifrock]In speaking with many other hand quilters, we all feel that too much emphasis is being put on the longarm quilting. What ever happened to all the beautiful handwork that went with quilting. Many pieces that we see are pieced beautiful but all of that "quilting" is taking away from the real work that has been done. ]

    I agree that hand quilting is an art form and one with a long tradition and have the highest respect for Hand quilters Long Arm quilting is also its own art form. Think about all of the inovations that have been made over the years! Sewing machines for one, without how many would have time to hand piece every quilt. Rotory cutters.. how many quilts would be sewn if all quilts had to be cut from templates. I still come across paritally cut quilts that never got to the sewing stage because someone lost interest ... or what ever. The walking foot and then the free motion foot, Fusibles, stabilizers..... I am always excited to see what may come!
    I think all of the innovations have allowed more so much diversity in quilting that there truley is something for everyone. Having started quilting before the rotary cutter , I am excited everytime I go to a show or read a book , because this is a craft and art that will continue to evolve. We live in exciting times!

  16. #41
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    This discussion is wonderful and so professional. I admire all of you for how much fore-thought goes into making a business out of LQS quilting. I have an LQS but only do meandering or I draw the whole design on the quilt with washable markers. I wish I could do better, but I have one of those diseases that makes you forget things after you are 60. Proved by MRI, so I don't do thins that frustrate me and I do get there eventually.

  17. #42
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    I have to agree with you scissorqueen about some of us not being able to afford a LA. I can't. On my limited income I have to quilt my own, but many of the quilters I know do want their quilts done by a LA. I quilt by hand so that is my enjoyment

  18. #43
    Senior Member cindyg's Avatar
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    Our HQ-16 and the studio frame (we upgraded) cost us $9,000. I say "us" because my best friend and I went in together to buy our HQ-16. After using it for 5 or 6 quilts I realize that we made the right desicion in buying this machine and frame because we are both short - 5'1". Moving the machine is one thing but you also have to lean over to cut threads and if you use any kind of straight or curved edge you have to lean over the frame somewhat. We would really have a hard time if our machine were any bigger. We use groovy boards a lot - they are so simple to use it's ridiculous - but they are expensive. I also have used pantos and done some free hand things. It does take practice and practice and more practice. I won't quilt for anyone else. Quilting is my hobby and as soon as I take the first penny for quilting, it becomes a job.

    Quote Originally Posted by moonwolf23
    Out of curiosity what are the going prices for long arms?

  19. #44
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    I bought a Statler with the big table and it cost $35,000.00. Yes, you read that right. I considered it a business investment since I needed extra income. Needless to say, I have a lot of bells and whistles but along with that, I not only needed to learn to use the machine but a major computer program too. My reasoning behind going for the top was 1)it is considered the best longarm made, 2) fantastic lifetime support, 3) Delivery, complete set up and training, 4)I knew I wasn't up to "driving" it all day, physically and 5) I can quilt any size someone brings. I am not sorry since I still think its a great machine. I compared it to buying a car. I could have spent that much on a car and it wouldn't pay me one red cent and looses value continually. My machine hasn't lost near that much in value.
    I think the biggest reason, people aren't hand quilting is because it is an art that is learned and todays woman does not have the time to put in to it. You used to be able to find people who would hand quilt for people, but not any more. I had to quit because of Rhuematoid. I didn't want that to stop me from quilting. I just had to find a new way.

  20. #45
    Super Member Olivia's Grammy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cindyg
    Our HQ-16 and the studio frame (we upgraded) cost us $9,000. I say "us" because my best friend and I went in together to buy our HQ-16. After using it for 5 or 6 quilts I realize that we made the right desicion in buying this machine and frame because we are both short - 5'1". Moving the machine is one thing but you also have to lean over to cut threads and if you use any kind of straight or curved edge you have to lean over the frame somewhat. We would really have a hard time if our machine were any bigger. We use groovy boards a lot - they are so simple to use it's ridiculous - but they are expensive. I also have used pantos and done some free hand things. It does take practice and practice and more practice. I won't quilt for anyone else. Quilting is my hobby and as soon as I take the first penny for quilting, it becomes a job.

    Quote Originally Posted by moonwolf23
    Out of curiosity what are the going prices for long arms?
    Can you explain the function of the groovy boards?

  21. #46
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    Can you use the groovy boards on a Gammill?
    Quote Originally Posted by cindyg
    Our HQ-16 and the studio frame (we upgraded) cost us $9,000. I say "us" because my best friend and I went in together to buy our HQ-16. After using it for 5 or 6 quilts I realize that we made the right desicion in buying this machine and frame because we are both short - 5'1". Moving the machine is one thing but you also have to lean over to cut threads and if you use any kind of straight or curved edge you have to lean over the frame somewhat. We would really have a hard time if our machine were any bigger. We use groovy boards a lot - they are so simple to use it's ridiculous - but they are expensive. I also have used pantos and done some free hand things. It does take practice and practice and more practice. I won't quilt for anyone else. Quilting is my hobby and as soon as I take the first penny for quilting, it becomes a job.

    Quote Originally Posted by moonwolf23
    Out of curiosity what are the going prices for long arms?

  22. #47
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    I just purchased the Tinlizzy and paniced on my first quilt. I didn't purchase the machine to go into business but to get my nine quilt tops quilted without having to pin it all. My LA Quilter got to the point where she just wasn''t wanting to quilt anyone's but her own and every once in a while she would try to get one of mine in. I believe she got burned out and she has an American Professional machine which she wouldn't sell or rent to anyone. I have a monthly payment, can get my quilts done and have family members who are piecers but don't want to quilt so I have lucked out on them for side money plus the fact that I told them I would quilt for them but always have the disclaimer that I am not a professional. They loved my home sewing machine quilting so lets see how this other works out. The other thing you need to consider when you get a machine is if you will have enough room for it. I have the ten ft poles and it took up one whole area of my spare bedroom that had already been turned into a sewing room. Good luck on your endeavor.

  23. #48
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    I just purchased the Tinlizzy and paniced on my first quilt. I didn't purchase the machine to go into business but to get my nine quilt tops quilted without having to pin it all. My LA Quilter got to the point where she just wasn''t wanting to quilt anyone's but her own and every once in a while she would try to get one of mine in. I believe she got burned out and she has an American Professional machine which she wouldn't sell or rent to anyone. I have a monthly payment, can get my quilts done and have family members who are piecers but don't want to quilt so I have lucked out on them for side money plus the fact that I told them I would quilt for them but always have the disclaimer that I am not a professional. They loved my home sewing machine quilting so lets see how this other works out. The other thing you need to consider when you get a machine is if you will have enough room for it. I have the ten ft poles and it took up one whole area of my spare bedroom that had already been turned into a sewing room. Good luck on your endeavor.

  24. #49
    Super Member StitchinJoy's Avatar
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    There are midarms (18" or smaller throat) and longarms (19" throat or larger). The bigger the throat, the more space you can quilt before having to roll the quilt.

    There are many different features available such as stitch regulators, auto advances, channel locks, hydraulic lift tables, special wheels, special handles, special lights.
    Tables differ. Weights differ. Speeds differ. Glide differs.

    Choosing a machine is like choosing a car. It's not that one model will necessarily be BETTER than another; it will just be better for YOU. Only you can determine which machine is best suited to your needs.

    My best advice is to do some research on the websites of the large companies: A-1 Quilting Machines, gammill, APQS, HandiQuilter. Then attend some shows where you can test drive the machines. And then talk with longarmers and ask why they bought what they bought. Most people love what they bought. They bought what they needed.

    I know I love mine and it has been a workhorse for me. In 5 years of quilting a few hundred quilts a year, I've only had to replace the lightbulb and the checkspring.

    Happy owner of an A-1 Elite 23" longarm

  25. #50
    Junior Member txstitcher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ritaquilts
    I bought a Statler with the big table and it cost $35,000.00. Yes, you read that right. I considered it a business investment since I needed extra income. Needless to say, I have a lot of bells and whistles but along with that, I not only needed to learn to use the machine but a major computer program too. My reasoning behind going for the top was 1)it is considered the best longarm made, 2) fantastic lifetime support, 3) Delivery, complete set up and training, 4)I knew I wasn't up to "driving" it all day, physically and 5) I can quilt any size someone brings. I am not sorry since I still think its a great machine. I compared it to buying a car. I could have spent that much on a car and it wouldn't pay me one red cent and looses value continually. My machine hasn't lost near that much in value.
    I think the biggest reason, people aren't hand quilting is because it is an art that is learned and todays woman does not have the time to put in to it. You used to be able to find people who would hand quilt for people, but not any more. I had to quit because of Rhuematoid. I didn't want that to stop me from quilting. I just had to find a new way.
    Rita, are you quilting for profit? Just curious. My aunt is thinking of getting a Baby Lock LA for $15,000.

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