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

  1. #51
    Super Member jitkaau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acesgame
    Most of the pictures I have seen are of heavily quilted complicated patterns. I love them and aspire to be that good. My question is do you think there are enough people who just want their tops quilted with a nice even all over pattern or simple patterns well placed?
    I don't want to go into this in debt for the machine and then not be able to support my habit. I have saved about half of what I want to spend and I am not good at waiting but the joy will go out if I feel slave to the payment.
    Thanks in advance.
    Stacey
    You may need to check the details for your area first. A lady in our area set herself up and did not realise that many of the quilts would not always be up to scratch and her inexperience caused her to have many disasters with other people's quilts. Of course, she's not got much business now because word travels fast. Best to practise on 50 of your own quilts and know the machine very well before you start on anyone else's I think.

  2. #52
    Super Member annette1952's Avatar
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    Sounds like alot of good advice on here for you to ponder. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  3. #53

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    i have had a longarm machine for about 4 years now. i bought it thinking i would do some business with it. i have done a few quilts for people, but have found that i enjoy it more just for myself. there's nothing like finishing a top and being able to just run downstairs and start quilting it! this is an expensive venture, but i also work full time and figured i need to work for something i like as well as "the bills". also, i was spending a LOT of money paying someone else. it does take a lot of practice, though, as everyone has said. my husband is actually better than i am at it, go figure! he is mechanically inclined though. good luck with whatever you decide!

  4. #54
    Member njgrl4evr's Avatar
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    Is there anywhere on this site where long arm quilters cam advertize? My local long arm ladies are quite costly, many months out on waiting time, and none of the work I have seen really knocks me out. Would love to have a resource of quilters that offer an on-line service.

  5. #55
    Super Member C.Cal Quilt Girl's Avatar
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    One of the first permanent posts on buy trade etc. has the names of several board members that quilt pro :)

    Interesting thread thanks for posting!!

    Have a mid arm and have quilted many of my own, with good results after practice practice practice, really like meandering, But I really hesitate to take in out side work, may be just a OMG what if I screwup on someone elses work. (confident aren't I) :)

  6. #56
    Member njgrl4evr's Avatar
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    Thank you. I went to the buy/sell/trade board and there was a list of longarm quilters by state.
    Great resource.

  7. #57
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    I have read a lot of good advice here and what it comes down to is the courage to try and the willingness to work-and work hard. I have done longarm quilting for only 3 years and know my limits--I don't do custom work yet because I haven't practiced it enough. I do pantos and have quite a few regular customers. I live in a town of about 50,000 mostly middle income. My prices reflect what is reasonable for this area. My customers come from recommendation at our LQS, people from my guild and those that have seen my work either in the quilt shop, at someone's home or in a quilt show. Pantos are not as intricate as custom work therefore they take less time and the results are still very pretty. Some people do not want heavy quilting but there are many pantos that are fairly intricate-a panto is not just meandering. I thoroughly admire custom quilting and have noticed that those are what usually win ribbons at shows but I think the majority (OK to say here) of quilters are making quilts for themselves or as gifts to be used. They bring their tops to me and they are finished quickly for using or gifting. I'm happy and they are happy. There are 4 LA quilters in this area (2 panto, 2 custom) and we are all friends and gladly share information and recommend customers to each other if necessary. In discussing the pros/cons of custom vs panto we have realized that if broken down to an hourly rate the two of us that do pantos are ahead money-wise even though we get less per quilt we can do more of them. I want to try my hand at custom but have only done simple backgrounds so far and it was stressful and time-consuming but rewarding in the end. Start with what you can do well and work from there. Following the panto came very easy to me but I can see that custom will be practice,practice, practice. I don't know if many people "make a living" just quilting for others but I do enjoy it and do bring in some extra cash. It is a tough decision to make for all the reasons given by other posts, but if you can afford a machine that may not pay for itself very quickly then you should try. Other than the cost of the machine you also have to have supplies and upkeep of the machine--that cost comes into play also. In closing "if you have the chance to dance or sit it out---I hope you dance".

  8. #58
    Senior Member CircleSquare's Avatar
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    Good advice here! I've had my LA since 2003. I practiced for a year before doing a paid quilt. I joined 2 guilds in my area, took show-n-tell every month and introduced myself. Then I started doing charity quilts for free, just for the practice. I mostly do pantographs (all-over designs)but a few customers want custom work and are willing to pay for it.
    I live in a rural area, and there are no other LA quilters within 45 miles, but the local quilters were used to sending their quilts out. It was a hard market to break into. But I keep my prices low so that more people can afford my services. I rely on repeat customers now.
    Also, most of my income goes back into supplies and new patterns. I don't have payments on the machine - if I did, I would have lost it.
    It took me 3 years to build up a reasonable customer base. Now I do a fair amount of business, and my turn-around is 1-2 months most of the time. My customers are friends now, and they are loyal. That doesn't come overnight.

  9. #59
    Senior Member Sewze'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.

    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.
    I bought a LA because I can't hand quilt or quilt on a domestic machine because of Carpal Tunnel in both wrists and crippled up Arthritic fingers in both hands. After classes at a LQS on their LA, I fell in love with the fact that I could do the quilting myself using a LA. Jinnie

  10. #60
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    Hats off to all hand quilters! :) It's an art and it is beautiful, relaxing and but it can be time consuming. With my Tin Lizzie (long arm) depending on the quilt size, it doesn't take long to finish. I prefer meandering - sometimes a lot of stippling makes the quilt stiff. And I do like to use pantograms and boards (patterns). I think it's all about personal preference. (And, you get it done so you can move on to the next project!) :)

  11. #61
    Senior Member CircleSquare'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.

    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.
    What you say is certainly true... There is nothing like hand quilting! However, not everyone has the time, ability, patience, etc., to hand-quilt. That's where we come in.
    But it is also true that sometimes the quilting overpowers the piecing and the over-all look of the quilt. I am very careful to choose a quilting design and thread color that will enhance or compliment the quilt, not detract from it. And I personally don't care for a heavily-quilted quilt, which seems to be what the show judges want. I don't do quilts for shows! :roll:
    Here's a charity quilt I just finished. It's one of Marge LaBenne's charity quilt patterns, called Salt Water Taffy. I did the piecing and the longarm quilting on this one.

    Salt Water Taffy
    Name:  Attachment-108897.jpe
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  12. #62
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    Gorgeous! Love the pattern.

  13. #63
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    Many thanks to everyone who replied to this topic. All of the answers were thoughtfully presented and enlightening. As a result I have gained a much greater respect for Machine Quilters. Actually they are amazing.

  14. #64
    Super Member seamstome's Avatar
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    I will admit that I know nothing about long arming but I happen to know quite a bit about business.

    IF you are looking to make money at this and make it a business, not a hobby, there is alot more to it than practicing your craft. LA machines are expensive pieces of equipment, 10-35K, that require training and supplies PLUS dedicated physical space. Then there is the marketing side not to mention the accounting/business/tax side.

    If it was me, I would consult with your local Small Business Development Center. It is the center that is paid for by your tax dollars that helps people get SBA loans, do business plans and marketing plans. They will help you do a realistic business plan. Is .015 a square inch actually covering your cost or are you just cash-flowing your payments? How do you track estimates, scheduled work, payments and costs for a project? What are your revenue streams (LA quilting just done by you or are you going to rent the machine out) and are these different markets? New versus used equipment? How much capital are you able to invest up front--that's not finance but to actually write a check for. Future earnings in business need to be able to not only support you but to provide enough money to replace that piece of equipment in a reasonable amount of time.

    Every machine manufacturer is probably hooked up with a finance company that will gladly lend you the money to purchase the machine....that's not the question.

    The question is really....Is this venture profitable enough with a solid, logical business plan to be a business? What will be the return on investment for your capital invested and work?

    I know I just said alot of really heavy things but going into business is not the same as making a few bucks on the side from a hobby and you need to decide upfront which you are looking to do.

    Good Luck

  15. #65
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    This has been a facinating and informative thread. I just love this board. I appreciate everyone's information!

  16. #66
    Super Member seamstome's Avatar
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    If it was me and I was going to do this as a business, if possible I would rent the machine I wanted to buy and perfect my craft before I ever bought the machine. I would be able to put my work before the quilt police in any town before I purchased a machine.

    Then as a businessperson, I rarely buy new equipment. I do buy alot of demo machines or slightly used machines.

    Next, that machine is a machine so I would make sure it was working as much as possible so I would see if the other LA'ers or potential LA'ers would be interested in forming a group to use one machine by the hour or job. IOW, each professional LA'er doesnt need their own machine technically, they just need access to a high quality machine. Split the true machine costs, upkeeep, utilities and physical space. Lower your cost but allowing you to use a higher level machine.

    Finally that business plan is very important.

  17. #67
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    Quilting for me is a hobby and something I really want to do. I have machine quilted 48 quilts and because of me and/or machine I haven't quilted a perfect quilt yet. I would not do any for anyone else, I've heard people on here complain about all the money it cost to have a quilt quilted and the lousy job the LA did on it.
    Some people can not be pleased no matter what or how you do it.
    Also some people are cheap and would complain just to get it done for near nothing or better yet for nothing, then they could brag what a good deal they got. Most people are out for themselves. Just food for thought.
    As said above, if you have to borrow money to get started in a business, you really need to think about it, the small business deal talked about above is not very helpful, you will need someone with a steady job and to pay for home expenses.
    We have owned our own business for the past 23 Yr.s and have only used our own money, didn't borrow a dime for it, you will need colateral and that means your home. Will you be willing to loose your home if you can't pay back the loan? Just more food for thought. Good luck.

  18. #68
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    All the suggestions here have been very good. I got my LA a little over 2 yrs ago and did a lot of research on the internet and through books. Do you know much about the actual process of operating a LA? If you can, it could be helpful to go to the Houston International Quilt Show. I think it is early November this year. You could take some beginner classes which will explain the actual sewing process as well as classes that explore all aspects of the business side of things. You can also see many makes of machine at the show. This is what I did to be sure this is what I wanted to do.
    I'm lucky as I live in the Northeast and have been able go to MQX each year for more classes(this is a business expense).
    On the internet, search on "longarm quilting services in TX" and find nearby people with websites to get ideas of charges, types of website setup, etc.
    Go to Amazon.com and see the various books relating to the quilting and the business aspects.
    My business has been very slow, partly my own doing as I haven't pushed marketing as I was working outside the home part-time until very recently. I'll start marketing more very soon. I only want a part-time quilting business anyway, but could use more customers to keep me busier than I've been.
    I really like doing the quilting
    Definitely don't go into business if you need to rely on quilt income to pay a loan. Too much pressure!
    Don't forget to take in to account the size of the machine and table and whether or not you have room for it.
    Good luck in whatever you decide.
    Sally :thumbup:

  19. #69
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    I agree with everything you've said. If I might add, when getting ready to purchase a LAM, research, research, research - especially the seller/dealer. How many classes are included in the purchase price? What sort of support is availabe to you - both in the store and online? Can you talk with the dealer easily? Can they answer your questions? What will supplies cost you? Does the machine use a certain count or brand thread (i.e., 2 or 3 ply) - that could impact its cost. Should you have a problem with the machine head, do they make house calls? Cost? Or are you required to take the head to them? Some of them are really heavy!

    Don't mean to overload on the questions, but these are some of the things that need to be addressed.

    Now, if you still want one - go! Don't forget, they can be intimidating at first, but they are oh, so much fun!!!! :thumbup:

  20. #70
    Super Member Olivia's Grammy's Avatar
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    This has been one of the best threads bc I have a LA and have been thinking about using it for profit. I have several questions I know some one here will be able to answer.
    Insurance - I am not sure if I understand the reason for this. If something happened wouldn't the person have to prove how much money she had in the quilt? What kind of insurance would you have?
    Why would you have lots of quilts waiting to be quilting? I think I would prefer to never have more than 2 or 3 of other peoples quilts due to storage. Couldn't you call and say you are next, bring your quilt.
    If you charge .01 psi, is that for simple meandering? If so do you charge more if you add curlyques or stars or hearts?
    How much do you charge for binding, machine different from hand?
    Do you use your favorite brand of batting or let the customer choose?
    Favorite thread?
    Do you trim the quilt after finishing the quilting process?
    What if the quilt is not squared?
    Probably more questions, but can't remember them now. This thread has really gotten me thinking.
    Thanking you in advance for the answers.

  21. #71
    Super Member seamstome's Avatar
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    Insurance is for the machine, supplies, plus the quilts you have on hand etc. If you have a fire or a water main breaks, does your homeowner's cover the "business" if you are working out of your home? You may just need an additional rider.

    I disagree with the poster who said the Small Business Development Center is not helpful. Ours is excellent. Now that doesnt mean that you will get a loan or be successful, just that they will provide you with a counselor, classes and advice. All for free or maybe 10 bucks. They are your resource center for government loans although that is only a smidgen of what they do. I am a volunteer counselor for the center plus in a couple weeks I will be attending a two hour seminar on advanced marketing concepts.

    I think it's a whole lot smarter to talk to business people who have no vested interest in selling you a machine or supplies to help with the decision.

  22. #72
    Member sxboyer's Avatar
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    I have had my longarm for over a year, and am still practicing... I did one quilt for a friend at no charge with her knowing that I was going to use her for the learning process. My work is good enough that I am proud of it, and I was asked to display it in the shop I bought the longarm, but I still would not take anything on for pay... It has to be perfect when it leaves me if someone is paying for it, and I am not there yet!

  23. #73
    Senior Member CircleSquare's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olivia's Grammy
    This has been one of the best threads bc I have a LA and have been thinking about using it for profit. I have several questions I know some one here will be able to answer.
    Insurance - I am not sure if I understand the reason for this. If something happened wouldn't the person have to prove how much money she had in the quilt? What kind of insurance would you have?
    Why would you have lots of quilts waiting to be quilting? I think I would prefer to never have more than 2 or 3 of other peoples quilts due to storage. Couldn't you call and say you are next, bring your quilt.
    If you charge .01 psi, is that for simple meandering? If so do you charge more if you add curlyques or stars or hearts?
    How much do you charge for binding, machine different from hand?
    Do you use your favorite brand of batting or let the customer choose?
    Favorite thread?
    Do you trim the quilt after finishing the quilting process?
    What if the quilt is not squared?
    Probably more questions, but can't remember them now. This thread has really gotten me thinking.
    Thanking you in advance for the answers.
    Just my opinions for the questions above:
    1. I have liability insurance in case a customer should fall at my house/studio. I have insurance to cover the machine and all my supplies/equipment in case of a fire or other accident.
    2. I have 15 quilts waiting because when a customer is ready to have a quilt done, they will take it somewhere else if I don't accept it. I tell them how long it will be before I can get to it, usually a month or less. If they are in a hurry, I may bump it up before some of the others. If it's a customer who is chronically doing this, they have to wait or take it elsewhere. I keep 2 large totes under my machine and 2 more under my cutting table, where I keep quilts that are waiting. I make slips of paper with each quilt, with the customer's name, date they brought the quilt, and type of quilting to be done, etc.
    3. In my area, my prices are slightly lower than average. I want to rely on repeat customers. I charge 1 1/4 PSI for simple meandering and simple pantographs. It's 1 1/2 PSI for more intricate pantographs, 1 3/4 for complicated pantos and simple custom work. It can go over 2 PSI for detailed custom work like feathers, loopy fill, ruler work, or circles or cross-hatching with the attachments. I have a minimum charge of $25 for any work done on any quilt, including crib quilts.
    4. Batting: I have room to store 3 rolls of batting hanging from the ceiling. I keep 100% cotton, 80/20, and PolyDown, all which I buy from a Hobbs distributor. I sell it for around the same price as the quilt shops and JoAnn's. I tell my customers they are welcome to buy it from me or they can bring their own batting.
    5. Thread: I stock a lot of colors of Superior Threads because they run well in my machine. I also have some Gutterman Industrial thread, because they have more color selection, and it also runs good in my machine. Other threads I have tried tend to break. I don't charge extra for thread; it is part of the quilting price.
    6. I don't trim the quilt after quilting unless the customer asks me to. I don't do binding unless it's a special case where the customer is having something quilted that she didn't make, and she doesn't sew. I charge 10 per running inch and I do it all on the machine.
    7. If the quilt is not square, I either charge the customer to square it up or I give it back. I show them what's wrong, and if I think I can fix it, I let them decide if they want to pay me to do it.

  24. #74
    Super Member Olivia's Grammy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CircleSquare
    Quote Originally Posted by Olivia's Grammy
    This has been one of the best threads bc I have a LA and have been thinking about using it for profit. I have several questions I know some one here will be able to answer.
    Insurance - I am not sure if I understand the reason for this. If something happened wouldn't the person have to prove how much money she had in the quilt? What kind of insurance would you have?
    Why would you have lots of quilts waiting to be quilting? I think I would prefer to never have more than 2 or 3 of other peoples quilts due to storage. Couldn't you call and say you are next, bring your quilt.
    If you charge .01 psi, is that for simple meandering? If so do you charge more if you add curlyques or stars or hearts?
    How much do you charge for binding, machine different from hand?
    Do you use your favorite brand of batting or let the customer choose?
    Favorite thread?
    Do you trim the quilt after finishing the quilting process?
    What if the quilt is not squared?
    Probably more questions, but can't remember them now. This thread has really gotten me thinking.
    Thanking you in advance for the answers.
    Just my opinions for the questions above:
    1. I have liability insurance in case a customer should fall at my house/studio. I have insurance to cover the machine and all my supplies/equipment in case of a fire or other accident.
    2. I have 15 quilts waiting because when a customer is ready to have a quilt done, they will take it somewhere else if I don't accept it. I tell them how long it will be before I can get to it, usually a month or less. If they are in a hurry, I may bump it up before some of the others. If it's a customer who is chronically doing this, they have to wait or take it elsewhere. I keep 2 large totes under my machine and 2 more under my cutting table, where I keep quilts that are waiting. I make slips of paper with each quilt, with the customer's name, date they brought the quilt, and type of quilting to be done, etc.
    3. In my area, my prices are slightly lower than average. I want to rely on repeat customers. I charge 1 1/4 PSI for simple meandering and simple pantographs. It's 1 1/2 PSI for more intricate pantographs, 1 3/4 for complicated pantos and simple custom work. It can go over 2 PSI for detailed custom work like feathers, loopy fill, ruler work, or circles or cross-hatching with the attachments. I have a minimum charge of $25 for any work done on any quilt, including crib quilts.
    4. Batting: I have room to store 3 rolls of batting hanging from the ceiling. I keep 100% cotton, 80/20, and PolyDown, all which I buy from a Hobbs distributor. I sell it for around the same price as the quilt shops and JoAnn's. I tell my customers they are welcome to buy it from me or they can bring their own batting.
    5. Thread: I stock a lot of colors of Superior Threads because they run well in my machine. I also have some Gutterman Industrial thread, because they have more color selection, and it also runs good in my machine. Other threads I have tried tend to break. I don't charge extra for thread; it is part of the quilting price.
    6. I don't trim the quilt after quilting unless the customer asks me to. I don't do binding unless it's a special case where the customer is having something quilted that she didn't make, and she doesn't sew. I charge 10 per running inch and I do it all on the machine.
    7. If the quilt is not square, I either charge the customer to square it up or I give it back. I show them what's wrong, and if I think I can fix it, I let them decide if they want to pay me to do it.
    Thank you so much for answering all my questions.

  25. #75
    Super Member StitchinJoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olivia's Grammy
    This has been one of the best threads bc I have a LA and have been thinking about using it for profit. I have several questions I know some one here will be able to answer.
    Insurance - I am not sure if I understand the reason for this. If something happened wouldn't the person have to prove how much money she had in the quilt? What kind of insurance would you have?
    ---I have insurance for the machine, supplies, client quilts, and liability.


    Why would you have lots of quilts waiting to be quilting? I think I would prefer to never have more than 2 or 3 of other peoples quilts due to storage. Couldn't you call and say you are next, bring your quilt.
    ---Sometimes you finish sooner than expected and then you would be waiting for someone to bring the next quilt. I keep up to 20 client quilts in the workroom. They are kept neatly hanging, in order, in my workroom closet, each quilt and its backing on an extra large wardrobe hanger, with their work order attached telling me all the pertinent information.


    If you charge .01 psi, is that for simple meandering? If so do you charge more if you add curlyques or stars or hearts?
    ---My lowest price is for a large meander. I have only done that on 3 quilts and I've been in business for 5 years. Meandering is "out" in my area unless it is small background microstippling meanders around appliques. Most of my work is freehand or custom. I do own 60 pantographs but my clientele tend to like freehand better.


    How much do you charge for binding, machine different from hand?
    ---I don't bind, but I do job that out to a wonderful binding lady. She makes the binding, presses it double, attaches it by machine, and turns it by hand. her hand stitches are so tiny and even, you would need a microscope to see them. She basically appliques the binding to the quilt! She charges 25 cents per linear inch for this entire process, and she gets it. For a baby quilt, her binding charge is often equal to my quilting price. And clients pay it without blinking an eye.


    Do you use your favorite brand of batting or let the customer choose?
    ---If my client brings her own batting, I will use it. I stock 3 different kinds of batting (all cotton, 80/20 blend, and all wool) and I have samples showing the different feel and different looks that each of these battings achieves. My client decides what she likes best.


    Favorite thread?
    ---It depends on the quilt. I love Signature A&E cotton thread from NC. I also love Isacord and Aurifil thread. I do NOT use metallic thread. If someone wants a metallic look, I have rayon or poly threads that are very shiny in gold, silver, copper, bronze or hologram for them to choose from, and I have samples of these finished.


    Do you trim the quilt after finishing the quilting process?
    ---No.


    What if the quilt is not squared?
    ---We measure the quilt when the client is here, so we'll know whether it's square or not. If there is any problem like this or open seams, or ripply borders, we discuss what she wants done before she leaves, and then note it on the work order, along with my price for the repair or fix. No surpriises.


    Linda Taylor wrote a wonderful book on longarm quilting that gives samples of work orders, client lists, pricing, insurance information and designs. I recommend it to anyone seriously considering going into this business.

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