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

  1. #1
    Junior Member acesgame's Avatar
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    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

  2. #2
    bj
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    Super Member bj's Avatar
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    I'm not a longarmer, but you might could check with your LQS or JoAnn's to see how many inquiries they get about longarm services in your area and how many longarmers are already in business there. I found the friend who does my quilts through my guild, but I'd gotten a couple of cards from the LQS. The lady at JoAnn's told me they keep a file of folks who drop off cards there as well.

  3. #3
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    I am having a hard time getting a start in this business even though I was told that all the shops have a 6 month - 1 year wait list. The competition is fierce and my experience so far is that those that have lots of customers are very reluctant to refer anyone to another quilter for fear of losing the business.

    I am in a small guild and there are three Long Arm Quilters already, before me. I asked for some feedback on one of my quilts and not one of them would offer any..

    Also, more people are quilting on their domestic machines than ever before. And the home quilting setups are very popular right now also.

    I am not trying to discourage you, but you need to be realistic. It will take a while to build up enough clients to keep you busy. However, I believe that once you get the clients, you will be turning away work too.

  4. #4
    Super Member amandasgramma's Avatar
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    And yet, I have a friend that does ONLY the easy meandering designs and he is so busy he can't see straight!!!

  5. #5
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    If you only charge.015cents a sq. in. for ameander you will have more bussiness than you can handle. But you can work yourself to death. You need to charge a substantial amount to pay you for set-up[ it takes approx. 30 to 45 min. to set up a queen size quilt.] Also you have your patterns you've bought. I checked prices on the internet and just came up with prices that I thought people in my area would pay. So far I have my customers coming back. If I have heavy custom quilting I charge from 3 to 5 cents a sq. in. Loose to tight meandering .02 to .028cents. STD is custom work. You need to charge for your work because those large quilts wear you out on a home machine. Most people don't want to give out their prices but you have to start somewhere. There are thousands of quilters and piecers. Not everyone wants to quilt

  6. #6
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    Honestly, I don't think anyone should go into debt speculatively, unless they can afford the payments without getting any work. You seriously need to do the market research for the are before going into business. Realistically, how do you know you'll get good enough at it to get enough customers to make the payments? How stiff is the competition. There times are economically challenging for everyone, and honestly quilting is a hobby. I'm certain the number of people able to afford long-arm services has declined as the economy has tumbled. It's probably best to save up the money for the machine without going into debt.
    I bought a crown jewel for my own personal use but I can see it's not going to be nearly as quick or as easy to become accomplished as I had thought. Some take to it much faster than others, but there is a LONG learning curve before you will be qualified to take in quilts for others.

  7. #7
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Stacey, I think most people would only be able to afford an all over pattern. Anything fancier, and the cost would be too high for those just wanting a few tops done.

    But as others have said, do your research so your heart isn't broken. For example, when I buy a long arm it will be for me. If I get a few customers down the road, great. But, I'm not going to purposefully get into a "business". Then it's not a hobby, but work. I don't want to ruin quilting for me and get burned out.

  8. #8
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    Working from home and doing something you love AND getting paid for it--that's a dream come true. But there is a reality to it. DH lost his job 2 yrs ago and started a consulting business from home. Thank God the work is there. But-there's always a but--you have to be prepared for down times. He may work on a job for 6 months and not get paid until the end of the project. Can you do this? The regular bills come in on schedule but the paychecks don't. It really takes discipline and financial planning. If this isn't going to be your only source of income and you can still pay what bills you must on time. then go for it. Don't count on future, steady, continuous income. We don't--it's more like feast or famine: too much work for a few months, now none. Don't forget, after the Christmas rush of people getting their quilts done, there will be a drop off of business. Can you survive that?

    I really hope if this is something you want to do that you do it!! Just thought I'd point out some pitfalls of a home-based, owner-operated business. There's lots to think about. Good luck!!

  9. #9
    Super Member luvTooQuilt's Avatar
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    Everything said here sounds so very true.. I would like a Long arm but for my own personal use. So until then I take them to be quilted but there are soooo many quilters out here that one can be very picky.. their work is awesome and their prices are super cheap as they are struggling to find business.

  10. #10
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Stacey, I think most people would only be able to afford an all over pattern. Anything fancier, and the cost would be too high for those just wanting a few tops done.
    (snippage happened)
    One of the busiest longarmers I know does not do any all over patterns at all. She says they're ugly and boring. She's not cheap but she's always booked for a solid year out.

    I think claiming "most people" for anything is generalizing.

    If you're good enough the business will be there. It takes major practice and it takes going to classes and learning new techniques once in a while to get good enough to charge more.

  11. #11
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I am very cautious when a person decides to get a LA machine to make money quilting. Most won't travel or take time to go to classes. The few in my area that does quilting for pay seems to be practicing on customer's quilts. One lady bought a LA over a year ago and she says she's not ready for customers yet, she is still learning, going to classes and her work is looking great. She is one I will take a quilt to when she thinks she's good enough. The charge in my area is about $65 for a double bed size quilt using an all over design, mostly the big loops or swirls. I wouldn't buy an expensive LA machine that you had to start making money using it to pay for it. All it takes is one unhappy customer and your business may never build up.

  12. #12
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BellaBoo
    I am very cautious when a person decides to get a LA machine to make money quilting. Most won't travel or take time to go to classes. The few in my area that does quilting for pay seems to be practicing on customer's quilts. One lady bought a LA over a year ago and she says she's not ready for customers yet, she is still learning, going to classes and her work is looking great. She is one I will take a quilt to when she thinks she's good enough. The charge in my area is about $65 for a double bed size quilt using an all over design, mostly the big loops or swirls. I wouldn't buy an expensive LA machine that you had to start making money using it to pay for it. All it takes is one unhappy customer and your business may never build up.
    Yup. All it would take is one customer's show and tell at a guild meeting with crappy quilting and your business is done.

  13. #13
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    i really feel for those who go into debt thinking they would be making money hand over fist as soon as they get their machine set up, one friend of mine was so optimistic that she even had about 20 quilts from (customers) setting there waiting for her when her first machine arrived...3 weeks later when she had not managed to quilt a whole quilt successfully without puckers, stitch issues, wonky sides...she was so frustrated! she expected way too much and really thought she had been sewing for years, this should be easy.no one could tell her it wasn't going to be a simple put an add at the lqs and be in business..quilting on a long arm is different than any other sewing you do, you move the machine around while the fabric stays stationary,, that in itself takes a little getting used to. it takes practice, practice practice. and after you have quilted a dozen or so of your own (after lots of practice quilts) you might feel relaxed enough to work on someone elses quilt. it takes time to build it into a business. and remember, the busier you are quilting for everyone else the less time you will have to ever make a quilt yourself. if you love the designing, piecing of quilts you will miss it later...you can very easily become a slave to your machine.and never make another quilt. also around here at least there is definite quilting busy season...i tend to be swamped from about mid-september/october through about february then business drops off, and if i get 6 quilts in between march and september it is pretty amazing...so that's when i get to get my own done :) but if i were depending on this for my income i would be in big trouble, there is not enough to pay the bills during the off season. and i do not accept work if i am behind. i try very hard to stick to a 2 week turn around. once in awhile life happens and i get behind, but i just wont accept any more until i catch up, and if i'm behind i do refer people to other quilters i know if they want to get it done before i can accept it. i believe we should be a very helpful group. just like at the lqs, if they don't have what i need, they tell me where to go to find it.

  14. #14
    Super Member amandasgramma's Avatar
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    Yip -- all of the above. I've said that quilting on a longarm has the biggest learning curve I've ever dealt with. I'm on my 2 quilt on this longarm (5 on a mid-arm - same principal, different and better machine) and I still don't feel I'm qualified to hire my work out.

  15. #15
    Super Member Lori S's Avatar
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    I would do a bit of homework first . Call the longarm people in your area and find out how much of a back log they have. If they are all more than 3 months than ... your area could support another. Check out how much they are charging for services. Do the math .. how long will it take to pay for the machine .. how many quilts will it take to just break even?
    Find out how close is the mechanical support you may need for your machine. Do you have dedicated space that can remain dedicated for at least 5 years.
    Try to think about where will your customers come from , do they all have longarm professionals they are happy with? it is unlikely that once a good relationship is established they will switch. How will you break into your market? What will it take and what are the time and costs associated?
    Can you handle the payments before it becomes a business? Like regular peice work long arm work takes skill and practice. One LA pro I know did over 80 quilts for charity before she felt she had the skills to truley go professional.
    I guess it also comes down to is this going to be a dedicated business or a hobby that you sometimes make money. Manage your expectations first, by putting some numbers to paper.
    I hate to say it but ... what is an exit strategy? In other words what if come to find out you do not like it .. ( for what ever reason) will you be stuck doing something you would rather not because of a payment on a machine. Find out what you would be able to sell the machine and how long it would take to sell. Ask the dealers for the machines if they have used machines and how long they have had that particular model ( and why it got turned in). I know a few LA pros that after a few years just burned out ... and only do a few quilts for close friends.
    All that being said... Good luck , keep us posted

  16. #16
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Stacey, I think most people would only be able to afford an all over pattern. Anything fancier, and the cost would be too high for those just wanting a few tops done.
    (snippage happened)
    One of the busiest longarmers I know does not do any all over patterns at all. She says they're ugly and boring. She's not cheap but she's always booked for a solid year out.

    I think claiming "most people" for anything is generalizing.

    If you're good enough the business will be there. It takes major practice and it takes going to classes and learning new techniques once in a while to get good enough to charge more.
    Of course I'm generalizing!

  17. #17
    Super Member Olivia's Grammy's Avatar
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    I've been thinking about doing LAQ for the public. I've had a LM for about 6 years. I still wonder if I'm good enough to charge. I only do the meandering, but there are lots of varitions of mearndering. DH does not want me to feel that I have to do my craft for profit. I do rent my LAQ for my students to use to finish their quilts. My sewing classes are starting to pick up so I'm not sure if I would have time to do both. I still want time to sew, sew, sew for us. Staying off this board would help with the time. :lol: :lol: :lol:

  18. #18
    Super Member hobo2000's Avatar
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    I have a great LAer in AR. King sized $90.00 incls batting. I send all of my kings and some queens to her as they are too hard on a HQ or Tinlizzie. She is usually sinking in quilts or none and working on her own quilts. So it is not steady business. From Sept 1 to Dec.23 she is inundated. Come Jan, Feb & March nothing. You have to make it when you least want to, in order to tide yourself over the empty months. She quilts round the clock thru Thanksgiving holiday to stay ahead. Few are willing to do that.

  19. #19
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Stacey, I think most people would only be able to afford an all over pattern. Anything fancier, and the cost would be too high for those just wanting a few tops done.
    (snippage happened)
    One of the busiest longarmers I know does not do any all over patterns at all. She says they're ugly and boring. She's not cheap but she's always booked for a solid year out.

    I think claiming "most people" for anything is generalizing.

    If you're good enough the business will be there. It takes major practice and it takes going to classes and learning new techniques once in a while to get good enough to charge more.
    Of course I'm generalizing!
    The trouble with generalizing is it's usually wrong for as many people as it's right for.

    "Survey says" the quilt survey said the "average" quilter is affluent. Which means they can afford to have their quilts quilted and pay for "fancy" quilting.

    So, saying "most people would only be able to afford an all over pattern." the operative word being "most" is probably wrong. If you said "some" instead of "most" you'd be correct. And of course some people can't afford longarm quilting at all.

    It's going to depend a whole lot on the area you're in. Does the area have a large guild? Does it have a strong quilting tradition? Is it a poverty stricken area?

    Those are just the beginning of the questions you need to ask yourself to start a longarm buisness.

  20. #20
    Super Member quilttiludrop's Avatar
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    I have had my long arm machine for almost a year now. I waited 6 months before soliciting paying customers. I do mostly pantographs and an occassional custom quilt (outlining, patterns and/or meandering).

    I started with some women I met through my church group. Every social group I belong to has potential customers in it.

    Yes, there are a lot of quilters in my area and several longarmers. Most women who can will finish their own quilts, but there are those who either are not able to finish their own quilts or don't want to. I'm sure economics plays a part in whether or not quilters want to hire a LAQ.

    Bottom line: Don't go into debt expecting to pay for the equipment with machine quilting business. If you can relax and enjoy the time it takes to build a business and establish customers, you are better off. It does take time!

  21. #21
    Senior Member pinecone's Avatar
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    Don't forget about business insurance too.

    piney

  22. #22
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Stacey, I think most people would only be able to afford an all over pattern. Anything fancier, and the cost would be too high for those just wanting a few tops done.
    (snippage happened)
    One of the busiest longarmers I know does not do any all over patterns at all. She says they're ugly and boring. She's not cheap but she's always booked for a solid year out.

    I think claiming "most people" for anything is generalizing.

    If you're good enough the business will be there. It takes major practice and it takes going to classes and learning new techniques once in a while to get good enough to charge more.
    Of course I'm generalizing!
    The trouble with generalizing is it's usually wrong for as many people as it's right for.

    "Survey says" the quilt survey said the "average" quilter is affluent. Which means they can afford to have their quilts quilted and pay for "fancy" quilting.

    So, saying "most people would only be able to afford an all over pattern." the operative word being "most" is probably wrong. If you said "some" instead of "most" you'd be correct. And of course some people can't afford longarm quilting at all.

    It's going to depend a whole lot on the area you're in. Does the area have a large guild? Does it have a strong quilting tradition? Is it a poverty stricken area?

    Those are just the beginning of the questions you need to ask yourself to start a longarm buisness.
    I guess I'm not in the habit of "nit picking" every word someone writes on a forum. Sheesh.

  23. #23
    Super Member KathyAire's Avatar
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    I have a longarm but I don't do customers quilts. I'm not that good. I never intended to have a business. Of course, I bought my longarm used and wanted it just for my own pleasure. I have had lots of pleasure from it. Now, I'm just one step away from purchasing a new machine for a lot more money. I would never buy a longarm with the idea that it would pay for itself. I think that is too risky. If you buy one, buy it first for yourself and then if you get customers, that would be a bonus that you are not expecting. Don't go into it thinking that you will make money. You may be very disappointed.

  24. #24
    Super Member StitchinJoy'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
    Hi Stacey-
    I've been quilting for over 40 years and longarm quilting for 5 years. I did research for 6 months before purchasing my machine. My research included surveys of local quilt shops, local quiltmakers and guilds, and local longarm quilters. I asked a million questions.

    The most importance answers I got came from local longarmers who would be considered "competition"--about the market, what clients are looking for, their turnaround time, startup costs, maintenance and expenses, loans and insurance and accounting and taxes.

    Most longarm quilters quilt for the public for about 2 years before making back their initial investment of approximately $20,000 for their machine, books, pantos, and thread. Don't just look at the price per square inch. that is very deceptive and can look like you're going to get rich quick.

    Remember you will have a higher electric bill and increase in your insurance also. And please remember that you pay back approximately 1/3 of your profit in taxes. Mine here in PA are 28% Federal, 3% state and 1% local. When I factor in electricity and insurance, I figure that I actually clear about half of what I charge for my quilting services.

    Information varies regionally quite a bit, be it prices or preferred quilting services. Try to talk to some local guild members, shop owners and longarmers to get an idea of market conditions, design preferences, and the economic outlook for your area.

    Best of luck to you in your efforts.

  25. #25

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    You may want to buy a used LA. Many quilters are buying the newer, bigger machines and it is better for them to sell than to trade in. You may have enough money saved to buy a used machine now! I bought a used HQ 16 and have loved it. I really wanted it, even dreamed quilting on it before I bought it. The learning curve was much longer than I had anticipated, but I loved it so much I kept at it and am now confident to quilt for others. The look on the clients faces when they see their completed quilt is so rewarding and fun and the money helps pay for my quilting addiction.

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