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Pros/Cons of starting a longarm quilting business/service

Pros/Cons of starting a longarm quilting business/service

Old 01-30-2020, 04:55 PM
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Default Pros/Cons of starting a longarm quilting business/service

I've been seriously looking into getting a longarm, primarly for my personal quilts (I currently FMQ on a domestic Janome and am tired of having to baste the quilt sandwich together).

As part of this, I've been attending some of the brands' roadshows/demos in the area. It seems they like to push the idea of starting a longarm business. Some tout the tax deduction (which personally I feel is quite inflated, since it depends on your tax bracket), others present the "time to payback" of the longarm paying for itself.

I do know from reading that homeowner's insurance won't cover a business longarm, so I'm aware of some of the insurance issues. What other bits of unbiased advice can folks who have started their own longarm service share? Is there really a demand for these services or is it overstated by the longarm companies (who say things like "whoa - if you don't want to quilt for others, get the machine delivered at night, don't tell anyone", etc.)? For those who have started such a business and stopped, how long did you do it for and why did you stop?

I'm not looking for brand recommendations - I already know what I want to buy. I'm just curious if it's worth looking into the business end of things as it's not something I've considered. I'm not a member of a guild (I tend not to be a "joiner") and have no real feel for how much demand there is in this area, either.


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Old 01-30-2020, 05:39 PM
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I would like a longarm for much the same reason. Basting a sandwich is a task I dislike but I just can’t justify the cost for personal use, the other factor is....the wear and tear on my not so young body. The bending and stretching to load, the wear and tear on my back and shoulders to operate etc. If you are in good physical shape then that shouldn’t be a concern for you.
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Old 01-30-2020, 05:42 PM
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I'm a person who pays to have my King size quilts longarmed. It's well worth the money to me
not to fight with such a large quilt, Since I don't have one I have no other advice for you.
I'm sure glad there are longarmers out there!
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Old 01-30-2020, 05:47 PM
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I've known several people who got into long-arming expecting to help pay off their machine cost that way, none of them are currently quilting on a professional basis -- although they do their work at a professional level!

The physical effort was more than some were prepared for, as well as the amount of skill needed. The stress for the perfectionists was very high when quilting for others. Are you able to look at something and "know" how it should be quilted, and are you able to follow directions/negotiate when your client wants something else? And, some just didn't like the business aspects, whether that's the bookkeeping or the perform on someone else's schedule. I can also tell you that you become very aware of a quilts imperfections when stretched on a frame. It is amazing how bad some tops can be...

I tried running an ad last year, I'll try again looking to rent time at someone's home setup. I'm willing to pay towards the use of the machine as well as supply all my own needles, thread, bobbins, etc. but not at shop rates, just can't afford it. But I know there are set-ups getting dusty out there! As far as having my tops quilted, Seattle is an expensive area and I don't think I can get what I want at a price I can afford. I can get pretty close to what I want doing it myself, but honestly I'm a piecer and not a quilter and thinking of the designs and the 3D aspects is not my strong point.

edit: I should say that if I charged someone else for me to quilt something, I know I would charge more than I am willing to pay. I believe the quilters here deserve what they charge and many deserve more. My final thought, I love humanity in the abstract and at arm's length through the internet. In person, however, the public -- especially the paying public -- are often not my favorite people!

Last edited by Iceblossom; 01-30-2020 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 01-30-2020, 05:56 PM
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I can't tell you much about the longarm business specifically, but my husband and I have owned and operated a business for the last 30+ years. The tax benefits are probably nil. It's extremely hard to deduct a portion of your home that you use for the business unless you never do anything in that area that isn't for the business, i.e. no personal use of the longarm or storage of any non business items.

You would need business insurance for the longarm and should have it because you're running a business.

There is also the whole "dealing with the public and their unrealistic expectations" part of things. Personally, I would not do well with that part.

The longarm companies tout the benefits of running a business to get you to put the enormous amount of money into the longarm to begin with. If people believe that they will make their money back, they are more apt to spluge for the machine. Given enough time, they probably will. But it takes time and work and often working on someone else's schedule especially at first as you will be trying to build a client base and thus going over the top to make people happy.

I guess you have to decide if you need to run a business to justify the cost of the equipment and supplies and how much you can to work. You'll also have to realize that you will not begin making money immediately. There will be a learning curve to using the machine and being not only proficient, but a master on it before you can take on clients. You'll also have to think about where these clients will come from since you aren't part of a guild. In other words, you'll have to market your service somehow and somewhere.
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Old 01-30-2020, 07:59 PM
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I have been long arming for not quite 2 years and think I just completed my 40th quilt. One of the first questions I was asked when guild members heard of my purchase was, "Are you going to quilt for others?" I said "no", I was doing this for myself. A good deal on a used machine from a reputable source was too good for me to pass up. I can meander on my plain Jane machine and have expanded out to pantographs. At this time my meandering skills are saleable, but my panto skills are not!

The responses listed have very valid points. I would like to add the question: is your time flexible enough to accommodate customer deadlines? Also, a great deal depends on what kind of machine you purchase (good for you for doing your homework). Will it be strictly FMQ/pantographs or have computer aided capabilities? There is a learning curve in setting up the computer programs as well. I work in a LQS that offers quilting services and I witnessed the time it took the operator (an experienced LA'er) to get the machine to do what she wanted.

Demand for quilting services depend on how many quilters are in your area and how many LA'ers there are...simply put supply and demand. At the LQS, right now turn around time is about a month. And in our rural community I know of 3 other independent for hire LA'ers in a 15 mile radius.

Best of luck in your decision with the purchase of your machine. You are asking the right questions.
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Old 01-31-2020, 02:23 AM
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At one time I considered getting into the business with my LA to “help pay for my stash“. Then I asked myself one question: Will turning this hobby that relaxes me into a job stress me out and make me hate it? I realized that deadlines and trying to make other people happy with my work would do just that. So would the work it would take to develop a client base considering - like you - I’m not a “joiner”, either. Unless you have computerized robotics it will take much longer to get a return on your investment. Custom quilting and hand-guided E2E takes much longer to do, therefore fewer quilts going out the door. So be sure it’s what you WANT to do, not what you NEED to do to buy it. If you have a high confidence level in your work and love dealing with the public (and the ups and downs of that aspect), go for it!

I’ve had a LA for several years and quilt only for myself or occasionally for family members. Yes, it was an expensive purchase, but one I do not regret for an instant. I have a blast with every quilt I load, and consider every single one a “practice” quilt. I have nobody to impress but me (and sometimes I do, lol!). Some people are cut out for the LA business and I applaud them. I’m not one of them and perfectly happy with that.

Last edited by cindi; 01-31-2020 at 02:29 AM.
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Old 01-31-2020, 04:59 AM
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I purchased a long arm almost a year ago and had no intention to quilt for others...I just quilted a small quilt for a dear friend of mine who was gifting it to her nephew for his wedding and it totally stressed me out. I can easily quilt my own projects and love doing it but I’ve decided that quilting for others is not in my future. LOL
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Old 01-31-2020, 05:15 AM
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I have had a longarm since 2003. Got it to make quilted fabric for tote bags. If it is the cost of the machine that is the problem, you can get your money back but not as fast as they say.. I looked at it another way. When my husband wants a tool or a boat he wouldn't think twice about it. So if you want it get it. My business is mostly word of mouth and I do belong to a guild which brings in some work. I only do pantographs because I'm not good at free hand
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Old 01-31-2020, 05:39 AM
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I also did FMQ on my Janome and got very tired of manipulating larger quilts, even though I had a large harp space. I toyed with the idea of a LA as well. I offered my garage to store a friend’s LA for several months (house fire). I was able to use her machine during that time. So excited! I realized that a LA was simply not for me for a number of reasons. It did not suit how I quilt...I do free hand, continuous line quilting and that isn’t easily done a machine. I cannot stand for a long time on hard surfaces either. It turned into the proverbial treadmill. Decided to purchase a sit down mid-arm machine which I have been absolutely thrilled with. I will occasionally do a quilt for someone else but find the unrealistic expectation (mine) makes it very stressful. For me, a LA business would take away the pleasure of actually quilting. Don’t want to deal with customer expectations, thread/batting inventory, billing and deadlines. I make a lot of quilts so the relatively low cost of a mid-arm was a perfect solution for me.
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