Anita's quilts and quilting

A professional longarm machine quilter for hire and some of the work I've done.

Machine quilting competition?

I once heard a new quilting machine owner remark that she wanted to be the only machine quilter in this area. All I could ask was “why on earth would you want that”? Her reply was “so I wouldn’t have to worry about any competition”. I understand her thinking but I don’t agree with it.

I never have nor will I ever worry about competition. Every time I approach a new machine quilter in this area they seem reluctant to talk with me. Almost as if they fear I may resent a new machine quilter. Heaven forbid I should ever feel that way! I always tell them…..we are not in competition unless we enter the same contest in the same category.

You want to know why I feel this way? Ok, I’ll explain. Think about the life of a topper. In case you don’t know what a topper is…It’s a person who only creates the top of a quilt then hands it off to another person to quilt it. Would you ever hear a topper say they wanted to be the only one? Possibly, but highly unlikely. Toppers do all they can to be together and help each other. They form guilds, they go on shop hops together, they visit quilt shows together, they have retreats together, they share patterns, they share techniques, they encourage each other….the list goes on and on.
The life of a machine quilter is a lonely one. Not always; but, for the most part. It’s not like we can pick up our quilting machine and take it on retreat. Its not like there is a shop hop of stores selling patterns and tools for our machines. Our guilds are mostly online as we join web rings.

So let’s think about how toppers do things so we can understand their point of view first. Toppers are always on the lookout for new tips and techniques that will help them create tops faster than ever before. There are newer and better ways to create tops put on the market every single day. The magazines are full of fast designing, fast cutting, fast piecing, ideas with every new issue.

The internet is loaded with places where toppers can find new fast ways to create. New tools, new patterns, new techniques are found absolutely everywhere on the internet. Toppers buy yards and yards of fabric for their stash which suddenly overwhelms them. That’s when they join groups like stash busters to learn how to create tops in lighting speed to bring down the stash.

Then there are the quilt shop classes. Obviously there are new people learning to make quilts all the time…right? If not why are the beginner classes filled enough to keep having them? The new toppers then become the newest ones to start searching for easy fast patterns to create tops. Somebody has to quilt all those tops.

Now think about all those toppers from the point of view of the machine quilter. Let’s say you bought your machine, practiced, and opened for business. You got…oh say…20 toppers as your first customers. They each brought you one top a month. Very do able right?

Ok, say those 20 toppers found easier and faster ways to create tops. They are piecing one top a week instead of one a month to bring to you. Suddenly you have 80 tops being brought to you each month. If you normally quilt one full top per day, every day, that’s 2 1/2 months of work brought in one single month. But this multiplies each month. So your waiting list is really, really full.

But wait…suppose those 20 each told one friend how great your quilting was so that those friends decided to also bring you their 4 quilts created per month. Do the math….40 toppers creating 160 tops multiplied by the months that go by….gee that’s a lot of tops! Now your waiting list is several months long without a day off.

No you can’t work that way. You need to buy groceries. You need to make quilts for your family. Your kids and spouse need some of your time too. You want to go to a quilt show. You want to visit a quilt shop or teach a class. Ok, put some days on your calendar for these things. Well now, your waiting list has grown really long hasn’t it?

Hmm…with all those tops being created your waiting list is probably booked up through the Christmas rush season. The time when toppers rush to finish up a quick last minute quilt to give as a present. They call to get onto your waiting list. But wait….you have been getting calls through the year from new customers. Friends of the friends who originally booked quilts with you. Your waiting list has become full right up to a week before Christmas. You want that week for being with family.

Now imagine you are booked solid until Christmas and a customer calls with a last minute quilt for someone just diagnosed with a major illness. Maybe its a special customer of yours that you really don’t want to disappoint. Ok, you could possibly work an extra one in by working extra hours or delaying your time off by one day. Still do able.

What if you got 10 or 15 of those last minute calls? Trust me….the person calling only knows about their own quilt request. They can’t read your mind to know you have already gotten several calls from other people. You must explain the situation. You must say no you can’t take another one. You hear the disappointment in their voice. The one I remember most is….But I don’t want anyone to quilt it but you. That really tugged at my heart. I still had to say no because I simply couldn’t take another one. I was even booked for Thanksgiving and Christmas days that year. She has never been back either.

What is a machine quilter to do? Especially if she were the ONLY machine quilter? There are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a year. Just because there are 24 hours in a day doesn’t mean you can work 24/7. You have to have some time off for sleeping and eating and bathing and such.

Wouldn’t it be nicer if you could refer the special request customers to some other machine quilter who may possibly work another into the waiting list? Maybe its a new machine quilter who really could use some customers. Sure, you may loose that customer to the other machine quilter….BUT…you will have kept your goodwill. You may possibly have helped both the customer and another machine quilter. There will be other customers to take their place on your waiting list.

No, you will never ever hear me say I want to be the only machine quilter in this area….


One comment on “Machine quilting competition?

  1. Sølvi's blog
    December 13, 2007

    As if I could have said it myself. Keep up the good work.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on November 21, 2007 by in Quilting - business or hobby?.

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