A professional longarm machine quilter for hire and some of the work I've done.
The last photo of where I used to live. Oh heavens what have I done? Was it a mistake to move? Nope, nada, uh uh, I can’t continue second guessing my decision to move. I do miss the house but not the neighborhood.
I had to gather a lot of courage to give up the home I had lived in for many years. I could have lived the rest of my life rent free but now I’ve started with a whole new mortgage to live out my golden years.
Why did I move from the old neighborhood? Well, the crime rate was, and still is, extremely high there. Just last weekend there were five people shot not far from where I had lived. I knew it was time to leave when stray bullets kept hitting my house and when 10 year old kids began robbing elderly people at the bus stops. Yes, I know crime does happen everywhere these days but some areas have more concentrated amounts of crime. In some areas the innocent by-stander is more likely to get killed than they would in other areas.
My quilting business had become very outdated and many customers were afraid to come to my house. I had no one with whom I could discuss possibilities or changes. Each time I tried talking about the problems of my business with a customer they would take my complaints personally. Talking to other local professional quilters gave me an uncomfortable feeling they were suspicious of my motives.
Talking to family, friends, or neighbors was not good either. I won’t go into all the details but I will say I had decided if I couldn’t be the one spending my own money then I simply would not earn any money. For a long time I was caught in the middle of those who didn’t want to pay me a decent wage and those constant borrowers who believed they needed my money more than I did. Let me put it this way, I was tired of working 60 to 80 hours a week and having to go to food banks to survive.
Most of the time I earned in the range of $1.50 to $3 an hour for the quilting work I did. Would you want to work for those wages? I blame myself mostly because I failed to value myself or my talent as a quilter. Each time a potential new customer told me my prices were too high it was like a stab to my heart. It was a form of rejection and nobody likes rejection. It was like telling me I didn’t deserve more. I accepted a lower amount because at that time I felt earning some money was better than having no money.
I was often asked to work free or give a big discount if a quilt was for charity. As if my prices were not low enough already; they now wanted to pay me even less so they could feel good about themselves giving to their favorite charity. NO, I can’t work free. Ask me again after you show me the fabric store donated all that expensive fabric, the utility company donated the electricity to run your sewing machine, that the machine you used was donated by the manufacturer, that you have spent at least 100 hours to put it all together, AND that the charity is one of my favorites so I can be the one who gets the tax deduction.
I was constantly doing all the little extra’s like ironing, mending, binding, piecing the batting, etc for free. It always began with the question, “Would you please do me a favor?” and ended with me doing the things they dreaded doing themselves. Now what good friend refuses to do a favor? The little extras were always time consuming and dramatically brought down the amount I earned per hour. I failed to realize there is a big difference between being a friend and being a business owner trying to earn a living.
Neighbors, friends, and family didn’t respect my quilting business as a legitimate job with actual working hours. One person even suggested I stop playing with my hobby and get a real job. Geeze! Apparently everyone believed because I work at home its somehow not a real business? They believed it was ok to interrupt me whenever they wanted to visit for awhile or ask me for a favor. Again with the favors? Just how many factory or office jobs allow constant personal interruptions like that?
I frequently heard this statement from people: “Anita, I know you quilt but I only bother you one day a week.” That one day was all day. Well more times than I can count there were seven people bothering me one day a week. That was seven days of not getting the quilting work finished. Seven days of lost quilting time that can’t be gotten back. When time is lost its gone forever. Even when the interruptions were for a short time it was very difficult to get back into the rhythm of quilting. Now add to that my own necessary interruptions of doctor appointments, dental appointments, the weekly food bank visits, the canning to be done, sick days, baby sitting, shopping trips, and other stuff during the week.
With all those “only one day a week” and those necessary interruptions just when was I supposed to be earning a living? It was lots and lots of very late nights and very early morning quilting while everyone else was fast asleep of course.
There were many other stressful things to deal with too but I won’t go into all the details. I was becoming more burned out everyday. The extreme stress from all directions was slowly killing me. I was getting very little sleep, not eating well, neglecting my health, sick all the time, earning low wages, and beginning to hate that darned quilting machine. When a doctor told me to either change my ways or write out my will I decided it was time for drastic changes. So I moved.
I was lucky to get a house on a quiet street. So far there is no stress and no drama in the neighborhood. Just one bullying neighbor in the beginning but that was easy to handle. There are no gunshots. No ten year old robbers. No tar babies asking for money. No stray bullets through windows. No neighbors wanting to chat or ask for favors. All the drama is only a few blocks away but for me it feels like miles.
I’ve been thinking about the next step for me. What should I do? What do I really want to do? Should I go back to quilting for others? Should I create art and enjoy my retirement? Maybe I should just not do anything at all but enjoy life. I finally stopped thinking and worrying about any of that as I concentrated on my health. Before my move I had done a lot to improve but things were still not going well enough. Now that I have moved I’m making better progress.
You’re gonna think I’m crazy but I did love the machine quilting work in spite of the stress. Every quilt brought to me was like a blank canvas onto which I could draw designs with needle and thread to create a bit of art. Sometimes my quilting helped a customer win ribbons which made me proud.
The quilts with issues were my favorite ones. That would be the beginner quilts with all the issues. The inherited quilts found wadded up in the back of a closet. The D cup and the friendly border quilts too. Oh, I can’t forget about all those “how did you manage to do that” quilts either. There was something special about issue quilts that begged to be finished and loved. They challenged my creative side and I really enjoyed working on them. I don’t claim to be a world famous quilter but I put my heart into every quilt that went onto my machine.
I’m feeling as if I want to get back to work but my health must come first. I still have some health issues to fix before I can hang out my business sign again. Whatever I decide to do, whether it be art or quilting for others, I’m still trying to convince my brain that I’m never going to make everybody happy and that I do deserve to earn a decent wage for my time and talent.