Anita's quilts and quilting

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

Starting over

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.

New house 2016 152

My previous house 2016

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.

New house 2016 005

My new house 2016

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.

Moving 2016 017

My quilting business had become very outdated and many customers were afraid to come to my house.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.

Quilts and quilting 2014 002

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.

Quilts - Bobby 2016 004

Piecing a batting for free for a customer as a favor

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.

New house 2016 116

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.

Neda's quilt 002

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.

New house 2016 168

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.

17 comments on “Starting over

  1. Shirley
    November 18, 2016

    Hi Anita!

    I just wanted to say that I love your blogs. I found this one through a link on NaNa Pinches Her Pennies when I was searching to see if it was possible to can mandarin oranges! 🙂 Thank you for that information! I feel that hard times are just beginning so it’s nice to see someone who has actually lived through tougher times, giving tips and advice. I find it hard to take seriously, kids who have suddenly decided to “go green” and live “off the grid” when they give their advice. I grew up on a farm in the late 60’s through the early 80’s (I turned 53 this year) and we didn’t have a lot of money but my mom could make it stretch so I’ve always been frugal. What you have to say is good to hear because it’s in large part how I was raised. It’s familiar and comforting. I’m happy to have found you and your wisdom–it’s like having my own grandmothers back again! 🙂

    I was sad but not surprised to read that your work is undervalued. I think that’s typical of the “arts & crafts” industry. It’s looked upon as “just” a hobby. I work harder at my business than I ever did working for someone else! I love it though…it’s MINE…no one can tell me how to run things. I take great pride in the work I do and every cent I make belongs to me…I’m not making some big corporation bigger and richer and I like knowing that. Your blogs are new to me and I haven’t read much yet so maybe this has been suggested already but have you ever looked into selling your art on Etsy? It’s not the same handmade marketplace it once was but I still like it there. I feel their fees are reasonable and the traffic is built in. It’s best to do some marketing of your own of course but I’m sure you get what I’m saying. If you haven’t already, you might check into it.

    Thank you again for being here and sharing what you do!

    • Anita
      November 19, 2016

      Hi Shirley, glad to have you following. Please comment anytime, I love getting ideas from readers. I looked at your patterns. How cute! My first reaction at seeing them is that maybe I could make some for the “Christmas toys for tots” toy drive. I’ll see if I can source felt locally first. The fabric stores in my area have all closed. The nearest one is on the other side of the county.

      I would think it would be hard to sell a service through etsy? I looked at some finished quilts being sold at ridiculously low prices. I can’t afford to make quilts at those low prices. But, I’ll do some more research on it though.

  2. debmoyes
    November 2, 2016

    I am glad to hear that you moved! The old neighborhood sounded very scary to me and I felt badly for you that people were begging for food and money. It sounds like you are going through a very difficult time. Moving is exhausting and I am always so grateful for my husband who is such a help.
    What about trying both of your ventures for a bit? Save maybe two days a week for your own creative pursuits and then do machine quilting work the other days? Sometimes going all for nothing can create a lot of stress too. Looking forward to “your” days while you work might make the time go faster. And I imagine that some of the machine quilting time could be good right brain dreaming time.
    I’m glad to catch up with your news! I lost you there for awhile.

    • Anita
      November 6, 2016

      Yes, it was getting really scary and continues to get worse. I really miss my old house but not the neighborhood. Sometimes we just have to let go and move on. You are right, maybe I should do both. I’ve been thinking along the same lines. No customer has called me since my move so I’m working on my UFOs to stay in practice. There is a lot of competition in this area. I’ve been thinking about doing some rug making again too. I like doing that almost as much as quilting.

  3. Dora Scheer
    October 28, 2016

    I do understand. Even the prayer quilts other members of my group seem to come with the expectation that I’ll piece battings and backings, sew on labels, etc. Last spring I took some to one of our meetings and said, “Before I can quilt these, I need you to ….” I’ve also told them I don’t iron tops or backings.
    I’m looking forward to quilting for others once I retire, but I’m already practicing saying, “It is not my responsibility to finance your hobby.” We’ll see hw that goes over.

    Congratulations on your new home!

    • Anita
      November 6, 2016

      Of all the quilt (or craft) related tasks, saying no is the most difficult. We are very kind hearted people which makes saying now hard to do. Thanks, I’m learning to like my new place little by little.

  4. Espirational
    October 28, 2016

    I can relate. We live in such a mass produced society I think the value of work done by an individual and not mass produced gets lost. Years ago though when I had a retail gallery I found that when I doubled my prices I also doubled my sales. Sometimes I think people equate low prices with low quality when that is not the case. The biggest thing I struggle with that no one else understands is that I while I work with fabric and thread I am not a traditional quilter — not even close. I make all original art pieces. I can’t even count the number of time someone has looked at my work and said “Well I prefer traditional (or sometimes ‘real’) quilts.”

    I think everyone who does creative work at some time feels like they or their work are not being valued. Maybe we need a “support group.”


    • Anita
      November 6, 2016

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. I know you are one busy lady. Yes, a support group helps. I’ve belonged to a couple of local artists groups in the past. I felt intimidated and dropped out. I have subscribed to a couple of online art groups for when I have time to read. I’ve decided my prices are my prices. People are free to shop around because that’s how things work. If they see my prices and my work and choose to hire me (or not) its their choice. I visited your art gallery. Nice work. I like looking at the art of other artists almost as much as creating it. (smile) I’ve decided to do some form of art at least once a week just because. Finding a way to actually sell it is another matter entirely. Right now I haven’t a clue how to go about selling art or bed quilts either one.

  5. Linda in NE
    October 26, 2016

    And here I thought it was just my area, my town, my fellow quilters who want everything done on the cheap! I mostly charge a penny per square inch for e-to-e quilting. I know that’s lower than most machine quilters charge, but yet my fellow quilt group members, my friends, told me to my face that I charged too much. I just sweetly told them that if it was too much for them they were certainly welcome to take their quilts to someone else. Loved the look of shock on their faces. A couple actually brought me quilts (after they called around, I suspect). I’ve had two or three quilters who never batted an eye at what I charged…..but I knew they had used other quilters in the past so they knew my prices are more than reasonable. Actually I’ve never turned it into a business, only quilt for a very few people. That way I can enjoy it and it never turns into “work”. Enjoy your new home, take care of your health, enjoy your own quilting and quilt for a select few only if you really want to…and make it worth your while.

    • Anita
      October 27, 2016

      A penny psi is not uncommon for e2e designs around here either. What you earn per hour depends on how fast you can complete those designs. What really bothers me is expecting ribbon winning quality work at the cost of e2e or the expectations that all the extra stuff should be free. I can’t quite put my finger on what the problem is but I suspect its the lack of respect for what I do. Yes, I’ll probably do the same and quilt for only a few giving myself time for personal stuff. BTW congratulations on your retirement.

  6. Kathleen Frye
    October 26, 2016

    You are awesome! Love reading about your trials and triumphs.
    And Lady Bug?

    • Anita
      October 27, 2016

      Thanks Kathleen. I’ll do better about posting as soon as I decide about my future.

  7. Darlene
    October 25, 2016

    Take care of yourself first. Then decide if you want to quilt or just do whatever you want. Charge a decent wage for whatever you do. Your quilts are beautiful so don’t sell yourself short. Besides that you have a machine that needs to be paid for. If people don’t want to pay your price they can go somewhere else and will most likely have to pay more. And also don’t let them make you feel guilty for the work you do and prices you charge.

    • Anita
      October 26, 2016

      Thanks Darlene, words of encouragement are always good to hear (or read). I don’t have to be in any hurry to do anything. I believe I’ll simply work on some things for myself to give as holiday gifts and see how I feel about everything after the holidays. I think I’m over feeling guilty but time will tell.

  8. kathi
    October 25, 2016

    Dear Anita, you are singing MY song as well. Or what once was my song. Do what YOU LOVE to do. Work on YOUR art quilts for starters. I have more or less “retired” from quilting for others because of Darlings condition. They all have managed to find other quilters. They also pay those other quilters a great deal more than they paid me. HMM? Yes, they also still call every so often to see if I am back in business. I feel confident some really appreciated my quilting, but I think many just miss my lower prices. If you do decide to quilt for others once again, new pricing needs to be AT LEAST DOUBLE what it had been. and Yes, you need to set YOUR hours and stick to it. Family and friends never seem to understand This is YOUR BUSINESS. Hmm. Seems to me many years ago a very wise quilting friend told me I needed to learn to say NO. Purse your lips like you are going to give a smooch, and draw it out. NOOoooo. If i remember correctly. That wise woman was YOU. You know what to do. Just do it.

    • Anita
      October 26, 2016

      Thanks Kathi I knew you’d understand. Hee Hee, I did say the word NO required a nice lip pucker didn’t I? In all the time I’ve been away from quilting for others only a couple of people have called just to say hello and ask how I am. One person actually came by for a short visit yesterday. That made me feel good. We had a nice chat.

      If the customers were such “good friends” of mine back then why are they not friends now? No doubt some really did appreciate my quilting but like you said, I think it really was the low prices and all the free work. There is also the store manager factor. What’s that? Well a person doesn’t have to be friends with a store owner or manager to appreciate the stuff being sold. I shop at a dollar store but I have no idea who the manager is. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway because I’m shopping by prices not quality. I need to keep this in mind as I make decisions about the future.

      Give Darling a big hug for me.

      • kathi
        October 27, 2016

        Thanks Anita. Hug given. and yes, I do have ONE former customer that does call just to check on us. A couple call, and say just seeing how we are, but i get that feeling it’s only to see if i’m quilting again. If/when I ever go back to quilting for others. only THAT one will be amung my customer list.

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