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Archive for the ‘Longarm Quilting’ Category

Book Review: Longing for a Longarm?

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Longing for a Longarm: Should You Purchase a Longarm Machine?
Sue Allen Clayton
Manorville Press; $4.99 (Kindle)

I work with professional quilters, including many longarmers, as well as a lot of people who would like to have a successful quilt business. In this book, Sue takes a light-hearted and realistic look at owning a longarm, whether that is to start your business or to quilt your own quilts. From her own personal experiences, Sue shares the pleasures and pitfalls of owning a longarm. You will learn about physical and space requirements, the tools of the trade, and money matters – what your longarm costs and how much you will make. A plus is the good introduction to the emotional challenges that go along with running a longarm quilting business. Sue also shares her personal resource list. This should be your first read if you are serious about buying a longarm.

Look for the book at your local quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

What’s in a Name? Quilter? Artist? Professional?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

I’ve been talking with some of my private coaching clients and IAPQ members lately about how they think of themselves professionally. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” do you call yourself a professional quilter, a quilt artist, a quilting professional, an artist who works in fiber, or something else? Do you even call yourself a professional?

This conversation began when I was talking with a potential client and she thought that professional quilter meant someone who quilted on a longarm. Back when The Professional Quilter first began publication in September 1983, the longarm industry wasn’t even a shadow of what it is today. Back in the day, our readers were teachers, shop owners, pattern designers, judges, crafters and contemporary quiltmakers who sold their work. By strict definition, a professional was someone who made money from her work, so everyone was a professional quilter. A concern for many of our readers at that time was taking that leap to really think of themselves as professional. Thank goodness we’ve made progress on that point.

As a result of this conversation, I started thinking about the name of our organization and whether when we call ourselves the International Association of Professional Quilters, newer professionals in our field don’t see themselves with that label. Do they feel excluded because they think professional quilters are people who quilt for money, specifically with a longarm? I also think other “titles” could make a different group of professionals feel excluded.

So, I’m asking you to join in a conversation on our blog. What do you call yourself: Professional quilter? Quilting professional? Artist? Quilt artist? Quiltmaker? Artmaker? Something else? And, do you feel excluded by any of the other names?

Please share your thoughts below.

How Do You Handle the Competition?

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Whether you are a longarm quilter or an art quilter, you face competition. It can be in the form of other entries in a show or other artists competing for the same client or job. How do you handle that competition? In the current issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Wylie took a look at competition from the longarmer’s point of view. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s not unusual at all for there to be more than one longarm quilter in one area. In fact, this is pretty normal. But why do we feel it necessary to compete with each other? I realize that in this tough economy every single potential customer is very important, but why can’t we all just get along? We all want world peace, right? Sounds like a beauty pageant, doesn’t it?

Well, it is in a weird kind of way! We all bring our own special talents to our business, just like beauty pageant contestants. So, customers choose which longarm quilter they will use based on those talents. Why can’t they use different quilters for different quilts depending on the quilt? In that case, we all win!

So the question now is how to eliminate the competition aspect between longer quilters. That’s a very good question with a very simple answer. Communicate! It would be very easy to pick up the phone and call the other longarm quilters or invite them all to lunch to discuss it. No need for hostility or anger or jealousy. You’re all in the same position, so why not work together?

I started a longarm group several years ago. Six of us sat around a kitchen table. Some of us had met before, some of us had not. So we chatted and became familiar with each other first. We had some snacks and drinks and relaxed. When it came time to start the meeting, the first thing I did was to tell them all to look at the other people in the room. I said that these are your new best friends, not your competition, but your friends. Who else has batting or that particular thread when you run out? Who else understands exactly what you’re going through? Your other friends don’t understand your job, but these people do. These friends have the tools and gadgets you want to try out before spending your money on them. They might tell you not to even bother or they may tell you that you absolutely must have it! What happens when that fabulous tool falls to the floor and smashes and you’re only halfway through the quilt? Your new wonderful friend who told you it was a must-have just might let you borrow hers. Or you can wait a week or so for a new one to come in the mail. Your choice, but I’d rather run across town, borrow the tool, get the quilt done and get paid.

In my group, we were able to borrow thread, batting, wide-backing fabric, and many other things from each other. We were able to combine orders to meet wholesale minimums and reduce shipping costs. We referred customers to others whose waiting lists were shorter or did a particular type of quilting well or carried a specific brand of batting the customer wanted. None of us ever lowered our prices to try to undercut the others, but occasionally when business was a little slow we might run a “sale” or a special deal. It’s a win/win situation for the group and the customer.

How do you work with your competition? Please share below.

Book Review: Mastering the Art of Longarm Quilting

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

simply triangles

Mastering the Art of Longarm Quilting
Gina Perkes
C&T Publishing; $29.95

You got your longarm, now what? Many books offer lots of quilting designs. Gina Perkes does that, too, but she actually helps you get to the stage where you can use the designs. She starts with step-by-step instructions from finding design inspiration and selecting the appropriate design all the way to blocking and binding the quilt. I loved all the tips throughout the book, e.g., printing a large color photo of your quilt to sketch designs on it, how to build a lightbox, how to use clear tablecloth vinyl to draft border designs, and how to add additional measurements to the leaders to help maintain a square quilt. Since longarm quilters are thread lovers, Gina includes a chapter on choosing and using thread, including troubleshooting. In addition to quilting designs shown throughout the text, she includes 40 original quilting designs. If you are new to your longarm, or more experienced, I think this is a great reference.

Look for the book at your favorite book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Meet Debbie Wendt, Longarm Quilter, Teacher, Pattern Designer and Notion Inventor

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The Winter 2012 issue of The Professional Quilterincludes a profile by Mindy Wylie with Debbie Wendt, a longarm quilter, teacher, author and pattern designer. Debbie is also known for creating Brilliant Bindings, a tool available in sizes for both longarms and domestic machines, her fat-quarter friendly 4-3-2-1-Done patterns, and her method to construct and produce quilts right on the longarm. Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

When did you start quilting and how did you get into it?

My first “official” quilt class was in 1984 when I took a Continuing Ed class in the town where I lived. The class was Amish diamonds in the center, all by hand! I started with templates and even made my own feather stencil for one of my borders. I have always enjoyed sewing, and quilting felt comfortable – much easier than fitting clothing. As a young girl, I listed sewing as my hobby. My grandmothers were both seamstresses, and I admired their work. It feels natural to have sewing and now quilting as my business. I continue to take classes because I want to continue learning about my passion.

How did this lead longarm quilting?

I started longarm quilting in 1998 when I worked in a quilt shop in West Monroe, La. The owner asked if I had interest in learning the longarm so she taught me the basics. I quilted 22 lap quilts that fall as Christmas presents, which gave me a lot of time learning the machine and techniques. I then graduated to pantographs, as that is what was most requested by the customers.

How did you get started teaching quilting?

I started teaching quilting while living in Cairo, Egypt.  When I moved there in 1993 I helped start a quilt group, Quilters in DeNile. Several people in a cross stitch group wanted to learn to quilt, so I taught classes for the quilt group and at CSA (Community Service Association) where expats from many countries gathered. “Good cotton” quilting fabric was hard to come by so my summer visits home were spent buying fabric and filling my suitcases. We could get solid cottons in the souks and small shops along the Street of the Tentmakers, but it was a lesser grade as the high quality Egyptian cotton was exported.

You self-publish your books. Tell us about that process.

Self-publishing was the means needed to a quick end. I wanted to put my techniques into print so I could share my ideas with my students but didn’t have time to go through the proposal process. Thanks to my husband’s editing and computer skills we actually printed the first versions of my longarm books on our home printer. After their debut at my first teaching show I had them printed professionally. With self-publishing, complete instructions are crucial. I always have other quilters walk through the instructions to make sure they are easy to understand. I also have my husband, a non-quilter, read it for logical sequence.

Do you also self-publish your piecing patterns?

Yes, I also self-publish all my patterns. I am basically self-taught when it comes to computers. With some tips from my husband, I do all my own diagrams and layout. I worked with a graphic designer to re-design my logo and help with the Brilliant Bindings cover page. She also runs a printing business in the town where I live, so it fit to have her do all my printing. It made it very convenient to proof layout, photo colors and determine the best paper choices. Getting the perfect lighting and angles for my cover quilts proved difficult so I now trust those photos to a professional.

Speaking of marketing, are you active on the Internet and with social media?

I have a website to support my products and teaching engagements. I recently went with a company to re-design and upgrade my site to offer more to my customers, for example, a free patterns section and newsletter sign-up. I have had a blog address for a couple years, and I’m excited and determined to make it into a “real” blog. I will be working with it more in the coming year to stay connected and show my personal side of traveling and quilting. Facebook has been a wonderful tool personally, reconnecting with high school classmates. I started a business page just last month and look forward to exploring ways I can use it to connect with quilting friends, students and customers. I have not used Twitter.

What new projects are in the works? What can we expect from you this coming year?

I have many new projects in the works. It just so happens that my binding tool is a common shape in many quilt block patterns, so I’ll be releasing several new quilts in the coming year. I’m also in the design phase of a couple new tools. I look forward to releasing one at Spring Quilt Market in my hometown of Kansas City, Mo.

Please share your comments below.

Pricing Questions You Need to Answer

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Wylie took a look at the pricing decisions new longarm quilters need to make when starting their businesses. They are also the questions experienced longarmers need to readdress from time to time. If you aren’t a longarmer, these are the same questions you should consider for commission work. And, if you have work completed by someone else, you would want to know the questions to ask. Here’s an excerpt from the issue.

How are you going to price your work? You have three ways to price your work: by the size of the quilt, by the amount of time it takes to quilt it, by the number of bobbins used.

Do you charge differently based on different patterns and techniques? Yes! Take this opportunity to explain the differences to your customer. It is common to have a few different pricing categories, such as edge-to-edge, semi-custom, custom and heirloom. You need to explain what each category is, how each category differs from the others based on time required and skill needed.

Do you give an estimate? Yes. The estimate I give is very accurate, but occasionally something comes up to change it. You’ll need to immediately notify the customer and discuss this with her.

Are there any additional fees? Most longarm quilters have an additional fee for thread used on the quilt. You may also choose to sell batting to your customers. Some longarm quilters add an additional fee for turning the quilt, squaring the backing, piecing backings, repairing seams on the quilt top, pressing the quilt or the backing (or both) and trimming the quilt after the quilting is done. Some of us even offer additional services such as binding or labels.

Once you’ve evaluated the answers to those questions, you can use them to set a pricing schedule and create an order or take-in form.

If you would like to read more of Mindy’s article on pricing your longarm work, it’s included in the Fall 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership here.

Please post your thoughts on this article below.

My Quilt Market Impressions, Part 1

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Quilt Market is always inspiring: new quilts to see, the latest fabric releases, new designers, new products. Here are some of my impressions. I’ll add more next week.

1. Fabrics are still trending toward the light/white undertones keeping with the fresh, modern trend in quilting. In the Moda booth this was seen in several lines, including a line from Lucie Summers, a designer from Suffolk, UK, who specializes in printmaking. Her Summersville collection is inspired textures and shapes found in the countryside where she lives and features her vintage thrift store ceramic collection. The whimsical designs, also featured on gift items, come in four colorways: leaf, orange zest, coal and seafoam. Also contemporary in look from Moda is A Stitch in Color by designer Malka Dubrawsky. Malka’s line features simple, graphic patterns and bold colors that were inspired by her hand dyed patterns. The fun pieces looked great in one quilt and would be perfect for infusing a touch of color in a neutral quilt. Malka is also the author of Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color Design and Inspiration. One of the most popular lines in the Moda booth was Ten Little Things by designer Jenn Ski. This collection features a main panel with 10 illustrations of numbers and pictures, perfect for a child’s quilt. In the booth it was featured in a soft book for kids to practice counting and writing. One page included chalk cloth (fabric you can write on with chalk). See more at

2. Westminster Lifestyle Fabrics featured lots of new contemporary designs. I liked the Lilliput Fields line from Tina Givens, which is her take on ancient weaving, tapestry and design. She started with ancient Suzani tapestry, a tribal textile from central Asia, and then including an ikat and a Victorian inspired design. Her palette ranges from rich rustic burnt oranges and dark browns to a bright palette in eggplant, pinky pinks and soft yellows. Also from Westminster is Jane Sassaman’s Early BIrds collection with its recognizable large floral design complimented by smaller floral and textural designs. I liked her tone-on-tone curlicue print. Ty Pennington Impressions features designs inpired by the world around Ty. His booth featured all his designs done in ties, perfect for a menswear approach.

3. Clover always introduces a variety of new products. In the Nancy Zieman Trace ‘n Create Template series is the E-Tablet & Paper Tablet templates. The template features three sizes and two variations. Because protecting and supporting your tablet is key, Clover has a heavy Precut Tablet Keeper Shaper that will provide needed structure. The Nancy Zieman line also includes two new fusing products: Fuse ‘n Gather for making ruffles and Fuse ‘n Bind, a convenient precut, perforated interfacing for making binding. Also new are the extra small and mini Flower Frills makers.

4. Glitz was a hint from an earlier post I made on Facebook. When I looked at the judged quilts on display, that was what struck me. I was drawn to so many that included what I’m calling “glitz”: luminescent fibers, metallic threads, lamés. All the quilts were extraordinary, and the quality continues to be quite high. The awards ceremony was Tuesday night and you can see the winners on the Quilts Inc. website. Congrats to all the winners. I was thrilled to see lots of IAPQ members in the list.

5. New for longarmers is A Quilters Eye, a monitoring device that allows you to view a magnified portion of the back of your quilt while you are quilting the top. A camera captures the stitches on the back and they are shown on a 7-inch monitor that attaches to all machines. The product retails for $450.

6. Mighty Bright introduced a Lighted Seam Ripper with a 4X magnification. It features an ergonomic handle and an LED that lasts 100,000 hours.

I’ll share more next week. In the meantime, please share your thoughts and experiences on Quilt Market below.

Meet Longarm Quilter Barbara Dann

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

In the Winter 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Caspersen interviewed fellow longarm quilter Barbara Dann about her business. Barbara began her longarm business 10 years ago and specializes in hand-guided quilting. She also represents Alto QuiltCut2. Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

I know that you were working from home and then moved your business to a store. How long did you have your business at home?

My business was in my home for the first nine years, and I moved to a store downtown about a year and a half ago.

What prompted you to move to a storefront?

I wanted to get out of the house. I have teenage boys and wanted to use that space for a family room for them. I also wanted more separation of my business and personal life. It’s too easy to let the business take more of your time when you’re working from home. And I wanted a more professional business appearance. I felt that a store would give me more presence in the community and people would view me as more professional.

How has this changed your quilting business?

My attitude about work has changed. I’m more focused at the store than I was at home. My business has also grown because I get more walk-in clientele, and I do have more presence in the community as a business.

Has this affected your family life in a positive way?

Absolutely! My time at home is more focused on the family now, and I am not pulled away by the business. My boys are now learning to help out more at home and be more self-sufficient. They’re even learning to cook!

Has this affected your business hours? Do you find yourself working more or less?

My business hours are much more defined now. It feels like I work less hours but much more efficiently. I’m not also trying to squeeze in the laundry and household chores at the same time, so I’m much more focused when I’m at work.

Do your family, friends and customers treat you more like a business now that you’re in a store?

Yes, except my mother. She still likes to call during the day to chat! My customers do see me more as a professional now, and they treat me more like a professional now. When you’re working from home, your customers don’t always see a distinction between work hours and family time, but now they do. I used to get calls and drop-ins during the evenings and on weekends. That issue has completely resolved itself because I’m not in the store at those times, so my personal time is not disrupted.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. This article was excerpted from The Professional Quilter, the IAPQ membership journal. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Market Your Business With a Photo Frame

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Digital Photo FrameI’m always on the lookout for different ways to market a business, and I discovered something really cool at my ophthalmologist’s office recently. One of doctors had created a PowerPoint featuring optical illusions, fun quizzes, etc., that plays on the wall of the lobby in the office building. The idea was expanded, and now each exam room includes a picture frame that has several hundred slides encompassing not just the fun things but also testimonials about the practice. This got me thinking about ways we could adapt this idea to quilt businesses. Here are some:

1. The first thought that comes to mind is with product demos in booths at shows. You could have several frames running at the sides of your booth. Of course, that’s in addition to your own demo to draw customers into the booth.

2. If you are a pattern designer and don’t demo in your booth, you could have the frame running with pictures of quilts made by your customers from your patterns. Nothing spurs a purchase like seeing how your quilt pattern can be made in multiple colorways, especially your favorite. I’d love to see this with bag patterns.

3. As my friend and longarm quilter Erin says, quilters travel in packs, so she always has extra chairs in the studio for the friends traveling with her clients. She could create a slide show of herself at work on her longarm and include shots of quilts that she has completed and any ribbons she has won, along with customer testimonials.

4. Art quilters could use this concept with a gallery show. Imagine slides showing you at work, slides of your work that isn’t in the gallery, and slides showing your work hanging in happy customers’ homes with their testimonials.

5. Shops could find lots of ways to use this idea – demos of new products that have arrived, samples from the classes on the schedule, covers of new books, fabrics on order. Imagine putting together one of pictures you took at Quilt Market focusing on all the new products you ordered.

6. Those of you who do craft shows could use the ideas that I have for art quilters: a slide show of you at work, photos of quilts or other products that you’ve sold, photos of your work in your customers’ homes. It’s great to offer people a picture of how your product will look in their surroundings.

I took a quick look at digital picture frames online and found them ranging in price from $30-$300, depending on size of the frame and all the extras, including the ability to add audio. I hope some of you will add this idea to your marketing toolbox and share your experiences with us.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Tips for Working With Your Quilter

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

We are lucky today to have so many wonderful longarm quilters at the ready to turn our tops into masterpieces. Of course, our tops have to be “ready to quilt,” too. And, from talking with longarmers, the tops don’t always arrive in that condition. They might have wavy borders, threads or open seams. How can you expect your longarmer to create a masterpiece when she starts with something less than perfect?

In the Spring issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Caspersen discussed the problems that the longarmer must address when the quilt top needs work. And to guide the piecer, she included tips for preparing the top, back and batting.

Here are Mindy’s tips for preparing your top:

  • Piece accurately.
  • Choose a neutral thread color for piecing.
  • Remove any stray threads, especially those that might show through light-colored fabrics.
  • Secure seams, especially on pieced outside borders. These may pull apart on the machine frame.
  • Press carefully. Make sure your seam allowances are pressed well and do not flip back and forth. (This is extremely important for stitch in the ditch work.)
  • Attach borders properly so they are not wavy.

To read the rest of Mindy’s article and her tips for preparing your batting and backing, see the Spring issue of The Professional Quilter. If your membership is not current, you can join or renew here.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

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