I once heard a great quote that has always stuck with me. “A business owner only has to work half days, all day or all night”. I don’t remember who said it but it is so true. Being a business owner is the most exhilarating, frustrating, rewarding thing that you can do!
Let’s talk equipment! Starting a machine quilting business doesn’t mean that you must have a longarm quilting machine. I know of several people who quilt customer’s quilts on their sewing machines. And, no matter which kind of machine you go with, you don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles. The most important thing is that it fits your needs.
I purchased my machine used almost 10 years ago, and I still use it! It doesn’t have a stitch regulator or a needle up button. Basically, it only has an on/off button and a speed control, but it has served me well! If you are thinking about buying a new machine (whether a longarm, midarm, or sewing machine), carefully consider what options you need and which ones you don’t. Try out several different kinds of machines, and ask a lot of questions.
If you already have a machine, I wouldn’t necessarily encourage you to go buy a new one. If at all possible, build up your customer base and business before investing in new equipment. Buying a big, expensive machine and then trying to figure out how to make money with it can be very, very stressful.
A Different Take
During this whole series, I am going to be interviewing other professional machine quilters. There is wisdom in the multitude of counselors, and my opinions are just limited to my own experiences. Seeing what other quilters have to say on the subject will help us all learn something. This week’s featured quilter is Tia! I specifically asked Tia to join us for today’s conversation because she has quilted for customers on her sewing machine and her longarm quilting machine. I think that her experiences prove that you can have a quilting business no matter what kind of machine.
Painting by: Sharon Smith
Thanks so much for joining me!!! Before you got your long-arm, you did your quilting on your sewing machine, did you quilt customer’s quilt tops? Or did you just use it to do your bags?
I made custom quilts before I got my long arm. I would work with a client and go from the very beginning designing a special quilt just for them. Typically I would utilize pieces of their uniforms or clothing into the quilts. I did the whole thing on one regular home machine. I didn’t know the difference really between a long arm and a regular home machine. I knew that a long-arm was big…too big for me at the time. We are a military family, so we have to move frequently and I never know the size of the house I will be trying to squeeze both my family and home business into.
I would also use the same sewing machine to quilt and sew together all my bags. I do all my piecing now on my Bernina and most quilt quilting on my Long-arm. I do still use my Bernina to quilt my bags and try new quilting designs on small quilts.
Was it hard to transition from FMQ on your sewing machine to the long arm?
No way! I felt like a falcon who was in a cage for some reason…but when I got my hands on my long-arm It was like I was set free into the wild! Now I can soar above my quilts and plan the designs miles out instead of waiting until I was right up on top of the block. The only thing that was a bit tricky was tension.
How long have you been quilting customer quilts?
I have quilted for customers for about 8 years on my domestic machine, but only over the past year have I been using my Long-arm on customers’ quilts. It makes quilting so much easier.
What is one thing that you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I was a bit more prepared for all the mechanical issues I would have. A long arm is not quite like a regular domestic machine. You can’t easily pop it off the table and toss it in your van and zip on down to the sewing machine fix it man. You will have to become somewhat skilled at fixing the issues yourself. Especially when you have a deadline and there is no one in 400 miles who even knows what a long arm is (that was when I was in San Angelo, TX). Thank goodness for patient people on the other end of the phone. I suppose in my mind I thought that switching over to a long arm would be as effortless as sewing with my Berninas. I turn my Bernina on and it is ready for a day of sewing. When I turn my Gammill on it requires a bit more love and attention before it is ready to quilt all day.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is interested in quilting for others?
Look at second-hand long-arms. You can get great deals on them. Also, look into buying batting by the roll and thread wholesale. It is ok to start small, quilt your friends charity quilts for practice….look at Ebay and Etsy for quilt tops that need to be finished. I have acquired some great old tops that no one wants to finish. But careful going that route, you may end up with a sewing room full of old quilt tops and no time to practice on them!
Great words of advice Tia, thanks for joining us! Next week, the post will be all about location, location, location.
If you have specific questions about quilting machines, or machine quilting in general,leave a comment or hop on over to the forum and ask away!