Welcome to Day 21 of How to Earn $ From Sewing and Quilting! This week we are talking about Quilting for Others, and today I’ll be answering some more of the Frequently Asked Questions people have when they are thinking about starting to quilt for others.
Today I’d like to focus a bit on the problems you as a quilter might have and how to try to solve them! Here are some…
The Backing is too Small
Most longarm quilters ask their customers to make sure the batting and backing are bigger than the top, usually around 4 inches on all sides. Sometimes, however, a customer quilt will turn up with the backing too small… what do you do?
This happened to Nora just last week. After some debating, she managed to cut the backing that her customer gave her in such a way as to sew it back up and make it big enough 🙂 It was plain backing so the joins will not be noticeable and this was a good solution to the problem.
If there is not enough fabric to do this, you need to contact your customer and ask them to either bring/send more backing, larger backing, or sometimes they might just tell you to sew a matching fabric from your own stash onto the backing. Of course you should charge them for this!
The Quilt Top has Issues…
I guess that is putting it nicely 🙂 During your quilting journey you will get a quilt top that has issues… some worse than others.
Wrinkled Quilt Top
Sometimes it is as simple as a top that has not even been pressed… the customer was likely in a hurry to get it finished (I can relate to this!). I always iron the quilt tops and backings anyway, so it is not an issue for me. You can decide if you want to charge for that or not…
Threads Not Trimmed
This is more of a hassle. A quilt might come to you with threads poking out everywhere. I am very guilty of this myself! I am always in a rush to get my quilt finished and think, I’ll trim later… haha! Some of your customers may be like me, or they may be beginners and not aware they need to trim. I tend to check the top and try to pull back threads before I get the quilt loaded on the machine. Sometimes I will miss some and then it is fiddly… I will also mention to the customer that next time could they please trim their threads… (and mental note to myself to do the same, lol!)
Note on thread cutters:
Some sewing machines have automatic thread cutters. While these seem to be a great solution for people like me, I actually don’t like them. This is just a personal thing, and I know I have discussed it with another long arm quilter and she has had the same problems as me – sometimes the seams will come apart, especially at the edges. So I don’t recommend using them… but that is just me 🙂
Seams Coming Apart
Ok, so following on from the thread cutters, you may have a quilt top with.. gaps… either the seams have been sewn with less than a quarter inch, or they are actually coming apart. The former usually happens with beginners… the latter can too, or it could be that they used their thread cutter…. or the quilt may have been a UFO and with time and handling the seams are coming apart at the edges.
The latter usually occurs around the edge of the quilt, and is easily fixed by sewing it up on your domestic machine. But what if you have the quilt loaded and are half way through? I would then stitch the seams by hand… because it is too much hassle to take the quilt off.
The main things with this is to really check the top before you load it. You may not find all the little oopsies, but the more you catch before you load the quilt, the easier it is.
The Quilt is Not Flat
This is a common problem with poorly pieced quilts. Often beginner quilts are not quite flat, but sometimes the quilt pattern is challenging and hard to get flat. I have a “star” table topper that is bumpy in the middle… and very annoying… I need to unpick a bit… but not too much… and… yes, sometimes our quilts just aren’t flat!
The common response or “hope” is that the quilter can fix it 🙂 And mostly an experienced quilter can. If you get a quilt like this, go do some research on youtube for ways you can try to “quilt it out”.
The only time I ever refused a quilt was because of this. Remember I told you about the beginner who came to me and she had already made a double wedding ring? Well, after she had lessons from me, she brought me the quilt and asked if I could quilt it for her. She already knew that it was going to be too hard for her to do, and was hoping I could. I told her I’d try.
Well, I got it loaded up on Emmie G and then I just stared at it…. and stared… and thought – how on earth am I going to manage this?! There was no way I could quilt out the bumps… it would have looked like a mess…. so I took it all off and apologized to her…
Maybe a more experienced quilter could have done it, but I am not sure… it wasn’t her fault either, it was because the pattern was too advanced for her.
My advice is, if you really can’t fix something on a quilt, then apologize and give it back.
The Quilt Borders are Wavy
Another common problem, related to the above issue… the whole quilt is nice and flat, just the borders are not.
I must say that I still struggle with my borders being flat. I measure properly, pin, and do it all “right”… so I still don’t know why some of my borders are wavy!! Still, I find a wavy boarder easier to “quilt out” than something in the middle of a top.
I have had a few that were really, really, wavy and one that I had to put a pleat in… again, check on youtube for videos on basic techniques you can use to reduce the wave. If it is really bad, however, you might want to send it back to the customer.
Many years ago I was quilting one of my own older quilts, and it was bad… really bad… even a pleat would not have fixed it! I have no idea why, could have been the fabric, don’t know… I only worked it out half way through quilting the whole thing… Again, probably because I was not as experienced as some others. They might have seen it from the start. So, I took it off and it is in a tub waiting to be unpicked and have the borders redone… another ufo…sigh….!
I Messed up! What do I do?!
I think this is the nightmare of anyone who is quilting for others… what if we majorly mess up… like really… like poke a hole in the quilt type mess up….
Well, this actually happened to me…. sigh… I was doing a beautiful job, doing ruler work and making beautiful swags in the borders of a small quilt. It was all going soooo well.
I had the needle down to move the ruler and somehow I bumped the machine, and next thing you know I had a little hole…. in this beautiful customer quilt…. I was so upset. I didn’t know what to do!
Well, I finished the quilt, and it was lovely… it just had a hole in it! So I called the customer, and told her that her quilt was ready but it had a little problem…. I am pretty sure she was freaking out as much as I was! We met for a cuppa and quilt handover, and it was like – ok, where is the hole?!
I think she was relieved that it was so small… and we discussed what we could do… I had some fabric fray glue that I gave her to put on it because of where it was, in the middle of fairly dense quilting, we couldn’t patch it, so that was the only solution in the end.
I am thankful that she was a friend and didn’t hate me forever for putting a hole in her quilt! I explained what had happened and she understood that it was an accident.
One thing that made me feel better was that a few months before I had been back in Oz and went to a longarm class with a fairly well known and experienced quilter. She told me that once she poked a hole (a big hole) in a customer quilt by accident.. she had left a ruler on the quilt top and forgot it was there when she rolled it on… and the corner of the ruler poked a hole in the fabric. She immediately rang the customer, who was very understanding, and she fixed it as best she could…. and life went on.
When you are quilting for others, accidents can happen. We are not robots… we are human. Sometimes we will make mistakes. Some mistakes are easily fixed, some are harder. Hopefully our customers will be understanding. The main thing is to ‘fess up, be honest, and usually things will work out….
How to Deal with an Unhappy Customer
What if we give the quilt back to our customer and they are not happy? Well, I must say I haven’t had one that wasn’t happy (that I know of!) (even the one where I put the hole in her quilt still talks to me!), but then I try to be very clear about expectations before I accept a quilt.
This is where the work order comes in as well. I make sure I go through with the customer what kind of design they want, what color thread, how long it is going to take, what they can expect from me and what I expect from them. I show them samples so they can see the quality and standard of my work. All of this helps….
But at the end of the day, if a customer is not happy, all you can do is apologize and ask them what you can do to make them happy… you can offer to unpick and start again (what a nightmare!), you can offer discount on the quilt… or on a future quilt…
What if the customer being unhappy is unreasonable? ie they are fussy… This can happen, and again, I would apologize, ask what I could do to make it better… and then I would never accept a quilt from them again. That may sound harsh, but life is too short for unreasonable requests. Mind you, they probably wouldn’t give me a quilt again!
Common Problems with Your Machine
Well, these are a few issues you may have quilting for others… I just want to leave you with a link to a handy list I found online for troubleshooting some common issues you may have with your machine – like tension, skipped stitches, thread breaking, etc:
This is a great checklist on the Bentley Machines website, and although I have no experience with this brand of machine, most of what is on the list applies to any longarm.
Well thank you for sticking with me on this 31 Day journey! Come back tomorrow for Quilting for Others – Featuring Judy from News From Jude!
PS Please remember I am answering your comments in the comment section below and not via email like I usually do. Sorry for the hassle, but I am hoping this month we can share ideas!
PPS The main page of this series is here along with links to each post for this series.
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