My enjoyment of the fabric arts has been with me a very long time. I began sewing in 1963 at age 10. As the years went by I began I constructed several bride’s dresses, veils, bridesmaid dresses, (14 for one wedding), men’s suits, and made most of my children’s clothing for many years.
I have enjoyed sewing for clients since 1972, and have been longarm quilting for clients since 2013. Also enjoying the embroidery arts, I machine embroider for clients, though doing embroidery by hand is one of my favorite downtime relaxations. I have been to quilting conferences and taken classes. My quilts have featured by companies such as Craftsy, 24 Blocks, Embroidery Library, and American Professional Quilting Systems on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram pages, and published in the magazine Machine Quilting Unlimited. My quilt, “Fandango Transformation” will be exhibit in October/November 2017 at the International Quilt Market and Festival in Houston, TX. I quilt totally by using free motion, without the use of any computer software on my machine. I like sharing information by teaching longarm quilting classes and quilt making.
When thinking about hiring the services of your partner longarm quilter try to keep several things in mind. Making your hobby affordable is not the professional’s concern. There is a reason quilting services charge you what may appear to be high amounts of money for their work. What is your budget? Let the longarmer know up front what your budget will allow. Usually there are 2 or 3 ways and price points a quilt can be finished, and the longarmer needs to know what you are thinking. How much time do you expect the longarmer to spend on your project? Consider this: If you go to a quilt shop and want to piece a top that would be a knockout in high-end batiks, but your budget only allows you to buy close-out, discounted calico, does the shop owner give you more expensive fabric for the cheaper price because it would make the project look better? Does the butcher shop give a customer prime rib at the same price as hamburger because it would be nicer for your dinner party? Are you asking a longarmer to quilt your masterpiece for very little cost? Federal minimum wage is around $7.25 an hour for entry-level unskilled positions with no experience (Wal-Mart or McDonald’s). Would you want someone with no skill working on your masterpiece that took hours to complete? King sized custom quilts can take 20 hours to more than 40 hours to complete. For example, 20 hours at the rate of $15 per hour amounts to $300 in labor alone before figuring cost of the batting and thread used). Customized work tends to take 2-5 times longer than edge to edge. Stitching in the ditch is much more difficult on a longarm than a domestic sewing machine as it requires a ruler and slower stitching for accuracy. Custom quilting is not heirloom work, though heirloom quilting IS customized.
Longarm quilters are skilled professionals. Equipment can run from about $5000 for an entry-level bare bones machine to over $30,000. Learning to use the machine can takes a long time to become comfortable doing simple quilting. Custom quilting takes expertise. Longarm quilters earn an average of one half of their charges as take-home pay, have overhead expenses, and are self-employed therefore are responsible for costs beyond quilting. (here are some examples: insurance, advertising, computers, internet, machine and website maintenance, utilities, self-employment tax rates of 15%). Realize that if you desire a drop-dead show-stopping quilt and are unable to quilt it yourself, you need to be willing to pay for labor expenses and not expect the longarmer to donate time spent. When considering whether or not to shop locally remember that yes, you can send out a quilt to a longarmer in another area of the country for what may seem like a very reasonable price, but those cheaper prices usually reflect computerized quilting of an edge-to-edge pattern or pantograph. Consider also that you wisely insure that package to be mailed back with the cost of the quilting + materials and labor so that if the quilt is lost in the mail you will be compensated for it. By sending out your quilt to a longarmer you do not know, rapport is more difficult than with a quilter who personally meets with you, knows you, and collaborates together with you to understand your preferences and get that personal touch.