Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Be nice to your longarmer... :-D

Let me tell you what inspired this post.  I used to be a longarmer--I've owned several longarm machines and quilted for others as well as myself.  Honestly, I hated quilting for others.  It is very difficult to see a quilting design in some quilts...they just don't sing to you.  Or the piecer has one idea for quilting and you have another.  Or you can't execute what they want done....or you can do it, but it will take so long that you will never make any money at it.  Etc, etc, etc.  Longarming is a very difficult business...unruly quilt tops, clients, tension/machine issues, low pay, etc.  And do you know how much stress there is when you are trying to figure out what is going to make the customer happy....what if they don't like it?  Ack...stress, stress, and more stress!!

Here is a fact:  one minute of longarm quilting can take up to 15 minutes to remove (if you mess up and have to frog, or rip out, the stitches).  Nobody pays you to remove errant stitches....Honestly, I think I made less than $5 per hour quilting.  I'm not joking.  And I needed to pay off a $17,000 machine, and all the supplies that go with it, etc.  My point is that quilting is not just a "fun hobby" turned profit.  Quilters work hard to make quilts that are beautiful, affordable, and durable. 

Today, I was speaking with a longarmer friend of mine in another state (she quilted the two tops above).  I've been sending her quilts for years...probably 10 years or so.  Her work is wonderful...she is very accomplished and she can look at a quilt and know just what to do with it.  I trust her and have never been disappointed in her work.  Her tension is always "spot on" and her designs are executed with ease.  I love her work!  She has a distinctive style that works for me....Today she called me because she received a quilt that I sent her in the mail.  But she was distressed because a client wrote her a nasty e-mail complaining about the quilting that she had done on a quilt.

The piecer requested "all feathers" and the longarmer told her that because of some elements in the quilt top, "all feathers" wouldn't be possible so she suggested another option.  The piecer agreed...but then came unglued when she received the top back in the mail (she mailed it to the longarmer in another state).  The longarmer feels hurt, and shocked, because she thought they both had agreed to the quilting plan.  She is worried she might not get paid...and she is upset that the piecer is not happy with the quilting.  Picking out all the quilting on the top and quilting it again is not possible.  Apparantly, the e-mail was alarmingly mean.

My thoughts:  it is just a quilt top.  Yes, it might take a long time to make the top...and yes, you might have a vision and it might not be perfectly what you want.  But it is what it is.  I've had a top quilted with the wrong panto.  I've had a top quilted with a brand of thread that is so thin that it actually broke in several places while the quilter was quilting...the only thing holding the "sort of" quilting lines together is the Super Glue that I applied to glue the quilting to the top and prevent a massive unraveling.  I've personally picked a color thread that ended up being way too dark and made the quilting look like crap.  I've thought that "variegated" thread was so cool and found out the hard way that it made the quilting look choppy.  So I've experienced my fair share of crappy quilting...but we still love those quilts and they adorn my sofa and Buddy doesn't give a care about the quilting (or the piecing for that matter).  Try out different quilters until you find one with a style your appreciate.  Or use one for pantos, a different one for custom...a different one if you need one super fast, etc.  Tell your longarmer what you want...and if she can't do it, get your top back and go somewhere else.  She'd want you to be happy...she wouldn't be insulted, and she might even be relieved that she doesn't feel pressured to do something that she can't/won't be able to execute.  It is only a quilt top....

So don't sweat the small stuff!!  And it is all small stuff....

Just my two cents....


  1. WELL said!
    I've never been a longarmer, but I sure have a respect for the beautiful work they do!

    They are humans, though.

  2. Oh your poor friend, that is so awful. You wrote beautifully of exactly why I don't/won't do LA quilting commercially.

  3. Oh, how sad to do that work and get such a response. I don't do long-arm quilting, but it's similar reasons that I don't sew for profit. I've had many people say I should, make offers, and honestly it's not worth my time for the little bit of profit I'd make. I had one lady agree to pay me $25 for a reversible basket liner for her polish basket and then back out because it was too much money after all. Another, I did a baby quilt for, with her input about the design, etc. and that was a big ole' pain...too much stress. So, I prefer to sew for fun and make gifts for those I care about. More rewarding and much less stressful!!

    Hope your friend feels encouraged soon and that she gets paid!

  4. This post made me very sad for your friend. I just don't get some people. Thanks for sharing her story and for reminding us all that it's only a quilt top. Not the end of the world. Breathe in...breathe

    And yes, hope she gets paid along with an apology!

  5. I totally agree! I'm sure the quilting was great even if it wasn't what the customer had first intended. Some people just aren't happy no matter what is done for them!


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