Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fall Fabric Sale!

Hi There!
As the days are cooling off and the leaves are changing all I want to do is sew! I figure I may not be the only one. I am running a sale on fabric in my ETSY shop. 15% off fabric sales of $25 or more use coupon code FALLFUN. Go treat yourself! 

I have several new prints including Akoma and Steno Pool. I am especially LOVING the new Front Yard Sunflower knit. I made a Montlake t-shirt and I just LOVE it!







Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Starting a Long Arm Quilting Business

Hi there!

What do you need to know before starting a long arm business?

I have been thinking about a post like this for years. I get so many questions about starting a long arm quilting business and I am almost always happy to answer your questions. But it would be nice if it was in an easy to find spot wouldn't it?

First off, I quilt with Gammill long arms. I LOVE them. Wholeheartedly and utterly, I LOVE my machines. The machine is so well built and the software is the very best on the market in my opinion.  I have quilted and taught on other machines, but I am coming at you from a Gammill perspective. I don't sell the machines, but I know who does. With that said this will not be a Gammill Commercial. Although I would love nothing more that doing Gammill commercials because I love the company, support and the fantastic machines they build.

This post is for those who want to start a business. It is for those of you who want to make money quilting for other people. If you just want to buy a long arm and quilt your own quilts that is fine, awesome. Do it! Stick around some of this may apply to you. 

Please ask questions. I am happy to answer them. Many of these topics are probably great for their own post, but I am just trying to be quick here. If I get questions I will address them in individual blog posts.

I am not a business advisor. I am a small business owner and I love what I do. I enjoy my work and I like to quilt for others. I truly LOVE to quilt.

In my opinion you need to like quilts and quilting before you begin this endeavor. People won't want you to work for them if you hate your job, or if you don't know how to do your job. Do some quilting for yourself first, get comfortable with your machine and your abilities and then start quilting! 

Wait a minute...maybe there is more to it that that.

  1. Love to quilt.
  2. You need space.
  3. Purchase the best machine you can afford that can do digital Edge to Edge quilting
  4. Take Classes on how to use your machine
  5. Buy a machine that you can get support with.
  6. Join Quilt Guilds
  7. Be nice, organized and professional.



A long arm is a sewing machine on wheels that is on a big table. The ones I quilt with are massive. One table is 14 feet long the other is 12 feet long. Does your table need to be that big? No. I have only used all the space on the 14 foot rollers twice, but I like having the extra space so I can access my bobbin area and get to my machine easily. You will need a REALLY long room. I know it is hard to find a big space like that so you can fill it with and enormous machine. I looked at many houses in San Antonio (during our mock move this summer) and very few had the space that I required. When we bought this house in Kansas, a big open space was almost first on the list.

I have one machine set up in our lovely sun room. I love that room. It is so nice to be up in the light. my eyes like it too. it is easy to see what I am doing. My other machine is in the basement. I love that room too. It is dark and basmenty though. 



Purchase the best machine you can afford. Seriously. You are investing in yourself and your business. If you are quilting for others you need to be able to quilt digital edge to edge designs. That is where the money is. The money is absolutely NOT in custom work. You need to be able to quilt quality work consistently. You are basically buying an employee. A robot if that is easier to wrap your head around. Hand guided machines are great, but you will wear yourself out pushing a sewing machine around peoples quilts over time. Machines with computers can do free hand work too. Some folks are under the impression that custom quilters are raking in cash. I sure am not with my custom work. Do you want to spend 3 weeks on one quilt and get paid $700 or do you want to quilt 21 quilts in that same three week period (with a very reasonable 1 quilt a day) and get paid over $2100. The answer is clear. I am just estimating each quilt will cost about $100. Clearly you can quilt more than one quilt a day but don't go into this thinking you will be able to quilt 8 quilts a day. Maybe I will get there someday, but I want to do good work, and I am still raising kids, going to football games, cooking, cleaning and all the others things that come with being a mom. You will have other obligations too. I make my best money with digital E2E quilting and traveling to teach quilting. My passion is custom quilting, but that doesn't pay for new carpet and plumbing. The digital E2E quilting does.

A computerized machine is expensive. I hear you saying that to yourself. I know that. Believe me I know that. It is probably not the answer you want to hear. But I have already done the research for you. I have quilted on my domestic Bernina sewing machine for years. Heck my first business was built with quilting from my Bernina sewing machines. When that got too hard I bought A Bernina 820 with its bigger throat space and a nice sewing table it made quilting even easier. Well, that came with its own basket of issues so I went on Craigslist and bought a used Gammill Supreme. These are pretty rare these days. It was a 36 inch no frills beast. I LOVED it. I started my quilting business with that machine and I did great work with it, but the Edge to Edge service I was providing was all hand guided, but I had to charge what the other E2E quilters were charging to compete. Crazy right? I was doing what is really custom work but only getting a fraction of what my time and skill were worth. I finally bought a second hand Gammill with a Statler Stitcher. It was my first computerized quilting machine. It came already loaded with a zillion digital designs and was in phenomenal condition. I was able to do so much with that machine and it could keep up with me. Everything I could think of that machine could do. Now I have two computerized machines and I keep them running. One for custom work and one for Edge to Edge quilting.


Take classes on how to use and operate your machine. When you purchase a machine it should include several classes. TAKE them! You can learn heaps on youtube and instagram, but you need to take classes to learn the minutia. The software can do SO much, you just need to learn how to make it do what you want it to. Learn how to do free hand quilting, I can't tell you how easy it is for me to whip out some pretty background quilting to make a quilt sing then make the machine do what I consider complicated or boring.


Go to shows and try out all the long arms. You will be able to feel the difference between them. Push them around, Get your hands on them. See how they work and what features you like. you don't need all the bells and whistles, but some things are important ( you want a stitch regulator at the very minimum). Ask about support. Who will be able to come out and fix your machine if something horrible happens to it? Are there videos somewhere guiding you through your own maintenance? Is there a support network available somewhere or are they going to take your money, drop off a massive machine and later out of your house so fast and never hear from them again? You are making a big investment you need a support network.


Join Quilt guilds! Quilting an be a rather lonely business. You spend your days alone quilting and listening to true crime podcasts (maybe that is just me???) you need to get out. Quilt guilds are my free time. I get to talk to friends, meet new folks and see beautiful quilts. I am currently a member of two guilds and both are awesome. Besides friends quilt guilds also provide business opportunities. All you have to do is bring a show and tell quilt and stand in line when the time comes. You hold up your work and say "I quilted this on my Long Arm" that is all you have to do! After that people will come up to you and ask if you quilt for others. Say "Yes" and the rest will be history. You will have plenty of quilts to quilt. You can also ask your local quilt shop if you can offer your business cards there. All local quilts shops work differently and have rules, ask and see if you will be a good fit.


You will need an intake form of some sort. I have a digital form I email to clients. It asks all the pertinent questions I have when I get ready to quilt a quilt. I want to know how they want their quilt quilted, what batting they want, what thread color they desire. I also have a little math problem for them to do so there are no surprises when they get their final invoice. They find the square inches of their quilt and multiply it by the price of the service they want. That gives them a good estimate of what it will cost. I might charge too much for some and that is fine. I like my customer base just fine. I always want new customers, but I will not work for free and I don't like quilting for folks who always "want a deal". I am a professional and I expect/deserve to be treated as one ( so do you ). There must be quilters out there who do not value their time or skill so the deal seekers can go find them. When I contract out work to a fellow professional (doctor, lawyer, dentist, plumber, auto mechanic, photographer) I anticipate that I will be paying them for their work and skill so I research and find who meets my needs and go from there. I assume quilt makers do the same when they come to me.  I have bills the same as everyone else and kids who want to have food to eat and clothing to wear. I have met quilters who only charge $50 a quilt no matter the size and I don't understand why they would do that. I am probably going off on a soapbox rant. I will get back on track.

With all that said you may be asked to do charity quilting. Have a policy for this. You WILL be asked to quilt charity quilts. That is fine. We quilters LOVE a charity. You can do some, but choose which ones you want to do. Charity quilts are actually good to try new things on but be careful because after you let a couple in you might find yourself overwhelmed with how many pour in behind them.


Be friendly and professional. I like most people and I like their quilts. You are opening a business and you are the face of your business just like me. You need to keep a tidy studio. Mine is messy sometimes when I am in the midst of creating quilts or designs, and folks understand that. Most actually like it. They like seeing what I am working on at any given time and I am normally happy to show. If they are dropping off a quilt have them make an appointment. I have drop off times and drop off days. If people drop in anytime it makes it hard to get back to work. I get distracted especially when it comes to talking about quilts.

My last thing is social media. In this day and age we need to have some sort of social media presence. I am not a big fan of Facebook, but lots of folks love it so I am there. I really like Instagram and I have a website. The people need to be able to find you. It is best if you try to remain professional. Don't post your nude pictures, drunken rants or political stance. What is it they say not to talk about at a good dinner party? Don't talk about religion, sex or politics. I try to stick to that with my social media. You do you of course, I am just offering my advice.

OK...does that help a little? I hope so. Long Arm quilting is a great gig. I get to work from home and be around when my family needs me. I am my own boss and get to do what I love. I hope you do too! Please let me know if you want me to deep dive on any of these topics. I am sure money will be one and I am working on a blog post specifically about that. don't worry.

Cheers!
Tia Curtis

I'm Still here! Still quilting.

Hi There!
It has been a long time hasn't it? So much has been going on with my family and so much quilting has been going on as well. About May my husband decided to take a job down in San Antonio. Needless to say that meant a move, putting the house on the market, making renovations, selling the house buying a new house, packing all our stuff up, selling our absolutely awesome flock of hens, saying good bye to friends, making new friends, saying farewell to the best quilt guild in the world, and getting a heap of quilts quilted. Some of that did happen. Most of that happened actually. I did send my husband to Texas without me to try on the job and city and see if he actually liked it before moving us all back to Texas. We did make a ton of renovations to our house and we put it on the market. I packed up almost my entire studio and most of the house, sold and gave away so much fabric and sewing machines and just STUFF. I quilted my entire rack of client quilts, I wrote some quilt patterns, planned so many classes, trunk shows and workshops for next year and we said goodbye to dear friends. But.....then we didn't move. Turns out we were not fans of a massive city and my husband wasn't a fan of the new job, so we stayed in Leavenworth, Kansas. I got to experience all the emotions. I got to start taking a new blood pressure medicine. I can't find half my stuff that is still packed up in the garage and I am still trying to catch up on the whirlwind that was this summer. It was hot and stressful and so so so productive. If you follow along with my Instagram feed you will know some of the madness we have been putting on ourselves.

I am just going to show some pictures of the quilts I have quilted. Please ask questions if you want to see more of them...heck some of them I may have shown before. If so they are pretty and you get to see them again.




 I quilted this one to be cut up and made into bags. I made 6 bags out of it already.





This is Lori's version of my BOEOM quilt. Isn't it cute? 




One of my own quilts got in the mix. This is a class sample for a couple classes.













I really love this quilting I did on Konda's quilt. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what I want to quilt on a quilt, but this one was so fun and easy. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.


Another or Klonda's quilts. I love this black on black quilting. so puffy and wonderful.




This was a neat one. I quilted the lyrics to a couple Wicked songs on this quilt. The texture of my handwriting makes a neat element.





And I have been raising these clowns. They have grown up so much. Seems like just yesterday they were little. I think they are my best work really.

OK, back to work! If you saw something you want more info about just let me know in the comments or email me.

Cheers!
Tia

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My Block Of Every Other Month Quilt is finished!

Hi There Folks!

I hope you are all doing well. I have been busy quilting as usual. I have been traveling to teach and do trunk shows too. That has been quite fun. Earlier this month I squeezed my own quilt into the Custom quilt queue. It was super fun to quilt. I don't make many quilts these days as I spend most of my time quilting for people. While I was making this quilt I knew how I wanted to quilt each section so the quilting went quite quickly. I think the quilt needs a different name than #KCMQGBOEOM What are your ideas for a different name? I stink at naming quilts.


Here I am in my sunny studio. I have a basement studio too. My quilting business has swollen to take up quite a bit of the house. If we ever move I think I need an out building to set up shop it. Oh and that fluff ball under my arm is my daughter's cat Ragnar. He is a dream boat.  All the tutorials for this quilt are here on my blog and over on my Youtube Channel. If you make blocks from my tutorials I sure would LOVE to see them. Please tag me on Instagram, or send me a picture. I will happily make more tutorials if I see that people are using them. Its a little vainglorious to just write posts that no one reads or is inspired by. So sound off if you are here. Now, lets look at pictures.


Almost ALL the fabric in this quilt is Cotton+Steel from my shop. Go get some for yourself if you like. For the next couple days you can use the code SUMMERBREAK to get 15% off your fabric purchase of $25 or more. There is some great stuff in the shop and more on the way.


I used 2 layers of batting. Quilters Dream Blend on the bottom and Wool on top. Using two layers of batting creates a false trapunto look. The un-quilted bits pop and it looks more fancy. The quilting can really show off.


The whole quilt is quilted with Glide thread in the color Tar Heel. Not only is it a great color, but I like the name too.


I did a little curved crosshatching because it is fun and I don't do it very often. I love Linda's rulers from The Quilted Pineapple. They are the best I have ever used.


So there you go. Everything I can think of about this quilt. Please ask questions if any spring to mind.

Cheers!
Tia

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Modern Arch Block Tutorial


Hey there! Are you ready for the last block in the KCMQG Block or Every Other Month? I am. I won't lie...I never take this long to make a quilt and its kinda driving me nuts. I don't like dragging things out. I am a woman of action and I want things made and done. boom.


This was a hard block to name. I took it to the Instagram hive mind because all I could come up with was "Humpy Block". While I love the block and I think they are really fun to make my daughter told me they looked like ogre fingernails...and if you butt them together they look kinds like pills or lady parts. Funny how it goes when you are so pleased with how something turns out and then to get someone else's opinion on their appearance it totally changes how you feel about them. Boo. I think they look like the fantastic Olga mountain range in The Middle of Australia. If you want to read more about that trip you are welcome to read about it on my old blog Camp Follower Bags. Its a funny story and my kids were so so so cute! I also wanted to name them the "Olga Blocks" but I figured no one would understand so without further ado I have named this last block "the Modern Arch" Thank you so much for helping me name it.


Of course I made a bunch of them. These blocks are both pieced and appliquéd. The appliqué is a small bit so it is easy and a great place to begin if you are new to needle turn appliqué. You are also welcome to just use raw edge appliqué or fusible. These will be your blocks, do them however you please.


Here is one of my aboriginal paintings of the Olgas. See how they are fabulous rounded domes? Such a magical place. The Artist who painted this piece is named Rooth,


I have several Aboriginal pieces and I love the swirls and curves...I bet you can see it reflected in my own quilting can't you?

Modern Arc Tutorial


Start out with two sets of rectangles. Overlap them. One will be the right side and the other will be the left side.


Cut an arc while the blocks are overlapped. If you are uncomfortable free cutting with your rotary cutter, you are welcome to draw an arc and use that line to cut on. Don't worry if they aren't symmetrical, I think the asymmetrical quirkiness is what makes these so fun. You do need to leave at least a half inch on the far edge so you can piece the Arcs without loosing your curves...unless that is the look you are going for.


To piece the curve you need to have a bit of an overhang of the inner piece.


I don't pin the block I just go for it and ease the curve in as I go.


As you can see you will have some waste that you will need to trim away. Thats fine. You can stop here or add another inner curve.


Do it the same way. Overlap another square or rectangle and cut a curve a so the curve angles match the piece you are sewing them into.


If you notice there is no way you will get the center seam to match up feel free to piece in a scrap and make it straight. You are in charge of these blocks.


Now for the piece that you will be appliquéing. Cut an arc that is smaller that the last one you stitched in.


I like to make a basting stitch about 1/4 inch from the edge and then I use my needle to tuck the seam allowance under. That basting line acts as a barrier and helps keep the proper shape.


Maybe this picture shows you what I mean?


Trim the fabric beneath the appliqué if you can. I do this because it makes for less layers when I quilt it and if the fabric is darker under it will make a shadow that might be ugly.

OK.... go forth and make some Modern Arch blocks. I Sure would love to see what your look like. If you make them tag me on Instagram.

XO,
Tia Curtis