Watching costs improves your bottom line

I love quilting and often create things for the sheer joy of it.  Lots of time, love and extra special fabrics go into quilts for loved ones without considering the cost. Moving from hobby to business quilter required a change in mindset.

My goal is to provide a quality service for my customers at fair price for both of us.  So far, so good, but materials costs are rising and I am afraid I’ll lose some of my customer base if I raise my prices too much.

Basically, I have two ways to improve my profitability – cut costs or increase prices. (Remember, the purpose of being in business is to make a profit?) Cost cutting can include buying supplies at cheaper prices or investing in equipment that will save production time without sacrificing quality.  I do have some wholesale suppliers, but the fabric wholesalers currently have minimums that are out of my reach.

What’s a micro business owner to do?  
(1) Limit customer options.
(2) Shop retail on sale and stock up.
(3) Some combination of 1 & 2 with upcharges for certain things clearly spelled out.

I choose option #3.

I limit customer options with regard to:
(a) overall design (grid, wonky or mosaic)
(b) machine quilting (straight line at 1″ intervals, simple meander or loopy meander)
(c) thread color

(a) Fabric above a certain price point. This allows the customer to use any fabric they want, but means I don’t have to absorb the cost of the fabric they must have and can only be found at the LQS for $13.75/yard.
(b) Fancy machine quilting or anything over a twin size. Most of my orders are for lap size quilts (roughly 50″x66″), so anything over a twin automatically goes to the local longarm quilter. Customers are told this when they first inquire about my services. (Note: I now have a mid-arm machine and am practicing my quilting designs).

My interfacing and batting come from the big box craft stores when they are on sale and there’s either an additional 20% off the purchase or I use my 15% teacher discount.  If I find a backing fabric that I really like at a quilt shop or the big box craft store, I may buy the entire bolt if it’s at a really good price.

Cost comparison for a 3 x 4 grid t-shirt quilt (50″ x 66″)

6 yards of interfacing, 6-1/4 yards of fabric and a twin package of batting from Joann:
Full retail:  $130.00  Carefully shopped: $86.00

THIS MEANS $44.00 more in your pocket by watching how/where you shop.

You might even save a few more dollars if you hit things on sale at the right time. 

In my area, the going rates for a 12 t-shirt grid style quilt with sashing and a border range from $195.00 to $380.00.  That’s a pretty wide range of prices. The person at the high end is rumored to have to turn away business. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’d really like to see how the company that charges $195.00 makes any money. Are they able to save on supplies, have super speedy construction methods or are they paying themselves $3.00 an hour at the end of the day?  Yes, there are times when I’ve probably averaged $3.00 per hour on some projects in the beginning stages, but thankfully, not anymore. 🙂


The importance of giving back…

One of the lines in my personal mission statement is to:

“Leave this world a better place than I found it.”  

It means sharing my talents, time and resources with the community in which I live.

This is probably the main reason I’ve stuck it out in public education for nearly 15 years. Last year about this time, I was actually planning to hang up my school librarian hat and return to the private sector. Funny how things worked out for the best. I am at a school that challenges me and allows me to run a sewing club. Truth is, I simply enjoy working with kids (including the hardheads at my current school). Even if my career takes a different path in the future, I will continue to work with kids on a volunteer basis.

Making quilts and teaching sewing are also ways to give back.  While my business does support CAREing Paws, I sewed charity quilts and made pillowcases for CHOA, plus taught Girl Scouts how to sew long before I ever dreamed of starting my own sewing business.

If you are one who is teaching the next generation how to sew, be sure to include a service learning component where your little stitcher(s) make lap quilts, pillowcases, placemats or something to donate to a deserving organization. This also dovetails nicely with homeschool math activities.




Free Motion Quilting on the 8900 QCP

Snow day on Friday = free time to learn how to FMQ on my new machine.

Five different darning feet, 3 broken needles and a few choice words later, I finally figured it out.

Learn from my experience.


  1. Stitch DS4 is when you use the foot with the interchangeable heads.
  2. Stitch DS1 is when you use a traditional style darning foot.
  3. Use your straight stitch plate.

My favorite foot is the open toe attachment on the adjustable darning foot (the one with the 3 heads).

To make a long story short, I got the best results with a 90/14 topstitch needle, using my blue bobbin case and leaving the feed dogs up. I also stitched at a medium speed. For 50 wt thread, I left it on auto tension and foot pressure = 5.

Yes, you read correctly, I did not drop my feed dogs. I merely covered them with my Supreme Slider. If you do this, the machine will switch back to a DS1 stitch (which is fine), but make sure to set your stitch length to zero.

Leah Day quilts with the feed dogs up. For me, it had the effect of being like a built in stitch regulator. Can’t explain why, but the stitches were more even with the feed dogs up rather than dropped.

Can’t hurt to give it a try!

P.S. Have a traditional hopping darning foot that you want to make work for you? Check out Leah Day’s post on how to modify your darning foot.


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