Thursday, May 29, 2014

Behind the Scenes of a Custom Quilt - Why They Take Longer and Cost More

Recently I had an issue with a customer (2 actually).  It was my fault as I didn’t let them know that their custom quilts could take months to get them done.  I woefully under quoted them on the time it takes to do a custom quilt and apparently I lead them to believe that these would be quick and easy…  My mistake!  Custom quilts take much longer than a usual Edge to Edge (E2E) for several reasons. 

The first reason they take longer is because first of all you have to ditch (stitch in the ditch) around every section of the quilt… This can take many days as if you hand guide this portion, you have to be in “good shape” mentally and physically – no aches and pains, no issues gnawing on your mind as you can’t do this with any malady.  If you choose to do it with the computer, it actually takes even longer as you have to not only stitch it out (which goes slower than hand guiding), but you have to set each line up on the computer.  Both of these take many hours and sometimes days.

The second reason they take longer is that you have many more patterns to pick out.  If the customer can tell you exactly what they want, it cuts out the design time…this seldom happens.  If you are like me, I need to have complete confidence in my choices and until I do…I keep looking.  The design time can take hours if not days as well. 

The third reason they take longer is the time it takes to set up these sections on the computer.  I won’t bore you with the details on how you do this, but it requires much measuring and marking the quilt and sizing the quilting pattern, then you have to stitch them out and if it is a complex quilting pattern the stitching out takes quite a bit of time as well.  This process almost always takes days.

When you count this up, it takes hours if not days for all of these processes, so most custom quilts take at least 3 – 5 days and can take as long as 7 – 14 days (and some even longer).  As professional longarm quilters, I think we have a habit of making this seem easier and faster than it actually is, because once we see how we would do it…we let the customer know that it can be done and forget to convey the complexity of the process.

Another reason it is hard to estimate how much time it takes to do a custom quilt, for professional longarm quilters, is that it is impossible to know exactly how long it will take and when you will be able to fit it in to your other workload.  It might seem to a customer that their custom quilt is getting pushed to the back of the line and is not a priority, when they see E2E get done and go out the door.  This is not the case, all quilts are important to me, it is just that sometimes you need to be a little more inspired for a custom quilt.  You need to have your mind and body right to tackle it and sometimes that takes longer than other times. 

Ok, so now you know why it takes so much longer than E2E, this should also help explain why they cost so much.  A few years ago I did a custom quilt for about $400…it was on my frame for 2 weeks and I worked on it every day for at least 5 hours a day and sometimes 8 hours a day…so counted up I worked on this quilt for approx. 91 hours…This means I worked on this quilt for approx.. $4.39 an hour.  Hopefully this helps to explain the behind the scenes of a custom quilt and why it takes longer and costs more than an E2E.

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