Quilting World FAQ

This section is all about the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) of the Quilting World. This FAQ doesn't pertain to questions regarding troubleshooting problems in your quilt, but rather these are more general questions that we get asked a lot in our shop and that I see popping up a lot across the quilting blogosphere concering the quilting community at large. 
This is intended to give you a starting point for your own research and experience and is not intended to be taken as gospel. Please be aware that the answers here are my thoughts only and do not reflect the opinions of The Cotton Patch unless otherwise noted.  I make no assertions as to this FAQs legal accuracy and I am not responsible for any legal action, nor will I assume any liability, for any outcome of the pursuance of these ideas and opinions. Otherwise, enjoy, and I hope you find them helpful!

The Q/A is organized in the following groups:
-Buying and Selling Quilts
-Patterns, Books & Notions
- Quilt Shops
-Quilt Shows, Guilds & Groups
-Quilting (Professional) 

Buying and Selling Quilts
I'm thinking about making and selling quilts, but how do I go about pricing them?
I'm going to be completely honest: If priced fairly for the quiltmaker, quilts are extremely expensive. If priced fairly for the quiltmaker, meaning 100% markup of supplies plus labor, quilts would be an unrealistic purchase for most people in this economy.  First of all, I strongly encourage you to research quilt pricing online; you will see several schools of thought on pricing. The following is fairly consistent rule of thumb: Consider your quilt size, materials, whether you're having it professionally quilted, and how many hours you put into it as well as the environment in which you'll be selling your quilt. If you're looking to make your quilts affordable for the buyer, consider charging the cost you paid for supplies (including quilting), plus your hourly rate. You'll break even on supplies, and make a profit on labor - most quilters charge $15 -$20 per hour. This works better in quilt shop, swap meet and for individual quilts, environments in which people are expecting reasonably priced goods. If you're not as focused about affordability for the buyer, most quiltmakers will mark up 50-100% for supplies plus their hourly rate, making a profit on both supplies and labor. The latter pricing works better in an art fair, quilt show or gallery atmosphere where people are going expecting to buy large ticket items. Of course, there are more than just one method of pricing your wares (some price by square foot plus hourly wage) and you may have to adjust your pricing to adapt to where you're selling and who you are selling to.

Can I sell quilts made from a purchased pattern, or does it have to be my own?
It can be either, however, if you decide to sell your quilts made from a published pattern there is a different procedure to follow than if you're using your own pattern. If you are using your own pattern, it is advisable to copyright on your pattern in the case that someone tries to credit your pattern as their own if they try to reproduce your design. If you're using your own pattern, you can sell your wares as you see fit.  If you are using an existing, published pattern even if it is a free pattern you are bound by copyright law to contact the designer before reproducing their design for sale. Most patterns say somewhere on or in them that the pattern and therefore design is meant for individual use and not for retail sale without express permission from the designer/company.  I would strongly encourage you to seek permission in writing for your records.

Where can I sell my quilts?
This is very much dependent on your area and what you are seeking to gain from your sales. Ask around. Senior centers, churches, antique stores, gift shops, outdoor markets, flea markets, quilt shows and art shows are a great place to start. Your local quilt guild or quilt shop may also have information as to places accepting quilts sold on commission for for outright sale.  Etsy, eBay, and other online options are available as well, and there are different challenges and advantages to going online - sales tax and shipping may be additional considerations you have to make.

I'm looking to buy a handmade quilt. Where do I look other than quilt shops?
If you're looking for a new quilt, ask your local quilt shop and guild for the names and numbers of people who make custom quilts for people if you have something specific in mind. If you're just looking for a general handmade quilt, check out your local flea market and outdoor market, as well as your local senior center or church. Quilt and art shows are also good places to check. If you're looking for something older, an antique store or church is a great place to start your search. Every now and then, garage sales and estate sales have quilts for sale as well!  On rare occasions, Goodwill may have some as well.

What are the pros and cons of a handmade quilt versus a store bought quilt?
It's pretty safe to assume that I'm biased in favor of handmade quilts, but I'll try to remain objective here. The advantages of having a handmade quilt is that it was made, presumably, for YOU. No one else has anything like it because it is for you and it is yours. It is a gift made with love. Handmade quilts generally have a better quality fabric and better quality workmanship, as well as more versatility in style, function and durability. You will also have a piece of art and history to pass down as an heirloom for generations. However, not all handmade quilts wash well, particularly if they are a lower quality fabric. Handmade quilts, if poorly constructed, can also wear quickly and if purchased and not received as a gift, can be extremely spendy. Store bought quilts are mass produced with function and durability in mind with style and beauty being a very secondary thought. They are meant to be easily washed and wear reasonably well considering cost. However, it is little different than buying a plain ol' blanket because they are produced en masse (often) out of the country. The fabric quality is often low and the workmanship leaves a lot to be desired since they are either constructed by machines or in a sewing assembly line. Consider your needs and how you know the item will be treated and washed. Machine pieced handmade quilts can also stand up to a lot of abuse. Really your decision hangs on how much you want to spend and how you will care for it.

What do people mean when they say "Line of Fabric?"
A line of fabric is a series of fabrics that are designed to go together and are sold under one group name by a designer for a fabric company. A line generally has one major focus piece, a few supplementary focus pieces, a few design specific small prints and a couple general blenders to complement. Excluding the general blenders, these fabrics are only printed once at a fixed amount of yardage and it's reasonably safe to say that once they are sold out, they're done. It is extremely rare that a line is produced more than once, though there are exceptions to every rule (Laurel Burch fabric has been reprinted a few times in varying colorways)

What is a "blender" fabric?
A blender is a fabric that is designed to go with other fabrics without being part of the line or even of the same company. They tend to be small prints, textural, tonals or solids.   Again, every company does their blenders differently, but for the most part they are monochromatic or having only a few analogous colors. Each company has several lines of blenders. For example, Moda has "Marbles" and "Crackle." Blenders are a fantastic way to flesh out fabric you all ready have, and are essential to a quilt to give your eye a place to rest. They are what most people use as backgrounds or accent colors, though they are much more versatile than just those purposes.

Why do people separate batiks from regular cottons, and what makes them so different?
In usage, they really aren't all that different - it's the process by which they are made and the resulting appearance that makes them different than other cottons. There are varying opinions, but it is perfectly okay to combine regular cottons and batiks. Combining the two gives a quilt a different look than just using batiks or just using cottons. However, by definition, a Batik is a fabric that has been treated and dyed using a wax resist technique and produced in Java and Bali. Not all batiks are produced there now, and yes, they are still Batiks, but often the quality is not as high. Other Batiks are made all over, from India to Thailand, so "batik" mainly refers to the dyeing process. The dyeing process is very literally done by and large by local people in factories that are fair-weather dependent (which is why batiks are slow coming into stores sometimes) - these factories range from very small and poor working conditions to fairly optimized assembly lines.  There are a lot of different routes the process can take. One method involves texturing by dyeing the fabric one or multiple colors, and tossing salts of varying grain sizes to manipulate the dye absorption - dye will pool around the salt since the salt absorbs moisture and so wherever the salt was thrown is where you find the texture and variation in color. While not a wax resist technique, salt dyeing is still categorized with Batiks and are sold side by side. The wax process is a little different. the fabric is either left natural colored or it is base dyed. Wax is applied with a jaunting tool or a batik stamp to create the desired design. The wax dries and the fabric is over-dyed, and the wax protects the design from absorbing more dye. More wax is applied if another layer of pattern is desired and redyed, or more layers of color are built up over the existing dye pattern. This process is long and very much impacted by the weather. Dye lots are never the same, so every batik is truly unique. This is one factory and one method of batiking, so I recommend looking up more process videos on YouTube as well if you want to see more:

Can I make a quilt with more than one type of fabric in it?
Yes! While some folks have some strong opinions on mixing fibers, there are no Quilt Police that will come and string you up.  At the end of the day, it is YOUR quilt and you can do whatever you want.  Mixing fibers lends a scrappy look to your quilt even if all of your fabrics follow the same theme or colorway. The thing to be cognizant of is how these fabrics stretch and shrink - different types of fabrics stretch and shrink at different rates so you need to make sure you stabilize if necessary. The only way you'll ever know if you like to look of mixed fibers is to try it.

What is the difference between a first run fabric and a third run fabric, and how do I know what I have?
Here is an easy way to remember it. When you're testing out pattern alignment and dyes, would you test out on your highest quality greigh goods? No, probably not. So first run fabrics are the test fabrics - the dyes my not take very well (they run when washed) and they may not be quite the right colors, and the greigh goods are probably a lower thread count (rougher in texture and thinner). These fabrics, if sold at all, get sold to places like Wal-Mart and sometimes JoAnn's and Hancock's for their discount bins and are susceptible to high shrinkage rates, color fading and wear very quickly. These are the $1.50/yard fabrics - inexpensive, but you're getting what you pay for. Second run fabrics are still lower quality greigh good, but are a little better but they are still working out kinks in dye retention. These are what JoAnn's and Hancock's carry. They still have a high shrink rate and there is still a very real possibility that the dye will run when washed, but stand up better to usage. They are also reasonably inexpensive, hold up well as backings but are prone to fading. Third run fabrics are the high quality greigh goods and have all of the pattern alignment and dye issues by and large worked out. The odds of dye bleeding and fading are greatly reduced and the thread count is higher, making for softer fabric and greater durability over time. They are the most expensive (on average $10/yard) but over the long haul hold up very well to repeated washing and use. That being said, please, buy whatever fabric you like and what you can afford, and I mean that! While quality materials are a key factor in quilt longevity, what matters most is that you have the fabric you like at the price you are willing and able to pay. How do you know which run you have? The easiest way to tell is by feel; first runs tend to be rougher than third runs because of the lower thread count. Also, hold your fabric up to the light; if the light shines easily through and you can see the weave clearly, it's probably a first or second run. Third run fabrics, again, because of the higher thread count, tend to be a little bit thicker.

Why are focus fabrics more than a year old difficult to find?
When a fabric company prints a line of fabric, they print a fixed amount of yardage that is divvied up to chain and independent quilt stores that have pre-ordered it. Reorders are done on a first come-first serve basis to whatever store can get to it first. Every store has a different flavor and different pieces sell differently. Sometimes a store will have a bolt for a year or more and that piece is available to you for a relatively longer period of time. Other times the bolt will fly. The store's ability to get the piece back in depends on how long they've had it paired with how much surplus yardage is still available from the fabric company. A good rule of thumb though is that if the line is less than a year old, or it's a blender piece, then odds are more likely than not that the store has it or can get it back in. If the piece is not a blender or is more than a year old, your chances of finding it in a brick and mortar store are diminished, but it never hurts to contact your local shop just in case.

I see fabrics I love, but I don't have anything in mind for them so I don't know how much to buy. Since I'm unsure, I pass them by and then later I find the perfect thing for them, and they're gone. Is there a good rule of thumb for buying those odd pieces?
Well, no not really, because everyone you ask will have a different opinion on this. I'll share how I make those choices, and it may work for you, and it may not. First, consider scale, cost and take a stab at a purpose. Think about whether you would want to use it more than once, if it's a good basic and whther you mind having scraps of it or not. If it's a small to medium scale print: 1 yard if I like it, 2 if I love it or I think it would make a good background, 3 if I can't live without it or think it would make a good border. If it's a large scale print or directional print: 1.5-2 yards if I like it, 2.5-3 if I love it or I think it would make a good background, 3-4 if I can't live without it or think it would make a good border/backing. I tend to overshoot by quite a lot because I want to ensure I have enough and I usually want to be able to use it in more than one project in some capacity or another.

How did quilting begin?
Well, the history of quilting is approximate at best and it truly is a patchwork (oh, that was bad...hehe) of different stories and perspectives. Since it has deep roots in women's history, records were not well kept since for hundreds of years literacy was not considered an important skill for women to have, and the men in control didn't deem womanly endeavors important enough to write anout and preserve for posterity. Early patchwork was implied in ancient Egypt, but the earliest we have any physical evidence for  is in from the late middle ages in Turkey if my memory serves me correctly. there is debate on whether that early patchwork can be considered quilting since quilting as we know it was a womanly and social endeavor and we don't necessarily know that of the early items - some debate that early American history is where quilting as we know it was born, though there is no doubt that it is here that it was able to get a stronghold and grow into the multi-million dollar industry it is today. I'm going to save you from a long-winded explanation here and refer you to the International Quilt Study Center  and this quilt history site so you can read the articles available and determine for yourself how and when you think quilting began.

Is quilting a women-only endeavor?
Not anymore! For years and years quilting has been associated with women. Think about the stereotype of a quilter - I'll wait. You think of an elderly woman handstitching a quilt by the fire, don't you? That's the romanticized version of things. Today there are male quilters who are absolutely fantastic at what they do and the number of male quilters is growing every year. I can hear it from here: "But Lauren, you do realize that the men who do quilt are all gay, right?" That is absolutely not true. While yes, some of them are, it's definitely not the rule. It's a good thing that men are starting to quilt as well, because it keeps the quilting tradition fresh with new perspectives and ideas. So if you're a man and you want to quilt, please join us!

Is quilting considered art or a craft/hobby?
Both sides of this debate have been argued for decades with no objectively conclusive answer. Both sides have been successfuly proven subjectively and there is evidence to suggest both objectively. The traditional art world tends to reject quilting as a "legitimate" art and relegates it to "folk art" and crafts, citing lack of traditional art training as well as quilting's origins as a necessity in functionality over form. The art community argues that to call quilting an art is simply a result of the quilting community thinking too highly of itself when the traditional standards of art are not present, ie., for visual pleasure rather than functional beauty, and the emphsis on a social endeavor rather than an individual effort. On the other side of the coin, ask members of the quilting community if what they do is art and more than likely the answer will be yes. Quilting uses the principles of art to their fullest extent - one must have knowledge of texture versus pattern, color versus value, fabrics creating movent, how line functions, negative versus positive space, proportion, design...pair this with the fact that sewing two pieces of fabric together can be way trickier than it sounds (set in seams, anyone?) and making something that is both beautiful, resourceful and functional and you have art. Quilting, like painting, come naturally to few and the skill must be acquired and honed only through experience and practice; just like I couldn't just one day decide to sit down and paint a more skillful version of the Mona Lisa, a person with zero sewing experience couldn't just sit down and whip out a Lone Star and have it turn out perfectly. I don't think quilting will ever be formally recognized by the art community, and even within the quilting community it may not be - but at the end of the day that really isn't all that important. Think about how you feel when you quilt; do you feel like a crafts(wo)man or do you feel like an artist? Both are equally valid.

Do I have to do my projects by hand for it to be considered real quilting?
There are two very opinionated schools of thought on this, and I am quite sure I'll piss off some of the purists out there, but no.  It doesn't.  Remember what I said about Quilt Police?  If you want your quilts to be 100% done in the traditional way, then yes, hand piecing and hand quilting are going to be the most authentic. But I encourage you consider that quilting is a long-term, social tradition that is influenced by changing times much like other arts have been.  Technology progresses, ideas spread, and more efficient tools get developed. Does that make the finished result any more or less well made?  No.  Admittedly, hand piecing and hand quilting are a skill set that in recent years has become rarer and a very valuable cultural practice.  But does that mean it is superior to a machine pieced quilt, or more legitimate?  No.  Whichever method you choose is completely fine.

Do I have to put a label on my quilt?  
You will hear differing opinions on this, but no, you don't have to. The world will not stop turning 20 years from now because there is no label on your quilt. However, it is beneficial in the long run to slap a label on there for posterity. Quilts are pieces of material culture, made by people who have lived and died and passed them on - quilts have a history and a story to tell. By putting a label on your quilt the future generations will know who made it and when, which is great for family heirlooms and extremely valuable in the museum system, and it helps to cement your legacy in the material record.

Which brands of sewing machine are the most reliable?
There is no right answer to this question. Anyone you ask will have a very different opinion on which is best and most reliable. It is advisable to stick to the major brands, since they have the most options for warranties, services and parts availability than the off-brands. These brands include (but are not limited to): Bernina, Janome, Singer, Baby Lock, Viking, Husqvarna and Brother. Your experience with a particular brand may be very different than the quilters you ask. All I can suggest is that when you speak to your retailer, ask about common complaints and gliches with the brands of machine you are considering, and weigh those against the options you are looking for. I have had a Bernina, Janome, Simplicity, and a Singer...by far, my Janome has been my favorite.

What should I look for when buying a new sewing machine?
Consider your purpose. What kind of sewing do you do? Are you a beginner looking for the basics, or are you more advanced looking for all the bells and whistles? Is free-motion quilting your thing, or do you want to do embroidery? It helps to make a list of what your expectations for your machine are, just like you would if you were buying a vehicle (is it important to have a moon roof, anti-lock brakes, good gas mileage, a flashy exterior, heated seats, or what?). When you have decided what your needs are, then it's time to look at machines. A sewing machine can be a real investment (seriously, some cost more than my car did when it was new) so it is advisable to talk to someone who can recommend different options and find a machine that will fit your needs.

Patterns, Books and Notions
What is the difference between free patterns and open domain patterns?
A free pattern is a pattern that has been designed by a formal designer or by a non-company associated quilter that is being distributed free of cost either in stores or over the internet for general use. Though free, the pattern is still intellectual property and may have restrictions for redistribution or for selling items made from it. An open domain pattern is a design that has been reproduced so many times over a significant period of time such that no one can claim ownership to it and therefore is not copyrighted and distributed for free.  For example, a churn dash block is open domain - no one "owns" a churn dash.

How does copyright in the quilting world work?
It operates similarly as to books, music and other art forms, but due to parts of quilting that are so fluidly community based, there are some oddities. Photcopying, taking a picture of or reproducing by hand any pattern book or quilt that does not qualify as open domain is copyright infringement and is illegal. Rather than explaining it full length here, because there are a lot of "cans and cannots," I strongly encourage you to visit these sites: a quilter and lawyer, discusses copyright, and the Quilting and Knitting Copyright Law website. These are legal and binding and violations can be persecuted by law should the designer choose to do so.

Let me tell you a little story. I once made a quilt for a relative from a Doctor Who paper-pieced block of the Weeping Angel.  I enlarged it by 300%, put borders on, quilted it, and gave it to them as a Christmas present.  This was permissible under their copyright - it was a free pattern, and I made it for personal use only (I did not gain anything monetarily from it).  Many moons later I get a very curt email from the designer demanding I remove it from a re-sale website.  Apparently someone who followed this blog saw it there being sold for about $100 and reported it to the designer.  The person I gave it to gave it to Goodwill, where the purchaser found it, bought it, and re-sold it.  I explained this to the designer, that it had been given as a gift and I hadn't had possession of it since, and she felt awful about what happened (as did I).  My own feelings about the situation aside, it is a perfect example that not only does copyright matter but people are very attentive to it.  When in doubt, always ask.  

I have designed my own pattern and I am thinking about distributing it. Where should I start?
First of all, make sure that your pattern has been tested and re-tested by multiple people, with your quilt being made from start to finish using your pattern only by someone other than you.  Be sure to edit not only for correctness in measurements, yardage requirements and assembly procedure, but also for readability and clarity. Decide whether you are seeking a publishing deal with a larger company (if so, contact your company of choice for more information), or self-publishing.  Either way, it is advisable for you to create a business name and seek a copyright on your pattern to ensure that the pattern is legally your creative property and is protected from copyright violation under the law. If you are looking to be published on a larger scale than self-publishing, the company you publish with will set rules and guidelines for distribution. If you are self-published, start taking your patterns to local quilt shops and see if they will be willing to buy and sell your patterns outright or on commission. Talk to your guild about doing a trunk show, or contact your regional quilting supply warehouse for information on them carrying your patterns on a wholesale basis.  Networking is key.

Quilt Shops
Why don't most quilt shops accept returns on cut yardage, patterns, or books?
Stores do not accept returns on cut yardage (other than in cases of flaws) for a pretty basic reason: after a fabric is cut off the bolt and taken home by a customer, that fabric is no longer sellable.  Between the store and your home, it could get spilled on, come in contact with cigarette smoke, at home it could get cat or dog hair on it, or get washed. The shop doesn't know any of that for sure, so it cannot re-sell.  As for books and patterns, returns are rare as unfortunately a few bad apples spoiled the bunch.  There are some intentionally dishonest folks out there, and some that do this unwittingly, but it happens - they'll buy the book or pattern for the sole purpose of making a copy and returning it, essentially getting that pattern or that one thing out of a book for free. It only takes 15 minutes to make a copy or two.  This is copyright infringement, and most shops will protect the author or designer and not accept the return.

Why do quilt shops not typically allow pictures taken in their store?
While on the surface it seems petty, and a borderline customer service issue because it sounds like  distrust of loyal customers, there is actually a very valid and legal primary reason: Copyright Laws. Unfortunately this is another case of a few bad apples. Though most people take pictures of quilts because they have/are buying the pattern and want theirs to look like the sample, others take pictures because they want to do that quilt and want to figure it out without the pattern. I know nothing about that sounds off right away, but think of it this way: Someone out there put a lot of time, effort and money into making and distributing that pattern. They had to make the quilt, write the pattern, test the pattern, edit the pattern, have someone else test the pattern, re-edit the pattern, design the layout and organization of the pattern, and pay to have it printed and then pay again to have it legally copyrighted. It is a long and tedious process to get one good pattern out,and for many pattern designers, that is their livelihood. That specific design by law is theirs. Taking a picture and copying the design and pattern without purchasing the pattern is copyright infringement.  Considering that fact, if someone takes a picture of a quilt in a quilt shop, makes the pattern without the pattern, doesn't contact the designer for permission to sell goods from their pattern that they copied, decides to start selling the pattern as their own and gets caught, there can and typically is legal action that follows. It is out of respect for the designer.

Why is fabric at independent quilt shops so much more expensive than at places like JoAnn's?Don't they realize you can get the same thing cheaper elsewhere?
Believe me, they do, but even though it may have the same print, same manufacturer and same line name, it's not the same. It comes right down to quality and the separation of large chain stores versus mom & pop shops. There is nothing wrong with buying inexpensive fabrics, but keep in mind that unless it's a Clearance item of the same quality, you get what you pay for. JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart and other chain retailers that sell fabric, either as their primary type of merchandise or as a supplementary/novelty type of merchandise, focus on quantity and keeping their prices as low as possible. That means that they typically purchase first or second run fabrics, which as explained before, are not high quality.  But since they aren't the best quality, they can sell the "same" fabric for cheaper because they bought it inexpensively at the wholesale level. Independent quilt shops have a different budget and a different focus than the chain shops.  Their overhead is different as the vast majority have only a single location and maybe some online business.  They make what they do buy count, so the griegh goods are top quality.  Yes, the cost is higher, but the fabric stands up much better tot he tests of time and use.  Plus, when you buy at an independent quilt store, you are supporting local business - the more support local business gets, the better the local economy gets. It's a win-win!

I ran out of a fabric I need, and my local shop is sold out. I asked if they could re-order it for me, and they said no. Are they just being difficult, or is there a valid reason for this?
Well, I suppose every shop has a different way of dealing with those questions, but the truth is that most likely they are not out to be difficult with you about it. It depends on what you're asking for and how much you need. That plays a HUGE role in whether a piece can come back into the store. If it is from a line (not a blender) it may no longer be available.  Also, buying a bolt is a commitment for the shop.  You may only need a quarter of a yard, but they have to figure out how to sell the remaining 14.75 yards; if it is something that will sell easily (like a basic) this is no problem.  But if it is a more specific piece that may struggle to sell and you don't need very much of it, then they may say no because of the commitment on their end. Most stores will only order bolts of more specific pieces if you are buying significant yardage (half or more) off of it. If you require less, it is less expensive and quicker for both you and the store to just get it elsewhere, or over the Internet.

My quilt store told me they were getting a line of fabric in at a certain time, and when I came in to buy some it wasn't there. Why don't they have it yet?
Just as you are a customer to the quilt store, the quilt store is the customer of the fabric company. The fabric company tells the shop when the fabric line is released  and available to ship, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the store will get the fabric right then. Stores schedule their shipments as best they can, and have a rough idea of when a certain item or line will be in. However, since the fabric company has the ultimate say-so as to when a fabric gets shipped, that may not always be when the store expected it. Back-orders and delays are a reality.  Or, the store may tell the fabric company to hold it because they don't have the room for it, or they need a different line sooner, or even they may not have the budget for it at that moment as expected.

Quilt Shows, Guilds and Groups
What are the benefits of belonging to a quilt group, and how do I join one?
Quilt groups are beneficial in many ways. First of all, it is a great way to meet like-minded quilters and friends to spend a few hours each week or month sewing and socializing together. It is a neat way to embark on projects with other quilters that you may not have before, and by doing so it expands your horizons and skills as a quilter. If you have friends that quilt, you can start your own group that way! Agree on a meeting time and place and encourage others to bring a project or an idea for a project for everyone to do. If you don't have any quilting friends, go to your local quilt shop or guild and ask about quilt groups. Let them know that you are interested in joining one, but you haven't found one yet. They may be able to point you in the right direction.

What is a Quilt Guild and what to they do?
A quilt guild is a group of quilters that have organized to form a larger "club" of quilters that is formally recognized by the community it operates in. While every guild runs a little bit differently, membership is based on some kind of yearly membership fee or a monthly dues system. There is typically some form of leadership hierarchy - a president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary, and committee board - as well as recognition  of senior and active members. Guilds are more organized than groups in that they have programs they conduct within the guild setting that both represent the guild at large and benefit the community. These programs include (but are not limited to) quilt shows, craft sales, charity projects, sponsorships, quilt preservation/education, as well as guild-wide projects, classes, challegnges and contests. They typically have a fixed montly meeting date at a particular venue that they rent out for that particular date. It serves as a network of quilters to collaborate with an bounce ideas off of, as well as a social outlet for those involved. If you want to become more involved in the quilting community as well as your home community, joining a quilt guild is a great way to start. You can find a listing of your local guild(s) online through a Google search or this website, or visit your local quilt shop and ask them for information on the guild(s) active in your area.

How do I become a vendor at a Quilt Show?
Every show is slightly different but typically there is a booth fee and an application process. It is best to contact the show coordinator to find out how to do so.

How do I get my quilt(s) displayed in a show?
Usually there is information on the show's website. There is an application process, and occasionally a jury to determine what can be shown. Every show is different. It's a good idea to contact the show coordinator to get the detail on how to submit your quilts.

What are mid-arm and long arm machines, what are they for and how do they differ from domestic machines?
Mid and long arm machines are called such because the throat of the machine is deeper and higher. Most domestic machines average at about 8" for their throat where mid and long arms can be as little as 14" long and and large as 25".  Their formatting is different as well - rather than sitting that these machines, they are built to be stood at, and rather than moving the fabric, you move the machine. They are generally intended primarily or solely for free motions quilting.  They are also significantly more expensive than domestic machines, with higher end machines costing as much as $60,000 with all of the bells and whistles.

How do I know what kind of quilting to do?
That depends very much on the effect you are trying to achieve with your quilt. Is it more traditional? Elegant? Contemporary? Child-oriented? Is it meant to be used and abused, or is it a rarely used guest blanket? Will it ever be washed and dried? Is it for a show quilt? Asking yourself those questions will help determine in terms of functionality, what type of quilting would be best for your quilt. If you are working with a professional long-armer, ask them what they think. They'll be honest with you if they think a quilting pattern is too much or not enough for your quilt.

What are the pros and cons of taking my quilt to be quilted professionally?
PROS: You save time. You are supporting a local business. If you don't have the space or the strength to quilt a large quilt, you're saving energy and efficiency. Your quilt has a unique and neat professional finish. It's a collaboration with others in the quilting community. If you don't know how to quilt your quilt, or don't know what would look good, a professional with a good eye for how a design will interact with the quilt pattern and fabrics used can help you make those choices.
CONS: You may have to wait a while for your quilt to come back if the quilter is backlogged and your quilting requests are intricate. It costs; prices can go from as little as $30 for small items to as much as $500 or more for large or intircate items. If your quilt is of a certain size, your quilter may not be able to take it.

How do I find a long-arm quilter, and what information do I need to know?
Ask around. Most quilt shops will have an area for local custom quilters' business cards, and they may have a quilter or two of choice that they use to quilt their store samples. Your local quild guild will also have information. It never hurts when you see a quilt you like to ask who quilted it - you may find someone that way.  Of course, there is the good ol' internet - do a search for long-arm quilters in your area. A few of them may have their own websites, and you may find contact numbers if nothing else. When you do find a quilter, it is perfectly acceptable to politely ask to see samples of their work, either in person or through photographs. You are hiring them to quilt your quilt and they understand that you want it to turn out well, so most are more than happy to show you their work. You will also want to inquire about their rates, up to what size of quilt the accept, how long their backlong is in terms of time, whether they provide batting for a charge or if you need to provide it, whether you need to piece the backing if necessary beforehand or if they will do so for a charge, do they make the thread choice or do you, and when and where the quilt can be dropped off or picked up.

I want my quilt hand quilted, but I can't/don't want to do it myself. Where do I find a professional hand quilter and what should I expect from them?
Professional hand quilters are difficult to find. Ask your local quilt shop where one can be found, otherwise do an internet search for hand quilters in your area. Be aware that you may have to travel a bit out of town to find one. When you do find one, expectations are similar to long arm quilters - you should want to see their work, and inquire about their rates, up to what size of quilt the accept, how long their backlong is in terms of time, whether they provide batting for a charge or if you need to provide it, whether you need to piece the backing if necessary beforehand or if they will do so for a charge, do they make the thread choice or do you, and when and where the quilt can be dropped off or picked up. Know that their rates will be significantly higher than longarmers, because of the greater amount of time and energy it takes to hand quilt, as well as the use of a very different skill set.

My quilter wants me to buy extra backing fabric so I can have a few inches around my quilt. This seems wasteful if it's only going to be cut off, so why do they ask for that?
It is so that the frame has a way to hold on to the quilt without damaging your quilt. Every machine has slight modifications as to how the quilt is attached, either by hooks, clamps, rollers, what have you. Your quilter doesn't want to risk stretching or damaging your beautiful quilt top, so it is better to run that risk on surplus fabric that will not affect your quilt or backing in anyway. If it bothers you buy extra backing fabric than what your quilt top requires, ask your quilter about acceptable alternatives.

My quilter doesn't accept quilts of a certain size; why?
Most likely it has less to do with their desire to do large quilts, and more to do with the specs of their machine. Machines can only fit quilts up to a certain size, and they're all somewhat different - if it doesn't fit, then it just doesn't fit.

Why won't my quilter accept Minkee backings?
Not all quilters will accept quilts with Minkee backings because of how much Minkee can stretch and fuzz up. While Minkee makes for a wonderful backing, it can be a real beast to work with. Be sure to ask your quilter if they will accept these backings before handing your quilt off to them.

I gave my quilt to my quilter a month ago, and it hasn't come back to me yet - what's the hold up?
Professional longarm quilting is a business like any other that accepts clients on a job-by-job basis. If they only quilt for clients and not for stores as well, they go in the order in which they recieved the quilts, making minor adjustments to order if they accept a shop sample quilt or an emergency job. They recieve everything from tablerunners to king sized quilts, so each quilt takes a different amount of time based on size and complexity of what the client wants done to their quilt. The variation in the jobs creates a backlog, which means your quilter may not get to your quilt for a couple weeks to a few months. The closer it gets to the holiday season, the larger the backlog your quilter will have. PLease understand that your quilter is doing the best they can to get quilts done in timely fashion, but they are people too with lives that need to be tended to as well. It is always best to contact your quilter of choice to find out how far out they are scheduled, and if you need something sooner, to contact other quilters in order to find someone who can get to your quilt in the time you need.

1 comment:

I welcome all comments and constructive criticism! All I ask is that you keep it clean and keep it kind.