Business Spotlight: Q&A with Barbara Heller, owner of Quiltservice

March 31, 2020

APQS has customers all around the world who are part of our longarm quilting family. Barbara Heller is a talented quilter who owns her own machine quilting business – Quiltservice – featuring two APQS Millies in Switzerland. We reached out to her recently to learn more about how she got started and what advice she’d give to someone considering quilting for others.

Barbara Heller's Original Creation "Keep Your Eye On Our Planet"

How did you get into quilting for other people?

It started with the fact that I didn’t like quilting by hand. So, I turned to machine quilting on my home domestic sewing machine. The first quilt I made was a big bed-sized quilt for my son. It was really hard but certainly better than hand quilting. I began wishing for a longarm quilting machine and in 2009 I had the chance to buy a second-hand APQS Millie. Because of the price of the machine I decided to start my own business. In Switzerland, there aren’t that many longarm quilting machines. In 2014, I bought the Quilt Path computerized system for my Mille. This increased my customers so much, that I decided to buy a second machine in 2017 with a smaller table for custom quilting as well as my own projects.

Barbara Heller's Sewing Room

What types of quilting do most often for your customers?

Since I have the Quilt Path, most of my customers like the pantos. For a few customers, I will do some free motion quilting on their quilts.

Barbara Heller's APQS Millie with Quilt Path

Why did you choose the Millie for your business? 

I love how simple the maintenance is on my machine. I can do a lot of things myself. And the cost/performance ratio is very good. Even if I need anything from time to time from the USA. I love my Millie machines.

What is your favorite batting?

I use often Quilters Dream Puff and cotton. From Hobbs Poly down and 80/20.

What is your favorite thread?

I prefer Glide from Hab+Dash and the pre-wound classic bobbins. From Superior, I use the Superbobs/Bottom Line.

Barbara Heller's Glide Thread Organization

What is your favorite ruler or gadget right now?

I don’t have a favorite gadget. I’m not a ruler quilter. For my customer’s quilts, I use the Quilt Path and for myself, I love free motion quilting. Sometimes I use both together an try to combine these two styles.

Barbara Heller's customer quilt utilizing both Quilt Path and free motion quilting

What are the top three pantograph patterns that you use for your customers?

It’s hard to say because I have so many. I often use Halo (Natalie Gorman), Love Dance (Naomi Hynes), Dewdrops and Bauhaus (Patricia Ritter) and Curly Bubbles (Janet-Lee Santuesanio)

What percentage of your customers are local and what percentage of folks mail you quilts? 

Most of my customers are local and like to come to my atelier to see me and talk about the quilting. Since launching my new homepage I have gotten more and more quilts mailed to me. We discuss the things via WhatsApp or e-mail. For me, both options are perfect.

Barbara Heller's Quilting Room

Describe your studio and how you organize it.

My studio consists of three rooms in the basement. In the first room are both machines and the reception for the customers with a small place to drink a cup of coffee. I also store my threads in this room. The middle room is the family laundry and the storage room for my fabrics. Here I dye and (screen) print my fabrics. The last room is my sewing room with 2 sewing machines and a big cutting table and the ironing place. From time to time I organize a meeting for sewing some quilts for social projects. During those meetings, we have 6-8 people in my studio who cut, sew, quilt and have fun for a good cause.

Barbara Heller's Original Creation "Big Star"

Do you use an accounting software of some sort to keep track of your invoices?

We have a farm and I do the book-keeping. I use the same program for my invoices.

What is the best thing about quilting for others?

I like all the different quilts from all the people who sewed them with love. I try to honor their work with the same lifeblood. Each quilt is like one of mine. I’m happy when the eyes of the people are sparkling when they see their quilted work.

Barbara Heller's customer quilt "Bossa Nova"

What is a downside to quilting for others?

The responsibility for their work. They worked hours and hours on the quilt and there’s always the risk that I could destroy it in a few seconds, for example, if the needle crashes. Happily, this happened only once on my own quilt.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting a longarm quilting business?

Quilt with your heart. Work on every quilt as if it were your own.

Barbara Heller's Original Creation "Reflexion of the Soul"

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your business or about the machine quilting business in general?

I’m happy with my small business. It is perfect in connection with our farm and the family. My business is not too big and not too small. Today I have paid off my equipment, I don’t have to pay rent for the studio. So, I can simply enjoy my Quiltservice and sometimes I have a few more time to do my own art quilting.

If you’d like to connect with Barbara reach out to her through her website, Facebook and Instagram.