Jennifer Reed lives in Eastern Tennessee and has a thriving machine quilting business, Farm Fresh Stitches. We recently sat down with her to learn more about how she got started and what advice she has for those thinking of starting their own small business.
How did you get into quilting for other people?
Grab some coffee and get comfy, mine is a long story. I first began sewing, just a little over 10 years ago, after our first daughter was born. I started an Etsy shop, making and selling baby quilts. I then began progressing more and more into making larger quilts and memory quilts to sell, which I was taking, or mailing, to be quilted. Once I saw my first longarm machine, a beautiful APQS Millie, I knew that one day, I HAD to have one! I put together a business plan, ran it all by my wonderful and always supportive husband, and the rest is history!
I just love going to work each day, with our APQS Lucey that our girls have lovingly named “Cinderella,” and we especially love seeing all the beautiful quilt tops sent in from our clients. Each box that arrives is like opening a gift on Christmas morning, and we’re always excited to see what beautiful tops are inside! I am now a stay at home mommy to two sweet little girls, and having this quilting business gives me the flexible schedule I need! It really is my “dream job.”
How long have you been quilting for others?
We purchased Lucey in November of 2017. After a few months of practicing, I was ready to go, and began quilting for others in spring of 2018.
What types of quilting do you most often do for your customers?
I quilt Edge to Edge/Pantographs exclusively right now. We stay so busy and booked with Edge to Edge that there is hardly a time there is not a client quilt on the machine, and more, waiting to be next in line!
What longarm machine do you use in your business and why did you choose it?
We bought a 2017 Lucey, that our girls have named “Cinderella” because she is such a hard worker! We love the 26-inch throat space, the Bliss Rail System and especially the Automatic Fabric Advancement. We chose the automated Quilt Path System, and have had a wonderful experience thus far. We also chose APQS because of their fantastic customer service, quality and reliability. We also loved the fact that they are made right here, in the USA.
One other determining factor in why we chose APQS was my wonderful Mentor, Danielle Johnson, of “Danielle’s Quilts.” Danielle has an APQS Millie, that set my heart on fire. She does absolutely beautiful custom quilting with her Millie, and she put me in touch with Angela Huffman, my sales representative, who answered all my many, many questions and phone calls and inquiries. These two ladies, gladly sharing their knowledge and information with us, showed us for certain, that we wanted to be a part of this wonderful APQS quilting family!
What is your favorite batting?
I love all Quilter’s Dream products and stock them for our clients. I especially love the Quilter’s Dream 100% Cotton Select, Deluxe and Wool!
What is your favorite thread?
I love Glide Thread. Glide is my go-to, and I can count on it to not break or give me any issues with tension. It also comes in so many fabulous colors.
What is your favorite ruler or gadget right now?
Red Snappers! They really make my loading and unloading quite a bit quicker.
What are the top three pantograph patterns that you use for your customers?
I think my most popular is Baptist Fan. It is beautiful each and every time. Also, I have a lot of requests for Modern Twist and the simple Wavy Line. I am really loving Rapunzel right now, too, and Paisley Park.
What percentage of your customers are local and what percentage of folks mail you quilts? Which do you prefer?
Most of our client quilts are mail-ins. We probably receive about 90% mail-in, and 10% local. We love interacting with our clients, so even though they are not local, I always try to keep all communication lines open, and love sending them pictures and videos of their special quilts being quilted. They are always so thrilled for the sneak peak of their beautiful quilts, and we get so happy, too, to see them happy!
Describe your studio and how you organize it.
Our studio is in our finished basement. It is pretty roomy down there, and thankfully we have lots of windows, to let in the natural light. We have pegboards for our threads and rulers, and a rolling wardrobe rack with hangers to hang up client quilts as soon as they come in. We hope that helps any wrinkles to fall right out, and also we can keep them in a line, to help with the order of our workflow that way. My one employee, and wonderful husband, Chris, always helps me in this area, opening and hanging all the inbound quilts!
Do you use an accounting software of some sort to keep track of your invoices?
Right now I just use PayPal for all of my invoices. It works great for us, with most of our clients being mail-ins, and everything is in one place. I also use an old school system of writing everything in a notebook, wink, wink!
What is the best thing about quilting for others?
I LOVE quilting for others! I love hearing how happy our clients are when their quilt top is completed. I also especially love all the friends and relationships I have formed through quilting. Even if they live on the other side of the country, a lot of our “clients” are now proudly called “friends,” and they truly are. This quilting community is one of the most supportive, encouraging and wonderful I have ever experienced.
What is a downside to quilting for others?
There are not many downsides to quilting for others, really. One of the most difficult things for me is just time management, and keeping everything moving along to meet all the different deadlines. It really is a lot to keep up with, and can get a little stressful from time to time. Think about the amount of time you ‘think’ you have to dedicate to your business, then double it, because that’s how much you will need! There is really never enough time! I think because most of my clients are mail-ins, the amount of communication is sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes it does feel that I spend more time messaging and e-mailing than I actually do quilting.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting a longarm quilting business?
Do your homework, talk to as many people as you can, and get as much information as you can. If you feel that it is a great fit for you, and something that you would love to do and are passionate about, go for it! We have never regretted purchasing our APQS Lucey for even a second, and that means a whole lot to me, being the over-analyzer that I am!
What do you wish you knew now about running your business that you didn’t know before?
In the beginning, I was so worried about having enough clients and quilts to justify the large purchase of our machine. Looking back, I really agonized over that one thought, over and over… would I even have enough quilts to stay busy? Wow, if I had only known what was in store! We have quilts arriving daily, sometimes we run out of hangers. Now it’s more of a worry as to what we should do with so many quilts! We are so thankful for our clients and quilty friends, and the amount of trust they put into us quilting their beautiful quilt tops.
What is something you wish you had in your longarm studio to make things easier?
Absolutely a packaging and shipping department. I put A LOT of time and love into each package that goes back out. I love to make each client feel extra special when they open their quilt package. I love to wrap them with bows and ribbons and include a handwritten note, along with a gift (or multiple gifts) in each returned quilt package. It makes me so happy to show our thankfulness and gratitude that they chose to trust us with their beautiful quilts. It does take a lot of time to do all of that though, so I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t wish I had a shipping and packaging department, fully staffed, of course!
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your business or about the machine quilting business in general?
I think I already mentioned it, but the quilting community just continues to blow me away! It is such a supportive and encouraging group, and I can’t imagine anywhere else I would rather be. To be able to own an incredible APQS quilting machine, and work together with so many wonderful people is truly a dream come true!