Business Spotlight: Q&A with Roger Garneau of Heartfelt Quilts
Roger Garneau is the owner of Heartfelt Quilts in Florida. He started his quilting journey about 35 years ago and began longarm quilting in 2014. We sat down with Roger to find out more about his business and what advice he might give to someone considering a machine quilting business.
How did you get into quilting for other people?
I joined a guild and worked my way up to being the vice president. I would travel to quilting shops, introducing myself and giving them my cards and brochures. From there, I built a large customer base by word of mouth.
What types of quilting do you most often for your customers?
I do mostly pantographs and have a very large selection. I also do light custom.
What longarm machine do you use in your business and why did you choose it?
I got myself the APQS Millennium. I did a lot of research and found these machines to be rated high. I met a dealer in my local area, and she helped me get the machine and to start learning to use it.
What is the most challenging part of quilting for you?
In the beginning it was getting the tension right. Now I am trying to do more custom work and to integrate my own designs. A challenge is deciding what designs to use when looking at a quilt.
Describe your studio and how you organize your longarm studio.
I have my studio in my loft. It is approximately 550 sq ft. I have the machine near the windows for the best light. I have three other sewing tables and machines. There is also a cutting area and an ironing center where I made a large table extension on the ironing board.
What advice would you give a new longarm quilter?
Practice, practice and more practice. Also, use the free classes, blogs and forums that available. Join a guild if you can and get to know your local quilting shops. They are a wealth of knowledge.
What percentage of your customers are local and what percentage of folks mail you quilts? Which do you prefer?
I moved to Florida from California in 2019. I had a good established customer base there in California. Most were local, but there were a few customers who sent their quilts to me. Most of the people I am working with now are from my two sisters’ clubhouse in the retirement community. I have also done a few fairs and sold some things we have made. I prefer to have quilts from local customers. This allows me to work personally with them to understand their requirements.
What is the best thing about quilting for others?
To see how happy they are with the finished quilt. And to see how much I have grown in my skills as a longarm quilter.
What is a downside to quilting for others?
When you are working on someone else’s quilt, the pressure to be as perfect as possible is always a concern. Quilts are an incredibly special thing and I want to enhance the quilt, not take away from it.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting a longarm quilting business?
Research as much as you can. There are a lot of people out there who do this. I did it thinking it would be a great way to make money. When you get established and have regular customers it is great, but it can be very hard to start out. It’s important to stay positive and enjoy what you are doing.
What do you wish you knew now about running your business that you didn’t know before?
How many people have longarm quilting machines? But I do not think it would have really mattered. I have had enough business to pay for my machine so now I am happy to do it just for me and my husband (we both quilt).
What is your current favorite quilting gadget or ruler right now?
I have a lot of rulers but am just starting to use them on my quilts. I also love my Red Snappers quilt holders on my longarm, so I do not have to pin the quilt. I learned about these early in my longarm career.
What are the top three pantograph patterns that you use for your customers?
I like my heart pattern but I have over 100 pantos so it would be hard to say. I do prefer the 10 to 15-inch pantos.
What is something you wish you had in your longarm studio to make things easier?
I would like to have a computer set up on the machine. That way, I would be able to design so many other patterns.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your business or about the machine quilting business in general?
Have fun with what you are doing. There have been many nights I have stayed awake thinking about how I could have done a quilt better, but when I deliver it and see the smiles on their faces, it makes up for it. I am extremely lucky not to have to rely on my business to pay the bills. This makes it so much more fun.
Would you like to connect with Roger and see all the lovely quilts he is working on? You can find him online at his Facebook page.