How to handle a client consultation

October 16, 2015

longarm client consultation, longarm quilting business, sample longarm client consultation form

Whether you quilt professionally or just for yourself, when you decide to say “yes” to someone who has asked you to quilt her quilt, lots of responsibility also comes your way. For many machine quilters, there is an overwhelming fear of “messing up” someone else’s quilt—which can be a crippling feeling.

The best way to overcome that fear is to do a thorough job of getting to know the quilt maker’s wants and needs when it comes to her quilt. Don’t be daunted by the statement “Do whatever you want.” Before you take that person at her word, spend time getting to know her likes. But even more importantly, get to know her dislikes when it comes to quilting. Once you know what NOT to do, it is much easier to explore design ideas knowing what the limits are.

A thorough consultation can take up to an hour by the time you discuss designs, thread, batting, likes and dislikes, and complete a consultation form or “intake sheet”. When you are finished, both you and your client should have a clear understanding of what will happen to the quilt. Review the form step by step and look for agreement with the customer. Note any areas of concern right on the consultation form.

Ask lots of questions – survey customer needs

Beyond the normal basic information you’ll need such as the client’s contact information, deadlines for completion, etc., you’ll want to know as much as possible about the quilt and the quilt maker. This information will help you turn out the best possible quilt. Here are some questions you should ask the quilt maker, and then use the answers to choose designs, quilting density, batting, thread and more:

If you were going to quilt the quilt yourself, what quilting ideas would you consider?

  • Quilters are often afraid that their own ideas are not “right” or are not “doable”. Find out what they would do if they were to do the quilting to guide your decision.

What is your budget?

  • It doesn’t pay to spend two hours planning elaborate custom quilting only to find out at the end that her budget only allows for overall quilting. What things about the quilting aspect don’t you like?

What are your likes and dislikes when it comes to quilting?

  • Find out the customer’s dislikes about anything related to the quilting process, including aversions to thread color, thickness, batting type, even specific designs.
  • For example, your customer might say, “I really don’t like heavy quilting.” Then ask her to define what “heavy” means to her. If necessary, ask her to draw an example of the density she prefers.

What is the quilt’s purpose?

  • Does it need to be warm? Is it for a bed? Is it commemorating a special event?
  • Are there areas in the quilt you’d like to highlight, or areas you’d like to play down?
  • This may relate to a fabric the quilt maker doesn’t like in the quilt, or a section that she wants to draw special attention to–maybe a strategically placed block layout.

Who is the quilt for?

  • Is it for her grandson? What does he like? Is he two years old or 22 years old? These follow up questions help you narrow down design choices quickly.

How long do you want it to last?

  • This question will direct you toward decisions about batting type, thread type, even quilting design (that two-year-old grandson will eventually grow up and may not like dinosaurs on his quilt any longer.)

How will the quilt be cared for?

  • Will it end up in a washing machine? That could mean choosing polyester thread over cotton, or a more stable batting and closer quilting.

Is its finished size critical?

  • If the quilt must fit a specifically sized mattress, will the batting choice or quilting density cause too much shrinkage?


Addressing quilt problems

Discovering that the customer’s quilt has piecing issues isn’t fun, bringing them to her attention is certainly no picnic either. The quilt in front of you may be her best effort yet. Be careful about voicing criticism that is harsh or condescending. After all, we ALL were beginners at one time.

If you notice a problem in the customer’s quilt, it could be from lack of experience or knowledge, or it could simply be that perfection is not as important to her as it may be to you. If the reason is inexperience, you have the perfect opportunity to mentor a new quilter by sharing tips that have proven successful for you. Be sure to limit your constructive suggestions to one or two ideas. Don’t tear down her confidence with a long list of “do’s and don’ts”.

The trick is offering suggestions in such a way that she understands you are offering ideas that have helped YOU, and you want to help make her next project go more smoothly. She should not feel like you are judging her or her ability.


Completing the consultation form

Getting everything down in writing is critical to your success, and will help prevent costly mistakes. To help you get started, click here to download a Sample Consultation Form you can use. Adapt it however you like to suit your needs. You’ll find lots of “intake sheet” examples simply by browsing websites for longarm quilters. Many of them have an electronic version posted on their sites to help potential customers prepare their quilts in advance. Ultimately the format you create is up to you. To learn more about starting a successful longarm quilting business, visit our website’s Resource Page for valuable tips.