Running a longarm quilting business – Q&A with Maria Hall
Editor’s note: Many APQS owners turn their passion for quilting into a profitable business. We decided to sit down with a few of these entrepreneurs to learn more about how they started their businesses and what words of wisdom they have for others who might be considering it.
The second article in our series (read the first one here) is all about Maria Hall from Flower Mound, Texas. She started her own quilting business – Charming Prints Quilting – seven years ago and loves the thrill of quilting for others and doing what she is passionate about for a living. Read about her experiences below…
How did you start quilting for other people?
I made quilts as a hobby for nearly 10 years before losing my corporate job. After that, it was my pleasure to spend some time doing my favorite hobby while I tried to figure out what to do with my life. I visited some local shops, met the local APQS dealer and took her longarm class. I bought a machine six months later and the rest is history.
How long have you been quilting for others?
Just over seven years.
What types of quilting do you most often do for your customers?
I focused on freehand quilting. But I do anything from all over (edge-to-edge) designs to show quality custom work, including ruler work. I’ve quilted very traditionally as well as modern. I’m very proud to have won the Machine Merit Quilting Award at the Plano 2016 Show.
What longarm machine do you use in your business and why did you choose it?
I own an APQS Millennium. I think she’s an ’06 and I love my Millie. I chose her because I liked the options offered and the price. She is sturdy and reliable.
What is your favorite batting?
Right now I love wool. I use mostly Hobbs, some American Fiber (great bamboo on the roll) and sometimes customers bring me Pellon, Warm & Natural or other brands. The new washable wool is great for shows and general use, and bamboo has a fabulous drape. Cotton is a great natural product for general use.
What is your favorite thread?
A&E – my Millie machine just loves it.
What is your favorite ruler or gadget right now?
It’s actually a ruler I made myself. I couldn’t find one with the inner circle angle I needed so I bought a piecing ruler and made it work for my longarm machine. Also – my short straight edge.
What percentage of your customers are local and what percentage of folks mail you quilts? Which do you prefer?
My local customer base is about 90 percent. I don’t have a preference either way, as long as we have good communication so we are all on the same page about what my client wants completed.
Describe your studio and how you organize your longarm studio?
I included a photo because it’s just too hard to describe in words. I have color everywhere. I have pictures and paintings from my daughters and friends, mini quilts my friends and I have made, drawings and water colors from ancestors, and bin after bin of fabric, organized by color. I also have speakers for whatever my ear needs and lots of windows for great light. The space used to be our unused formal living/dining room, so I took it over. I love my creation space.
What is the best thing about quilting for others?
The joy I receive when I see the look on my customers face when they see their quilt. I have received multiple hugs and witnessed tears of joy. That plus a paycheck can’t be beat.
What is a downside to quilting for others?
You will never prioritize your own quilts! I rarely, if ever, quilt my own quilt tops. After an intervention with a few friends/mentors last year, I am on a push to change this lack of balance.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting a longarm quilting business?
Practice, practice, practice (x10). Know your limitations. Always try to meet or exceed your customers’ expectations. And if you mess up, fess up. Be humble. I also believe that many of us hold ourselves to very high expectations, creatively. Do your best, but this is a form of art – just make sure your idea of art and that of your customer is one and the same.
What do you wish you knew now about running your business that you didn’t know before?
Fortunately, I had good education and experience with customer service and running a business before I was on my own. But I didn’t have a good understanding of work/life balance. Going from the military to corporate work, I was dedicated to my work around the clock. I had great experience and education in business and customer service, but saying NO wasn’t something I learned, and I’m still pretty bad at it.
What is something you wish you had in your longarm studio to make things easier?
A clone of me to do ironing and binding and other stuff I don’t like as much. But the close would have to meet to my expectations! Also, someone who could constantly dust and vacuum for me so I can just spend all my time quilting and playing with fabric!
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your business or about the machine quilting business in general?
There is plenty to go around. No need to get ugly or greedy or try to undercut your local friends. Do good work, do the right thing and you will end up with more business than you know what to do with.