Another Snow Day

Today NE Ohio is just horrid outside. It really is. We had snow yesterday, some parts (like where the machine is) are expected to get another 15"+ today through tomorrow, but I have a feeling some of those areas are almost at the mark and we still have another 30 hours or so of snow coming this way.
(Outside my front door, not that bad here, but I'm super close to Lake Erie so I have a bit of protection here at home)

(The highway near hubby's work right now, that's one of the better looking roads expect it's supposed to be two lanes - but you can see tracks so that is a plus)

Hubby went off to work and I sat idly by the phone waiting for the text he got there safe. The roads are wet in some areas and a few miles down the road you can't tell a road exists there. Facebook has been full of accident reports and highways being shut down, so my preggo little self is staying in and doing paperwork today!

It's not the thing I really want to do, but it's time to bite the bullet and just get it over with at this point. One of those evil necessary things I guess.

While I sit here at the computer I'm going to attempt to get a few blog posts up and ready to go - cross your fingers! But before I get to that, there was a question on one of my latest posts about quilting that I need to address. Farm Quilter asked about how I charge my customers in the difference of using rulers for quilting and just regular free-motion quilting.

I'll try my best, but this isn't a one size fits all answer.

When I quilt free-motion, I start with my basic all over designs at my base price.

The nest step up in price results in semi-custom quilting. This is when there's an empty block that gets a special treatment or borders that are quilted differently than the center of the quilt. Also, this price level is for more dense or more intricate designs. The more thread I use, the more time it takes, etc.

After that is where I feel custom quilting starts and there's the range of price there depending on the complexity of the design, how many thread changes there are, how dense the quilting is, etc.

Most of my quilts used to fall in the basic category. Lately I've dealt in a wider range of price points because I've been receiving a wider range of quilts.

When I choose to use rulers in my work I can still fit in the base price depending on the quilt and the design. For instance, a simple wide cross-hatch using the quilt blocks as a guide can be done with the base price. It may be a bit slower for me to do, but it's about finding a path and getting the most out of the design with the least starts and stops possible. It fits into the work smarter, not harder mentality.

Sometimes even the simplest looking design may have more work "behind the scenes" and then I would be able to justify bumping the ruler work into the semi custom category.

Usually I tend to use rulers mostly in a mixture of free-motion and ruler work in my custom quilts. It's a matter of choosing your battles. There are certain designs I can do better and faster free-motion that look like ruler work. But each quilter is different. There are times, like with straight lines, that you have to use a ruler (or atleast I do). If it needs to be precise and straight, I can try and try, but it'll never look as good as using the ruler would.

Now, take a breather and put everything I just said into the back of your mind and remember this one thing if it's all you take from this post:

Like any new technique or design you quilt, you will be slow and awkward at first and YOU WILL GET BETTER AND FASTER with time and practice. Just because it's not something you're as fluent with or it's new to you as a quilter - don't punish your customers and charge them more than the work is worth. Look at the quilting as the big picture and choose your battles. You may lose money at first when trying a new technique or doing ruler work because you feel like a rookie. You lock your knees, forget to breathe, grip the ruler too tight, kill your shoulders in no time, your fingers cramp up - but that's all you. It's just the same as when you did your first few quilts, right?

And guess what, you got better, right? I know it may be difficult to find times to fit in a little ruler work here and there to get more practice, but try as much as you can. Where I am right now, depending on the quilt I can do and justify an all over ruler design at my base price. Sometimes I have to justify the semi-custom price, but if it takes me longer as a quilter - I use it as a learning experience. It's practice and that's as precious as it comes. Don't fret and squabble over the idea in your head, just do it and move forward. I may be a black sheep in the quilting community for this comment, but it's not all about how much you make at the end of the day. There are other quilts and other opportunities I'm much more fluent at quilting where I can make up the difference if I make pennies per hour working on one quilt. It's just one quilt.

Here's my one tip to making ruler work easier in a mind/body sort of way - the best thing you can do to prep for ruler work is just like every other quilting design. Come up with a plan (or a road map) of where you want to start and where you need to end up getting the most out of that path. I'm working on a quilt now that I figured out a way to quilt 4-5 rows at a time without stopping. It took me a lot of thinking and planning, but I thought originally I would only be able to do a row or two at a time. It's much more mental prep than anything else once you work with rulers, but IT IS SOOOO WORTH IT! Expand your horizons, think outside the box, color with a new crayon!

It took me years to attempt ruler work. And here's the honest truth - when I started I didn't own a single long arm ruler... I used an empty CD case as my ruler. I swear! I improvised and used what I had.

Now I have so many rulers and have more on my wishlist to try because I erased the stigma in my brain about how ruler work is hard and scary. Now I look forward to it and I encourage you to do the same.

Again, use challenging quilts that show up at your door (or quilts you created yourself) to push yourself creatively and try something new. One of my favorite quotes ever says - there's no room for growth within your comfort zone. Take that in for a second. Plaster it in front of your machine while you work if you need to. Be daring. Be bold. But at the end of the day use these challenges to be a better you and again - don't punish your customers with higher prices because of your insecurities. As they push you, you as a quilter get to grow and your entire customer base will benefit for it. That's why I like just a little but more than I cringe (it happens) when I get a challenging quilt at my doorstep. I take a moment to panic - it happens - and then I put on my big girl panties and get to work. I'm not going to let a little quilt get the best of me! And with this mentality my quilting ability has taken off in leaps and bounds I never thought possible.

Mind over matter. You can do it. I believe in you because I've been in those shoes too. 

And if you've been reading this and think it doesn't apply to you because you take your quilts to someone else to quilt - psyeah! It does! Think about this the next time you take a top to your quilter and trust her to "do whatever". This is why it's so important to express if you have expectations for your quilt and also let the quilter guide you in a design decision.

You have to trust your quilter to take care of your quilt and give you amazing results. 

Your quilter has to trust themselves to be the creative genius we all know they are. 

PLUS, your quilter has to trust you that you will love the end result. 

This is a tricky business to be in. Well, any creative business is tricky for that matter. It's passing along an idea and trusting in the ability of a person to do what only they can do for you. That's why you take quilts to someone else, right? Because you can't do it yourself? So trust in them and reap the benefits.

A quilter with guidelines and an imagination is so much more powerful than a quilter with strict instructions.

Allow your quilter to use you and your quilts to grow and you will get the best (or better than you imagined) results possible. It's a win-win!

However - last disclaimer and I'll be done for today - if you DO NOT trust your quilter, walk away and find a new one. There are other quilters out there and just because so-and-so lives around the corner or you know their family does not mean you HAVE to use them. If you don't feel comfortable leaving your quilt you've worked so hard on and you have to cross your fingers you might get something decent back in return - just don't. It's not worth it. There are good quilters, there are great quilters and there are just bad quilters. When you go over a plan for your quilt, check out their work, ask to see samples, get referrals from friends, and you should feel comfortable once your quilt is no longer in your possession. If you don't - ask to have it back. You didn't sign a contract, you can have your quilt back - it IS YOUR QUILT.

Alrighty, anything in my rambling above stand out to you? Surprise you? Have a question you'd like me to answer or clarify? Please, leave me a comment below and I will address it in the future. I'm really enjoying these more candid conversation posts!

I think it's time for a quick computer break and I will attempt to get more posts up soon. Cross you fingers this doesn't turn into a few day snow crisis here and I can get out and quilt in the near future!


  1. Thanks for answering me!! I adore using rulers and have a bunch of them, but they do take significantly more time to use then if I was doing an E2E or B2B design...but ever so much more fun for me!! Rarely any more do I quilt a quilt without using a ruler for something!!!

  2. Got hammered here in Erie. First winter here so I am enjoying the snow. Maybe in March, not so much. Good day to stay in and quilt.


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