Monday, July 1, 2019

Starting a Business

A few years ago... well, actually closer to 12 years ago, my mother and I split the price of a long arm quilting machine.  Our intent was to get her massive pile of quilt tops quilted, keep her from accumulating even more un-quilted tops, and save her tons of money. It would run her anywhere from $90 to $150 to pay someone to quilt them so we figured getting her quilts done would more than pay for the machine over time. 

In addition, I toyed with the idea of taking early retirement from teaching and starting a quilting business. I started building up a fairly good client list; but, the Texas Retirement System changed their formula for early retirement and I missed the cut off by 6 months. I could have bought a year and still retired early; however, I found that quilting for other people had become a burden. I was so busy that I never had time to do anything for myself. So, I decided to stick with teaching for another 10 years and give up the quilting business. For the past 12 years, I've been quilting Mom's quilts, one for friends from time to time, and making my own quilts.

Now that I'm retired and have time on my hands, I thought about starting the quilting business up again. Luckily, I remembered the main reason I didn't like it in the first place wouldn't change; I would probably never have time or the interest to work on things I wanted to make for myself or my family. So, I think I have come up with a pretty good alternative.

After talking to my youngest daughter, Leslie, we decided to start an online Etsy shop together. It will mostly have table runners, lap quilts or baby quilts, and other craft items we decided to try out.  That will give me the chance to try specific blocks, fabrics, pantographs, threads, and freehand techniques that I've always wanted to try. I will NOT take special orders and only make what I know I can give away if it doesn't sell.  Hopefully, that will keep it fun and enjoyable.

I talked Leslie into taking care of all the digital/administrative side of the business while I crank out inventory.  So far, we are still in the learning how to navigate online sales and creating inventory stage. I hope we will have the shop established around August. Unfortunately, we are learning that there is a lot involved in making sure your product is eye catching and draws in customers on a site that is filled with options.

Part of the learning curve has been trying to take pictures that will draw customers and show off the features of the table runner or quilt. Neither of us have ever taken a single photography lesson and are operating with her smart phone, my digital camera, and my iPad.  Some of our attempts are pretty good; others... not so much. 

I thought I would record our first attempts here on the blog just so we can watch our growth in our journey to become online business owners.  Whether or not we succeed won't be based on our lack of trying new things! These are candid shots I took with either my camera or iPad. Some are of things I'm working on for friends or family; not all of this is inventory.

This is a quilt Mom had started for my niece, Kaylin. Sadly, Mom passed away before if was finished.

I quilted it with King Tut multi-colored thread using a pantograph called Japonica
by Karyn Emerson.

The block is one of my favorites; Card Tricks. I'm not too crazy
about Mom's color choice; but, it isn't my quilt!

These are two table runners I made using a Homespun Christmas charms pack.
I double loaded the quilting frame to save time and get both quilted more
quickly It worked well so I'll do this again.

This is a quilt I've been working on as a gift for a friend. 

It was a block of the month class I took at a quilt shop in our area. There were
several applique blocks in the pattern that I chose to replace
with pieced blocks. I don't really enjoy applique. 

This table runner was made from 2 1/2 inch strips that were free for customers that
participated in an area shop hop. I've had the strips for a while but never wanted to finish the project they were intended for. It was a beach bag that I knew I would never use. I think they made a super cute summer table runner.

While I have been working on inventory, I come across unfinished projects that either belonged to Mom or some I started. This is one she had started. She actually made all the blocks and had them set up in the dark purple and pink sashing. I just threw on a border and quilted it. I've decided it will stay in Leslie's cedar chest until the first great-granddaughter is born. It will be kind of neat to pass on a quilt from mom to the next generation.

This is another unfinished quilt that Mom had started. She actually put this together when my oldest son, Ryan, was about 2 years old.  Mom ended up not finishing it. I did all the embroidery and quilted if last week. I gave it to Ryan this weekend. He is so sentimental that it really doesn't matter to him that he is over 40 years old!

One of the things that bothers me about quilting is the plethora of left over batting scraps! I feel guilty adding to the land fill so I try to use the smaller pieces in table runners, pot holders, coasters, etc.  These are some ornaments I made using scraps of batting and burlap. I just love them!

This is another unfinished project of mine. I took the Santa block as a class at a Christmas in July
workshop one of the local quilt guilds offered. I never used it for anything until I started clearing out my scrap stash. I found some metallic fabrics that went fairly well with the block and threw it all together into a table runner. 

This is one of several baby quilts I made using the Three Yard method You take 1 year each of 3 coordinating fabrics, cut them according to the pattern directions, shuffle the fabrics, and end up with 3 different quilts. It is the easiest way to keep a stash of baby quilts on hand. When I was working, it seemed like the young teachers I worked with were forever having babies! 
Most baby quilts are made using 100% cotton fabric and a cotton batting. Once they are washed, they are so soft and perfect for cuddling a baby on your lap.

I love the simplicity of the pattern and the surprise of seeing how different the 3 quilts actually turn out. I usually just use a cute thread and quilt these freehand with loops and swirls. 

This is the same pattern using fabrics that are perfect for a little boy! This fabric combo
was one of my favorites. 

This is one of our attempts to "style" a photo. I'm not even sure that is the correct term. Maybe stage a photo would be better. Leslie found some really nice photo backdrops on Amazon and we spent some time this weekend playing around with table runners, props, and backdrops. 

We also had to battle the crazy Texas sun. Luckily, Leslie has a nice sized covered patio in her back yard. We did a pretty good job of using patio furniture and blankets to block stray rays of sunlight. 

But, from time to time, one would sneak in on us.  These table runners were made using a Jelly Roll. That's a pre-cut package of 2 1/2 inch strips of fabric; all from the same line.  I sorted them according to color families and ended up with enough fabric for 4 table runners. The 4th one is a scrappy one that I haven't quilted yet. 

I loved this one! Sadly, when I finished tacking down the binding, I noticed there was a flaw in the muslin that I used for the backing. I don't know quite what to do with this runner now because I don't want to sell an item that has a flaw. I might end up keeping this one or giving it to one of the kids.

This is one of my first attempts to stage a photo. I took these runners (the ones in the quilting frame shown above) outside and put them on a table that my son had built from scrap lumber. I pulled a couple twigs of cedar off a nearby tree and just placed them along the edge of the runner. I thought it turned out okay so I emailed it to Leslie to use online 

I wish I had taken a close up shot of this fabric! It is so stinking cute!! The fabric has cute little moose heads on it!! I bought the fabric at a country market in a local quilt show. It was intended to be a quilt as you go blanket; but, I sewed the strips of fabric together and quilted it with the long arm instead. I prefer that to using a walking foot on my machine.

And another unfinished project is now complete! I bought this panel about 14 years ago; intending to make a wall hanging for my 1st grade classroom. I never got around to it so now it is a baby quilt that will go into  our inventory.

This table runner is made from scraps of fabric left over from a pillow case that Mom had made I love the music notes on it and Leslie came up with the idea of staging it with the flute. 

This table runner is made from an orphan block that was left over from a quilt. The block ended up being too small to square up so a second was made to replace it. Neither Mom nor I would ever throw out an orphan block. I really like 2 color quilts so used the scraps and the block to make this runner 

When the grandkids were visiting, I had them sort through my Christmas scraps and match up fabrics they thought would look good together. They found this snowman fabric, the metallic snow/star filled night sky, and the white metallic border fabric. there was JUST enough of the snowman fabric to cut three 9 1/2 inch squares and put them on point. 

This runner is was also made from orphan blocks and left over fabric from a quilt Mom had made.
I had 5 blocks and was just about to put them all together into a lap quilt; but, 2 of them were too small to square up. Mom would sometimes sew quilt blocks on 2 different machines. She discovered that would make a difference in the size of the blocks! Her experience was a good lesson for me!

Anyway, the 2 that were smaller got set on point and I used the coordinating fabric on the corners. It ended up just as long as the runner with the other 3 blocks in it. 

This is the staged shot of the snowman runner. 

This runner is another fabric set that the grandkids put together. Once again, the focus fabric was barely big enough to cut squares out of. 

One of our attempts to take a close up shot of the quilting on the table runner.

Another staged shot. I don't know if I like the runner or the baking dish best!

And yet ANOTHER unfinished project that was intended for my classroom wall. I am wondering how many more of these unfinished projects I'll find as I continue to dig through my stash. 

Our staged shot of the wall hanging. 

This runner was a scrap stash buster. I had an assortment of gray and white fabrics that were donated to me by a friend that made clothing. She knew I quilted so she gave me an odd assortment of scraps. Luckily, I had enough to make this. 
Should you be reading my blog and want to keep track of our progress towards opening our shop, check out our facebook and Instagram pages

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