How to Find a Longarm Quilter

Wow!  Look at that quilt top that you just put the last border on.  Whew – it’s finally finished!  

You’ve spent hours cutting out 600 1” squares, hours cutting out 100 2” squares not to mention the time it took to cut the correct amount of strips at just the right length for the outside of the blocks and lastly, the borders (both inner and outer) AND the time it took to put the backing together.  I’ve made this quilt so I know exactly how long it takes to do all that measuring and cutting.  You even have your binding ready to put that final touch on your quilt.  But now it’s ready to be quilted.  Uh oh, you start getting a little panicky, maybe even find it hard to catch your breath.….you have to find a longarm quilter!  

Decide What’s Important

So how do you go about finding a quilter and how much will they charge?  Do you have to supply your own batting or can they provide it?  If they supply the batting, what type do you need for this quilt?  Will they explain the different types of batting available and help you make that decision?   If they provide it, how much will that cost?  Is there a thread charge?  If there are multiple color threads involved, do they charge every time they change the thread?  Exactly what do they charge – Do they charge by the square inch or by the hour?  You’ve already spent an arm and a leg buying the fabric for this beautiful quilt so how much more will you have to spend?  Also, will they discuss your thoughts regarding the design, who it’s for and that person’s likes or dislikes are.  A big question I get each time a quilt is dropped off or I’m called, is ‘how soon will it be done?’  Well, as you can see, the list of questions goes on and on.   

You need to decide what is important to you in the quilting and how much you’re willing or able to spend.  You’ll want to ‘ballpark’ figure this amount and be willing to spend a little more if need be.  There is usually a wide range of prices charged by quilters.  Some or all of the topics that I mentioned above might be important to you and you’ve probably thought of other things that I didn’t list.     

Visit Local Quilting Guilds

So then how exactly do you find a longarm quilter?  Word-of-mouth is always the first thing people look for and a good way of getting that is at your local quilt guild.  Of course everyone has their favorite quilter but which one is right for you?  

Make a List of Questions

Start by making a list of anything and everything that you can think of to ask each quilter you contact.  Remember this is a job for the majority of us longarm quilters, so look at this as if you are an employer.  Like any good employer, you would want to ask as many detailed questions as you can.  

One question I get a lot is if my work is computerized.  I, personally, enjoy the freehand motion and that personal touch that a computer can’t give so I do not have a computerized machine but I do use a lot of rulers and grids.  Just know that those computerized machines don’t come cheap so those prices might be slightly higher than a free motion quilter.  However on the plus side, with a computer you will end up with quilting that is precise.  

Along with the questions above, you should know if the quilter will ‘stitch-in-the-ditch’ which is quilting in the seam.  A lot of quilters won’t do this because it’s a slow process.  I like to ‘stitch-in-the-ditch’ because it makes the borders and/or sashing ‘pop’.   If you feel that your quilt would look good with this stitching, you need to ask this question.

Possible Questions

So let’s make a list of possible questions that you might want to ask each quilter you talk to.

Computer or no computer?  This may not make any difference to you.  This would be totally your preference, but again the cost may be slightly higher.

Do you charge by square inch or hour?  What are the rates for each?  Remember that how detailed you want the quilting will have a bearing on what the pricing will be.  For example, an over-all or edge-to-edge quilting will be a lot less costly than custom or ‘show’ quilting.   

Do you supply batting?  What types do you offer and the price difference in each?  Most quilters, like me, like to see the quilt before a suggestion is made for the type of batting that would work best.  I like to know about the people who are going to receive the quilt and where they live.  I wouldn’t want to put wool batting in a quilt that’s going to a place that’s warm all year like the Philippines or the Florida Keys.   

Do you have a thread charge and/or a charge for changing thread colors?  Here again, quilters seem to hold a different view on this.  But it’s always good to know because that will run your cost up.

Do you charge a turning fee?  Sometimes quilters will charge a fee if your quilt has to be turned for directional quilting, for example in the borders.  Most quilters have at least a minimal charge for this because it takes quite a bit of time.  Whether or not your particular quilt will need to be turned you should know for future reference.

Do you have a minimum charge?  Again, most quilters will have some sort of minimum charge.  But, as with me, it varies as to the size of the item that needs to be quilted.  After all you wouldn’t want to spend $100 on the quilting of a table runner!

How soon can the quilt be finished?  This is an important question because if you’re in a hurry for this quilt you don’t want it sitting there waiting to be quilted for weeks or even months.

The quilter should ask you about your quilt.  Things like color and pattern (for example: Is this a Dresden Plate pattern).  They may ask you about the fabric you used.   The more information you can give them the better.  

Along with those questions, I like to ask customers about the person they are giving it to.  Say it’s for your fun loving, sports enthusiast niece.  Every bit a Tomboy but so precious to you.   She’s not the pink flowery, lace and ruffles everywhere type of girl.  In choosing the fabric you probably didn’t get the fabric with all those cute pink flowers on it so I wouldn’t quilt something extremely ‘girly’.

A Visual Review

Making Quilts longarm infographic

Whether a quilt is for a loved family member or a donation to a war vet, the quilting should reflect the love and the care you put into each cut, each piece, each stitch.  So in choosing a quilter for yourself make sure you’re comfortable with the answers you received.  Go visit them and see their studio.  Don’t be afraid to ask more questions.  We’re here to help you with the quilting process and give you something you’ll be thrilled with.


2 thoughts on “How to Find a Longarm Quilter

  1. So many more questions than I knew to ask. I have used several longarm quilters and never asked or answered all these questions. After reading your article I now know what to ask and what other information to bring with my quilt.

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