It was February of 2003. I was recovering from having baby #2, a sweet boy named Jacob. Things were going well, I was settling into a routine with the new baby and a three-year old. As I recall, that January had brought some especially frigid weather…somewhat like this winter. It was a rare treat to actually leave the house, but my grandmother needed to go to the grocery store, so I bundled up the kids and took her. It was there…at the grocery store…that my little business was born.
The seed is planted…
I ran into a fellow quilter named Kelly, who asked me when I was going back to work. I sadly told her I wasn’t, that even though I missed the shop, it was just too much with the new baby. She gave me a funny look, and said “Oh no! I have some quilts that I was holding onto so that you could quilt them!”
I don’t know why, but this was such a surprise to me. I guess I didn’t think that people actually paid attention to who was doing the quilting on their quilts. I was stunned that she would wait for me, and started to wonder if anyone else was doing the same thing. Would it be possible for me to start my own business, set my own hours, and still be a “stay at home mom”? Would I be able to quilt enough quilts to keep a business going? These, and many other questions ran through my head. I spent the next several weeks thinking about it and wondering if this was the path I was meant to take.
I wouldn’t ever have called myself “entrepreneurial”, but the truth is, whenever I had imagined my future self, I had always thought I’d be a stay at home mom, and “wouldn’t it be cool to turn my penchant for sewing and handwork into a business?” It had always been a vague notion…but now it seemed as though it was taking shape!
A little rain falls…
Soon after I got home, I started taking steps toward my quilting business. Of course, I asked my husband what he thought of the idea. “Will it get me a snowmobile?” was his response. Really? “No.” was mine. He didn’t really have much more to say, so I was on my way. I got to work on a business plan, and spent some time thinking about how I was going to finance a long-arm quilting machine.
I come from a long line of strong women, perhaps this is where I drew the courage to venture out on my own, not knowing what the future would hold. This is definitely where I got the money! They believed in my abilities before I was sure about them, and invested into my little business, in the form of loans which allowed me to buy the quilting machine. These were the days before we had adopted the “Dave Ramsey Plan,” and I was thankful that I could get started right away.
Tending the garden…
The shop where I had learned the art of long-arm quilting just happened to be a Gammill dealer. My mom’s basement just happened to have enough space for the machine, and she had just happened to have retired the previous year. It seemed pretty simple, we had the machine delivered, worked out a baby-sitting plan and we were in business. I think the hardest part was coming up with a name for the business. We auditioned several names, finally settling on Town and Country Quilter…since I lived in town, but came out to the country to do the quilting. Truth be told, I have never been sure of that name, but I couldn’t come up with anything else that I thought was a good representation of my business plan, so Town and Country Quilter it remains.
The first quilt that I quilted on my new long-arm machine was a mystery quilt I had been working on with my guild. It had been designed to coordinate with my daughter’s purple and blue wallpaper, and lent itself to some custom quilting, so I pinned it on the machine, and a few days later…it was done! I spent the evening applying the binding, and thought I’d surprise Catherine by taking my old college comforter off her bed, and placing her new quilt over her as she slept. To my surprise, the next morning when I got up, there was the new quilt in a heap in the hallway, and that old comforter was back where it belonged! (in Catherine’s opinion anyway). I was hopeful that my first clients would be a little more appreciative and friendly!
The flowers bloom…
As it turned out, my hopes were fulfilled. I gave my friend Kelly a call, and let her know that I was IN BUSINESS! She quickly brought me her quilt, and became my first client. Looking back on this time, I realize how very blessed I was. I am naturally fairly introverted, and the idea of doing my own personal shop hop introducing myself and sharing my business cards was not at all in my comfort zone. I honestly don’t remember how the Pine Grove gals found me, but it was less than a month after I began that Rita and Jamie came to visit. They worked in a quilt shop (which I had frequented) in the Lockport area, and had come to check me out, I presume, and see if they should recommend me to their customers.
Apparently, they were happier with their finished quilts than my Catherine had been. In the first three months as Town and Country Quilter, I quilted 25 quilts…many of which were brought to me by ladies I had never met! I’m so thankful for these proverbial doors that seemed to open so easily for me. It wasn’t long before I understood that God had led me to this business, and I was exactly where I was meant to be. Clients continued to come…sometimes it seemed from nowhere, and I was so thankful to have a creative outlet in quilting, as well as the opportunity to have a flexible schedule, and still be a full-time mom. From the time that Town and Country opened, there have always been at least 3 quilts on the rack. There have been times when I wasn’t sure the business was growing, but I have always felt that I have had more than enough work…for which I am truly grateful.
Seasons change…the years fly by
This is the story of where it began. I hope you will continue to visit this site as I share some of the lessons I have learned, and experiences the quilting business has led me to. I’d love to share with you some quilting tips I’ve picked up along the way, and answer any questions you might have. Speaking of questions…do you have any questions about Long Arm Quilting, or preparing your quilt for the machine? If so, I’d love to have a chance to answer…feel free to comment below.