Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Listen to that voice in your head....

I had an odd experence with a customer recently. We exchanged phone messages a couple times and I was not certain that I understood what she said. "She wanted to see my work". Huh? That's what she said. I told her that when I finished a quilt, the customers want their quilts back, I didn't get to keep them.

It is Quail Valley by Pearl Pereira(52" x 66"). She wanted it quilted exactly like the quilt at a quilt shop about 20 miles away. OK, so I went 20 miles to see the quilt. A friend works there and she pulled the shop sample of Quail Valley down from the wall so I could examine the quilting and get some photos. I was making a mental thread inventory: Parchment, Charcoal, Latte brown, Evergreen, Brick, and 3 or four blues. The quilter had quilted 30 or so grass patches (3 lines of about 4 stitches each) in front of the house in the quilt. Lots of stops and starts with dark green thread. In fact, the whole quilt was covered in stops and starts.

What she wanted was for me to audition for her. I should have bailed out right then and there. Do you sometimes ignore that little voice in your head?

So I met her at the quilt shop with some of my show quilts. She and her daughter arrived and scrutinized my quilts within an inch of their lives. I almost asked if they wanted a magnifying glass, they had the quilts up close to their faces examining the stitching. That got the attention of some of the other gals in the LQS. They stayed back but they were all listening. The voice in my head started to warn me about this customer.

So I started my normal intake:
#1 What color is you backing? Answer: Cream

#2 What kind of batting would you like to use? Answer: Hobbs 80/20

#3 Do you understand that the bobbin thread will match the top thread? Answer: Will it show on the back?

Me: (Ah, Yeah) Yes, it will show.

Customer: Oh, no, I want you to use only cream colored thread on the back.

Me: With Hobbs, lots of stops and starts and all those thread changes, there may be some pokies where the front thread gets pulled to the back. Are you okay with that?

Customer: No

Me: How about a thin cotton batting on the bottom and the Hobbs on top so you still get that Hobbs antique look and there is room to make a good stitch in between the battings? (The voice in my head was screaming "RUN")

Customer: No, I only want to use Hobbs. (You could have heard a pin drop in the quilt shop)

Me: I'm sorry, I don't think that we are a good fit. I cannot guarantee that the thread will not pull through. I think that you would be much happier with another quilter. (I wish that I had used that line that Carla Barrett uses, something
about "disturbing my artistic harmony".

Customer: Oh.

The voice in my head was cheering.

Just so it was not a wasted trip for her (50 miles each way), I asked if I could see her quilt. It turns out that this was was her first quilt, first applique and it was perfect. It gathered a crowd. Everybody that had been listening wanted to see it.

I don't blame her for wanting to audition me. She had hundreds of hours in that piece. But her lack of flexibility lost me as her quilter. I recommended the quilter who had done the shop sample. The customer had already checked and was told that she was booked thru December. Oh well.

Afterwards, I computed what I lost financially by turning down this quilt. I charge by the square inch and this one was small. My price for custom is 3 cents an inch. I think that I can live without that $130.

I know that I can live without the hassle.


Lynn Douglass said...

Sometimes, we just aren't meant to take on certain jobs. Good for you for listening to that inner voice and letting it be heard!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I am cheering for you. That was an excellent decision, and a delightful post!

Karen S in Edmonton

Anonymous said...

What a great story Linda - I'm proud of you girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Whew!! THAT was good!! I haven't had to say no yet, but I have talked a few into other options so far! I've only been taking customer quilts for about a year, so I know it's coming!! I'll think of this when it does!! :) lindasewsit (apqs chat)

My life has changed in the last couple of years - some bumps, I retired from quilting, and then I moved to Texas. I'm anxious to see what new adventures await me in the next phase of my life.

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I started quilting when a quilt shop opened in our little town in January 2004. I have been hooked ever since.

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