Quilt makers can earn money by working on private commissions, selling their work through craft shops, shows, and galleries, and entering quilt competitions. Many quilt makers supplement their income by quilting other people's quilt tops, teaching, lecturing, writing books, and creating patterns and products. Quilters who specialize in making quilts for babies sometimes get commissions through children's specialty stores.
Ask fellow artists how the market is in your area. And be sure to register with your state for a tax resale number, which will enable you to buy supplies wholesale.
“While the vast majority of quilt makers are hobbyists, a section do make their living as full-time quilt makers who either work on commission, live off their prize money, or have their works hanging in museums and art galleries,” reports Bob Ruggiero.
The cost of opening a store is very expensive and many small businesses don't survive because of overhead. If your financial resources are limited, consider finding work in a quilting or fabric store where you can help other quilt makers with their creations or give lessons. You might also run quilt making classes at home, or teach quilt making in community programs.
Getting Started with Quilt Making
Elaine Van Dusen of Quilts by Elaine (http://www.quiltsbyelaine.com) was a nurse when she first discovered quilt making. “I was working in a coronary care unit at a local hospital and spotted an ad for a quilting class in the paper. As soon as the class was underway, I knew this was something I would love doing and that it would be a great stress releaser,” she reported.
“It wasn't long after I left CCU that my mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, came to live with us. My free time to take classes was limited so I kept buying books and trying new things. I am mostly self-taught.”
Before trying to make your first quilt, Van Dusen strongly advises “taking a few good classes to learn the basics. Then you can try different processes and patterns on your own. Small classes with no more than eight people work very well and allow for that added help that is often needed.”
Once you've learned the basics, you'll be able to choose a specialty. Although she makes many different types of quilts, Van Dusen says, “I really like doing patchwork. I can do appliqué [the technique of stitching a fabric shape on top of a fabric square] but don't care for it. I taught myself hand quilting, so I often spend evenings doing that while sitting with my husband watching TV.”
Van Dusen now works from her home in Jeffersonville, Vermont, and has expanded her business. “I started in one room in my house and over the past twelve years have added three more. I rise every morning at 6 AM and, because of my Web site, I spend about two hours on the computer. I start working at 9:30 and work until 4:30,” she says. Van Dusen has cut back on her business hours to allow for more time to make quilts. Her shop is open four days a week, and on other days by appointment. “I love the independence and being responsible for making my business work,” she reports.
As an experienced quilt maker and small-business owner, Van Dusen certainly knows some of the best ways to get started. “You can start out by doing local crafts shows that charge to rent a table, so the cost is very low,” she says. “It takes time for your work to get known, but joining your local chamber of commerce is very helpful.” Van Dusen suggests that when you are ready to turn your quilt making into a business, contact your local SCORE organization, which offers free advice and counseling. SCORE is made up of retired businesspeople who can answer all sorts of questions and give outstanding advice. SCORE stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives.
Another great source recommended by Van Dusen is the Small Business Bureau, which offers extremely helpful advice. A business course can be really useful, so check local schools or community colleges for classes.
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