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Friday, April 03, 2009


Insider’s Guide to Quilting Careers

Insider’s Guide to Quilting Careers
By Merry May and Linda J. Hahn, 2009
Paperbound, 168 pages
Retail price: $19.95

Merry May and Linda Hahn have worked in a large number of different areas of the quilting industry: together (and separately) they have been teachers, inventors, long-arm quilters, pattern designers, cruise and retreat organizers, retailers, commission quilters, consultants, and now, authors! Collaborating on their first book together, they have brought all their varied experiences to bear on the subject of making a career in quilting.

This practical and down-to-earth guide fills a serious void in the universe of quilting how-to books. Most of us have heard quilters express the fervent wish that they could “quilt for a living,” or open a quilt store and “do what I love.” Without throwing too much cold water, Merry and Linda provide a needed antidote to unrealistic expectations. Truth is, the quilting “industry” is not a place one is likely to get rich, and even if successful, those in the business put in long hours and do a great many things that they may or may not “love.”

A quick glance at the table of contents reveals a wide range of quilting activities covered in the book, including shop owner, teacher, retreat/cruise organizer, longarm quilter, author/publisher, appraiser, quilt restorer, professional exhibitor, fabric designer, quilt show judge, quilt show manager, and vendor. In fact, many serious quilting professionals do more than one of these things to, among other things, realize several different streams of income. And each of these activities comes with its own set of beginner questions that the authors set out to answer: how do I price my work? How do I become known as a teacher? How much money will I need to open a quilt store?

All of these issues are discussed plainly and in detail, with plentiful examples and concrete advice. In addition, Merry and Linda share their insights into the things that can commonly go wrong and how to prevent them, or recover from them after they have happened. They address such issues as whether a traveling teacher is obligated to stay at a guild member’s house to save the guild money, and the pros and cons of making “charitable” contributions of door prizes to guilds.

Supplementing all of their great common-sense advice are generous samples of resumes, class descriptions, order forms, program flyers, expense statements and various other useful documents. There is also a directory of supplemental resources, such as lists of insurance companies and quilting supply distributors, complete with web addresses. The book also emphasizes the importance of having a website, no matter what kind of business you are in, with instructions on setting up a simple site for yourself.

While the Insider’s Guide to Quilting Careers doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of the quilting business (and it is a business if you’re going to do it right), the overall tone and approach of this book is one of encouragement and support. It has long been a tradition among quilters to support one another in their endeavors, and that spirit also informs much of what goes on in the business of quilting. If you’re contemplating moving to the next level with your quilting by turning it or some aspect of it into a livelihood, or looking for a way to increase your success with a business you already run, reading this book can save you not only money but also a lot of potential heartache. Take the plunge, but do it with your eyes open!

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