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Customer wants payment for quilt

by Barbara Kolch
(Lake Havasu City, AZ)

A client brought me her table topper to top stitch. She knew I only had a Janome 1000. She picked out the stitching pattern.

She stated she didn't care what the back looked like as it was intended for use as a table cloth. The backing is a medium green. I tried to use a green in the bobbin, but it didn't work. The top thread was white and the green showed on the top. So I chose to use white in the bobbin too.

I used a wave-like stitch. It didn't feed correctly. The result is a short group of stitches and than a group of regular stitches. However, you can't see the small group of stitches on the top as it is white with white thread. The back of the table topper doesn't look bad.

Here's my problem. The client doesn't like it. She wants me to buy the tabletop for $631. It's not worth $631. I wanted to remove the stitches and give her back the quilting cost of $90 and let her go somewhere else.

She wants me to sign a form that I will pay her $631 if I can't correct it to the original state when she gave it to me. I told her I would pay for the new material for the back and batting if I damaged it. If I damaged the front than I would give her $300 which, in my opinion, is high for a table topper top, unfinished.

My question is:

How does one come up with the price of an item you've made.

Thanks so much for your help.




Dear Barbara,

Since your question went live on the site and my posting, you have received several responses from other quilters. Cynthia even taught me something about 'quilting insurance' that I didn't know before.

My response is long, but please don't miss the responses from other quilters. There's good information that should not to be missed lower on this page!

But I promised you my response and here it is.

This, however, is only my opinion. I quilt my own quilts and have never used the services of a professional quilter, except for a recent raffle quilt where I was part of the committee. (See Stars of the Prairie). To the best of my knowledge, we, the committee, did not have a written contract with the long arm quilter, it was all done on a verbal agreement. We met face-to-face with her and discussed design (we did have some specific suggestions that our quilter agreed with) and thread choices, both color and type. The final quilting really adds to the quilt. So my one and only experience with a professional quilter has been quite good.

With that as my only background with a professional quilter, I can only give you my impression of the description of your transaction and not a working experience.

Given that she didn't care how the back looked, I, too, would have used matching needle and bobbin thread. Even if your tension is perfectly balanced on your practice sandwich, there are times that the threads will pull 'out of balance' during stitching. I see this on several fill patterns that I use. Our quilter also used matching needle and bobbin thread on 'Stars of the Prairie'. The backing fabric is the same teal as used in the dog tooth border. The thread is a cream colored shiny thread. The back of the quilt looks like a whole-cloth quilt.

Since the quilt wasn't feeding properly, if I felt I'd done everything possible to fix it and it still wasn't 'right', I would have called her at that point and offered an alternative to her requested stitch pattern.

If her decision was to take the quilt elsewhere, I would have removed all of my stitching and returned a pressed quilt top and the batting and backing she provided to her. Obviously without charge as I was unable to complete my end of the transaction. This would be to make things right and to maintain my business' reputation.

My problem with your situation is the $631 to compensate her for her quilt top. To be perfectly honest, if her quilt top is returned in good condition—meaning the same condition as it was given to you—even the $300 you offered, in my humble opinion, is overly generous on your part. The only thing she is out of is time.

I would NOT sign any form saying I'd pay her if the quilt wasn't returned in the original state. The only person able to determine that is her and she benefits by saying there's a problem. You can't win for trying in that situation. And again, the $600+ remedy is ridiculously high.

As to your specific question about how to determine the price of an item you've made...

For the cost of materials, if I knew the pattern, I take the yardage off the pattern envelope, add it up and multiply by the going rate of quilt fabric in your area and then add another $10 for thread (I like to use Aurifil).

If I didn't have the pattern, I'd take the unfinished size of the quilt. Multiply length and height. This give the total number of square inches in the quilt not including seam allowances. Divide by that number by 1440 (this is the number of square inches in a yard of 40 inch wide fabric). The resulting number is how many yards of quilt fabric was needed to make the top. I'd then multiply by 1.20 to find 120% of the yardage used. If fabric was purchased specifically for a top, the quilt pattern yardage is usually generous to accommodate possible cutting errors by the quilter. Multiply by the cost of fabric in your area. Again, I'd add another $10 for thread.

I wouldn't even guess as to how to account for the cost of someone's time. There are just so many variables for that...their skill level, how fast they are, etc.

But again, as long as you return the quilt top in good condition with any supplies that she sent along with it and a refund of any quilting fees she's already paid you, I just don't see paying her for her quilt top.

Readers, do you have any suggestions for Barbara? I would appreciate your input regardless of whether you a professional quilter or one who has their quilts quilted by others. Both views would be helpful; just use the 'comment' link below.

To those of you who have graciously added your wisdom, I am grateful to you for your help. It helps make this site a better place to be!

Thank you.


Julie Baird

Comments for Customer wants payment for quilt

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Pictures worth 1000 words
by: Anonymous

I am thinking, after reading these posts that I will start taking pictures of quilts at intake just to CYA!

And also putting a disclaimer in a contract that they have to sign.

Thank you.

From the Editor: I think that is EXCELLENT advice for everyone involved.

Documentation is key to solving problems like this. Both documenting when the quilt comes in and when it goes out.


Julie Baird

Update on 'Customer wants payment for quilt"
by: Barbara Kolch

Hi Everyone!

I am the original poster with this problem. I wanted to let you know what happened and what I learned.

We went to meditation so as to not go to court. The customer decided to reduce her price ($600.00 ) for the top stitching that she thought was bad.

She wanted the table runner along with $390.00, or I could have the table runner to remove the stitching, than have someone state whether it was acceptable or not after the stitching was re-moved. I would have to have it ready within 3 weeks.

My friend that was going to help me with taking out the stitches was out of state. I was so tired of all of this. I paid her $300.00. I live in a small town where people talk. I wanted to have a good word out in the town and was glad to get this off of my plate. I gave her the table top.

Get this!!!!! The stitching wasn't too bad that she cut it up to make 2 vests.... how's that for being so upset??????

The stitching must have all of a sudden became nice to look at...

Lessons learned...
  • Put everything in writing
  • Show what kind of stitch will be used
  • Have insurance
God blessed me for a lesson learned.

Blessings to all for good stitching.


Update on 'Customer wants payment for quilt"
by: Barbara Kolch

Thank you so much for all of the feedback you've given me. I am so GRATEFUL for all of it. I just got the papers today (7-7-11) to go before mediation on 7-27-11.

I hope with all the feedback I got from all of you, that this will shed some light on this matter, and...
  1. I will be able to take out the stitches,
  2. Return the $90 for quilting
  3. Return the tabletop in the original order and,
  4. Thank God for the lesson with blessings for all.

I will keep you posted on the outcome...

With blessings to all for doing for others,


by: Crystal

I agree with Cynthia - get business insurance if you can.

Also, to avoid future problems, I suggest you have the customer sign an order form that spells out the quilting pattern, thread color, etc and includes something similar to the following disclaimer - "Please Note: I appreciate how much work you?ve put into your quilt top and will treat it with the utmost care. However, in the event of damage to the quilt beyond repair due to machine malfunction, weather, fire or other means, I will be responsible only for replacement costs of materials necessary to make the quilt. I will not accept responsibility for reimbursement of labor or time involved to produce the quilt top. I will only reimburse materials costs if the quilt is damaged or destroyed and will not reimburse costs solely due to dissatisfaction with the finished product."

by: Anonymous

This sounds too much like a scam to extract someone's cash.

$631 for a table topper is an inordinately high amount for what is essentially a small item.

If the customer is not happy with the quilting then at most, the stitching needs to be pulled out and the top returned to her in its original state.

However, one of my hats is that of long arm quilter and I never, ever, do anything on a customer's quilt unless I have it in writing. If there is a problem then the customer is contacted and the question resolved. When it is resolved, I ask for a confirming e-mail. That way it becomes the customers problem and not mine.

Customer Wants Payment
by: Lee

The quilter should only have to offer to remove the stitching and refund the fee paid to them. Then the owner is free to find another quilter.

I'm not a lawyer but, from my previous experience working in a law office, I believe that if the quilt is returned to the same condition it was received in and the money returned for the work done, there would be no other recourse since the owner of the quilt can find another quilter to finish her quilt.

I would suggest contacting a lawyer first and making sure that this is an acceptable solution.

I definitely would not agree to pay that amount for the quilt and try quilting a second time. This person sounds unreasonable. I would take out stitches and return it the way you received it and be done with it. I wouldn't take anymore chances with her.

I would also suggest that if any of the other long-armers in your area are your friend, you give them a heads up about this lady who might be gracing their doorstep.

Good luck. Keep us posted to the outcome.

Suffered in silence
by: Anonymous

The top owner's request for $600+ is totally out of line. If she had no appraisal of the top's value prior to the quilting and there were no prior written agreements, the quilter's offer as stated is more than fair. I have had two large quilts machine quilted that I really disliked the quilting on and I removed all of the quitting AFTER I paid them for the work... And just chalked it up to one of "life's experiences".

No way
by: Anonymous

I think the quilter's offer to remove the quilting and refund her fee, plus replace the backing and batting if necessary is sufficient.

There are no guarantees when you hire a quilter. If her top is returned to her undamaged, she has lost nothing but a little time.

Business Insurance
by: Cynthia

Way back when....I got my business insurance, I have my long-arming grouped in. Basically, the way long-arming insurance works (mine--thru Allstate and previously State Farm) is this...

If you are unhappy in any way with my quilting, whether it is the pattern, I put a hole in your quilt, there is a spot that wasn't recorded when dropping it off...whatever the case may surrender the quilt to me (to give to the insurance company). Your receipts for products purchased to make the quilt go to the insurance company and they will reimburse you. OR You can have your quilt top appraised BEFORE I quilt it and that appraisal can be submitted to the insurance company.

Most customers won't want to do this, so before it gets to that, I offer a mutually satisfactory solution. The best that you can do is return it after removing your stitching (and I would clean it up the best I can), refund the money and let it go. She would then have to pursue the $631 in a court of law, which my insurance carriers tell me would revert to paragraph 1.

Good luck. I know this is heartbreaking....

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