Recently I had someone tell me that they would not pay someone 2 cents per square inch to simply push a button (my cost is less than that).  I get that someone might think that is all that goes into longarm quilting using a computerized robotic quilting machine like mine.  Especially when you see it running all by itself.  However, there is a lot more to it than that.  So I got to thinking I should list all the steps I take from start to finish when working on someone's quilt.  So here you go:
1.  Receive you quilt, update my computer, contact customer to make sure I have all the info I need.  Typically discuss pattern choice, thread color, pattern density, and any issues I might see.  This can take about 30-45 minutes.
2.  Measure the quilt top, cut the batting I need.  Oil and clean the machine and load the thread including the bobbin.  Then I load the quilt back by pinning it to the leaders on the machine frame.  Then I baste stitch the batting and the quilt top to the backing fabric all the way around and across the middle as needed.  This holds the quilt pieces in place so they do not move around during the quilting process and while rolling the quilt.  This can take up to an hour easily.
3.  Load the quilt pattern into the computer and lay it out on the screen to fit the actual quilt top size.  Make any adjustments needed to make sure the pattern will fit and be the density required.  This can take about 15 minutes.
4.  Now I can push the button to start quilting.  Depending on the pattern chosen and the size of the quilt the actual quilting process can take between 1 to 6 hours.  During that time I am watching the machine progress like a hawk.  I am looking for loose fabric that can fold over when the stitches come across.  I am watching for any irregular stitches where the machine tension might need to be adjusted.  After each pass of the quilting process I roll the quilt down about 20-24 inches and make sure the next pass lines up correctly on the computer and that the machine needle corresponds with what the computer says.  Several times during the quilting process I will need to change the bobbin and make sure the stitching starts in the correct location after the bobbin change.  This entire process probably averages about 3.5 hours.
5.  When the quilting is finished I take the quilt off the machine and typically trim away the edges removing the excess backing and batting material.  If the customer has requested machine binding (about 1/2 do), I prepare the binding fabric by cutting it to the proper lengths, ironing it, and then sewing it around the edges of the quilt.  This can take at least 1 hour.
6.  Once the quilt is completed I hang it up and take pictures to be attached to the customer's invoice.  I want them to see what they are paying for.  Then I prepare a detailed invoice.  If the quilt is to be mailed I put it in a plastic zippered bag and then in a box.  I weigh it with a postage scale and input the address and weight and box size into the computer and get shipping costs from both the Post Office and UPS.  I print the appropriate mailing label and send the invoice.  Once the customer pays the invoice I take the box to the post Office or UPS Store.  This process can take about 1.5 hours.  
So the typical quilt can take approximately 8 hours to complete and sometimes up to 12 hours.  That seems to be the case as I average about 2 quilts per day and I have two quilting machines.  A new machine like mine today will cost about $45,000.  Then you need a place to put it, lots of thread and batting and a good sewing machine for doing binding.  There are many incidentals like an iron, ironing board, needles (I use one per quilt), many pairs of scissors, a good bobbin winder ($350), a large work table (mine is 5' X 5').  I also need to maintain a website, Facebook page, an Etsy store, and Google My Business site.  I get lots of text messages and phone calls also.  
This is certainly not meant to complain in any way.  I love what I do!  I just wanted to point out that a whole lot more goes into longarm quilting than just pushing a button, and that button is very expensive.  Thanks for taking the time to read this!

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