I got a phone call from a person wanting to know if I know how to do stitch-in-the-ditch. I answered, "Yes, I do." She then asked if I would quilt a quilt for her. I told her I would. We made an appointment for her to drop the quilt off to me.
When she and her friend showed me the quilt, I was rather surprised to see that it was a "cheater quilt". A cheater quilt is a piece of fabric with a quilt design printed on it, there was no piecing involved. This was a king sized piece with the Double Wedding Ring (one of my favorites) printed on it. They asked me to quilt the entire king sized quilt with stitch-in-the-ditch around each piece (of course in this case it would be stitch-on-the-line) and to put a design in each melon and the center of each ring. I went over my pricing to make sure they knew what it would cost to have that kind of quilting done. I even tried to gently suggest an over all pattern or a meandering pattern which would cost a considerably smaller amount to have done. No. They insisted on the stitch-in-the-ditch with the added designs. Who am I to argue?
While I was quilting this quilt I kept wondering why someone would pay to have a long arm quilter do all of this quilting on a king sized cheater quilt. I pondered while I worked and then it dawned on me... it had to be a test. These ladies wanted to see my work before they trusted me with one of their beloved quilts. I was sure of it. When I was finished quilting the piece I called to tell them it was ready to be picked up. The woman I spoke with told me when she would be coming to pick up the quilt and said a couple of friends would be riding along with her. I pulled out a couple of folding chairs and waited.
I met five new quilting friends that day. When the women came in they were all very friendly and had many questions for me. I unfolded the quilted piece for them and they immediately began to examine it with the proverbial fine toothed comb and whisper to each other. After a few minutes I said, "Well, did I pass the test?" They looked at me --- surprised. One answered, "Yes, but how did you know?" I explained my thoughts and they admitted I was correct!!! They went on to explain that they had taken some quilts to another long arm quilter and the quilting was less than satisfactory ( they said what was supposed to be stitch-in-the-ditch was crooked and as much as ¼ away from the seam etc.) and they actually ripped out all of the quilting that was done.
One by one they went out to the car and brought in quilts they had left in the trunk. Apparently they were not going to leave these quilts with me if I did not pass their test. That day they left a total of 13 quilts for me to quilt.
I think the test was a great idea and of course I am always happy to pass a test!!! It is important for you to know the kind of work your quilter does before you entrust them with your quilts. You might not need this elaborate test though. Ask the quilter to show you some samples of his/her work. Although most of a long arm quilter's work goes out the door (returned to the owner ) they should have a few pieces available for you to look at. Of course if you have any questions or would like me to quilt any of your quilts for you, please contact me using my contact form at http://www.onemorequilt.net/contact .