Digitizing Imaging For Quilters

Written by:  Ernie Ziegler, Memories On Tile , July 2004


Did you know that there is a significant market out there just waiting for an enterprising digital imprinter to tap into it? 

The market consists of quilters in general and makers of Memory Quilts in particular. They are in need of someone to digitize their photos/artwork and transfer those images onto quality 100% cotton muslin. 

TIP #1:    These quilters have suffered through a myriad of methods for making their own images and found  them to be cumbersome and fraught with misleading claims of color fastness and washability. Be prepared to offer washability demonstrations and a money back guarantee.


Before you can approach this potential market, you need to acquaint yourself with some quilting background information. 

While stores like JoAnn Fabrics or Hancock Fabrics sell material they are not stores of choice for the segment of the quilting market you want to reach. The quilters you are seeking will be found at the Local Quilt Shops (LQS). These are the stores that sell quality fabrics and carefully cultivate the quilters by publishing newsletters and offering frequent on-site classes by highly qualified instructors; some of whom are the authors of the most popular "How To..." quilting books.

The material of choice for quilters is 100% cotton. Therefore if you want to sell acceptable digitized images you must bite the bullet and buy the best 100% white cotton muslin that the LQS sells. 

TIP #2: I recommend Moda, 200 thread count white muslin in the 45 inch width by the bolt (25 yards).

 To get started you will need a few tools of the trade, namely:

            - A 45mm rotary cutter.  This size will allow you to cut up to 6 layers of material at a time.

            - Extra blades for the cutter.

            - A blade sharpener (blades dull fast).

            - A good 24 inch quilters plastic ruler.

            - A good cutting mat at least 24 inches wide.

With a little careful shopping you should be able to purchase these tools for $50.00 to $75.00. 

TIP #3: Sign up at www.joannfabrics.com and you will receive 40% and 50% off coupons to use to purchase your tools.

Then there's the matter of ink/paper to make your transfers. You can conduct your own tests to determine which combo best meets your needs. For myself, after doing my own tests, I settled on Spectra-Bright ink/paper using the free ICC profile that comes with the ink, in an Epson C82 printer and printing from Corel (V10).  I find that this combo provides me with the color accuracy and washability I desire and my clients want.


My method of approaching the market was to select (from the Yellow Pages) a dozen LQS's within a 25 mile radius of my studio. I then visited each LQS and picked up their newsletters and class schedules. From these publications I made notes of when Memory Quilt classes were to be held and the names and contact information for the instructors.

Next I selected a half-dozen family full color photo images that consisted of:

            - A wedding couple.

            - A high school graduate in cap and gown.

            - A newborn.

            - A family group.

            - A sailboat.

            - A zoo picture of a Tiger.

Using these images, I printed transfers and pressed images (24 of each) to make up sample sets. The sets each contained six images and twelve sets were washed so that I would be able to show the "hand" of unwashed and washed pieces of material. Images were 5 x 7 inches and printed on 7 x 10 inch pieces of material.

TIP #4:  Be sure that all your contact information is printed just below each image.

The next step was to contact each of the instructors by phone to introduce myself and explain what "benefits" I can provide quilters and the instructors' students.   I would then ask if the instructor thought what I was offering would benefit her students and if so, would she allow me to make a presentation of my images to her students in the next class.

TIP #5:  Be prepared for evening visits between 6 and 9 PM and plan to arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the class. Plan to stay until the class is over so that you may answer any questions without interfering with the instructors lesson.

At the appointed time/place, quickly make your presentation to the instructor and give her one of the washed and one of the unwashed image sets. Then offer to assist the instructor in setting up for the class (a little apple polishing never hurts).

TIP #6:  I also have on hand several copies of a one page write-up of what I do and explaining the benefits to the quilter. Attached to this write-up is an order form and price list. This write-up also encourages the quilter to ask for a sample image. When requested, I send a copy of one of my images with a "Thanks for requesting a sample..." letter and enclose another explanation sheet/order form.

That's all there is to it. Sit back and allow time for the instructors to continue telling students about your service and allow the power of your printed information sheet to do their work. The orders will trickle in at first and then start to swell. All this will probably take about a year to develop.

TIP #7:  Once activity starts to build, you may find that the LQS will want to have copies of your sample sets to permanently display to demonstrate that as an LQS they are "with-it". I gladly supply these sets on the condition that the LQS will allow me to keep a supply of my information/order sheets alongside their Newsletter and Class Schedules.

DON'T RELAX YET           

You're not finished yet. Once you have a client base established, it's time to present "The Ultimate Quilt Idea".

This is where you really begin to shine by offering giant sized "Mural Digitized Images".  Because of the expertise that you possess in using specialized software you can demonstrate the enlargement of a small image and tiling it into printable sized images that can be sewn into a beautiful seemingly seamless giant image/wall hanging. 

In my case I enlarged an image of The Birth of Venus into a 30 x 48 inch size and tiled that into eighteen 8 x 10 inch transfers. Once all the images were printed I showed them to the instructor who had been most receptive to my work and we entered into a joint venture of my printing images and her sewing the images into a wall hanging.

This completed project has been accepted into a juried exhibition of this quilter's work and will have a private invitational showing this fall. Naturally I have prepared an informational sheet, to be handed out at the exhibit, detailing my expertise at being able to design and create these unique items.

Let me tell you that the demonstration of being able to enlarge/tile images has stirred a tremendous amount of interest and requests for design assistance. I'm beginning to feel a little (very little) like a guru of quilting digitization.



Regardless of the size of the image being printed, cut the muslin two inches larger in all directions. You need to deliver the image with an one inch un-imaged border all around. This will allow the quilter to cut to the seam allowance she desires.

Deliver all images unwashed. This allows the quilter to decide if she wants to work with washed (softer hand) or unwashed (stiffer hand) images.


If you decide to pursue this market and setup an ink/paper combo to print onto cotton you will also be able to print onto denim (as in tote bags), it's an item that quilters can never have to many of, as well as 100% cotton t-shirts.

Tip #8  There is also a market segment of quilters who do not use digitized images in the body of their quilts; but who do have a need for labels that are sewn onto the back of the quilt. These labels are highly personalized, one of a kind, unique items and should be priced accordingly.


Muslin cost:     $.0023 per sq. inch

Ink cost:            $.0063 per sq. inch (using refillable cartridge system)

Paper cost:     $.0041 per sq. inch

Total estimated cost:  .0127 per sq. inch


If you have any questions about entering the quilting market, you can e-mail Ernie Ziegler (please do not change the subject matter of the e-mail)

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