The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Biz #10 - Stay Focused

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Quilt Biz #10 - Stay Focused

Today let's talk about focus.  In order to start a large, complicated quilt, you have to have clear focus on the project and each of the many steps required to take it from a pile of fabric and thread to a masterpiece of color, shapes, and texture.

To start a business, you need exactly the same thing.  Clear, dedicated focus on your objective, and an unwavering, brave heart to keep you on track.

But what is your objective?  What is the main goal here?

This is a key point that I think often gets overlooked.  You want to start a business, yes, but what is the main goal of this business?  What is the objective for 1 year, 2 years, 10 years down the road?

Are you building this for yourself, or do you want to one day hand this business down to a family member or sell it for a profit?

Having a focus, then sticking with it is one of the most important keys to any endeavor, whether it's opening a quilt shop in a small town, or beginning your first wholecloth quilt.

Unless you understand what the POINT is, you will probably not end up feeling very good about your project as it gets off the ground because your focus is muddled and mired in a confusing mix of goals and emotions.

Yes, I did say emotions.

When we set a goal, or even just write a checklist of things to do, we become emotionally engaged.  Have you ever started a quilt project, only to lose focus on it, but then find yourself unable to throw it away because you're so emotionally attached to it?

It's not usually a good feeling.  It's a weird mix of guilt at starting the project and not finishing it, the feeling of intention to get back in gear with it, but drudgery at the idea of returning to that confused place of mixed emotions and goals.

We are emotional creatures and the second our brains become invested in an idea, a quilt project, a business plan, we lock on to the idea, not necessarily on the end result, or even the long haul it will take to get there.

Here's a great example: I've wanted a storefront business since I was around 12.  It's an emotional desire - the lust for a special place all my own that I fill with pretty things.  When I think of this idea, it's always met with a heady mix of deep longing and wistfulness.

My brain loves day dreaming about this emotional idea, but really hates it when someone (usually my husband) starts listing all the reasons why opening a storefront really isn't possible for us right now.  And what would be the end result?  What is the goal for a storefront anyway?

I always have to be honest and admit the fact that a storefront isn't what I really want - it's the emotional daydream I really enjoy. My lack of any real concrete plans, logistical diagram for how this massive thing could fit into our tight budget and within our busy schedule tells the real truth: I'm in love with the idea, not the real thing.

That's not to say that I will never, ever own a little shop of my own, but it is a definite sign that I need to get my head on straight and do a lot more planning before that day comes.

Focus is essential, and having a goal to focus ON is a great help.

When it comes to creating a massive show quilt, or even just a king sized quilt for your niece's wedding, focus will keep you on track and working through the quilt step by step.

In this case, the end result is not something to focus on (that can drive you crazy), but each step of the process.

Personally I find if mistakes are made in the quilt in the first few days of piecing or applique, those mistakes will continue to ripple through the entire process, tainting the experience.  The main reason I drop a project halfway through is due to the overwhelming feeling that nothing I do will fix the issues that happened at the very beginning.

It's far better to take more than enough time, to focus with methodical attention to those starting steps, and give yourself the best possible base to work from.

In order to work through the entire project in this methodical manner, you have to build stamina and a steadiness of spirit to maintain focus on that project, even when new fabrics, luscious threads, and alternative designs are calling your name.

This also relates to business: if you are opening a quilt shop, you need to focus on quilting.

This weekend I stopped by a neat little shop in NC full of fabric, leather, paper, vintage clothes, and all sorts of interesting odds and ends.  It was neat, but I left wondering how the shop could possibly stay in business - it had no focus.  

It was trying to be a lot of things at once, but it wasn't able to fully support any single focus.  It's like the owner had a lot of passions, but each one was warring with the others for dominance.  It probably worked for the owner, but for customer looking for only quilting stuff?  It was distracting.

This is not to say that you can't run a quilt shop and also have a workshop on spinning yarn!  This is not to say that you can't teach knitting or crochet or lace making or beadwork.  These crafts are also equally awesome and fun to teach, but you need to remember what your store's focus is.

And if it doesn't have a focus, you'd better get one!

And speaking of focus, I'm feeling the need to alter these Sunday Quilting Business posts.  With 10 posts shared, I believe I've covered a wide range of topics and ideas that should get you started with an online or physical quilt shop.

Yes, this collection of posts will remain online right here for you to browse through and enjoy:

On the weekends we're going to return to the focus of free motion quilting with new designs, new quilts, and maybe an occasional weird day when I feel like sharing a video on spinning or dyeing fabric. Yes, I, too, must remind myself to maintain a clear focus on my core passion: free motion quilting.

And we'll close with the last lesson of all: know when to close gracefully.

If your business isn't working no matter how much content you throw at it, if no customer wants to buy your quilts, no matter how low the price, the best decision you can make is to close the doors gracefully and without regret or guilt.

No, not all businesses succeed. It is a sad, but true fact that even those with buckets of great ideas and hopeful intentions sometimes get screwed.  It can be a simple twist of fate (a freak storm and flood), a twist of finances (hacker in your bank account), or a twist of traffic (google's algorithms do change, and not always for the better).

Rather than mire yourself in a deep weighty pool of guilt, or worse, fill yourself with dread and fear of this potentiality, instead embrace whatever comes with as much grace and acceptance as you can muster.

Business ebbs and flows.  There will be times you wonder how in the world you'll pay the electric bill.  There will be times you will wonder where the heck everyone has gone - all you hear is crickets chirping.

There will also be times you wish you had 10 arms to keep up with every task, and 10 mouths to answer every question.  There will be times of plenty, there will be times of debt.

Accept this.  Feel the fear of all that could come, but the excitement of what could come with it.  Good luck!

Leah Day


  1. Thank you again, Leah, for such an excellent post. Focus is something I have struggled with my whole life. I have so many more projects and ideas going on than I could ever complete, and I'm trying to find that perfect focus for my online shop, too. I need to print out your post and read it every day! Have a super day.

  2. Thanks for sharing all of this with us. How funny that I myself was just thinking my online store really needs to focus more.

    I carry lots of fabric, but my real love is working with pre-cuts and easy quilt kits so after reading your nudge to focus, that's what I'm going to do!


  3. Hi Leah,
    These posts have been wonderful. Thank you for sharing your insights. You are truly a sage.

  4. Thanks, Leah for sharing your insite for starting a business. Your posts came along, just when I was needing them. They have been inspiring! Now I need to take that inspiration and turn it into action! You are an inspiration, thanks again and look forward to your free motion quilting!

  5. Thanks for Sharing.... Inspiring... Teaching.... Giving and Caring... You rock the quilt world!


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at