In early 2014, a good friend of mine (Joe) was visiting from Ohio and saw an old rag quilt draped over my couch. It was raggedy, handcrafted in the 1930s or 40s by my grandmother, who probably made it for practical use rather than for decoration, but to me (and Joe) it was a work of art. It was (and still is) patchy with different colored fabrics and styles and not something you would see for sale in any store. But my friend found it irresistible and offered to take it off my hands. Of course, I said “no way,” it was and still is the only thing that I have of my Granny's.
Later that year when I was making out my Christmas gift list, I was stumped as to what gift to get my friend Joe. Remembering how he really wanted my Granny's rag quilt, I asked my almost 80-year-old mother if she would make a somewhat duplicate quilt, and after a few “I would help” comments, she said she would try. She had an old sewing machine, and after we visited the local fabric store and we had all the various materials needed, she began working on Joe's rag quilt, which she finished a few weeks before Christmas. I wanted to surprise Joe so I conspired with his office secretary who agreed to drape it over his office chair with a handwritten note from me. And so, I mailed it to his office and he was delighted. His secretary called a few days later and wanted to know where she and a couple of her coworkers could get one. I told her it was a one-of-a-kind, and that my mother had made it, which she persisted that they would be glad to pay her if she would make them a similar one, so I threw-out a number and they all three agreed that $150 for each rag quilt was a good deal.
So, I went back to the fabric store, bought enough material to make three more queen size quilts, and took everything to my mother’s house to give her the good news. I just assumed that my mother would be overjoyed, after all, I was going to give her the $450 for what to her would be a weekend task. Well, you know what they say about assuming. For an elderly lady, my mother gave me a hard stare and asked, “if I had lost my mind,” which I replied, “it’s only three rag quilts, what else do you have to do?” About 10 minutes later I realized, at least in her mind, that she had lots of things she could be doing. After realizing my miscalculation, I agreed to cancel this "nonsense" with Joe's secretary, and leave my mother to her retirement.
I called Joe’s secretary a few days later and tried to back out of the deal, but all I got was a bunch of women groaning with disappointment, and by the end of the call, I found myself reassuring these women, who I had never met, several states away, that I was sure I could talk my mother into making a few rag quilts. I recall saying out loud when I hung up, “what just happened?” And then realized I would need a different strategy if I was going to convince my mother to make these quilts. So, I did what any smart businessman would do, I agreed to help her make the quilts and still give her all the money, not to mention what I had already spent on the materials.
I convinced her it would be good to spend a few days together and catch up on all the gossip, of course she saw through my plot, but did finally agree to teach me how to use the sewing machine and make a rag quilt.
One very early Saturday morning in January 2015, I found myself learning how to use a sewing machine that was at least a hundred years old. No matter how hard I tried I just could not get the rhythm, but I finally pulled it off. I'm not going to lie, the first one took all day. But the second one was better and the third one was almost easy. My mother was very proud that I had learned, but she still wanted the $450, since she had been, “instrumental.”
I mailed them to Ohio and was glad it was over, or so I thought. About two weeks later Joe calls and it seems that everyone loves my rag quilts, and a few more are interested, one of them wants a price for a super large California king.
And so started my new career; and later that same year, a friend of the family asked me to furnish her with all the raw materials and sewing machine to make the quilts from her home. She couldn’t drive but still wanted to work. She agreed to pay all the expenses to set-up shop in her home, so I had nothing to lose. It was the start of something great. She could not make them fast enough, and so I recruited a few more rag quilters. Eventually we figured out a streamlined method for uniformed sizes and fast quilting. Within a few months we had a dozen rag quilt makers working from home, and the demand is still more than we can produce.
I've been learning lots about business negotiations, hiring the best person to do what I'm not that good at doing. Having to turndown major retailers because we do not have enough inventory to supply their needs. Recruiting people from all across the United States to work from home and with each comes new ideas and design patterns; their creativity expanding our diversity and inventory.
It’s just the best idea ever; quilt makers bringing their own styles and creative juices, working at home, under their own power, uninhibited by the demands of an employer, and the results are amazing. Some people send us a rag quilt every day, others weekly, others whenever they feel like it. But that's OK, because every day is like Christmas. Each day the mail delivers and surprises me with multifarious patterns that one person or company could never create. It gives us the power to expand much faster and buy the raw materials needed to make the companies only product, and as we grow, our bulk purchasing power will increase, which means lower overhead for everyone.
Thank you for considering our opportunity. Let’s make something beautiful.
Quilt Quack Founder – James Albert