I am a piecer also known as a bitmaker. I am also an obsessive compulsive quilter. Might as well claim it.
These past couple of months, I have been piecing and piecing, analyzing my time management, determining that if I get the top done by Day X, I can get the quilting done by Day Y.
As usual I am behind the eight ball, because in reality I have no idea how long it will take me to make this quilt top. It is done when it is done—and DONE is a gut feeling. I may stitch the last bit, put it on the design wall, and decided to rework it because while I thought it was done, it isn’t.
The slow speed of stitching tiny bits together and then covering them with a fine layer of quilting thread is an act that is out of sync with our world’s way of doing things.
I have come to accept that the slowness of my work is part of what makes it special, and people are not asking this question to put me on the spot, they are asking out of curiosity.
So, over the years, I have come up with an assortment of responses. At first, I would brush the question off—“I have no idea how long it takes me to make a quilt”.
For a while, I was esoteric about the question—“All of my life”—is what I would say. You see, to get to the piece I am making now, I had to make all the others before it.
And now, I say—“Well, it is very difficult to determine how long it takes to create a composition. Some work comes together quickly, while others are worked on off and on for years. But once the quilt top is made, I can tell you with a fair amount of acuracy how long it will take to quilt the piece.”
I have been deligently documenting my quilting time for the last few years. I have a chart. I use the stop watch on my phone and record the numbers. It is a simple formula.
Quilts like Tribe and To Agnes Martin, with Color take a very long time—hours and hours.
Tribe has many many pieces, and each one is quilted individually. I believe I worked for about two weeks quilting this piece.
I went around each tiny quilt block twice when I quilted To Agnes Martin, with Color.
Much of this is driven by the fact that I want the backs of my quilts to look as beautiful as the fronts. They are a surprise for the viewer who asks to look at the back.
I use shot cottons for the backs of my quilts. I find that they hi-light the quilting while minimizing the evidence of errors.
I am often asked how I got the quilting on back. The viewer at first does not see that it is a mirror image of the work on the front. This is a close up of Wall of Sound from the front.
And this is Wall of Sound from the back.
LITE BRITE and Fruit Salad which have fewer color changes and less piecing were much quicker to quilt.
As I build a new quilt, I try very hard not to make design decisions based on how difficult I am making the quilting for myself.
I also know that I cannot quilt for hours on end. My body will no longer do that kind of work. I must pace myself—four hours a day is hard, but do able.
The piece I am finishing up now, is LARGE and complicated, and new and exciting —for me anyway. I am estimating it will take at least 20 days and approximately 80 hours to quilt. Which means I need to finish piecing by Monday, so that I can be done with the quilting by Sunday August 28, so that my photographer has time to photograph it.
The days click by. Some are focused and on task. Others are confusing and require multiple errands that suck my time away. The point is always to return to the work. Chaos and order—over and over again. All of My Life.