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.
If you are a quilter maker, I am sure you have been asked at least once, maybe dozens of times, “How long did it take you to make that?”
Years ago, that question would put me on the defense. The truth is my work is very labor intensive.
I felt people were judging me for not being quick, fast, on demand. These are things our culture values right now. IMMEDIACY.
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.
Multiple the width of the quilt by the height of the quilt. Then divide that number by the number of hours it took to quilt it. This gives you the number of square inches you are covering in an hour.
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.
Maria, your quilts are beautiful!!
Thank you Jean for stopping by, commenting, AND liking my work. It means a lot to me.
That would be…the back of your quilts and the details of your quilting. I try to keep track of how long it takes to make items so that I know how much to charge, but it is hard, especially when I’m switching between projects to minimize thread changes, machine set ups, etc. Interruptions are my main enemy!
I have a hard time documenting when I try to do more than one thing at a time too! So I don’t track the other projects, only the quilting which I think makes it do-able. Thank you Penny!
Your work is awe inspiring. One can tell that you put a bit of yourself in each work and the time to make it absolutely beautiful. you are very creative and I enjoy viewing your work.
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Thank you Mary very much for saying that. Beauty is a big deal for me in my quilts. A lot of art today shuns beauty as being superficial–not deep enough–I say beauty is one of the original reasons we make art. Thank you!
Shaking head…amazing, incredible, absolutely stunning in every way. Thanks for sharing part of your process….it’s almost like being a fly on the wall…
Thank you very much for saying that. I hope this new quilt does not disappoint!
Brilliant pieces, back and front. Looking forward to your new piece. NO doubt it will just as brilliant, if not more. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Thank you Mary! You folks keep me going.
Maria, your work is magnificent and awe-inspiring! Each are works of art! I look forward to seeing what to create next!
Thank you! I am working and working on this new piece. It is starting to take shape on the design wall.
No doubt it will be a wonderful piece! Enjoy the creative adventure!
So inspiring. Thank you for all the photos.
Thank you Susan!
Maria! I LOVED seeing so many of your quilts I’ve never seen before! Thank you for sharing them, and showing the beautiful backs as well. I can hardly wait to see your next creation.
Thank you Debby. Great to hear from you!
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What an interesting perspective on the time. I love the response about all that came before this piece. It is true that with every quilt you develop skills and techniques that end up in the next and the next. I am “such a better” piecer, binder quilter now then when I began 8 years ago. Once I tracked each and every step of a tshirt quilt…65 hours start to finish. …I figured if I was asked to make another one I could explain the time required, and my “ya know, it would cost you $33/hour plus materials. Stops most people dead in their tracks. No time clock in my life anymore, but I feel the deadline pressure starting to amp up. Love the last photo..Lite Brite….must be the new project.
Thank you Mary. I hope you are doing good. I tried to post on your blog the other day, but I could not find the comment section even though I know I have done it before. The story behind the quilt you made recently is amazing! Loved the label.
Thank you Maria! That silly comment spot is around there somewhere…now I am going to see if I can find it! 🙂
Great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!…
Thank you Maryline!
Honestly, I think this is the first time I really understood quilts and those who make them. I always admire them, but I never got it. A beautiful piece of writing.
Wow. Dalia. That is a very high compliment. Thank you!
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WOW I have just come across your blog and I love your quilts – improve style and the backs ate stunning.
Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I always love a compliment! It keeps me going especially when it comes to stitching those backs.
I am hoping to get some time to go through your blog for inspiration.
Thank you! I hope you find some bits of inspiration or at least get a chuckle of two from from these posts.