How long did it take to make that quilt?

This has got to be one of the questions I am most frequently asked. The problem with the question is that there are different kinds of time when it comes to making a quilt.

Design time, which may include drafting your own design or choosing which pattern to make.
Supply acquisition time, also known as shopping time. You know as well as I do how long it can take to find the perfect fabric for a project!
Planning time – what techniques will we use, in what order will we execute them?
Prep time – washing and pressing the fabrics, cutting them out, maybe marking the design lines.
Assembling time – hand or machine sewing the quilt top.
Then comes the quilting time, which may include all the same steps – design, supply acquisition, planning, prep – and then the actual quilting time.
And finally, the finishing time – binding, hanging sleeve, label.

Now let’s face it. This process is not always linear. We don’t always start at step 1 designing and work our way sequentially through to the binding. We run into issues:

  • a fabric didn’t work or we run out thread → back to shopping time
  • we piece the first few blocks and decide to change the layout → back to design time
  • we get the thing up on our design wall and something is off → back to planning time – or consulting-with-our-friends time.
  • or we get to the next step and we don’t know what to do next or we are afraid so we go into the ever-popular procrastinating time!

Another factor to consider is that different kinds of time require different conditions. Machine quilting time requires a sewing machine and electricity  whereas appliqué can be done pretty much anywhere. Shopping time requires a store to be open and time to get there and back, so it has to be scheduled accordingly. Design time is an interesting one. I find I need to be in a good place emotionally – open, inspired, at peace. It’s pretty hard to design when you’re in a hurry or feeling frazzled or you’re hurting; whereas handwork can be calming and soothing – the perfect antidote for a grieving spirit or a long, hard day.

For this reason, we may have multiple projects on the go at the same time – one in the planning stages, one for handwork, another for machine work – and a few dozen for procrastinating.

So when someone asks how long did it take to make that quilt? – how can we possibly quantify all these different kinds of time? The only way I can answer this question is with elapsed time. Usually I know when I started and when I finished, so that’s the best answer I can provide.


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