I want to write about this topic because visitors to my booth or my informal shop in my home often ask “How long does it take to make this quilt?”.
Now is a good time to tackle this topic as recently I spent about 90 minutes sorting out fabrics to use for Sunset quilt # 26. The number 26 means that making a sunset quilt is not new so you would think the color selection would go more quickly…but it doesn’t. Each sunset quilt is unique so each fabric selection, while guided by previous quilts, may be different, as this one is since I want it to be over water. With water and the sunset reflection comprising 60% or more of the quilt, which is not typical of most of my sunset quilts, I need more time to figure things out. And even though I must have at least 500 different fabrics in my stash, inevitably I find I’m missing a few specific blues so frequent trips to local fabric stores are a weekly reality. Therefore, for this quilt, before starting to cut or piece a single fabric I had several hours invested in planning, organizing, and selecting.
Unlike more traditional quilts where color selection for the pattern and cutting pieces for repeated blocks is time consuming, once that process is done, you face a lot of meticulous sewing but you know which pieces are going where. The making of art quilts and contemporary quilts is very different. I have about 15 strips of different colors “I THINK” I want to use for the actual sky of the sunset but creating, piecing, and sewing are slower with deliberate contemplation between pieces to be sure the color blending and outcome is what I want. My creation process does not involve cutting all the pieces and then doing all the sewing. Creating an art quilt is cutting, sewing, ironing, often trimming to fit the design wanted, figuring out the next piece and repeating over and over. Often I’m back into my stash looking for the perfect piece of fabric as the design develops. It isn’t repetitive because a piece of art is materializing in front of you as you go, you are involved in a dynamic process. There are frequent evaluations of progress as I pop my effort onto my flannel wall and step back. I use my ipad to take pictures along the way because often I can see how colors blend or how piecing influences the design better from a photograph than my eye. Sometimes there are whole days I might wait to see if I’m sure I like what I see before continuing. It is fun! There is no rush! And, there is always an image in my head of where I’m headed but, not being a sketcher, I must make it happen in fabric which can be a slow process.
Once the quilt top is pieced, I often wait until I have about half a dozen art quilt tops finished and then I spend a few days machine quilting. For me quilting is a different focus but equally important to the design. Quilting and binding the quilts takes about 15-20% of the total time needed to make a quilt for me.
Usually the time it takes depends on the size of the quilt with larger quilts taking longer than smaller quilts.
So, how long does it take to make an art quilt? For a quilt about 24″ x 32″ it will take me 10-15 hours. But it could be more of less…