Often when someone looks at one of my quilts, she will ask, "How long did it take you to make that?" At first, this seemed like such a strange question, as though the person was going to weigh the answer and decide whether she was willing to invest that amount of time for that product. After a while, I realized that this really wasn't where the people were coming from; rather, they were interested in having a conversation about the quilt and didn't really know how else to begin.
My answer to their question is something like, "I can't answer that. I don't think about quilt-making in that way. I always have three or four in progress." I have never once tried to keep count of the hours spent in a particular project. That would serve no purpose for me.
I was writing to a far-away cousin about quilting this morning. She isn't a quilter (yet) and is on the cusp of jumping in. She has a million questions (and mercifully, "how long?" isn't one of them!) and while I was writing to her to explain that I really can't teach her via email how to make a quilt, there were thoughts I could share with her to help her formulate her own questions of herself. One had to do with the time involvement.
Coincidentally (or maybe not), Tanya wrote something about this today in her post "Productivity and Excellence." I found her thoughts to be illuminating.
In my very early years as a quilter, one of the things that concerned me was how long it would take to make a quilt. New to the craft, I was eager to see completion! (That old demon of instant gratification again.) In recent years I've found myself getting grumpy when I see books and magazines about making quilts very quickly, as though there were no pride in the quality of the finished product, just churn 'em out.
I've come to see, though, that there is a kind of a continuum with magnificent, intricate quilts at one end and quickly pieced, huge-block quilts at the other. Handquilting and prairie points at the one, "give birth" method and perle tying at the other. When I look at my quilts, I can see where I was on the continuum for each one. I've become comfortable with the balance of where I am most of the time, knowing that there are times when I need to get a quilt done more quickly and times when more painstaking work is in order. The Ecclesiastes writer talked about this long, long ago.
Tanya says, "I wonder what a good balance is between productivity and excellence. . . . It was good to visit the exhibit and think about what is important to me when making quilts."
It was good for me, too, Tanya.
The quilt pictured above, a baby gift from several years back, is one that speaks to this issue. I had such fun selecting from among the many batik FQs I had to make the favorite Louisiana block. I was happy that they went together quickly because I was eager to pair up the next set of fabrics. Once the blocks were pieced, I took a long, long time, moving them around on the wall until I was pleased with the arrangement. And then, because I had fallen in love with this quilt, I knew it warranted the long process of hand quilting.