The Quilting Continuum

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.


Unknown said…
I tend to be a thinker when it comes to my fabrics and cutting pieces and such. I enjoy the process not just the finished product.

I am in agreement with you hear. Also have a multitude of projects working at the same time.

*karendianne. said…
Well this is cosmic! I've been contemplating this very thing lately with the whole "vision" issue. Adjusting to my need for productivity, redefining that because I still enjoy a certain type of work, a certain complexity and wondering...

Anyway, this is timely. I should have to peruse Tanya's posting.

In Love, *karendianne.
LoieJ said…
I've been "working" on a quilt for my daughter since 1999. I've been frustrated with certain parts of the process, and then I let it sit for a year. She is getting frustrated with me about this because she is finally in a house. Now I've finally let go of perfectionism, so I'm working of the FMQing. And I WILL get it done.
(Sewlady...aka PS)
Mrs. Goodneedle said…
I also think the "how long" question assigns value; the inquirer, to me, is assessing the value of the quilt by calcualting the hours invested.
There's something almost similar to a religious experience in the phrase "When I first became a quilter." Like a conversion experience, on the road to Damascus: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the needle, thread and swatches of cloth. One becomes A QUILTER!! One identifies oneself as A QUILTER rather than as someone who makes quilts for pleasure, as a pastime but is other things, too. I guess I have never become so extremely engrossed in something and I do not understand the intensity of this hobby. The results are beautiful but there is something rather overwhelming in it.
Gretchen said…
This is a very interesting topic. I usually have a lot of projects going at one time. Lately, I have been working on "quick" projects (I'm way addicted to jelly rolls) just to get some done (I'm also trying to stock up on quilts to reduce heating costs this winter...). However, I know once I get my fix of quick projects, I'll go back to intricate blocks and needle-turn applique so I guess I am a "bi-polar" quilter??!!!
kansaswx said…
I love the quilt. Is the pattern available to share?
Tanya said…
Ecclesiastes, how lovely. Yes, there is a time for everything, detailed or quick. And I also like Ecclesiastes for "Whatever your hand finds to do..." Even if it is done quickly, our hearts can be poured into a project, our prayers for the recipient encompassed by the quilt.