Quilting Process

Piyali Sen Dasgupta asked me how long it takes to quilt one of the quilts that I do. To answer her question, I decided to write a post explaining the process.

Several things affect how much time a quilt takes to finish.  This includes the complexity of the quilting, the density, plus how large the piece is.  Certain tasks, like stitch-in the ditch and micro-fill work, can be rather time consuming.

Design: I start by taking a digital image and then sketching quilting design ideas on a digital image with Photoshop with my stylus pen.  Here is a “before” and “after” example:

The “before” picture (thanks to Kristin for her permission to use her photo for this example):


and the “after:”


This becomes my road map for how to quilt each area since I work on just a small “slice” at any time.  You can see a visual example of how I work on a small area at a time in the picture below.

Loading the Quilt and Prep work: It takes about an hour to then load the quilt parts onto my machine table.  Sometimes, I need to square off the backing fabric if this step is overlooked.   I also need to decide what threads to use top and bottom and wind my bobbins.

The quilt sandwich is made from 3 parts- the backing fabric, the batting layer, and the top.  You fasten the quilt backing to both the top and bottom rollers on the machine.  I attach the top layer to just the bottom roller only, in machine quilting terms, this is called a “partial float.”  Here is what a quilt looks like when attached  to my machine table:


The Quilting:  As a general rule, I quilt from top to bottom, and from left to right.  Some quilts I will do my ditch work first, but usually I do it all at the same time to avoid lots of rolling back and forth.  I always do my detail micro work last.  This step is the most time intensive.  Quilting can take just a few hours for a small quilt to 150 hours for a show quilt.

When the quilt is finished, you have to double check that you are indeed finished and haven’t left any section unquilted.  On a busy quilt, this is easy to do.   I clip any unwanted or stray threads, and tidy up the top.  Then I trim it with about an inch border around just because I think it looks nice and tidy.

If I make a mistake, then I immediately stop and remove the stitching.  This part I do not care for as it is tedious and time consuming.  To remove the stitches, I use a surgeon’s scalpel tool that looks like this:


Hope this was helpful to explain the process.   regards, Carla

4 thoughts on “Quilting Process

  1. I am quilting my first full size bed quilt, just a basic traditional scrap quilt, on my regular machine. it is SO Much harder than I thought… so I have even MORE appriciation for what you do.

  2. Thanks for sharing how you do your prep work. I love the Kimono quilt. I have an Asian inspired quilt coming up, I will referance your quilt when I do mine….Your work is beautiful.

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