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