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

Guild Show Opening

My local guild, the Gold Bug Quilters, is having their once-every-two-year quilt show.  I entered 2 of my own quilts, plus this one I quilted and is owned by my friend, Barb.  It is called , “Sunrise, Sunset” and you may see the front of the quilt here and here on my Flickr page.

The following pictures are of the back of the quilt, which showed up nicely in the light as I was sewing on the show label this morning:

and some detail quilting:

and one more picture:

All of the quilt is freehand, except for a portion of a lovely flower stencil by Pat Campbell you can find here.  I love that flower and can now do it from memory.

Friday night, I’m treating Barb to dinner and the quilt preview show!  I’m glad she can come with me.  Barb is a talented quilt piecer and designer, we have collaborated on many quilts together- and some in the future!

This show is non judged, by the way.  I’m not sure how many quilts that I’ve worked on will be in this particular show, my guesstimate is a dozen or so.  I will take pictures of all the quilts on display that I like and share them with you.  Regards, Carla