Tag Archives: Time on quilting

How Long Does It Take?

If there is any question I’d rather never hear again, it is “How long did it take you to make that?” Or its variation, “How long does it take you to make a quilt?” These are the questions more likely to be asked than any other. (A close second is “Do you sell those?” I’ve discussed this issue at length, too.)

Why do you ask? Would you like to buy a quilt from me and wonder if you can afford it? Are you considering taking up quilting as a hobby, but won’t if it takes too long? Will you value the quilt I just gave you differently depending on the hours involved? Will you value me differently — higher or lower — based on how much time I put in? Is the question a proxy for something else? Maybe the question really means, “How do you decide what design to use?” or even “Wow, this is really intricate! I’d never know how to do this and it would take me forever!”

Whatever the reason for the question, one thing is true: people who have not made quilts (or watched carefully from the sidelines, such as an involved spouse) have no idea what goes into the process. They literally have no idea if it takes 20 hours or 100 hours, or what factors might make either time reasonable.

They don’t know that making a quilt starts with acquiring and preparing the fabric for it. Both of those might even happen before a quilt’s conception, before any plan is in place. Once a plan exists (which also takes time,) specific fabrics are selected, and cutting and stitching begins. Along the way parts are assembled and pressed. Ultimately a back is needed, batting must be prepped, quilting is done, and binding is made and attached. This, of course, is the quick summary and skips dozens of steps.

In the past, I’ve dealt with the question of time in a couple of different ways. For most of my years as a quilter, I said I didn’t know how long as I don’t keep track of my time. Over the last couple of years, however, I’ve thought more deeply about the time that goes into different parts of the process. I’ve tried to answer the question with an estimate.

Consider this quilt:

Marquetry. 85" x 85" with 15" center block. 2015.

Marquetry. 85″ x 85″ with 15″ center block. 2015.

It has a center block and 10 borders. All of the borders are “simple,” unpieced strips, half-square triangles, hourglasses, bars. There are pieced corner blocks, unpieced corner blocks, and borders with no corner blocks. The center block is a variable star with an economy block center. There is nothing here that is technically difficult.

Now take a look at the border of bars. What variables would affect how much time it takes to make it? The two most important might be the number of patches and the number of different fabrics. The number of patches determines how many cuts are made, the number of seams to stitch, and the number of seams to press. The number of different fabrics also affects how long cutting takes. More variety in the fabrics means more time arranging pieces on the cutting mat, and typically requires more, shorter cuts. In addition, more fabrics means more search time to decide which ones to use. If the bars border were made of one light fabric and one dark red fabric, that would have taken little time compared to the variety that were actually used (including some dark greens.)

So how much time did that one simple border take? It’s a good question and there is no easy answer.

What I do know is that each border usually takes between 5 and 20 hours, depending on its size and complexity. And yes, that includes all the steps outlined above, from acquisition through binding. I estimate a 10-border quilt with “easy” borders will take at least 80 hours.

“How long did it take you to make that?”

Recently I’ve decided not to answer this question anymore. In my world no one is intending to be rude (though I understand some quilters occasionally hear this question posed with a sneer.) Depending on who asks, I might ignore it altogether, or I might describe my process, or I might ask them something to clarify their curiosity.

But the question does represent some curiosity. I can recognize that and engage the questioner by telling them some other things that might be more meaningful. If it is a gift for them, they might find it fun to see some of the fabrics I chose especially for them, or symbolism in parts of the design. Perhaps I can show them how I used half-square triangles in the wide red and cream border, as well as in the narrower green and cream border, but having turned the values different ways creates a different look. Or maybe I can tell them about the trip to Hoover Dam that led me to buy one of the special fabrics used in it.

“How long did it take you to make that?” The question is so easy to ask, but so hard to answer.

How do you answer this question? I’d love to hear from you in comments. 

 

I’m a Dedicated Quilter. Are You?

Do you keep track of your quilting expenses? Fabric, batting, thread, tools, machine maintenance, guild dues, books, patterns, show entry fees, travel expenses — these are just some of the things we spend money on! If you quilt as a business, you might track all these costs and more. (Check my post on direct and indirect costs for more on this.)

Last year for the first time I tracked some of my expenses. My intention at the beginning of 2015 was to keep receipts on everything. Oh, I have receipts. I’m not that great at organizing paperwork. Can do it, but not very inclined… Fortunately, my credit card company saves a lot of that data for me. They don’t capture my cash expenses, of course. And not everything is plopped in convenient categories for me. But I can pull out all my purchases at quilt shops, fabric stores, and for my on-line thread buys. If I make reasonable assumptions for a couple of other things, for 2015 spending, I estimate between $1500 and

Capture

This is fabric, thread, batting, machine service, a new ruler, an iron, supplies, and shipping a quilt to friends.

Four things I know about this:
1. It’s cheaper than therapy.
2. My stash is a little smaller than it was a year ago, meaning I used somewhat more fabric than I bought. (Thinking through the 20 projects I made last year and their average fabric use backs this up.)
3. It doesn’t account for my earnings from teaching, presenting, and publishing.
4. The dollar value puts me in the category of a “dedicated quilter.”

I’ve written about the dedicated quilter before. Every four years, the quilting industry conducts a survey to assess the demographics of quilters, as well as how much they spend. My earlier post says this:

The survey is conducted in two phases. First, households are questioned about their quilting activities to get a sense of the scope of the quilting industry in the U.S. Next, “Dedicated Quilters” are surveyed to understand their buying habits, and how they use and contribute to the industry. According to the summary linked above,

Each Dedicated Quilter is defined as one who spends more than $500 a year on quilting-related purchases, which include sewing machines, fabric, notions, tools, patterns, books, computer programs, batting, and thread. In fact, the Dedicated Quilter actually spent an average of $3,296 per year on quilting.

Demographics of the Dedicated Quilter indicate she is female; about 64; is well-educated (79% attended college); has a household income in excess of $100,000; and has been quilting an average of 20.3 years. Among Dedicated Quilters, 81% are traditionalists, while 38% embrace art quilting, and 35% enjoy modern quilting styles. Some enjoy multiple types of quilting.

The Dedicated Quilter owns, on average, almost $13,000 worth of tools and supplies and has a stash of fabric worth nearly $6,000, which the majority (88%) store in a studio or room dedicated solely to sewing and quilting activities.

***

My first thought when I read that was I couldn’t possibly spend more than $500 a year on quilting. On reflection, I realized it would be easy to do so. And on looking at proof on the credit card summary, uh, yeah.

But the phrase “dedicated quilter” still bothers me. (Labels!!) The amount of money spent isn’t a good indicator of dedication. Perhaps time spent is a better measure. How much time one quilt takes is not very important to this issue. Getting from one end of a project to the other is, I suppose. Or maybe not… Can you be a dedicated quilter if you don’t finish projects? What defines dedication?

But if you call yourself a quilter (do you?), is it because you have made a couple of quilts? Because you make a dozen quilts a year? Because you spend many hours a week on projects? Because you spend money on fabrics or notions or classes? Because you think like a quilter relative to the interaction of fabric and design?

Do you think of yourself as a quilter? Are you a dedicated quilter? What does that mean to you? I’d love to hear about it in comments. 

What Makes a Dedicated Quilter? Money, Time, or Something Else?

Yesterday I published a post on tracking expenses. I’ve never kept track of my quilting costs before, but I’ve decided to try it in 2015.

I referenced a survey by Quilts, Inc. that defines a “dedicated” quilter as one who spends at least $500 a year on quilting. My blog friend Yanic rightly pointed out that money spent isn’t necessarily a good indicator of dedication.

Perhaps time spent is a better measure “dedication.” How much time one quilt takes is not very important to this issue. Getting from one end of a project to the other is, I suppose. Or maybe not… Another interesting subject for another day… Can you be a dedicated quilter if you don’t finish projects?

But if you call yourself a quilter (do you??), is it because you have made a couple of quilts? Because you make a dozen quilts a year? Because you spend many hours a week on projects? Because you spend money on fabrics or notions or classes? Because you think like a quilter relative to the interaction of fabric and design?

Do you think of yourself as a quilter? Are you a dedicated quilter? What does that mean to you? I’d love to hear about it in comments.