Americana – Quilting…and Quilting…and Quilting Some More

I’m not sure where the summer went, but suffice to say, it’s almost over. And, in the throws of 6 consecutive weeks of work travel and oppressive heat and humidity, I definitely let my blogging lapse. The good news is that I didn’t let my quilting lapse, so I have a lot to catch you up on.

In my last update, I was completing the quilt sandwich for my Americana quilt and getting ready to start quilting. As my first full-sized quilt, and fresh off of the inspo of dozens of free motion quilting videos online, I’ll be honest and say that I may have over shot my quilting design…just a tad. The problem is, I just love how a finished quilt looks when there’s lots of quilting, and all of the piecing in Americana gave me lots of opportunity to try different techniques throughout.

To get started, I took the quilt pattern diagram and sketched out what I thought might look nice. Essentially this is just an exercise in doodling…that’s right, I just channeled my inner 10th grade self, stuck in geometry class and just played around until I had something that achieved the look I was going for.

Then I took it to the quilt. Using a removable fabric marker, or even chalk, I recreated the design on the actual quilt to get an idea of how it would look on the big picture. So far, so good, right?

Well, if you’re like me you’ve done these exact steps before and then got so excited to get started that you said, “yep, looks great!” threaded your machine, and got to business quilting. Well ya’ll, I’m here to say that’s probably the point where I probably went wrong. Ok, not wrong per se, but at least that’s where I got a bit stuck in a quilting time warp that cost more than 15 hours on the machine and one seriously sore shoulder.

So, as is my goal in documenting my many quilting mishaps, I’m hoping you might consider this tip for your own projects. After you are happy with a design concept – stop. That’s right, stop. Spend some time thinking about it. Consider how long it will likely take to quilt each block or section. How many of those are there? In my case, each block took about 30 minutes to quilt and there were 18 blocks. That alone was at least 9 hours of quilting, plus the border…and of course, you know there is always some additional time lost to fixing mistakes.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend 10, 20, or heck even 40 hours quilting your project. This is more about gaining an understanding up front, before you start, about what investment you’re making. Then, making an agreement with yourself that it’s an investment that makes sense for you, given your bandwidth and time constraints. In other words, what’s your ROI, or return on investment (that’s right, I know some fancy shmancy business terms…ooooohhhh)? If you feel like it’s worth it, then I say “Go for it!” But, if it feels like you may have bitten of more than you’re hungry for, give yourself permission to go back to the literal drawing board and come up with a simpler, less time consuming design.

For Americana, I didn’t take this step and I sunk a lot of time into the quilting. Plus, I was up against a deadline because I had decided to give the quilt away at our family reunion. Luckily, my husband is crazy supportive of my quilting and played solo dad for a few days so that I could hole up in my office for a few days-only coming out for meals and sleep, like some kind of wild animal. In retrospect, given my time constraints, I would have kept some elements of my initial design, but taken out many of the more labor intensive aspects that didn’t seem quite as worthwhile in the grand scheme of things.

That said, in the end, I was really happy with the final quilt..though I’m guessing I might have been equally happy with a quilting design that took half the amount of time.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathryn Beale says:

    Being the proud winner/owner of this beautiful quilt, I cherish it even more knowing it’s history!


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