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Saturday, 28 January 2012

How long does it take to make a quilt?

A quilter I know has asked me in Facebook: How long does it take you to make a quilt? My first reaction was to say: How long is a piece of string? But that's not a helpful reply, nor an accurate comparison.

However it is a question many quilters are asked. So this is what I replied:

The actual making takes me a few weeks - depending on the size of the quilt - say between 2 and 8 weeks (and I may work between 3 and 6 hours in a day, and not every day). But the gestation period may take any amount of time - from getting a sudden idea, fully formed, to weeks of research and pondering, in other cases. Both the 'speed' and the 'getting the idea' come from working and more working - spending time in the studio - perspiration as well as inspiration. It's all in Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers' - to get good at something you need to put in 10,000 hours work. Do read it!

As I think it's an important subject, here are some additional thoughts:

When I started quilting, in the 1990s, making a quilt took me an awful lot longer - months rather than weeks, up to a year for a really big quilt. You speed up as you practise and the techniques become familiar. Ideas also come more quickly. And if you concentrate on a few techniques, rather than trying something different every time, and work in series, that also speeds up matters. If you produce work faster, you are inclined to make more work. An upwards spiral! You may get stuck occasionally - it happens to everybody - and the best solution is to keep making, even if you are not completely happy with what you produce, rather than freeze and stop. You need commitment too, obsessiveness you may say.

So if I reply to the original question by saying that a particular quilt took me X weeks to actually make - and that may sound rather a short time (see caption to the photo below) - I'll be missing out mentioning how long it took me to think through the idea beforehand, and also that I first needed to have those 10,000 hours of practice...

So get on working! Happy quilting!


"Mapping Earth", 24" by 24" - it took me about 10 days to actually make.


  1. Thank you for this post; I often feel guilty about how long it takes me to finish a project, especially since I seem to have multiple things going on at once.. However, I know that I am nowhere near that 10,000 hours of practice yet; it feels good to be reminded that the only way to improve is to do more, but that I will improve.. :-)

  2. I am glad you answered this question in public. Will keep me going, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Love that quilt! Hard to believe you did it in 10 days, but then again, I convince myself that all mine will take forever, and then when I do one that goes quickly, I'm taken off guard. Wait a minute, I want to say, I'm not ready. Shouldn't the designing, or the piecing have taken longer? I'm done??? I think it's all those years of working on traditional quilts. Not sure how close I am to those 10,000 hours!