Christa’s Soap Box – Why I Make My Own Quilts

Recently, as I’ve been working long hours in my business, I’ve been thinking more and more about WHY I like to make my own quilts and do all my own “stunt sewing.” What I mean by that is that I enjoy every part of the quilt making process. From designing the pattern, to finishing the final binding stitches by hand, I really do enjoy taking ownership of the entire process. What you may or may not know is that many designers enlist the help of others to complete their projects, and this is TOTALLY OK!!

FMQ

In addition to teaching how to quilt, I love talking about the business of quilting, too!

Some enjoy designing, some enjoy piecing, some enjoy quilting or finishing, and some like to do it all. For a prolific designer that has weekly or monthly deadlines, many times there’s simply not enough time to do all of the work themselves, so they enlist the help of “sewing fairies” (sometimes paid, sometimes not, depending on the arrangement). This can be mutually beneficial to both parties, each getting to do what they love best. After all, the worst thing a sewing professional can do is miss his or her deadlines, if they want to stay in business and build relationships with other industry companies.

Binding by Hand

I’m one of those weirdos that actually loves to hand bind. I love the slow-pace stitching!

I’ve had many offers both to help with my sewing, or to be a stunt sewer or quilter for others. And every time I’ve politely declined. I’ve been pondering why that is. The best I can come up with (other than my type A control freak personality that I try to keep under wraps) is that I’m afraid it would feel more like “work” and less like “fun” if I only did one thing over and over and over.

While machine quilting is certainly my favorite part of the quilt-making process, it’s not the only thing I want to do. I actually tried machine quilting for hire many years ago and it was not the right fit. Quilting for me is very meditative, and each part of the process engages a different area of my brain. I actually get bored if I only do one thing over and over, so by constantly switching back and forth between designing, piecing, quilting, and hand-sewing it allows me to fully enjoy each part of the process. I’ve even come to enjoy basting, once I figured out an efficient method!

Busy Hands Quilt

Machine quilting is my favorite technique – but I enjoy the entire process.

I realize that in the end, doing all of my own work will mean that I make less quilts. But I’m totally okay with that. I also prefer to make one quilt at a time from start to finish, rather than having a whole bunch of WIP’s (works in progress) going on at the same time. That’s just too much mental chaos for me, LOL!! I enjoy the process of making, but I also love the thrill of getting to the finish and checking it off my list!

Because teaching machine quilting is a big part of my focus right now, I think it helps me relate to my students by piecing my own quilts. Quilting a real quilt is a LOT different than demonstrating a free-motion design on piece of plain fabric. So, by quilting a quilt top I’ve pieced myself, I’ve gained experience on how best to prepare a quilt top FOR machine quilting. I also have lots of time to think about what machine quilting designs will look best on the quilt I’m currently making, while I’m piecing it. I’m of the opinion that “you can’t rush art” so by having this extra thinking time, I’m usually ready to go once it’s time to quilt.

2015quiltstack

I love a yummy stack of finished quilts!

I hope this helps you understand a little bit more about my process, and why I do things the way I do them. Again, remember, this is is NOT a one size fits all strategy.  It’s just what works for me. My biggest goal with quilting is to help encourage you to do what works for best for YOU.  🙂

So what are your thoughts? Do you prefer one part of the process over any other? There are no wrong answers here, I’m just curious. 🙂

32 thoughts on “Christa’s Soap Box – Why I Make My Own Quilts

  1. Susan K says:

    I sew and quilt for many reasons but the main reason is to exercise my creative muscles. If I do not do each step of a quilt, it is not totally my own and I miss some of the lessons I learn from each project. I do have one really large quilt that I will probably have someone else quilt just because of its size. Each step of the process of completing a quilt is an important part of the finished product. My most favorite part is sewing the binding on because it means the quilt is complete.

  2. cj says:

    I love the design process but I also love seeing the design come to fruition…and all the steps along the way.I laughed outloud when I read your comment about being a type A control freak. That certainly is not me. I might have a little ADHD though which makes me get bored easily doing the same task over and over. I like to mix it up and just enjoy the journey of creating something, while building on all of my skills.

  3. Donna Baker says:

    I’m with you, I enjoy it all! I completed 3 quilts from start to finish this year as quilting was my focus (it may not seem like a lot to others but for me it was!) they were quilts 9-11 total since I started about 6 years ago! I try not to compare myself to others because I do work full-time and I have other hobbies I enjoy as well. I wish it could have been more but it was well rounded; one for me, one as barter for dental services and one as a gift. I completed a top and back for myself but didn’t quilt it yet. I suppose I like the hand binding mostly because soon it will be finished and that’s a huge satisfaction/accomplishment!

  4. Annette Ackley says:

    I too love every aspect of quilting. Because, I know I put my heart and soul into. I just wish I was better at machine quilting. I just did a quilt for someone. She embroidered beautiful red cats on 12 in. blocks. I put the rest of it together for her. The rows between the cat blocks, sandwiched it together. Now to quilt it. All I could do was go around the rows at 1/4 inch away from the seam with quilt stitching using my walking foot. It looked alright. I had problems getting the quilt around because of a small throat on my machine. That shouldn’t matter. My Mom said: why don’t you do free motion quilting on it. I told her, I would if it was my quilt. I just don’t feel comfortable doing it for someone else. Maybe in time. And I’m still learning to free motion quilt. I told my Friend, if she had given me more time, her quilt would have been hand quilted, then I would have done something more with it. She loved what I did with it. Guess that is all that counts. Any quilt project I work on is relaxing, doesn’t matter what part of the quilt I work on.

  5. chloeleback says:

    I have been quilting for 34 years. Our youngest child was two when I took a class and learned how to quilt. I hand-piece and hand-quilt all of my quilts. I make quilts of all sizes – from bed to wall quilts. I love the whole process. I sew only with batiks. Not since my first wall quilt have I had only one quilt going at a time. Right now, I have two piecing projects and six quilting projects in the works. Quilting is my meditation time. One of my great joys is giving my quilts to family and friends. Chloe Leback

    >

  6. Debra Reber says:

    Good for you!! I agree, I also like to complete my quilt myself from start to finish. I’m not very good at machine quilting, & still can’t get the hang of free motion quilting, but at least it’s my very own quilt!! My favorite part is piecing, maybe because I’m just more comfortable with it!

  7. Jasmine says:

    I love making quilts start to finish. I also teach free motion quilting locally and love helping others finish their own quilts. Like you I usually just work on one project at a time but sometimes have one slower project also. “Mental chaos” is a good description for how I feel with too many projects at the same time.

  8. Janet D says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I do all the steps myself- I started quilting my own quilts at the beginning because I didn’t want to spend the $$ to have someone else do it. And I’m glad because then I had to learn how to machine quilt- and I do love that part! I stitch the binding by machine too- I’m just to slow to stitch by hand! I love the variety of each step. For me, it wouldn’t feel like my work if someone else did part. Working hard to finish up some WIP’s so I can make my new goal/progress chart for 2017!

  9. DARLEEN L SANFORD says:

    I too love doing everything – except the binding. By the time I finish the quilting, I guess I want to be done BUT there is still the binding to do. I have been doing FMQ for only a few months and am really enjoying it. It is taking time to get the hang of it, but I keep at it.

  10. Alice Vanderlyke says:

    I love the process of picking a pattern and choosing the fabric to go with it. I often alter a pattern for size or shape. I also like the piecing and watching the pattern take shape. I am not very good at quilting. I have a problem maintaining stitch size, so I have most of my quilting done by Jeanne Lemmon who is a member of my guild, Reverse Curves. Your blog was my original inspiration to learn to quilt as well a classes at the Quilting Bee.
    Thank you for the inspiration to quilt. I have been sewing since 1959, but just started quilting when I found your help on line.

  11. Heather Black says:

    I love every part of making a quilt from the design to hand stitching the binding. I’m with you it’s a great creative outlet and very relaxing. I think your love for the process shows in your quilts.

  12. Paula S. Pike says:

    Christa, I read this last night before I turned in for the day. I so appreciate the fact that you do everything yourself. I sewed professionally for about 15 years and found that I was not satisfied with having anyone assist with my pieces. I love finding the right pattern, the fabric that sings to me for that pattern, the cutting, piecing and sewing. I really enjoy the pressing as I go. I’m just now, after all these years getting brave enough to do my own machine quilting. I do love hand stitching the binding, it feels so good to place that last stitch and admire what I’ve created.

  13. Susan says:

    As a longarmer, I think its fine to send the quilt to the fairies out there, but I (like you) unwind by making my own quilts. I, too, love the hand binding and have many customers who have me do theirs. I teach binding, so that they can do it as well as I can. From choosing the design for the quilt, picking the fabrics, cutting, piecing, quilting and binding…I am happy and relaxed. A zen process with loads of ‘think time’. Thanks for the great blog!

  14. Tracy H says:

    I too do my own quilting, though not any near as well as you! I’m learning. I could not afford to send them to someone else and I wanted to learn to quilt myself. I enjoy it too, once I get started ;). I too love the handbinding! I have not designed any quilts but I can follow a pattern quite well!

  15. Liz W. says:

    I totally understand what you mean! I do everything myself, but not because I need to take ownership of the whole process, but rather so I don’t get bored doing one thing over and over. I love machine quilting the best, but even if someone would piece for me for free, I wouldn’t give that up, because I need frequent breaks from quilting to do something else to engage the other parts of my brain.

  16. Mary says:

    I like your thought process.
    I am very timid about machine quilting on my domestic machine but this is something I would like to accomplish. I guess I should sign up for your class. I would love to say that I had made the quilt from start to finish.

  17. Pat Evans says:

    I have too many WIPs right now (have to stop starting new QALs), but I do the whole process myself. Except for two large quilts that went to a long armer, I quilt my own projects on my domestic older Bernina . And I also enjoy hand binding. My biggest problem is trying to decide what motifs to quilt. I’m trying to expand my repetoire of designs. I’ve learned a lot from bloggers like you and Leah Day and Lori Kennedy.

  18. onecreativefamily says:

    I am one step behind you. I use patterns and haven’t the faintest idea of how to design a quilt. I think I will have to check into the process. I make my quilts and quilt them also. I also hand binding. I feel it is the last step to “Making a quilt”. Machine binding loses something for me.

  19. MARJORIEV says:

    Thank you for your honesty. I love the entire process and hand sew my binding when it is a quilt I plan to keep or show. I do machine finish bindings on baby or donation quilts. Only been doing machine and long arm quilting for a little over one year, but I love it. Have several WIPS around because I get bored and start something new. Your comments are refreshing and is encouraging to me. Keep up the good work!

  20. Kris Pedrow says:

    I enjoy every step of the process, too.. but not always to the same degree. Sometimes I just HAVE to cut out a quilt, other times, I just NEED to piece to feel happy. Usually I’m happiest when I’m quilting, but there is something ultra- satisfying about putting in that last stitch in the binding. It’s different every time.

  21. Sarah Elliott says:

    I enjoy doing it all too. I think the design process is my favorite part – selecting the perfect fabrics and either creating my own design or choosing just the right pattern. I love to quilt them myself too; although I still find FMQ a bit frustrating, so I rely on my walking foot for lots of variations on linear quilting. I’m also a fan of binding by hand; but I have been known to machine bind when pressed for time! I’ve thought about sending some of my larger quilts out for quilting, but when the time comes, I just can’t do it; it just doesn’t feel right for me.

  22. Martha Cook says:

    thank you for sharing your process of quilting. hard to put into words the love of quilting from its concept to completion. it is love, a passion, a meditative state as you said, yes and much more. you were speaking for me and for many others. no wonder I am drawn to you even when our styles are so different.:) quilter’s are linked no matter what process they do,patterns,styles,etc

  23. pyromarquilter says:

    Once I decide on a pattern, either someone else’s or my own, I love picking out the fabrics. The piecing process is also a favorite. Most of the quilts I make are Art Quilts and meant to hang on a wall, so I do all my own quilting by machine. I really don’t mind hand sewing the last step of the binding or facing on as well. I guess if I had to pick just one favorite part of the whole process, it would be piecing. I used to finish one project before beginning the next, but don’t do that anymore. I currently have four projects in the works. Three waiting for the machine quilting and still I’m piecing the fourth.

  24. auntsr9 says:

    I have sent a few quilts to the long arm pros and they are beautiful. However they totally don’t feel like they are all my work. So I will be doing every part of the quilt. Piecing is my favorite. I like taking a pattern and make it my own, by choosing my own fabric or combing a design. 2017 is the year I will finish quilt my “summer spreads”. I have taken your quilting class twice and learned something new each time. Thank you for all your help and great ideas.

  25. twolitlebanshees says:

    I totally agree with everything you have written, there are bits of the process I like more than others, but I love the variety and I am never bored and the I love the satisfaction of knowing I made every part of a quilt!

  26. shoshana says:

    it is such a relief [!] to hear that someone else out there loves to do the whole thing, and especially finishes a whole quilt before going on to the next one! i thought i was the only one!!!! i love learning from you, haveing a wonderful time with all your instructions! thank you soooo much
    shoshana

  27. Maritza Farr says:

    I enjoy each step of the process, just like you, and love the design process. The creative process is fulfilling. I too enjoy hand binding.

  28. Charlotta Norby says:

    I do not quilt my quilts. When I started, I did everything by hand, including handquilting every quilt. I still love hand piecing and often hand piece my quilts – even full or queen sized quilts. But ever since I discovered long arm quilting, I’ve had all my quilts professionally quilted. And I love that! It gives me so much more time for all the other parts of the process which I do love, and I don’t as all miss the long slow process of handquilting my quilts. Like you, though, I very much do love hand sewing on the binding. There’s a great sense of satisfaction and completion in that!

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