How long did that take to make?

Entries for Quilt National 25 open on May1st and close on August 30th. At this point I don’t have a single new, largish work to even consider entering, and the entry fee enables 3 works to be submitted. But I have started planning one, at least. I’ve found the earthy coloured fabric I had in mind, and this week I’ve sewn together heaps of scraps and strips in desert/earthy colours. Theoretically Montevideo and much of Ugruguay is expecting a stormy wet weekend, so this feels a good time to make a start.

These strips are at least 1m. I will cut across them to get the little segmented strips of colour I love working with.

Decades ago I used to thrive on last minute dashes to enter something on the final day of entry, and some of the earlier QNs I entered in a flurry of last minute activity were successful, for example Obiri QN95, below. I whizzed it up, had it photographed and sent the slides off all within 10 days – probably fedexed it to the USA to make sure it got there by the deadline! Certainly it was small, but it was truly improvisational and well, everything did go right, too.

Left – Obiri, 1994, 70cm x 50cm (Irregular shape, photographed against black) Detail – right, shows the true colours of the quilt more accurately.

Another example of last a minute rush to meet a deadline was my last minute decision to submit to the theme quilt category at the annual Paducah quilt show. Perhaps we were snowed in or something – but between Christmas and New Year I made the decision to make and enter something in the theme category, which in the 1991 show was ‘triangles’. I don’t know about show conditions these days, but think theme quilts needed to be at least 80inches in one direction, which is a good bed quilt size. I told the family to look after themselves because I’d be busy for a while. I machine pieced and machine quilted steadily for two weeks, had ‘Lilydale’ photographed (in those days slides had to be processed) and I just managed to get it entered by the closing date in mid January. It was accepted, but these days I wouldn’t dream of doing such big project at the last minute.

“Lilydale” 1991, 168cm x 256cm. Machine pieced and quilted.

In the first year of the pandemic, 2020, while spending a lot of time at home, and it seemed reasonable to spend many hours hand stitching a quilt while listening to long recorded books or stitching along with one eye on CSI Miami umpteenth replays, or similar. Although I came close to having a second one finished in time to enter QN21, I decided I just couldn’t be bothered staying up late, frantically stitching for another 10 days (if all went well) to finish it, and so that year I entered just the one, but “Pandemic Pattern” got in.

Alison with “Pandemic Pattern” 2020, 72w x 94cmh

Of the estimated 800 strips I’ve calculated are in Pandemic Pattern, I timed a few and found on average each took about 6 minutes to position and sew into place, meaning the surface design took about 4800 minutes / 80 hours to do. Add 50-60 hours more for planning, fabric selection and cutting, machine quilting, making and applying the bindings and hanging sleeve. The total time taken therefore was about 140 hours all up. People often say to me something like “Goodness, I don’t know where you find the patience – so how many hours did this take you to make?” If pressed I just say “I never keep count…the only important thing is to just keep going until I reach the end of the project.”

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