What is Quilting?

When I decided to change careers from management to quilting, my husband asked me one very simple question – “what is quilting?”  Honestly, he doesn’t live under a rock. He just wanted to know more about quilting.

I have been quilting for over 30 years and that simple question – “what is quilting” – gave me pause. How do you describe this art that has blossomed?

The technical answer: quilting is making a fabric sandwich filled with batting that held together with thread. The combinations of fabric, batting, thread and methods for holding the quilt together are endless.  The only things that limit you are your imagination and budget.

One of the first things to decide when undertaking a quilting project is who will be the recipient? Will your quilting project be a gift, a donation or something just for you? Usually people spend more time and effort if it is a very special gift, a soon-to-be family heirloom, or will be entered in a competition. In this case, you may want to take extra time and create a prototype where you can practice your techniques and trial your materials. The prototype doesn’t have to be the same scale or have the same quality materials. The extra time and effort spent will be worth it. Plus, it gives you another excuse to buy fabric!

You will also need to decide how it will be used.  If it is simply decorative, you can use more delicate materials and techniques. If it is to be washed often, used daily, or handled by kids, you may want to chose the sturdiness and washability of your fabrics, batting and threads. They will need to hold up for the more rugged use.

Quilted blankets and clothing are always warmer than those without quilting. But how warm you want it, so up you. That decision will drive not only the batting but the number of layers of batting. Wool is the warmest. It can be layered with cotton or other materials to make it even warmer.  In addition, flannel is a great material to add warmth and increase the cuddle factor. If it’s a gift, please consider the recipients comfort.  Some of my friends are having their own personal summers, so the lighter the better.

Everyone has a different comfort level with hand or machine techniques. Hand sewing or quilting often takes longer, but the fabric is more easily manipulated in hand quilting. One isn’t better than the other. It is important though, that you enjoy the method you chose. If you aren’t having fun, you are more likely to have an Unfinished Object or UFO.

Finally, your project needs to fit the time you have to complete it. Logically, smaller, less complicated projects will take less time. However, you also need to factor in your comfort level with the techniques used.  If you are new to a method, it may take a bit longer to increase proficiency. Don’t underestimate the time you will need. Always build in a little extra time for unplanned issues as they seem to pop up when you have the least time.

I hope this post whetted you appetite for quilting. In my next post, we will talk about quilt techniques. I love trying new ones, which is why I started this adventure.

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