Machine Quilting Myth #1

Machine Quilting Myth #1
You can quilt a Queen Size quilt in two hours or less!

I know that there is advertising and an attitude “out there” that says you can quilt a queen size quilt on a longarm quilting machine in two hours, maybe less. DO NOT BELIEVE THIS! Is it possible to do this? Yes, it can be done, BUT… the quilting is minimal, usually large, all over, ugly (in my un-humble opinion) big stipple with only one color of thread. Personally, have I quilted a Queen size quilt in two hours, no; in less than three hours, yes I have. The quilt was for a charity (which means I was doing it at no cost), the quilt top wasn’t spectacular and my quilting was an all over free hand design that had enough stitching to make the quilt look pretty good and hold it together. Is this the type of quilting I normally do on my customer’s quilt, no!

Most people become interested in machine quilting because they want to enhance the piecing of the quilt and want to quilt more complex designs such as feathers, cross hatching, and other types of quilting designs.  There may be a few people who want to “get ‘er done” quickly because they have a lot of  quilt tops that are waiting to be finished but most of the people I talk to want more quilting than big,all over stipple.

If you are thinking of purchasing a longarm quilting machine to start a business, be realistic about how long it actually takes to complete a quilt with a moderate amount of machine quilting on it.

For those who have been machine quilting for a while (for business or for themselves) here is my question:

What is the average length of time it takes you to quilt a Queen Size quilt (approximately 80 x 98 inches) with a moderate/medium density quilting?
Include the time it takes to load the quilt to the quilting machine and for any trimming of threads when the quilt is completed. Do not include the time needed to bind the quilt.

Click on  “Leave a Comment” at the top of this post to answer this question or send an email with your response to

A Queen size quilt with  medium density quilting, from start to finish (no binding) takes me about 6 hours to complete.

It will be interesting to hear from other quilters.

About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 10 and quilting forever!

34 Responses to Machine Quilting Myth #1

  1. I have a staler and use red snappers to load my quilts it still takes me about 5 to 6 hours I can usually kick out two small lap/twin quilts a day and one king/queen a day I will have to work around my new job in the coming months but really enjoy my long arm time – listen to music and or pod casts while quilting makes the time go by pretty quickly I try to write down start time break time and end time when I do any quilt to give me ad idea about how long stuff takes I did a baby quilt the other day with an intricate design and one row (Bout 45in took almost an hour)

  2. Palma says:

    For a queen sized quilt I used to do it in 12 hours and now I can’t seem do do it less than10. I am okay with this. This is medium density, one color of thread, and with custom designs.

  3. Yvonne Young says:

    I must be really slow, although my quilting tends to be quite dense, which I like. I recently quilted a king size (96×105) with an all over failry loose (to me) stipple in 2 long days. Most of my recent quilts, which are all motifs have taken upward to 60 hrs. I recently purchased software to help me with the layout and I am slowing learning it. I imagine that it will cut my time significantly.

  4. Donna Michaud says:

    Thanks Cindy for this helpful blog. I thought perhaps I was just slow until I read your other comments. I have a Statler Stitcher and it still takes me a good 8 hours to do a queen sized quilt. Sometimes longer if I have interuptions. I am real fussy about squaring up the quilts as I go and with all the pinning, rolling, sampling tension, registering of placement marks and thread changes time flys by. I can do a quilt that size faster but speed has not been my focus. I try to focus on the quilt and doing a great job. I want my customers happy and to be return customers. So far, they have been. So, 7 to 9 hours, I don’t care. I prefer perfection.
    Donna Michaud

  5. Elaine says:

    It takes me at least 6 hours to do a queen-size quilt – that’s all-over, free motion, not too complicated, etc. I have done a queen with a medium large stipple (customer’s request) in 2 hours, not counting cleaning & oiling machine, changing needle, loading, unloading, clipping threads, etc. I actually charged him less than my normal rate because I felt like I was stealing his money. I do keep track of how many hours it takes me to finish a quilt (actually, it’s how many CDs I listen to) so I know if I’m in the ballpark of what I want to be making per hour.

    This is a great blog!

  6. Kay Freschly says:

    It takes me around 6 hours for most of the pantos I do with my Statler, but a custom quilt or heirloom will take from about 15 hours to longest I have done which was 67 hours.

  7. Maureen Epson says:

    Love the blog. 6-8 hours for medium density quilting. I find that pantos take more time due to realignment. I really prefer quilting “from the front”. A 2 hour quilt would be beyond basic. By the time you take out the load time and roll time I’d hate to see the result.

  8. Pam Huggins says:

    I usually figure around 8 hours if it’s an overall and up to 12 hours if it’s a custom with some stops and starts. I will have to admit, i’ve never managed a quilt in 2 hours. Even with pantographs that i’ve used, i’m usually looking at 6-8 hours. Maybe i just use more complicated ones.

  9. Carol Kendra says:

    I’d say about 8-10 hours to quilt a queen. It really depends on the density of the quilting and the designs, and if I need to rotate the quilt. I’ve done e2e’s and pantos and free motion patterns as well as combinations of all 3. As mentioned, it depends on what the customer wants and how complicated things get. I’d honestly say that quilting a queen in 2 hours is not something I’d do. Quilting is a passion and not a race…I like to “love what I do, and do what I love” .

  10. Lori says:

    Hi Cindy,
    Love this question and all the answers. I’m very new to longarm quilting (Have a new Innova and have done a dozen or so quilts so far) I thought I was way too slow…and needing to take breaks.. and the slow *thinking* time as well as careful loading… well – so glad to hear this is actually pretty *normal* and that I am right in there with many other responses 🙂 I, too, found H Davis’s reply very interesting. Appreciate everyone’s input on this …. made me feel pretty good!

  11. Mitz says:

    I started Long arm quilting for others just 2 years ago. I probably take 2-3 days for a Queen size. I tell my customers “their quilt has to talk to me”. I enjoy Custom Quilting and have not tried a Panto yet. I do not have a computer on my machine. I have pattern boards, stencils and make up my own free motion designs. So depending on what I think the quilt “says to me”, is how I quilt all quilts. My customers are very patient and seem to be please with what I have done to theirs. I take lots of breaks because my feet, legs and back also “talk” to me. Last year I quilted 56 quilts and took a 10 day vacation. I’ve heard some Pro quilters say they do 4-5 quilts a day. Yeh, what size… Hopefully some day I will be quicker but for now everyone is happy. I have a customer who has entered 2 quilts, I quilted, in the L.A. Co. Fair. I’ll let you know if we win a ribbon…
    Mitzie Kimes

  12. HI Cindy, a simple easy pano, curvy, on a queen can take me 6-8 hours. not all together,. I can quilt about 1 1/2 hrs at a time and have to take a break, (bad back) so it can take 2 or 3 days. A large meander I probably knock out in a day. Most of my customers want the cheepest thing they can get.

  13. For a custom queen sized quilt, it usually takes me at least a week to 10 days working a couple of hours in the evening and a full day on the weekend. I found H Davis’ reply very interesting.

  14. H Davis says:

    Hi Cindy,

    I like your new blog and have added the feeds to my reader.

    It takes us 3.1 actual quilting hours to do a 80 x 98 quilt. How do I know the time with such accuracy? Because every 2 years we actually time about 50 quilts of various sizes. We have 3 difficulty levels: 1, simple meander types; 2, similar to what you described in your question and the great majority of what we do; and 3, more density and more complex designs. We plot this data and draw a “best fit” line through each group of data to get a time vs area plot. We’ve also timed binding, back piecing, extra time for 2 way centering of the top on the back, and other ancillary operations in a similar way. We price the job by adding up all the parts.

    We’ve also found that, at least for us, there isn’t any significant difference in the time to do an overall design or custom design. We don’t do any pantos. We do a few hundred quilts a year and have been at that pace for about 10 years. One of us does all the quilting and she’s really fast, seldom using the stitch regulator because it can’t keep up.

    Our research has highlighted some interesting things. One is that anyone charging by the square inch is probably undercharging for small quilts. Although we’ve found that the time is proportional to the area of the quilt (a linear graph of time vs area) the line doesn’t pass through zero. All quilts, regardless of size, have a relatively fixed cost (about 30 minutes) that doesn’t depend on the size of the quilt. For example; it takes pretty much the same amount of time to make out the bill for any quilt. The time to mount the quilt is proportional to the length of the sides affixed to the leaders not the area of the quilt. The time to measure and square up the quilt is relatively constant regardless of the area of the quilt.

    Having reduced the pricing to a formula allows us to put a price estimator on our web site that allows customers to find out how much the quilting, batting and binding will cost before they commit. It avoids sticker shock although we think our prices are quite reasonable. Admittedly, our designs are only moderately dense but we’ve found that our customers are interested in that level of density in return for a more modest price. Most are not willing to sell a child to pay for show quality quilting. For us at least it’s the sweet spot.

    Looking forward to future issues of this blog.

  15. mslibra says:

    It also takes me around an hour to prep the backing and top. My over all edge-2-edge patterns are my own designs as I dislike doing panto’s. Planning out the quilting design can add on extra time but I do enjoy the designing aspect. All in all it would take me 8-9 hours total.

  16. andicrafts says:

    I spend 45 – 60 min just prepping a large quilt – cleaning & oiling machine, threading and winding bobbins, measuring the top so I know if there are fullness problems, squaring backing, and loading back, batting & top. Medium density overall quilting takes maybe 3 – 5 hours. If I’m doing custom, especially if there is ruler work, could be anywhere from 8 – 15 hours.

  17. Annie Cox says:

    I’m with Sam. I tend to get distracted by everyday events, so it would take me around 3 days to do a queen sized quilt. I tie all my ends and bury them like in hand quilting, and change colours constantly to compliment the quilt. I will do a pantograph or all over quilting under duress! I prefer to custom quilt. I want the quilt to look it’s best. Annie

  18. Amie Potter says:

    Takes around 7 hrs. for medium, custom Queen.

  19. Pam Cope says:

    I don’t usually do pantos, I bury threads, and try to do a design that complements the quilt, not just rush through to get it done as quickly as possible. So for most queen size quilts it takes me somewhere between 10 and 20 hours. If I am using rulers or doing any marking it could take longer. That said, a panto for a charity quilt would be about 5-6 hours total. Thanks for the tip about the red snappers. Cindy, have you tried them?

  20. Thearica B. says:

    I am like Cynthia.. Not only the loading of the quilt but the thinking process has to be taken into consideration for custom quilting. The actual quilting time would be 6-10 hours for me depending on the customer and what they are willing to pay. But I do not think I could ever quilt a queen size in less than 6 hours and do my best job…. even a panto…

  21. Michaelanne says:

    For a queen size quilt, medium coverage doing overall meandering, takes me about 4.5 – 5 hours. Panto work on a quilt this size, takes longer givin the lining up of the panto and walking around the table etc. I’d say 5-6 hours max.

  22. Lori Harris says:

    Red Snappers were designed by Renae Haddaddin, she also has Side Snappers for the side tension. They are available from her website, I think it’s QuiltsAroundTheCorner or QuiltsOnTheCorner or try just her name!

    Are you all speaking of the time it takes to free hand or pantos not computers on your machines?

  23. Sam says:

    I have a regular full time job, so my quilting is done on the weekends or weeknights (on the nights my daughter is NOT in school & I DON’T have my grandson!) – my speed is likely not what it could be if I did it every day. All that being said, if I use a medium density pantograph for a quilt that would be 7840 square inches – loading/quilting/unloading – roughly 4.5 hours. But that 4.5 hours could be spread over 3 days too………..


  24. Shirley Pustelnik says:

    It depends how often I stop or take breaks, answer the phone etc. I take my time , usually about 3 days.

  25. Linda R says:

    Six hours on a good day, using a less-dense overall design. I am quicker with overalls than a panto.

  26. joyce duarte says:

    What are red snappers????? I’ve just had surgery for torn rotator cuff (9wks ago), am not quilting again yet, and just got my thumbs injected today, they both need surgery in the next yr or so. Anything to make my business easier when I can get back to it would be much appreciated. Pinning is one of my hardest chores!!!!

    • Pat Goodman says:

      Here’s a link to the video on the website. They are made by Renae Haddadin. If you are on the Gammill list, there are a number of reviews. If you don’t own a Gammill, there are probably other reviews somewhere on the internet. I love these. Pinning was a chore to me and I ruined many shirts from catching them on the pins. Using the red snappers cuts down my loading time to minutes – I don’t know how many but maybe 15?

  27. Cynthia Marrs says:

    Not only does it take time to properly load a Q. sized quilt, there is, for me, the “thinking” process: what to quilt where. This can take a few minutes to a couple of days. I use several styles in my quilting, from pantos to free hand. I don’t have a business. But, I do quilt for friends. They pay me what they can afford, to at least cover my thread costs. A Q. quilt might take 8 – 10 hours to do the quilting depending on the complexity. I love the quilting process.

    Cynthia Marrs

  28. lisa says:

    It usually takes me anywhere from 4 – 6 hours for pretty basic stitching, perhaps a couple different borders or a medium density simple E2E freehand pattern. If there is any SND or lots of thread changes and block motifs (hence starts and stops) then I easily go into the 6+ hour (or beyond) category. I have never done a queen quilt in two hours or even close to it.

  29. Pat Goodman says:

    I could do an 80 x 98 top in 4-5 hours as long as I was doing a relatively fast panto (like Star Swirl) and didn’t have to cut down, press (which I charge for) or square the backing. Now that I have red snappers, I can load much faster than when I pinned. And – with a panto – there is no thread trimming after since all my starts and stops are done at the raw edge.

    Custom would be at least triple and maybe quadruple time. I have a bad back and, even with hydraulic lifts, I still can’t work for more than about 2 -3 hours a day with a custom quilt. I charge quite a bit for custom so, fortunately, most customers choose a panto for a larger quilt. I do carry at least 100 patterns – maybe more so I have a good choice.

  30. Barb Linares says:

    Queen size medium density would take me 6-8 hours. MUCH longer (double to tripple) for custom work, thread changes, different design elements, border and or sashing work…

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