Becoming an Efficient Quilter

Over my many years of being a professional quilter, I have found that to be more profitable, I needed to become more efficient.

Note that I am saying “efficient” not fast!

Many people assume that the only way you can make more profit is to become a faster quilter. They strive to run their quilting machine at a higher rate of speed, quilt less complex or dense patterns and do as many things as possible to “speed things up!”

What I have found is that when “speed” or “fast” is used, it usually leads to less accuracy, less choice for the customer (which could bring more boredom to the quilter) and sometimes “sloppy” stitching.

Instead of being a fast quilter, strive to be an efficient quilter!

Efficiency comes in many ways! And many times, it is the little things that make a huge difference in the time it takes to finish a quilt!

Here are some things that I have found to be extremely efficient in my quilting –

I pin my quilts to my leaders. I have found that a finger pin cushion is more efficient for holding my pins than any other pin holder. I can quickly get a pin from my finger instead of reaching across the bars of my machine to a “regular” pin cushion or pin holder.

For instructions on how to make a finger pin cushion Click Here

When doing free hand quilting, can I figure out a way to quilt the area – block, border, across the quilt top as a free hand pantograph – in such a way as to eliminate starts and stops? Or, can I sequence my quilting so that I can move from space to space without a start / stop.

Let’s assume that it takes two minutes to stop the machine, raise the needle, secure the thread, cut the thread, move the machine to a new space, bring up the bobbin thread, secure the thread, and then, finally, start quilting. If you had 10 start/ stops in a block, border, or across the quilt top, that would mean that up to 20 minutes of your life is spent doing all of this!

If you can figure out a way to eliminate some, or maybe all, of the starts /stops (except for the original start / stop) you could be done with your quilting in that much less time.

Remember, the less time you take to quilt a quilt, the more $$$ you will make!!

I have a FREE class that shows how I can quilt a significant amount in a workspace with only two starts and stops!

To view the information about this class Click Here

Here is another example – when I started machine quilting, I was taught that to quilt a feathered wreath, no matter what size, I had at least 3 starts / stops and possibly more depending on the fill in stitching I was doing. I soon found out that I could quilt ALL the feathered wreath, including fill in stitching with only ONE start / stop! It is amazing how much time that saved and my feathered wreaths look great.

For a FREE video on how I quilt feathered wreaths with one start / stop Click Here

And yes, there are times when I try as hard as I can, but I WILL have to make many starts /stops to get the design quilted. But I know that the extra time will be added into the fee I am charging my customer.

There is no way around it, putting the quilt on the quilting machine does take time! But the way you put the quilt top on the quilting machine can make the time you take to quilt the quilt more efficient.

Let me explain – Many quilters “float” their quilt tops. Floating a quilt top means that after the backing is secured to the appropriate rollers and the batting is laid out on top of the backing, then the quilt top is placed and smoothed on top of the batting. Most people will then stitch across the top raw edge of the quilt top, smooth the quilt out again and begin quilting. The extra quilt top is “floating free” and usually laying on the floor in a puddle of fabric.

This works OK until it is time to roll the quilt up so the next workspace is exposed. Then the quilter needs to smooth, measure, adjust, sometimes pin or secure the “loose” edge of the quilt so that it remains in place and the extra quilt is still in a puddle on the floor! All of this takes time!!! And it can be avoided.

How can all of this be avoided? By NOT floating your quilt top!!!

I have made a free video on why I DO NOT float my quilt top and how I attach my quilt to my machine.

To view the video Floating a Quilt – NO WAY!!  Click Here

Let’s do some quilter’s math –

Your quilt is 90 inches wide x 100 inches long and you are quilting a 10 inch pattern – pantograph, free hand, computerized, hand guided, it really doesn’t matter for this calculation.

That means that after your first workspace, you will have at least 9 more “roll ups” to get the un-quilted quilt into your workspace.

Let’s assume that you float your quilt top and it takes you 5 minutes to get your quilt ready for quilting. You have to smooth, measure, re-smooth, tug, maybe pin the layers together to get good tension on the quilt top, etc., etc.

Yes, I have watched quilters do all this, and more, to get their workspace ready for quilting!

That means that 45 minutes of the quilter’s life is dedicated to getting the quilt top ready for quilting!

Let’s now assume that you don’t float your quilt top. Yes, you will need a few minutes to pin / secure the bottom edge of your quilt top to the leader / roller, but, when you go to roll up the quilt into the next workspace, it may take you only 2 minutes, possibly less, to get the quilt in the workspace ready for quilting!

This quilter will spend only 18 minutes of their life getting the quilt top ready for quilting!

I speak only for myself – I’d rather be quilting than fussing with getting a quilt top ready for quilting!

Here is some other things to think about when you float your quilt. You may experience –

  • the quilt not being “square” after quilting – even if the quilt is “square” when it is put on the machine
  • wavy borders and a wonky bottom edge of the quilt
  • tension issues with the fabric(s) on the quilt top
  • side edges that may be wonky
  • and a few more, sometimes subtle, issues with the finished quilting!

One last thing, when I am at quilt shows, many times I can pick out the quilts that were floated. The floated quilts seem to hang a little wonky and sometimes there can be a noticeable difference in the size of the quilt along the top edge and along the bottom edges of the quilt.

Please, take some time to watch my video and let me know your thoughts.

To view the Floating a Quilt Top – NO WAY!! video Click Here

What things or techniques have you included in your quilting to make YOUR quilting more efficient?

Please leave your comments below or send them to me in an email to longarmu@ aol.com

Stay healthy, stay busy, keep quilting!!! 

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

One Response to Becoming an Efficient Quilter

  1. Laura says:

    I respectfully disagree with your conclusions about floating quilt tops. I find pinning my quilt to leaders takes much more time overall than floating. When floating I can get between the layers to remove stray threads, smooth wrinkles, and more easily frog stitches, all of which are more difficult when everything is attached to leaders. Also, it is easier for me to ease in wonky borders when floating a top. I have yet to have a problem with ‘square’ quilts going ‘off-square’ when floating a quilt top.

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