Becky's shortcuts

A guest post written by Rachael Woodard, Quilted Twin 1.

Over and over and over and over again, people comment about Becky’s speed. She is fast. Super fast. She pieces quickly. She cuts quickly and she decides what she wants to do. I’ve even seen her rip things out (rarely) quickly.

I’ve stroked out a few of the things that I noticed when I was visiting and working directly with her that makes her Super Speedy.


quilter sitting at table using sewing machines to quilte a stich green fabric. She is wearing a blue dress and is sitting in a wooden chair.

1)      Becky winds multiple bobbins when filling bobbins. If you have another one handy, you can simply pop it in and go. She had at least 20 white bobbins ready to go in a bobbin case beside the machine where I worked. I finished up 5 black ones, I believe.

2)      When sewing, she listens for a bobbin that has run out as well as checks for the sound of a machine that has no bobbin. It’s not very productive to sew almost an entire seam down the side of a quilt with no bobbin. Don’t ask me how I know. She stops right after she hears it, to eliminate wasted time.

3)      Becky has 2 main color choices when making the charity quilts – black or white. Of course, she can use other colors, but she mainly uses black or white. Light gets white; Dark gets black. If your machine is sewing correctly, you won’t see the thread that is used for piecing anyway. If you don’t have to spend a lot of time deciding on thread color, you can get on with it and get moving, which she does, when doing charity quilt work.

4)      When cutting strips, she uses the ruler itself to hold the fabric in place, cutting from the opposite direction that I’m used to cutting. I’m used to using the ruler as a straight edge, but she uses it for both a straight edge and a brace to hold the fabric in place.

5)      She does the math, figures up how much border to cut before she ever begins. That way she knows how much to cut, eliminating the starting and stopping to cut more border or sashing. (For her, that means, not having to go back up and down stairs, since she cuts downstairs, and sews upstairs.)

6)      She doesn’t worry about cutting the exact right number of strips for sashing or borders, because any leftovers go directly into her strips bags, to be used in strip quilts. This eliminates a need for a feeling of waste.

7)      She sets her Janome on the fastest setting. It looks like a rabbit and lets it roll. She’s so experienced that she can simply hold the pieces together, without a need for intensive and time-killing pinning.

8)      Becky “keeps the main goal in mind” when working on the charity quilts. These will go to people who need warmth. They need fabrics that are sewn together well. So, she doesn’t stress much about the color choices or combinations. She tries to make them attractive or appropriate for a particular audience, but doesn’t stress if it’s not a perfect color match. I was surprised at the number of people who studied the backs of the quilts we gave away, even more than the fronts, anyway.

9)      She always stands when using the rotary cutter and pushes down and away from her with quick, smooth, even strokes, and with a great deal of pressure. This gives a nice cut the first time through.

10)   She uses the right size ruler. If she needs 5.5” wide pieces, she uses a 5.5” ruler, so that she’s not worried about using the cutting mat as anything more than a base. She uses the ruler itself for the measuring. This keeps grooves out of the mat and speeds things up tremendously.

11)   She lays out what she’s going to do on EQ, her Electric Quilt program, before beginning, if it’s more than just a regular border or if the donated quilt top is irregular or oddly shaped. There’s not a lot of guess work involved, when you’ve got a “road map” in front of you.

12)   She double checks when putting right sides together, to eliminate the sewing of a wrong side to a right side, thus eliminating the need to rip out, which slows you down tremendously. Ask me how I know.

13)   She’s started using backing fabrics that are the “perfect width” to eliminate the need for piecing together backings.

14)   She has a basic goal each day with what she’d like to get done, and then works towards that goal.

So, there you have it… Some of the things that speed up Becky’s quilt making, from an “outsider’s viewpoint.”



note from Becky - I'm not really that fast - but as with ANYTHING, if you do it a lot, you get faster and better at it if you work at it.  Seen an experienced brick layer? A cake decorator? A packer? Yep.  They are a whole lot faster than I think I could ever be.

Some quilts you can do quickly, but others are painstakingly slow.  Choose carefully and work on quicker quilts if you aren't the patient type or aren't in the mood for a slow one.  People who do applique or paper piecing have my highest accolades. Both of those are pretty slow but give amazing results.

It's not about how much you finish anyway. However, some of these I have developed because I want to have more time to do the fun quilts - the quilts that stretch my creativity. As a result, I need to finish up the more routine ones faster. Thus, I've developed some things that help me reach my goals.

And don't forget - as you work on your fall projects - be sure to check out these gorgeous fabrics Rachael has for you!

Becky Petersen1 Comment