There is the time daydreaming about what the piece should look like and refining the concept in my head. There is the actively-not-thinking-about-it period, which usually involves working on something else until I feel ready to start. There is the going to the fabric store and considering what I might need. This could last days or even weeks, but I don't count it in my "how long" estimate.
The day I start pulling out fabric is the real Day 1. The best first days involve loud music and an empty house. I enjoy pulling out fabrics I might want to use, tossing them on my work surface, seeing how they work (or don't work) with each other, changing my mind -- basically making what would look like a big mess to anyone else.
|Red and pink living together peacefully in the drawer|
Sometimes I get stuck right away; there is a color that doesn't work or something feels off and I can't quite figure out what to use. What to do? Walk away, for as long as it takes for the answer to come to me. This could take a while. I usually work on something else in the meantime.
Then there is the construction of the quilt top. Again, an empty house and loud music are bonuses. This is where it becomes even more difficult to track my time. Everything will be coming together and then the screeching halt. That fabric I really wanted to use isn't working, or the design needs something...so I do what I can, walk away, and work on another piece. I might return sporadically for months before the piece feels finished.
|Detail from Chief Osei, in progress|
Once the top is completed and layered with batting and backing, it is ready for quilting. I can usually give a pretty good estimate of how long this phase takes, because I try to get it all done as quickly as possible. Even my largest, most complex pieces take less than one week, quilting up to six hours a day, but this is after weeks or months of starting and stopping in the design stage.
That's an awfully long answer. Maybe I'll just stick with "it's hard to tell."