What's Your Favorite Flavor?

A few weeks ago, I shared some tips on digitizing circles in Inspirations’ Perfect Embroidery Pro.&n [More]
LaRueSews-Quilts-Hand quilting, It’s Personal!

LaRueSews-Quilts-Hand quilting, It’s Personal!

If you have worked along with me, you will soon need to decide if you will quilt by hand or by machine.  I have a friend who began quilting a little more than a year ago.  As we talked, one day, I asked how she planned to do her quilting.  She quickly said, “by machine.”  That’s OK.  I never questioned her preference.  However, the last time I saw her, she was holding a lap quilting hoop and she was asking how to hide knots between the layers when she does hand quilting.  On further discussion, I learned that since she is away from home many days at a time, she saw the value of being able to take her hand quilting with her, rather than try to bring along the bulk of a sewing machine and all the tools involved.

The reason for this blog today, is to tell all of you about hand quilting.  There is much value in hand quilting that you may not recognize in the beginning.  When you begin your quilting project, I won’t ridicule any of you if you decide that hand quilting is not your cup of tea.  I just want to tell you that hand quilting is my preference and why. However I do, have some issues when it comes to hand quilting.  In the long term, over many years, it can be hard on your hands.  Like many of you who sew and do other kinds of manual crafts, you should know that it’s a really good idea to protect and use your hands correctly. Repetitive motion can and does cause all kinds of problems.  Protect yourself, as much as you can with posture, and taking breaks.  But hind sight is a wonderful thing.  It teaches us what we should have done years ago. Our bodies are not indestructible, and my hands are showing the wear and tear that go along with repetitive movement.  I really want to continue to hand quilt, because I love the personal touch of making threads hold the layers in place.

I’d like to let all of you know what a personal victory it is to complete a quilt by hand.  I love hand quilting.  To me, there is no higher compliment than for someone to say, “What a beautiful quilt!  Did you do that ALL yourself?”  Well, maybe there one higher compliment . . . “You have raised two wonderful daughters.”  (They both know how to sew and quilt).

Actually, hand quilting is love in itself.  I have not done a lot of hand piecing, though I do admire those who do it.  To me, it’s all in the quilting.  That could be too broad a statement.  That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for machine quilting.  I have machine quilted quilts as well.  I also have had quilts done on a long arm machine. Sometimes that is what the quilt speaks to you.  Other time, the quilt SCREAMS “Hand Quilt Me.”  My first three quilts were for my first daughter.  Two of them were hand appliqued  and hand quilted.  Those two quilts are still in my daughters’ possession.  They are well worn from years of love from two little girls. 

Those two quilts and three other quilts I have made are examples of the feelings I describe.  The first is a quilt that was pieced by my mother-in-law, long before I knew her.  Actually, I’m not sure if it was my mother-in-law or her mother who made the quilt top.  It is a Grandmother’s Flower Garden, arranged in a diamond pattern.  A year after her death, my father-in-law gave me the top.  I couldn’t wait to begin quilting.  It was a difficult one to do because of the small size of the block pieces.  But it has much meaning to me.  My first Granddaughter “helped” in her way.  As I worked on that quilt, she was just learning to talk.  She called it “Mamaw Wosie’s Banket,” translation, Grandma Rosie’s Quilt.  This little story and the love I felt while quilting it gives this quilt a very special place in my heart.  It is pictured here.

Grandma Rosie’s Quilt

The second quilt now adorns the brass bed in my bedroom.  I love this quilt because when it was finished, it became “Our Quilt.”  It was made for a brass bed unintentionally.  But when it was finished, it was the perfect quilt for that bed.  However, it was too small for the entire bed.  So I made sixteen more blocks, quilted them and made a pillow cover that holds two pillows, end to end, or one body pillow which works great.  This turned out to be a much better option than adding those sixteen blocks to one end of the quilt, because the full quilt pattern makes a square of the fan blocks.  It would have altered the pattern too much to put the extra blocks to one end.  I titled it Fans Around.

Our Quilt 1           Our Quilt 2

The last quilt, I have shown here before.  It is my 1,000 year quilt.  The title has now changed to “Indigo Sunset,” indigo representing the blues and sunset representing the yellow and gold.  Because I have worked so long on this project, (something more than ten years) it has almost become a part of me.  Recently, I came to a point that I had to decide whether to continue the quilting and make it even more special, or to stop and leave it semi-finished. Though I thought it was special as it was, three weeks ago, it’s become a personal challenge.  I finally decided to do the echo quilting that it needed.  It has made such a difference in the Quality of the whole thing.  Echo is repeated quilting lines in the background, around the main focus parts in the quilt, as in ripples in water.  I have shown two photos, the first is a section that has echo quilting, (you can see the quilting lines in the upper part of the photo) the other is a section that does not have echo in the background yet. (also in upper part, no quilt lines) The last photo is a full picture as it is now, with finished binding, and still in the process of echo quilting.

Indigo Sunset 1

Indigo Sunset 2

Indigo Sunset 3

I hope some of this will encourage you to at least give hand quilting a try.  A good way to practice is to find a Cheater Quilt and use it for practice.  One on the best beginner hand quilters that I know learned this way.  Your comments are gratefully accepted.  I also love to know your ideas for topics for me to write about.  Ask questions  . . . if I don’t know the answer, I will find it.  Would any of you like a blog about how to prevent the damage caused by sewing?  (repetitive motion)  I can do it sometime, if you’d like it.

Stitches to you,

Remember, in hand quilting, as in any other fine craft, practice is the key.  Your best work comes long after you stick your finger the first time.

There are many books available about hand quilting techniques. I own the first book, That Perfect Stitch, By Roxanne McElroy.  It is a comprehensive book on the art of hand quilting.  I recommend it highly.

These are links to other good ones. (A bit less pricey)

Hand Quilting with Alex Anderson

Learn to do Hand Quilting in Just One Day by Nancy Brenan Daniel

Echo quilting:
Traditional Hawaiian quilts are typically echo-quilted.  This style is best suited to applique quilts.  The quilter first quilts close to and around the edges of the appliqued design.  This is called outline quilting.  That outline is repeated or “echoed” usually every ½ inch until the entire surface is quilted.  The distance between lines of quilting does not always need to be ½ inch; it can vary from 1/4" to 1", increasing as the rings move outward.  Traditionally, Hawaiian quilters use the width of their thumbs as a guide.  Quote taken from That Perfect Stitch, by Roxanne McElroy.

Comments (20) -

littlebopeep 3/28/2009 8:32:21 AM

i love to quilt and these are great

These quilts are just beautiful.  I did a Cathedial Windpw quilt years ago and it was all hand peiced and I thought my hands were going to fall off.

If I ever did hand quilting I think I would get all the help I could.  

I used to go to dog shows in the Amish section of PA and in the afternoon we would go to the local shops and the quilts that they do all by hand will knock your socks off.  The one thing that I learned was that every quilt that they make there is a mistake in it, by accident or design.  They believe that there is nothing perfect.

Keep up the blogs, always look forward to them.


I believe this is the most beautiful quilt I've ever seen!  Know it's the most impressive with designs.  Did you design it?  Thanks for sharing it with us.

I've lap quilted simple quilts but want to try machine quilting.  Will do a baby quilt first and progress from there.


In  a word, WOW


My first quilt I made 3 years ago for mom's 81st birthday it was all hand pieced & quilted and quilts like yours were my inspiration. Unfortunately all machine work is anti-social, to my mind, as there is nothing nicer than doing handwork and chatting.

Thanks again


I hand quilt on Mondays & Wednesdays with 3 other ladies at a small country church.  We do this for others to make money to support the church and it's needs. Our ages range from 83 to 62.  Lots of joy in the time spent  together.  We love to do quilt tops found in family treasures and passed on to relatives as well as those that are new.  I take pictures of each quilt finished (front & back, got to see the stitch pattern) to keep in our scrapbook.   Last year we finished 22 quilts and made 76 lap quilts for the VA Hospital near by at Christmas time.  I can understand anyone wanting to get something done "quick", but our customers always return for handquilting  .  Sorry for being so wordy, but I just wanted to say how great it is to find others who truly share our Love of Quilting.   I am going to print off the post and share with my friends next week.    Barbara

choppasrinivasarao 3/28/2009 10:12:39 AM

very nice

Beautiful work, thank you for the blog and the photos.

I have had quilted 2 quilts, one as a gift for my niece and one to raffle for Relay for Life.  Both were ambitious projects, but I felt that the winner of the Relay quilt was more appreciative of the final project simply because of the vastness of it and the memories behind it.  Sadly, too many people don't appreciate the time and effort that goes in to handquilting.  My grandmother sold quilts and those handquilted always brought a higher price than machine quilted ones.  


My mother and I used to admire beautiful quilts together and I remember Mother's comment when the stitches were too long.  "Well, someone's going to hang their toenail in that and pull out all the stitches."  I do not quilt but admire the beautiful quilts of others.


La Rue,   You do beautiful work, thank you for sharing it with us.

I would appreciate an article on repetitive hand motion and how to control the pain.


How about pictures of the glass sided quilt chests that your husband makes.



Your quilts are totally inspiring.  Especially the shadow quilt.  Do you have the pattern for that? I have been quilting several years and never thought I'd hand quilt. However,I took so much flack from my Amish sister-in-law that I thought I'd try. To her machine quilting just isn't quilting, and the 10-12 stitches an inch is a must.  She has made some that are smaller stitches even. I have a small PVC pipe frame from Joanns and I put in the living room.  There I can be w/my husband at night and still quilt. I am no where near 10-12 stitches an inch though.  But here's how I look at it.  It's my quilt, and as long as my stitches are even I don't care.  I will never achieve the 10/12 rule. I find that hand quilting is much more relaxing than machine quilting.  Of course I do my blocks by machine. I find machine quilting difficult when the quilt is full size because of having to handle it under the machine. I have a long arm and have just ordered a stitch regulator for it.  I'm anxious to see how that works.My husband calls it a "Cruise Control for the sewing machine.'" 2 things I have learned bu hand quilting.that may be of interest to new quilters(.1). I place 6-8 in between needles on my spool of thread and pull one off when I need it.  It's already threaded.

(2) When iIget into tight places that my hands don't seem to want to turn that direction I Stab Quilt. Hold the needle in your non-dominate hand on top of the quilt.  Be sure its standing perpendicular. push it through the quilt and with your dominate hand push the needlle from the bottom to the top.  You can do this several times  before you pull the thread through, as long as your thread lays on top.  If you try it from the bottom you will get tangles.

Let's all pray that we live long enough to make all  of the quilts and do all the sewing projects we dream of!

Mary in Nokomis

Wow fantastic. well done you. Thanks for sharing

Chrissy from England

How wonderful....I really enjoyed your quilts....

I've done mostly handquilting...I machine quilted with my regular sewing machine and enjoyed that too.  But the handquilting is very therapeutic and I alway seem to go back to it.  I belong to a sewing guild that has several "circles" but I don't know that they have many "quilting" days.  I think I will suggest it to them when next I go.  

Beautiful, beautiful quilts...


To all of you who have commented this time.  I have been away at the ATG Comm. Circle.  I met and hugged some great new friends.  Ann, included.  Thank you for commenting and I will get back to all of you tomorrow, after I hav "unwound" a bit.

Stitches . .



Wonderful etc.etc.etc.


Since I just returned from ATG Community Circle, I think most of you would like to know more.  I had a great time.  I met so many people I have only heard from before. Some are quilting fans, some are not.  But without a doubt, no exception, EVERYONE, was nice, fun, funny, hospitable, friendly, BEaUtiful, and kind.  Need I say more about the folks?

The classes were entertaining and fun.  All the teachers were first rate.  Standouts were Pat Snyder, Mary Mulari and Rita Farrow (funny lady)  The organizers of the event did a top notch job, in the sleection of location, food, classes and downright friendliness.

Wish everyone would have been there.

Littlebo, Vada, Chop, Sherry, Chrissy, Dinie,

Thank you all for your comments.  Though brief, they are most welcome.  I'd like to hear more from all of you in the future.

Yes, Marge, I know that the Amish do mistakes in their quilts.  I understand that they know they are not perfect, as is their God, so they don't wish to appear so.  I have "unitentional' mistakes.

Everyone can hand quilt if they have the desire.

I'll get more of you later.




I'm glad you had a great time in Florida. I'm jealous!

Regarding your blog......There is NO replacement for hand quilting, though I've never done it myself. Mom was an avid quilter. I rarely saw our dining room table because there was always a quilt stretched in a frame hiding the table!

Mom's quilts were always made with hand embroidered blocks. She would mark the quilt with designs to be quilted which would enhance the quilt but would also echo quilt around the design in the embroidered block. A lot of time & love went into each quilt.

I know people who piece together the quilt top, give it to someone else to machine quilt, then they that they quilt!. I just have to walk away from them before I start lecturing on what quilting really is! Sometimes you just have to let it go & get off the soapbox!

Love your quilts! Especially the fan quilt on your beautiful brass bed!


What do you mean by practicing on a cheater quilt?

Please login to comment