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.
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.
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.
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
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.