Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hand Quilting

Thanks for all your encouraging comments, particularly about the little red and white quilt top I made last week and the midnight stars I just basted. I’m not sure how I’m going to quilt the R&W and I already have a hand quilting project so I don’t know why I basted the midnight stars. I just felt moved to. I plan to do the hanging diamonds as Lori described in this post. I’ve just done a few hand quilting projects. I love the idea of hand quilting – it is relaxing and peaceful – and I really like that it gives me time with my quilt.

Here is more detail of the quilt at the top of this post. It was my first hand quilting project. I made it following the instructions exactly for Road to Oklahoma in Simply Scrappy Quilts by Nancy J. Martin. She also used 30’s reproduction fabrics. The exact same fabric she used for the border I used for the back. I didn’t use much imagination with this one. It is twin size and took me 5 YEARS to quilt. I completed it in 2002. I’m sure resigning from my employment with the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington D.C. in 2001 had something to do with it finally being completed.

My little flower appliqué is heavily quilted. Easier to do on a small quilt! Learned on this one how important it is to at least attempt to remove dark threads and snip dark seams when the front is a light color.

All I did on the quilt I showed in this post was outline the stars and pumpkins.

These 16-patches were made from leftover strip sets from another project. I pieced, basted and started quilting it last year. It is the first time I used a wool batt (Quilters Dream). It has a much higher loft than I’m used to, but I like it.

For my first two hand quilted quilts I used this natural YLI quilting thread. I plan to use it on the midnight stars. I like this thread a lot, but it is hard to find around here.

I wanted a darker color for the pumpkin and stars. Normally, I wouldn’t use a polyester/cotton thread, but that is what I had. This one is DMC. I probably wouldn’t use it on a bed quilt.

On the 16-patch quilt, I’m using Superior Threads King Tut quilting thread Tone-on-Tone by Sue Nickels. I hunted all over the Quilters Unlimited quilt show last year for red quilting thread and none was to be found. Superior had other colors, but not red. I asked if this thread could be used for hand quilting (it doesn’t specify on the spool) and the man emphatically said “no”.  I felt challenged. It is working fine. It isn’t “waxed” like other quilting thread, but I’m not having any trouble with it - a testament to the quality of Superior Threads.

These are the hoops I use. I like the wooden one with the stand, made by Marie Products in Tucson Arizona, for the support. I use the square plastic one when I get to the edges and if I’m quilting someplace other than at home.

I try to avoid marking, but don’t feel confidant enough with the fans. I can’t find the pencil I used for the Road to Oklahoma – it was just something I picked up at the local quilt shop. I used a Berol Verithin pencil in silver to mark the 16-patch. It was recommended to me in a class and I did test it to make sure it will come out with washing. Don’t know if you can tell, but I haven’t washed the Road to Oklahoma. I’m not sure why – I usually wash my quilts after putting in that last stitch.

Some other useful tools –
That pinching action of pulling the needle can cause pain over time for me. These pliers, suggested by Diane of McLean QU, seem to help. These gloves also help my hands from feeling achy. They are very snug and I just throw them in the washer and dryer when they start feeling loose. At my age I need reading glasses. I like my new progressive lenses when I’m at the sewing machine, but prefer the reading glasses for hand work.

My conclusion with the needles is changing them often. A bent needle is no longer useful; get a new one!

The leftovers I used for the 16-patch came from this lap quilt. It was a McLean Chapter challenge – just use fabric from your stash. It was the first time I pieced batting for a quilt. I did it by hand, but I’ve read on other blogs about using a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine to piece batting. Has anyone tried this? I would think it would leave a lot of fuzz in your machine.

I finished this book last night. It gives a brief biography of all the signers. It’s cheeky, sometimes a bit too, but I really enjoyed it. My interest in these men began when I read John Adams by David McCullough several years ago. I loved reading about the relationship between John and his wife, Abigail.

Sun, please come out!


  1. Quilting is really an entire subject on it's own isn't it? I have been learning a bit of machine quilting lately and started thinking a lot about how to quilt my little projects. It's an area that needs lots of practice but I don't have the time to devote to it at the moment. i like the US magazines because they often show different quilting patterns on their quilt patterns. And of course, lots to be found on various blogs. Lovely work as always Maureen.

  2. Thanks, Maureen, for the book recommendation..... years ago I had a little book on the same subject, but they didn't give a whole lot of info on all the signers, just what became of them after signing. I'd love to know more! This one sounds good!

    Your quilts are gorgeous! Love all of your beautiful hand quilting.....I need to get back to that! Hmmmmmm.

    And now a ? about the threads.....when I hand quilted, I always used the waxed kind....but you said the unwaxed was working fine. So.....why do we think we need the waxed? And what does the waxed actually do that the regular can't? I'm just wondering, because the color choices are so limited with the waxed, and I could go wild with the regular thread colors! What do you think? And I wonder what quilters 'way back when' used.....did they 'wax' thread themselves, or just use regular? I wonder?

  3. From a gal who really doesn't know very much about hand quilting, thanks for all the info. This post was kind of like hand quilting 101.

    The only thing I can comment on is re: machine piecing batting together. I do it all the time, either with a very wide zigzag or a wide version of a meandering stitch (one of my seldom-used fancy stitches). I've never noticed a problem with fuzz or a buildup of fibers, but I'm a frequent sewing machine cleaner. I don't let that stuff pile up down in the guts of my machine.

    Again -- many thanks for all this info. I'm hoping to try it soon, after some deadlines are met.

  4. Very interesting post !
    I often used King Tut by hand and it work very fine. I machine piece with a large zig zag my batting leftover without problem. kiss

  5. I'll have to look for the quilting hoop you use. Your quilting is lovely and thank you for all the info on your favorite tools and threads.

  6. great info on hand quilting. I love the look of the fans, one of my favorite quilting patterns.