Hand Quilting

Hand Quilting is a traditional method of sewing the layers of a quilt (top, batting and back) together by hand, using a needle and thread. The quilter holds the quilt in her lap or uses a hoop or frame to secure the layers for quilting. A sewing machine or long arm machine is not used for this method of quilting. The quilt designs can be straight line or decorative, adding to the overall design and appeal of the finished quilt. The quilter uses a running stitch for basic quilting that involves pushing the needle in and out of all three layers, in an even series of stitches. The quilter may stitch “in the ditch“ (near the seams) following the pieced pattern or they may follow a design such as cross hatch, feather, stippling or a marked design made by hand or from a template. The size and length of the stitches are determined based on the quilter's skill and the effect the quilter desires. Hand quilting dates back many centuries and is commonly found in Whole Cloth quilts made in the US during the 17th century. More modern styles of hand quilting include using perle cotton or embroidery thread with larger stitches. There are many styles of hand quilting, the more traditional using many stitches per inch to the big stitch method that has fewer stitches per inch.

Benefits of Hand Quilting

  • For the quilter, Hand Quilting can be a way of relaxing or relieving stress.
  • Your stitching can be mobile, allowing you to be away from the machine and pass the time with friends and family.
  • Hand quilting can give your quilt an heirloom quality.

Supplies and Tools for Hand Quilting

  • A basted quilt ready for Quilting!
  • Needle- A specific type of needle, often called a between, is used for Hand Quiting. The size of ”between” used depends on the size and type of stitch the quilter chooses to use. Needle sizes vary from 5-12. The larger the number, the smaller the needle.
  • Thread- While thread choice is up to the quilter, there is a type of thread designed for quilting that is a heavier weight than for piecing. It is often glazed allowing it to glide through all three layers of the quilt with ease. If you are using a thread that is not specific for quilting you can apply beeswax that will help with glide as well as protect your thread from abrasion as it passes through the layers.
  • Hoop or Frame- A hoop or frame will keep your work taut and make stitching easier. A hoop is a portable way to take your quilting with you. Hoops also are available on stands, lap or floor, and leave your hands free for the stitching process. Quilt frames are generally stationary and less portable and offer a larger area to quilt at one time. There are many types of hoops and frames. A hoop is a great way to start hand quilting. Quilt where the fabric is on the straight - not bias.  To increase your quilting space use a hoop or frame that is square.
  • Thimble- A thimble will protect your pushing finger in quilting. There are many types of thimbles available for quilters; metal, plastic or leather for instance. There are styles that cover your whole finger or leave your finger nail area uncovered. There are also leather or plastic pads that use adhesive to stick to your finger tip to protect your finger without covering it. A thimble allows protection as well as aide in control of stitch length. You may try many types of thimbles before settling in on one type.
  • Quilting designs and stencils- There are acrylic stencils made to be used with marking tools to transfer designs onto your quilt. There are also books filled with designs from traditional to contemporary that can be used. If you are quilting simple shapes, check your dishes and bowls!
  • Marking tools for transfering quilting designs to the quilt- These can include temporary markers, chalk, hera, transfer paper or painters tape. ALWAYS TEST YOUR TEMPORARY PRODUCTS BEFORE MARKING. Marking your quilt will allow you to follow a specific design.
What I wish I Knew When I Started Hand Quilting

It cannot be stressed enough that not all temporary markers are not temporary. There are many temporary marking pens on the market that may not be temporary in some situations,as when exposed to heat and humidty, water, sunlight or used with fabric that has spray starch or sizing on it. If you are using a hoop, remove the quilt from the hoop if you are not going to be quilting for any length of time. Like the look of HAND QUILTING but don't want to do it yourself? There are services that provide hand quilting!

Hand quilting is a beautiful way to finish your quilt, but it is time consuming. Make sure you have reasonable expectations for yourself!

Hand Quilting Resources

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