All Thumbs!

July 28, 2010 § 16 Comments


Since this is the year I am aiming to conquer my fear/dislike of hand sewing, I asked Sue at work to give me a quick lesson on hand quilting.  And it feels like I am all thumbs!  I haven’t gotten very far because there are so many other things going on right now. And frankly, if I’m sitting on the sofa watching TV, I’d rather be knitting.  But I’m determined to hand quilt a couple of quilt tops that are languishing in the closet so I’m not giving up.  I’m sure there will come a point when it doesn’t feel quite so awkward.  Right?

chalk marker

Sue gave me a few of her favorite tips:

  • She likes to quilt in a hoop, but the quilt sandwich is not taut, but sort of loose. Take your fist and lightly punch it once it’s in the hoop to create some give.
  • She likes the clover chalk marker.  It doesn’t stay on very long, but then it isn’t hard to remove like some chalk pencils.  I thought I’d give it a try. I have had some trouble removing pencil markings from quilts when I   have machine quilted.
  • It’s more important to work at making even stitches than small stitches.
  • As it is with everything, it takes practice, practice, practice…  (I say this all the time too for machine quilting)

the back side

As you can see, my stitches are not very even.  This is just a small doll quilt for practice.  Yes, I know I should have basted with thread instead of pins. But this little doll quilt has been ready to machine quilt for some time (yes that long!), so I just went with it.  Next, I want to move on to a lap quilt. I remade the Garden Medallion in mostly French General fabrics and I think it would look smashing with some big stitch hand quilting.  And then there is the Medallion Quilt-Along quilt…. which feels a bit overwhelming to me at the moment.

Anna Maria and Jan also give some great tips on hand quilting.  Please tell me that I’ll get better at this one day because it still feels like I’m all thumbs.  How long did it take you before it felt more comfortable?

§ 16 Responses to All Thumbs!

  • Trisha says:

    Isn’t it funny how we get things done on time for other people but the things we make for ourselves sit for so long. Adorable little doll quilt! Very cool that you are hand quilting it. I have thought the same thing, that if I am going to sit down and do something with my hands I would rather it be knitting. I think you are on the right track that if you want to not fear/dislike something then making yourself do it is the key. This post makes me want to hand quilt something. Yikes!!!

  • Kirstin says:

    When I learned to quilt, hand-quilting was all I did. (I was a nanny at the time for a baby, so there was a lot of time to quilt while she was napping)
    Since I don’t have time to do this anymore, I sometimes combine basic machine quilting with hand quilting. For instance, I made a quilt out of my dad’s bike tour t-shirts. Once it was done, I machine quilted part of it but also made a stencil of one of the stylized bicycle designs and hand quilted that into the sashing and borders. It was a great winter project.
    Have fun with it! The doll quilt looks great!

  • Katy says:

    hand quilting scares the pants off me, but I think this winter I’ll give it a go – it seems like perfect winter night activity, doesn’t it?

  • DebbyMcC says:

    I don’t remember how long it took me to be comfortable because it was so very long ago, long enough ago that machine quilting was a rarely used option…but I do remember how I felt when it finally “clicked” and I knew I “had” it. All of a sudden it will happen and you will wonder why it felt awkward to begin with. Just keep at it, it’ll happen and then you can settle into that lovely peaceful rhythm. I do love hand quilting…I’m happy when I see people still learning to do it in this fast paced world we live in…good for you! =-)

  • Annessa says:

    You have to change your mind set when you are hand-quilting. You’re not going to get that much puckering and definintion you do with close machine quilting. I find it very soothing, but it definately achieves a very different look than machine quilting. You will find your rhythm of rocking that needle back and forth after a while, instead of taking a stitch.

  • Hand quilting? Nah, not for me. I find sitting at the sewing machine relaxing and fun, rather than squinting over hand sewing. Good on you for stepping up to the challenge though. You seem to be off to an excellent start.

  • Karen says:

    Hang in there. Finding the “zone” takes a while. But once you find it, there is nothing as soothing as sitting and hand quilting. I do not use a hoop, I found I couldn’t use one. So I just pile it up in my lap. Good luck.

  • Hi! The geese are looking great! Have a look at the Minick and Simpson blog as Laurie had a great post on hand quilting. I think your quilt looks too tight in the hoop, but it’s sometimes trial and error. Just keep practicing!

  • Ann Champion says:

    I’d say you’re off to a great start with your quilting? Just keep at it and bit by bit you’ll get it done. I can’t say how long it will take you to get comfortable..but once you do…you’ll find the quilting very relaxing. I feel a little lost in the Summer months when I don’t have something in the hoop!
    Just got my McCall’s magazine today and saw your quilt. I said..”hey..I know her!” LOL Congrats on getting published..again. 🙂

  • Sharon says:

    So far it looks pretty darn good for your first go at it. Someone also mentioned the post @ Minnik & Simpson. Yes, it does get easier, I hand quilted for first 7 0r 8 tops that I made, I didn’t know you could send out your tops. Now I longarm for others, but do a lot of hand quilting for myself. Practice and the rhythm will come. It does take some time, I find even now, my stitchs are better 20 minutes into the work, so plan to sit for at least an hour at a time.

  • pratima says:

    Anita, your doll quilt is just adorable! Love the critters in there. The uneven stitches give it a very playful and charmingly sweet look. I’m sure in time you will rock it!
    Btw, I’m hopeless with handquilting 😉

  • Jay says:

    Practice, practice, practice! My advise, for what it’s worth – thread baste really well and throw away the hoop, it just gets in the way. With the quilt layers well basted with thread, it’s simple to hold the quilt and just stitch. Give it a try! I found it so much easier than using a hoop. In fact, after I learned, I sold my hoops on ebay. Happy Stitching! Jay

  • At first I learned handquilting and then by maskin. It took some time before I managed, but not to long. You just have to practise. I feel I have much more control on the quilting when doing it by hand. Just hang on to it.. Hugs Jofrid

  • Jennifer says:

    You are off to a great start, Anita! Ever since I met the Thimblelady (Liuxin) in Tokyo and saw her exquisite quilts, I was sold on her technique and thimble: It has deep dimples, she uses a long needle (small needles do NOT equal small stitches), and the way I fold the fabric onto the needle (still a proper quilting stitch, not just running stitch) means that I never touch the finger underneath the quilt. I probably spent a day or two getting the technique down. Also, the idea is somewhat similar to spoon quilting, or the Aunt Becky under-the-quilt “thimble”. Just some ideas for you; everyone has their own favorite methods. Batting makes a huge difference for me. Unless I use Quilter’s Dream or wool, it is so frustrating to hand quilt.

  • Jan says:

    First, thanks for the mention…*such company* you’ve put me in!
    My advice…just do it. You’ll find your rhythm and your comfort zone with practice. Really. Now I just have to take my own advice re: machine quilting. 😉

  • Lynn says:

    I’ve tried hand quilting and really don’t like it. I tend to prick myself often and then worry I’ll bleed on the quilt. My hand work comes from cross stitching or knitting. I leave the quilting for my machine. As far as your quilting?? It looks great!!!! You have no toe catchers and they look small and consistent for the most part. Good job!

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