Monday, November 14, 2011

Hand Quilting

Today I thought I'd show you a little more about how I go about hand quilting.  There are many ways to do this, and you have to find what's comfortable for you, but sometimes it can be helpful to see how another person does things. 

Once my quilt top, batting and back are basted together (and marked, in some cases), I put it in the frame.

There are many frames on the market in all different price ranges.  The one I have is made by Heartland  Quiltworks.  I chose it because there are almost no parts to tear up (important in my rambunctious house), it's small, it's portable, so easy to use, and it's purty:)  I cannot find a current link to Heartlands' site, so you may have to check ebay or craigslist to find one.  The Ulmer Quilter would be something similar.

Anyway, I leave the frame set up in my bedroom and usually my tools are sitting on top of the quilt in a ziplock bag (not very pretty, but handy).  Here I've spread them out on my bed so you can see them.  Nothing very complicated:  my cardboard template, Roxanne white and silver chalk marking pencils (not shown, a small metal pencil sharpener), Roxanne size 10 quilting betweens needles, YLI hand quilting thread 40wt., thimbles, and scissors.

Here's a closer look at my thimbles:

 A Roxanne thimble is on the left.  While these are a bit pricy and a good fit is required, they are great for quilting.  Before I got my Roxanne, I went through many cheaper variations (rubber coated, etc.) but none of them lasted.  I am NOT sorry I got the Roxanne -- I would've saved money by getting it to start with.  The thimble on the right is Ted's Thumb Thimble.  I love it, too.  They both are great thimbles, a pleasure to use.  I also love that their designers made them beautiful as well as functional.  It makes me happy to see the butterfly and the flowers! And you'll notice the Roxanne needles all come in a little glass vial with a seashell on top!  I love that too!

One thing I have to say about hand quilting supplies:  while they're not that complicated, almost everything will have to be ordered online.  I have access to several quilting shops, but none of them carry more than a smidgen of hand quilting stuff.  In fact, an employee at the largest store in my area looked at me as if I were from another planet when I asked about hand quilting thread.  I was so far off her radar she couldn't even make an attempt at helping me.  Even online, it's not one-stop-shopping.  I got my thread at one place, thimbles at different places, etc.  Don't let that discourage you, just know it up front.

I use the Roxanne thimble when I'm quilting towards myself --

 and I use Ted's thumb thimble to quilt away from myself.  

I cannot impress upon you how convenient it is to be able to quilt with your thumb.  So helpful, plus it gives your hand position a little change.  Try it!

My left hand stays under the quilt, feeling for the needle.  Yes, I get prickpointy rough spots on the ends of my fingers, but that's just part of it. I do have a quilting spoon that I can use underneath, but I find that most of the time I prefer just my hand.  I think it's because with the spoon my hand is GRIPPING all the time, versus the more relaxed way I keep my hand otherwise.

One of my favorite parts of hand quilting is the sound the thread makes as I pull it through the quilt.  Very satisfying!  While an individual stitch may be less than perfect, you will find that the overall effect will be consistent little stitches marching merrily across the quilt.

It is impossible to hand quilt without constantly petting your quilt, running your hands over your stitches. Hand quilting gives wonderful texture.

Did you know that one of the rules of most kinds of creative work is that you must stop every so often and admire your own progress?  Don't begrudge it to yourself -- it's one of life's great satisfactions :)

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