Re-learning to hand quilt

In the beginning (what a large start for a blog post) I was a hand quilter. I hand quilted several queen size quilts. I started out using high loft poly batt. Because of the loft, I could get 4-5 stitches per inch. Then, I went to cotton batt (no, I didn't know better) and I still got 4-5 stitches per inch because the batt was so dense and the needle didn't want to pass through it.

Then, I got that big Bernina and taught myself to machine quilt. And, that's what I've done since 2007 (WOW! that seems so long ago. so many quilts under the darning foot.) And, I've gotten pretty good at it. It's still a while before anybody asks for my signature, but I'll get there.

I've only hand quilted one tiny quilt, maybe 15" square and started another that's about 24 inches square since then.

So, when I decided to make this quilt completely by hand, I decided to try all the stuff I've learned about hand quilting in the last 3 years. My hand piecing stitches are tiny. Tiny, tiny, tiny. Tiny. And, I wanted my quilting stitches to be just as tiny.

That meant low loft, non-cotton batting. When I was in JoAnn's, I found a crib size piece of wool batting that was on sale for 40% off. It was 1/4" loft. I remembered that my mentor had told me she took a piece of low loft batting and separated it into layers for the quilt she made that ribboned at Paducah. And, this wool was two layers that had been put together to make the quarter inch thickness. And, I pulled them apart. And, it worked. Yes, I was surprised. But, it worked well. It would have worked perfectly, but the puppy got the leftover batting while I was out of the room and what started as a crib size piece ended up as two 24" squares and several fuzzy poops.

Basting was a breeze. The large basting needle just slid through everything like butter.

But, when I started quilting. Ohh, it was wonderful. I knew it was wonderful even before I knew I was doing it wrong. I was still pushing and shoving the needle, forcing it, bending needles, fighting the quilting. My hands cramped and I worked up quite a painful callus on my right pointer finger that first day. But, I was getting ten stitches to the inch.

And, I was enjoying the experience of hand quilting. Especially the quilting I did outside. I love this little frame. It keeps the quilt off my lap, so even though I'm outside, I can still feel the breeze. So, I kept quilting. And, it kept hurting. Then, I realized I didn't have to work that hard. I didn't have to push and shove and poke my finger. The slightest pressure pushed the needle exactly where I wanted it. And, I started getting 12 stitches to the inch sometimes. Okay, not in every inch, but in some inches. And, my stitch length got much more precise.

So much easier now. I've finished what was in the frame when I took this picture and moved into one of the corners. And, I just started last Friday night. I'm using a template shape that fits in the circles perfectly and in the concave curved pieces, I'm putting in a free-form feather. I'm going to repeat those feathers in the border.

I love this so much that I'm going to take that 24 inch square quilt apart and replace the cotton batting with a piece of the leftover wool and start it again. (strike one: black thread on black wholecloth; strike two: the backing fabric is ugly as sin; strike three: huge quilting stitches because of the dense batting. three strikes and you win a free dis-assembling and a fresh start. okay, you win a fresh start because you're a quilt started by me mentor. if not for that, i'd finish you as you are and give you away.)

Elizabeth asked what the charm set was for this quilt. It's Moda Lakeside Resort. The blue leafy fabric for the border came from somewhere else, but it was a perfect match.

Okay, so that's it for me today. I didn't get an early enough start to make a Vintage Thingie Thursday post. Not that I've run out of vintage thingies to post, mind you. Just lost track of time this morning. Of course, I had time to spend an hour hand quilting. Just not 3 minutes to take a picture and load it to this blog post. Priorities, dear!

Have a great day. Lane


Michelle said...

I love hand-quilting, and always have a project going in the winter. However, I don't use a frame; I just set the quilt on my lap and away I go. Awesome that you're getting 10-12 stitches to the inch. I've never measured mine, but I know it's not that many.

Love the piece you're working on. I'm very partial to Drunkard's Path.

lw said...

I've had the same experience trying to hand quilt through dense cotton; because of your well-written post, I would like to try again with the wool batting. Thanks, Lane!

Becky said...

I've never tried wool batting....I break out around wool...can't knit with wool yarn either.
AND there is no way in Hades I could quilt l0-12 stitches to the inch.!!! I can get 6-7 and that's it. But I try to keep them even (not always successful) and they don't look too bad. Kudos to you for being able to accomplish it!!!

Shirleymac said...

I just measured my quilt I'm trying to hand quilt. Do you count the stitches on the front? If so them I am getting 6 stitches per inch even though I'm using the tiny tween quilting needles. I can't imagine 12 stitches per inch! Maybe one day I'll get there. I'm using bamboo batting cause it's for my daughter and she's allergic to wool too. Great job Lane. I have to say that I do enjoy it. I use the same type of hoop as you do.

Rhoda said...

Having raised 6 dogs, I'm chuckling about the puppy and the batting.

Elizabeth said...

Hey Lane, thanks for the info on the fabric. I knew it had to be Moda (seems like you said it was a charm pack). Now for another question, just when you get around to posting about this next. How many charm packs (lol). Can you tell I'm going to try to create my own quilt of Lakeside Resort awesomeness? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (because I'm totally not good with the original ideas).
xo -E