Hand Quilting Tools

Ferris Wheel is still in the process of being hand quilted. I have actually taken out some of the hand quilting because what I thought I’d like I definitely don’t like. So I’m redoing a couple of blocks. Now that I’ve got a plan for the quilting, it will go much faster … I hope. Not only have I taken out the machine piecing I originally started with, I’ve also taken out some of the hand quilting.

My favourite tools for hand quilting include these 4 thimbles and the YLI thread. For the most part, I use either the cone Thimblelady thimble or the original silver one. The little black leather thimble I wear on my finger beneath the quilt. It saves wear and tear on the finger underneath, but is thin enough that I still feel the needle as it comes through. The spoon thimble is my favourite when I quilt without a hoop, which I sometimes do, particularly when I’m at the edge of a quilt. YLI hand quilting thread is my absolute favourite and the one to which I always turn.

This is my favourite hoop, although it’s a bit large and sometimes too heavy for me.

On nights when the round wooden hoop seems too heavy, and there are many of those, out comes this Q-snap rectangular hoop. The difference in weight is really noticeable. How lucky are we that we have so many tools that we can find and use the appropriate one, depending on the application and how we feel?

Then there is this, my wonderful floor frame which I’m not quite as comfortable using for hand quilting but what a bonus it is for basting! I can put the quilt sandwich in it and baste that way. No more crawling on the floor to pin or breaking my back leaning over a table to baste.

I taught myself how to hand quilt mostly from books. These are two of my favourites. I picked up a lot of hints from the Jinny Beyer book Quiltmaking by Hand, some from That Perfect Stitch but I think the most important lesson I learned was from watching the Thimblelady’s DVD on hand quilting. I’ve developed my own method which is a combination of all of the above.

There’s one thing that I find makes a big difference for me and that’s using my index finger, rather than the middle finger, to rock the needle. I’ve often wondered if anyone else finds that it’s easier to quilt using their index finger. I find my hand doesn’t fatigue anywhere near as much.

What about you? How did you learn to hand quilt? What are your favourite tools and methods?

A Baxter close-up. He was reclining near a quilt book.

Why did I start quilting?

Over on Krisp-Quilt , the question is being asked. It really made me think.

From childhood, I was a knitter. I loved to knit and rarely was without a project on the go. I made lace tablecloths, lace scarves, big fishermen’s knit sweaters and everything in between. Then about 12 years ago, aggressive arthritis struck and I had to give it up. I was lost without a craft.

My cousin is a quilter and I had always been intrigued but figured there wasn’t a chance I could do that. After all, when I needed to sew on a button it became a very big deal! I had never used a sewing machine. It all seemed too foreign. The funny thing is I remember being in a big bookstore here, looking at one of the Elly Sienkiewicz Baltimore Album applique books and being absolutely enthralled. That was years before I even began to contemplate quilting. Little did I know!

However, desperation took hold and I took the plunge. One rainy Saturday afternoon DH and I were out doing errands on the same street as the LQS and we stopped there. I bought some supplies; a book, a rotary cutter, a mat, needles and thread and, of course, fabric. That evening I went through the exercise of washing and ironing my fabric, making templates, tracing them on to my fabric, cutting it out and started to stitch. My first block? Oh, it was dreadful. But I was hooked.

The following week saw me haunting bookstores and another LQS. I read and read and read some more. Then I started on a star quilt. It is truly dreadful — but I still love the fabrics I used in it. It never got quilted. Even as a total novice I could see it was dreadfully constructed! If nothing else, I’m sure the kitties will love it. LOL

I can’t even imagine what I was thinking now. When I look at this and see the great gaping holes in the middle of those stars, I shudder. I actually tried to fix a couple of them last night — unsuccessfully.

Since then? Well, since then I’ve learned tons and tons. I tend to learn best from books and at my own pace. I have some wonderful books in my quilt library but must say that my most treasured book and the one from which I think I learned the most is Linda Franz’ Quilted Diamonds 2. The DVD lesson that comes with that book is worth its weight in gold, in my opinion.

I have never been comfortable with machine piecing although I am fortunate enough to have two great sewing machines; my mother’s Featherweight and an older Pfaff Creative that is wonderful. Perhaps because I sit at a computer all day for work I find sitting at any type of machine for anything else seems altogether too much like work. But I found my niche! Hand piecing and, when I can, hand applique and hand quilting. And this past year I even started to do some hybrid blocks — utilizing both machine and hand piecing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely comfortable with machine stitching, but this is a step I never thought I’d take.

While my wrists are certainly not better, I count my blessings — I can hand piece even at the worst of times. During good times, I can applique and hand quilt (using the Thimblelady technique and thimble). I am very fortunate and know it. Tracing templates and rotary cutting were both things that I knew were going to be problems for me a few years ago. So when Inklingo came on the market, I was thrilled. Thanks to it, I can keep on quilting and have been able to make a wonderful king-sized quilt for us — I had seen the pattern for the quilt in an older issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting and had always wanted to do it but knew there was no way I could trace the templates on to fabric or paper for English paper piecing. The day I got my copy of Inklingo Collection 1 I started printing the hexagons and elongated hexagons for that quilt. And that is the reason I talk about Inklingo so much — it has meant I didn’t have to give up quilting as it was becoming apparent, the summer before it came out, that my quilting days were numbered.

I am amazed at and thrilled by the creativity of quilters and their beautiful creations. Wandering about quilting blogs is almost sensory overload some days. There are so many gorgeous quilts being made with so many techniques and so many wonderful fabrics that I’m constantly wanting to try something else.