Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simply Quilted

Have you been bitten by the hand quilting bug yet?

(No, this is NOT a photo of me as a child, as someone once asked me. THIS girl would be over 100 yrs old today.  I have a few wrinkles and gray hairs but I don't think I look quite that old, LOL.)


In the 19th century, quilts were by necessity hand quilted. While there are some antique quilts that were machine pieced toward the end of the 1800s when the treadle sewing machine made its way into more homes, most of the quilting was done by hand. Machine quilting shows up later, near the turn of the century. 

Inspired by simple, antique doll quilts and that soft, puckered look you really can't get from a machine, I actually hand quilted all of the quilts in my first 2 books, and the little ones in my 3rd, not because I am such a purist, but because it was much easier for me. I haven't ever really learned to machine quilt yet—never seemed to have the time to take a class or practice much. After making many, many small quilts on deadline for my books, simple hand stitching always seems the easiest way to get them done so that they have that old-fashioned look.

If I use a simple quilting design, it usually takes a couple of evenings or a week at most to finish a small quilt and is VERY relaxing. If I machine quilted one and ruined it, uh oh, I wouldn't have the time to fix it or make another one in time. If the hand quilting stitches are less than perfect or a little quirky, oh well. Antique doll quilts were not perfect either. I will win no prizes for my doll quilts. But they sure are cute.

Years ago, when I first began making doll quilts for my daughter, I bought some cute preprinted panels of little quilts (some call them "cheater quilts") and found that they were a perfect way to practice my hand quilting stitches without messing up a quilt I'd pieced. If the quilt looks a little puffy, that's because I used polyester batting and it was made before I discovered thin, 100% cotton batting for that antique look. (Stay tuned for another blog entry on that soon.)

In addition to little doll quilts, my next book will include a couple of large quilts—lap and wall quilts. Needless to say, I will not have time to quilt them myself. That's the bad thing about deadlines for a book. I really would love to take the time to hand quilt some of the larger ones too but when I'm making 14 or 16 quilts, the schedule does not permit it. So those will be expertly machine quilted by someone else to make sure they look really good. Can't wait to show everyone the designs I'm working on. When I retire from designing quilts and writing books (that is, when you all stop buying them!), I'll look forward to taking the time, no rush, to hand quilt even some of the bigger ones.

I'm clearly not an expert and my stitches could be a little smaller and straighter, but it sure is fun and I love the look of a little quilt that's hand quilted. If you haven't taken the time to do any hand quilting, try it out on a little doll quilt--it doesn't have to be heavily quilted--try just a straight stitch or Xs in the blocks to get yourself going.

Don't worry too much about the size of your stitches when you're first starting out. You can try using Tiger Tape, which you place along the line you want to quilt as a guide to follow--it has tiny marks to help your stitches stay evenly spaced. Helps me with eyestrain. Even a little bit of hand quilting gives a special look to a quilt. And, don't forget, if you make a mistake, it will only add to the charm.
This one was started last year and is quilted in the ditch and in the plain blocks, but I got too busy to finish the quilting and it's going to have to wait.

News Flash: Just heard that Remembering Adelia is now going into its THIRD printing (which simply means it sold out of all copies printed for the second time and they had to print more to keep up with demand). A big THANK YOU to all of you for purchasing the book. (My son in college thanks you too . . . .)

FYI--I will be in Westlake, Ohio next Tues and Wed, Oct 13-14, for a lecture/trunk show and workshop hosted by the North Coast Needlers Guild, followed by a lecture/trunk show in Cambridge Springs, PA on Wed, Oct 14 for the Northwest Pennsylvania Quilt Study Group. Will I see any of you there?  I have scaled back on trips and this is the last one until next spring, when I'll be finished with the book.


libbyquilter said...

love the look of hand quilting and i agree with you; it doesn't (shouldn't~!~) be perfect as that is what gives a hand quilted quilt the look of "humanity" which is one of the best things about quilts~!!~ i always think of my hand quilting as the way that i "breathe/stitch a spirit" into the quilt top . . . it looks so much more "alive" when i'm finished . . .
also really enjoyed seeing the vintage/antique photos in this post~!~


busymom said...

Thanks for encouraging people to try their hand at hand quilting. I find it so relaxing and rewarding. I can even take small projects on the go with me. Congratulations on the third printing of Remembering Adelia. I love the book! Looking forward to seeing you next week at your lecture.

Shasta said...

These are beautiful quilts, and you are right, hand quilting does add a lot. I really enjoy hand quilting once I get some practice in - it takes me a minute to remember how to do it.

Shasta said...

Congrats on your third printing!

Kathleen Tracy said...

Thank you! I know what you mean--after I've been away from hand quilting for a little bit I feel like it takes me awhile to get into it again too.

Edie in Harlingen, TX said...

Love your books, and congratulations on the third printing. I love to hand quilt, love every bit of the process (except my sore underneath finger!), the feel of the fabric, and the needle gliding through the layers, and the reassuring repetition. As to the length of the stitches, well I keep this John Ruskin quote in my sewing room: All things are literally better, lovelier and more beloved for the imperfections that reflect the human effort that went into their making.


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