Thursday, August 18, 2016

Quilting with Stencils

Small quilts that are quilted very simply really appeal to me. I'm in the process of hand quilting one of the quilts for my doll quilt club right now. So forgive me if I repeat myself by blogging about it again and again.




If you haven't tried hand quilting, what's stopping you? Little quilts are perfect for practicing your hand quilting. I think it really adds something to these small projects and I always like to do my part to encourage quilters to try it. Even if the first one you try isn't all that good, keep at it and you'll get better. When I've been away from it for awhile and then pick it up again those first few lines of stitching are a little less straight than I'd prefer. But it comes back quickly and you pick up a certain rhythm if you do it long enough and get in the "zone." Straight-line quilting is often easy enough for beginners and if that doesn't quite do it for you, you can always try a quilting stencil to add a little more to your quilt.

Quilting stencils are easy to use with a water soluble marking pen or other type of fabric marker. Your local quilt shop probably carries stencils in different sizes along with marking tools. You can often find stencils at booths when you shop at the larger quilt shows. You can also find them online. The Stencil Company sells a nice variety of stencils for small quilt blocks and borders.


This little wavy stencil is one of my favorites and I like to use it often. Simple, but a little bit special without overpowering the border.

I don't ever plan on winning any prizes in a show for my hand quilting. I'm not afraid to admit that I still enjoy making things even if I'm not perfect at them. If I waited until I did things perfectly I'd never make anything! A friend of mine said she thought all hand quilting was always supposed to be done free hand (Lord no!) and so she was hesitant to try it because she had no skills and was afraid she'd never get her lines straight. 

If this is what's keeping you from trying it - take advantage of tools that make quilting easier. There's a product called Tiger Tape that really helps you learn to space your stitches evenly if you're just beginning. You line up the tape along the place you want to stitch and then follow the markings on the tape to keep your stitches in line. If it helps you stitch straighter lines, why not use it? There's no rule that says quilting has to be done a certain way except among the purists or if you're entering your quilt in a show. Then, of course, it matters and it should be perfect. But, if you're just beginning and hesitant to try for this reason - remember, in the 19th century, some wonderful antique quilts were hand quilted. If you take a close look, you'll see that not all of them were necessarily quilted with exceptional skill. Even the average quilter hand quilted her quilts. We all have to begin somewhere and the point is to enjoy the process. You get better with practice. 


If you do become inspired to try hand quilting, you can try several different pens or pencils to mark your stitching lines. I've tried but don't especially care for the colored lead pens or pencils. I've also tried a chalk marker but didn't like that very much either. But that's just me. I have not tried a Frixion pen yet. Despite my preferences, some of these may be good options for you so try them and see. You need to find what works best for YOU. After trying several different products, I prefer to use a use a fine-point washable quilt marking pen and have found several made by the Clover company that work well and wash out nicely. I use a Clover blue water-soluble marking pen on lighter fabrics and a Clover white pen for marking my darker fabrics. 



Here's a tip: Whichever marking tool you try, follow the directions on the package.  If you decide to use a washable marker, after you finish quilting, do not press or place your quilt in the dryer until you are sure that all of the markings have been washed out. I have almost ruined a quilt by not being careful. Depending upon the pen, some markings will be set with HEAT and won't come out easily. (The Frixion pen markings apparently disappear with heat and reappear when cold so again, check the directions.) Just take your time, put on your glasses so you can see the lines (that's a reminder to myself!) and gently wash the top of the quilt with a damp cloth until all of the markings are off. Then, let it air dry. If you can still see some marks, wash it again.

If you think hand quilting is difficult, try it before you decide it's not for you. It really doesn't have to be perfect - you will get better with practice. Or, maybe, like me, you'll find that it won't matter if your stitches aren't perfect. My intentions are always good, but sometimes quirky, childlike stitches suit me just fine. 


Border stencils that measure 2 or 2.5 inches are perfect for quilting the borders of small quilts.



You can also find stencils in many different sizes that match the size of your blocks. 


Go ahead -  mark the lines with your preferred marking tool.


Then, stitch on the lines with quilting thread (more on that topic next week). 

Follow the directions on the pen or pencil to erase or wash off the markings. I always play it safe and use cold water instead of hot when I wash mine. The little quilt you see above is one of my favorites and it's included in my new book. I took my time last year while I was making all of those quilts and had fun quilting most of them by hand.  

If I use a simple quilting design, it usually takes a couple of evenings or a week at most to finish a small quilt if I keep at it every day. I am clearly not an expert and my stitches could be a little smaller and straighter for sure but it's still so much fun to sit and stitch and see what the quilting adds to finishing a quilt.  It doesn't have to be heavily quilted - straight lines or Xs are perfectly fine. Even a little bit of hand quilting will give a special look to your quilt. As a matter of fact, I prefer less rather than more quilting on my quilts so it doesn't detract from the quilt as a whole. And, don't forget, if you make a mistake or find that your stitches are quirky or a little less than perfect - Oh well, try not to worry too much. Antique doll quilts were not perfect either. We're just having fun here.




 Papa's Shirts doll quilt club patterns for August were mailed out early this week so they should be arriving in your mailbox soon. 





23 comments:

Susan said...

Thanks so much for all the tips and encouragement. I'd just like to add that when I use a wash-out blue marker like you use I spray the marks with a mister afterwards. The marks disappear without a trace, and I don't have lint on my quilt from using a wet cloth.

Sue Bennett said...

Great tips Kathy. I love that star quilt. Beautiful fall colors.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Susan - what a great idea!

Molly and Mackie said...

Great tips! You mini-quilts are just beautiful and so adorable!

Anonymous said...

You may have convinced me to give it a try. although I would rather do most anything than hand stitching, but yours look so nice. Maybe!

Sue Kutil said...

Just finished my basket quilt and was about to attempt to hand quilt it...your advice came just in time, thanks!

Maxine said...

Kathy do you pre wash all your fabrics ?

Vickie Lewis said...

Do you use a hoop or something like that to do your hand quilting? Or just baste it with thread and do lap quilting? I keep saying I am going to try to do a small hand quilted quilt, like you said start small and just try! Thanks, love your work!

jec said...

Hi Kathy...I am looking forward to your next post when I hope you will go into some detail about your preference of threads, needles and thimbles or no thimbles. I just finished my baskets but I went the machine route but do look forward to trying the hand quilting after reading your post. Thanks for a wonderful thoughtful post. watching the mailbox....janet

Quilts, Etc said...

Kathy, these are great tips. I sometimes ma hine quilt my small quilts but am trying to ear back into hand quilting. I bought a sashiko machine that makes a very nice "pseudo" hand stitch. It is fast when I am in a hurry. My problem is I have too many things that I love to come! But you are inspiring me to get back io the handwork!

Cindy in Kansas said...

Every time you post pictures of those stencils, it ends up costing me a bunch of money. Just kidding. I love having them available.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Maxine - I have good intentions and try to wash my fabrics after I buy them but that doesn't always happen . . .

Kathleen Tracy said...

Vickie - I do not use a hoop. I pin baste and quilt them on top of a lap desk that sits on top of a pillow on my lap : ) The lap desk supports my wrists.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Janet - I like to use YLI hand quilting thread in light brown. I'll write more about that in a few days.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Cindy - I love that the stencils are so cheap so I have built up quite a collection! More than I have used or probably ever will use . . .

Jennifer M said...

Great information Kathy and hand quilting does get easier and consistency comes along. I love hand quilting these little quilts and who knows, one day I may be proficient enough to hand quilt a little larger quilt:) Lovely quilts and as I was admiring your quilts and spotted a new one I hadn't seen before, I wondered if it could be one from your new book and sure enough you confirmed that YAY! Thanks for all you do and inspire us too!

Kathleen Tracy said...

Thanks for all the nice comments! Please don't think I am opposed to machine quilting. I'd love to try one of those sashiko machines someday. I do not think hand quilting is necessarily better than machine quilting - it's just easier for me. If I were better at machine quilting I'd probably do that more often especially if I wanted to finish something fast. But I'd still mix it with the hand stitching.

Kleine Vingers said...

Thank you for this lovely post. I love handquilting and I just agree that you just try. And trying quilting a small quilt is easier then a big one. Many greetings

ES said...

I'm might buy some tiger tape to help me out as I'm a beginner:)

Karen Andreola said...

Thank you for your encouragement that: Anything really worth doing - is worth doing imperfectly. I can relate. I'm looking forward to hand-quilting my Cherry Baskets. The basket handles came out slightly irregular but this imperfection will lend the quilt a quaint homemade look.

Rosa said...

Thanks for all the tips.I`m a stencils lover and I use a square hoop for handquilting.

Wishing you a fun day.

Chris said...

I have just started hand quilting my first doll quilts. Your tips I will keep in mind, What should the back of a quilt look like? Sometimes my stitches look like I skipped stitches. Love your blog.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Chris - I think most quilters just starting out will have stitches on the back that are missed. Slow down and work on getting your stitches even first and then worry about the back. If you use a busy print on the back no one will even notice the stitches on the back. No one should expect you to be absolutely perfect at first. You'll get better with practice.

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