How to Hand Quilt
Want to learn how to hand quilt?
Learning how to hand quilt can seem daunting at first. The trick is to find out about the correct equipment to use and to find a hand quilting technique that suits you (yes there are more than one). Here are my recommendations for you.
My tips for hand quilting success:
Use a fine quilting needle, I recommend number 12 clover quilting needles (don't panic when you see how small they are) Here's a photo of them for you.
Use a good quality quilting thread. For years I used Gutermann hand quilting thread until I came across the the brand shown below YLI. It is much softer to work with, I love it.
The spools above are Gutermann, a big benefit is that they come in lots of colour choices
This is the brand I use now.
A hand hint is to place a rubber band around the spool to stop it from unwinding.
There is much debate about whether to use a quilting hoop or not. I find hoops very useful if hand quilting around shapes. The quilt can be turned in different directions easily, while stabilizing the quilt.
If I am quilting a row I roll the quilt firmly and then quilt towards myself unrolling the quilt as I work.
The mistake a lot of people make is how they place the quilt in the hoop, I'm convinced this is why many find hoops difficult to work with. Although it looks like a huge embroidery hoop, don't let this confuse you. The quilt should be very loose in the hoop, NOT taut like a piece of fabric for embroidery.
To get ready for hand quilting, place the hoop all the way over the quilt and then push down in the centre so that the hoop comes up flush with the sides
You can see here how I have pushed the hoop right over the edge of the hoop underneath.
Although it is not easy to see, there is a dip in the centre. If I picked the quilt up it would be floppy in the hoop.
Always remove the hoop when not in use.
There are a variety of ways to mark your quilting design onto your quilt. If you are using a pattern like a heart, scroll or flower you will need to trace this onto you quilt before basting. Use a sharp lead pencil or washable marker.
Stencils can be purchased for this or you can trace a drawn pattern using a light box. I prefer to free hand quilt or use 1/4" quilting tape. (shown in the photo above) The 1/4" allowance ensures that you do not quilt through the thickness of the seam allowance. It can be doubled to give a 1/2" allowance or used in a long length to form a diagonal line when cross hatching a quilt (working diagonal rows).
Now for the big surprise...when I hand quilt I do not hold onto the needle with my fingers. WHAT! I hear you all say.
The secret to perfect hand quilting without pain is all in the thimble and your technique.
You may have seen thimbles like these:
These thimbles are good but not ideal for hand quilting.
These, on the other hand, are my secret tools of the trade.
The silver thimble is for holding the needle. You will notice that it has deeper indents than a normal thimble. The other green thimble if for gripping the needle. These can be purchased from a newsagent or stationery supply shop.
The silver thimble quilting thimble was designed by a very clever woman called Luixin Newman known as "The Thimble Lady" I attended one of her workshops years ago and learned her technique. It opened a whole new world of hand quilting to me. I can now hand quilt for hours without any pain and it is much quicker than any other technique I have tried.
The great news is that she has a website if you would like to learn her amazing technique as well. She has some free videos that you may find useful. Here's the link for you, click here
To be honest, it took me a while and lots of practice to master Luixin's technique. At first it seemed awkward, but I'm very grateful I persisted. It reminded me of learning how to knit for the first time or perhaps like learning how to ride a bike.
Remember don't give up, practice makes perfect and before long you will be able to hand quilt like an expert. Once you get the knack it's really quite easy.
Here are a few photos of me hand quilting.
This step is very important, notice how upright my needle is. This ensures that the needle passes through all layers and is essential for perfect stitches on the back.
Use a running stitch for hand quilting.
This graphic shows loading up my stitches, I can normally get 4-5 stitches on at once. Before discovering this technique I could only work 2 at a time, which means it's twice as fast!
Notice how the thimble is holding the needle, not my fingers which is why they don't get sore.
Because all the stitches are covering the small needle, the tip of the needle is grabbed with the rubber thimble. I would not be able to pick it up without it.
The last ingredient I should mention is how to start and finish. Use a quilter's knot in your thread.
(I demonstrate this knot in my embroidery resource, click here for more details).
Start from the front and pass the needle down and along, through the batting so that you catch a very small amount of backing fabric (this is important). Come up where you would like to start and then tug the thread firmly so that the knot passes down underneath the fabric.
This should be easy providing your knot is the correct size.
When finishing, take the thread to the back and form a loop, pass your needle through this, place your finger over the knot as it is formed. This will make your thread knot close to the fabric. Pass your needle back down into the batting and run it along and back up, tug the thread again so that the knot is underneath the fabric and embedded in the batting.
Hope you have found this "how to hand quilt" information useful.