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Thread: HELP--Questions regarding hand work

  1. #1
    Super Member Raggiemom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Cincinnati, OH

    HELP--Questions regarding hand work

    I always machine quilt but have been thinking about trying some hand quilting on smaller projects. However, I have no idea what to do! I have a few questions and hoped someone would be able to answer them for me.

    1. When hand quilting, what stitch do you use? Does it matter what thread and size needle? Can you just hold the project in your lap or do you need a hoop? (the project in mind this time is crib size)

    2. Is hand applique done in the hoop? What stitch is used for that?

    I may have other questions later, I hope no one minds. I really would like to do this right.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Northern, Utah
    Go to u-tube an check for tutorials. They help a lot and also a lot of the quilt sites have tutorials.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    N.E. England
    I use a "betweens" needle it is very sharp and small just over an inch long. You are supposed to use a rocking motion and get anything upto 12 stitches on the needle at a time. I am nowhere near that but what you need to aim for is consistency of size of stitches. I am a relative novice at handquilting but really like it although I have had real problems trying to find a suitable thimble. I have only worked on small pieces and just hold the fabric in my hand, tried once with a loop but could not seem to manage it. Hope that helps.

  4. #4
    Super Member Jan in VA's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Piedmont Virginia in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mtns.
    When you first start handquilting, it often feels like trying to rub your head and pat your tummy and dance a jig, all at the same time! Persevere, it WILL come to you. Practice makes perfect.

    Consistency of stitch length is more important than number of stitches per inch, absolutley! 12 stitches to the inch is considered "museum quality", but 9-10 is highly prized as well. Nonetheless, 6-7 stitches all of equal length and equal between stitches is completely acceptable and makes a beautiful quilt.

    There is a method of handquilting called "big stitch" quilting that uses a larger thread and a larger needle (necessary because the small eye of the "betweens" won't take the larger threads very well). This stitch is most like Japanese sashiko quilting stitches. Aiming for 5-7 per inch stitches is fine.

    I most often use this big stitch method now because of arthritis/nerve-related hand, muscle, nerve issues. I like the size 3, 5, 7 Richard Hemming brand of large-eye Betweens for my threads. These betweens are longer and larger and easier to thread than other betweens. I can feel them better with my fingers. Occasionally I use a small sashiko needle. Use whatever makes the smallest hole with an eye that you can thread.

    I use many different threads for my big stitch work: #10 weight crochet thread (yep!); #30 Sulky cotton thread; #8 or #12 perle (balls) embroidery threads; occasionally sashiko thread when I can find it cheaply enough online. I personally don't use the skeins of embroidery floss because I would want to use 2 or 3 strands of the thread and I don't care for the separation that can occur in the stitches when I separate into strands.

    I use a 14" or 16" wooden hoop to hold my project. Many people can handquilt without a hoop; I am not one of them! I always hand baste the layers of the quilt with thread rather than pins because I don't like how my quilting thread gets caught on the pins. I turn the backing to the front and baste that down to stablize the edges and hide the batting while I quilt. This prevents the soles of my Reeboks from grabbing the batting, which they seem to love to do!

    I use a rocking stitch, threading usually no more than 2 stitches onto my needle at a time. I can not use a thimble but use my fingernail instead because I already can't feel anything with my fingertips and hardly know when I have the needle in my hand as it is. Loading more than 2 stitches is difficult to push without a thimble.
    On the rare occasions when I do wear a thimble I prefer my leather one over all the others I've tried over the decades. Thimbles are one of those VERY individual preferences, decide on your own.

    Enjoy the process; I promise you will get better the longer you practice it.

    Jan in VA
    Jan in VA
    Living in the foothills
    peacefully colors my world.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Sturbridge, Ma
    When I want to hand quilt fast I put one stitch on the needle at the time. There is no requirement that you put 12 stitches on the needle. It is what you are comfortable with. A good book is "How To Learn TO Hand Quilt In A Day" (and practice for the rest of your life) by Nancy Brenan Daniel. Alex Anderson has a good book on hand quilting as well. One must adapt to one's own limitations and comfort. Learn the basics and then adapt. Thimbles are another story which woud take three of these pages. Some can't use them and others can. If you can't then put a dab of "new skin" on the tip of your finger. It will help protect from the sharpness of the needle.

  6. #6
    Super Member Beachbound's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Mount Dora Florida
    I use a hoop as well, I like the fact that I can check the back & smooth out any bumps before I do each section. I like a #10 needle, I tried the #12 needle but I was breaking the darn needles so fast I went back to my #10s. Personally I only put about 4 stitches on the needle at a time. That way I can keep checking the rear of the needle to the stitch line & make sure I am going straight. Also I put a little piece of ThumbEase under my thumb nail near the side because I stop the needle underneath with my thumb. I have had some very sore thumbs before I realized they made a product to help that! I've tried all kinds of thimbles for my middle finger & I like a good metal one. I found one at a quilting store that I adore....if the store wasn't out of business I would go buy a few back up ones. Same with my hoop, ya would think that they are all alike but nope! not even a little bit!!! Good luck, I love hand work but wish I was better at machine quilting~ it's all a challenge!

    As for hand appilque, it is not done in a hoop & I use the blind stitch. The key is to take tiny stitches, just a tiny bite into the fabric and use matching thread.
    .* .*)) -::-
    -::- ((.* .*((.. *-::- ...

  7. #7
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    I have tried so many thimbles I have lost track. The only one I really like is the plastic adjustable one (here is a pic http://www.amazon.com/Collins-C87-Pl.../dp/B000YQIXWC ) You can get them at WM or Joannes. I even got a few at a Tuesday morning a while back. I use it on my middle finger. My next favorite is the leather one. I got a large for my thumb for quilting bottom to top.

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    I am a hand quilter, and I do the rocking stitch. I quilt in a 14 inch round hoop in my lap and I also have a 14 inch square hoop on a stand. I use a #12 Clover Gold Eye Quilting Between needle and YLI hand quilting thread. I used Roxanne's thimble as well as Thimblelady for years. I just recently purchased a T. J. Lane, which I really, really like. Roxanne and Thimblelady's are are heavier than the T.J.Lane. Whatever thimble you choose make sure it has deep dimples so it will hold the needle when making the rocking stitch. I stitch with the pad of my finger rather than the end -- less stress on my hand.

    When purchasing a hoop make sure it's a quilting hoop, not an embroidery hoop. I was told to measure the length between the bend in my elbow to my fingers and that is the size hoop I should use. However, I know some people have a larger hoop and it works well for them. I would start out with a #9 or #10 between needle until you learn the stitch. Then as you get comfortable you can try smaller needles (the larger the number the smaller the needle). Your thread should be for hand quilting 40 wt. It is waxed and slides in and out of the fabric easier. I prefer YLI hand quilting thread however I haven't tried many others -- Mettler and Gutterman -- liked neither of those. I have heard that King Tut is a good hand quilting thread. I may try that one day.

    I recommend a book or DVD or both called "That Perfect Stitch" by Roxanne McElroy. That is the method I learned. Thimblelady has a book and a DVD with a different method. You can google her and find a short video with her demonstrating her method. I tried it, but just couldn't get it to work for me. But that was after I learned the rocking stitch.

    I also do needleturn applique. You do not need a hoop for this. I recommend any of Elly Sienkiewicz's books. Jeanne Sullivan has a new book "Simply Successful Applique" on preturned applique. Jeanne is one of the teacher's at Elly's Applique Academy that's held each year in Williamsburg,VA. There are other books on applique as well as a multitude of videos online.

    I warn you, however, if you like hand work at all once you try either of these skills, you will be hooked. It takes time and you will at first feel like you have ten thumbs, but one day it will all click.

    Happy quilting.

  9. #9
    Junior Member SandyWh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Ocala Florida
    Blog Entries
    All good advise. I can't add much to any of this except to say be patient and keep at it. It's well worth the effort.

  10. #10
    Power Poster earthwalker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Perth, Western Australia
    Yep, everyone's got it covered.

    I hand-quilt without a hoop and same goes for hand applique. I won't explain my quilting technique as it has evolved rather strangely due to arthritis (but it works for me). When appliqueing match the thread colour to the piece you are appliqueing not the background, the tinier the stiches the better.

    Don't be too hard on yourself in the beginning....like everything else practice makes perfect....so keep at it. Handwork is amazingly therapeutic, so hop in and give it a try.....don't let it become a lost art.

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