by, 08-23-2011 at 10:21 PM (646 Views)
A) I've learned so far:
1. The short needles make rocking easier.
2. A thimble not only protects your finger, but assists in controlling the stitch length (not sure exactly how; I just know that I get better results when I use a thimble).
3. The Gold Standard is 12 stitches per inch
B) What you need to do is stack the deck for smaller stitches. To do this, I use certain things that have worked well for me:
1. Needles: I use a size 11 between. Right now, I like John James and Richard Hemmings. It is worth trying different needles because they react differently to pressure. For example, my last batch of Roxanne betweens slipped through the sandwich so quickly I stabbed my finger.
2. Thimble: I use a Roxanne or a TJ Lane thimble. They both have deep dimples that hold the needle without letting it slip around. Slipping = long stitches.
3. Batting: I get the smallest stitches when I use polyester batting, although I do a good job with cotton too. My experience with Warm and Natural hasn't been good, so I avoid any batting with scrim.
4. Backing: I use muslin. While I love to use batiks on the top and have no trouble hand quilting them, batik on the back is too much stiffness.
5. Tension: when I have the sandwich in the hoop or on the frame, I keep it loose. If it is too tight, there is not enough flex in it to make a good stitch. If you use a hoop, it should look like the cat just sat on it.
6. Stitches: Stitching on the bias is easier than on the straight of grain. If you stitch on the straight of grain, loosen the tension even more.
7. Practice: I didn't start out quilting 12 stitches per inch. I got there over time. Even now I still read anything I find on hand quilting and try new needles, because I never know when I'll find a hint that will make my hand quilting even better.
C) Wool batting is great for hand quilting, it's very easy to needle and gives a more "puffier" look than cotton. There are also different cotton and cotton blend battings available for hand quilting. I like to use Hobbs or Legacy 80/20 for my quilts.
D) The main things I have noticed are:
1. Use a thin needle.... #9, 10, 11. Some glide through the fabric better than others. I've had some break.... be careful.
2. I use a leather thimble with a 'coin' at the tip. The needle doesn't slip as much.
3. Don't make the sandwich to tight. Looser allows you to move the needle up and down more easily.
4. Use a thinner batting. The thicker the sandwich, the longer the stitches will be.
E) I highly recommend quilters dream cotton batting using the select or request loft. I have a lot of quilts quilted with that and the stitches show just fine. I also love wool batting, but it is much pricier than cotton or poly. A good poly batt is Thermore by Hobbs.