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Would like some advice from hand-quilters

Would like some advice from hand-quilters

Old 01-04-2020, 04:52 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Napa County, California
Posts: 2
Default Would like some advice from hand-quilters

Hello, my name is Jen, I am from Northern California and I am back at trying to make some quilts after a long many years of not. I am interested in machine piecing and hand-quilting. I am starting again with a small table top quilt (a "table pad") and used some cotton batting, an "Aunt Becky's Finger Protector" and trying out a standard metal thimble. Just getting use to the thimble & finger protector is a new learning curve for me.

I like doing things old-fashioned way, involving ritual, but I won't say I'll not ever send off a pieced top to get long-arm machine quilted either. lol. I think if I do anything large, like a bed quilt, I surely will take to my local quilt shop to have it done with a machine.

For now, I am struggling with making my stitches small, and spaced closer together, although I am a very experienced crafter with needle, just getting a bit stiff in my joints, but I think more the problem is that the batting is not allowing me to do my best for the quilting. I think I've heard it called "metal to metal" hand-quilting? I'd like to know if there is an optimal natural batting for making excellent small stitches. I am fond of Amish style quilts as my husband is from Amish ancestors. I've heard of using fuzzy flannel, would that be better? I am wanting a bit of insulation though, for the table tops.

Also, I am not sure where or which forum to post for hand-quilting topics, as I don't want to get in the way and annoy the majority machine quilters, lol!

Lastly, not sure even which needles are the best for this type of quilting. Can you give me some advice?

I just hope to get involved here and will show off my most recent projects in my profile soon. Thank you.

Last edited by i:heart:quilts; 01-04-2020 at 05:00 PM. Reason: added text
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Old 01-04-2020, 05:28 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Waterford Michigan
Posts: 5,130

Welcome to the QB from SE Michigan. I do a lot of hand quilting. This includes the avatar under my name. The entire GMFG is hand quilted. I do not use a thimble or finger guard. Being left handed I find them very uncomfortable.
For a new hand quilter I would recommend something called "Tiger Tape" the marks on the tape are spaced exactly the distance you want between stitches. When I first started hand quilting it was the biggest help for me. The owner of a LQS suggested this to me and it was a life saver. I still use some from time to time when I am hand quilting for the first time in a while.
Needle size I usually use a smaller quilting needle with a slightly bigger eye. I find them easier to 'rock' back and forth and pull as I go.
And last of all you are in the right place! Just jump right in and enjoy the fun! Ask any questions you may have and share all your accomplishments here too.
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Old 01-04-2020, 05:31 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: western NY formerly MN, FL, NC, SC
Posts: 51,433

Welcome from western NY and happy quilting
I don't hand quilt, so can't advise you on that
Please post in the Main forum, we do not have a separate forum for hand quilting
Here are some previous threads:

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Old 01-04-2020, 06:15 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Central Ohio
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Welcome to the board!
I love to hand quilt. I am learning machine quilting as well but I adore hand quilting.
I use needles called "betweens". They are quite small but help to get a nice even stitch. I use size 10 but you can use smaller
or larger.
As with anything else it takes practice. I'm much better than I was when I started. I think going for even stitches is more important than tiny stitches if you are beginning.
I can't use metal thimbles at all. The only ones that work for me are leather. Everyone is different. I also use a hoop and
to baste I make large stitches, rather than using pins. There are so many ways to do it.
I hope you enjoy it here!

Forgot to mention batting- I love cotton or wool.
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Old 01-04-2020, 07:07 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Welcome from Ontario, Canada. I do mostly machine quilting now but I used to do a lot of hand quilting. Try for even stitches rather then small at first. As you get better you will be able to get more stitches per inch. I used a metal thimble with a ridge around the edge on my right hand to help load my needle. I am more comfortable loading my needle going from right to left so I choose designs to go that way. Use good quality hand quilting thread and Gutermann’s was my favourite. I liked to hand quilt in a lap hoop.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:17 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Central NJ
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Welcome from NJ. As others have said, your goal is evenly spaced stitches - not necessarily small. Your stitches will get smaller over time with lots more practice.

I, too, use 'between' needles for hand quilting. As well as specifically-labeled hand quilting thread. I use a metal thimble from Thimblelady. It is an open-ended thimble with nice dimples to hold the needle but you push with the pad of your finger vs the top. I don't use a protector for my under finger - just build up a callous, lol.

As to your cotton batting...I use 100% cotton batting (Warm & Natural) all the time. Many people find it hard to hand quilt through. I guess I've just never known any better/differently so I don't really have a problem with it. I do find using a 'thread conditioner' to help tremendously - not only with making it easier to pull the thread through the quilt sandwich but also to help reduce thread tangling. I use Thread Heaven. I believe it may have been discontinued or rebranded under another name but it can still be purchased but you might have to chase around some for it.

Wool and silk are also other great natural battings. Silk batting is very pricey so unless making an 'heirloom' quilt I would not spend the $$. But it does have a heavenly 'hand' to it.

Good luck with your projects and enjoy the process.
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Old 01-05-2020, 05:10 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Illinois
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I'm a machine piecer and hand quilter. SuzyQOH and I sound pretty much the same! I never learned to use a metal thimble--can't tell exactly where that needle is--but I use the leather thimble that has a metal circle in it. I believe Clover makes that one. I wore out a lot of the leather ones that didn't have the metal circle! I prefer quilting thread but, if the color I want isn't available, I use regular sewing thread. Quilting thread doesn't seem to tangle as much so is nice but I don't find the other objectionable. After all, it's intended for holding fabrics together! I use a 14" hoop that I purchased from JoAnn's many years ago but I don't think they carry it any more. One of my friends found one online--I believe Dritz makes it now? It's is a nice weight pvc sort of material and has a ridge inside the one hoop so it fastens down tight to grip the fabric. I use quilter's pins for basting and can move those around to avoid the hoop. I have an Aunt Becky but have never learned to use it. I've had a pretty sore underside finger over the years but am learning where that needle point is that I don't seem to stick myself as often. When that finger does get sore, I find rubbing a bit of antibiotic ointment into it at bedtime takes care of that. As to batting, I like a puffy quilt so always use poly batting. For a table topper you probably will prefer a flat batting though so I have no thoughts on how that quilts. When I'm ready to do the quilting, I set up a card table next to my sofa which is a bit tall and can prop the hoop between my lap and the table, put my supplies on the table and the excess quilt on the sofa next to me. (My kitty claims that part!) I like using this set-up as I can turn the hoop to best advantage for my hands/arms--no contortions! Too, it's portable so I can put it away if having visitors or I can take it with me if sewing with friends. Needles are the Tweens and you may experiment with that Go for evenness of your stitches. Tiny will come with practice. Once it's being used, nobody will notice if they aren't uniform or tiny--including yourself. Not long ago, I had reason to do a big stitch embellishment and it was kinda fun after working on the tiny part for so long. Enjoy the process!

At a time when so many are opting for machine quilting, it's nice to find that there are some of us who are still enjoying the art of hand quilting.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:02 AM
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Location: Yorkville, IL
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I use Betweens needles with the larger eye. As a lefty, I can’t seem to use a thimble. When my fingers get sore I use Udder Cream which helps a lot. I have actually altered my fingerprint so I can’t open my phone using it! I love hand quilting and actually belong to a group which meets every Wednesday. I have learned a lot from those quilters. I basically use Hobbs 80/20 batting though I love wool but my grandson is allergic to wool and he is my greatest fan. I use a 14” hoop at home or an antique frame the size of a card table. I use hand quilting thread and often wax it..easy and really stops the knots!

I melt Gulf wax in a coffee can that I sit in boiling water. When it is melted drop the thread in ( make sure you keep out an end ing of thread. Otherwise it will never be able to unwind,). Bubbles will come in the wax. When it stop bubbling remove the thread and set it on a paper towel to dry. It never knots and it is so nice to use.

Welcome to the board from Yorkville, Illinois.😁
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:04 AM
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I hand quilt because I never learned to machine quilt. I have found the fewer seams the better. I use whatever needle is in the pin cushion that works with the thread I'm using. The more you do, the smaller your stitches will become. Also, if you focus on each stitch, you will go crazy. Do a row, then step back and look. Concentrate on making your stitches even, not small. Also, big stitch or Japanese Sashiko quilting is beautiful. Be patient with yourself. Are you planning on using a hoop? Google hoop-less quilting for a different perspective.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:42 AM
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Location: Napa County, California
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Thank you All! Such helpful replies, I am not regretting having joined the forum. I guess I should be in experimental mindset with the metal-to-metal method; Aunt Becky's Finger Protector beneath on my left hand and a Betweens sharp needle on my right. Oh, and I forgot to mention that a new learning curve for me is that I am trying out a hoop for the first time, although it doesn't have a stand, I am working on a table top. It is 14" I found at a thrift shop and I don't know but for now I'm experimenting with tension with it. All those things are new to me, but I do know that if I keep at it, my stitches will look more even over time. I thought I should mention I found the method with this video a while back : Metal-to-Metal Hand Quilting with Sharlene Jorgenson & Jean Brown - YouTube

It seems to me that ergonomics and efficiency are the two E's that I strive for, knowing that I can't afford any new reasons to get joints or wrists sore, I like the smooth movements. But I am still finding my way.

Funny backstory; in about 2003 I got a beginner book on Amish quilting, called "An Amish Adventure" and started quilting --did some Amish style pot-holders and one small sampler machine pieced & hand quilted, then about 2008 jumped right in to a 100" x 100" quilt! I loved the way I pieced it, very beautiful, a center diamond with nine patch diamond, and bordered around the edge with nine-patch, ( I will replicated it again much much smaller). The piecing went so fast I was so over confident. So I basted it and (( the funny part...)) thought it a brilliant idea to use it while I stitched on it. Back then I use to read in bed so I thought it a fun idea to stitch a little each night. I thought maybe in a few months it would be finished. I didn't have even a thimble, or hoop, all just improvising from thin air. Well, maybe I pricked my fingers too many times, I don't remember, but I only got one small nine-patch stitched before I stopped all-together, distracted no doubt by some big life thing, but it never even saw a finish binding! I used it that way, basted, for 12 years, before a wildfire came and burned our house and all our things in 2017, and here I am, starting over with a mind to start small, (really small) stay within my ability, keep things ergonomic and user friendly, and most of all make the effort to finish.
So here I am getting the advice of the Tried & True before getting myself into any seemingly brilliant shortcuts. I say this with a smile and my confession is shared with a bit of laughter too.

Now living in our rebuilt house, two years after the wildfire, I have a small library of quilting books I've collected on Amazon used; the Civil War Legacies, which appeals to me because all of the quilts are so cozy and small...lol! But also I have made the effort to drive to the next county (me who abhors driving these days! ) and acquaint myself with the quilt shop there. I think the idea of throws stacked at the foot of every bed in the house appeals more to me than each bed being actually covered in a quilty head to foot, but there's me getting ahead, visualizing the house full of quilts.
Back to my little Amish coasters, and my coffee table quilt pad , a gift to my husband.

I will make another confession; I have been shopping online for two years while living in a tiny house on the property while the house was getting rebuilt (moved back into an almost-finished house Oct 4 only three months ago) and during my long wait, I shopped to recreate and refine my life in the new house again. I bought a bit too many jellyrolls and quilty things, including a little bag of vintage brass looking thimbles on ebay, which I had every intention to use , both in quilting and hand sewing for clothes, and well, they might not be the recessed tip kind (which in that video above, is the brilliant trick for loading the needle) but I thought, um, that I just might try taking a nail punch to the tip of one of them, and experiment in converting it to a recessed tip. I'll let you all know how that goes.

Oh, lastly, I had loved my mothers' 1970's Elna sewing machine, but lost it. I bought last year at this time totally spontaneous, a Singer 1947 table machine which I love, but already it seems the tension has gone wonky and I might be doing completley hand-pieced things until it is fixed. Just one thing after another, striving for a peaceful quiet life of making.
Thank you so much, and I'll be around.
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