I am no longer actively blogging here but I’d love if you could join me at my new creative lifestyle blog A Girl in Paradise.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quilting by Hand

There is nothing more relaxing than quilting by hand...well to me anyways.  Sometimes I feel it is a lost art.  Now it seems we are slaves to the machine.  Don't get me wrong machine quilting definitely has its place, but I must admit sadly we are not friends.  I am sure if machine quilting came easy to me I would be singing a different tune, but it doesn't, so I much prefer to sit in my comfy chair with my quilt and a good movie, than sitting at my machine cursing the thread that keeps breaking.

To get started you will need a few things,
  1. a good hoop - preferably a large one so you won't have to re-hoop as often
  2. needles - there are ones made special for hand quilting; use a fresh needle for every quilt
  3. 100% cotton thread - I like to use thread that is made for hand quilting, it doesn't tangle as easy as regular cotton thread
  4. thimble - you will need to find one that fits you comfortably
  5. a small pair of scissors - really any pair will do but a small pair will be more convenient
  6. something to mark your quilt - on my current quilt I am using a making pen and small ruler, but painters tape, stencils, and or drawing something free hand will also work.  Once I even used star shaped cookie cutters.

To start, thread a needle with a length of thread that is about the length of your forearm, double, and knot at the end.  Insert your needle through the top layer of your quilt, just outside your quilt line and bring your needle out on the quilt line.  Pull the needle out and gently pop the knot through so it is hidden beneath the fabric.

Technically I do this step "wrong" but bear with me because here is where you will find your own rhythm and style.  Most quilters will "rock" the needle by pushing the needle, with their middle finger, in and out of  all 3 layers of the quilt towards themselves, but this was uncomfortable, so I "rock" the needle with my thumb and push it away from me.   

Regardless of the finger, or direction you use, you will rock the needle up and down, or in and out, all the layers of your quilt, loading about 3 or 4 stitches on your needle before you push it through.  This is where your thimble comes in handy because your finger (or thumb) will need a little protection when pushing that needle through all that fabric.  Also, because of the thickness of a quilt I will place my other hand under the quilt and help guide the needle along. 

When you reach the end of your thread, or the end of the line, you will need to secure the ends.  To do this simply knot your thread at the last stitch.  Then slip your needle back  into the same hole your thread is coming out of and push your needle through the top layer of the quilt just outside your quilt line, and gently pop the knot through, so the knot disappears in between the layers of the quilt.  Then snip the thread where it exits the fabric, being careful not to cut the fabric.  Trust me, you only make that mistake once. 

I am aware this is a very time consuming process but if you have a quilt that you are making for yourself and you don't have any time constants, hand quilting can be very therapeutic and relaxing after a long day. 

Let me know how it goes.  I would love to hear from you.


  1. I have been hand quilting one of my quilts for a while. I start and stop because my finger gets so sore! I am still pretty bad at getting even stitches.

  2. I'm hand quilting my 4th quilt since last October. I had my machine all set up to give it another chance with this one and then had 2nd thoughts. I just don't like cramming a quilt though that little space. My machine is old as well - afraid of doing her in once and for all. I do plan to try quilt-as-you-go soon. My fingers that stop the needle from making stitches too big have been jabbed a million times and need to recover. Need to learn better method!

  3. I have done a bit of hand quilting and found it quite enjoyable - once I found a thimble I felt comfortable with. With all of my handsewing I have done I have quite the callus built up from all of the needle stabs so I hardly feel it anymore. Your stitching is beautiful. Thanks for the tutorial.

  4. I used to hand quilt all my quilts but with age I am finding hand quilting more difficult. My hands hurt when I do it. I always marveled at my mother who hand pieced and hand quilted all her quilts. They are all still in the family. I hope mine last as long.

  5. I'd love to do this, someday. Thanks for sharing how!

  6. I'm going back & reading your posts over time! I made a little blanket for Alex-which he actually seems to enjoy using-and am now working on a little picture lapquilt for my sister's anniversary gift. And maybe a family tree quilt this year-thats going to have to be hand appliqued. (I dream big) Your blog is so pretty, with fun projects and great information!

  7. I can imagine that would be therapeutic! Love your leather thimble too!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a great weekend!

    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  8. You are right about being a slave to a machine. There is something about "truly handmade"...

    Thanks for linking to Creative Juice Thursday. I hope to see you back with more ideas this week...

  9. Thanks for sharing some great info. I much prefer the look of hand quilting to machine quilting, although I haven't tried to hand quilt yet. I have been working on hand piecing, and sometimes it is so much more simple to use just a needle and thread than all sorts of fancy gadgets and machines. Peaceful, too.

  10. Hi, I am making my first quilt (small project, a sofa throw for myself). I would like to try to quilt it by hand. Did I understand correctly that as I quilt, my thread will be doubled?

    1. I have done only 4 quilts and I use the double thread. Rock Hill SC


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