Over the 4th of July weekend, Grandma Georgia taught me how to hand quilt.
I have to admit the setting was quite pioneer-esque.
John and Grandpa Kenny were out hauling hay and we women were enjoying the afternoon together preparing fourth of July food and hand quilting.
Talk about going back in time for a day!
My friend Meredith was given a quilting frame and she passed it onto me. This was the first time I used the frame and it worked great! Plus, there is no better price than free, right?
Today, I wanted to share the things that Grandma Georgia taught me about hand quilting.
First, a few pictures…just so you can go back in time with us!
- Buy hand quilting thread. It is stiffer than traditional threads and helps the quilting process.
- Buy hand quilting needles. These needles are thin and short, which allow them to pass through the layers of fabric easily. The short length also makes the needles easier to manipulate.
- Buy a quilt backing that is soft and supple. As always, pre-wash the backing. These steps will help your needle move through the fabric easily.
- Buy a quilting thimble. There are several items available on the market today, from adhesive leather stick-ons to rubber thimbles. However, Grandma Georgia recommends a traditional metal thimble that has a “waffle-like” grid on the top and a metal lip around the edge. The grid and lip help hold the needle as you manipulate it through the fabric. Be sure to try on the thimble before you buy it, there are several size options. You want a snug fit.
- Hand-baste or pin the backing, batting and top. Seek advice on number of pins and preparation in a quilting reference book.
- Set up your quilting frame in a comfortable, well-lit space.
- Determine your quilting pattern. If you are following the outline of the pieces, you have two options: stitching in the ditch or stitching about a ¼ inch outside of each seam. We prefer the second option, because the pretty stitching is more visible.
- Tie a small knot in your thread. Do not double the thread, one strand is plenty. Work with about 25 inches of thread at a time.
- Tug the knot through the top layer of the quilt, so it is no longer visible on the quilt top.
- Always start away from your body and quilt toward your body. For some reason, this is much easier than quilting in the direction away from your body.
- Place your non-dominant hand on the bottom side of the quilt to make sure you are quilting through all three layers. Use your hand to feel for the needle and thread on the bottom side.
- To finish take two or three hidden “back stitches” in the opposite direction. No need to tie off the thread, the back stitches will hold it in place. Seek more advice on this step in a quilt reference book.
I think the most important tip of all is: have patience! At first, your stitches will be uneven and larger than you would like (like mine). Grandma Georgia tells me, “By the time you get this quilt done, you’ll have it down!” Good luck with your hand quilting project!
Do you hand quilt?
Can you add any tips for a beginner like me?
I’ve heard some people rave about the leather adhesive “thimbles” – do you use those? How do they work?
I have used leather thimbles and like them because I can feel the way the needle is faced more easily.
It was nice to see pictures of your grandmother and to see her talents.
Use the leather thimble have wore out three over the time but easier for my short fingers