It’s quiet out there…

…and in here. I think summer must get to everyone. Some of the blogs I read have gone quiet, or a bit slower anyway, and now it’s hit here too. It’s just too hot most days to be motivated to do much of anything! Adding in all the rest of the Life stuff means my productivity is taking a huge hit at the moment. I think I’ve composed quite a few posts in my head in the last week or so, none of which actually made it to a screen near you, and the rest of my quilting life is in no better shape!

I have been working on Inchies, slowly but surely, and I did make it to the Arts & Crafts store twice in two weeks, looking for fabric for the background quilt for the Inchies (it doesn’t hurt that the car is the only air conditioned place in my life right now). During one trip, there was a nice quilter in the shop who wanted to try hand quilting, and was looking for some hand quilting thread. The shop doesn’t even have any. How can you be a brick and mortar store that stocks quilting supplies without having even basic hand quilting thread of some kind in white and beige?

This quilter wasn’t getting much help from the sales person, who admitted she did everything by machine, so the quilter asked me what I thought about using any of the other threads they have in the store for hand quilting. I didn’t really have a clear answer for her on that one. I’ve never hand quilted with thread that wasn’t made for the purpose. I did remember that machine sewing thread is made with an opposite twist direction than hand sewing thread, since the machine will twist the thread further as it sews, which will increase the twist in a machine thread, but cause a hand sewing thread to untwist and eventually weaken and break.

I’m not sure if using a machine thread for hand work would do the same type of thing on some level, though I have used regular cotton machine sewing thread to appliqué or hand sew bindings down, and it twists and knots horribly, so maybe that can be attributed to the direction of the twist. I just can’t imagine trying to deal with knotting and twisting while you hand quilt though.

Anyway, I did what I could for this nice quilter in the shop, and gave her what other little helpful advice about hand quilting that I could on the fly since she’d never done it before. No, I don’t hand quilt anymore, but I did teach it for a while, so I at least have a few good tips. I can’t take credit however, for the very best tip about hand quilting ever. That one came from Kim DeCoste, Judy Murrah’s assistant with Quilts, Inc., when I worked at the Quilt Expo in Innsbruck, Austria in 1996. Yeah, I got to hobnob with the stars of the quilting world for a bit while I helped out in the Education Department, which Judy and Kim oversee.

Kim and I were standing around waiting to check participants in for a lecture, and chatting about quilting and our current projects. I was just starting the hand quilting on this project:

It was the first project I’d ever hand quilted, and I was fumbling around a lot and my stitches were large, crooked and uneven. Kim’s advice about hand quilting was this:

Start with a really big needle, like a size 9. Learn the rocking motion and work on getting the stitches even. Once your stitches are straight and even and rocking your needle is easy for you, then switch to a size 10 needle. Your stitches will automatically become smaller with the smaller needle. Wash, rinse, repeat, switching to a smaller and smaller needle until your stitches are the size you want.

To be honest, at the time I was doubtful. It just sounded too easy. But I went home after the Expo and tried it out, and Kim was right on the money. I hand quilted this 36″ square sampler quilt, and by the time I quilted the cables in the border, my quilting stitches were straight, even, and nearly 12 stitches to the inch. I wouldn’t enter a quilt show in the hand quilting category, because it’s still not that great, but it’s definitely more than passable, and I’m sure Kim’s tip helped me get to the “pretty good” stage faster.

I shared this tip with the quilter in the shop, and told her it was too bad she lived in the opposite direction from the shop that I did, since I’d have been happy to share a spool of real hand quilting thread with her if she wanted to come by. I’m probably never going to use it for anything again!

Your Voice: what’s your best hand quilting tip?? Share it!

2 thoughts on “It’s quiet out there…

  1. I don’t have any really good tips, but I have occasionally used machine quilting thread for hand quilting. The trick? Run the thread over wax to approximate the coating that hand quilting thread has. I hand quilted my queen sized house quilt with King Tut thread because I didn’t want to use anything thicker. It worked just fine.

    Have you heard teh German saying, “Langes Fädchen, faules Mädchen?” it translates to “long thread, lazy girl,” and means don’t bother trying to save time be using a longer thread as you’ll actually spend more time undoing knots. of course I never listen to this one, but I repeat the saw in my head with every knot I untie. 😉


  2. Ah. Well, that’s good to know about the King Tut thread! I’ve never heard that saying, but I’m the same way with the long threads. You’d think we were totally incapable of threading a needle more often, wouldn’t you? 🙂


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