Simple Hand Quilting Ideas...
Updated: Feb 27
A warm welcome if you've joined me from the marvellous Moda Bakeshop. Here, as promised, are my favourite tips for those of you considering hand quilting your Woodruff Quilt. Or any quilt, for that matter.
I love hand-quilting and find it very relaxing. I particularly enjoy the transformation of three separate layers of fabric - feeling their weight draped over my palm - to one continuous piece of quilted fabric, which somehow takes on a life of its own, feeling lighter in my hands as I work.
You may already be familiar with stitch-in-the ditch quilting. This follows the seam lines in a pieced quilt-top, either by hand - with a straight-forward running stitch - or by machine. It's a simple, utilitarian way of joining the quilt-top to the batting and backing. If you want to enhance the texture of your quilt with additional lines of stitching, here are five simple ideas:-
1. Echo quilting...
Mark lines parallel to each seam, using the markings on your quilting ruler, anything from ¼" to an inch away. These lines can overlap, or outline the shape of each block.
You can buy special little rulers with a slight ridge ¼" away from the edge which butts against your seam, speeding up the marking process.
This will emphasise the individual squares - and prints - of your quilt.
Mark lines diagonally across the quilt-top, using the corners of the squares to guide you.
An overall pattern like this will help to blend the different prints together, as one piece of fabric.
Crosshatch quilting can either be done instead of stitch-in-the-ditch or combined with it for a denser texture.
Mark simple motifs at the centre of alternate squares. The quilting will become a strong feature of the quilt.
You can buy pre-cut plastic templates from quilt shops - there a vast range to choose from, varying in complexity - or cut your own, either from a piece of card (an old cereal packet will do) or template plastic.
4. Vertical Lines...
A smart, contemporary finish to a quilt. It's sometimes referred to as matchstick or kantha quilting when the lines are very close together.
Omit the horizontal stitch-in-the-ditch and add additional vertical lines. Or, of course, you could omit the vertical stitch-in-the-ditch and add more horizontal lines ;-)
5. Simple Blossom...
This is the technique I decided to use on my quilt. You will need to find your old school compass (or borrow one from the children). Draw a circle on a piece of card with a radius that's half the height of the quilt blocks - 4¼" in this case - and then mark a line through the centre to help you line it up on your quilt.
And having marked all those circles, you can actually stitch in wavy lines (shown in pink), making this a surprisingly speedy technique.
A Note About Seams...
As I prefer to hand quilt I always try to press my seams to one side when I'm piecing - that is, NOT open - usually towards the darker fabric if I can. Trying to quilt along an open seam will probably weaken that seam and just feels a bit odd.
However, I know lots of quilters prefer open seams because they leave you with a lovely, flat quilt-top, especially on more complex designs where lots of seams meet. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way...just your preferred way and if you like open seams I would suggest giving cross-hatch or overlapping circles a try.
A Few of my Favourite Things...
I did a full post on sewing notions here, but there are a few of those items that I find particularly useful for hand quilting...
1. Long basting needles, which I use for everything. I find longer needles much easier to use than 'traditional' quilting needles, which are microscopically tiny (I may be exaggerating...).
2. Quilting thread, I use Gutterman's, which is sort of wiry when you wind it off the spool and doesn't tangle as easily.
3. Tiny scissors, for snipping threads - I really need a few more pairs of these, they never seem to be where I thought I'd left them...
4. Water soluble marker pen, which I treat with respect and use sparingly as it left faint marks on one of my quilts. The trick seems to be to soak your work in plain, cold water to make sure it's all been removed.
5. Acrylic ruler, about the same size as a school ruler.
6. Washi (low tack) tape, which I use for marking straight quilting lines.
7. Old cereal packet...really, its the perfect weight for cutting out templates.
Or the ends, to be more accurate. As a quilt doesn't really have a wrong side, you will need to 'lose' the end of your thread. First make a knot and then take a stitch through the top layer only, bringing your needle out to your start point. Then give a sharp tug to ‘pop’ the knot to the wrong side of the fabric. And when you are near to the end of a piece of thread, make a knot about 1/4" away from your last stitch and 'pop' it through the fabric in exactly the same way.
I've never felt comfortable using a quilt hoop, which is a shame, because they look magnificent (see Sarah Fielke's tutorial, here). I like to let the weight of the quilt - placed over my outstretched hand - provide the tension needed for stitching. Chatting with quilty friends on Instagram, I know I'm not alone and I was thrilled to find that Jen Kingwell quilts this way too. 'Nuff said.
And please don't be feel under pressure to make teeny tiny stitches: an even stitch size - big or small - will look more effective, so relax and HAVE FUN. I hope you'll find as much joy in the process of MAKING your quilt as you do snuggling under the finished article.