Monday, May 14, 2012

Retro Flowers Quilt Along: Hand Quilting

It's the last post the the QAL already! I can't believe it. I can't wait to see all of the beautiful finished quilts. So for those of you not quilting your Retro Flowers on your sewing machines, here are a few tips, links, and suggestions for you hand quilting pleasure. 


Anytime I quilt a quilt by hand, I use Quilters Dream Cotton batting in my quilt (my link takes you to a queen size piece, but the packages come in many sizes so be sure to look around). It is super soft and super friendly to the hand quilting process. 

When you make your quilt sandwich, you want to be sure to pin it in place prior to quilting it. Regular safety pins work fine, but I am partial to these quilting safety pins because they have a bend in them that makes them go through all three layers and pop back up with astounding ease. 

My absolute FAVORITE thread to quilt with is Perle Cotton. I don't have a specific place to tell you to get it because I generally find it in my local quilt store. I am sure you can find it online, but I don't have a great place yet to buy it. Suggestions welcome!! Anyway, it comes in different weights so you can use it in many different projects. For quilting, I generally stick to the Number 8 weight, but it is not uncommon to see the Number 5 or others used. 

Another option is regular DMC embroidery floss, and it is incredibly easy to come by. It is sold in almost any craft store as well as places like Walmart that have a craft section. 

You also want to make sure you have good needles that will adequately accomadate the heavier weight thread that you will be using for quilting, as well as an embroidery hoop. The hoop I have is a hand me down from my mom and is a large wooden 12 incher. I like being able to work in such a large space before having to move the hoop, but something smaller like an 8 inch hoop would work perfectly fine as well. 

Depending on the pattern you use, it is a good idea to have a marking tool to trace the pattern if need be. Later in the week, I will be posting about a couple different kinds (gadgets galore!), but you want to make sure you use something that is intended for that purpose and will come out in the wash. Pencil is REALLY hard to get off of fabric. Just fyi. Many stores care disappearing markers or chalk pencils, all of which will dissolve in the wash. 

I also just learned that many of these pens can be set with sun. Did you know that? Even if it is a disappearing pen made specifically for tracing patterns on fabric, you can permanently set it (to where it will never come out) by leaving your marked up fabric in the sun. I am going to check all of my pens to see if they come with warnings! And with that fun fact, lets move into the how to's of hand quilting. 

How To:

There are some great resources out there if you are just jumping in to hand quilting. My favorite is a tutorial by Rachel at Stitched in Color. She does a great job explaining all of the basics. You can also find some great tutorials on youtube.

So I made my quilt sandwich (backing, batting, quilt top), and got all the pieces pinned together. For tips on a great quilt sandwich, check out this tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman. I try not to leave an area more than approximately 6 square inches unpinned. The larger areas you leave unpinned, the more room the fabric has to move out of its happy place in the sandwich. 

It is also important to start your quilting in the middle of your quilt whenever possible. This allows you to accomadate any fabric that might move during the process. As you work outward, you can smooth and re-adjust the three pieces of the sandwich as needed.

I will be quilting around each of the petals approximately 1/8th of an inch off the petal itself. This puts the stitching right in the middle of the white around the square points (as shown below). 

You want to bring your needle up from the back to start with and pull your knot through so that it sits inside the sandwich in the batting. Again, for a great explanation of this whole process, see Rachel's tutorial. After that you want to try to just rock your needle down through the sandwich and back up again, picking up a couple stitches. I personally don't like to have more than three stitches on my needle at a time, particularly when going around curves. 

Once you get the hang of it, that's really all there is to it. You just keep going until you have quilted your whole quilt! My personal attraction to hand quilting is how soft the finished quilt is. Many quilts that are quilted by machine or long armed feel stiff when they are done. Hand quilting allows the quilt to maintain its ability to drape and be super snuggly. Not to mention that the hand quilting gives a unique look that you can't achieve any other way. It involves patience, but the end result is rather beautiful and definitely worth it. 

Some Great Examples:

There is so much room for creativity in hand quilting. Here are a couple examples of other great quilters who have taken on the challenge of hand quilting this pattern. Rachel used a basic running stitch in the seams or 'ditch' between her blocks. 

Made by Rachel at Stitched in Color

Katie silhouetted the shape of the flower with kind of a rippling effect moving out from the center of each petal in her pillow. (she also did all the piecing by hand!!!!)

Made by Katie at There and Back
Made by Katie at There and Back

Both of these are great examples on how to get creative with your quilting. Don't be afraid to play with color or do a pattern that is out of the ordinary. Sometimes the quilting can be the most breathtaking part of a quilt. Happy stitching and I can't wait to see the finished quilts, both machine and hand quilted! Make sure you hop over to the Flickr group and show us your work! Also, be sure to stay tuned for instructions on how to enter your finished quilt for the grand prizes!


  1. Wonderful post. Can't wait to see full shot of your Flea Market Fancy. It looks precious in these shots.

  2. I LOVE Quilter's Dream batting for hand quilting. Some batting has slubs which can be a pain to hand quilt through or around, but QD is really good.
    I hope more people hand quilt their retro flowers quilts, I keep watching for them in the group.....
    Thanks for showing the world my pillow, I seriously love that pillow. I won't let anyone else touch it!

  3. Love all your options here :o) I finished mine last night, I love it SOOOOO much, I don't want to give it away now lol

  4. I have seen a lot of retro flowers, but I absolutely love yours, flea market fancy is perfect for this! Awesome job!


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