Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I love hand quilting. Back in the day (some 30 yrs ago) when I took a beginners class for making quilts, machine quilting wasn't as common as it is nowadays. The long arm machines remain expensive of course, but here in the Netherlands they were very hard to come by too.
Moreover, in my class hand quilting was considered the real thing.

Thanks to the internet and YouTube I now have a wealth of info at hand, which led me to the conclusion that machine quilting is a skill, requiring an equal amount of effort to become good at it. I'm glad, because it would be a pity to not appreciate craftsmanship.

I love to watch videos about free motion quilting, both on long arm and home sewing machines. It's quite a skill, and I was particularly impressed by this one video demo by Lizzie Lenard about free motion quilting on a treadle sewing  machine. 

So have I tried machine quilting yet?  I think so, but I'm not sure. In two projects I stitched in the ditch, yes, but I used the regular sewing foot and just stitched through all three layers. No lowered feed dogs, because my Singer 15 doesn't have that option anyway.
Although I made the usual beginner mistakes, I had so much fun! I definitely want to practice more on future small projects and just have fun with it.

Whether I'll take thing further and actually try free motion quilting, however, remains to be seen.
It's not that I don't want to learn, and it would definitely mean more finished project, not to mention the more elaborate designs that you're not likely to hand quilt.
But it's just as time consuming to learn as hand quilting. So at the moment I'm more inclined to focus on hand quilting.
And yes, I do feel like it's a choice. If you want to eventually excel in something you need to give it your all. It's also being aware of the person you are. By nature,  I find lots of skills interesting and exciting. So I can choose to keep on dabbling in all of them or focus on one and see what I can achieve.
Maybe I should have 10+ lives, all of them with good eyesight and a good pair of hands, of course :-)))

Anyway, before I get too philosophical, here are some pictures of my hand quilting.

quilted heart
This heart was my first project in a long time. I went for whole cloth, as I find it much easier to quilt than a patchwork top. You don't need to deal with seams, and this heart was a stencil, so it was a breeze to transfer it to fabric.

quilted heart back side
I obviously had some trouble with stitches not through and through. It's the rocking motion I have trouble with. The hard part for me is the moment after your needle has pierced all layers, when it's time to lay the needle flat to make the next stitch. I usually load 2 to 3 stitches on my needle, by the way.

Nils quilt motiv
I think I improved my technique slightly when I made Nils' memorial quilt. I forgot to take a picture of the back. At least the stitches are more uniform, albeit not very small.

squares hand quilting
Like I mentioned before, I find it a lot harder to quilt a patchwork top. I always manage to have seam allowances in the way somehow.
Apart from uneven stitches, I haven't quite mastered the whole rocking motion yet. The first stitch usually is the hardest. It can take me more than 20 attempts to get it right. My goal is to have less of a gap between that first stitch and the following stitches.

On the bright side, I'm delighted that I've made at least some progress. I'll just keep on practicing.

cat sleeping on lap frame
Lastly, a less obvious reason why hand quilting is time consuming: the cat factor.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A few completed projects

Well, I've only completed very few projects really. I rekindled my love for patchwork fairly recently after a hiatus of over thirty years when I learned the basics.
In fact I started to hand quilt shortly before my cat Nils passed away last September. I adored Nils. He meant the world to me.

So the first picture is the doily I had started when he was still alive.

quilted doily
Hearts, hand quilted

I had no particular purpose for it in mind. I just felt like hand quilting something. The heart motif was easy to transfer, because it was a stencil. It's also easier to quilt a whole cloth than a patchwork top. because you don't have to deal with seams.

The next picture is the small memorial wall hanging I dedicated to Nils. I intended it to be bigger, including a matching quilted border. But I was in mourning and hadn't planned it properly, so I just added a binding to it.

small wallhanging
In loving memory of Nils

Not much later I purchased my first vintage sewing machine: the Singer 127K. And shortly after that came the Singer 15. Of course I was excited about using one of them, so I made this log cabin tablecloth using the Singer 15.


This one is also hand quilted, but only two squares per block.

After that I made a place mat of sorts for my 127K, so the machine wouldn't damage my table.


And with this place mat I took things a little bit further: I machine quilted it!

placemat detail

I quilted in the ditch, or rather I tried to, but I had a blast. It was so much fun!
This was done on the 127K hand crank. Of course due to the small size it was quite easy to feed the fabric through the machine.
The wall hanging, that I'm currently working on, is much bigger. I intend to sew very very slowly on that one.

Lastly a picture of the back of the place mat.

placemat back side