The How To Quilt on Hand Quilting

Hand Quilting

Knowing the How To Quilt on Hand Quilting can make all the difference.Once the quilt top is finished, it needs to be pressed one last time before layering the components that make the quilt. The backing also needs to be washed and pressed flat, and the batting needs to taken out of the bag (if you have purchased packaged batting) to let it relax and fluff up for a few hours before basting the quilt layers. Once all the layers are pressed, the “quilt sandwich” needs to be prepared on a large surface, like a utility table. Lay the backing, wrong side up, that is with the right side against the table and use clips or tape to keep it wrinkle free and taut. Then lay the batting, smoothing all wrinkles. Also, secure it to the table by either using clips or tape. Then, on top of the batting, lay the quilt top, centering it on the batting, making sure there are a few inches of batting and backing all around. If you want to use a stencil design to mark quilting lines, marking needs to be accomplished before layering and basting the quilt.

Once all the layers are prepared, the quilt sandwich needs to be basted. The basting lines can be spaced about three January 2009 010inches apart, and they need to be perpendicular to the quilt sides, that is, north to south and east to west. If you baste with needle and thread, a curved tapestry needle is helpful, as is a long, sharp basting needle. Always baste with white thread, as dark thread can leave dark dots on light fabrics. Quilts can also be basted with safety pins, placed in a grid from the center out, about three inches apart. If using safety pins, make sure they are rust proof. There is a quilting basting gun available. It shoots plastic tacks from a thick, hollow needle, and the tacks secure the three layers. However, the needle that needs to pierce the three quilt layers is somewhat big and tends to leave holes in fabric.

Once the quilt is basted, it is ready for hand quilting. Gather the necessary supplies:
Quilting thread, specific for hand quilting. Thick cotton thread, normally with a glazed finish that prevents it from fraying and knotting.
Between needles: The smaller the needle, the smaller the stitches. A variety of sizes are handy to handle different types of batting. Twelves are the smallest size available; five is the largest size.september 2006 001
Thimble: It is nearly impossible to quilt without one. It is worn in the middle finger of the dominant hand to push the needle through the quilt layers. You might need to buy and try several until you find the one that works best for you. Metal thimbles range widely in price. Leather and leather/metal combination thimbles are also available. It is important to wear a thimble that feels comfortable and that protects your finger. Deep dimples help control the needle.
Small snipping scissors to cut thread.
Thread conditioner or beeswax that helps keep thread tangle free.
A hoop or frame. Hoops are portable, but the quilt needs to be repositioned often. Frames are more expensive and require space to set up. Hoops can be wooden (round or oval, most often) and plastic PVC (rectangular or square). It is a matter of personal preference and budget.
Stencils and masking tape and chalk pencils to mark quilting lines and designs. A water soluble marking pen, fine line is also handy, but remove the lines as you quilt by dabbing with a wet washcloth. Heat sets the ink, so keep the quilt away from any heat source while the lines are visible. Make sure whatever tool you use to mark the quilting lines, they can be removed. Test them on scraps if necessary.
Not necessary, but handy:  small needle nose pliers to pull out the needle if it breaks and a piece of rubber about an inch square to pull out the needle if it gets stuck. A needle threader is also useful.

Once you’ve gathered the supplies, it’s time to start quilting. Start quilting in the center of the quilt, and continue in a March 2007 055radial manner, smoothing the layers and making sure there are no wrinkles when placing the hoop. The quilt needs to be smooth, but not tight like a drum. There needs to be some give to the layers, so one can rock the needle. Thread the needle with a length of thread. The standard is to thread it with eighteen inches of thread, but it can be cut a little longer. Thread the needle with the end of the thread that comes out of the spool (thread first, cut later). Cutting the thread at an angle makes it easier to thread. Make a small knot at the end of the thread by crossing the needle and long end of the thread. Wrap the thread two or three times around the needle and slide the needle while holding the loops. This method creates a small, tight knot that will go through the layers and will stay anchored inside the batting. Start by sliding the needle into the quilt top about half inch from the starting point, and sliding it into the batting, without catching the backing, so the knot will tangle into the batting fibers. Come up right on the spot you wish to start the quilting stitch and give the thread a tug to bury the knot. If you have trouble getting the knot to pop inside the quilt top, “scratch” the knot with your fingernail gently as you tug. Once the knot pops inside the batting, take a tiny backstitch and get ready to quilt.

The quilting stitch is simply a running stitch, accomplished by rocking the needle so it catches all three layers of the quilt. You guide and push the needle with the middle finger of your dominant hand, while at the same time, use the thumb on the dominant hand to stop the needle and determine the size of your stitches. Use the index finger of your non-dominant hand, -which stays underneath the quilt hoop-, to feel the needle and push it up when you feel the needle pricking it to make the next stitch. Load a few stitches on the needle at the time, then pull the needle out and tug the thread very gently. The important thing is to try to get the stitches and spaces between them to be the same size on both the front and the back of the quilt, and to catch all the layers of the quilt. At first, aim for even stitches, then once you April 2007 019feel comfortable with the rocking stitch and your stitch size is even, try to make them smaller. You should make them small enough not to “catch your toes” and not so small that they don’t catch but a few threads, which can pop easily when the quilt is washed. Aim for four or five stitches per inch at first, then with practice you will be able to achieve more stitches. Twelve stitches by inch is excellent hand quilting. Many factors affect the size of stitches such as the thickness and density of the batting and the needle size, quilting on the bias or on the grain (easier to achieve smaller stitches while quilting on bias lines), quilting over seam lines making it harder to stitch small because of the extra layers of fabric. The important thing to remember is to relax, enjoy the process and just aim for even stitches.

When you get to the end of the quilting line, make a knot close to the quilt by wrapping the thread a couple times around the needle and sliding the needle to form the knot. Try to keep it near the quilt surface. Slide the needle into the quilt sandwich between the top and the batting and pop the knot inside, bringing the needle out about half an inch away from the last stitch. Clip the thread near the surface of the quilt, carefully as not to cut the fabric.

The quilting lines on the quilt should be evenly spaced, that is, try to balance the amount of quilting on the quilt surface April 2006 039so there are no large areas unquilted and areas with too much quilting. The type of batting you use determines in part how far the quilting needs to be spaced. Remember that more quilting makes the quilt more durable, and adds to the visual appeal of the quilt by giving it texture.




For more information on quilting for beginners please click here!

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