When I first became interested in quilting it was the hand-sewing aspect that turned me off. While I admired the patterns and fabrics used in quilts, the idea of all that hand-sewing made me feel it was something I would never really have the patience for. Luckily, I discovered machine quilting and it gave me the courage to try this wonderful craft.
I’m loving the creativity of quilting and all the many techniques that can be used. This is a good thing because I’ve found that with each new project I want to tackle a new skill. I went from a very simple pattern with My First Quilt to an improvisational pattern with my South Pacific quilt. I learned machine-finished applique for the Star of David quilt. My current project, a bed quilt for my daughter, gave me a chance to try English Paper Piecing – I made hexies!
It was while I was making the hexies that I discovered the joy of handwork. I loved that I could sit in front of the TV in the evenings and watch shows or Netflix while I was sewing. While my machine is in the same room as the TV, the noise makes it difficult to hear the show, for me and other family members. So if I was really interested in following the show, I couldn’t use my machine at the same time.
On another occasion, it was raining and I was sitting on the sofa doing some paper piecing. I loved the peacefulness of hand sewing while listening to the rain falling on the roof. There is so much noise in the world and sometimes you just want to do something quiet. Now, I do have my knitting, which I often do in front of the TV, but sometimes it requires a bit more mental focus, like if I’m working a complicated pattern, counting rows, or making cables, for example. Basic hand sewing is fairly mindless, in a zen kind of way and also, if I’m doing this for a while, it helps to have different things to work on so your hands don’t cramp or get injured from repetitive strain – mixing up sewing, quilting, and knitting during a long movie or a few episodes of binge watching is like cross-training for artists!
Anyways, I became hooked and soon I was hunting around the web for inspiration for other paper piecing projects. Well it didn’t take long for me to realize that hand quilting might be just as much fun. I immediately came up with a small project idea that could incorporate both paper piecing and hand quilting: dresden plate potholders. With Christmas just around the corner (from a crafting perspective) I decided they would be a gift for my Mother-in-law. Just the excuse I needed to buy fabric and supplies!
The next chance I got, I headed down to my fave fabric/quilting store and picked up a small, cheap hoop, some quilting needles, a thimble, and hand quilting thread (it’s lightly waxed). I also bought two charm packs from Moda: Esprit de Noel is a lovely, old-fashioned series that I thought my Mother-in-law would like; the more modern In From the Cold series combines beautiful greys with greens and blues – I like it so much I’m going to make myself something from it.
Back at home, I couldn’t wait to start practising hand quilting. A oncoming cold gave me the excuse I needed to put aside housework and lay down on the sofa with some tea, a good movie, and my hand quilting supplies. I’d watched several YouTube videos and I thought that the Thimble Lady’s technique made the most sense – I was not satisfied that I needed to poke my fingers and sacrifice my skin for the sake of my craft! However, I just couldn’t get the hang of it, perhaps because I lacked the specialized thimble she uses, or just that I had zero experience with hand quilting (or hand sewing for that matter). I was starting to get a bit frustrated so I hunted around for some other videos and came across Sarah Fielke’s video for Craftsy. I found her method to be easier and her tip about not pushing on the needle before you make the “hill” with your thumb was key for me. Soon I was making straight lines with fairly evenly spaced stitches. Not bad for a beginner! I was hooked. But practising on a scrap square was not very satisfying. Time to start a real project!
I’m almost done paper piecing the dresden plate for MIL’s pot holders. I just need to applique the dresden and centre circle to the background fabric and I’ll be able to start quilting! I’m super excited and can’t wait to figure out what quilting designs I’m going to use.
I’ve got lots of ideas for future projects, and since I’ve decided to focus more on small projects and art pieces for the next little while (bed quilts are expensive to make and I get tired of dealing with all that fabric after a while, plus I was recently inspired by a fabric arts showing at a local gallery – more on that in a later post), I’ll have many opportunities to practice hand quilting techniques. Between that, paper piecing, and hand applique I’ll have lots to tinker with as the season brings us back indoors.