Flashback Friday: learning to hand quilt

It seems like every few years I have to relearn how to hand quilt. I take a class, make a cushion, then take a break and forget. At the moment, I am hand quilting yet another cushion, my third (the second is here), trying to improve my stitches so that when I get back to hand quilting my Dear Jane quilt I have fewer skipped stitches on the back.

I think I am starting to properly understand the relaxing properties of hand quilting, but I am still slow. Ridiculously slow. I am also binge-watching Downton Abbey episodes in an attempt to catch up before the final season airs here later this month. (Seriously, the writers need to give poor Edith a break! She stopped behaving horribly about two seasons ago.)

A wholecloth cushion is a great way to practise hand quilting. The pain of quilting through bulky seams can be avoided, so it was a great starter project.

Wholecloth hand-quilted cushion

In this light, you can see the hand quilting quite nicely.

Wholecloth hand-quilted cushion

The design came from a friend’s Reader’s Digest quilting book. Yes. Good old Reader’s Digest!

I really like the lace trim I added to the edge of the cushion, carefully hand sewn on as the finishing touch.

The two things I did wrong were to choose too thick wadding and underestimate the staying power of pencil markings. They washed off well on the exposed surfaces, but a little bit of pencil seems to be trapped between the fabric and the stitches. The lesson is learned – never use any marker that is not guaranteed to disappear. Oh well, give it a bit more time and the grime from the dog sleeping on it will hide that!

Wholecloth hand-quilted cushion

I am really happy with the lace I bought to trim the cushion.

The cushion sits on our bed or on the armchair in our room, so at least it gets used.

Wholecloth hand-quilted cushion

The design has four motifs and a border, which I pieced together from the various patterns in the book.

I do not remember exactly when I made this cushion, but I have photos of it dated December 2009, so it must have been before then.

In this trip down memory lane, I am linking up with Jenn’s Throwback Thursday. When it is Friday here, it is still Thursday in Canada.


42 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: learning to hand quilt

    • I do not pretend to be an expert, Paige, but it seems that the trick, other than patience, is to choose your wadding/batting carefully. A lot of the expert hand quilters I know have a favourite brand. When you come to start your gran’s quilt, do your research to find something that is easy to push a needle through.

    • I love hand sewing, Shauna. I think I am drawn to it more as time goes on. My husband also likes it as it is slower and I therefore produce fewer quilts, cushions and other stuff. He doesn’t think we need any more!

  1. Your stitches look wonderful. I have yet to tackle hand quilting, and a smaller full cloth project like this does sound like a great introduction. I love to use pencil as a marking aid, too, but have learned the hard way where it is OK to use and where not.

    • I also use pencil a lot. This was the first time I had a problem, and it was because I hadn’t thought about the gap between fabric and stitches trapping the colour. Yes, here I learned the hard way too! Oh well, it really is barely noticeable.

  2. Very nice you are so talented. I’m a beginner at quilting and love it so much, so far I’ve only put shapes together I hope I’ll soon pluk up the courage to completely finish a quilt. Happy quilting everyone x

    • I do not believe that there is anything a beginner cannot tackle as long as they look for help (professional teachers, online tutorials, books, friends) and take your time. Have fun learning and do not be afraid to try anything!

  3. That’s a lovely piece of work. Do you think the slowness is because you’re doing it ‘properly’, or because you’re making the stitches really tiny? A good tip about the pencil; I have been using the Sewline quilt marker with the pale pink leads for white or pale fabrics. You can *just* see it, and the marker comes off with the eraser on the other end of the pencil. Any residue that doesn’t subsequently wash out is so pale as to be unnoticeable. Like you, I’ve just started a hand quilted cushion, to be hand work for our trip starting tomorrow. No marking necessary, I’m quilting around the very loud pattern with a lovely Aurifil variegate thread.

    • Both! I prefer to be precise instead of fast, but I hope my speed will improve with practice. I also think I would be a bit quicker if I sewed straight lines instead of curves.

      I am using a Clover air-erasable pen on my current project, and it seems to work a treat. It is gone in half an hour, and I feel safe as it is made in Japan specifically for fabric.

  4. A lovely finish! Your hand quilting is great, and yes it’s slower, but very pleasurable! Look forward to seeing your Dear Jane! (oh, and I’ve only just caught up with Downton too, it’s very addictive viewing!)

    • At this rate, my Dear Jane could be years away, but I am feeling more confident that I will get there … eventually.
      I am almost caught up. I stopped watching at the end of season 3 as I was so cross with the writers regarding Matthew! I am glad I came back.

  5. Gorgeous work ! A small whole cloth quilt is still on my bucket list but I like the idea of starting with a pillow. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Very pretty, especially with the touch of lace. Now you need to learn to tat, to make your own! I saw a tip the other day for beginning hand-quilters. It suggested using wool batting for practice pieces. When I heard that I knew immediately it is right — such a lovely loft would make it relatively easy for the needle and fingers.

    • Wool batting was one of the things I considered for my Dear Jane, but I went with something low loft and thin as the quilt will be more noticeable for its piecing than its quilting. I have some wool set aside for appliquéd cushions that I plan to hand quilt. I agree – lovely loft and easy on fingers and needles.

  7. I love how the name Edith doesn’t seem capable of being uttered (or written) without the adjective poor! I’ve watched all but the final episode. I just don’t want it to be over. But the quilting… you never cease to amaze me, Carla. Not only are you patient enough to handquilt, you’re patient enough to re-learn it each time you forget! 🙂 Thanks for linking your lovely cushion up with Throwback Thursday @ A Quarter Inch from the Edge!

  8. Very good of you to do the cushion before quilting the real thing. Baby wipes get rid of pencil marks on fabric. I know this because I had to find out how to remove pencil from my needle turn Applique project!

  9. Hi Carla

    I use a pen for marking my quilts that disappears with a warm iron or a hairdryer if its something you don’t want to flatten. It has worked every time for me. Obviously try on a scrap first. You have probably heard of them. Love your updates by the way.


    • Is that a Frixion pen, Kathleen? I use them a lot but only where I know that any residual markings will remain hidden, such as in the seam allowances and underneath an appliqué piece. They were not designed for fabric, so, as much as I love them, I am cautious about when and where I use them.

  10. I think the writers have been too kind on Mary and not as kind to Edith! I’m doing a whole cloth workshop this month on FMQ – never occurred to me to do it by hand. Looks beautiful!

    • Ruth, I think that is life, which often deals people uneven hands regardless of merit. 😦 Perhaps the Downton Abbey writers are merely reflecting that. Although, they do seem a bit cruel, having killed off at least one parent of every child born on the show.

  11. I adore hand quilting. It seems to be a dying art at quilt shows here in the US. I think your work looks lovely and you have little, even stitches. Brave photographer! It is my favorite style of quilting, as far as look and gentle drape. But slow….

    We are into the final season of DA here, and I think poor Edith has middle child syndrome. However, she is by far the most stylish and pretty. I love the fashions. And they have lots of drama this last season, too. xo

    • I think there will always be a place for hand quilting, but perhaps not on the functional baby quilts that the little dears will puke all over and will have to survive repeated washings. A place for everything, right?

      The last Downton Abbey season starts here soon, but I am not entirely sure when!

  12. I truly cannot understand why you think you need to practice your hand quilting. It looks beautiful to me. I have not stitched in a quilt for years, but it truly is a relaxing and rewarding way to stay busy.

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