Saturday, August 29, 2009

Learning to Hand Quilt Woes

Ok - I really, really want to be able to hand quilt some of my projects. I've done a little hand quilting before, a pillow top and on a runner (see post here) but, I never did use a hoop. I just held everything in my hands and stitched. I guess it turned out ok.. but, to me, its still not the "right" way?? 

I went out and bought myself a quilting hoop on a stand. It sat in its box by the door in my sewing room for almost a year before I finally got it out and put it together. Then, it sat there in the corner for a while longer until I got brave enough to actually put something in the hoop.

I decided that my recent EPP project would be a good size to start with so prepared everything. I thread basted my sandwich so I wouldn't need to worry about pins. Fabrics are all cotton and of good quality. Batting is warm & natural. Needles size 9 quilting.

I've read all the instructions for doing the quilting stitch, watched tv how-to shows, seen demonstrations... I can wear a thimble and forget I have it on. I just can't seem to get even stitches and it feels SO awkward. How am I ever going to graduate to bigger quilts?? My work certainly won't take any prizes anytime soon.

Who says this is supposed to be relaxing? Are needles supposed to bend like that and break??? At this rate, this project is going to eat up 20 or more needles. I'm sure that, back when sewing needles were prized possessions, they didn't go through them like this on a small quilting project! What am I doing wrong?


  1. yes needles do bend. I use Roxannnes quilting needles size 12 for the smallest stitch I can get. I got them on ebay for about $10.00 which included shipping but there are about 50 and they do last.
    Are you using the rocking method? Are you marking where you are quilting so that you are keeping straight? Your quilting looks good to me, maybe you are being to hard on yourself, it should be relaxing and your shoulders should be relaxed.

  2. Yes, needles bend, and I break my fair share of them, too. I have tried about everything out there, and I finally landed on Richard Hemmings size 11s. I push really hard, and these hold up to my abuse better than any others I've tried. I do still break them, but only after I've been using one for quite awhile. I think it gets "heated up", and then snaps on one of my big pushes -- haha! But they don't bend as easily as some others I've tried, so I'm happy as long as I have some of these on hand. Don't give up, keep trying. I cried buckets over the first quilt I ever tried to hand quilt, and now I actually win awards! You can do it! It looks like you're off to a fine start.

  3. When I'm hooping I stab stitch. Helps me keep the stitches more even. I also don't do tiny stitches like a lot of other quilters.
    Your quilt, by the way, is very pretty. Love the color combination.

  4. Perhaps your needles might be a bit too long and they are bending and breaking faster. I use Betweens size needles (shorter in length) and they are easier to quilt with and they don't bend. You might be able to get a good rocking method going.

    So far, I think you are doing a fabulous job with your quilting!

    As well as thimbles, I cut off a finger tip off a dish washing glove and use it on my index finger. It grabs the needle and pulls it through all the layers very well.

  5. Not sure how your hand quilting project is going but thought I'd throw in my opinion based on hand quilting for the past 25 years or so and a LOT of experimentation with batting/ fabric/ needles and so forth.

    You mentioned you were using Warm and Natural batting which is a nightmare to hand quilt because it's so dense. (Great for machine quilting, though!) Look for an "airier batting" like pre-soaked Hobbs Heirloom (an 80/20 cotton/poly blend) or a lightweight polyester like Poly-fil Low Loft or Mountain Mist Quilt Light. These batts are much easier to needle! Also, loosen the tension on the hoop so there's some "give" in the quilt sandwich; it's much easier to rock the needle this way.

    Happy quilting!


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