Helping to Expand Your Creative Expression
Hand Sewing Quilt Patches
By: Penny Halgren
When I was first learning how to quilt, some experienced quilter told me that "every quilter must make a quilt completely by hand." From start to finish - hand sewing the patches and hand quilting.
I bought the story and made a queen-size quilt entirely by hand. Cut each one of the patches with scissors, sewed every one of the who-knows-how-many patches together by hand, and hand quilted it.
It took two years! And when it was finished, I was pretty happy. Forget the fact that a few years later I had to fold it up and put it away because it was getting wrecked by the dog jumping on it, and the ex-husband sitting on it with his construction-dirty clothes.
Another quilter told me that "every quilter must make a whole cloth quilt." Then she proceeded to show me queen-size quilts that were made from two pieces of fabric,batting between, and the entire quilt design was the hand quilting.
I did not make one of those and probably never will. Yet, I am still a quilter and haven't been banished from buying quilting fabric in my local quilt shop.
I have since learned that quilters with "musts" and "rules" are to be allowed to speak, but not necessarily to be followed. We all get to choose how we make our quilts and which quilts we make.
Part of that decision includes how to piece your quilt top. In most cases, I machine piece everything. It goes together much faster and I can make more quilts that way.
There is one quilt that is the exception, and that is a charm quilt that I started years ago and will continue to add to until I get tired of it or die.
Tumbling blocks charm quilt. Click on the image to see a larger picture.
It's the quilt I keep telling quilting daughter Stephanie that she gets to finish. It is a typical charm quilt - just one shape of patch, and no two pieces of fabric are the same.
My intention was to have one piece of every fabric I have used in a quilt. Because of my lack of organization, I know there are many missing, but every once in a while I cut hunks of fabric from my stash that I know are missing and stack them up to be added to the quilt top.
The "problem" is, the patch shape I chose was a diamond. Why make it easy, like a square or rectangle? Or even an half-square triangle?
Nope, I chose a diamond. And, the idea is that it will be a tumbling blocks (or baby blocks) quilt. Each patch is about 3 inches on one side.
I have been using a thin plastic template that I made years ago, and am looking forward to getting one of Jan Krentz's new acrylic templates for rotary cutting. That way, I won't have to hunt my template down - or make a new one, since I keep losing it.
I pulled it out the other day because a quilter asked how to hand stitch patches together. And this is a quilt I am hand piecing. Oh, I machine stitched a few patches on it, but found it was much more difficult than hand stitching. It probably took more time, too.
Since she asked, I thought I would share my system for hand stitching these pieces together.
First - I cut all of the fabric with my rotary cutter. If you cut your fabric using scissors, you will want to mark a sewing line so you are sure to sew the right size and shape.
Then I line up the raw edges of the pieces I will sew together, match the corners, and place a pin or two to keep them lined up.
Then I place a piece of 1/4-inch masking tapealong the raw edge.
Because the edge is straight and I want to sew a 1/4-inch seam allowance, the masking tape is a perfect marker, saving pencil lines and all of that time.
Now I am ready to stitch. Maybe I could stitch around a corner, however, I stitch down one side - beginning with a small knot and ending with a small knot.
Once I have finished on one side, I remove the pins and tape and I'm ready to sew down the next side.
These are just small running stitches, using a single strand of thread. They are relatively short stitches, but not perfect. After all, they will be inside the quilt.
I fold my seam allowances to one side, just as I would if I were piecing on the machine.
One advantage to sewing by hand is that it is easier to make those small adjustments to get everything to line up right.