September 7, 2005 – La Mesa, California


Hand quilting is basically just sewing the three layers of a quilt with a running stitch. Shorter hand quilting stitches are deemed to be better. Not to worry - even though your stitches may start out fairly long, with practice and the right needles, thread and thimble, your stitches will get shorter.


Now that you have all of the tools you need – quilting thread, thimble, quilt hoop or frame, and – most importantly – the quilt – you are ready to begin.


Thread your needle with a strand of thread about 20-24 inches long. Usually it works best to thread the needle just as the thread comes off of the spool. Tie a small knot in the end of the strand – just a single thread (not a double thread as you would use to sew a button).


Q: How closely should quilting be done on a quilt?


This question comes to us from Judy Drichta-Legier:


Quilters ask - Which is better for quilting? A hoop or a quilt frame?


Like so many other things in the quilting world, it depends. And what it depends on is mostly your personal preference.


A Quilter's Quandry:


Hi Penny, thank you for giving me the opportunity to email you with my questions. I am quilting my first quilt and am almost ready to put it on the quilt frame. My question is about the frame itself.


Q: I don't know what stitching in the ditch is :o(


A: " Stitch in the ditch" is when you quilt (either hand quilt or machine quilt) right next to the seam allowances. Most quilters stitch on the side of the seam without the seam allowance folded under. In other words, they are quilting through one layer of fabric on the quilt top, the batting, and then the backing.


Years ago, a quilting friend of mine told me that the best way to start and end a thread of hand quilting was to take several stitches in the same place. It is like sewing a button on without having the button; or like marking time.


Not knowing any other way, I hand quilted my first quilt using that method. As we used this quilt, we decided that this was not the best method. The stitches didn't look very good because they were bulky and several of them unwrapped themselves. Then trying to secure the thread of hand quilting was a nightmare.


Q: Good Morning, I am at a "mental" road block and can't seem to take that first stitch - for fear of failure!


I have hand pieced my very first quilt - a queen sized double wedding ring. I have 1.5 blocks left to stitch together and then I'll be ready to layer it with the backing and batting.


Q: I am in a quandry as to what to do with a quilt top given to me by a dear friend. This top was made by his grandmother. The quilt top is old, probably from the late 30's early 40's, judging by the fabrics used. The top is in very good condition. It has been stored in a cedar chest wrapped in an old sheet.

The problem is I know the fabric is fragile. I would love to quilt this top for my friend, but I am afraid of damaging it. I was planning to use a pre-shrunk cotton batting and unbleached muslin backing to give it an authentic look.

I have three frame choices, a Grace EZ3, my grandmother's old 1x2 frames and a Dritz  PVC frame. Which of these would be best suited to this project? Would it be better to use a hoop? Or maybe not to use anything ? I generally don't like the results I get without a frame of some kind. Any helpful suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you for your wonderful website and all of the tips.

Paula M
Midwest, USA