This weekend I went to the Vashon Quilt Guild Quilt Show (Vashon is the island outside of Seattle where my mom lives). During the two-day event, my mom and her friends – her “Quilty Ladies” who she stitches with every week – had a quilt frame set up with a quilt on it and were demonstrating how to hand quilt. The quilt had been previously basted (to hold the back, batting, and top together). The blue painters tape was put down so that the quilters had a straight line to follow (and replaces the need for chalking the lines). I was surprised that the quilt was not taught, but was told that it needed some slack so that your bottom hand could pinch the fabric. The large open spaces in the quilt won’t have straight lines across them but will instead be quilted individually in a decorative pattern using a quilting hoop.
When hand quilting, your needle always stays on the top of the quilt with your non-needle hand on the bottom. You poke the needle down until you feel it touch your hand below, bring it up, and down, and up and down until you have several stitches on the needle. Then you pull the needle through. The first goal is to make your stitches an even length and once you can do that, you can learn to make them smaller and smaller. If you look at my stitches above, you can tell that I’m learning, but I don’t think they are horrendous. (Susie, the woman who made the quilt, insisted that she wanted my stitches no matter how bad they are!).
Ann, an award winning hand quilter, stitched the stitches above. You can see that they are much smaller than mine and perfectly even. The large yellow threads going across both close-ups are machine basting stitches that will be ripped out once the quilt is finished being quilted.