This photo is from the County Fair in Wolverine, Michigan in 1910. It was probably difficult to count the stitches per inch on these quilts, as they were hung from the rafters. But it’s a good idea for hand quilters to look carefully at their stitches and analyze their work.
I know my stitches have changed through the years. A person’s quilting stitch will vary depending on the type of fabrics used in the quilt, the type of batting, the weather (yes!), and the health of their hands. The quilt shown below, “Jack in the Beanstalk,” has quilting stitches that are spaced further apart than I would have liked. I used a thicker batting for this quilt. and it was a real bear to stitch.
I like to compare my stitches using a common tool – a penny. The quilt below is my Tumbling Blocks quilt. I used Mountain Mist polyester batting in this quilt, and it is quite thin. It has, on average, 10 stitches per penny width.
Made in 1986.
Rail Fence was also made during the same time period and has 10 stitches per penny width. It was also made with Mountain Mist polyester batting.
Quilt judges look for stitch consistency on a quilt. That means that each quilting stitch is about the same width, and has about the same distance between stitches. My consistency on Tumbling Blocks is much better than on Rail Fence.
If you quilt for your own enjoyment, then you’re not as concerned about what a judge thinks. I used to enter just about every quilt show I could afford to enter “back in the day.” Now, I rarely enter a quilt show, and when I do, it’s just so that someone other than myself can see the quilt “up close and personal.” I like to watch my stitch status for my own purposes, not to impress anyone else.
I am now using Hobbs 80/20 batting, and my stitch count is not as good as it used to be. However, the quilts shown above are from 25 years ago, and my hands are older and the batting is thicker. I could probably achieve the same 10 stitches per penny if I switched to a thin poly batt, but I like the look the Hobbs gives me.
How about you? When was the last time you really inspected your stitch?