More Hand Quilting

Each hand quilter’s stitch is a little different than the next person’s.  Hand quilters have been practicing their skills for hundreds of years, and each person approaches the stitch slightly differently.  If you want to learn how to hand quilt, you can go and do a search for “hand quilting” tutorials” and watch as many quilters show how they accomplish their stitch.
State Fair 001
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. 
Lorens quilt 001
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?

8 thoughts on “More Hand Quilting

  1. I've never seen Hobbs batting in Japan and the batting sold in stores is all packed in a closed plastic wrap so you can't see how thick it is or how it feels. I, therefore, use thinsulate that comes on a bolt and in different thicknesses. I have heard that they sell bat sizes but I have never seen them here so I have to piece the batting. I have two different thicknesses on rolls and replace them as they are used up.


  2. Your stitches are amazing! Mine are not as small or even as they used to be, I know my hands are not as nimble, and my eyes aren't as good either. I used to pride myself on my quilting….now, I just love to do it, lol.
    I don't like poly batting…I much prefer flannel sheets, or something purely cotton.


  3. Sue,
    I changed batting because I wanted something with a little more heft. What I had been using was very thin, and I also wanted it to have some cotton in it. I love the look that you get when you wash a new quilt that has a cotton batt in it. I wasn't getting that look with the Mountain Mist I was using.


  4. I quilt just for me so I am not concerned about the consistency of my stitch but because I have been quilting for so long my stitches are usually basically the same. I measure now and then out of curiosity but find I almost always have about 8 stitches to the inch. I use quilters dream batting 100% cotton the request loft (the thinnest) and the select loft (a little heavier).
    I would have to concentrate too much to get 10 stitches per inch all the time and I'm just not going to do it LOL


  5. I couldn't tell you how many stitches to the inch I get, not sure I've ever counted! I often use Polydown for my hand quilting as I like the loft it gives and as I use a lot of white fabric it doesn't show through like 80/20 does but I do love the look a cotton wadding gives after it's been washed…


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