I have been so encouraged by the number of people wanting to participate in the show and share of our thimbles, and focusing this post a bit on hand quilting.
I have a funny story ---well, maybe NOT so funny as in hahaha, but funny as in “peculiar” ((Nancy ala Patchwork Penguin, you remember this?))
I was lecturing for a guild and it got down to the end for “Question and Answer” time. One lady raised her hand and I encouraged her to speak, and she said “Well, your quilts are beautiful, but how do you expect us to hand quilt these? You can’t hand quilt these! There are too many pieces, they are too large!”
It kind of caught me off guard, and I had to kind of chuckle because I felt like I had just been called out by the “Hand Quilting Police”. Yet, she didn’t know who she was dealing with. I just wish I had more hand quilted quilts to show her, because YES --- I do hand quilt. I love to hand quilt. It’s just that deadlines and a desire to do MORE with my time means that more quilts are going to be machine quilted –saving the hand quilting for the real special ones that have no deadline.
I have hand quilted through quilts with tiny pieces on the front AND pieced backs! You just have to know that when you reach a seam allowance, you have to slow down, maybe load fewer stitches on the needle – maybe even stab-stitch a bit to get you through thick areas, but you can hand quilt everything!
This past week I was asked:
Bonnie, I think I've asked this question of you before, but how in the world do you get a consistent hand stitch of any size through so many layers when the block or quilt pattern has a lot of pieces?
I love to piece, and hand quilt, but the two seem incompatible.
My reply? You can't. You are not a machine!
You do the best you can, slow down and load fewer stitches on the needle in thicker areas, and just know there will be variations. :)
Don’t worry about the size of your stitches at first. Just go for getting a rhythm and work at it. The rest will come. Mine will never be perfect – if you saw it from up close, you’d see uneven stitches ---but this is the beauty of hand work.
We are NOT machines. But we can strive for consistency ---and the rest will come. Remember, that a little girl has to learn to crawl before she can toddle, then walk, then run, and it is a long while before she is able to put on her toe shoes and dance as a ballerina. You can’t just try once, say it’s not for you, and give up.
I’ve hand quilted string pieced quilts, I’m in the process of quilting another Jane Stickle variation with lots of seams and lots of pieces, and those chocolate South African fabrics are kind of heavy --- and my stitches are not as small as I’d like them to be. But I go on. I’m not worried about it. Don’t let the fact that things are NOT perfect suck the joy out of it for you.
We all quilt in different ways. I love a lap hoop, and my quilt fairly loose within that hoop. I find that a quilt held too tightly in a hoop is too hard to manipulate to get small stitches. Remember, this is quilting, not embroidery. Slacken up that quilt in the hoop. And you don’t have to hold on to the hoop----just let it rest. I’ve got one hand under --- and one hand on top. I don’t hold the hoop at all, it is just working as an extra set of hands for me so I don’t have to gather all of that quilt in my hands to hold it while stitching. Some people don’t quilt with a hoop at all – but there is one thing we agree on. BASTE WELL! Baste more than you think you’ll need ---
I was sent a really neat youtube video talking about an “Aunt Becky” under-the-quilt tool --- I’ve never used one, and I’m pretty set in my ways of quilting, so don’t know if it would work for me – but I love this video for the other ideas:
This is Jean Brown, an expert hand quilter. I love her idea for threading 30 needles at a time and having them there and waiting! I might have to try that. And watch how loose her quilt is in the hoop –—that’s how loose mine is too. I do have a callous on my “under” finger, and it is just part of me. What is comfortable for one person may not be for another, so if you aren’t happy with the process, try shifting things up a bit, try something you haven’t yet – you just might find what works for you!
In the drawer of the living room coffee table is this box that contains the various tools used in my hand quilting escapades. Afraid to ever throw ANYTHING quilt-related away, this box has kind of become the memorial resting place of things that do not work!
I have tried so many different kinds of thimbles that there isn’t time or space to write about them all. Before my fingers got a bit knobby I loved the plastic ones that were somewhat adjustable, they were cheap, I had them everywhere ----and then they just didn’t fit me anymore. My joints are aging :c|
About 12 years or so ago I bought a Roxanne thimble at a quilt show…bound and determined THIS would be the one I would love. It was way too heavy, my finger sweat just slid that thing right off! Funny how life comes to bite you – I just tried that Roxanne thimble on ---and now those joints are so knobby that the thimble doesn’t fit at all….so here it lives, with all the others!
My favorite thimble is shown above. It’s from Thimbles Plus and it is a TJ Lane thimble. I wrote about how it came to belong to me HERE. Can you see how much lighter weight the Thimbles Plus thimble is compared next to the Roxanne one? The Thimbles Plus thimble has no weight to it at all, it becomes part of my finger. The other one? WAY too thick and heavy.
Back to the box above --That blue cone shaped thing? I think it was supposed to be an “under tool” But I am happiest when I can feel the point of that needle against the ever present callous on my under finger. Why am I saving this thing? I don’t know! There are also the clear oval shaped stickies that can be used in lieu of a thimble or as an "under the quilt" pad---Ehhhhh---I don’t think they do all that great of a job, and though they say they are resueable, I don’t feel like the sticky sticks well after the first use.
Other things from the thimble grave yard: More sticky thimble pads. How old are these? You can see I only used one, and gave up on them! Two elastic leather thimbles. Nope. Didn’t work for me. Assorted “regular” thimbles with different dimples, groves, and ridges. These were uncomfortable on the knobby knuckle. One Leather thimble with a “coin” area ---I don’t know why I gave up on this one, could be that it went too far DOWN my finger.
I also received this email from Jo, who shares her thoughts on thimbles –for those of you NOT used to wearing one, read on! She’s got some great ideas on how to get used to being thimbled-up!
I am 73 years old, I’ve quilted for 30 years, I have a blog, I hand quilt every day, I have definite views on my kind of favorite thimbles, BUT I also have a husband at home with dementia. He is next up on the list for the nursing home so he is a lot of work right now and I get very few minutes without interruptions, so I have no time to figure out the linky business but I do want to tell you about my favorite thimbles.
They are the old metal thimbles of the past. The best place to buy them is an antique store. The reason I like them best is that they have deeper dimples so the needle is not slipping out of the dimple.
When I started quilting I found a metal thimble in my sewing basket although I had never used it before. A very good friend told me to put the thimble on while I did my housework, like making the bed, picking up the kids toys, etc. That way you get used to having it on your finger. I did as told and the thimble became such a part of me that I really don’t realize that I have it on.
Another thing that I did that I didn’t even know myself until someone pointed it out to me was that I used the side of my thimble. When you hold the needle you use the thumb and first finger, put you middle finger at the end of the needle and with one easy motion you can start the needle and push at the same time.
Works for me. Thank you for listening. I very much enjoy your blog and am looking forward to meeting you when you come to the Mississippi Valley Quilters Guild meeting in April, as I recall.
Thanks for the hints Jo! I’m sure this will help a lot of new hand quilters out there, as well as some “old” ones! :cD
So – do you have a thimble post to share? We are interested in seeing what you find works for you and what doesn’t! Please link your post to mine below, and include a link back to me within your post. Remember, we need the address of your individual post, not just the link to your whole blog. If you link it to your whole blog, I’ll have to remove it and have you try again because I can’t fix it for you.
Let the Linky Party Begin! We’ll leave this open for 6 days so you have until Midnight on the 26th to link up your post! And don’t forget to share this post to your news groups, email lists, message boards, fb pages ---the more viewers and participants we can get the better!