Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Callous Control!

In an effort to move and cover things in the living room, to prepare for the sanding that is about to commence in the sun room, I moved a stack of quilts --- and felt a guilty pang and a longing for simply sitting and doing some hand quilting.

My poor old Jane Stickle quilt variation called “In The Pink” has sat and sat and sat since winter, because it has been too hot ((Or I’ve been too busy)) to sit at it!

We had a storm roll through last evening, loud thunder booming, rain pounding, wind blowing---and I turned my back on my quilting room in the basement, and settled in for a long evening with some Law & Order, some Criminal Minds – my thimble, needle, and thread. It was a great evening for hand quilting the lazy curves of Baptist fans across these little blocks.

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I shared a picture of my progress on the Quiltville facebook page last night…and some questions were raised!

Missy Asked:


Missy, it depends on the quilt. Many quilts don’t need marking at all…if I’m cross hatching through squares or doing straight lines, I can either aim and shoot, or use 1/4” masking tape as a guide. If I’m doing 1/4” outlining within the patch, I don’t mark at all, I just eye ball it.

There is a tutorial on free-hand fans up in the tutorial tab at the top of the blog, but this quilt is more formal feeling, so I am using a template for larger graceful even fans, and a small chalk wheel to mark. If you are going to mark at all, be sure that you mark lightly and that the marks will come out.

There is a lot of controversy on blue pens. If I use them, I mark as I go, and spritz with water to remove marks as soon as I am done quilting that area. I don’t use the purple disappearing ones, can’t trust them! And in this humidity, they are gone too fast! LOL!

I've also been asked why the binding is on the quilt already.

I don't bind the edge UNLESS I am quilting from the outside in, as with doing baptist fans. Fans go from the outside edge, working in toward the center, so once I've done the first round around the quilt edge, I bind. It gets rid of that batting mess and protects the edge of the quilt. You DO have to baste really REALLY well when doing this method --- because quilting from the outside in can push excess fullness into the center, and you don't want that -- not ever! BASTE BASTE BASTE! I baste by longarm machine, doing a super huge meander with a fairly long stitch so it is easy to remove as I hand quilt.

Joan Asked:


These are the 4.5” finished blocks from the Jane Stickle quilt drafted by Brenda Papadakis in her book Dear Jane. This is my 2nd Dear Jane quilt – I was teaching the blocks at a local shop around 2003, and I needed class samples, so a second quilt was started. I changed up the setting by doing the quilt in only 3 colors ((Pink, brown, and one shirting print background)) and drafted the storm at sea sashings and cornerstones to fit the blocks. It finishes about 100” square, so I decided NOT to add the pieced triangles ((They wouldn’t fit right anyway because of the addition of the sashing))

inthepink 013

Here’s the first one! It hangs on the wall behind my longarm machine…I used black for the sashings and the alternate triangles. I made the sashing wider because I wanted to use it on a bed ((The original quilt is NOT that big….)) and that meant I had to add a strip around each triangle in the border to make them fit the quilt. It was a challenge!

I started it in 1999, and if you want to read more about it…you can go HERE!

I can’t believe it’s been that long – but time flies, you know?


Here’s a close up of the hand quilting on that one…at the time I started it there WERE not that many Civil War type fabrics, and I just dug through my scraps for anything that looked “old fashioned” that was the color I wanted. These are the scraps that have come through MY quilting life, you know --- so each one is a memory of another quilt I made along my own journey.


And since we were talking quilt marking at the beginning of this post….I used a chalk pencil to mark my feathers on the black fabric…..and I quilted in the black areas with red thread! Why not! I’ve always been just a “bit” of a renegade :c) You can see the faint remnants of the chalk still left as I was finishing the scalloped binding.

I know so many quilters who WON’T start this quilt because they worry over their own lack of perfection. BE SERIOUS!! If you saw the original quilt ((I have, it hung in Houston and I was instantly in love….mid 90’s before Brenda’s book came out)) you’d see that Jane’s work wasn’t perfect either. Her blocks were not even all the same size! Just do it. I learned so much from sewing these little blocks!

I’ll be teaching at the Vermont Quilt Festival next year --- and I am so hoping that I can spend some time with Jane Stickle's quilt again ---

And on to Pam’s Assumption!


I used regular “cut it out with a template” machine piecing and hand piecing – I used "rotary methods" to simply cut and machine piece some blocks. I used paper piecing, needle turn applique, reverse applique, any thing I could come up with to get these blocks done. Some of the machine piecing required set in “y” seams. Some of the blocks I redrafted to work with the paper piecing or other techniques. It really makes you use your brain to how YOU are going to accomplish the task. These quilts have been my greatest teacher ever---

((And in answer to your question, I think that hand pieced quilts CAN be machine quilted, and machine pieced quilts CAN be hand quilted! Anything goes!))

So back to our title of “Callous Control!!” One thing that a hand quilter never ever EVER wants to do is LOSE her callouses! And over the past several months while this has sat idle…I lost mine! Which means, that after about 4 hours of hand quilting bliss last night, my fingers are sore on my “under hand”. I think I over quilted last night! So – I might have to just piece hexagons instead this evening.

And before you tell me that there are “under things” like sticky tabs and under thimbles and stuff that helps….I’ve tried it all. Nothing serves me as well as a good quilting callous. I have to feel the tip of the needle as it comes through to get the stitch I want – believe me…I’ve tried!


  1. My grandmother machine pieced most of her quilts and hand quilted all of them. She even hand quilted many wool comforters instead of just tying them. Sarah

  2. A callous works best for me too. It has been several months since I did any hand quilting, but last week I picked up an old antique quilt top that belonged to my great grandmother and as bad as I hate to say it, I have been quilting on it for a couple of years. :( It is the only thing that my mom has that belonged to her grandmother so I should really get it finished for her. Anyway...as I was quilting it, I really missed my callous! LOL!

  3. I've tried all the finger gadgets too and just a plain ole naked finger works the best!!

  4. GOSH those are stunning. . I mean wow. just wow.

  5. I, too, belong to the "callous only" club. And I haven't hand quilted for a year now. I'm in trouble when I finish the quilt I am currently piecing for hand quilting. And I've been known to take two years+ to finish hand quilting something.
    Bonnie, you have given me motivation to "just do it" on the "Dear Jane" quilt. I've had the book for years! It will be another "no deadline WIP" but I like having a bunch of those. I can work on whatever the mood dictates.

  6. Lol! You're making me want to learn how to hand quilt!

    I definitely agree with your quilting mentality: Whether it's hand or machine pieced, the decision to hand or machine quilt is really just a matter of preference.

    As for marking - do you not soak your quilts after they are finished? I use the Fine Line blue water soluble pens, but only when I know the quilt will be totally submerged in a bathtub of water for about 30 minutes after it's all over.



  7. I do a lot of hand quilting and I too need to feel the needle to get a good stitch. I am glad that you "Break all the rules" of quilting and go with whatever works. I love that! I have always been a bit of a rebel when it comes to creativity and am glad that you are so influential about it for so many. You are a constant source of joy.

  8. I have a DJ started...I call it my lifetime achievement quilt, as it will take at least that long to get it finished! Yours are gorgeous...but a question, do you bind your quilt before quilting it...it looks like it but hard to tell from picture.
    I have also tried all those thingamajigs for hand quilting...and I also go with the callous!

  9. I agree the bare finger and a callous is the way to go. It looks like you have bound your quilt before doing the quilting. Am I mistaken? Do you do that often? Thanks for sharing all the great information that you do.

  10. I'm a callous girl. I just have to feel that needle. Thanks for elaborating on your methods. You've given me some food for thought and some motivation to jump start some idle projects. What am I waiting for?

  11. Wow!! That's beautiful Bonnie!! I started my own dear Jane, of course I put it down. Your post makes me want to pick it up again. I'm making mine in batiks. Have a great day !!! Sandie

  12. I have lost my callous too - now I am in the mood to hand quilt. And to get back to my DJ - I got frustrated with the applique - I need to forget about wanting them all to be PERFECT! I really love your pink and brown DJ - it is amazing!

  13. I too am a callous girl. I get my best stitch with a bare fingertip underneath. I also saw the previous post with this quilt and it inspired me to bind my piece that I was hand quilting with B.Fans. It just makes sense! I also baste on my longarm, but I tried the meander and it didn't work for me, so I"m back to grid basting. Thanks for the update on this beautiful quilt.

  14. I'm not a callous gal but I did just purchase my copy of Dear Jane, I hope that it will just be a coffee table book- but am afraid I will end up making the quilt too. so far I have resisted the urge to start piling fabric for it- lol

  15. Do we need to compare Quilting callouses? I have a bump on the end of my finger, It just showed up one day. I call it my Pokey finger. I didn't get it hand quilting, I think it was my English paper piecing, applique and lack of using a thimble that put it there. I like the pink variation and would love to go see the original DJ. Another place on my getting longer list of 'quilty places to visit' someday...

  16. hee hee, i'm a criminal minds junkie too! one of my favorite episodes was on last night, but it was late for me and i wasn't sewing at the time, just watching, laying in bed. and i wonder why i have nightmares sometimes! haha! your quilts are beautiful, as i'm sure you have heard before. keep up the good work - you are inspiring me to do more.

  17. I'm another callous quilter! I don't usually have to hit my finger very hard and don't usually get sore after a while of not hand quilting...at least not too much. But I don't usually do 4 hours straight of quilting...I'm lucky to get 1 on most days!

  18. I can only handquilt to the standard I want by feeling the needle on my fingertip. There is always someone with a new suggestion for something to protect it but everything makes me feel like I'm wearing an oven mitt. Does anyone else do what I end up doing? I start using my forefinger, then if that gets sore after a while I go to the middle finger - if I really want to keep going for hours I have been known to go to the ring finger. I haven't tried the pinkie but I suppose there might come a time when I'm desperate!

  19. We are thinking of starting a hand quilting business, how much do you charge for hand quilting
    a quilt and how do you figure it?? Waiting your

  20. Hey Bonnie~I, too, am packing and getting ready for Storm Lake today! Can't wait to finally meet you...I think it is good that you got to sit down and do some hand quilting last night. I haven't picked up that particular skill yet, but do hand embroidery instead!

    See you in IA!

  21. Oh Amy!! I tried to reply to you but there is no email address! I'm looking forward to meeting you too....I'm hoping it doesn't rain too much tomorrow with my travel...((quilts going in plastic tonight!))

    See you soon!

  22. You can't believe how happy I am reading this post! As a quilter who does everything by hand I have had the feeling I was going out with the stone age. I also use a chalk or blue pen and spritz as I go and my rule is, "If it works for you, it is the right way!"
    I will have a happy time connecting up with all these hand quilters in your comments section. Thanks SO MUCH!

  23. I like my bottom finger to be uncovered too. Right now I have little holes in my finger. I do what Barbara does, I move from my middle finger to my index finger to my ring finger. I don't hand quilt as much as you do.

  24. I have had the book since it came out, have gathered fabrics and have not started. Why?....yes you caught me....all the reason you stated. I will start......soon :0)

    Happy Sewing

  25. I loved your post, today! I also am a hand-quilter and totally understand wanting to keep a callous. I just built mine up again after several weeks of appliqueing and piecing. I have to feel the needle with my bare fingers, too. I also move from one to another as they become sore. I read your fan tutorial with much interest. I have been doing straight diagonals and am getting a bit bored with those, so will try the fans on the next quilt in line to be quilted. Thanks for taking the time to explain how you quilt. LOVED it!


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