Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ask Bonnie!

I received a couple of questions through email and the comment sections after my post the other night sent via iphone-O-Gram while hand quilting. I thought this morning would be a good time to answer them!

The first question was about my pink and brown Jane Stickle variation that I was hand quilting on. So here is a little history:

I had already finished ONE “Dear Jane” made in the traditional way. I started it in the late 1990s while still living in Idaho. It moved with me to two different locations in Texas, and finally to South Carolina where I finished the hand quilting. At that point in time I was giving myself ONE HOUR a day of hand quilting to get it done. ONE HOUR. Just pick one. Be it morning, or evening, do not sit down unless you are going to stitch on that quilt! And yes, you can finish the hand quilting of a big quilt in an hour a day! There is a link to that first Dear Jane version of the Jane Stickle quilt HERE.

The pink and brown one came to be because I was teaching the class at a quilt shop in South Carolina, and darn it if you don’t NEED to do block demos when teaching the class! I wanted to do something different, so I drafted up the Storm at Sea setting to go with the blocks instead of doing plain sashing and cornerstones. I also added a color scheme. I used a collection of chocolate fabrics from South Africa, scrappied up my double pinks ((Yes, just added scrappied into the dictionary too!)) and used ONE background fabric, an ivory shirting print with a little pink design. I wrote some about my journey of “In The Pink” HERE.

Over the past few years that I’ve been hand quilting on this ((Oh, is it 4? Is it 3? Oh dear --- I can’t remember when I basted it!)) it has been a very hit or miss situation because I’ve had so many other deadlines that have taken up my available time. I love this quilt. I want it finished --- I’m trying to put the “one hour a day” rule into place when I’m home, but we all know that isn’t always going to happen because so often that “one hour” has to go somewhere else.

This I do know --- I LOVE the peaceful “all is right in my world” feeling I get when I can simply sit with it and pull that thread through the quilt, one needle load of stitches at a time.

The next question was about the kind of hoop I use to hand quilt with.

I have tried every kind of frame/hoop system out there. I think you need to try them all to find out which is right for your body and the way you quilt. I’ve tried 3 rail frames….and I found I am happier when I can turn a hoop so I can quilt in the direction that is most comfortable for me. It’s easier on my wrist that way. So – I have a large Hinterberg 3-rail floor frame for sale here in NC if anyone wants one--- contact me!

I’ve also tried a rotating hoop on a floor stand. I could never sit in a way that was comfortable for me and I didn’t like having that stand between my knees. I also have one of those for sale if anyone in NC wants one. It’s also Hinterberg. I’ve got two sizes of hoops that go with it. I won’t ship these items, so they’d need to be picked up.

What works for me the best, is to sit in my recliner with my feet up, all nice and cozy --- with a simple hoop in my lap. No stand, no nothing.

I have two of these hoops in two sizes. The one on the quilt above is a 17” heavy-duty plastic hoop that has a non-slip groove in it. I used to use wooden hoops, but they come apart where the screws go through that extra wood piece that holds the hoop tight. ((Whatever you call that)) OR – when traveling with wood hoops I’ve even BROKEN them. I had to get duct tape on a cruise once to hold one together so I could continue to quilt on the cruise. The plastic ones have NEVER broken on me!


These hoops have the label of “Morgan Products” on them, and they come in various sizes. If I am flying, and planning on hand quilting in my seat on the plane, I use the 12” Morgan hoop.


Yep, I checked, and Amazon carries these. They can also be ordered directly from the manufacturer HERE. No affiliation, just what I like to quilt with. They are molded, non-slip, and I like that the part where the screw is is NOT going to separate from the hoop because it is PART of the hoop. A plastic hoop also means NO SLIVERS or no rough wood to catch my thread and or batting edges....those wood hoops are not always smooth.

I also had a question on the thread I like to use for hand quilting.

dearjane 002

I like the YLI threads. They are one of the “FEW” that still have wooden spools! I love the feel of the thread, how it doesn’t shred back on itself, and it doesn’t twist and tangle and knot while quilting. And yeah, it might look silly, but a simple ponytail holder over the spool keeps the thread from winding off by itself. YLI is also a Carolina product --- their plant is just south of me in Rock Hill, SC. Thread made in the USA? I’m all for that.

And while we are talking about thread – we can talk about needles! There are so many choices out there, but these are what work for me:


Roxanne #9 Betweens

I know that people love 10s, 11s, 12s in hand quilting needles….but I have what some would call “MAN HANDS”. I’m a tall, big girl….so I go with the 9s. I can get nice small even stitches. I don’t shoot for 20 stitches an inch. I just strive for my own rhythm and try to be even, but not focus on small. Get that rocking motion going, and it is what it is. I think smaller fingers can make smaller stitches – at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! I also like that these needles are a bit more “stout” than others – they don’t bend right off the bat. The eye is large and is easy to thread, and let’s face it, I like the little tube they come in with the cute seashell on top! 50 in a package is a steal too.

A little secret --- sometimes I’m just DYING for a topic to talk about on here. Sometimes, day after day, coming up with something new that you will find interesting is not easy --- it leaves me writing about things like hershey’s kisses giveaways at the chiropractor for instance! Or way too much info on how my eldest son became the best Valentine’s gift ever! So if there is something you’ve always wanted to know – please ask! I’m happy to have a topic to write about that might be of interest to more than just you. Because if you are thinking it, and wanting to ask it – chances are you are not the only one. Help a girl out, won’tcha? ((Yep, just added won’tcha to the dictionary too, can take the girl out of Minnesota, but you can’t take the Minnesota out of the girl!!))

Wednesday will have me doing things like buying my airfare for a visit to Davenport Iowa at the end of March! Working on some more book edits. Piecing those border units I’ve been working on into pairs ---and just enjoying a quiet day home by myself. Jeff is doing well back in school. Jason and Kim are happy and figuring life out in South Carolina. My sciatica pain seems to be receding, and we’ll keep working on that.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I’ve got a massage appointment this afternoon! BLISS! ((I guess this means I need to shave my legs?!?))

Better get to it!


  1. Anonymous8:43 AM EST

    Ahhhh, yes, massage, the best reason to shave your legs!! Am visiting with daughter presently who is a massage therapist....will have to schedule one before returning to ME. Loved your post, Bonnie. So true, if one has a question, there must be others who would ask the same thing.
    Glad to hear the back is doing better, have a wonderful day.
    Faye in Maine

    1. Pedicure is a sure fire way to get me to shave my legs. I have been known to just shave what might show beneath my slacks otherwise!!

  2. I have a second Dear Jane that I need to quilt one day also - I also use Roxanne needles (#11) that I use - all the time for everything. Too bad we have to go through so many hoops to find the right one - I think I have several I should try to sell as well.

  3. Bonnie, this is one of your best post! Lots of really usable information in it. I love the way you added different blocks to the storm at sea sashings. Color combinations are very pleasing. I hope you'll post a full shot of this quilt very soon. Guess I'm a "Monkey See, Monkey Do" and I'd like to try this one too.

  4. Thanks so much, Bonnie, for all the hand quilting info. Some quilts, like Dear Jane, just cry out for hand quilting.


  5. you could always talk about how you organize your sewing room. corner of the week! how you store your threads, rulers, etc.
    I love your blog Miz Bonnie. I don't have a lot of time and yours is the only one that holds my interest. I check it every day for my bit of sunshine and you have really got me out of my 'fat quarter paralysis'! I'm really proud of your accomplishments.

    1. Thank you so much for the ideas and the compliments, Becky! So glad to have you along for the read!

  6. Great information! I've never hand quilted before but I will certainly save this post for future reference. I think quilting in a recliner sounds relaxing!

  7. I hate when I have to shave my legs! Lol... Will you let me know the details of your Iowa trip? I would love to meet you and I'm not terribly far from Davenport!

    1. Here is the info from my calendar on the Davenport Iowa visit:

      March 31-April 3:
      Mississippi Valley Quilters Guild, Davenport IA
      Sat, Mar 31: Smith Mountain Morning Workshop
      Sun, Apr 1: Virginia Bound Workshop
      Mon, Apr 2: Scrappy Mountain Majesties Workshop
      Tues, Apr 3: Trunkshows 1pm & 7pm
      Guild Contact: Wendy Canada wkcanada@hotmail.com

  8. Ready to start assembling my Orca Bay quilt today. Excited and a little nervous. I've learned so much while doing this quilt and my piecing has definitely gotten better. Never expected to tackle a quilt with so many tiny little pieces. Thank you Bonnie. This quilt is destined for the Missouri Baptist Children's Home quilt auction in June.

  9. Anonymous9:16 AM EST

    I'll have to check out that hoop. I bought a wood one 10 years ago, and noticed last week it has a fracture...so close to snapping. Michael's is the only place I've found that carries that exact hoop, at a price. I bought a cheaper one that snapped in less than a year. However, my husband was excited to keep that huge screw for his "treasure box."

  10. Uffda! Ole and Lena don't mind you leavin' just wish you'd come and teach up here. We gotta figure that out somehow!

    1. I agree....Lena and I were having the same conversation the other day and Ole thought we were talking about "Quilted Northern", oh that man.....

  11. Anonymous9:25 AM EST

    Really interesting! Your pink and brown dear jane is 'to die for'! Classy! Would really love a demo on your hand quilting to go along with this. I am going to attempt to hand quilt at least one quilt in the future. Still working on hand piecing the top. And, I'm somewhat self-taught. Just whatever information I have been able to find along the way is how I've learned and, now, I can see it will be the same for hand quilting. I have really managed to 'get out of my box' quilting wise and have had the courage to really try something new....in fact, it's become something of a modo of mine. If I haven't tried, by all means, do it! Which, has left my work in a 'yikes' state of mind. But, I'm loving all the quilting adventures. So, on my quilting adventure, I have come across what I hope is a viable question. I have cut and sorted strips like you have suggested out of a lot of my leftovers, but, the leftovers keep piling up.....is that good or bad? hahaha Anyway, I thought I read something somewhere on one of your blogs along the way about 'what do we do with leftover strips that we have cut off our tops after quilting?' I was cutting these up to put in my strips allotments, but, didn't I see where you were tossing them in a bin to be used for strip piecing? Would really love more info! Thanks for listening, Dianna

  12. Bonnie, while we're onto questions, please identify the name/book of the quilt in the upper left corner of your blog template.
    I use these hoops and I love them. I, too, own all sizes and kinds and should donate, sell, or toss them...hmmm.
    A little tip my husband gave me - stretch 1/4" cut of surgical rubber (from Lowes) over your thimble, toward the knuckle side. It grabs that needle easily.

  13. Crossthread Bonnie from NEMO9:42 AM EST

    Best info posted! Hand quilting..right up my alley! Thank you, thank you! Love your "dear Jane" and would like to learn more from your experiences.

  14. Anonymous9:45 AM EST

    Ooo, Ooo, Ooo, I have an idea for a tutorial you can help me with!! I have a mid-size quilting frame and for the life of me I can't figure out how to square up the backing to get it to load straight on the frame! Smaller pieces (crib size and smaller) are easy, but when it comes to lap size or larger, I pin and re-pin at least 4 times every time I try to load the frame! How do you straighten those loooong edges???


    1. Anonymous11:37 AM EST

      Sorry! I forgot my email addy ~ kfb1977@yahoo.com

  15. From a Wisconsinite to a Minnesotian....you bet'cher boots, don'tcha know.

    Sandy in TN

  16. So much info for hand quilting. Any suggestions for how to avoid thumb fatique, you know how your hand starts to turn into a claw after awhile of hand quilting?? Kendra

  17. Anonymous9:57 AM EST

    I too love hand quilting, and find it relaxing to the point that I have to remind myself to get out of my chair every so often, or I hear about it from back,neck, knees - all those things that don't let you forget your age.
    I learned to quilt back in the 1960s, from library books and making mistakes, and I tried a few different hoops, but found I'm happiest with no hoop at all. I baste the hell out of the quilt, and then just sort of drape it over a large book, pinning in between the basting as I go. It works for me! Same for embroidery - I never got comfortable using a hoop there either.

  18. I enjoyed the history of your twin Janes! And the info on the hoops you use is very interesting. I am always happy to know what people like and WHY! Helps me decide if their solutions might also be mine.
    Ah, the needles. I shock people when I tell them I quilt with an 8. Always have--and I get pretty small stitches. Those tiny needles don't feel right in my fat fingers. I am not a heavy person, but I have a hard time finding a thimble large enough for the ends of my non-tapering fingers. Can't see myself fiddling with tiny needles. Glad to be informed about these "stouter" needles. Will have to look online for them. Thanks, Bonnie!

  19. Bonnie, your blog is a must-read for me every morning! Thanks for sharing your skills with us. Here's an idea for a future post (or posts). Tell us how you got your first book contract for your quilting books, and what advice you'd give to would-be quilt designers.

  20. Bonnie, I also follow your blog daily and because of this it feels like we're old friends. I'm also interested in learning about thimbles. I'm a relatively novice hand quilter but can't seem to work with a thimble. I keep trying different configurations.

    1. Anonymous7:49 PM EST

      Best thimble I've found is made by Clover. It has a metal tip, with little indentations so that you needle doesn't slip, and rubber around the reset of it. Godd of people who have swollen joints etc.

  21. You and I are alike in so many ways. I love to sit in my recliner, with my feet up, with my quilt in a hoop (I use a 14" squared-off hoop ... I'm a shortie, so I need a smaller hoop). I use the lap hoop for all the same reasons you do. I started with a lap hoop because I'd always used a hoop when doing embroidery (the precursor to quilting for me). I always intended to advance to a frame, but the lap hoop works so well - you know the old saying, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Plus, it's easy to tuck away the quilt when we have company, etc. when using a lap hoop.

    Even though I'm a shortie, I like the #9s. I am going to search for the Roxanne's ... I bent a couple of needles on my last quilt. And as a beach lover, I heart the idea of a shell on the top of the tube! ;-) I've never counted my stitches, but I think I get them fairly small ... I don't fret about that ... just try for some uniformity and enjoy the quilting.

    So many quilters machine quilt ... it's always enjoyable to read/hear from those who hand quilt and enjoy it. (My quilting is done exclusively by hand ... that means fewer quilts but more pleasure. YMMV)

    1. Oh, and I'm interested in finding a supplier for YLI thread. It's getting more and more difficult to find good thread in a wide range of colors suitable for hand quilting.

  22. The massage sounds like heaven to me right now! I have been working on paper piecing Harry Potter blocks for a drawing quilt and my shoulders are not happy. Something about 60-70 pieces in a 5 inch block! Had a dream about you this morning at my upcoming quilt retreat - you should have seen the quilt you 'helped' me with! It changed throughout the dream but at one point you added some denim sections that included a denim jacket complete with intact sleeves! Crazy!

  23. Bonnie--this was one of my favorite posts ever! Just shows that you write what *you* feel like writing and it's going to hit the sweet spot for someone! I nodded my way through the whole thing---nope, can't quilt in my frame (although I do use Z44 to baste). Yep, plastic works better for me than wood (I use a Q-snap b/c that's what I had from cross-stitching). Roxanne needles are THE best, and I love YLI thread, esp. the wooden spool, although I usually use Gutermann b/c it's available at JoAnn's and often on sale. I've had more trouble with it splitting and knotting lately though. I'm sure that this is more info than you want on someone else's hand quilting, but it's the hand work that is my passion.

  24. I like Nimble Thimbles ... and after a couple of uses, the leather stretches so that I have troubles with thimbles that fit one time not staying on the next time. I have some medical tape (3M Micropore) that I wrap around the tip of my finger to add enough to allow the thimble to fit perfectly.

  25. Anonymous10:50 AM EST

    I, too, have "man hands" thick fingers so I need a huge thimble. To get it to fit and work for me I use the medical tape or the best is "Vet Rap" that you can get at the local feed store. It comes in all widths, I buy the large 4", lasts forever and always on hand for a blister or broken ankle. $2.99. There have been times when I have put one of the little finger pads and then wrapped with corban (Vet Rap). Works good. Problem is, not to leave it on for hours, you end up with a prune at the tip of your finger. LOL

  26. Bonnie - I can't thank you enough for this post! It's so timely. I just started my first hand quilting project (a table runner), just so I could learn how to hand quilt. It's SO much fun and I can't put it down, even in the heat that we're having in South Africa. Thanks so much again! Susan

  27. i could almost be inspired to start hand quilting. Your projects look beautiful!!

  28. Thanks Bonnie, I do so want to start my Jane journey but just have not worked up the courage.
    Now I have another few questions.
    What pattern are you quilting, are you marking the top, and how did you decide what pattern you wanted to quilt. Did you use the same quilting pattern on both Dear Janes?

    thanks, :0)
    Happy Sewing and healing.

  29. You're tall until you stand next to me!

    I need to start a hand quilting project, but will explain later.

    Yes, not all of us can handle those little needles..they get lost in my hands too.

  30. you talked about working while flying - what do you use for sissors to take on board an airplane - If really really small will they pass inspection or be confiscated?

  31. Bonnie,
    Like so many others you are a daily must for me. It keeps me inspired and sometimes even motivated ;)! You have inspired me to get out my antique quilt tops (put together with hand embroidered blocks my great grandmother did) and get to hand quilting them. I haven't hand quilted since my mother passed away. It was always something we did together around a big frame. I am not sure my stitches will look so great, I hope it is like riding a bicycle! I would be interested in the thimble question. I know you have talked about thimbles before. I really struggle with something on my finger, but oh the pain if you don't. I would like to get back to doing some hand applique too. Thanks Bonnie for your constant inpsiration and generous sharing!

  32. I love those Roxanne needles too! Also the topstitch machine needles have awesome big eyes! Sooo much easier to thread up!

    Question 1: What size YLI is it that you use for quilting?
    Question 2: How do you say (pronounce) "Perkiomen"? This has been making me nuts.
    Question 3: Are you gonna do a Jubilee quilt?!
    Those are my questions for now!

    I think it's a miracle you come up with the interesting topics that you do every single day! Thanks for being here and sharing of yourself. You are a great friend!

  33. You are so generous to share all these tips! what would we do without you?! I don't want to find out! I'm glad the chiropractor and massages are helping. You deserve the best :-)

  34. Your quilt is looking gorgeous so far :-) Thanks for sharing all your tips. Enjoy the massage, one really need that when sewing up a storm :-)

  35. So is the hoop with the floor stand still available? If so, please email me privately.

  36. I too love YLI hand quilting thread. And of course being OCD me I bought an entire collection of the wooden spools in all the colors. My favorite is a nice gray that I used on my last Freehand Baptist Fan quilting project. ANd the one before that I used a rust color. I am not afraid of the stitches showing. Hey! I hand quilted it! I want them to show of course!
    I did take your advice a long time ago and bought some of your Roxanne needles. I have never had one break on me like the smaller needles can. And my hands are not large yet I can get good stitch results with these larger needles.
    I still cannot quilt in a frame be it on my lap on in a stand. I also tried both those methods and sold both after a good college try. So, I love being in my recliner plulling thread through fabric and batting and knowing all is right in my world.
    XOXOXOX Subee

  37. Hi Bonnie,
    I quilted before with wooden loops, which was ok, but lately I started to quilt by hand without any frame. It works well if you did the sanswich with close thread fixing, so there is not to much possibilities of moving of the fabrics.
    If you want to look, I am just quilting my cubs-quilt so find at my blog : www.LintLady.blogspot.com
    Happy stitching :o) Doris

  38. Hi, Bonnie, By the time you read this, you should be a relaxed, post-chiro girl, feeling great! But some of us NEED to know if you won those chocolates and how many there were in there, anyway.
    And BTW, somewhere in your old-old archives is a picture of me with you and several others at the Sisters Quilt Show, on a DJ meeting day many many years ago. I'm still working on those blocks. I consider it a WIP, because I still make progress every once in a while. An Oldie But Goodie, for sure. I'm so amazed at all the finished ones I see! My favorite hand-quilting position is also in my recliner with my quilt hooped (mine has a sit-in-my-lap bottom with a swivel). Very Zen and easy on my back. But I sure don't clock many hours that way. Hurray for you and all you get done!

  39. Bonnie,

    I so appreciate this blog as I learned something new today from it but don't stop the kisses counting either because you make me chuckle and think about fun memories. I look forward to reading your blogs everyday. Daisy

  40. Anonymous4:40 PM EST

    Thanks, Bonnie, for the daily inspiration, enthusiasm, and knowledge that you generously share on your blog. I think I've finished more projects since I started reading your blog last Fall.
    Ques: What is the size of your blue rotary cutter that we frequently see in the photos?

  41. Hi Bonnie... If the 3 rail floor frame is still available, I would definitely be interested in some more info... I am so in love with your "Jane At Sea" that I have been trying to collect some black, coral and gray fabrics for the last four years, to make one similar. Someday soon, after my move, I will be starting my own "journey with Jane"!

  42. Bonnie, I constantly learn from your blog and can't wait to see what you have on it every day. I have been doing some hand quilting lately and have fallen in love with it all over again. I learned from my mother as girl in high school at her large frame but now use a hoop kind of like yours. I want to try your Roxanne needles as never seen them before. I want to try quilting a large quilt now but dread the thought of basting it first. Could you maybe do a blog on basting a quilt in preparation for hand quilting? Maybe there is an easier way I don't know about. I can only hope!

  43. 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.

  44. Bonnie, I was at guild Monday and tried to get up my nerve to approach you about a question I have had awhile, but knowing how very busy you are, I just couldn't bring myself to impose on you. But having read your plea for topics, it has given me the courage to ask. I really want to make four lap quilts (one each for me, my ex and my two daughters) using the plaid shirts, boxers, jeans and khakis belonging to my son who passed away eight years ago. I'm not what you'd call a prolific quilter. I haven't made very many. I feel paralyzed to begin. I am so afraid that I'll start cutting and piecing to find that I don't have enough fabric for four due to not choosing the right designs. From your experince using men's shirts, is there a way to estimate the amount of fabric I have by counting the number of large shirts? How would this compare to yardage guidelines that a pattern provides? Thank you for any help you can give me. Sbraswell3@triad.rr.com

  45. Hi Bonnie!

    Okay, I've thought and I've thought about it and even though I'm in Canada, I'm sure our laws aren't THAT much different than the USA.

    I have a pattern that I've sketched out and am ready to actually make. I'd LOVE to be able to sell this pattern on Etsy, in our local quilting store and sell the kits, as well.

    How does one go about doing this? How did you start, with designing and selling patterns???? Do you need to call a lawyer? I've got very, very limited funds. And I'm POSITIVE there are a lot of wanna-be designers that would LOVE to know how to get started.


    Rosa Robichaud
    Saint John, New Brunswick

  46. Anonymous10:03 PM EST

    Hi Bonnie-
    I'd love to know if you starch, how you do it and what products you use. Do you launder all fabric?
    Thanks for all you do.
    Sandy in WV

  47. Anonymous8:30 PM EST

    I'm a beginner trying to teach myself to hand piece and quilt. I now have three tops pieced and used YLI 40/3 ply thread to piece them. But I've had BIG problems threading needles even while using threaders. When needles with bigger eyes were used, the needles were difficult to push/pull through the fabric. Any ideas?

    Love your blog. Jean in NH

  48. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the hoop recommendation! I, too, have used duct tape on a broken wooden hoop, and have caught threads and such on small slivers or rough spots. I *love* the Morgan hoop you recommended. Even when I keep the quilt somewhat loose in the hoop, it stays at that tension: doesn't tighten or loosen. Such a useful recommendation! Thanks again.

    Jory in MA


If you are commenting as "anonymous" please leave your name at the end of your comment.

Did you know that ad space on this blog provides for all of the free patterns and free mysteries and challenges at no cost to you? Without ads, this blog would not be possible.

Thank you for understanding the many hours that go into this blog 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. :)