Blog Archives


Hand Quilting my New Years Resolution

I’ve been trying to finish hand quilting this quilt for ohhhh maybe three years?!#*@!!!  So I decided to make one of my New Years resolutions to work a little bit on it every day until it is done.   As you can see I have a pretty sweet set up for hand quilting.  I have a really nice view of my patio and the indirect Eastern light is great for actually seeing where I’m quilting.

I use painter's tape as a guide for my straight lines

The top I’m working on is a great old vintage top  made from a variety of indigoes and Mourning fabrics arranged in a very striking snail trail display.  Some vintage collectors might say finishing such tops is a mistake.  But I think old tops without any documentation might as well be finished and enjoyed.  I take lots of pictures of the front and back before I start so details of construction are recorded.

When I look at old quilts or tops to buy I am often attracted to the ‘odd ducks’.  Wonky blocks, off colors or patterns etc. despite the fantastic visual impact of this quilt top it had structural problems, which may be the reason that it was never finished.

Snail’s trail blocks have a lot of bias edges in their construction and that can lead to some pretty wonky blocks.   In the case of this quilt: while the blocks were all hand pieced the seams between the blocks were machine sewn. All that hand pieced bias fabric trapped in tight machine stitching made for some blocks being pretty ‘poochy’ in the middle.

detail of the pucker before quilting

No amount of stretching would ever get that completely flat.  My remedy was to choose a fairly fluffy , mostly wool blend batting.  Also I think quilting on a big frame helps keep fairly even tension over the whole surface of the quilt thus spreading or easing the  puckers in as you quilt.

same block after quilting

It’s not perfect by any means but it lays more less flat.   When the quilt is relaxed off the frame the fluffy wool batting helps to camouflage a multitude if sins!

I have hand quilted a few tops of my own construction but I find finishing these orphan tops is much more gratifying.  I find machine piecing  my own tops is much more efficient (and appropriate). I am not a great hand quilter so I try to match my quilting with the construction level of the top.

As to my New Years resolution… I’ve done pretty well.  I have quilted a little everyday since the new year and I have already quilted almost an entire row of blocks.  Just one more roll of the frame and I will be on my last row!!! Yahooooo!  Happy New Year! CW