Quilting is both fun and nice and you don’t always have to do it with a frame. No matter how much you like to use a frame for the accuracy, it gives when you’re quilting, it may become a bit stressful.
Sometimes you need to step away from the pressure and let your imagination and hand to work freely. You may need to have an experienced hand for it, but hand quilting without a frame is fun and liberating.
Some general rules applies when trying this type of quilting, like the thread and needle. Some use perle thread (#8 is always a good choice), but you may go for a thicker cotton as well.
Try to avoid the temptation of cutting a long length of thread. You may think a long thread lasts longer, but it’s a matter of time until you end up with a tangled mess. Some quilters simply hold the end of the thread in one hand and the other to pull the thread as long as the arm is, right up to the shoulders.
The needle should fit the thread and don’t go with the mission impossible, trying to fit a thicker thread through a small needle hole. It’s a good thing to try variously sized needles to find the one that work best for a project. Some may even use embroidery needles, but whatever your final decision is, be sure it’s a sharp needle. It may feel that all needles are and work the same, but the way you feel it in your hand while quilting should count the most.
When you’re into the hand quilting, you need to know that you’re going to have to do some work and a thimble may protect you from injuries. You don’t have to, but when you’re in for the long run, it’s wiser and safer to use one.
Let your creativity work and don’t hesitate to try various models with chalk or washable ink pens or pencils. Don’t be embarrassed and dare to draw even your stitches if your eye isn’t that experienced. After all, it’s your quilt and you may easily wash the marks for your stitches in the end. Obviously enough, you shouldn’t do it for the whole project as your hand and eye will eventually get in the rhythm, but it’s a good trick especially if you’re an entry level hand quilter. In addition, after it’s all done, no one will see the marks anyway!
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When you’re hand quilting, it’s essential to set the right length for your stitches. A grain of rice is always a good size, but anything between 1/8th and ¼” works just as fine also. It’s more important that the distance between the stitches is the same all over your quilt. Consistency is the key for any nice quilt. Practice makes perfect, remember?
Seams are very helpful on any quilting project and it’s not that difficult to get a straight line when you follow the seam allowance. They work as a great guide and when you pay attention to may even feel the seam allowance pressed open underneath. For a patchwork project, you need though to press the seams open. Even when you’re wadding and backing you may feel the seam allowance on the top.
Nobody says that you can’t unpick it when you don’t like your work. As a matter of fact, this is a great thing about hand quilting: you decide when to stop and to go back if you don’t like what you see. Always check your work behind and don’t be afraid to undo some stitches. After all, you do want to like your project in the end!
An amazing trick when hand quilting is to use your needle to maintain a straight line. Lay the needle on the fabric and let it guide you, especially if you’re using a long needle. Pull the needle back before you make the stitch if the line’s not straight.
The more you hand quilt, the more your hand gets better at this. Therefore, you need to persevere and to learn to load more stitches. You’re going to get faster and end your project sooner than expected.
Don’t overstress on the back of your quilt; if the front looks good, the back does all. Neat and nice stitches on the front look the same on the back of your quilt. Try to get a 90 degree angle for your needle (perpendicular on your quilt) in order to get same length on your stitches. Truth be told though, nobody really checks the back of your quilt.
The most important rule when hand quilting? Don’t be afraid to simply do it and try. Don’t start with a big project if you’re not sure of your quilting skills. Practice a bit on a smaller quilt, but, more importantly, do it!