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Hand Quilting

Hand quilting is the method of sewing together the three layers of a quilt (the backing, the batting, and the top) in patterns of hand sewn stitches. It’s certainly not fast, but it is stunningly beautiful. This tutorial only covers the hand quilting stitch itself. Before you get started you will need to thread baste your quilt top, batting and backing together.

You will also need some special equiptment and materials. Please check out our Windowpane Wholecloth Baby Quilt (pictured above) for a full list of these materials.

Place the section of your basted quilt sandwich that you would like to quilt on the inside of the quilting hoop and then attach the outside of the hoop. You can start quilting wherever you like. Tighten the hoop slightly but do not stretch the quilt itself. You want the hoop to hold the fabric in place but not to pull it as taut as you would for an embroidery hoop.

Tie a Quilters Knot  at the end of an 18-inch piece of hand quilting thread and thread this onto a hand quilting needle.

Before you begin quilting you need to anchor your thread. First find where you would like to start quilting. You will anchor your thread 1-inch before this point. Bring your threaded needle through the top of your sandwich and the batting layer, then back up  through the top, coming up at your start point, careful not to puncture the backing fabric.

Pull the thread until the knot pops through the top fabric and is thus hidden in-between the layers of the quilt. Do not pull it so hard that the knot comes through the exit point as well.

Now it's time to arm your fingers against the sharp quilting needle. Place your thimble on your right index finger and your under thimble on the tip of your left index finger.

Hold the quilting hoop on your lap. Place your left hand under the hoop with your left index finger directly under where you'll be stitching.

Keep in mind that you will be stitching towards yourself. Insert your needle 1/8-inch or less from the thread's exit point. Press it perpendicularly through all three layers of the quilt using only your right index finger, until the tip of the needle hits your left index finger on the opposite side of the quilt. Meanwhile, push the fabric in front of the stitch downward with your right thumb.

While pushing the fabric down with your right thumb rock the needle back with your right index finger while pushing up with your bottom left finger to create a little bump on the fabric. With your right finger push the needle though the bump so it come out back on the top. Pull the needle and thread through the fabric so that it just barely puckers it. This is your first quilt stitch! It is important to make sure that this stitch has gone through all three layers of the quilt sandwich.

Do not be discouraged if your first stitches (or even all of the stitches on your first quilt) are not very even or very small. It's more important to get the rocking motion and the idea that you are only using three fingers; the left index, the right index, and the right thumb to make each stitch. The beauty of handquilting comes from the irregularities so it's best to embrace them early on!

As you get a more comfortable with the handquilting stitch you will be able to take more than one stitch at a time before pulling your needle through. Once I get rolling I can usually take 3 or 4 at a time. But remember this isn't a race, there is nothing wrong with taking one stitch at a time.

When you reach the end of a length of thread stop while you still have 3-inches of thread left. Tie a quilter's knot close to the last stitch. Push the needle back into the quilt for the last stitch but only go through the front and batting layers, not the backing. Bring the needle out 1-inch away from the last stitch and pull the thread to pop the knot to the inside. Cut the thread end at the exit point to hide it and then start another row of stitches.

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