The tranquility of hand quilting

Tulip Quilt - hand quilting tools

Surprisingly, my motivation to finish my Tulip Quilt is still going strong!  I’ve been working on it almost exclusively for the past few weeks, and I’m getting more and more excited about finishing this project as I get closer to the end.  The quilt has been growing on me the more I work on it, and although this project certainly doesn’t represent my finest craftsmanship, I’m really starting to love it.  🙂

After struggling with machine quilting a few weeks ago, I decided to tackle the rest of the quilting by hand.  I know, I’m crazy!  But I took a few shortcuts to save both time and my sanity.  I made two sizes of heart templates out of cardboard from an empty tissue box, used wash-away fabric markers to trace the hearts onto the fabric, and used hand quilting thread and an embroidery needle to roughly quilt around the outlines.  Why hearts?  Well, they’re a little cheesy, but I feel like a handmade quilt is by definition made with love, so I thought a few subtle hearts would be fitting.

Now, when I say I “roughly” quilted the hearts, I do mean roughly.  My stitches are huge (about 1/4 inch long) and unevenly spaced.  Serious hand quilters will probably be horrified by my shoddy work here!  But alas, I’m standing by my motto of “close enough” on this project, and I really just want to get it done already.

Behold my quick-and-dirty hand quilting (serious stitchers, avert your eyes!):

Tulip Quilt - hand quilting detail - tulip

I used the large template to quilt a heart inside each tulip.  I considered doing a straight-line design here, but I decided that I liked the whimsy of the hearts instead.  It feeds into the “made with love” vibe that I guess I’m going for.  Who knew I was such a sap.  🙂

Tulip Quilt - hand quilting detail - bird

I used the small template to quilt mini-hearts in the white spaces between the stems and leaves, tilting the hearts a bit as I went along, just for fun!  The hearts are pretty subtle, I think, but are practical in the sense that they give the quilt a bit more stability in the large open areas.

The blue outline that you see around the hearts will disappear in water, which means I’ll probably give the entire quilt a quick wash before calling it finished.  I didn’t pre-wash any of the fabric (oh, the horror!), so I’m looking forward to the entire quilt shrinking a bit and getting that “wrinkled” look.  I wonder how it will come out!

Tulip Quilt - hand quilting on back

The back of the quilt is finally looking sufficiently quilted now that all the hearts are done.  My batting is fairly stable, and I think it will hold up with this level of stabilization.  I like how the “quilt wrinkles” are already starting to form.  Man, I can’t wait to finish this thing and throw it on the couch for frequent use!

Tulip Quilt - Maggie snuggling in

In contrast to the drama and stress I experienced with machine quilting, I found hand quilting to be immensely relaxing and enjoyable.  It was so wonderful, in fact, that it got me thinking about making another quilt!  Crazy, right??  Maybe it’s some type of hypnosis or something.  🙂  It took me about 8 hours to quilt all the hearts by hand, and I have to admit that I enjoyed every single minute.  Even Maggie joined in the fun, snuggling into a corner of the quilt and dozing off for a nap.

Tulip Quilt - laying out the outer border

The quilt is really nearing the end at this point.  I’m about 90% convinced that I’ll add one more border around the outside, and I was delighted to find that I have enough of the red/pink/orange fabrics leftover to piece together a scrappy-looking 3-inch red border.  The other option I’m considering is to leave it white and clean, which means that I’ll have to pick up some more fabric for a plain white border.  Decisions, decisions…

Tulip Quilt - folded on tableThis project has been such a refreshing change from sewing garments.  I didn’t even realize I needed a change of pace until I happened to dig this thing out a few weeks ago, but now I’ve been happily cranking along without having to worry about whether it will fit right.  I’ve also been enjoying the creativity and freedom of design in this project.  I tend to wear fairly plain, unembellished garments, but in a quilt I can play a bit more with different prints and whimsical motifs (love those birds!).  Do you ever find that you need a change of pace in your sewing?

Once I decide on a border, all that’s left to do is attach it, add some final quilting in the border area, and bind this baby!  I already have fabric for the binding, so I’m in pretty good shape at this point.  The end is near!

24 thoughts on “The tranquility of hand quilting

  1. Carolyn the quilt looks great! I love your colors and the little birds are sweet. Can I suggest that since you did not pre-wash your fabric, that when you wash the quilt put a Color Catcher in with it. They are a product of Shout. Some reds or pinks can bleed when washed, but the Color Catcher should help.
    I have always enjoyed hand stitching. I have some quilts that I have hand quilted and right now I am hand piecing (a road trip project) quilt blocks. There is something about the rhythm of hand stitching that is relaxing! So glad you are enjoying the process.

    • Dharma, thanks for your kind words and the great suggestion about the color catcher. I’ll definitely be giving that a try! Can you imagine if I washed the quilt for the first time and the whole thing turned red? Ahhh! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying some hand sewing as well. Some of the tulips in this quilt were hand pieced (10 years ago, LOL), but I remember enjoying that too. Sometimes it’s just nice to “unplug.” 🙂

  2. I love the scrappy edge look! Hand quilting seems like knitting, something soothing to the mind while you’re working. Which definitely sounds less stressful than arguing with your machine and quilt that they *want* to fit together 🙂

    • Yes, exactly! Machine quilting certainly has its advantages, but I got to the point where I was willing to sacrifice speed for a little less aggravation. Thanks for your input about the scrappy red border – it seems like a few others agree!

  3. Ya know, the hand quilting sounds so much more relaxing than wrestling that thing under a sewing machine. It’s looking great! My gut instinct would be to have a white border to set off the green, but either way it’ll be beautiful!

    • Thanks Lisa! It was so much more relaxing than I was expecting, so I’m glad I gave it a try. I still like the idea of a white border, but the convenience of already having the red scraps seems to be winning me over. 🙂

    • Haha, thanks Louise! “Almost” is definitely the key word. I feel like I “almost” want to make another quilt now, but I’m not holding my breath, LOL. 🙂 Thanks for your input on the border – I think the red scraps will win out!

  4. Your quilt looks great! It’s so bright and happy…just what we need in the middle of the never ending winter. I too vote for the red pieced border. Can’t wait to see it all finished up!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words! I agree, this project is definitely cheering me up during a very long and intense winter season. Maybe it’ll be finished just in time for the arrival of spring. 🙂

  5. Carolyn, your quilt is just LOVELY! (It’s all gorgeous but the birds are my favourite!) MANY moons ago I was living in very northern UK & ended up snowed in for a week or 2 during one severe Winter…so I hand quilted a baby cot quilt by the fireside. I loved it! (Had never done it before OR since but found it so enjoyable to do.) Well done! 🙂

    • What a nice story, Kathy! I love the idea of hand quilting by the fireplace during a snowstorm. Throw in some coffee and my cat, and I might never leave the house again, LOL. 🙂 Hand sewing can be so relaxing and great for de-stressing and distracting yourself from work and whatever else is on your mind. It’s like therapy, I think. I’m glad you like the little birds – they’re my favorite part too!

  6. I love the hand quilted hearts! I have wanted to try hand quilting but I haven’t done it yet. If I ever finish the crewel project that I’ve been working on for 3+ years I might move on to hand quilting! I never pre-wash fabrics for quilts because I am a huge fan of the quilt wrinkles, too.

    • Thanks Teri! I’m really excited to see all the wrinkles when I pull this thing out of the dryer. I don’t know why I like them so much – maybe it’s just tradition? It’s a fun surprise, I guess. I’ll be looking forward to seeing your crewel project whenever you finish it. Hopefully it won’t take you 11 years like this quilt. 🙂

  7. I am so excited that the handquilting option has worked so well! And as much as you’re re-enjoying the making of this piece, it will be fantastic to finally get to wrap it around yourself. It is beautiful, you should be quite proud of your work.

    • Thank you for the kind words! I’m really excited about finishing this project now, no doubt due in part to all the wonderful encouragement from everyone commenting on these posts. 🙂 I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the hand quilting, and I might just quilt the borders by hand too!

  8. Your quilt is lovely and looks like it is already in use!

    I like looking at the results but unlike other creative pursuits, I cannot get into quilting. The process is not enjoyable for me. I’d so much rather make a dress!

    • Haha, yes, Maggie has been all over it already. 🙂 And don’t worry, this blog will not turn into a quilting blog! While I’ve been really enjoying the change of pace and finishing up a very old project, my true love is still garment sewing. I’m already thinking about spring wardrobe plans. 🙂

  9. I’m so glad your quilt-jo didn’t leave. I’ve gradually grown to like hand sewing. It’s meditative and you have some much more control than when sewing/quilting by machine. My two cents about the border is to work with what you got. I really like the way the pieced border looks; it complements the flowers.

    • Thanks Vanessa! I did go with the pieced border in the end, mostly because I already had the pieces right in front of me. I’ve never heard of “quilt-jo” before, but I like it. 🙂 Maybe I’ll get another bout of it in another 11 years!

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