Monday, November 09, 2009

Learning to quilt by hand

I've often posted about wanting to improve my handquilting. When I was in my LQS the other day, I spotted a small sign advertising a handquilting class the following Sunday! I signed up on the spot and went along to the class yesterday. It was run by Canberra Quilter Kerry Gavin, who has been quilting for more than 30 years. You should see her stitches! They are tiny and perfect and she has incorporated some amazing designs into her quilts. My favourite that she showed us had four eagles, all stitched by hand and highlighted with trapunto. Amazing. Did I say amazing? Amazing.

The class only had five students, so we had lots of one-on-one time with Kerry and she was very encouraging. She first had us prepare the top - an ivory square of homespun, including marking up the design with pencil and basting the square by hand. We then tacked facings along each edge and, finally, we were ready for quilting. We spent the next two and a half hours learning Kerry's technique, which uses two thimbles: one on each middle finger - one on top and one underneath. The one on top controls the needle and the one underneath helps push the needle back up through the fabric. This was only a slight variation on my self-taught technique, so I didn't have too much trouble adjusting. I was amazed at what difference those small changes made though. I started to get much smaller and even stitches. Nothing compared to Kerry's - or Cynthia's - another lady in the class who was immediately AMAZING (there's always one), but so much better than what I'd been managing previously.
Kerry also let us in on one of her secrets - she uses a very loose, low-loft all poly wadding. It's much easier to needle than what I've been using. I've also been handquilting through a flannel backing, which doesn't help! Anyway, here are some photos of my practice piece. It looks a bit grubby - that's the pencil markings. The third photo is of the back - I was stoked to see the stitches on the back almost the same as those on the front.
(This is the back - I played with the contrast/brightness so the stitches would show clearly)

I will finish this piece off - I might even trapunto the hearts - Kerry also gave us a lesson in how to trapunto and I bought the needle and floss. At $22, I'd better use it, eh?

I'm also going to rip out some of the handquilting I did around the butterflies on the VHC quilt I'm making for Tristan - I can do it much better now and have a great idea for how to link the blocks together. Let's hope it looks as good in real life as it does in my imagination.

8 comments:

Duyvken said...

Fantastic Lily. I love hand quilting, it's a very pleasant thing to be working on and I think it looks so lovely. It sounds like it was a great class! I am looking for a free motion machine quilting class to help me move out of my handquilting rut - it seems we're passing both moving out of our comfort zones and trying new things!

Chookyblue...... said...

this is just what I need to do...........wished I wasn't so far away.........

Helen said...

That looks great, Lily. I won't be making enough quilty things to justify a hand-quilting course, but it certainly looks better than my attempts. You may recall I ended up using backstitch, which I really like the look of. Not traditional, I know.

Emma said...

Wow, well done! Your stitches look so even! I hope I get as much out of my hand applique class tomorrow!

Kylie said...

I'm in total awe of anyone who can hand quilt and you look like you've been doing it for years! Great work Lily.

Doodlebug Gail said...

Lily!! Those stitches of yours look absolutely perfect .... and so neat and even as well. Looks like you're really enjoying it - I'll be looking forward to the trapunto photos.

Natalie said...

Your stitches are so neat and even! Glad to hear the class went so well, handsewing still scares me - I've yet to progress past the backstitch for my embroidery!

Helen said...

Wow! So neat and even! Well done Lily, looks great.