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.
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.