Are you guys tired of hearing about all the classes I’ve taken this fall? I hope not, because I have two more to tell you about. This latest foray into my crafty continuing education was called “Intro to Handwork” and it took place over four consecutive Saturdays at The Workroom. Our fantastic teacher, Carolanne, guided us thought the ins and outs of cutting and hand piecing this star quilt block, which we then quilted by hand before turning it into a cushion cover. Yes, you read that right: by hand.
Front and back. With the exception of the zipper insertion and joining the back to the front, this entire cushion cover was sewn and quilted by hand, just like in the old school days when your great-great-great-grandma had to get up at the crack of dawn to milk the cows and then walk 10 kilometres to school each way in snow up to her ears. Old school, but oh so rewarding!
This cushion is a gift for a couple of geographers who love to travel, hence the map inspired theme (the eagle-eyed among you may recognize the fabric from this post). The piecing was done using regular cotton thread, but for the quilting I used two special threads, both made by Valdani: a variegated hand died quilting thread to stitch-in-the-ditch along the quadrant lines, and a pearl cotton thread to stitch a much thicker, parallel double line emphasizing the star points. I much prefer the bold look of the cotton pearl and have the feeling that I may start adding this design detail to my quilts from now on. Also, if you are interested in hand quilting, I highly recommend treating your thread so that it slides smoothly between the many layers of fabric. I used Thread Heaven, but Carolann told the class that she prefers beeswax. Whichever one you choose, treating the thread really makes the stitching go smoothly.
Pinning and stitching the pieces in place
Carolann tried to teach us the proper way of doing things by outfitting everyone in the class with a quilting frame. I’m a terrible student because I went rogue and promptly ditched the frame in favour of resting the work on my lap. The frame felt too constrictive and would not allow me to get a good handle on the fabric and while I suppose there is a risk of shifting layers of fabric if the piece is held on one’s lap, on a block this small this was not an issue at all.
(L): Basted quilt top in the frame; (R) Back zipper detail.
The truth is that I have developed a bit of an addiction for handwork: it’s relaxing, meditative, highly satisfying and every time I do it I’m left wanting more. I told my teacher in jest that hand quilting had become my crack, but I wasn’t completely joking. Every Saturday after class I would get home and promptly start on my homework and then would have to stop myself from finishing it all so that I would have a bit of stitching to do each night until I could get my fix again at the following Saturday’s class. What can I tell you, I’m odd like that. I’m not surprised that I liked handwork so much, after all I’m a knitter and I really enjoyed the hand stitching on my swing skirt and corset top. What I was surprised by is how precise hand piecing can be. It really lends itself to perfect seam alignment, much more so than machine piecing, something the control freak in me can’t resist.
(L): Valdani pearl cotton and quilting thread; (R) Close up of quilting using pearl cotton. Also, you can just see the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting on the far right seam.
I’m seriously thinking of hand piecing and hand quilting a Liberty patchwork bundle I picked up in London this summer, but first I have to move on to handmade holiday gifts and maybe even finish that rainbow quilt I started almost a year ago. Until then, I have my knitting to fill my handwork addiction.
What’s your opinion on hand-stitching: yay or nay?