Hand Quilting Patterns - Tips For Finding Them

So, having decided to hand quilt your project, how do you find the right quilting design?

Your own quilt design: This is undoubtedly the first place to look for inspiration. If your quilt contains some heart piecing, then consider quilting hearts into the background filler. For a Christmas project, try using holly leaves or Christmas trees in your designs. If you are not happy with your own drawing, children's colouring books can often provide the template for your design.

Antique quilts: A wonderful source of inspiration. Visit museums, look on the internet, look in books based on antique quilts. Several designs stand out as being common to lots of these quilts:
* Clamshell: the quarter circle interlocking design can be used as background filler quilting
* Feathers: more often small, rounded feathers used in clusters
* Cross hatch: lines running both diagonal directions either as squares or as diamonds to
* Single, double or triple lines: these are often used around the outside of the pattern of the patchwork accentuate the pattern, or they could be in diminishing sizes inside the pattern
* Ropes and chevrons: used in the borders or sashing
* Fans: depending on the size, anywhere in the main body of the quilt design

Contemporary quilts: Much of the above still applies, but often with more complex designs. When I go to a quilt exhibition I am usually totally enthralled by the quilting on the exhibited quilts and find I get lots of ideas from these.

Nature: Leaves, flowers, spider webs, the bark of trees, the fossil markings on a stone: all of these can be used as inspiration for repetitive quilting designs, but in addition the overall picture of nature can throw up lots of ideas. Look at how the leaves on that branch form a pattern, or those water lilies spread across the pond. Perhaps it's the flowers all down a stem that catch your attention. All of these can be incorporated into your hand quilting design.

Observe the world around you: Here in the UK we are spoiled for choice with all the wonderful old buildings with their amazing stone work, statues, gargoyles and the like. If you can't take photos (often not allowed in churches) you can always draw the designs you like or even take a brass rubbing. Look at the stained glass windows, the wrought iron fencing and gates around you. Some brickwork in an unusual design? Draw it. These patterns can often be used as inspiration for both the piecing of a quilt and the quilting itself.
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Hand Quilting Patterns on Antique Quilts

Which hand quilted patterns were stitched into American quilts made in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Nine common patterns seen by this quilt historian are described here.

1. Clamshell is one of the earliest patterns. They were stitched allover the top on whole cloth and patchwork quilts or as the background between other quilting patterns.
2. Feathers were most common on pre-Civil War fancy and elaborate quilts which were used on special occasions, or given as a gift. The feather was not shaped like a bird's long pointed feathers; they were short like a flower petal, and rounded at the end. Feathered designs were stitched in a variety of motifs such as a garland, wreath, pineapple, and heart. Feathered designs were commonly used on red and green appliqué quilts made in the middle years of the 19th century and on Colonial Revival style appliqué quilts made in the 20th Century before the second World War.

3. Hanging diamonds were squares on point, often used in conjunction with feathered patterns. They could be large or small in size. They were stitched around appliquéd pieces to hold the batting on place and fill in the background areas of the quilt. After the Civil War the size of the handing diamond increased and it became the sole quilting pattern on some patchwork quilts. Larger size diamonds are found on vintage quilts.

4. Another common choice for an all over pattern patchwork and utilitarian quilts is
a square grid. As the allover pattern, the squares were large to larger in size. As the background pattern, they were smaller depending on the patchwork or appliquéd pattern. Here again, a special quilt received smaller grids, which filled the empty areas to hold the batting and layers together well.

5&6. Cables and chevrons were stitched into borders and sashing strips. Cables were connected curved "S" shapes running vertically down a border or sashing. Chevron's were straight lines forming "V's" filling the width of the border in a zigzag shape. One, two, and three lines decreasing in size formed the cables and chevrons. Both century's quilt makers used these two patterns.

7. Single and Double parallel lines were usually quilted on the diagonal across the entire quilt or just in the borders. Pre-Civil War quilts could have triple parallel lines, stitched close together in the background areas around appliqués and in the borders. In the late nineteenth century, women also quilted lines across the appliquéd pieces. Single and double lines, spaced further apart than earlier quilts, were stitched in vintage era quilts.

8. Fan quilting is also called elbow quilting because the quilter used the reach from her elbow to her fingers to make the arch or fan shape. Methodist Fan and Baptist Fan have been popular names for the fan too, because it was fast and easy pattern for a group of church women to stitch around a large quilting frame. In England the fan is called waves. The pattern was common later in the last quarter of the 19th and first half of 20th century quilts, and especially popular in the Southern and southern Midwestern states. The fan was mostly used on everyday quilts.

9. The one-quarter inch inside the seam stitching was sometimes referred to as "quilting by the piece" or "in the piece" reflecting exactly how it appeared. This pattern was used occasionally from the mid-nineteenth century on, never being a common pattern until the late 20th century.
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Hand Quilting - Only For The Passionate Ones

The history of hand quilting was written by all women who have dedicated their time, passion and skills in creating true masterpieces from simple pieces of fabric and thread. Those women were building something marvelous and timeless every time they stitched one piece of textile to another, one memory along all the others. This is the true meaning of hand quilting: the more work you put in it, the more valuable your quilt will be.

If we make a short trip back in time, in the 18th or 19th century, we will find out how different the women of those times were living. Practically, a woman had to know how to make herself lots of necessary things for daily house activities, such as clothes, bed linens, cooked food, quilts and even soap. They did not have the facilities that modern women have today, like linen stores, restaurants and supermarkets. The modern technology made possible for today's women to spare their already busy schedule for things like hand quilting.

Hand quilting was a tradition in the 18th and 19th century, not just a hobby as many of you might think. All mothers were teaching their daughters the secrets and the complicated techniques of hand quilting. Generation after generation, this passion was transmitted and taught, keeping it alive and improving with time. The material proof of hand quilting were the quilts, every one unique in its own way, and truly representing the spirit of one's family for generations, passed from grandmothers to mothers, and from mothers to daughters, in a strong and continuous line of dedicated women.

Quilts represented a great way to imprint and keep alive the ancient traditions, the family's spiritual heritage. Every quilt had a story; it was not made just to keep warm in cold winter nights. The hard work of hand quilting had a higher purpose: to enchant the eye with exquisite patterns, to be functional for the entire family and to say the story to the following generations.
If you decide though to follow the original technique of hand quilting instead of using the modern technology, you will need a lot of practice. You will see that in time, your technique will gradually improve and you can obtain a unique hand made quilt.

Usually, the quilts are made from cotton, but you can use any kind of fabric you have or any combinations. Cotton is recommended because it does not stretch and can be easily ironed. After you decide what kind of textures you will use, you must prepare them. Wash them in luke warm water with a light detergent to remove the color excess and to avoid the shrinking.
If the colors bleed, use for the quilt only fabrics with similar colors. You can combine successfully the colors in a quilt if you use fabrics with different nuances, dark colors and accents of another color used in the quilt.

The quilt is like a sandwich formed by three lairs: the front lair, the middle lair and the back lair. The front lair is the decorative one and it is realized from pieces of fabric sawed in an artistic and creative manner in blocks, than the blocks are assembled together. The middle lair gives the warmth and the thickness of the quilt and can be made from cotton, polyester or wool. The backside of the quilt is usually made from a single textile piece or it can be assembled from many decorative blocks, such as the front.

Hand quilting requires some additional tools: a pair of scissors, number 8 or 9 needles, thimble and dark colored thread that can help you see the stitches better. (Cotton or poly-covered cotton).
When you begin to work, find a comfortable place to sit, with a good light, because you will need plenty of it if you want to do the stitches right. You can practice your stitches slower in the beginning and increase the speed when you will feel surer of your hand.

If you enjoy hand quilting, you will find it easy and fascinating and you will have the satisfaction of something you have done yourself, even if it doesn't come perfect from the first time.
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Hand Quilting Verses Machine Quilting

In our grandmother's day, most quilts were made completely by hand. A group of ladies would sometimes get together for a "quilting bee." Today's quilter does not always have the advantage of having that extra help in finishing her project. Most sewing machines today come with a special pressure foot to make machine quilting easier, and in most cases, using your sewing machine is faster than by hand. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. Here are some things you may want to consider when deciding which method is right for you.

The time required for hand quilting will be one of your main considerations. Hand quilting will take much more time than doing your project on your sewing machine. If you have a deadline to complete your project, hand quilting will not be the best choice.

Space is another factor to consider. If you chose to hand quilt, you will certainly not be able to complete the process in one day. You will need space to set up your frames and leave them until you have finished putting in the last stitch. Whereas, if you are using your sewing machine, and need to put it aside for a while, you can fold the quilt up without taking much storage space.

If your pieces have curves to follow, you may want to consider doing those by hand. Following any curves of the pieces with hand stitches gives a beautiful look to your quilt.

It is important to actually enjoy what you are doing if you decide to quilt by hand. If you don't, you will probably not be motivated to work on your beautiful project as often, which means it will take a lot longer to complete.

The amount of use the quilt will get is important to consider. Many quilts today are made for decoration and don't get a lot of use. Even though a hand quilting can be very durable, for a lot of use, machine quilting may be more practical.

If you want a traditional quilt that can be considered an heirloom, you will probably want to make it entirely by hand.

Your beautiful stitches will show up better on solid colors. If most of your quilt top is solid colors, hand stitching will stand out much nicer.

If you feel experienced in both methods, you can chose to use a combination of hand and machine quilting. This, of course, will depend on the pattern of the quilt top. Some patterns may be enhanced by a little of both.

Since this will be your own unique creation, it is your choice to decide if you would like to hand quilt or quilt it on your sewing machine. Of course, to own a quilt that is made completely by hand is special. However, there are times when we want to create a beautiful handmade quilt, but the process of hand quilting is too time consuming. Above all, you should personally be happy with the final project. Whether you chose to hand quilt or do your quilting on a sewing machine, your finished product will be something you are proud to own or give as a gift to a special.
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Machine Quilting, Hand Tying and Hand Quilting

You have pieced together your quilt top and now it's time to decide how you are going to stitch your quilt. There are several methods of quilting that you can choose from. This article will explore the various methods that you can choose when quilting your three sandwich layers together. Whatever method you choose, you will end up with a quilt that will have your unique signature.

I'll start off by giving the definition of a quilt. A quilt is a fabric sandwich. This sandwich is made up of three layers. The top, the filling (also called the batting or wadding) and the backing. There needs to be a method of securing these layers together. The three most common methods are machine stitching, hand tying or hand stitching. Let us explore the method of machine stitching first.

If you decide to machine stitch your sandwich, the easiest technique to use is straight line quilting. Straight line quilting involves stitching your quilt pattern in straight lines. The most popular straight line technique is a stitching technique called "stitch in the ditch". Stitch in the ditch involves stitching right along the seams of your patchwork top which in turn hides the stitches in the seam line. It is quick and easy to do and you can easily finish a crib sized quilt in less than 2 hours using this technique. Another variation of straight line stitching is a technique called cross-hatch quilting. Cross hatch quilting is straight stitching evenly spaced apart in a diagonal pattern over the whole quilt sandwich. When the stitching is completed, the stitching design on the fabric sandwich will look like many little identical diamonds evenly distributed throughout the quilt.

The other machine stitching technique is called free motion machine stitching. Free motion stitching creates graceful curved designs in a variety of styles. These styles may include stippling, echo designs, clamshell designs or you can stitch decorative quilting styles traced from quilting stencils.

If you want to quickly finish your quilt, you could try hand tying your fabric sandwich. Hand tying is often done to fabric sandwiches that have high loft batting but this technique is not just limited to high loft batting quilts. I have seen a few hand tied quilts that have low loft batting and the quilting style of tying complements the piecing on the top. Quilt tying involved hand stitching one stitch through three layers of a fabric sandwich using either thick thread or strong wool. The ends of the thread or wool are then tied securely in a knot on the top layer of the sandwich and the two tails of the thread or wool are trimmed to approximately one inch in length. Tying a quilt is much faster than hand quilting or machine quilting. Fabric sandwiches that are tied are often utility or every day quilts rather than fancy decorative quilts.

Hand stitching a fabric sandwich is the traditional way of quilting. To hand stitch a fabric sandwich, a hoop or frame is needed to keep the pieces of the fabric sandwich taut as you stitch the layers of the fabric sandwich together. It is recommended that a thicker hand quilting thread be used to reduce the chance of the thread breaking while the sandwich is being stitched. Hand stitching is the slowest method of quilting but hand stitched quilts gives a wonderful textured look when finished. Many hand stitched quilts are highly sought after.

Whatever method you use when you are quilting your fabric sandwich together, you know that your quilt is almost finished. Your investment of time and energy is about to pay off with a beautiful quilt you will be proud to call your own. May you enjoy the quilt you have created for many years to come.

Ramona Dunn is a sewer and quilter with over 35 years of experience behind the sewing machine. She has a diploma with honors in sewing and dressmaking from the Stratford Career Institute and she is the proud owner of her own online quilting web site called Those Cotton Pickin' Fabrics.
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