There is something about a hand quilted quilt, a certain softness or drape. It just looks and feels a little different–a but more snuggly, perhaps. And there is something about that old fashioned, slightly crinkled look and feel that appeals to me greatly.
Now, that being said, I do NOT hand quilt everything. Lots of my charity quilts and gift quilts and quilts that will be loved on really hard by toddlers are machine quilted for speed and durability. Some are even tied (usually my Mom takes on that job) in that quick, age old Appalachian, winter’s a’coming…right NOW (!) kind of way.
You see, being a quilt snob really just isn’t in my DNA. All of the quilts that I grew up with were tied quilts, really comforters more than quilts. They were also amazingly scratchy, never gonna die in no land fill double knit polyester with flannel backings! And, thank the good Lord above for those flannel backings that, when rolled down and snuggled up against, saved many a poor child’s chin from being scratched up in the night! And there were NEVER any bindings applied. Nope, the flannel just wrapped itsself around the tops and was secured by hand onto the top with no mitered corners. Why? Because you might have to replace the flannel one day (and/or the batting) because it wears faster than the polyester and you want to keep that job simple.
For the uninitiated, that admission of my family quilt history puts me smack dab in the poor, Appalachian, white trash category! No fancy heirlooms for us. But lots of Sunbonnet Sue blocks made from a child’s dresses and loads of scraps used for every purpose. No time to make fancy quilt stitches except rarely, so you made do with what you had and made your world beautiful and warm, even if riotously scrappy! Where the heck is Waldo has nothing on a family quilt where everyone has memories from each little scrap of fabric. “Look, this was my shirt!” “Hey, I had curtains in my room like this!” “Mom, I didn’t know you kept this!” Other folks had family registries, but we could hold our history in our hands. So, I can’t claim to make quilts like my ancestors. Theirs were utilitarian and necessary to stave off Ohio winters. We won’t freeze if I don’t finish a quilt by the first frost. We might not be as comfortable as we could be (I have an aversion to store bought comforters that fall apart), but we’d be fine. When I first started quilting, I made tied quilts. That is what I knew. Then I started hearing more about machine quilting. That sounded good to me. No hand work. It also is terribly difficult to quilt a large bed quilt on a small, undersized, cheap-o sewing machine, which was what I could afford at the time. And, of course, I didn’t want to make placemats, hot pads, normal projects. Bigger is better and bed quilts were where it was at. I still fight this urge. A LOT!
Then I learned about longarm quilting. That sounded fantastic. Then I priced it. Good grief! I was a young married woman, waiting for kids and sewing with any scraps I could lay my hands on and struggling to buy muslin and quilt fabric when it was $3.50 per yard! If I had to rely on either buying my own long arm system or paying someone to do it for me, I just wouldn’t be able to quilt.
So, when a LQS (that is long since closed) did a class on hand quilting, I jumped at the chance to try it. In fact, Mom and I went together and had a blast! Once I knew how the quilting was done and got some pointers, I discovered something very important: that this is not a difficult skill to learn or master. It just takes some time and practice and a sense of humor to make a quilt! It’s not rocket science and it’s not scary once you give it a try.
Funny, I am not even very proficient in hand sewing at all. In fact, I kind of eased into hand quilting to see if I could pull it off with my clumsy fingers. And, in the process, I learned that it is very soothing, relaxing, and simple to do. I also discovered that I could do it. Maybe not perfectly (and I do have a bit of stitch envy from time to time), but passably and well enough that I can be proud of the time and effort that I took to complete a large project in a “right now, hurry, hurry” kind of world. I will never have my mother’s sewing, hand sewing, or embroidery skills or dexterity, but I have found a nice little niche where I can shine a little bit. A place where my efforts are not useless or forgotten. A simpler place. I can afford it and I can take great pride in taking a major project from beginning to end! And, in this world, that is no small thing.
Why do YOU handquilt?