It fascinates me that Jean Brown told us about a guild she’d heard about exclusively for hand-quilters, who do every part of their quilt work by hand. Heck, even the Amish have been machine piecing their quilts for a hundred years! But I can understand this trend. We are surrounded by technology in our society. Everywhere we go, we rely on some type of machine. And wherever we are, things are constantly beeping, ringing, vibrating, whirring, and running on gas, electricity, or battery. You get the point: the world is too much with us, as Wordsworth wrote over 200 years ago. We do need to unplug.
On the other hand…. I punctured my thumb with a hand-quilting needle the other night, and dang, that stings. Plus, my Hawaiian curves and points are not going well.
But for those of you willing to pursue the fine art of hand-work, here are a few tips that Jean Brown, hand-quilter extraordinaire, offered.
Her binding secret is that when you get to the corner of a quilt’s binding, you want the mitering around the corner to look nice and not pull too tight. So when folding the mitered corner, do not lay the fold straight flush with the quilt’s top edge, but move that fold up by about an eighth of an inch, and then sew the mitering down. She showed us this trick. The difference was rather amazing. Jean’s mitered corner looks bigger, better, and is less finicky to finish off.
She’s also a big proponent of the “Aunt Becky tool” for hand quilting. Made in Oregon, it’s a metal “teepee” you put on your finger and hold below the quilt while you are making stitched. Essentially, you do not move your right hand, but let your left hand move tool back and forth, creating ridges, which puts the stitches on the needle “for you.” I think it would take some practice to get used to. I bought one to try it out at home (at about $5, it’s not a big investment!).
Another tip from Jean is that she always uses low-loft polyester batting—it’s easy to hand-needle, she says, not to mention cheap! And she loves #10 Jeana Kimball straw needles for appliqué and Hawaiian work. She doesn’t recommend washing her quilts often, since she thinks of them as decorative, not utilitarian.
Next post: John Flynn’s Wedding Rings!