scrap vomit in progress
My mission to hand quilt my scrap vomit quilt continues. I'm enjoying the slow burn of this project. Something to pick up when I have some spare time in the evening, or for a half hour after lunch on a weekend at home. I've had many a happy afternoon quilting in the sunshine, but now Autumn is upon us, it's even more tempting to sit and quilt of an evening. Sitting under a voluminous quilt is a really good way of not having to put the central heating on. My cat seems to agree with the sentiment and wherever scrap vomit and I go, she's sure to follow.
There's a cat in mi quiltin' what am I gonna do?*
This cat should win a prize for nonchalance, she has totally perfected the '...and?' look.
It's been a real learning curve for me taking on a quilt of this size as my only experience of quilting by hand has been on a baby quilt. Needless to say, working on a larger scale presents its own problems.
I've so far experimented with two kinds of needle. I tried the Clover Gold Eye quilting needles first, which were much tinier than I had imagined they would be, indeed, the eyes are almost too small to see, let alone thread! I followed a helpful tip in Last-minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts and threaded all fourteen needles onto the spool of thread at once, just pulling a new length of thread through one of the needles and cutting when I ran out of thread. This definitely lessened the pain of threading, getting it all over and done with in one go. Though very fine and very sharp, I did find I broke 3 needles in my first few quilting sessions. I think the key with the Clover needles is not letting the needle take too much of the stress, but manipulating the quilt as you rock the needle. I also bought some John James Pebble needles (after worrying about the snappability of the Clover needles) but, being thicker, I found them much harder to push through the fabric and much less flexible. The Gutermann hand quilting thread I've been using gives a nice stitch definition and it travels well through the fabric, especially after a few passes through my trusty paraffin wax, though it is hard to thread through those teeny tiny clover needles ... I wonder whether anyone has found a better pairing?
The other problem I have encountered on occasion is finding I can't physically grip the needle to pull it through the quilt when loaded up with a row of stitches. In extremis, I have found that grabbing an eraser from one of the children's pencil cases and pressing it into the needle with my right hand whilst pulling the needle through with my left works quite well, but it's hardly the most efficient technique. I had been on a quest to source some of those rubber thimbles used by bank tellers until Florence enlightened me as to the existence of something called a 'needle grabber', which I have duly ordered and look forward to putting to use.
Of course one of the hazards of quilting with 2.5" squares is that when you press all those tiny seams to one side you end up with a huge bulk of fabric to quilt through in places. This is the one place where my clover needles fail me, and I have to abandon the rocking motion and take slow stitches from front to back until I've negotiated the bulk. Is it anathema to quilters to press seams open? I'm thinking this could have saved me a lot of grief and snapped needles! Likewise, I haven't used a frame or hoop at all when quilting and wonder whether this is going to turn out to be a huge mistake later. My feeling was that I would struggle to have enough give in the fabric to rock the needle through so many layers if it was held taught in a hoop.
The one tool I really couldn't do without is my no-slip thimble, worn on the middle finger of my right hand. It has a recessed ridged top which is perfect for holding the end of the needle to push it through the fabric. However, the fingers of my left hand are definitely suffering from those evenings spent stitching. Even though I already have a hard layer of skin on the tips of my fingers from playing the violin, I've found that they're a mess of little grazes from the needle coming through the underside of the fabric. My first thought as an erstwhile harpist (well, I'm Welsh, it goes with the territory), was surgical spirit (which I think is known as 'rubbing alcohol' in the US). This was something used to harden your fingertips so that they didn't blister. I still have a bottle stashed in the medicine cupboard so I'm going to experiment to see if this affords any protection. I have also ordered some Thimble-its sticky patches; I'm hoping they'll still allow me to feel the needle underneath the fabric without shredding my finger tips to smithereens.
Do you have any favourite tools that you can't do without? Is there anything else I need to complete my hand-quilter's toolkit? I would love to hear your tips and advice to someone who is new to quilting by hand.
*I'm sad enough to think this is really funny, but the husband suggests I link here by way of explanation.