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Hand Quilting Part I

Hand Quilting Part I 

This past week, we had many people asking about hand quilting and other hand work. So today we will talk about hand quilting Part I - Tools

Given the right tools, you can hand quilt! Many of our customers will only hand quilt and/or hand sew the binding on the second side. You need to use what works for you – needles type and size, thread, and design.


Let’s start with needles. Needle length and thickness decreases as size numbers increase. For instance, a size 12 needle is shorter and thinner than a size 9. Needles also have different shaped eyes. Round eyes for thread, elongated eyes for floss, ribbon, yarn, Perle cotton. Sharps are just that – sharp. These are universal needles used for general hand sewing projects. Quilting/betweens needles are a very short and fine needle with a round eye. The diameter of the needle is the same as a sharp needle however they are much shorter in length to allow the quilter to rock the needle back and forth (up and down) to create quick and even stitching. These needles are available in sizes 1 through 12. There are also embroidery/crewel, milliners, darning, ahd chenille needles. These all have sharp points but vary in thickness and length depending what you need for your project type – thread thickness, number of layers to sew through.

You need to use the needle that fits you. I prefer to use longer and slightly thicker needles (7-9) because I have trouble gripping the needle. Sometimes I get so tense and tight with my sewing, I end up bending the needle. Rather than buying a pack of 10 needles the same size, try starting with a variety pack. Needles are not expensive so you can use what works and let the others go. Needles are coated with a smooth metal that is also non-corrosive. So the needles you don’t use can wait for other projects.

We have lots of hand sewing needles in many sizes and types. We have variety packs/sampler packs for you to try. Still have questions about what’s what? Check out these webpages:

Different Types of Needles 
Needle Guide from John James Needles


You have a needle, now let’s talk thread. Thread, like needles, the smaller the size the thicker/bigger the item. Depending on how much you want the quilting to show will determine what size and color of thread you use. Perle cotton comes in 12, 8, 5, 3. We carry 8 because it is a great size for hand quilting and embellishing quilt tops – not to thick, not to thin. Perle cotton is a twisted thread that you don’t separate. It works for hand quilting, Sashiko sewing, big stitch hand quilting. You will see the thread and all the wonderful stitching you are doing. Hand quilting thread is typically lightly waxed and a larger size than what you use for piecing (50 and higher). Sizes 28-40 are the typical range. You can also use some machine quilting thread and wax it as you use it. King Tut is a three-ply 40 weight. You can wax it with beeswax and it will give you beautiful colors and design/texture. We carry beeswax in a holder and a good variety of King Tut variegated colors. We also have some 30 weight, waxed hand quilting thread in neutrals for you. You can also use 40 or 50 weight thread when you don't really want to see the thread. 

Here is a blogs and a video about thread for you to read/watch too:

Wendy's Quilts and More Pay attention to the thread size and her comments on those. The threads we carry are strong and very low lint. They are comparable to the brands Wendy talks about.

Esther Miller 


Other tools needed – frames, marking implement, thimbles, snips/scissors.

Frames – size, floor standing or free, or none. You need to have the quilt sandwich stable no matter what you use when you start sewing. You can pin it as you would for machine quilting, you can hand baste it. If you are using a large floor frame, you get your three layers centered and squared up, baste and roll. If you use a hand frame, it must be sturdy. Large wooden hoops, 17” or so, are good. You can get quilting hoops or large embroidery hoops, either one works. You can also use square Q-Snap hoops and center a quilt block at a time. We can order either for you at the size you want.

Marking your quilt design is not mandatory, but it helps when you have large spaces to quilt without pieces. The markers will help you keep your lines straighter, even if you are just doing parallel lines. You don’t want a marker that will disappear or air erase. These will be gone before you finish. Water soluble, iron/heat erase, chalk that will brush or erase off are other choices. There are a variety of choices for all of these types of markers.

Thimbles are another choice only you can make. Most people use the thimble to rock the needle and their other hand to manipulate the fabric, especially if they are using short quilting needles. Thimbles are sized to fit your fingers(which ever one you choose to use) and come in a variety of materials. We carry metal tipped plastic, metal, and leather thimbles.

Have a good pair of snips or small scissors with you to be able to cut your thread – off the spool and on the fabric. It’s easier to cut with a small pair of scissors when trimming on the quilt. You are less likely to cut your quilt with smaller scissor.

Next week - How to do the quilting.

New this week in the shop:   


And some beautiful blenders:

Weather is typical February this week, so get out and visit us. :0)

Happy sewing everyone,

Phyllis and the QA staff

Quilting Adventures                                                                     Hours: 
6943 Lakeside Avenue                                                                  Tues thru Sat  10 - 5 
Richmond VA  23228                                                                     Sun - Mon  Closed
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Quilting Adventures
6943 Lakeside Ave
Richmond, VA 23228
(804) 262-0005
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