Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hand Stitching

When I posted an update about my sashiko style stitching the other day I received some really lovely comments. And I thank you for all of them. I was, however, left with this feeling that lots of people are afraid of hand stitching. Don't think they could get their stitches small enough. Or even enough. Or something or another enough.

Hogwash!

Before I get started though let me make something clear, I am not an expert in any way, shape, or form. This is just my opinion and how I do things. Many may do it differently. And their way is most likely as good as or better than mine.


Hand stitching is not about getting every stitch exactly the same length. Experience makes you more likely to have even stitches but it is not necessary. It is more the overall effect created by the stitches, and if anyone ever comes up close - quilt police style - to examine each and every stitch then poke them in the eye I am sure this is not someone you associate with normally and don't offer them a mince pie, cookie or cup of tea.

When hand stitching with perle cotton you are not going for teeny tiny stitches. That would be counter productive. You are going for impact, enhancement of the quilt design, etc. Big is better, really and truly.


The other thing you need to do is look at the back, because if you are trying to get the stitches on the back of your quilt to look exactly like the ones on the front then you are a way better person than me. Personally I am trying to do what quilting does, hold the quilt layers together, compliment the piecing and fabrics with the stitching, create something usable and pretty.


As you can see above, the stitches are there, the pattern is there but the stitch length is shorter and the gaps between wider. It is what happens when you weave a needle in and out between quilt layers. Trust me here, when I first tried this I spent anal hours trying to make the back and the front exact. What a waste of time!


Sometimes, horror of horrors, you might not properly catch the backing layer of fabric, or just get the needle through a little bit. The world will not end. Remember, two photos up, the back didn't look too bad? Now look even closer. Imperfections abound, if you are the quilt police and looking that closely.


My other piece of advice about hand stitching with perle is to do with seams. When I am stitching something like the Christmas stars I did a couple of weeks ago I never try to get close to the seam. I go with the same 1/4" rule we use in our seam allowance. There are two reasons I do this. In my mind it looks better set back from the seam. And two, you have less layers of fabric to stitch through if you have pressed the seams in that direction in that part of the quilt. You wouldn't think two more layers of cotton would make such a big difference, but it does.


I am not sure if this blog post helped anyone at all, but if it encourages just one person to buy some perle and try it out I shall be smiling.

Susan

42 comments:

  1. Yay! I can do backs like that too!!
    You still have the crown :-)

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  2. Ah, Susan, you are a girl after my own heart, that is pretty much exactly how I do it! Handstitching rocks! R x

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  3. yes yes yes, a huge help!! Thank you! Trying to match the front and back had been impossible so now I know :) The circle quilting is just so gorgeous!

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  4. Thanks for this- I can't say I have time for handstitching any time soon though. Boo!

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  5. Great advice, and as I need to get cracking on my little ones quilt, perfect timing as ever. And good to know you're not quite as perfect as you seem! ; )

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  6. I love handstitching but the tip of my needle pushing finger doesn't like too much of it! I just can't do thimbles...

    Your stitches are fabulous and I ove all your colours!

    Must get back to handquilting that UFO of mine!

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  7. Fabulous post with some very good advice!!
    When I went on a hand quilting day with Sandie Lush she said that if five or six of your stitches went fully through to the back then that was enough...in other words a perfection rate of 50 - 60%! I can live with that ;o) And she would point out that not all her stitches were absolutely perfect - she said never to pull out stitches that weren't spot on but to just carry on...

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  8. Thank you so much for the tips! I love your hand stitching and always think it adds so much detail, but have never tried to do it....I might go out and buy some perle cotton today :)
    Do you use a special needle?

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  9. I'm inspired! Do you use a quilting frame or embroidery hoop? I have some shot cotton, and I think I need to copy your circles pattern.

    Thanks,
    Sarah

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  10. Looks like there are some more questions to be answered! We want more Susan! My question to add to the list that's growing is do you eyeball all your hand stitching or do you trace a pattern to follow on the fabric?
    You may just have started something BIG!!

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  11. wow Susan, gorgeous hand quilting. I love to do this too, it's so relaxing :)

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  12. Great advice there, although I don't think it would occur to me to check the back at all, so perhaps I was always destined for imperfection ;o)

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  13. Thank you! This really does take some of the mystery out of it all! I have some questions...LOL...and I know at least one was asked above, but I am going to ask again (in case you answer via emails, LOL, I want my answer too!)ok, Do you use a hoop? Do you trace on a pattern? Where/how do you bury the ends of the threads? THANK YOU!!

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  14. Thanks so much for the encouragement as I'm one who is afraid of hand stitching!

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  15. You are the best. What needles do you use, as I have trouble threading the perle into mine. I have a bunch of perle cotton on the way from Cindy in time for some holiday stitching I hope.

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  16. Amen! Your work is beautiful and an inspiration to others. You didn't mention how fun it is to do....which it is.

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  17. I keep wanting to try hand quilting, you have just given me the courage to go for it... Watch this space! or should that be Watch my Blog!! Hugs x

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  18. So encouraging! It's great to show how a few little imperfections on the back really don't affect the overall loveliness - that should really give folks the nudge they need to leave their perfectionist hats at the door. Your stitching is great.

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  19. Ah, Susan, fabulous post! I love the circle quilting in the contrasting colors! And yes, I have a little box of perle cotton thread on my workroom table - been there for months while I "get up my nerve!" Today's the day - thanks for the push!

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  20. great post! Do you knot and keep it sandwiched with the batting? How do you start/stop is basically my question :)
    And you traced to get these with a water soluble pen or something? I love the look of this, just picking your brain :)

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  21. Good on you for encouraging more people to try hand stitching! Yours is always so pretty!

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  22. Your hand embellishing really is among the best I've seen.

    Im with Katy - so long as the front looks good I rarely worry about the back !

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  23. Great post Susan, I especially like the advice how to deal with the quilt police :-)

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  24. Great post Susan. I love hand stitching.

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  25. Fabulous tips Susan! I gave up very quickly trying to make my stitches the same on the back, too much hassle ;-)

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  26. Susan, I always admired yoir handstitching and thank you very much for sharing your tips with us! I'll feel much more confident to pick up needle and thread now!

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  27. I bet you spent ages looking for those dropped stitches!

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  28. This has definately inspired me :-)
    Before you know it I'll have hand quilted business all over my house!
    E

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  29. that's me my stitches are all uneven and ugly your's look good

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  30. I love seeing your hand stitching :) I actually bought some perle cotton a few weeks ago so I could do some handstitching next year, all your photos inspired me to try!

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  31. your wise advise and little tips help a lot. Now what to do about sore fingers? Your stitching is looking grand.

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  32. You are a very wise woman and your stitches are beautiful as always x

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  33. Love your style - especially eye poking the quilt police ;-)
    A great post, definitely motivating me to do some more hand quilting.

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  34. awesome post !! you are so right perle is big and beautiful. perfection is boring anyway isn't it?? I would gladly poke the quilt police in the eye! consistency comes with time and practise usually anyhoo! when I look back at some of my first efforts I shudder. xx

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  35. lol! I think I probably would poke someone's eye out if they examined any of my quilts too closely and commented upon the flaws! Seriously, though, great suggestions... I really must try this sometime!

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  36. I used to try for the "looks as good on the back as it does on the front" until I saw THE Amitie Circle Game quilt in person. The quilting on the front was beautiful, the back, hmm, not so much. Ever since then I don't really care too much what the back looks like as long as the stitching is doing what it's supposed to do on the front. Great post Susan!

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  37. Thanks for sharing your experience. One thing that stops me hand quilting is that I wasn't sure what the back should look like! Now I know. Ps how do you make the lines straight (or should I say not wobbly all over the place?)

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  38. And smiling you shall! I just bought a set with all kinds of colors to try out! Your stitching is gorgeous, thanks for the encouragement Susan!

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  39. I'm new to quilting this year and could think of nothing worse than hand quilting, but this has really made me think differently. I love the effect of the big stitches. I know I love hand embroidery so I will give this a go in a quilt next year for sure. Thank you.

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