Post #3. On hand quilting

Confession. Hand quilting is my first love, despite what I wrote in my inaugural post two weeks ago. Between then and now I spent two full days at the sewing machine, free motion quilting the paper doll series I am working on. And it took its toll physically. Hand quilting is much slower, but is gentler on the body and spirit. It is not for nothing that the terms slow stitching is now being used to describe the art of hand stitching.

Second confession. I used handwork to rebalance myself after that weekend stint at the sewing machine. I stitched on a piece that had more or less fallen out of my scrap basket as I was working on the doll quilts. Here are before and after photographs of “Forest of Happiness” to show how hand quilting adds depth to the fabric. It is a small quilt (25 x 25 cm) and the stitching is quite rough.

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Before being stitched.

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The finished small quilt “Forest of Happiness”, showing the effect of the hand stitching.

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As we all know, the internet is a constant source of ideas and it is perhaps not surprising that it throws up coincidences. I subscribe to The Quilting Company and this week Anissa Arnold wrote an article about hand quilting with big stitches. She admits that she is not a quilter by inclination because she lacks patience. But, she had discovered big stitch or utility quilting where one uses thicker thread (#8 perle cotton) and quarter inch stitches to create a striking effect. She listed other advantages. She said that hand quilting adds an extra layer of design and a quality of softness to the quilt. Both observations are spot on. A heavily machine quilted piece can end up stiff with a prickly, uncomfortable feel to it.

Third confession. I am a hand quilting snob.

“For me, stitching is like breathing.” Judy Martin wrote this in one of her journal posts. She is an artist from Manitoulin Island, Ontario, who “creates large scale, hand stitched artwork from found and re-purposed cloth”. Through her blog Judy Martin repeatedly inspires me. One of the original meanings of inspire is to animate (OED) – the word has its roots in the Latin inspirare, to breathe.

Those seemingly simple words “stitching is like breathing” have been circling my brain for weeks. The implication is that stitching (like breathing) is a necessary and vital function to her very existence. Of course if one stops stitching one will not die, as one would if one stopped breathing, but I know that I would certainly wilt and wither if I did not have some hand stitching to keep my fingers busy and calm my mind. And that’s my musing for the week.

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