This week I started hand quilting my la passacaglia quilt. Of course there are many different methods to hand quilt, but this is what I've decided to do. Some people have machine quilted their la passacaglia quilts, but I always knew I would hand quilt mine. After all that hand work piecing it together, it seemed right to follow through with hand quilting.
The batting. I chose to use wool batting. It's very soft and light, and drapes beautifully. I don't know the brand because I buy it off a huge reel at my local quilt shop.
The backing. For the backing I've used the remainder of the fabric I had to buy to get the right length of border fabric. It's dark and highly patterned so the quilting won't show up on the back, but I'm fine with that. I think this backing complements the front of the quilt perfectly. It's Effervescence by Amelia Caruso for Robert Kaufman.
The basting. I used to baste my own quilts, but then I had a few close calls where the top moved and the back was no longer aligned with the top. I then found out that long arm quilters can machine baste quilts on their machines for a small fee. I've taken my last two quilts to be machine basted and I'm very pleased with the outcome. The long armer sews rows 3" apart, with a stitch length of 1". It means the basting is very firm and secure. You can see some of the lines in this photo below.
The thread. My favourite style of hand quilting used to be big stitch hand quilting with DMC Perle 8. However, I knew that that wouldn't suit this quilt, with all the tiny pieces in it. In January I started to experiment with Aurifil 12wt and 28wt. I love the softness of the 12 wt and it has replaced DMC Perle 8 as my preferred thread now. However, the 28wt is even finer, and I've decided to use it for my la passacaglia. I don't have a huge range of colours, but I'm slowly building up a little collection in the colours I will need. I now belong to a thread club at The Country Yard in Maungatapere and they post me out my own choice of threads each month. I like the Aurifil because it is smooth and silky, unlike some of the coarser hand quilting threads on the market.
Hoop, needle and thimble. Yes, I use a good quality hand quilting hoop. Yes, I use a thimble on the middle finger of my right hand (I'm right handed). I use a Clover open sided thimble, which is adjustable, and save my finger getting too hot. I always used Chenille needles with Perle 8, and still like them, but I'm using a small size now with the Aurifil 28wt.
Quilting design. I've decided to keep the quilting quite simple. I want the design of the rosettes to be the major feature of this quilt. The quilting will really just serve to secure the layers together. Therefore, I'm going to match my thread to the fabrics where ever practical. I don't intend to change thread for every little pentagon, so in some cases I'll quilt through them with the thread used on the diamonds. The star points will not be quilted.. They are too small, and there are too many seam allowances in behind them.
I've devised my own quilting pattern, based on what I've seen others doing, and what I think will work for my quilt. We have a folder of hand quilting examples in the photo albums of the facebook group - Millefiori / la passacaglia. Just ask to join and I'll let you in!
As for the quilting on the borders - I'll think about that while I'm quilting the centre.
Marking the quilting line. I've used every method available over the years - masking tape, blue washout pen, regular pencil, etc. I've recently bought a Clover hera marker and I'm finding that the best yet. No marks to wash out, and no sticky needle from the masking tape. I might do parts of the quilt free hand without lines, but to get started I'm marking lines with the hera marker and a ruler.
Overall impressions. Hand quilting a hand pieced quilt is different to quilting a machine pieced quilt. There are many bumps and lumps where the seams meet. I did press the quilt before I took it in for basting, but there's always going to be lumps when that many seam allowanced meet up. I'm not worried about it - it just feels different when you run you hands across it.
A hand pieced quilt is not as securely pieced as a machine pieced quilt. I've now quilted the very first rosette I made, and I'm grateful that my English Paper Piecing techniques improved through out the course of the quilt. Hand quilting does give you the opportunity to study each seam again, and secure down and pieces which might be in danger of coming loose. Remember - the purpose of quilting is to secure the three layers together - top, batting and backing.
How to hand quilt. If you've read all this and think "if only I could hand quilt" then I suggest you watch this video by Sarah Fielke. She explains it in a very simple manner. I've watched this video multiple times, and I recommend it to everyone starting out. Just accept that your stitches won't be perfect at first. It's like cake decorating - you need to practice before you attempt to decorate your own wedding cake.
You can read find all my other posts about my la passacaglia quilt here on the la passacaglia page.