How to Try Hand Quilting – lots of tips


In a moment of frustration with my sewing machine’s free motion quilting capabilities, I decided that I would become a hand-quilter. So this is my first hand-quilted quilt. Get the free pattern here.

Not to bash my beloved Bernina 1530. She’s a doll with garment sewing and I love all of her conveniences…needle up/down, knee lift, sweet applique stitches, and perfect tension… except when quilting. And the throat is really short so there’s only about 6” between the foot and the machine, that makes it difficult too.

So I bought this Craftsy Class on hand quilting and gave it a try. Disclaimer: the class is called ‘heirloom sewing’ so there’s tons more to it than I’m showing. Tons. But I’m starting simple. I still decided to buy the class and I’m glad I did.

In the class Andi Perejda (the instructor) recommends using a hoop like the 14” inexpensive one on the right. I was pretty happy when I found the hoop/stand combo on on the left for $10 on craigslist. But it turns out that I’d rather lean back on the couch and chill while I’m hand quilting than sit forward next to a stand, so she was right about the smaller hoop. I’m glad the stand was not a huge investment.


I looked into different types of batting that would be easier to quilt than warm and natural (my usual) and also found this sweet thimble at connecting threads. I’m no thimble expert but I do love it. It fits way better than the cheap ones I found at the big box store and that silicone part is great for gripping the needle. I went with Hobbs Poly/Cotton blend batting. It’s very lightweight and not so dense which makes it easy to hand quilt.


And I love, love, love pearl cotton. For nearly everything embroidery related. So when I saw this nice stuff at my local quilt shop I grabbed some in several colors. It’s not blending in like regular hand-quilting thread would, of course. But I’m going for more of a long-stitch embroidery look on this quilt. This thread requires an embroidery needle with a large eye – the sharp kind.


And it turns out I love hand quilting! It does take longer than I expected. Yeah, and I’m not even doing the ‘heirloom type.’ But I really enjoy sitting back and relaxing on the couch and sewing.

And I can’t keep any secrets, I ordered a straight stitch mid-arm sewing machine just for quilting and it’s on it’s way… eeek! That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop hand quilting though. A girl can do both. 🙂

Update: My Juki TL2010Q came and I love it!

See more of my hand quilted quilts:

Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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  1. My Grandma still hand quilts all her quilts and my Mum as well. They both are amazing quilters. My Grandma still does all her sewing on an old treadle machine. Mostly she does queen size quilts and I have a double wedding ring quilt she made for me when I got married, hanging in my bedroom. One of my treasures.

  2. Lori Michel says:

    Hello Caroline, I have hand quilted or tied my quilts that I have made for over 30+ years. I love the look of the stitching, and have used my Gracie quilter for a very long time. It works like one you can use on a long are machine, but I can turn it up or down at an angle but it slides over my lap when sitting in a chair. Many a memory quilt I have added to on this. I would take a baby dress and traponto this as if it was just laid on the quilt. I would had socks and bibs if available. I would even have added the 1st take home outfit onto the center. I got my Gracie it at the store where they made them in Salt Lake City, Utah. They have many styles and kinds over the years.. They still make they and are very popular. Nowadays with my arthritis, I do simple straight line quilting using my walking foot with the feed dogs up, have tried the free motion quilting, love the look, but I got a Queen Supreme mat for xmas so maybe with practice and watching Leah Day’s videos I will be able to do it just like she does. Lori over at the Inbox Jaunt has great tutorials for free motion quilting also. I do the quilt as you go method and when sashing I may add hand stitching there…..

  3. Debbie Rogowski says:

    I am new to quilting and opted to do hand quilting for much of the same reason as you. I couldn’t get a king size quilt under my machine and manuver it. I stayed with the warm and… batting because it has the largest allowable space between quilt lines. I didn’t know it was harder to and quilt but I guess my wrists and many bent needles had that figured out. LOL

  4. Shelley Michel says:

    I predominantly do hand quilting. Love it, although it certainly does take a lot longer! It’s just much more relaxing and portable.

  5. It was to be just one of New Year resolutions, to start hand quilting. Unfortanately, my sewing machine broke week ago so my "just resolution" is becoming "action". I’m totally new to it and sure I’m going to love it.

  6. I bought a HandiQuilter Sweet 16 sit down long arm last summer. I just love it. Lots of room to maneuver the quilt around.

  7. How fun that you have a new machine coming! our hand quilting looks great!! I should upload a pic of Rachel’s handquilted pillow she made me. It’s gorgeous.

  8. Beautiful stitches! I’ve sewn for the last 37 years- everything from clothing, stuffed animals and window coverings. When my kids were young, back in 1992, I decided to make a quilt for each of them (3). I had never made a quilt before but I was so enthusiastic about it. I started with my oldest who was 6 years old and chose Grandmother’s Flower Garden for her. I cut enough hexies for a queen size (HA!) and pressed the 6 seam allowances on every one of them using cardboard patterns. I worked on it in spurts throughout the years- each hexie was hand-stitched to another to form the flowers and eventually the flowers were put together.
    Our family moved and all of my projects were packed away. Several years later my daughter asked about "her quilt" which had been started 16 years before! I found it, basted it together and began the daunting task of hand quilting (which I’d never done before). The time I spent placing each stitch were the most peaceful times I can remember. I had completed a little less than half the quilting when I suffered a stroke. I was blessed to regain the use of my right side after several months of rehab, but was afraid to attempt hand stitching. I finally did (it was great for practicing fine motor skills!).
    I searched and googled and spent weeks deciding how to bind the thing- I sure wasn’t going to slash across the edge to make it straight! It was bittersweet when I got down to really finishing it. I gave it to my soon-to-be-30-year old daughter this past Christmas. The look on her face made each stitch so worth it.
    I’m sorry to have made this post so long! I’ve been reading this page for so long, and this particular blog got me! I would love to show you a picture of the quilt, but can’t figure out how!
    Anyway, happy quilting, and I hope you continue with hand quilting!

  9. Kim Leavens says:

    Oh your quilt looks beautiful!! I love hand quilting, the look, the feel and the rhythm of each stitch. Yes the machine quilted quilts a beautiful in their own right, but as a longtime sewist I have cherished the vintage linens/clothing I’ve come across and/or worked on. Studying each hand stitch made with love makes my heart smile just thinking about the history behind each item. Although hand stitching has always been a favorite of mine (I love epp) I hand quilt my quilts because that is what I want my legacy to be. Hopefully someone, someday will look at my quilt and run their fingers across my stitches and know each stitch was made with Love.

  10. You are right that handquilting is theraputic. I’m currently hand quilting a baby blanket that was meant for my baby boy I was supposed to have in July. Unfortunately he was recently born still. The quilt is my first- I chose a beautiful, vibrant jelly roll from Malka Dubrawsky’s "From Outside" collection because I didn’t know at the time what I was having. I’ve decided to finish the rainbow quilt in hopes that it will be used for my rainbow baby when I’m healthy enough to try again.

    1. Hi Kayte,
      My heart goes out to you with your loss. I suffered a miscarriage and didn’t find peace for a long time. I can’t imagine the pain of carrying your baby full term only to lose him. I hope you find comfort and peace… and your rainbow baby comes when the time is right. Hugs and prayers!


  11. Elaine Ewald Kohler says:

    I only have a regular Kenmore sewing machine, which does a great job for me, but I would have to cover the feet to machine quilt and I have no idea how to even use it to do the quilting. I just cannot afford to have someone else do it for me. Soooo I set out to hand quilt, and I love it. takes a while, but I watch tv while I am doing it. I often tie my quilts too, depending on on the quilt itself. I have no idea how people can get multiple stitches on the needle, so i just go up and down doing one at a time. I can go pretty fast sometimes and it works for me. Anyway, I do enjoy doing it by hand and feel that it puts that much more love in the finished product. And if my stitches are a bit irregular….well…no one has complained yet. smile. Oh and I am almost 80 and only began quilting 3 yrs ago and now my 50 yr old disabled son is going to make his first one this winter. Never too late to try something new.

  12. There is something about the look of hand quilting that a machine cannot achieve. Plus it’s therapeutic and relaxing. I’ve worked with both perlecotton and the regular hand quilting thread. Each gives the quilt a different look. I don’t make many quilting pieces, mostly table toppers and wall hangings. But I do all my own quilting as it gives me a sense of accomplishment to do all the sewing on a piece. Plus for me the enjoyment is the process, however long that takes. I tried the wooden hoop but did not like it. Instead I use a Q-Snap Quilting Frame. My goal this year to improve my free motion skills. I’m very good at doing the stipple and loops but I’d like to learn pebbling and McTacishing. I’m just realizing this post is from almost 2 years ago. I found it from a link posted today on Facebook.

  13. I did one hand-sewn quilt block. I enjoyed doing it. I am working on one.

  14. jenny drewitt says:

    I have recently got into freehand machine embroidery with various results of success and failure! However I do love to hand embroider and I find the same with quilting. My quilts tend to go a bit skew wiff and puckered at the finishing stage, possibly because I have a very basic machine and no walking foot and for this reason I prefer to hand stitch the few quilts I make and find this and hand binding very theraputic and relaxing!

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