Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lessons in Quilting with Perle Cotton & Advice from Jen Kingwell About It

All quilters make mistakes.
I make mistakes.
Therefore, I am a quilter.

Don't you love syllogisms? Or not. It's funny the things you think about when your hands are busy, and your mind is free to wander. 

I started out hand quilting in the 1980's, and looked forward to the evenings sitting with a quilt in my lap while we watched a tv together. My lap was soon overtaken by one baby after the next, and I didn't get back to hand quilting until a few years ago. But the draw of FMQ with a domestic led me to try that, and as most of you know, ultimately longarming, which I love. Knowing I can finish a quilt that afternoon is delightful, but there is a seductive pull toward having something available to slow stitch if you crave it.

The kantha-like stitching of many improv and contemporary quilters has fascinated me. I loved the rustic, folksy appeal it gave a quilt, but for the life of me, I could not reproduce it. You can see my latest attempt above. This quilt top done with Jen Kingwell's block pattern, 'Mrs. Bannister's Stars' from Quilt Lovely is in the center, and it cried out for this kind of stitching. Yet...

this is what I was left with on the backing.

I was using an embroidery needle, and perle cotton #8 thread. I knew I should be using a quilting frame, but when I put tension on the quilt top, there was no way I could quilt with that giant needle. Also, I was having a battle with spray basting, and had pin basted. So, I tried quilting without a frame. The sacrifice was I got the stitching in, but had bunching on the back. On top of that, this was hard work! How in you-know-what were they quilting a whole quilt this way?

I whipped out my trusty tape measure to get an idea on my stitch length, and that's when the truth hit me. I was making some itty-bitty stitches when I should have been aiming for somewhere in the 1/4"-3/8" length. My brain was so geared toward the traditional tiny quilter's stitches that I couldn't adjust.

I did what we quilters do best; I ripped it out.

Then I spread it out on the floor gauging the area I would need to use my old pvc frame, and removed all the pins from that space. I smoothed and checked to make sure I had no wrinkles, and gave it another try. 

Unbelievably easier and faster!

I got my tape out to measure again, and I was much closer to the range I was aiming for. There was still a voice from 1980 in the back of my head whispering I shouldn't be making such long stitches, but I tried to hush it. It's so hard to retrain it!

One major irritation with using a thicker thread is being able to thread your needle. I've started keeping a bar of just slightly damp soap at the table with me. I lightly rub the end of my thread across the soap making it much easier to thread it in the needle.

As far as quilting thimbles are concerned, there are so many on the market these days. I've tried most. The old black leather thimble seems to be consistently the best. With the longer stitch length, there's hardly any pressure at all to pushing the needle through. I think any thimble would be adequate.


A fun little aside...I love Instagram. I love being able to put up a quick snapshot without much fuss, and letting it mostly speak for itself. Instagram is supposed to be spontaneous. Imagine my delight this early morning while drinking coffee to get a comment from Ms. Jen Kingwell herself! Gosh, I hadn't even combed my hair yet. 

For you non-Instagramers, it went like this:

  • jenkingwellGreat version of Mrs Bannisters stars from my "quilt lovely" book. Super job @pinkdoxies

  • flossygeorgeLove the boarder
  • pinkdoxiesThank you! I'm struggling a bit with the quilting as not to draw away from the design. I'm new using perle cotton #8. This kind of practice is easy on the eye, though. ☺️@jenkingwell
  • pinkdoxiesThank you!@flossygeorge ❤️ I included some family fabrics that were from dh's side c. 1930-1940. Four generations of fabrics! It's woven with our history.
  • flossygeorgeI think it's beautiful and it doesn't draw away from the design , it enhances it. Can't wait to see it finished.
  • jenkingwellYou're doing a great job and you will find the perle won't detract. Hand quilting most times disappears (compared to machine) It's much softer and more subtle
When I popped back in later looking for it, I'd found she'd reposted it. Terribly kind of her, really. You can find her, and it by searching @jenkingwell on Instagram. Follow me there by clicking on the Instagram icon above. We do have a lot of fun there.

A reminder that you still have time to enter Craftsy's Giveaway for the "Craftsy Sweetens My Quilting Life Blog Hop." More details on the Boundless Solids Crown Jewel Quilt Kit, fabric bundles, and class prizes here.

Boundless Solids Crown Jewels by Amy Gibson Quilt Kit - None

One entry per person. Enter until Sunday, Feb. 22, 11:59 p.m. MST. Winners announced Monday, Feb. 23 here and on mmm! quilts.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


Unknown said...

I'm doing the quilters adventure 2016, a year long online monthly project to learn some techniques. After sewing for 44 years I thought I should actually learn how to do something modern and cool. The first month was this fabulous little baby quilt, using a new template and finishing by big stitch quilting. How could something so simple look so bad on a quilt. I did one block with out a hoop, ripped that out, got out my hoop and did the same block again, yuck. Ripped that out. Now I'm quilting it on my sewing machine. Maybe I've gotten to far away from hand stitching to learn it again.

beth s said...

Love your quilt AND your big stitches....my favorite way to hand quilt!!

TheEclecticAbuela said...

Wow--comments from Jen Kingwell herself! Congrats. :)

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

I too love your quilt! The thicker perle cotton lends itself beautifully to bigger stitches. I use a Chenille 24 needle, which has a large eye & sharp point, works a treat! Great to get some input from Jen too!

Christine Slaughter said...

The bigger stitches look fantastic! I'm glad you were able to identify the issue and readjust. How exciting to get a response from Jen Kingwell too!

Val's Quilting Studio said...

Thank you for this post...I'm intriqued with hand quilting, but have used it minimally. I also NEED a thimble...so made a note to check out the leather ones. THANKS!!

Kat Scribner said...

Love this post. I love handwork and I seem to be acquiring much perle #8. Thank you.

Kat Scribner said...

Would you mix perle hand quilting and machine quilting on the same piece?

Julie said...

Jennie, is it awkward if I say I was glad to hear this? I felt like I was missing something when I couldn't get the hang of it, but I think it's like sewing curves. We totally overthink it, and make it harder than it is. Having hand quilted many quilts, and ripped my stitches out when I thought they were too long somehow makes you very sensitive to it. All I can say is it IS easier than making traditional tiny stitches, and you do develop a rhythm. I don't have a sore finger though, and that's a nice change.

Also, I no longer have your email address since 'cleaning' my Inbox. Would you kindly email me once again?

Thank you,

Julie said...

Thank you, Linda. I will put that tidbit in my notes, and pick some up next time I'm in the shop. Great advice!

Julie said...

Val, I went thimble shopping with my mom one day. She has very swollen joints due to arthritis,and many thimbles pop off her fingers. We found some press on thimbles that resembled dots. Those I want to try yet. She loves them.

Julie said...

I've seen it done. I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I would think it would completely depend on the project. I'm getting the 'feel' of the quilt as MUCH more fluid than machine quilted, and even looser than traditional hand quilting. That would be my main concern. I would want the different areas to have the same feel and drape.

Marly said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on hand quilting with perlé cotton. I tried for the first time a few months ago, on a pattern by Sarah Fielke, and her advice is to use a crewel no. 9 embroidery needle. I'm now doing my second perlé quilted project, and have taken your advice regarding stitch length to heart!

Needled Mom said...

I love the big stitches. Thanks for the hints.

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

Lovely job! Thanks for the post. I love the look of the big stitches but have yet to try it. Your post is filled with great cautions and tips and I'll be writing them down for that someday when I try this!

Sharon - IN said...

What a lovely quilt and big stitching. Looks like you figured out the glitches to get that big stitching to behave. I also like the black leather thimble the best. Great tip with the soap for the thread ends. What fun to hear from J.Kingwell herself!

Stitchin At Home said...

Your hand quilting looks good. I don't hand quilt, just something that doesn't appeal to me. Maybe that makes me odd.

Nancy said...

Thanks for this post. I've been thinking of using perle cotton for an upcoming quilt (and wrote a post hoping that other bloggers could answer a few of my questions). I appreciate the information you've shared in this post and also the comments with thoughts about the kind of needle to use. Where do you buy your perle cotton and what brand do you use? Have you used more than one brand and do you have a preference?

Thanks again,
Nancy. (ndmessier @ aol.com, joyforgrace.blogspot.com)

Kate said...

Pretty quilt! Your stitching is looking great.

Ruth said...

That's great - thanks for sharing the tips! I'm planning to hand quilt soon and needed this to get me going!

Lisa J. said...

Wow! What a fun claim to fame that is! I'm taking a workshop on Kantha quilting in March. Looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for needle arts bloggers. Any issue I need to troubleshoot or new technique I want to learn is available. Just wanted to say thank you! The tutorials are easy to find but these bloopers and how to resolve them are invaluable.