Quilt Projects

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

To Hand Quilt Or Machine Quilt

Someone recently asked me how I decide whether to hand quilt or machine quilt a quilt.

The smallest pieces I've done have been 3" x 3" to use as Christmas tree ornaments. Because I wanted these to look traditional and special, I hand quilted them. But truth to tell, I never thought of machine quilting them. I can certainly see where doing any machine free motion quilting on a piece that small would be awkward; hard to hold on to and move the piece without real fear of the needle inflicting serious pain upon your fingers.

My miniature quilts usually average somewhere around 20" x 24", some smaller, some larger. I can think of only one instance where I machine quilted one of them. (Maybe two?) For one thing, I love the look of hand quilting and enjoy doing it. The miniature size quilts are super-easy to handle when hand quilting. And let's face it, a piece this size can realistically be finished in a reasonable amount of time compared to how long it takes to hand quilt a full sized quilt.

Of the many full sized (twin, double, queen or king) quilts I've made, I've attempted hand quilting on only two. (The others all having been machine quilted.) I say attempted because neither one of them is done. (Hang your head, Mama Pea.) The second full sized quilt I ever made (the first was tied), I wanted to hand quilt it. I was determined to be a traditional quilter and do all my quilting by hand. Shortly (very shortly) after starting the hand quilting, I became aware of how long it was taking me. No wonder our quilting ancestors were able to turn out only one quilt a year!

The second one in the process of being hand quilted is a queen sized Double Wedding Ring I'm making for my daughter. It's a labor of love, albeit a slow one. Will I ever finish the hand quilting on that very first one? I don't know. But my daughter's quilt will get finished, I promise you . . . and her . . . and me . . . I do.

In a perfect world (that would be one where I had a maid, a cook, a gardener, etc.), I would hand quilt all my full sized quilts. Realistically, I've either machine quilted them myself or in some instances, had them machine quilted. The quilts I keep for myself get used. I hope the ones I give as gifts get used. This means they will be washed. Machine quilting simply holds up so, so much better than hand quilting.

All of my baby quilts, I machine quilt. If a baby quilt is to be hung on the wall in the nursery, it's a different story. That one can be hand quilted (and I have made a few of those) but when I make a baby quilt to sell or give as a gift, I'd like to assume it gets used. Therefore, I want it to be durable and capable of having a long life lasting through lots of napping, cuddling, playing and many, many washings.

Several years ago, I gave a baby quilt to the first-born of the gal who was my daughter's Matron of Honor. Months later, she e-mailed me saying she was upset. Her little son had . . . well, he pooped on the quilt and she couldn't get the stain out. I told her I was happy to hear that because that was what I made the quilt for; I wanted it to be used and remembered as part of his babyhood.

All of the potholders I make for myself or to give away are machine quilted. Unless you're a very, very neat (and unusual) cook, potholders need to be washed frequently . . . at least mine always do.

The decision to hand quilt or machine quilt a piece is entirely up to you . . . or me. I don't feel there's any "right" way or "wrong" way. I think each method offers its own advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons. So I just do what appeals to me . . . and I'm usually happy with the results.


beth said...

I loved seeing all your quilts today and reading about your quilting adventures!
thanks for all the encouragement you send my way!

Mama Pea Quilts said...

Hi, Beth - Thanks for the comment. I get so much inspiration from seeing what other quilters are doing. Hope you keep posting the great pictures.

Chicken Mama said...

So, the (really!) pretty blue & yellow quilt . . . is that an example of your hand-quilting? I.e. is it one of the two you hand-quilted / are hand-quilting?


Mama Pea Quilts said...

Chicken Mama - Thanks for the compliment! But, nope, that one is completed . . . machine quilted.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I'm the opposite - I hand quilt all my large quilts and have started to experiment with machine quilting my smaller projects! I love to hand quilt, and curl up under a big quilt in front of the TV at night and stitch away. If I work at it consistently, I can quilt a queen sized quilt in 4-6 weeks.

My machine quilting skills are very minimal and you can certainly make a mess of a quilt in a hurry on a machine in a way that doesn't happen when you hand quilt :)

Mama Pea Quilts said...

Jenyfer - You make a very good point about the fact that you can make a mess of a quilt in a big hurry on a machine! And, omigosh, it takes SOOOOO long to rip those stitches out!

I admire your ability to hand quilt big quilts. I wish you would show more of your quilts on your blog. How 'bout it?

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Maybe I should set up some sort of slide show... I have a few pictures of larger projects on my blog, but I guess lately I haven't made any big quilts :(

I have made a lot of progress on my "winter quilt" and only have the border yet to quilt. It's all stenciled and everything. Since I hope to have that one ready for the bed by January, I should have a picture of that one up soon(ish)!