Supplies for Big Stitches (part 1)

One of the great things about hand quilting is that you don't need a lot of fancy stuff to get started.

Okay, so there's lots of fancy stuff out there that you can daydream about.

Or that might just be me. But that's neither here nor there.

Mostly, I just enjoy quilting by hand with big, bold stitches.

Today we're talking the basic supplies for hand quilting.

What You Need to Get Started:

10" to 16" quilting hoop

Note: this is NOT the same as an embroidery hoop.  Embroidery hoops are made to keep your fabric held tightly, and you want a little give when your quilt is in a hoop.  You also need something that will hold up to the weight of your quilt.

For the longest time, I've used the same large round hoop and an oval hoop.  Quilting hoops are not very expensive, but for the longest time I've simply made do with the ones I've always had.

Recently, I opted to upgrade my hoops with new ones from Frank A. Edmunds & Co.  I now have a 14"-round hoop (cost about $20) and a 10"-border (half-round) hoop (cost about $30).  This was a worthwhile expense for me because I use my quilting hoops nearly every day.

I also have a large rectangle frame that I can place on my lap or across two tables or stools, but I find it awkward and I tend to catch my arm on the retaining pins, so I tuck it in my closet and pretend that I will love it someday.  I pull it out every few quilts and promptly put it back away.

Many people prefer a 10"-12" hoop, but I opted for 14" hoop for a couple of reasons:
• I make a lot of 12" blocks and prefer to have some extra space around my quilting area.
• I go by the theory of "don't use a hoop longer than the distance from your fingertips to elbows"--anything larger is just uncomfortable.
• I'm lazy when I'm quilting.  I want to work on my stitches, not keep re-positioning my hoop.

Thimble(s)

Much like finding the right needle for quilting, it might take some trial and error to find the right thimble for hand quilting.

I know many people dislike wearing a thimble, and I sometimes operate under the impression that I don't need one.  This is mostly because I can't feel my fingers very well.  That just means I've used more band-aids, and my hands are not so soft anymore.  Neither were a desired outcome of hand quilting.

What you need to do is find one that you'll wear and doesn't hinder your work.  A thimble should be snug enough to stay on and shouldn't fall off when you move your hand.  You can find a wide-variety of styles and materials for thimbles.  You can buy a very rigid thimble made of stainless steel, brass, or porcelain, or you can buy softer metal thimbles made from silver or gold.  For very flexible and soft thimbles, you can look for a leather thimble.

 
Image courtesy of Thimbles by TJ Lane

Image courtesy of Thimbles by TJ Lane

 

I tease my son that I don't own any "real" jewelry but my seam ripper and thimble should be made from a precious metal since I use them every day of my life.  I was thinking along the lines of something made out of sterling silver from TJ Lane, like this bee thimble.

My son doesn't concur.

I like to think I don't answer to anyone about my spending, but it's always nice when a 16-year old boy monitors your quilting/spending habit.

 
 

I have a thimble made from industrial rubber by PQF Custom Thimbles.  It was just under $30 and is my #1 favorite.  I've bought A LOT of thimbles over the years, so that's saying a lot.

I purchased this in 2008 or 2009 at the Sewing Expo in Puyallup. It was designed by a sewist's husband who was an engineer and worked with industrial-quality materials.  They developed a thimble with a lifetime guarantee.  My biggest problem is that I've never been able to find them for sale again, so I am extremely careful about NOT losing the one I have.

Now that I've told you how fantastic and unavailable MY thimble is, I'll tell you about my readily available go-to thimble solution:

 
 

I usually just opt for first-aid tape, but you can also use it to make other thimbles fit more comfortably.

I just use cushioned first-aid tape or moleskin.  This might not be the most cost-effective solution since it isn't a durable item.  I buy lots of this stuff.  However, I am notorious for stabbing and shoving needles into my hand (not just pricking my finger), because I already have sensory dysfunction.  Adding another layer sometimes feels like I'm trying to sew while wearing two pairs of backwards mittens.

This might be a uniquely-Joy dilemma but there are so many fantastic choices these days if you are anti-thimble.  If you truly dislike thimbles, you might want to give it a try to save your own skin.

My pick is Nexcare™ Absolute Waterproof Tape.  It is cushioned and flexible and I should just buy it in bulk.  I love, love, love this stuff.

 
image source CustomMyMuks

image source CustomMyMuks

 

I also just picked up a leather thumb guard at a great price on Etsy from CustomMyMuks.  It is more economical than biweekly trips to the store for tape.  I use this for my left hand because I'm notorious for shoving the needle into my finger and not noticing.  It gives me a little protection for my index finger when I push the needle back up from the underside of the quilt.

Batting

A lightweight batting without scrim makes hand quilting much easier.

 
 

My go-to batting of choice is usually Warm & Natural (**affiliate link). I love the weight and loft of Warm & Natural; however, it does have scrim, which is a stabilizer to make it stronger and more durable and it is needle-punched.  It is just a little harder to push the needle through for the hours needed for hand quilting.

 
 

For hand quilting, a great choice from The Warm Company is Warm & Plush (**affiliate link).  I LOVE working with Warm & Plush.  It doesn't have scrim, but you need to make sure you quilt every 6", rather than leaving up to 10" open for Warm & Natural.  I buy Warm & Plush off the bolt at my local fabric store, but I'd probably go through plenty of bolts on my own if I bought it in bulk!


I've covered a lot of information today, so over the next few days we'll talk about the rest of the things you need to get started hand quilting, including:

Thread

Hand quilting needles

Quilt marking tools

Fabric


Do you have any favorite supplies or notions for hand quilting?  I'd love to hear your tips and tricks!

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