Go from Flat to Fabulous with Hand Stitching

hand sewing quilt example
Detail of hand-stitched quilt by Victoria Gertenbach.

pokey boltonSometimes I think I'm finished with a quilt. I've surface designed it, free-motion stitched it, maybe even appliquéd it. But it still looks a little flat. It needs a little . . . something.

That's when I take out my needle and hand sewing threads and go to work, highlighting areas with a running stitch here, a buttonhole stitch there, and my favoriteFrench knots.

This kind of needlework is so satisfying to me, and it's a terrific way to add a focal point, extra texture, or a dash of color right where you want it.

Two very different examples of how handwork can complement machine stitching appeared in the June/July 2010 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine.

In her piece on Work Quilts, Victoria Gertenbach writes that the hand sewing she does is "the soul of the quilt."

"This layer adds a rich texture and depth, and when I am done I feel very connected to the piece, as my hands have held and worked every inch."

Victoria uses Sulky® cotton thread. It has a matte finish and comes in both a #12-weight and a #30-weight that she uses in different colors to give variation, doubling the thread so the stitches show.

Victoria starts from the back, knotting the end of the thread, and then pulls and hides the knot inside the back layer of the quilt. She finishes the same way. Because she always does a layer of machine quilting first, she doesn't have to worry about the layers shifting as she hand stitches, and a hoop or frame isn't needed.

jane lafazio hand sewing on needle felting
Using buttonhole and backstitch, Jane
LaFazio adds design and texture.

You wouldn't necessarily think that machine needle-felted fiber art needs more texture. But in the same issue of Quilting Arts, Jane LaFazio shows how she adds a layer of texture and interest to her needle-felted pieces with hand stitching.

Jane does her handwork with a combination of single strand perle cottons and some six-strand embroidery floss in a vast variety of colors. She uses many different threads, some the same colors as the piece, and some contrasting.

"I add hand stitching on the roving circles to highlight this design element; I often use a ladder or blanket stitch," writes Jane.

She stitches the background with running stitches, tiny Xs, lazy daisies, or buttonhole circles.

"Try to cover every part of the piece with hand stitching. You can also couch some yarn or stitch some silk ribbon onto the piece," she advises.

The next time you're looking to add a little oomph to a quilt that's looking flat, try looking in back issues of Quilting Arts for inspiration on how a little hand sewing can make a big difference.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques