Hand sewing isn’t just about stitching fabric together, but about exploring new techniques and ways to add interest to projects. For quilters and embroiderers alike there are a plethora of hand embroidery stitches and hand sewing techniques that are just waiting to be explored.
Placement of hand stitches are dictated by the shapes on your quilt top. Start with easy stitches you know, such as cross stitch or whipstitch, and use them separately or in combination with other stitches.
Ladder stitch is perfect for couching unusual materials or to fill long, narrow spaces. Back stitches or stem stitches outline and define fabric shapes. Or use cross stitch to add texture to your designs.
Add French knots for dynamic hints of color and texture that attract the eye and are often mistaken for beads. With a balance of mastering the running stitch and picking gorgeous colors to work with, you will have a breathtaking masterpiece before you know it!
7 Tips on Combining Machine and Hand Stitching
1. Once you’ve taken the time to identify your design lines by using bold machine strokes, you don’t want to take away from them by adding contrasting handwork. Instead try using a soft color, variegated thread, or coordinating color to achieve the look and texture without overwhelming.
2. Hand sewing stitches into puckered or gathered places on your piece are the perfect way to smooth them out. The sometimes unseen beauty of hand stitching is that you can easily control your fabric, pulling, gathering or reshaping as you see fit.
3. Or, to avoid the puckering or gathering that sometimes happens during machine stitching, use tear-away stabilizer (especially with sheer fabrics). Just don’t forget to tear it away before adding stitching or hand embroidery designs. Or as an alternative, use an embroidery hoop for stability.
4. If you are going to be working on large areas, work on a flat surface to avoid puckering. We often use a foam core board or stretched canvas because they are lightweight and portable, and you can pin your fabric directly to them.
5. Never be afraid to overlap hand embroidery/stitches, even if they are created by machine. You’ll be surprised how to much texture and boldness you can add with lots of overlapped stitches.
6. For handwork, don’t cut the thread any longer than the length from your fingertips to elbow. You may end up threading your needle more often, but you’ll spend less time untangling thread and feeling frustrated.
7. If you are working on hand sewing projects where you are stitching in a straight path, consider using a long needle. It will allow you to get more stitches in one swoop and make life easier on your fingers.
Excerpted from: Quilting Arts In Stitches, Vol. 3, by Natalya Aikens, Interweave, 2011
The Multi-purpose French Knot
- First, the French knot gives you a lot of textural bang for your buck. French knots literally rise above the other basic hand embroidery stitches, popping right off the fabric.
- Second, you’ve heard the term “connect the dots”? Well, you can make a series of French knots close together to form hand embroidery patterns, such as a line or map out a shape like a constellation.
- Third, French knots stitched close together will fill in a shape and provide shading, especially if you vary the thread colors.
- Fourth, French knots are very organic. Depending on the color, size, and placement, this embroidery stitch can serve as a lone blossom, a scattered field of flowers, or the honeycombed center of sunflower.
- Fifth, they’re just so much fun to make. Winding the fiber around the needle, piercing the fabric, and then pulling the thread through to create that perfect little knot is so relaxing and satisfying.
Here are some tips on how to hand sew a French knot.
1. The general rule is, don’t wind the thread or fiber around the needle more than twice. If you want a bigger knot, use a thicker thread.
2. After wrapping the thread, place the point of the needle right next to the place it came up from, rather than back in the same hole. That way, the knot will stay anchored on top and not slip right through to the back of the fabric.
3. To add dimension to your French knots, use a variegated thread.
Source: Quilting Arts Magazine, October/November 2009, by Jane LaFazio