Hand Quilting Extraordinaire

I was thrilled to see, and photograph, Julie Adamson’s quilt, “Jessie” recently.


I had missed the Victorian Quilters Inc Showcase earlier this year, where Julie won the Runner Up to Best of Show prize for her work on “Jessie”.


So I was pleased to catch up with Julie, at a workshop where she was teaching her hand quilting technique, and see more of her quilts.

It was pleasing to hear her explain to the students what a difference good thread makes to the ease of hand quilting.

Try choosing a shade up & down of the one colour to add depth & variety to hand quilting

Try choosing a shade up & down of the one colour to add depth & variety to hand quilting

Julie also showed us another quilt, a wholecloth that had a vine design quilted with Aurifil Cotton Mako’ 28 in one colour and the background fill quilted with a different thread.

She said that she had planned the design, and was working on the quilt over a weekend.  She enjoyed stitching the vine so much that she just wanted to keep quilting the background filler to see if the effect looked as good as she had imagined when she drew up the design.

However, she hadn’t expected to progress this quickly, and didn’t have the second Aurifil thread colour in her collection. So she picked up a different brand of thread from her basket and started stitching the background fill.

What a mistake! She said the second thread was not nearly as easy to use, as it twisted “with a mind of it’s own” and did not make as nice a stitch as her favorite Aurifil.

This example reminds me that it is easy to forget just how nice it is to stitch with Aurifil when it is the thread that you use everyday.

Aurifil really is the benchmark to which to compare other thread brands.

If you want to take a workshop with Julie Adamson check out the program for the 2016 Australian Quilt Convention

PS: Julie recently won 1st place in the Open Small Quilt “Predominately Applique” category in the SA Quilters Guild Festival of Quilts.


What type of quilt batting is best?

This week I was asked which batting was better, specifically if 60/40 wool mix was better than 100% wool batting, and what a dilemma this question of better/best poses. 

The quilt batting rack in the shop holds a roll each of wool/poly batting, in natural & charcoal, plus a roll of cotton /poly and a roll of very thin pellon style polyester.

The quilt batting rack in the shop holds a roll each of wool/poly batting, in natural & charcoal, plus a roll of cotton /poly and a roll of very thin pellon style polyester.

There are a multitude of battings on the market, and the choice of batting is determined by many factors, so the following comments are based on my quilting experiences, and observations, and will not necessarily agree with your quilting experiences and observations. 

The starting point for my favourite quilt batting
I have always used the 60/40 wool mix as I like the idea of the polyester scrim & needle punching to stabilise the wool fibres. My quilts are all soft, with a nice quilting definition, and they can withstand gentle machine washing on a wool cycle without the fibres migrating through the cotton fabric. Although there is that element of synthetic in the batting, the quilts are still comfortable to use all year round as they “breathe”. 

I used wool/poly batting in the elephant attic window quilt

Batting is always a personal choice so the other thing to consider is how you plan to quilt …. hand quilting, domestic machine quilting or longarm quilting all have different requirements. 
I machine quilt with a longarm machine, holding the handles as I guide the machine head over the quilt, so I can “feel” the effort required for the needle to push through the batting.
I have found that the needle passes through the wool & wool/mix battings much easier than through cotton batting.
You can actually feel the vibration, & hear the needle “punching” into a cotton batting, as it stitches. The only time this is not noticeable is when the cotton batting has been pre-soaked/pre-shrunk so that it has been softened, and then the needle action is smoother, but still not as smooth as for a wool batting.
Surprisingly, even though bamboo batting is also made from a plant fibre, it has a softer stitching action with the needle passing through the quilt sandwich almost as easily as the wool & wool mix battings.
A word of warning here though, don’t be tempted to pre-wash bamboo batting, it needs to be stabilised inside the quilt before washing.
So, although I am a machine quilter, and do very little hand quilting,  wool or wool mix batting would be my choice for hand quilting. 

Hand quilting

Cotton batting creates a static relationship with cotton fabric so that it “sticks” to the fabric. This can be useful when quilting on a domestic machine, provided the quilt is flat and has been well basted before hand.  
However the static relationship is not desired when quilting with a longarm machine where the quilt & batting are moving independently of each other. In this situation the static relationship can form tucks & pleats very easily.

Quilting with a longarm machine means that the 3 quilt parts move independently until they are actually quilted together

The other factor to consider is the finished appearance of the quilt.
Do you like a quilt to have a traditional fluffy appearance or a flatter smoother texture?
You will achieve a traditional fluffy result by using a cotton batting that has not been pre-washed, as this will allow the shrinkage resulting in the first wash to puff up around the quilted stitching. 
Wool, wool mix & bamboo battings do not seem to have this same effect so the quilting texture will stay very much as it was when first quilted. 
So you can see,  “best” statements should always be put into context so that you can see how the writer/speaker works, and understand why their choice of batting is best for that person/job. 

Vote for Aurifil for hand quilting!

Not everyone realises just how nice it is to hand quilt with the Cotton Mako’ range from Aurifil.

Judy’s hand quilting test sampler using Cotton Mako’ Ne 40 & Cotton Mako’ Ne28

In fact, at the Australian Quilt Convention, Sue from  Miss Sampsons Drapery, one of the Aurifil stockists, asked me about hand quilting with Cotton Mako’ Ne 28.  Sue hosted Jinny Beyer at the convention this year  so she had Cotton Mako’ Ne 28 on her stand for hand piecing, using Jinny’s  method, and was inquiring as to its other uses.  My response was:

Hand quilting, Machine quilting, blanket stitch applique, hand embroidery, bobbin lace making, & machine embroidery to just name a few uses fo Cotton Mako’ Ne 28.

Take note that Sue has now added a Cotton Mako’ Ne 28 stand to the the Ne 40 & 50 stands she already had in the store. This means that you can now find 3 of the Cotton Mako’ thread ranges at Miss Sampson’s Drapery, in Swan Hill, Victoria.

But I digress,   back to hand quilting.  For my seminar at the Quilt Convention,  Judy stitched out a sampler of cross hatching using 3 of the Cotton Mako’ thread weights, Ne 40 (fine), Ne 28 (medium thickness) & Ne 12 (thicker, similar to a perle thread).

Judy used these 3 Cotton Mako’ threads for her hand quilting test sampler

We have previously talked about using the Cotton Mako’ Ne 12 for quilting with the larger utility stitch however, for this exercise,  Judy used her normal small, even quilting style for all three thread weights and even the Ne 12 stitched out beautifully.

Judy commented that all 3 threads slip through the quilt sandwich smoothly without any stress on her hands.

Judy's hand quilting sampler using Cotton Mako' Ne 28 & Cotton Mako' 12

Judy’s hand quilting sampler using Cotton Mako’ Ne 28 & Cotton Mako’ 12

Leave a comment to tell us which Aurifil thread weight you have used for hand quilting.