Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hooplessly Devoted to You

Although I did learn to quilt in a frame, I was never very good at it, and I ditched the hoop shortly after attempting to use it. It felt so natural to me to quilt without any of that, but I've had a very hard time trying to explain it well. It's one of those things I just do without thinking.

I swear by quilting without a hoop. It's possible to get much smaller stitches this way.

The quilt sandwhich has to be well-basted, more so than quilting in a hoop. I layer the backing, batting and top, but don't stretch any of them. Since I'm rather lazy, I put pins in every three inches-ish to stabilize the piece and put even more in the area where I'll be starting. As I remove safety pins in the area I'm working on, I move them over to the place I'm going next.

There is no tension on the quilt sandwich as I'm working. I don't pull it taut or stretch it in any way.

I hold the quilt in my left hand between my thumb and palm. Not the middle of my palm - that would be uncomfortable -- but the area below my index finger (the finger closest to the thumb).

This is what it looks like from underneath.
And another (obviously more recent) shot, this time without my thumb peeking out.

My left hand doesn't do much during the quilting. Most of the fingers just help hold the sandwich up. The middle finger is important though. First it gets "stabbed" by the needle. The needle goes down and hits my finger which then acts to push that needle back up. (Not by the pointy bit of the needle, but the shaft very close to the point.)

On my right hand, I use a thimble on my middle finger to push the needle. My right thumb is crucial. As I rock my hand, my thumb works to first help the needle go down and and then come back up. For the down motion, my thumb is behind the point of the needle, helping to push the shaft down.

For coming back up, the thumb moves forward to help the needle back up. The middle left finger is pushing up on the shaft of the needle, the right thumb is pressing the quilt sandwich down and back against the tip of the needle to make the stitch.

I take several stitches onto the needle and then pull through.

I swear by my "Thergonomic Hand-Aids" - they really do work. I don't have nearly as much pain in my hands and wrists as I used to get. Just make sure you buy the kind that have a wide wrist band. I throw them in the wash with my usual laundry every week and into the dryer as well (even though the instructions say not to) because that helps get them tight again.

Anyone else who quilts without a hoop have anything to add? Any clarifications or helpful hints?

Please ask any questions you may have and I'll do my best to come up with an answer.


Clare said...

Thanks for the tutorial again.

Definitely the best way to quilt. Got slightly fed up and tried a friend's large embroidery hoop. No way! I found that if there are lumps and bumps they are a lot easier to smooth out quilting hoopless, rather than by machine. My stitching still needs to be a bit smaller, but at least I am now getting even ones and, like you, take several stitches onto the needle before pulling it through, though those damn safety pins cause a bit a problem sometimes :-)))))))))))))))

Lily Mulholland said...

I have a similar grip on the fabric as you do Tonya, but my motion/action with my right hand isn't as polished, that's for sure!

I do have a question though - I've tried quite a few different thimbles and find that all of the metal ones 'slice' through the thread as it rubs between the eye of the needle and the thimble dimple. I have snapped the thread so many times that I've switched to a leather thimble. Do you have any problems with that happening? I am wary of weakening the thread in any way.

I also just ordered some needle 'grab-its', as I'm finding it hard to pull the needle through the fabric, batting, backing with three or four stitches on!

Joyce said...

I have done all my quilting with a floor frame but it can get awkward especially doing curves. Thanks for the tutorial. I may try that method next.

Sarah said...

THANK YOU for posting this. I've only done a tiny bit of hand quilting, but have always found it easier to do without a hoop. It's good to know I'm not the only renegade, and to see by your examples that hoopless quilting WORKS.

Laura said...

Thanks Tonya for posting this again. I have been quilting all my small quilts without a frame since I tried your baptist fans. I love it. I have a larger one in my frame now and need to finish it but once it is done I want to try quilting a larger quilt without the frame and see if it still works for me. So far I have just been thread basting a whole bunch before I start. I like that I can just clip the threads as I go and not worry about messing with the pins.

Susan said...

I do use a hoop, but I don't have it tight. There has to be some slack for the quilt to bend for those small stitches! I think I'm just too lazy to do all that pinning to keep tucks off the back. =) Of course, now that we are in a 5th wheel, I'm really lazy and send them out to a long list of machine quilters who make me happy. =) I miss the hand quilting, but my space is so limited.

Anonymous said...

I'm a no frame quilter and I always feel a little ashamed. But I like the results better and I have much better control.

I started no frame quilting out of necessity though, my three year old thought the frame was a jungle gym and my one year old loved pulling the pins out.

Now I only pin with safety pins and I can stitch a bit then fold up the quilt nad put it up high to head of f the next toddler disaster.

Love seeing your stitches..

Judy said...

I'll have to try again. I think it may be the part when you use your right thumb to guide the needle back down. Maybe holding it that way keeps some tension. My problem is that without something to keep it taut the whole top part of the sandwich involving your right hand....needle and all just falls right back down towards the left hand.

I did hear about some ladies that sit on their quilts to keep the backside taut, or slide a bit between their knees or under their thigh. Sounds weird but it may work. Thanks for taking the time to post that!

Candy Schultz said...

I tried it after you mentioned it but it drives me crazy. I need my hoop but I keep the fabric very loose in the hoop. I have to use several bandaids as a thimble also. I have tried every kind of thimble I could find and hate them all. When I am quilting a lot I go through a couple of boxes of bandaids. Not very ecologically conscious but it is the only thing that works for me and I have been doing it for 24 years.

atet said...

Thanks for posting this tutorial. I am still planning on trying the whole hand quilting thing this summer and this gives me some ideas to try. I know I don't particularly love working with hoops. I do when I must (embroidery and some linen cross stitch equals a must to keep proper tension in the fabrics because they DO move) but if I can get away without using them, I will. I think I'll try both methods -- and see which works for me!

Anonymous said...

no hoop here either, i work like you except i don't use a thimble and i mostly do one stitch at a time. i agree that it is easier to make smaller stitches this way/ sometimes i make a tent over my knees with my feet up on the chair, if i have to stretch the piece out a bit to work flatter. those hand aids look interesting.

jovaliquilts said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I took a handquilting class from Suzanne Marshall, who also quilts without a hoop. I've been thinking I'll have to work on it on a small piece. I love the look of your quilting and it is inspiring me to give it a try.

Andrea said...

I never use a hoop either. I also cannot get along with thimbles - tried loads of different ones with no success. Looks like all us hoopless quilters are coming out of the closet -lol !

Admin said...

Thanks you so much for posting this tutorial! I am working on my very first quilt. I don't want to buy an expensive hoop or a huge frame. I was delighted to read all those comments from people who don't use hoops! I am going to try it! Sashiko, Japanese quilting, is all done without any hoops or frames and the results speak for themselves.

Unknown said...

Good to know I am not alone in quilting without a frame, hoop or thimble. Never wanted to mention this to anyone since it felt like the quilt police would come after me, or something was wrong with me that I could not manage to quilt the "correct" way!

Robin said...

It's been more than two year since you wrote this post, but here I am on your blog after Googling: hand quilting how to!

I've been quilting for a long time, but have never hand quilted except for small quilts (like my blog header). Now I'm making a queen sized early 1900's replica quilt and have... just finished basting it and am ready to begin quilting. I don't plan to use a frame or hoop. Eeeek, no!

Wish we were neighbors (but we're at opposite corners of the US), as I certainly could use some pointers.

Thanks for this post!

Steph said...

Thanks for this! I have a quilt that I want to quilt by hand but I don't have any hoops large enough and I can't seem to find my mom's old quilt frame. Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

I have been quilting for 10 years. I have been doing quilt without frame or hoop. I am thinking about doing Hawaiian quilt. I need fine needle work for doing Hawaiian quilt. I wantrd to improve my stitching. I tried to stitch with hoop and I find it's dificult for me. My husband saw me struggling with hoop, said, "You should sew the way you are comfortable, your quilt were fine." And then I find your site. I am glad to find other quilter doing without hoop.
Thank you for giving me confidence.

Unknown said...

Hi all, I have really enjoyed reading your blog and comments.
I am a second time quilter, I hand stitch the patchwork together but last time I quilted with a machine. Today I'm living in another city with no machine.

I am really struggling to find information on how long the stitches should be, mine are about 2-3mm on the front but 1mm on the back, the space on the front of that back stitch however is 3mm. I seem to not be able to get the needle back up straight.

I bent 2 needles yesterday on my trial piece. Then I moved onto the quilt because I'm on a timeline but I achieved about 15 inches in the whole afternoon because I am so pedantic with getting the stitches uniform.

I will try your method, looks amazing, thank you. Could anyone provide information on the stitch length please?