Progress on hand stitching projects

I don’t know about you guys, but I like to have a few hand stitching projects going at all times. It seems that during this pandemic, there’s been more time and opportunities to work on those kinds of projects. I think that means I’ve been watching too much television, but that’s what happens when you’re faced with staying at home.

Hand stitching projects

I just finished hand appliqueing my last hexagon flower block to a pieced background. These blocks will become a quilt soon, and I’m very excited about it! Aren’t they bright and happy!

Hand stitching projects include these English Paper Pieced hexagon flowers @ The Crafty Quilter

The pattern I’m using is Flowers for Emma by Sherri McConnell of A Quilting Life. I first saw this quilt in the June 2018 edition of American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine and I knew I had to make it. Sherri’s pattern is a modern take of a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, but it came together the old-fashioned way – English Paper Piecing.

I really enjoy the process of English Paper Piecing. It’s very portable so I can take it with me on trips (this one has been to Austin a few times). Most often I work on it in the evening while watching TV; well, listening to TV really. For this quilt, I needed 35 hexagon flowers. That only took me over one year to make! 😉

Hand stitching projects include these English Paper Pieced hexagon flowers @ The Crafty Quilter

The next step was to hand-applique each hexagon flower to a 4-patch background. This was a quicker process for me – which probably took me ten months. I achieve an invisible stitch by using 80 wt. Quilter’s Select Para Cotton thread. It just disappears into the fabric!

Hand stitching projects include these English Paper Pieced hexagon flowers @ The Crafty Quilter
My stitches disappear with 80 wt. Quilter's Select thread on these English Paper Pieced hexagon flowers @ The Crafty Quilter

Now it’s time to sew my blocks together to make the quilt top. This may take me just as long to accomplish by machine as the rest of it did by hand. There’s a line forming of projects needing the attention of my sewing machine!

I recently finished a hand embroidery project. This one was slated to be a Christmas gift, but you know. It’s early for next year. I purchased this Snowflake Stitch Sampler Embroidery Kit by Beth Colletti and it introduced me to some new stitches. Beth has some beautiful embroidery designs and great video tutorials for different embroidery stitches on her blog.

Snowflake Stitch Sampler Embroidery Kit by Beth Colletti.  Sample made by Julie Cefalu @ The Crafty Quilter.
Snowflake Stitch Sampler Embroidery Kit by Beth Colletti.  Sample made by Julie Cefalu @ The Crafty Quilter.

Currently, I have a quilt from 2010 (I think) that I’m hand-quilting. I hand-appliqued all of it, so I thought it should be hand-quilted. And after ten years, you can see how that’s been working out for me. The pattern is Rabbits Prefer Chocolate by Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill Designs. Fortunately, I haven’t grown tired of this quilt! It has that classic look and feel of a vintage quilt.

This hand stitching project is finally getting to be hand quilted.  Pattern is Rabbits Prefer Chocolate by Bunny Hill Designs.  Made by Julie Cefalu @ The Crafty Quilter.
Made by Julie Cefalu, pattern is Rabbits Prefer Chocolate by Bunny Hill Designs

The nudge that I needed to get back to this quilt came from a recent online class I took from Sarah Fielke at Quilt Con Together. She said one thing about her technique that clicked in my brain and I’ve finally figured out how to get some decent stitches. You can watch the video below and get a quick glimpse of Sarah’s method of hand quilting – it includes that thing that clicked for me (about the 7:00 minute mark). If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend taking a class from her!

I’ve switched the style and thread of my hand quilting (thanks to Sarah). I think of this as a hybrid of big stitch quilting. I’m using Aurifil 12 wt. thread and a Tulip sz. 9 embroidery needle along with my thimble from long ago. I also like to use a rubber finger from the office supply store to help grip the thread when I pull it through.

My favorite tools for hand quilting includes 12wt. Aurifil thread and Tulip size 9 embroidery needles
Hand quilting by Julie Cefalu @ The Crafty Quilter

My stitches are not perfect, but I’m finally enjoying the process. I’m not worried (anymore) about what my stitches look like from the back. I already have a section from 5 years ago that is quilted in a more traditional way and is going to look very different from the rest of the quilt. And I always say, “finished is better than perfect“.

Hand quilting by Julie Cefalu @ The Crafty Quilter.  Pattern is Rabbits Prefer Chocolate by Bunny Hill Designs.
Pieced with traditional quilting by Julie Cefalu, quilt pattern by Bunny Hill Designs
Big Stitch Hand quilting by Julie Cefalu @ The Crafty Quilter.  Pattern is Rabbits Prefer Chocolate by Bunny Hill Designs.
Big stitch quilting by Julie Cefalu

That is all of my progress on hand stitching projects for now! There are so many ways to enjoy working with fabric and thread. I enjoy them all – which seems to be a “situation not a problem” as Mr. Crafty Quilter says. Ha ha! Do you have a favorite hand sewing project?

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  1. I love all your cheerful Grandmother’s Flowers blocks! That will be very pretty indeed. I took Sarah’s Needle Turn Applique class at QuiltCon together and it was great, as was she! If I have a chance to take a hand quilting class with her, I will. I hand quilted my very first quilt (twin bed sized) and didn’t enjoy it, but it’s been long enough that I’d like to try it again.

  2. Oh my goodness!!! I absolutley LOVE your bunny quilt. I’m so amazed at your work. I don’t think I could ever create something like that, you truly have a gift and talent I admire and wish I had-Definitely a lost art!! Very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  3. I really admire anyone who has the patience for hand quilting! I’ve done it once and it was one and done for me. Other aspects of quilting I find more enjoyable, appliqué in particular. Your stitches are so pretty and even!

  4. I love to do handwork – embroidery and applique. There is something just so relaxing about it! I do a lot of machine quilting but have always wanted to try my hand at hand quilting. Your thoughts and the video you shared have inspired me to make something small and give it a try! Thank you!

  5. I like to have both hand-piecing and hand-quilting projects handy when I’m “watching” TV. If I don’t have a quilt that needs to be quilted, I have many whole cloth projects that are pre-marked and ready to quilt. For hand-piecing, I’ve found making 4-patches works best for me, and they can be used in so many different ways to make a quilt. There’s just something about hand sewing that is very therapeutic for me.

  6. I’ve been enjoying big stitch hand quilting. Your stitches look very nice and even. I do a lot of long straight shots so I don’t use a hoop. And I recently started using Tulip needles and they are superior! I wasn’t sure what size to buy so thanks for the tip about that. I’ve been using one of the assortment of short sashiko needles, but it may be a bit thick. It works well though, and I can get up to 11 stitches stacked on one pass.
    Your hand appliqué of grandmother’s flowers onto a 4-patch background gives me an idea of what to do with dozens of flowers that my grandmother made, but that are not of a consistent size (they would not fit together).

  7. Good Morning Julie. You’ve got me thinking……… You’ve “planted the seed” that I need to organize several of my hand stitching projects. Maybe that way I will actually finish them. Lots of “starts” but not “sew” many finishes . Thanks for the reminder that “finished” is better than perfect or as in my case “not even completed .” We’re headed for a short get-away next week; the perfect time to get organized and get stitching while away!!! ✂️

  8. Love all your hand piecing/quilting❣ I also use 12 wt and love it. I could never find the 8 wt in the colors I needed.

  9. Hello again Julie, I so loved the images of your hexagon flowers. When you said that some thing Sarah said in her video, clicked with you, your hexagon flower images brought back memories of the first quilt I ever attempted. With no knowledge of anything quilting, I wanted to make a quilt for our first baby. I made a cardboard template and laboriously cut out and hand sewed all the flowers together (no blocks). This was used for first and second babies and then handed down and used with grand-children.
    I so resonate with all you enjoy, quilting, crafting, gardening (I don’t seem to get the time for reading these days (except craft and garden books) and will enjoy hiking again once my new knee and Covid allows.

  10. Your bunny quilt is absolute beautiful! The hexies are very cute too, sewing 4 fabrics together for background is a really neat idea. I’m a hand quilter and I know exactly how slow hand quilting can be but every stitch quilted is one more towards being finished. Happy stitching!

  11. Beautiful handwork! I’m curious as to what your portable EPP container is and it’s contents, I’d like to make mine portable too, thank you

  12. Thanks for the nudge. I’m doing the flower garden quilt too. Have my hex flowers 1/3 sewn on to the 4 patches. So time to pick this back up and go for a finish.

  13. Lovin’ the Rabbits Prefer Chocolate! So glad that you are going to finish it! Thank you for the video, too. I am bookmarking to watch as soon as I can make the time for it…hopefully after work tomorrow! 🙂

  14. I have made 2 quilts with the “Flowers for Emma” pattern using different fabrics but very scrappy. Your quilt is beautiful.

  15. Hi Julie, first of all those hexies are beautiful. I’ve never made them before. It has been a long time since I’ve done any hand applique and I’ve never done English paper piecing. But I’m planning on starting a hand stitching project and hexies are my choice. Yours are fabulous!

    Secondly, that bunny quilt is adorable. I can’t wait to see more of it in the future. I used to do a lot of hand quilting but got away from it when I was making a lot of kid’s quilts for charity. I miss hand quilting. It is my favorite part of making a quilt. The soothing rocking feeling is, well soothing to the soul for me. Plus it is so nice to look at the beauty of the design, colors and fabrics at this point. It’s all so relaxing.

    And you are right, finished is good!! Way back in the 90’s I picked up a quilt while in the Amish Country, a wall hanging. Many ladies worked on this quilt together. If I look closely I can see the difference in the stitches. To me this is what give the quilt part of it’s charm. And I believe the same for your beautiful bunny quilt. Your stiches however different they may be add to the character of this amazing quilt.

  16. Julie, I fell in love with that Quilt, Flowers for Emma when Sherri posted it on her website. It’s just gorgeous. Someday I’ll finish the one flower I started 3 years ago! Yours is beautiful too. I loved the idea of the scrappy 4-patch background.

    1. Julie, the difference, is I’m not a hand quilter or piecer, or appliqué-r! Someday I’ll slow down machine piecing and do some hand work, aside from finishing my bindings by hand (my preferred method). Again, thank you for sharing your beautiful piece.

  17. You do such beautiful work, Julie. It’s always enjoyable to read your posts. I learn something new each time!

  18. You constantly amaze me with the variety of projects that you are working on. And you do such beautiful work! Love the snowflakes. Just wow

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