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hand pieced quilt progress

patchwork quilt along fat quarter shop

I’ve always known that I like hand work–I love to bind quilts, I knit and embroider a little–but I really had no idea how much I would love hand piecing. When I started this crazy idea, I wasn’t at all sure that I would be able to see it through. About halfway through my first block I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” But I pushed through, and now, a mere three months into this project, I can very clearly see my progress.

The actual motion of hand piecing is becoming second nature, and it feels so good to just slow down. I tend to do things very quickly–I walk fast, talk fast, and do most tasks as if I am getting a medal for speed. I’ve made a big effort this last year to slow down my machine sewing as well. I am always working on improving my accuracy, and slowing down is a big part of that for me. I hear about these sewing machines that sew 1500 stitches a minute and wonder how in the world someone can sew that fast without careening out of control.

patchwork quilt along fat quarter shop
I kind of love the crumpled mess of the blocks before the final (only) pressing.

Hand sewing takes time–something that always feels in short supply these days. I do all my prep work up front–I cut out all six blocks for the Patchwork Quilt Along and then mark the stitching lines on the back of them (I wrote about my favorite hand piecing tools here). This takes a good evening or two–usually while listening to a podcast or watching Netflix. Then I just keep everything I need to hand sew in a basket.

I drag this basket from room to room–or even in the car, using found moments to sew a seam or two. I think that this is one of the most unexpected parts about hand sewing–all the memories that are being sewn into this quilt. I will always remember that I worked on it in the car as we drove up to do a college tour for Jonah, that I binge-watched and cried my way through the entire season of This is Us, and that I worked on it pretty much every night when we gather as a family to share a TV show together before bed.

patchwork quilt along fat quarter shop

At first hand sewing a whole quilt seemed a little daunting, but now I realize that just like everything else–it is so much more doable when you break it down into small chunks. In this case, six blocks a month. I seem to need to be reminded of this over and over again–break it down and tackle it one bit at a time.

 

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My favorite hand piecing tools

patchwork-along-blocks

Six blocks down for the Fat Quarter Shop’s Patchwork Quilt Along. I finished them in about a week and a half and I can only hope that I can maintain that pace for a whole year. I am actually a bit sad that they are done and I don’t get the next pattern until next month. My hands feel so idle in the evenings now, while we have our family TV time. Yes, I have things to knit–but I’m a little obsessed with hand sewing right now.

As I mentioned in my last post–I made just about every mistake you could make with the first few blocks. As I continued with the next three, I’ve been experimenting with a few things (especially needles) and I have arrived at a few of my favorite tools.

hand-piecing-tools

Perhaps most importantly, I have found what I think is the perfect needle: Piecemakers Hand Applique Sharp size 12. It is thin enough to have little to no drag on the fabric, an eye that is not impossible to thread (though I do use a very simple needle threader–the red square in the picture), and is a very nice length. I also like the Betweens from the same maker, but I find them a bit short–they don’t hit my thimble in the right place.

Speaking of thimbles, I’ve had this one for forever. I’ve tried all kinds of thimbles and this simple metal one that you can buy at any craft store (probably Dritz brand) is my favorite. Fun fact: I like this size now, but I have a smaller one that works better when I’m a bit thinner.

After making all the marking mistakes early on, I am now marking with a thin, mechanical pencil using the Jinny Beyer Perfect Piecer. Yes, you can use any old ruler, but this one has all the right markings and one day I hope to graduate to just being able to mark the dots and not the whole line–and this one has perfect little holes for that.

Everything else is pretty self-explanitory: my favorite Aurifil 2311 50 wt. thread, a small pair of sharp scissors, some nice thin pins, and the ever present red Clover clips to keep things together and organized.

patchwork-blocks

I keep all of this in a little zipper pouch that a wonderful friend made me and I am ready to make the most of “found” moments throughout my day. Most recently, I did a bit of hand piecing in a hotel hallway, waiting for my son to perform with his Jazz Honor Band. Small moments, big results.

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is this crazy? a handpieced quilt project

hand-pieced-quilt-blocks

This may be crazy. And I may totally fail. But I hope not.

Ever since I learned to quilt, about seven years ago, I’ve wanted to make a hand pieced quilt. It seems so portable and charming and fun and a little bit crazy. I’ve hand pieced coasters and mug rugs, but have always been on the lookout for the quilt project that seemed just right. Enter the Fat Quarter Shop Patchwork Quilt Along.

full-quilt

I really had no idea it was going to lead to this, but I love the simple patchwork blocks and clean lines of this quilt and decided, very last minute, to jump on the bandwagon. This pattern has the awesome side benefit of raising money for charity–and I was happy to donate to Make a Wish.

hand-pieced-block

I really didn’t want to buy fabric (but I did), so I started out with some Bonnie and Camille fabric from my stash. I downloaded the pattern, made my donation, and started cutting. These pieces are small! Like 1″ finished squares! I was pondering how careful and accurate I needed to be as I sat down at my sewing machine. Now, my accuracy has been improving steadily these last couple of years, but still. It was then that I realized that this would be a perfect hand piecing project! It ‘s much easier to be accurate when sewing by hand.

hand-pieced-quilt-blocks-2

The blocks are only 5″ and fairly simple. So I stepped away from the machine and got out the needle and thread. I confess, it has been awhile since I did any hand piecing and my skills were quite rusty. Let’s just say I made a few mistakes early on.

The first was that I only marked the seam allowance on the one edge of the fabric that I was going to sew first. Mistake. You are eventually going to sew all four sides of the fabric, so go ahead and mark them all while it is a nice, flat piece of fabric and not all lumpy and bumpy from being sewn to other tiny pieces of fabric.

The second mistake was that I used a Frixion pen to mark the seam allowances. This seemed like a good idea at first, but now that I’ve ironed them, all the marks are gone, and I will want them back when I sew these blocks together. (Forehead smack.)

The third was that I forgot how to get really neat points and corners. The first two blocks are off a bit, but I pulled out my  Quiltmaking by Hand book from hand sewing guru Jinny Beyer, and read up on it. The last block, the red one, came out much better. Progress! I thought about redoing the first two blocks, but they aren’t horrible, and I decided to look at this quilt as my journey in hand piecing. It will be a visible record of my improvement.

I decided that I wanted to use a variety of Bonnie and Camille fabrics for this project, and my stash was not adequate, so I ordered a layer cake of Bonnie and Camille Basics to get a bit more variety. As a matter of fact, I am (im)patiently waiting for the UPS man right now, so that I can get back to it.

To stay up with the Patchwork Quilt Along, you only need to make six blocks a month. It seems pretty do-able–even by hand! I plan to just tackle it one month at a time. It’s amazing how many “found” moments there are in a day to sew a quick seam. It is a goal of mine to use my time more effectively, and using these small moments to stop and hand sew for a bit makes me unreasonably happy.

Anyone else sewing along? I’d love to hear about it!