Before I start quilting I like to thread up a dozen or so small needles, that sounds like a lot but once I’m quilting I get a bit grouchy when I have to stop just to thread a needle, having a few pre threaded and all ready to use makes life much easier. (and used them all up I know it’s time to walk around the house and garden stretch the knees, shoulders etc….it’s really easy to just keep sitting and quilting for long periods of time but you can actually end up doing yourself a mischief so it’s important to take regular breaks and really stretch out those fingers)
I use a couple of different brands of needle, I like Clover needles, especially their Black Gold Needles in number 10 (they are really eye poppingly expensive but are very good)… other cheaper brands which are less likely to make your purse or wallet cry are John James and Milward. I tend to favour a size 10 but a quick rummage through my quilting needles shows they range from 8 to 12 (which are ridiculously minuscule, I only use those for very small projects where the fabric is in my hands and not in a hoop.) I’ve even got some vintage Blue Dorcas quilting needles and they are a size 7… so I think it is good to try a few out and see which you prefer.
I normally use Gutermann hand quilting cotton thread, though a couple of years ago I bought some Star hand quilting thread which is very good but haven’t been able to find it anywhere since.
The last piece of equipment you’ll need is a quilting hoop (which just looks like a really fat embroidery hoop…they tend to be about an inch high and width wise start at about 14 inches)…. I don’t use one for this project as it is so small* but certainly for anything larger I’d be lost without one. I’ve got a couple of different sizes, I probably use the 14″ one the most, I’ve got one that is 18 inches wide but that takes up a lot of lap.
Ooh, I nearly forgot, you might want to wear a thimble as it doesn’t take too long for the needle to make your finger tip really rather sore…
Most quilting patterns start in the the middle of your quilt, however, there is always one that likes to be different and Baptist fan is one of them
The pattern is made up of a series of “fans”.
I find the best results come from starting at the bottom right corner, and working along in rows.
Start by making a knot in one end of thread, and insert the needle in the edge right up to the first quilting line, which in this case is the lowest little curve line, it’s about an inch wide. Pull the needle through so the knot catches in the wadding and the thread is held nice and tight. Insert the needle again but this time in the tip fabric, make a few small running stitches (making sure the needle goes through all three layers) and pull through at the top. Don’t worry about the back, you don’t want to learn un-picking…. just keep making small little running stitches.
And if they aren’t really tiny…. don’t fret, it’s more important to keep them as regular in size as you can.
Once you’ve quilted (and yes… you really are quilting) the first arc, you need to move the quilt round, the needle will be to your right again, push the needle through the wadding to the edge of the second arc and then make more little running stitches ….
Keep turning your work so that the needle is always on your right, “so” you are sewing right to left.
If you are using a hoop then this supports your fabric, giving space underneath for your needle (though you never bring it all the way through like as with a stab stitch), and your left hand holds the hoop.
If you’re working on something small and so aren’t using a hoop then your left hand holds the fabric, and moves it as you quilt.
If you’ve run out of thread while you are mid arc, make a knot in your thread as close to the fabric as you can-I often put a pin or needle in the knot so I can slide it down to the bottom, insert the needle tip into where the thread comes out in the fabric and push the needle back in, slide it along through the wadding about an inch, then bring it back up through the top fabric. Trim it about 1/2 an inch and then put just the tip of the needle behind the thread tail and wiggle it from side to side and the thread will disappear . It sounds a lot trickier than it actually is.
To start a new thread in the middle of an arc, knot your thread. Slide the needle alongside your last two or three stitches, bringing it out where your first new stitch wants to be and pull the thread so the knot goes through the top fabric and then catches… you need to do this gently so you don’t pull a hole in the fabric, once the knot has caught, use the needle tip to slide the tail out of sight.
Once your first “fan” is finished, take a couple of back stitches in the very edge of the wadding where it touches the top fabric, and cut the thread leaving an inch tail.
So that should be your first “fan” quilted! Hoorah. Time for a cup of tea, stretch out those fingers, do a little jazz hands, rotate your shoulders and have a little walk about (I know this no doubt sounds silly… but do you want to go to your doctor and say “I’ve got a crooky shoulder/neck from quilting”….
For the next “fan”, fasten the thread just on the very edge of the wadding, insert the needle through the wadding so you can slide it through and bring it out on the right side of the arc, just to the side of the largest curve of the previous “fan” and continue to make the small running stitches along the curve.
Once your first row of fans are finished, you’ll then want to quilt your second row.
Again, start at the right side of the quilt and quilt the smallest arc first, bringing the arc of the fan down to the tops of the fans on the bottom row.
As you grow more confident you’ll find yourself wanting to start a new row before the row you are working on is finished, this is fine, and it’s one of the things that appeals to me about this pattern. You can easily have 3, 4, 5 or more small quilting needles tucked into your quilt top whiles you are quilting different rows. You just always need the fan below and the next one to it to be finished before quilting the fan that sits on top of it.
Continue in this way, working back and forth until your quilt is fully quilted.
Explaining something without actually being there to physically show how to do something is always hard, and I remember the light bulb moment when my friend Alison “corrected” how I was quilting…. I think to begin with I was back stitching, then stab stitching, and was obsessed with how the back of the piece looked….. Alison taught me to just relax, have a cup of tea (maybe a biscuit!) and just let your fingers find their natural rhythm.
This is easily my favourite quilting pattern, and there are a few variations on it which I’ll post another day, it looks lovely but for me the best part is how it feels…. so ripply when you run your finger over it…. for me it’s just the best part.
* If you’d like to use a hoop but your project is too small, or you want to quilt the sides properly, then securely tack some spare fabric to the sides of the back of the “extra” wadding and backing fabric, making sure this won’t be in the way of the actual quilting. This supports the piece being quilted, and allows small pieces to be worked in a hoop which would otherwise need to be held by hand.
If you are totally new to quilting then I’d recommend going to your local quilting supplies shop and buying a couple of metres of American muslin and maybe a metre of cotton wadding . Go home, wash the muslin, iron it and then put the “quilt sandwich” together like I’ve shown in the last couple of posts and just practise…. first attempts (and second and thirds) never look perfect and it’s easy to get cross, fling it across the room and say “I can’t do it”…..some practise fabric is always good to have, and if I haven’t quilted for a few months then I tend to spend an hour or so using some scrap calico, just getting back into the the flow and rhythm of the stitches.
If you click on the pictures they should come up really big, I appreciate it’s a bit hard to see what I’m describing because my thread is cream, it’s a bit easier to see when the pictures are bigger.