lumpy and bumpy and the joys of hand quilting……

baptist fan quilting


Before it’s all finished I wanted to share a few pictures of the latest star quilt being quilted……I’ve used a baptist fan pattern for each quilt although I’ve used the pattern in slightly different ways (in the other quilt, the fan goes from right to left and is spaced differently too)…..

I love the baptist fan pattern, it’s quite an old quilting pattern and you often see it used on old timey scrap quilts……(for some truly gorgeous examples I’d wholly recommend a trip to The American Museum which is just outside of Bath…they have a wonderful collection of quilts which is regularly rotated and their other exhibitions are always really interesting too).  It looks a lot more complicated than it actually is (if you’d like to know how to draft it then I’ve written about it here)…..for the star quilts I’ve made the fan rings 3/4 of an inch wide and that seems to be working out fine, however in the past I’ve set them smaller (the quilt I made for my boyfriend had the rings set at 1 cm gaps, starting at 2 cm up to 15 cm’s so the arc was nice and wide as well as being super skinny which makes for a lovely ripply feel for your fingers to brush over)…..


baptist fan hand quilting


The pattern goes off the side of the quilt somewhat abruptly but once the binding is sewn on it isn’t noticeable (though if you want to be really particular then you would need to measure the width and length of your quilt and mark your fan pattern out to fit that…as an example, if your quilt measures 40 by 50 inches, you could mark your fan guide at 1 inch notches, starting at 1 inch going up to 10 inches.  Then your fan would fit width ways  x 4, and lengthways x 5……though that is being pretty fussy even for me)….I’ve not measured widths and lengths before to make a fan marker and the ones I’ve previously made have all looked absolutely fine and dandy.

If you click on the images they should come up pretty big and you’ll be able to see the drawn lines of the baptist fan along with the stitches….I’ve marked this out in rows as I go along, and I’ve used a blue wash out pen (it’s one I’ve tested out before and it’s fine, but I don’t know what it would be like if it was left on the fabric for a long period of time)…..


a rippled baptist fan


When I’m quilting the curves of the fan, I like to use a few needles at once, stitching a section of the fan, before unscrewing and moving the hoop along before finishing the curves and arches.  If you are using a big hoop then you can move back and forth easier, but I find this method suits me fine, my fingers follow the curve and my quilting looks neater (to me at any rate) when I do it like this.  It’s not so necessary when I’m working on something small (such as the computer cosy) but certainly once I’m working at this size I prefer to move my hoop rather than keep turning the whole quilt back and forth.

Quilting needles are either labelled as Quilting Needles or Quilter’s Betweens, they are both the same thing.


needles in action


A fleet of industrious little quilting needles, sharp and fat.  I go through stages of which needle I prefer to use, when I’m quilting a big piece of fabric with no seams then I use the tiniest needles imaginable, something like a 11 or 12, John James brand are very good and very favourably priced for all pockets…but when I’m stitching over patchwork that has lots of seams, I prefer a slightly larger needle, one that is a little plumper and robust enough to cope with the bulk of seams,  a number 8 by John James is ideal…last year I was lucky enough to buy a couple of packets of vintage Blue Dorcas quilting needles in a number 7 and they are wonderful and strong.  (they are the same brand as those pretty little blue tins of pins found at the bottom of every Nannys and great aunts sewing baskets)….I often use a variety of needles in the same quilt, tiny needles where I’m quilting over a large u- cut piece of fabric, and then the slightly bigger needles where the patchwork is denser.

My favourite thread for quilting is a brand called Star.  I don’t think it comes in a massive array of colours, I’d only seen it in cream and then my sister bought me some in grey….but it’s nice and strong and doesn’t tangle, and it’s pretty cheap.  I also like Gutterman but that is a bit dearer, though slightly finer I think than the Star brand (so it’s easier to thread).


fan quilting helps to soften the seams in the patchwork


I mentioned to Sharon in a comment before that certain quilting patterns such as the baptist fan really soften the seams and colour change edges of patchwork, and thought the above picture was a good example of what I meant.

Although the patchworked star is still very visible, the background is softened and blended because of the tiny ripples and puckers in the quilting, the curve of the pattern helps as well.  I think this is what makes hand quilting so interesting to look at, the quilting lines aren’t so harsh as machine quilted rows and the overall look is a little hazy.

Once the binding has been sewn on the quilts will be gently washed on a cool wool wash in the washing machine and then left to dry flat between a couple of towels (no doubt Bernard will plop himself down on them but the towels will protect the quilts)…once the quilts are dry the tiny puckers of the hand quilting will be even more concentrated which gives that nice “old timey” look to a quilt.  I’ve been told a similar result can be achieved with machine quilting if the fabric used isn’t washed first, that way it shrinks a bit when it is washed, so if you don’t want to spend the time hand piecing and quilting (and I do understand it’s not for everyone) then that is a thought.


11 thoughts on “lumpy and bumpy and the joys of hand quilting……

  1. Thanks for the mention. The quilts just keep looking better and better and I loved them when they were just pieces of fabric laid out. There is something lovely about the rippled effect of the baptist fan. I would love to see the twins parents faces when they see them :-). Have a good week, or what’s left of it! X

    1. Hi Sharon, you’re most welcome xx Thank you for all your lovely comments and kind words of encouragement. I’d like to see the mama’s face when she opens the quilts as they are more of a surprise for her.

    1. Hi Sue, I found the pointy corners kept poking into my patchwork, the curved edges make a big difference don’t they. Annoyingly I had some lovely vintage quilt markers and not knowing what they were put them in a charity shop..doh.

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