Monday, July 26, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Quilting Hoops

The previous post showing my quilting hoop prompted a lot of questions. Below I will share everything that I have learned about hoops in my many years of hand quilting. When I teach a hand quilting class, it is understandably the first time most of the students have attempted hand quilting. They come to class with an assortment of tools, most of which have been purchased recently. Often the tools are more a hindrance than a help. Lately when I teach I provide a detailed supply sheet. This isn't to be difficult and it isn't because I have an arrangement with a supplier - it's because I want you to enjoy the hand quilting process. Almost nothing is more enjoyable than hand quilting - IF you have tools that help you instead of fighting you at every turn.
This is my hoop. It is over 30 years old. I have a spare stowed away, but thankfully I haven't had to break it in. The edges are all rounded and it is baby bottom smooth. This isn't necessary in your hoop, but if you use it a few years - you too will appreciate this small detail. It didn't start out that way. The edges were flat - just like the edges in your hoop will be. Don't worry about this. This is just one of my ramblings about quilting that I can go on and on about. (nod your head and patronize me here) Anyway, this hoop, or something very much like it is all you will need to quilt any size quilt. Ever.

When I teach hand quilting, the shops that I teach at ask about ordering supplies. In the past few years I have looked at all the hoops available and my favorite is the hoop made by the F. A. Edmunds Company.

These hoops are easily available to your local quilt shop and are reasonably priced. I recommend the 12" size. My hoop is 11" and I haven't seen one in that size in years. The 12" is your best bet. I believe this size hoop retails for around $20.00. There are several other companies that make hoops that are just as nice, but are a little bit more money. The cheaper wooden hoops sold at the chain stores are not a good value. They are pretty much worthless for quilting. They are flimsy and your quilt will pop out every couple of seconds. Do not waste money on them. Also, do not get the plastic hoops advertised as quilting hoops at chain stores. The ones with the ridge inside to grip the fabric...... NO. This is just a large embroidery hoop and is not what you need. When you are doing embroidery, you need your fabric to be tight and taut in your hoop. When you are quilting, this is the last thing you want. When I try to explain the difference in class I will often say "the quilting hoop is really much more like a sewing bird than an embroidery hoop." At this point, most of the students will look at me like I have a day pass from a walled institution. If anyone actually knows what a sewing bird is - they may know what I mean, but usually not. What I do mean is the quilting hoop shouldn't hold your quilt taut. What it really is - is a third hand - much like an old fashioned sewing bird was a third hand for seamstresses. Okay, I will try to explain.....This is my hoop with the quilt in it. Notice the slack. With my left hand underneath at the 7 o'clock position, I punch up until my fist can be about 1 or 2 inches above the hoop. This is usually the misconception everyone has about putting a quilt in a hoop. I know it was mine. I won't tell you how many quilts I hand quilted before I knew to deliberately keep slack in the hoop. Now, the quilt is basted. (as yours will be) Use whatever technique that you like: sew basting, pin basting, or spray basting. (I guess more info on basting is needed in another post.) People mistakenly think that if your quilt is slack in the hoop, it defeats the purpose of basting. No. This basted quilt has all 3 layers of the quilt sandwich in place and they will not shift, but it still needs to be slack in the hoop. Did I explain that right? It is hard to see in that picture, but this quilt is spray basted and sew basted right along the very edge. I always sew baste on the very edge to keep the edge fixed.

When I hand quilt, I start somewhere near the middle and work my way to the edge. Here is another quilt that is almost finished. I haven't started quilting the border yet. When I baste a quilt I want to have the backing and batting about 6" larger all the way around. 5" is okay, 6" is great. The 6" here is rolled up and pinned to the edge of the top. I keep it in this state until I get to the border. When I am twisting and turning the hoop in the process of quilting the center - I want the raw edges turned in and kept pristine.

When the center is quilted, I unpin the edges. This is what you see here. It allows me to move the hoop so I can quilt all of the border. There are half hoops that are designed to do this, but after using them and owning about 4 or 5 of them in my life ..... believe me, this is much easier. If you always make sure to have the backing and batting about 6" larger than your top - you will be able to quilt to the very edge with a round hoop.
This is sort of hard to explain in still pictures, but this is my first stitch. (Oh yeah, the rubber finger thing and the thimble - again, another post is needed). Notice the slack.

This is the end of the first stitch, with the needle going straight down. This is impossible if you don't have any slack in your hoop.
Here I am coming up for the second stitch.
All I can tell you is that the above steps work for me. I hope it helps. I found this video on you-tube. It shows the correct mechanics of the quilting stitch. Enjoy.


Oh, and make sure to visit my friend Glenn's blog this morning - he has a little announcement and a give-away!!


pdudgeon said...

thanks so much for the referral. i just ordered my new hoop!

Monica said...

Great information. I only have one question though. Is that polyester batting you're using? I had another hand quilter tell me polyester was the only way to go.

Vicky said...

What a great blog. Thanks for the link to that video, too. I tried handquilting once, and gave up about halfway through. (I was having a heck of a time with that tiny quilting needle.) Honestly, I'd fly to the moon to be able to take a quilting class from you! I closely studied your quilting on your sailboat quilt, and you've truly inspired me to try again.

Minick and Simpson said...


That is a wool batting. Personally, I wouldn't recommend polyester. Look for a batting post soon. Thanks for asking.


ritad said...

Thanks for posting this information, it gives me more confidence that my hand quilting is going in the right direction. Can't wait for your next postings with more details on perfecting this amazing process. What's with the "thingy" on your index finger?

Pookie said...

Thank you a million times over for this post! You keep telling me that hand quilting is so much fun, but even as a hand-piecer, I've been terrified of the idea. I couldn't get my mind around how I'd do a rocking stitch on three layers pulled taut in a hoop. I read this post while filling my car up at the gas station this morning and the gas station attendant (it's a Jersey thing, :P) must have thought I was nuts because I was all, "OHHHH!!! I GET IT NOW!"

I'd be eternally grateful if you could post about basting sometime. That's the other thing that's freaking me out right now.

greg said...

I have been hand quilting for about 10 years. I agree, the edges of the hoop become smooth with wear (my hoop is about 14"). But I've always made sure that my fabric is fairly taut. I'm going to have to try your suggestion to make it more loose - maybe this will make it go more quickly!

Anonymous said...

I found this very interesting! Could Polly please comment and share about her hoop:) I realize most of us rug hookers us 'frames', I know she uses a unique hoop. Would love to see it and know where one could get a 'thick' one like it.

Thanks so much for sharing!


Meg said...

This was really a great post, Laurie. I had taught myself the "slack" lesson awhile back, but always sew-basting the edges? GENIUS! Wonder how many years that might have taken me to come up with...

Janet said...

What a wonderful post with great pictures and information. Spray basting for handquilting!!! I would never have thought of it :0) I love the tip about rolling the edges - I'm going to do that with the quilt I'm working on right now!

Minick and Simpson said...

I will try and answer the question about my "hoop" -- which I think is special. Sadly it is a company out of business as so many quilters went to machine quilting and fewer were using hoops to quilt. The company was in MI and they were in business for a long time to serve quilters. I found the hoop years ago and it is all I have ever used to hook. I will try to add a photo later on, it is lovely, cherry and wonderfully refinished and it is 2 in. in depth so it fits over any size rug. Yes, I have hooked a room size rug on that hoop. So we are both hoop users. I just did a workshop on Nantucket - and imagine my surprise, there was a hooker in the class also using a hoop. But we are very few in numbers. I wish I could tell you how to get one, but they went out of business over 12 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Great information. Thank you.


Sandra Henderson said...

Thanks for going to the trouble to do this tutorial Laurie! I've learned that I have not been leaving enough for my borders. I've only left about 4inches I'd say (In an effort to conserve fabric, but now see it's worth the extra amounts. Besides, I always save and use what I cut away anyways!
I wonder if I gently sanded the edges of my new hoop, once I get it, w/a fine sandpaper, if this would help?!?!
I've also been using a 18inch hoop, which is apparently too big.
I do leave slack, but will try for more.
My left fingers (I'm right handed) are always pricked to death! I have tried putting a bandaid on or using a rubber thimble, but can't feel the needle come through enough to "control" it.
I do use a little bit of spray basting, but not a lot. I've tried pins and thread basting, so look forward to reading your thoughts of this subject.
I think that the reason I have not put more slack in the hoop, in hindsight, is because I was afraid of shifting/basting issues? Thus, the larger hoop also. My theory was that I wouldn't have to keep moving the hoop around and less chance of shifting. So, now I see the need for more time/importance on basting/the initial prep work.
VERY helpful!~THANK YOU!~

schmidt1016 said...

Thanks for all the good information, Laurie. I have tried hand quilting, and I knew it worked better with the slackness of the quilt in the hoop. My trouble is finding a thimble that fits me, feels comfortable, and doesn't let the needle slip. I must have a weirdly shaped finger!
Leslie S. in MN

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

Love it! My hoop is an oval, and I've had it probably as long as you've had yours. My hat is off to you for hand quilting in this weather!

Kwiltsfl said...

I've never considered spray basting for hand quilting! Do tell us your brand of spray and if your needle gets gunked up at all. I now see why I need to leave more batting and fabric at the edges for hand as well as machine quilting. *smacks forehead!* Do tell us about wool batting brands. I have been afraid of bearding of wool.

I used to use the fingers cut from rubber dish gloves, instead of the finger cots to grip the needle- but the gloves are now made of a different substance and are slippery - not a good grip. I am now trying finger cots, but I think I got them too small - they are cutting off my circulation!

Janet said...

Is there any other kind of quilting than handquilting?
- and yes, 100% cotton, thin weight or wool is the only way to go for batting. Thanks for promoting the traditional ways.
I'm just holding my breath until I see the entire and completed quilt!

Glenn Dragone said...

Thanks for the info and tips. I got it in my head that I can't hand quilt. I'm still determined... we'll see.

Liz said...

Thanks for all the great information! If I win could you please put some scraps of your great fabric in there? I love that red!!

Deb said...

Love your blog! Thanks for a great post! I really want to learn to hand quilt, I even took a short class on it several months ago, but I think I learned more in your tutorial than I learned in class. :) Any info you can pass along about the process and tools will be greatly appreciated. I would love to hear more about thimbles and where to find a good one. I can't seem to get used to using a thimble for any kind of hand sewing, especially the thimbles with the flat tops.

I have read suggestions about using liquid bandaid on your finger receiving the needle, to protect it. I like to applique and the finger on my left hand gets sore from catching the needle.

SheilaS said...

I enjoyed and learned so much on the correct quilting hoop and technique. Looking at your quilting technique, I see that you are using a metal thimble-I always use a leather one. Is one better then the other? Thanks!

colleencl said...

Thanks for the great pictures and tutorial on hand quilting. Did not know to keep your sandwich not so tight.

Kristen said...

Thanks for the information. There is a ton of good stuff here! I have even stitches on the top and bottom of my hand quilting and get 8-10 stitches to the inch, but the bottom stitches are always smaller. Since I am completely self taught I have no idea what I am doing wrong. How can I make both sides the same? Is it possible? Bigger stitches have the same result. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I've been hand quilting for about 16 years, and my mama taught me to use a floor frame, and to pull the backing rather taut. So why must the fabric in a hoop be slack? I think I'm going to put my next quilt on the frame, slack, and baste it, then take it off the frame and quilt it with the hoop. This one is a California King, about 95" square, and I want to make sure it's not going to slip. Do you think this is a good idea? It's going to be a wedding anniversary gift for a friend, so I want it as close to perfect as I can get it.

Jes said...

Do you ever use any kind of wax or oil on your hoop to condition the wood? My hoop is unstained and it looks so dry,I feel like I ought to treat it with something to condition and preserve the wood ( between projects so nothing soils the quilt).

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