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!!
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