Why Hand Piecing?

Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Quilting | Comments


I made my first quilt thirteen years ago. It was the first time that I had ever sewed, and I pieced the quilt top completely by hand. I was a college student at the time, and I had recently fallen in love with a friend’s handmade quilt. I just had to make one for myself! Being the poor college student that I was, having no funds to buy a machine, I decided to hand piece my quilt. After borrowing several quilt books from the local library, I settled on a sampler quilt. I figured that if I was going to learn to quilt, I should make all sorts of blocks. It took me the entire summer, but I finished my first quilt top, and fell in love with hand piecing in the process.

hand piecing

Hand pieced mini quilt by Karyn Valino

It seems as if the art of sewing by hand has become lost in recent years. Why would a person want to sew by hand rather than with a sewing machine in this day and age? In today’s fast paced society, we tend to move quickly and prefer instant gratification. Oftentimes quilters are trying make quilts quickly, using simpler patterns on a sewing machine. I enjoy sewing by both machine and by hand, and I think there is a time and place for both. Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of hand piecing.

1. Hand piecing is simple and inexpensive. There is no need to buy an expensive sewing machine! Templates are used repeatedly and can be made out of household items, like freezer paper and cereal boxes. The only items that are truly needed for hand piecing? Fabric, scissors, templates, pins, needles, thread, and thimbles.
2. Portability. You can hand piece anywhere! Pack up your hand work and bring it along with you. You can sew in the car, waiting rooms, hotels, sporting events, or in your backyard.
3. Precision. Hand piecing is highly controlled and very forgiving. Matching seams and perfect points are easily attained! Complicated blocks with tricky seams and plenty of pieces are finished accurately with hand piecing.
4. Relaxation. There is something therapeutic about working quietly with your hands. Many people like to sit on their couch and hand sew while watching TV. It is also a nice time to socialize. It is a quiet craft, so it makes for a nice project to work on when talking with friends.

hand pieced quilt

Hand pieced Farmer’s Wife sampler blocks by Karyn Valino

I hope that you give hand piecing a try! There are many great resources that can help you learn. My personal favorite is Jinny Beyer’s book, Quiltmaking by Hand. It is an extremely thorough book for both beginner and advanced quilters that has hundreds of illustrations and beautiful pictures. She also has a spot on her website for tips and tutorials. You might also enjoy the Craftsy online quilting classes: Hand-Stitched Collage Quilts with Laura Wasilowski and Hand Quilting Heirloom Design & Technique with Andi Perejda. Plus, another useful, free tutorial can be found here!

Which do you prefer: sewing by hand or by machine?

In case you missed it yesterday, check out these inspirational wedding ring quilt patterns and variations. Come back to the Craftsy blog on Tuesday to learn all about the Dear Jane Quilt.

Comments

  1. G says:

    I’ve been quilting Since 2002. I’ve never made a quilt by machine. I agree with the fact that hand quilting is relaxing and I enjoy it. It’s the way I was taught, by an old lady who also did all her piecing by hand and I love the fact that I can work on it anywhere…. I’ve been doing paper piecing for a while which is very enjoyable for me, amd as my hubby has a lot of Drs appts I can take pieces to work on with me…..enjoyed reading about someome else who enjoys it to as most people think Ive lost my mind when they find out I quilt by hand and enjoy it! Lol

  2. Happychica says:

    Choice of techniques depends on the project. If it’s fussy and complex, more likely to hand piece it. Hand embroidered embellishments yield stunning results! But, I’m just as proud of my machine piecing skills.

  3. Alison says:

    I just started following your blog and I am so happy I saw this today. I learned how to sew by machine when I was a child but I prefer to sew by hand and haven’t used a machine in 20-ish years. I actually just got some fabric to make my mom a pretty flower pillow for Mother’s Day. I want to make a quilt but it just seems so daunting.

  4. I guess I don’t really have a preference right now. But, I do find hand sewing very theraputic as mentioned. I love to multi-task, so being able to hand sew while watching a favorite program is enjoyable. Currently, most of my quilts are done by machine, but I do finish my binding by hand.

  5. Adele Gabalski says:

    I might be missing something but are there directions for making the Farmer’s Wife
    sampler quilt?

  6. Margaretsv says:

    My first quilt was a hand pieced sampler as well, because I did not have a machine. :)
    The local library was giving a free class. I was so excited. Of course, I was the only one without a machine.
    I do like that I can take it up and put it down with ease. Just a well equipped sandwich bag and off I go.
    Thanks

  7. sue says:

    I’m not a quilter….trying to hold off becoming addicted to another aspect of sewing/knitting, etc.
    But, I do frequent repairs on vintage quilts for clients and use a mix of machine & hand sewing on the projects Depends on the design, how the quilt is going to be used, how much the client wants to spend, etc.

    When working, I will save out my hand sewing pieces to work on while watching a movie, makes me feel like it is still time well spent.

  8. Beth Dishong says:

    Ilove handsewing. Of course Isyill use amachine but hand stitching is very calming, relaxing and in many ways looks better than machine stitching. My first quilt was also made comletely by hand. It was for my daughter and because I was working it took me almost two years. Accept for the backing it was made with scraps and leftover fabric from clothes I sewed for my daughter and myself. WHEWWWWW!!!

  9. Marie Millershaski says:

    I have made several hand pieced quilts and love them. I also have made alot more with the sewing machine. I have hand quilted some quilts but now I use my long arm and can get them completed faster and have more for the grandchildren to enjoy. Both ways make wonderful quilts.

  10. Libbi says:

    I loved to do hand work but arthritis in my hands made it impossible. My sewing/embroidery machine has made it possible for me to enjoy my craft.

  11. Miriam says:

    I definitely prefer hand sewing. I find it much more relaxing, and yes, you can stitch more complicated pieces and more accurately. (at least I do!!)

  12. Robin Maguire says:

    I do both. I love the speed and ease of machine piecing, but I used to hand quilt all my quilts. I stopped doing that as my fingers got older. My favorite part of quiltmaking is the binding, because I can sit with my husband and watch TV, the quilt is almost finished and it’s so relaxing. Right now, on top of a few machine quilts, I’m paper piecing a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt for my Mum.

  13. Janet Atkins says:

    Hand piecing is alive and well, and so is hand quilting. I love that I can piece anywhere, and I love the accuracy of it.

  14. Kate Jones says:

    Hand sewing always! As Margaretsv said – it’s so easy just to pick the work up, take it out with you or sit and watch TV while working and, I find, it’s more relaxing than sewing by machine. OK, it does take much longer but it feels more true to the tradition. I also always use papers (well I am English) so … hand sewing every time!

  15. Sheil says:

    I too learned to piece and quilt by hand back in the 80′s and it is still my favorite way to quilt! As you said it is relaxing and you can take it with you anywhere. I recently took my 10 year old granddaughter to a quilt show and she kept pointing out the hand quilted ones and told a friend they were the best ones!

  16. Jocelyn says:

    Hand piecing for curved seams, machine piecing for straight seams! I just cut out a drunkard’s path top (so it’ll be a mix of both) and am also working on a twisted star quilt (every piece is curved, so it’ll be all by hand). I love the ability to relax and sew on the sofa. :) I also love to hand quilt.

  17. Margaret Lee says:

    I love hand piecing and quilting. I would rather do that than dragging out my machine. I find it more fulfilling than using the machine and its more accurate. I get more satisfaction from hand sewing. I grew up in the UK and we had to learn to hand sew before we could use a machine, that was back in the 50″s – 60″s. Long live hand sewing I hope it never goes out of favour and that it is being passed to the younger generation, like I’m teaching my grand daughter

  18. Sharon says:

    This is for the ladies, I had a stroke a couple of years ago….I am trying to find a machine that I can use..I can use my right hand,the left hand I can just barely use…..I was learning basic Quilting before the stroke..I love the Aplique on Quilt Blocks…so many machines to choose from…..I can not afford to get stuck with a lemon..lol..I want to get started again….my left leg is also effected…so I had to give up a lot of outdoor activities….so I am concentrating on what I can do…I love all the patterns and beautiful material….if any one can give me information on machines I would greatly appreciate it…thank you. Sharon

  19. Jackie penfold says:

    I started quilting 5 years ago thanks to a visit to a Canadian relative. When I returned home to England I enrolled in a class and produced a hand sewn sampler quilt. 5 years on it still needs to be quilted but I am very proud of it as I always thought my hand sewing not very good. I have moved on to using the sewing machine but will return to hand sewing one day as there is something about it that gives you a sense of satisfaction and pride.

  20. Annette J. says:

    I’ve only been acquainted with sewing since I’ve bought my machine which is probably 3 or 4 years ago. I’ve never pieced by hand however, I’ve always wanted to be able to take my project with me so it makes perfect sense for me to learn how to hand piece. For the most part, I’ll always machine piece unless I am working on intricate pieces that need special attention BUT as of late, I’ve been wanting to hand piece so I’m going to try and make a small pieced and quilted journal cover to try it out.