There is so much discussion in the Facebook groups about quilting, hand quilting versus machine quilting versus quilting by check (sending your quilt top to someone else to machine quilt). I admit that, for many, many years, I have been one of those who wasn’t thrilled with machine quilting. When working on a family quilt to give to a cousin who was getting married, I was REALLY angry when I had spent weeks hand quilting part of it, gave it to the next person in the family to work on it, and she decided to have the quilt finished by a machine quilter — including going over the parts I had hand quilted. And so often at quilt shows, I’d see mostly machine quilted quilts and very few hand quilted quilts, and it depressed me. The machine quilting usually seemed to dominate the quilt, making the quilting thread more important to the visual than the fabrics behind it. And there was SO much machine quilting, the quilt seemed stiff as a board to me, no flow or drape left to the thoroughly-quilted fabric. Or, every other quilt was quilted with stippling. Ugh. So, yes, I had a pretty negative view of machine quilting.
Then Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and I got involved in a project to make quilts for people who had lost pretty much everything in their lives. Erin, blogger at My Patchwork Life, asked people to send her blocks to add to quilts, and she got buried under donated blocks pretty quickly. I offered to help her assemble quilt tops, but there was no way I could hand quilt something in time to get it to the victims. Right then, the idea of machine quilting being okay for quilts in a hurry registered in my head. If I had been able to tackle those quilt tops with my sewing machine, I could have done more than just make blocks and piece tops. As it was, I did manage to find another angel to quilt the tops for nothing using her longarm machine. (Thanks, Kelly!!) I tried to machine quilt a smaller kid’s quilt using some of the extra disappearing 4 patch blocks, and while it was done I wasn’t happy with it artistically. It got sent in with some other things, and some child was happy to have their own quilt.
So, after much thought, debate with myself, and trying to practice machine quilting, I realized that I needed to get a walking foot for my domestic sewing machine, just to give myself that option. Right now my goal is to get better at doing basic in-the-ditch machine quilting, or simple straight lines. Don’t ask me to learn to stipple: I still really don’t like that look on quilts. (Yeah, so I guess I still have some biases to overcome!!) But the use of machine quilting to get something done quickly has more appeal to me now than it used to. It’s also a great way for my sewing student to finish projects quickly — preteens aren’t always known for their patience. 🙂 I’m not sure I want to tackle large quilts on this small sewing machine, though some people swear it can be done, but it will work fine for smaller projects.
Hand quilting is still my favorite, and it’s not because “it’s how it used to be done”. The quilting by hand is simply more enjoyable for me. I love to sit on my couch, pull the current quilt project onto my lap, and watch sports all day. That to me is a perfect day off from work. (If I go out to eat with my husband, rather than having to cook dinner, that makes it even more perfect!) My mind can wander over other projects I’d like to do, things I’d like to bake, what I have to focus on at work the next time I go in, or simply meditate on the colors of the quilt in my lap. I’ve been quilting for many years now, and this is the most enjoyable part of the process for me.
If you are also into hand quilting, take a peek at the Celebrate Hand Quilting blog if you aren’t already a member of that group on Facebook. I’m not the only one who still loves hand quilting, and there are many new members of the group who haven’t learned how to hand quilt yet but want to learn. Few of the members are totally against machine quilting, but we love the way hand quilting looks, and we are certainly not a dying breed of quilter.