June 12: The “hand” of a quilt

Greetings!  I finished hand piecing the last lemoyne star block for the recently “unearthed” quilt top and have started piecing the blocks together into rows.  In the picture below all the blocks in the diagonal rows above the empty area are pieced together, but the rows are not joined together yet.  It’s going pretty quickly!:

Block examples:

I’ve noticed that the hand pieced blocks are very soft and flexible and the centers, where eight points come together, are softer and far less “lumpy” than they would be if I had machine pieced the blocks.  The blocks also seem to fit together more easily.

This started me thinking about the “hand” of a quilt – something almost no one talks about any more.  These blocks have a lighter, softer “hand” than machine pieced blocks.  The “hand” of a fabric refers to how it “feels”, i.e. its texture and “drapability”, it’s softness or coarseness.  This can also apply to quilts as well as individual fabrics.  The “hand” of a fabric is important if it’s going to be next to our skin for any length of time.

Completely hand made quilts – hand pieced/appliqued and hand quilted – generally have a softness and suppleness that machine made quilts can’t match.  And even if a quilt is machine pieced, but hand quilted it is generally softer and more flexible than machine quilted quilts.  A major reason for this is that more thread is used in machine stitches (top and bobbin stitches interlock) and the stitches are tighter.  When you cover a quilt with machine quilting, you lose some or often a lot of that “drapability” and softness that you get with hand stitching.

So -with machine quilting we’ve GAINED some things:  e.g. many wonderful completely machine made quilts, including wall quilts, art quilts with incredible quilting designs that can only be accomplished by machine.   With wall quilts the “hand” isn’t as important.  And the ability to get more done.

And with machine quilted functional bed, lap, and baby quilts, we’ve LOST that special soft “hand” that only hand work can provide.  C’est la vie.  I understand this because for all of us TIME is an issue.  My compromise is to machine piece, but try to hand quilt as many pieces as I can.  Just thought it important to acknowledge this LOSS!  And, by the way, I am machine piecing the blocks in this quilt together even though it’s going to be a bed quilt for my grandson.

Here’s the quilt I made several years ago for Dmitri when he was 7:

Time to replace it with a more “adult” quilt as he turns 14 in 3 months!!!!

I have the second Oak Leaf and Reel block made:

I plan to add embroidered veins in the leaves.

Hope you are all enjoying the lovely late spring weather!

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,  Gladi


4 thoughts on “June 12: The “hand” of a quilt

    1. gladiporsche Post author

      Hi Julie. Thanks for commenting. Since my post, I’ve been thinking that I could have cited antique, completely hand made quilts, as examples of quilts with that wonderful, soft “hand” that we don’t find as much today. It’s part of their appeal. Gladi

  1. Kyle

    I totally agree about the “hand” of a quilt. I guess over the years I’ve tried to strict a balance, but unfortunately, time does seem to play a big part in deciding what to do and how to do it. I always enjoy your posts and your beautiful quilts.

    1. gladiporsche Post author

      Thank you, Kyle! I completely agree that TIME is a big factor in our decision making and we all have to decide personally how we want to spend it. Since my post I also realized that I didn’t acknowledge that for some folks who have physical challenges such as arthritis, hand quilting is not (or no longer) a possibility and machine quilting is a way to be able to continue doing something she is passionate about. I hope to continue hand quilting as long as I can! Gladi


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