Sunday, August 29, 2021

Thoughts about binding a quilt with Big Stitch

It's been a loooong time since I've hand quilted a quilt. With quilters, stitchers and makers retreating to the solace of handwork in 2020, I was inspired to add Big Stitch quilting to complement the Australian Aboriginal fabric designs in this piece. The colorful dots and dashes of perle cotton running stitches make a lovely, tactile addition to the organic Dreamtime designs. 

Hand stitched binding using Big Stitch with 5 wt. perle cotton threads.

In an earlier blog post, I highlighted the Big Stitch hand quilting on this quilt. This past week, the binding was attached and hand stitched down.  

The quilted sandwich was trimmed and binding pinned. It's ready for hand stitching.

Binding a quilt with decorative stitches

I frequently use decorative machine stitches to bind charity quilts and kitty quilts. This is when the binding is attached to the back of the quilt, brought around the edge to the front, and machine stitched down. It's fast and efficient. But this was my first "go" at using visible hand stitching as both a decorative and functional element for the binding.

Binding sewn down with Big Stitch running stitches in 5 wt. perle cotton.

Threads and Fabrics

I used perle cotton threads for the hand quilting and the hand binding stitches—8 wt. and 5 wt., mostly Eleganza from WonderFil Specialty Threads

Front and back of the quilt with hand quilting and hand stitched binding.

The fabrics used in this quilt are all Australian Aboriginal designs from M&S Textiles Australia.

  • Sandy Creek red in the center and cornerstones,
  • Sandhill red for the outside borders,
  • Kangaroo Path yellow for the inner border,
  • Women Collecting Water yellow for the backing and binding.

The pattern for this quilt is called Blue Girl by Villa Rosa Designs.

Sandy Creek quilt. Finished size: 50.5" x 51"

Thoughts about Big Stitching the binding

I really enjoyed the Big Stitch quilting... choosing the thread colors, following the lines in the fabric prints with running stitches, seeing the quilt come to life with the hand stitching. To be honest, although I really like the end result of the Big Stitch binding, it was more difficult and time consuming than I had expected.

Big Stitch hand quilting and Big Stitch quilt binding.


  • I found I could do only one stitch at a time on the binding. For the quilting, I could load the needle with multiple stitches before drawing the needle through the quilt sandwich. And although the hand stitching is a slower process, this one-stitch-at-a-time binding process was unenjoyably slow.
  • Even though I went through the binding and only the top layer of fabric and the batting, the needle was difficult to pull through with every stitch. The effort and struggle took the fun out of the hand stitching. Maybe a 12 wt. cotton thread would alleviate this??
  • I also wonder if a blanket stitch would be easier.
  • It was rather easy to keep the stitches at a consistent place on the binding. As one thread ran out, I chose a new color and continued. Just like with the hand quilting.
  • It was fun to add the "Xs" at the mitered corners.
  • The drape of a hand quilted quilt is quite lovely.
  • The free-motion machine quilting (with blending colors of thread) and the larger, more colorful running stitches are very sympatico on this quilt. Both techniques created a cohesive and beautiful texture on the quilt and the Big Stitch on the binding carried the concept through to the finishing... and the edge of the quilt.
Sandy Creek quilt with hand and machine quilting.

Further investigation required

If anyone reading has insights or suggestions for hand binding with Big Stitch, I would welcome your thoughts! Were I to try it again in the future, I might experiment with different/lighter thread weights or another stitch design (blanket stitch?). 

This was a good learning experience for a "first try" and I'm quite pleased with the end result (just not so much with the process). The Stitching Success Tracker is counting it as a "finish."

August Stitching Success Tracker.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Hand quilting with Eleganza perle cotton and Big Stitch

Have you ever tried hand quilting? How about with 8 wt. or 5 wt. perle cotton?
This is Big Stitch quilting... and I've been working on a quilt with both Big Stitch and free-motion machine quilting.

Big Stitch quilting with 8 wt. and 5 wt. perle cotton threads.

Big Stitch quilting

"Big Stitch" is exactly what it sounds like—running or quilting stitches that a longer (bigger) than what we generally think of for hand quilting. Big Stitch is kin to its predecessor, "utility quilting," which is a faster means of finishing a quilt by using bigger hand quilting stitches as opposed to the traditionally prescribed 12, 15 or more stitches per inch of fine hand quilting. 

In today's quilting world, there are so many lovely, big, fat, decorative threads available, that using them with Big Stitch can add color, dimension and design elements in addition to the functionality of quilting. What fun!

Big Stitch and free-motion machine quilting combined.Fabrics and marking 

Threads and needles

The threads I'm using are mostly Eleganza 8 wt. and 5 wt., a perle cotton from WonderFil Threads. A chenille needle, crewel needle or other large-eyed needle with a sharp point works well for this style of quilting. 

Note: some needles used for needlework such as needlepoint have a blunt point that works well for canvases, but not as well for stitching through the tighter weave of our quilting cottons.

8 wt. Eleganza perle cotton thread from WonderFil Specialty Threads.

No-mark quilting

The fabrics in my quilt are Australian Aboriginal designs from M&S Textiles Australia. By echoing the motifs printed on the fabrics, I've not had to mark the quilting/stitching lines. And I hold the quilt sandwich on my lap to hand stitch. I'm not using a hoop.

Following the designs on the fabric for Big Stitch quilting.

The quilting on this quilt is almost complete. There is a combination of hand [Big Stitch] quilting and free-motion machine quilting. And once I audition the binding fabric, the plan is to big stitch the binding as well.

Hand and machine quilting.

Attaching a quilt binding using Big Stitch will be a new process for me. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Basting the chickens at the Cuddle Quilt workshop

This orange, chicken improv quilt got basted yesterday... at the annual Cuddle Quilt workshop with my quilt guild. And I'm happy to report the quilt is already machine quilted and machine bound.

 A novelty fabric with chickens prompted the name for this quilt

The most beneficial part of the annual Cuddle Quilt workshop—for me and several guild members—is the group spray-basting activity. I don't have an open space to baste quilts in my studio—without clearing off a table, anyway. And it was obvious that many guild members made cuddle quilt tops last year during the pandemic lockdown as the spray basting station was extremely popular this year.

Finished cuddle quilt, 37.5" x 39.5".

Inspired by "Making Do" and using up scraps

In early 2017, we had a guild program called, "Making Do," that provided tips and ideas for using up scraps and repurposing blocks and abandoned projects. The blocks in this mostly-orange chicken quilt are improv pieced and employ ideas from the program. It's an example of repurposing fabric leftovers and fabric swatches using improvisational patchwork.

Improv blocks using scraps.

In addition to the orange chicken quilt, I got this top with the Greek Key blocks basted.

Two spray-basted quilt sandwiches.

I picked these strips from a box of pre-cut binding strips that were available at the workshop. Having strips already cut and sorted by color helps guild members expedite finishing the charity quilts. 

Pre-cut binding strips at the workshop.

This little floral print is my favorite of the binding strips I picked up. It echoes all the colors in the patchwork. But there was only a single piece, so the binding for this quilt is also scrappy.

A sweet floral print echos the colors of the patchwork.
And a view of the free-motion quilting.

And, this is the cuddle quilt I turned in.

Completed cuddle quilt.

For these quilts, I'm marking off two squares on my 2021 Quilting Success bingo card.

Quilting Success bingo card.

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Nine Lives top with Kangaroo Path

Do Kangaroos have nine lives? I don't know, but my new Nine Lives top [pattern by The Sewing Workshop] uses the lively yellow Kangaroo Path print from M&S Textiles Australia and I just love it! Paired with the smoky blue-grey Lillup Dreaming (ash colorway) print [M&S Textiles Australia] and my repurposed vintage buttons... it's perfect in every way.

My new Nine Lives top with fabrics from M&S Textiles Australia  and repurposed vintage buttons.

The Kangaroo Nine Lives top: details and modifications

I've made the Nine Lives top several times. With only a four basic pattern pieces, it offers plenty of potential for customization, modification and embellishment. My "kangaroo" version has these mods: 

  • a front patch pocket,
  • an appliqué accent at the shoulder,
  • a side vent,
  • high/low front and back hems,
  • straight hem.

Design details: appliqué on right shoulder and a left breast patch pocket.

The blue ash color of the Lillup Dreaming fabric print is what initially inspired me to make this top. The golden yellow Kangaroo Path was a serendipitous accompaniment.

Back view of the Kangaroo Nine Lives top with ash colorway of Lillup Dreaming

I'm particularly fond of the contrast fabric on the breast pocket. It balances the appliqué on the right shoulder. The contrast fabric collar, pocket accent and appliqué bring the back fabric to the front of the garment.

Details: side vent and high/low hems.

The vintage buttons—a wonderful find at a resale shop—added another complementary detail to this top's color story.

Repurposing vintage buttons from a resale shop.

Close-up of the vintage buttons.

By hand and machine

Lately I've been enjoying a lot of hand stitching—big stitch quilting, kantha, and garment finishing techniques. The handwork on my Kangaroo Nine Lives includes:

  • an appliqué embellishment,
  • finishing the front and back hems.

The machine sewing includes:

  • the garment construction, 
  • patch pocket, 
  • buttonholes and attaching the buttons,
  • the seam allowances were finished with a serged edge.

Nine Lives top with the Valencia pants.

A me-made garment for August!

I am quite pleased to start off the month of August with a new me-made top! The summer weather is still upon us, so I foresee many opportunities to wear my kangaroo top. In the above photo, I'm wearing the Valencia Pants [The Sewing Workshop pattern] with my new Kangaroo top. In "kangaroo" style, both the pants and the top have had pockets added! (wink, wink.)

The Nine Lives Vest pattern [The Sewing Workshop]
and Kangaroo Path fabric from M&S Textiles Australia.

This is the fourth version of the Nine Lives pattern that I've made. My first Nine Lives top was made as the pattern instructed with an assymetrical hem. Alas, this version is not documented on my blog.

Version 2 was made with a pintuck fabric.

Dare I make 5 more?

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