Hand Quilt Along: And Sew, It Begins


It was as if I’d never touched a needle before.

In the two months since I finished my most recent hand quilting project, it seems I’d forgotten everything.

I couldn’t find my thimble.

I had no idea what quilting design to use.

The calluses on my fingers were gone so every stitch hurt.

My quilting hoop seemed like a stranger to me.

Does this happen to you? Do you find that no matter how many times you’ve been successful at a craft, you can still struggle when you begin a new project?

It happens to me, every single time. It doesn’t matter what the project is, the first few hours, or sometimes days, are discouraging.

My current weaving project is a hot mess. The quilting was a full-blown struggle. Even when I go out to exercise, I find the first 15 minutes an uphill battle.

The thing that keeps me going is that I know, for a fact, through long experience, that it will get better.

The rough edges will all smooth out, the hiccups will stop, and, soon, I’ll hit my stride, find that rhythm, and enjoy the process again.

That happens, too, every single time.

And so it has been with the hand quilting. In the course of working on this first block, I’ve been high and low, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried. And now I know I’ll be fine.

I started with this particular block because Susan B. Anthony was a key figure in women’s suffrage and women’s rights.


If you recall, this quilt was made as part of a “block of the month” project held by my quilting guild. Each month, we got directions for a pieced block and the story of an American woman who was important  in advocating for women’s right to vote.

I wanted to take the project further, beyond suffrage to women’s rights, in general, and I decided to add the embroidered quotations from women (and one man). I chose quotations that appealed to me, with an eye toward variety and diversity.

Susan B. Anthony was at the center of the push for women’s rights in the United States and, so, she is at the center of the quilt and the obvious starting place for the hand quilting.

For these blocks, I want the focus to be on the words so I chose simple quilting. For the background I am using cross hatching and then just stitching in the ditch around the half-square triangles that form the borders.


I don’t usually mark a quilt with a pencil—I really hate that process and would normally just use masking tape to guide my stitches. The time, though, I was worried that using masking tape would pull out some of the embroidery stitches when I removed the tape, so I did mark the square lightly with a mechanical pencil.

I settled in, warm under the weight of the quilt. I re-introduced myself to the thimble, the needle, the hoop, the process.

One block down, 19 to go.


I intend to quilt my way through the Winter Olympics!


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessica, SherryNanette, Sassy and Edith.

64 thoughts on “Hand Quilt Along: And Sew, It Begins

  1. Beautiful, and I know just what you mean. This is exactly the way I feel when I begin a chapter and stare at the blank screen. But I have found that if I persevere, it all works out.

  2. Nothing to do with hand quilting – I’ve never mastered a thimble and I like to call my terrible quilting ‘naive’ – but having spent a very idle time, physically, between the last week of October and this weekend – I nearly keeled over and died when I re-started my Zumba classes yesterday. Next time I won’t be so sweaty or breathless. On the craft front – I so rarely knit socks that, when I start another pair, I have to go right back to the basics as I have completely forgotten what to do. Once I’ve got those toes sorted I’m fine until I get to the heel, another tutorial to watch, then I’m off again. I’m sure it happens to us all.
    Your quilt is looking so beautiful and I love the set up next to the garden door complete with decorative cat 😉

    • Oh, my poor cats–they desperately want to go outside but it’s been way too cold for that! I, too, need to go back to the gym and I know what a shock to the system what will be! Yuck . . .

  3. Kerry, that cross hatching is perfect for setting off the embroidery, and you stitches are amazing! I am struggling right now, because I do not want calluses on my finger tips at the moment, so I stitch then leave it for a few days, then stitch, definitely not the way to get in rhythm!

  4. Beautiful square, perfect points and elegant quilting! You go girl. It doesn’t look like you had any problems at all. I wrote my post yesterday morning and then watched the two playoof games and got a lot done.

    • Oh, there are tons of imperfect points! And also floppy areas where I had to ease the fabric in to make it all match up. But it’ll “quilt out,” as we say! More football this weekend–we’ll both get some quilting done!

  5. I sometimes do struggle as you describe but not every time. Only if I haven’t done something in a while. As you say, it all falls into place. I do love this quilt and I remember your one quote from a man. It is a most wonderful quote. 🙂

  6. Tomorrow, our local swimming pool will be open for the first time in nearly 3 weeks… it’s going to be a real struggle even to get out of bed to go, but the actual swimming is going to have to be very gentle to start.
    The first of your blocks looks lovely… and you know that it’s only going to get easier and, therefore, more enjoyable as you get back into the flow.

  7. I looked at all the websites in your group. How busy you all are! Such lovely work. Your quilt is looking lovely, Kerry. And only 19 to go!

    • Thanks, Susan–and thanks for looking at the others! Some of them are SO productive–I feel like quite the slacker, by comparison. Only 18.5 more blocks to go now!

    • That’s a great compliment, coming from you, Deb! I don’t see myself as a perfectionist at all–but I have been quilting by hand for about 35 years–practice does make a difference!

  8. Kerry, the quote stitches are beautiful to behold and the simple crosshatch pattern is perfect. You nailed it–overcoming inertia, deciding where to start, how to start, finding the thread, listening to the voice that says organize, sort, clean, return, cook. What keeps you from becoming paralyzed with conflict?

    • It’s always so good to hear from you! Honestly? Having to write a blog post every three weeks for this Hand Quilt Along challenge has kept my feet to the fire. I both resent it and welcome it–I’m happy to have gotten over that starting stage. Now, it’s easy to keep going. I’m the same way with weaving–I love getting to the place where I can just sit and throw the shuttle but sometimes will do that, because it is so easy, instead of all the other stuff I ought to be doing!

  9. Our minds and bodies are such strange things. They seem to need some kind of push to get going, even where the task is one with which we are totally familiar. The starting is often worse than the carrying on – but thank goodness, what riches await if we can manage it! 🙂

  10. I understand feeling like you have to relearn your craft. I recently took up my knitting needles to make a neck warmer and it felt like I’d forgotten everything. How to cast on, purl, read a pattern, sew pieces together. Its also like that when I write a story. Eventually the groove comes back. I’m curious if you hand stitched the quote and whose script it is? Its gorgeous!

  11. I am amazed each time you show your work on this. Those perfect stitches!!! Yes, I think beginning again is always a bit of a struggle. Then you remember why you do that thing in the first place! Stay warm!

  12. Well, looking at your crosshatch stitching, I would have never guessed you had any struggle with it! With me, first I have to conquer inertia to even get started! But this is the reason I mostly work on small projects that I can finish. I can’t remember what I was doing if I try to pick it up later. It really helps that it’s easy to look up how-tos for specifics I forgot, like how to do a provisional cast-on, what are the settings on the machine to sew a buttonhole etc. Your quilting will be a good match for the Winter Olympics, and you’ll be all warmed up by then.

    • Inertia is a *huge* issue for me! That’s why I’m doing this Hand Quilt Along challenge–peer pressure! And for my bigger projects, which i walk away from and come back to months alter, I absolutely have to make notes because I forget everything.

  13. Oh, this is going to be a stunning quilt! Your hand quilting is amazing!! I’m looking forward to seing your progress every three weeks!

    • Thanks so much! I love this quilt–the words really move me–and I think it deserves hand quilting! I don’t think my 3-week progress will be too impressive–it is sloooowwwww stitching!

  14. Ha. The power of inertia. I suspect we have little compartments in our brains containing specialized knowledge for our different pursuits and we have to get the neurons firing to heat up those compartments after disuse! In any case, your struggles don’t show–the hand quilting is beautiful.

    • Oh, inertia . . . the bane of my existence. An object (or person!) at rest stays at rest . . . . All i need is an excuse (can’t find my thimble!) and I’ll go take a nap. Thank heavens, I’ve gotten past that with this project!

  15. Kerry, your stitches are exquisite! I am so impressed. One of the wonderful things about experience is that we can draw from past strengths and challenges, as you’ve done here, to coach ourselves forward. I’m glad you have your olympic plans in place.

  16. I agree with Alys. Your stitches are perfect. I loved the parts of the quilt I have seen. I know it will be stunning when you are done. There is no way on earth I could hand quilt and I admire you for doing it. Looking forward to seeing it done so I can admire it again.

    • Thanks, Marlene! I’m glad you like it since I’ll be posting about it every three weeks and that’s likely to get kind of repetitive! 😉 My creaky hands don’t let me do a lot in any one sitting–I am okay for about an hour–so I need to just chip away at it!

    • I don’t even know enough about the writing process–the process “real” writers use–to fully appreciate how that must feel for you . . . so it’s interesting to think about it in terms of what I deal with!

  17. Looking at your stitches, I’d never know you struggled. =) I’m going through that right now with the new semester of school. I was enjoying all that time off, but looking forward to school … and now I suddenly feel like I’m drowning and can’t get everything into its slot!

  18. Oh what a cool idea with the embroidery! Very curious to see the complete quilt with all the blocks 🙂

    And I know the feeling of start-up problems. Sometimes it seems to be the appreciation of what’s already done on a project, combined with the fear of messing things up.

  19. Dear Kerry, Your stitches, as others have stated, are beautiful and the Susan B Anthony quote is perfect for the center! I look forward to seeing how you add “Me too” to the quilt. Have you heard MILCK’s song “I can’t keep quiet” ? http://icantkeepquiet.org/song (videos of song) It is another great quote for our times. Thank you Kerry for also sharing about your “starting back up struggles”. I too suffer after a pause of handwork. I attempted to make bobbin lace recently and wondered how I could have forgotten almost everything. I’m grateful for all of the books and you-tube instructions and dear friends to call to ask for reminders. It is refreshingly human that you share these struggles. Because then the others of us can share ours too – and we no longer feel insufficient, but instead we see this is a normal situation. Many, many thanks for reminding us all that when we struggle it is not a flaw, it is simply human.

    • I can’t even imagine making bobbin lace–I imagine that’s a skill that one really needs to keep up with–the old “use it or lose it” problem. I have a couple of projects that I’ve walked away from and I’m kind of terrified to go back to–I think I might not really remove what I was doing! I think I keep good notes but . . . yes, very human, very prone to struggles!

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