Hand Quilt Along: One Plus Two Equals Three

I’ve been quilting along on the quilt along.

In the three weeks since we last reported in, I’ve done two blocks. I think this will be a reasonable goal as I progress. It’s a pretty relaxed pace but there are other things I like to do, too, and I want to fit it all in.

One of the blocks I worked on is a patchwork block.


I needed to decide on a quilting approach—where would I put the stitches?

And why quilt at all?

One purpose of quilting is to hold the three layers of a quilt together. Another, less obvious, reason was to keep the middle layer, the batting, from shifting. Older battings, sometimes no more than a layer of raw cotton, could clump and separate and shift. I’ve seen old quilts that have big lumpy sections and completely flat, empty sections because the quilting was insufficient and the batting all went where it could.

So, women made their quilting lines close together to limit where the batting could go. I’ve heard it said that the quilting lines should be no more than a hand’s width apart and I’ve also read that, in those “olden days,” lines should be no more that an inch apart.

Today’s battings are made very differently and quilting lines can be spaced much more freely. But the third reason for quilting is that it makes an attractive pattern on the quilt surface, so that determines where the lines go, too.

Many quilters mark their entire quilts before they start quilting, using stencils. I’ve said I don’t enjoy the process of tracing a stencil design on fabric, in order to do fancy quilting patterns. I’m a pretty lazy quilter, as it happens.

That makes masking tape my favorite quilting tool, both the quarter-inch tape made for quilters and the stuff I buy at the big box hardware stores. I can put the tape down to create nice straight lines, along which I stitch.


I tend to make up my mind as I go along, about where to place the tape, and I change my mind, too, as I go along. Sometimes it works well, sometimes I’m a little disappointed.

I thought this block was done but, now that I’ve seen these photos, I think I will want to go back and add some more lines, not because they are necessary to keep the batting from shifting, but to improve the look.*


The other block I worked on was the one with the quotation from Malala Yousafzai.


Malala, as you know, is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize, for her work as an activist for human rights, particularly for the education of girls and women.

These words from her come from her book, I am Malala, published in 2013. I’m not sure who she had in mind, when she spoke of “one man,” but her comment seems especially relevant in 2018. I know she couldn’t’ve been talking about the the “one man” I think of who could, and may be, destroying the world, but still . . .

As I quilted her block, I thought about the fact that she Malala didn’t ask why one girl couldn’t fix the world; she simply hopes to change it.

Her comment makes me think about the ease with which one powerful person can bring about negative change and the difficult, united work it will take to put things back together again—as Malala suggests. One girl may bring change but it will take many—girls, women, boys, men—to work together to fix our world.

One of the things I love most about hand quilting is the mental space it gives me to think while I work . . .

Three blocks done, 17 to go.

* Don’t worry about the hard little wrinkles you see—they came from that section being squinched in the quilting hoop as I worked on the next block. They’ll go away.

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, Edith, Sharon and Bella.


73 thoughts on “Hand Quilt Along: One Plus Two Equals Three

  1. Love this block, Malala is an amazing woman, I like the sort of sewing when I can just ‘day dream’ as I stitch, like binding a quilt! I’m getting lots of quilting tips from this QAL, I clearly need to invest in some masking tape, ready for when I hand quilt my rabbit hole 🙂

    • I am looking forward to the point where you start the quilting on that quilt–it is so deserving of hand quilting! And, once you get the hang of the stitching, you’ll have plenty of time to daydream!

  2. Oh, the work that is going into this! Lovely, Kerry! Not a quilter and your post really does explain the time and consideration that goes into quilting. And yes, I think many of us have the same ‘man’ in mind with regard to Malala’s wise words!

    • I’m trying to make my posts more than simply “here’s what I did since last time” so your comment is reassuring! Will you watch the State of the Union speech tonight? I don’t think I can bring myself to . . .

    • I never thought that machine quilters might use tape too, but I can see how it would work great! We should never compare our work to other people’s, right? We each do what we enjoy and what works for us!

  3. Oh Kerry, I just need to go back and spend 3 minutes staring at your stitches before I touch my needle! They are just amazing. I have Malala’s book on my list for this year’s reading. Your schedule sounds exactly right for continual progress with time for working on other lovely things. 😊

    • As you stare at my stitches, keep in mind I’ve been hand quilting for 30 years or more! But, really, you’re going to see your stitches change a lot over the course of just one quilt–it’s simply a matter of practice. And you’ve made a great start!

      • I put looking at good stitches in the same category as listening to an expert play a piece of music. You learn faster looking at/hearing an expert rendition instead of just your own attempt. 😊 Thanks for all your encouragement, Kerry!

  4. Thank you for inspiring me to get going with quilting and joining HQA. The quote by Malala is so spot on and I love the incorporation of embroidered phrases on your blocks. Your hand work is beautiful!

    • I’m so glad you commented! It got me to go looking for your blog–the one I’m following is your genealogy blog and I didn’t know you’d begun this one. It’s so exciting that you’re going to join us!

  5. I had to go back and look for those ‘hard little wrinkles’ and think I spotted them. This blog is such a well of information on quilting (I had no idea there was masking tape for that) and old and new techniques. Quilt on!!!

    • Thanks, Lisa! I’m trying to make my posts more than simply an update on what I’ve done since last report and your comment makes me feel like I might be accomplishing that!

  6. Yes, masking tape is our friend, as long as we don’t leave it on the top for a long time. Thanks for highlighting that particular block. I’m feeling the need for some encouragement about now. And don’t worry about not doing fancy designs. I see the aesthetic purpose of quilting as enhancing the piecing, not being the star.

    • I agree about the quilting being a supporting actor, not the star. I try not to take any single aspect of all of this too seriously–I mean, it’s just a quilt, not the Sistine Chapel! Will you watch the State of the Union tonight? I don’t think I can . . .

  7. I admire your little stitches – so neat and your relaxed pace sounds just right. Much as I love piecing, I don’t love quilting so I find it a bit of a trial but it has to be done to keep those layers together as you say. I am just to the point where I need to hand sew the binding down on my wall hanging – which I do enjoy – but I hope I will think of more pleasant things than the ‘one man’ while I’m doing it 😉

  8. So much to love about this post. Yes, yes to Malala. What a state this country is right now! On a happier subject… you quilt the way I write, and it made me smile to read about your process of making it up as you go along. I really enjoy seeing the progress you are making on the beautiful quilt.

    • Thanks, Laurie–I’m relieved to hear that non-quilters can find some interest in these posts! I’ve read about writers who say they are constantly surprised, as they work, at what their characters do! It’s so fun to think of the characters taking on a life their own and the authors being willing to play along!

  9. It’s interesting how you can see something in a photo that you don’t see with the naked eye. That happens to me frequentry with my silverplate.There are details that I would completely not be aware of if it weren’t for photos.

    • Oh, absolutely! Sometimes, when I’m weaving, I know I’ve made a mistake, can see something that unsettles me, but can’t really identify where the problem is. BUT, if I take a photo, I can find the mistake easily! It’s a very valuable technique!

  10. Lovely quilting stitches, Kerry. The embroidered words also captured my attention. Having just done some of my first embroidery since I was a teen, my own efforts are quite inexpert compared! (And I’m okay with that. I’m a beginner, after all.) But it’s wonderful to see the high-quality work to model my own efforts after. And as for the handwork giving space for thoughts, that is the best part if one is comfortable with their thoughts! Thanks as always.

    • This is my second quilt with embroidered words and I’ve really enjoyed both of them. I just use one simple stitch and have learned how to finesse different letter shapes, etc. I also have a redwork quilt underway somewhere, although I hadn’t touched it in a few months. So much to do, so little time!

  11. Looking great!! As a longarm quilter, I could (would) never hand quilt a quilt, not even a mug rug!! Love watching your progress!!

  12. I’ve never used masking tape,guess I never felt the need the part with my ruler friend. I’ve often wondered how it was to quilt with old cottoning batting ..even with the rougher made cotton some of the hand quilting was marvelous.

  13. I wanted to ask — while you’re finishing a project, do you do anything to protect the embroidery on blocks you’re not quilting? And for storage after it’s completed? I am imagining the threads getting rather roughed up over time.

    • I don’t really do much of anything and my French knots are already looking kind of floppy. The other quilt I made with embroidered words is hanging on the wall and doesn’t get any wear. I don’t have any real insight to offer–sorry!

  14. I too had to go back and see if I could see the hard wrinkles! I hadn’t noticed them because I was admiring the beautiful stitches and the lovely design of your quilt. Three cheers for Malala!

    • You know, I used to tell my public speaking students that they should never call attention to a weakness in their speeches, like if their hands were shaking or something. I told them that, if they just didn’t point it out, no one would ever notice. I guess I should follow my own advice!

  15. I am wondering who taught you to sew Kerry? For those quilting stitches as many other friends have already said, are so perfectly even!
    I love sewing. I was taught by my Grandma and I feel that when I sew I am connecting not only with her but with all women who pick up a needle to stitch or mend. I know people don’t mend so much now and I feel that is such a loss. When I married I knew how to turn worn cuffs and collars on my husband’s shirts and how to make shirts. Now everyone throws things away when they wear. Sorry, I should not say everyone, because hopefully there are some people out there who don’t.
    I thought your embroidery was perfection! 👏

    • I think I picked up sewing from a number of sources. One grandmother taught me my first embroidery, another taught me to braid and do basic knitting. My own mother was a very good seamstress, and so on. But none of them made quilts. I learned almost all of that from books (in the day before YouTube!) and just doing it. You’re fortunate to have learned so much and such practical skills!

      • My Grandma was such a perfectionist when it came to sewing. So I have her to thank when I un-pick time and time again to get things perfectly right! You too are a perfectionist, so although you were not taught how to quilt I think their joint influences made sure that you did a good job.

  16. Thank you yet again for sharing your creative process and your thoughtful wisdom with us. I heard an interview with a jazz musician who had a serious illness, and his doctor had advised him that something which happens very quickly — like a stroke or an accident — can take a long time to heal. That’s probably where we got the term “patients” from… we have to be patient and persistent to heal. I also thought about this idea recently as I watched a mature tree on our street be cut down, limb by limb, and then shredded. What took 50+ years to grow was destroyed in a matter of hours!

    • Oh, I hate to watch a tree come down, for just that reason! It takes so long to grow/build something and no time at all to destroy. But we need to keep building and believing!

  17. I can’t believe it is three whole weeks since your last post in this series Kerry! Not that I am complaining – I’d be happy to read all the time about your progress, although perhaps if you were having to write lots of posts, there would not be much time left for quilting!! Along with all your other contributors, I adore your beautiful stitching, and that utterly perfect quote. Looking forward to the next post already. 🙂

    • I love to read but it doesn’t let my mind wander the way I seem to crave. And knitting just makes me want to hurt someone! Isn’t it nice that we can each find our own ways . . .

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