Work in progress: Hand quilted pillow front

So I did, I really did, start my first hand quilting project.  And (of course) now that I’ve begun I have no idea what took me so long.

It’s an interesting thing to do, if you have embroidered before.  It feels so DIFFICULT – like fighting a battle with the fabric – compared to the relative ease of embroidery or cross-stitch.  I was surprised how much like hard work it felt to my right hand, with all that pushing and pulling.  I want to experiment with different needles, as I imagine the width of the needle makes a big difference to the force required.

I am also using perle 8 cotton, so there are a few other options I can try (perle 12, for a start, or Aurifil 12 weight, which should be similar to the perle 12).  Unfortunately, given my existing thumb and wrist problems, I need to minimise the force I’m exerting with my right hand, as much as possible.

But oh, it’s so pretty, the end result.  I like the look of the back almost more than the front, so far, which is good news for an actual quilt (rather than this cushion, which will have the reverse side hidden inside, of course).  I love the look, and the feel, now I just have to work out how to do it without hurting myself.

Regarding my fear of starting, it’s surprising how much fear comes into craft, or I think making art of any kind.  I’ve been listening (and loving) my way through Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast, and after a while you realise it’s generally the one same thing holding people back:  fear.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard her say that it’s “almost never not fear”.  This morning’s episode involved an advertising executive who wants to be a storyteller, and Liz’s question to her was “Why are the things that bring us joy more frightening than the things that bring us drudgery?”.  Now THERE’S a question.

I wish I knew the answer.  I do feel, somehow, that the older I get, the less time I am willing to devote to trying to impress other people, or make them happy (can anyone really make someone else happy?).  In recent years a few things have happened to make me realise, in my bones, how brief our time here is, and how unpredictable the elements that we think we can control.

When I painted and sketched (that would be in the distant past B.C. – Before Children!) I remember saying to my husband that nothing terrified me as much as a blank sheet of watercolour paper.  Because it’s expensive – it costs, you know, $6!  And I didn’t want to ruin it.  But in some ways a blank sheet of paper that costs 2 cents, or is even free, is just as terrifying.  Somehow the blankness, the whiteness, is perfect, in a way that anything I draw (or that any human draws) just isn’t.  It’s this tug-of-war that plays out between the blank page, the fabric still on the bolt, the raw ingredients, and the deeply flawed and deeply human things we might do with those materials that makes art and craft (and dare I say, life) so interesting.



Fabric:  Maureen Cracknell’s Sun Tracks in Earth, from Wild and Free (Art Gallery Fabrics)

Thread:  Anchor perle 8 cotton in colours 186 (turquoise), 308 (golden brown), 341 (rusty red), 11 (salmon), DMC perle 8 cotton in colours 503 (light turquoise), 353 (pale pink), 782 (781) (light brown).

Needle: Olympus sashiko needles

Batting: The Warm Company’s Warm & Natural needled cotton batting

Backing:  Kona Cotton in Snow

One thought on “Work in progress: Hand quilted pillow front

  1. […] This hand quilting panel I made for a cushion is finished (yes!) and just needs to be sewn up into a cushion cover now.  I’ll also need to sew my own cushion insert, as I made it a random size.  I have more to say about what I learned about hand quilting through this project (including the wisdom, or otherwise, of my fabric choice), but I’ll save it for another time. […]


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