Did I ever tell you that I was a little stumped when I first started hand quilting as to what notions I needed? It was a process of discovery. As I was debating what thread colour to move forward with in my latest project, it dawned on me that I hadn’t specifically shared what you need to hand-quilt.
There’s nothing complex to the list. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the techniques that requires the least amount of notions to get the job done 😉
But I know inquiring minds want to know, so I thought I’d capture it as a quick list for you. I’ve even pulled together a handy printout if you need a reference or want to take it with you while shopping for your own!
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My belief about notions
I will start by saying that I’m a believer that you don’t need all the notions and tools out there on the market. A few select ones normally get the job done.
I also believe that sewing notions are a personal item that you develop a love for after using them and seeing the benefits they bring to your sewing and quilting.
This is why I love the What’s in Your Sewing Bag series, as it gives you (and me!) a chance to see what other makers swear by in their own creative practices. By hearing about their favourites, it might help guide you in finding and selecting the ones that are right for you.
So, with that in mind, I share the tools that I’ve come to love to work with any time I need to dive into some big stitch hand quilting.
My most recent project that I’ve been working on featuring hand quilting is my latest Hovea quilted coat featuring the Etched Diamond coat patchwork design. The exterior colourway features these lovely fall tones of green and deep yellows, with soft lavender and warm beige tones for the interior (see the full fabric pull here). The materials I’m sharing in this post are those I used to finish the binding by hand.
The needle or the thread, where to start? It’s a little akin to the chicken or the egg – ha!
The needle size will depend on the thread weight you’ll be stitching with, so the best place to start is with your thread of choice.
For big stitch hand quilting, my preferred thread is pearl cotton in size 8. However, what will trump for me is not the thread weight but the colour. Which is why for my quilted coat, I went with a 12wt Valdani Thread. It was the perfect colour to tie in with my fabric pull.
Back when I first started hand quilting, it took me quite a while before I was able to get my hands on the plethora of colours I now have in my stash. It was during a trip to Philadelphia that I scored a huge amount. It’s also where I learned about Prescencia Finca thread and realized there are even more thread manufacturers than I realized! What’s fun about this discovery is that each pearl cotton thread has its own personality.
- Some are finer than others,
- Some are fluffier than others
- Some are smaller spool weights
I see a role for each in my thread toolbox, but you might find one suits you better than the others. The fun is in the trying 😊
Aside from needing to match your thread weight to the appropriate needle eye size, I’d say it’s even more important to find a needle that feels good to you as you stitch.
When big stitch hand quilting, I like a firmer needle with a generous eye size to make it easy to thread the needle.
Embroidery-type needles are perfect for working with pearl cotton thread in size 8.
My main go-to are these embroidery needles by Clover. They’ve served me well over the years and they’re generally easy to find.
As with your sewing machine needle, you want to change your hand sewing needles often. There’s nothing worse than stitching with a dull needle. Do yourself a favour and stock several packs in advance so you know you’re always covered. That’s how I keep sewing needle peace of mind 😉
We can’t really talk about thread without talking about thread conditioner.
Never heard about thread conditioner?
It’s essentially a lubricant that coats your thread to help ease it through the layers of fabric, reduces fiber shedding, and limits tangling.
It goes by the name of:
- Thread gloss
- Thread conditioner balm
- Unicorn gloss
- Thread wax
The stuff is absolutely genius for hand sewing with a thinner thread weight like 80wt, 50wt, or 40wt. But as the thread thickness increases, I’ve found thread conditioner to be unnecessary. If anything, I find it adds a gloopiness to the thicker thread, especially if you’re working with a beeswax-based conditioner. So I skip it entirely when big stitch hand quilting.
A thimble is probably one of the most intimate and personal sewing items you have in your sewing kit.
And it took me forever to find one that I truly loved.
Test and test some more
Do you remember those classic metal ones? The ones where your finger gets all sweaty and you can’t really feel anything (ideal for not pricking yourself, but less ideal for dexterity)?
I really disliked those – ha!
I didn’t feel comfortable wearing them, but my fingers are super sensitive, so a thimble was a requirement.
I was overjoyed when I found these rubber ones. And they work beautifully, it’s just that I found myself using the side and less the metal tip when trying to push through thick layers and pricked myself on several occasions right through the rubber.
It wasn’t until I discovered this leather one that I found my thimble match!
It might feel stiff when you first put it on, but the beauty of the leather is that it molds itself to the shape of your finger.
So it becomes like a well-fit glove that protects your finger without it feeling overly sweaty or losing all sense of feeling.
The thimble is so comfortable, that I’ve found myself walking around searching for it only to realize that it’s already on my finger! It’s that comfortable for me.
For some reason, I didn’t think the leather would be a good fit for me, but I was totally wrong.
I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t already.
Flexible Rubber Thimbles
If you’ve ever found your fingers slipping on a needle as you try and pull it through several layers of fabric, then you might want to pick up some flexible rubber thimbles.
You can even use a rubber band if you’re in a pinch! That’s what I used for years until I discovered these snuggly options. I picked up a pack of large and medium so that I had my thumb and index finger covered. Since they come in a two-pack, I have one set in my sewing kit in the city and another set in my travel sewing kit. Yup, they’re that handy!
There will come a time when you need to set your needle down for either a break or re-threading.
This is where you need a pincushion or a needle minder comes in handy.
I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been more drawn to a pincushion.
I like the idea that the sharp end is sitting in something. Plus, pincushions give me a chance to add some cute designs to my sewing kit. Not to mention they’re perfect fabric scrap busters!
My go-to is my own Sit ‘n Sew pincushion as I love that I can keep my essentials all gathered in one spot.
I’ve made so many over the years for myself and friends and family. Get the pattern to make your own!
I absolutely love these little snips.
- They’re super sharp.
- They fit easily in my fingers.
- They’re super cute!
And they come with a little leather sheath to protect them and your sewing bag.
I was super lucky to get my first ever needlebook gifted to me by Amy from Nana Company.
Since I needed a travel sewing bag, I decided to make my own improv version using her base tutorial.
They instantly make me think of Amy whenever I use my needlebooks, which always brings me joy.
Such a simple way to add joy to your own or a friend’s kit 😉
I obviously need a place to store these tools, and I do that in my improv triangle sewing pouch.
I mean at the bare bones, what you need to hand-quilt is a needle, thread, a thimble, and snips and you’re good to go. The other items just make using and storing them pretty and practical.
I’d love to know what your hand-quilting essentials are. Share in the comments below.
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