Why would you hand quilt: The HQAL and my Kenyan quilt

Hand quilting is amazing. Actually, I’m a fan of any kind of hand sewing. It is soothing, great for learning and works meditatively.  That’s why I decided to join a nice group of ladies who organize a Hand Quilting Sew Along (HQAL). You can find their blogs at the bottom of this post and if you want to join contact Kathy. The idea of the HQAL is to post every month about our progress in hand quilting. For my first month, I will do it a little bit differently. First, I’ll argue why hand quilting is advisable to do for every quilter. After that, I’ll give an update of progress on the Kenyan quilt.

For this post and the HQAL, the definition of hand-quilting is stretched. Technically speaking hand quilting is only the process of sewing through all the layers of a quilt. However, to me, hand piecing is also part of this HQAL, which is sewing pieces of fabric together to create the quilt blocks. There are two reasons why hand quilting is important for every quilter:

  1. When learning a new technique
  2. Precision

There are other benefits of course, such as meditation. But not the point of this article. To find out more about that watch this TED video by Mister X-stitch. I will compare hand quilting a lot to working by machine. One is not better than the other, rather each has its own benefits and disbenefits.

Why would you hand quilt?

Educational benefits of hand quilting

If you sew by hand you take much more time to familiarize yourself with a technique. You take time with every step because the quilting process is much slower than by machine. This gives your brain time to comprehend the technique in your brain and to remember it the next time. remember identify parts of it you don’t fully get. Also, your hands get used to the sowing movement and they will learn to do it automatically.  Besides, because the sowing goes slow,  it is easy to identify when you go wrong. This saves mistakes later on which will would have been a lot of work to fix.

In the picture below you see block H-12 of the Dear Jane Quilt made with the reverse applique technique.  I’ve made about ten blocks with reverse applique and I would feel confident using that technique on a sewing machine now. I definitely did not feel confident enough about the technique to do that the first time.

Dear Jane Quilt block H-12: Hannah Lou's hearts
Dear Jane Quilt block H-12: Hannah Lou’s hearts

The precision of the pieces and quilting

When you are quilting by hand you can direct every stitch you make contrary to machine sewing where the machine tends to take over. You can also check the neatness of your work every few stitches to see if the fabrics are lining up correctly. Lastly, complicated techniques such as curved piecing and the various applique techniques are easier to do neatly by hand (LINK). It is possible to do these things with a sewing machine, but it takes more practice and skill to do it well. So, if you are uncertain about a technique quilting by hand is a good solution

In the example below I pieced by hand to make sure that the church bells and music notes where all upright. Find more about this piece here:

P1130518 2

Hand quilting progress on the Kenyan quilt

 The Kenyan quilt top is finished. Now I am sewing through all the different layers (quilting). Quilting can be done in various ways, either with a machine or by hand. The Kenyan quilt is completely quilted by this quilter’s hand (can anybody put more Q’s in that sentence!?). The quilter choices a quilt design which is different for every individual block or is repeated throughout the quilt. The first version is what I’m doing with the quilt below. I chose that method because it makes the quilting process more playful. To refresh your memory here is a picture of my Kenyan quilt top:

Kenyan quilt block finished
Kenyan quilt block finished

Hand quilting examples in the Kenyan Quilt

The quilting process of this quilt is organic. With that, I mean that I look at a piece of the quilt until I have a vision of how it should be quilted. I started quilting somewhere in the middle.

Kenyan quilt top hand quilting detail 1

However, after finishing about five blocks I decided it is better to start at the top and work my way down. The stars are done and now I’m meditating on how to finish the blocks below the stars.

Kenyan quilt top hand quilting detail 2

In the meantime, I’m working on the left side border of the quilt. I’m following the lines of the pattern. The outcome reminds me a lot of a moon landscape with small pillows. I’m about 1/7 done with the side border. The quilt is more than two meters long so there is a lot of side border to quilt.

Kenyan quilt top hand quilting detail 3

Conclusion: What to quilt next

I’m about 1/10th finished quilting the Kenyan quilt. I have ideas for about 3/10 more. Beyond that, the outcome is going to be a delightful surprise for everyone. This is going to be such a beloved quilt when it’s done. It is already beloved, and every stitch I make in it is increasing that love. I’d really encourage you to try hand quilting for yourself.  If you’ve never quilted before check out some tutorials linked below. I promise you, once you know some clever tricks everyone can make a lovely quilt!  And now some questions for you to end the post:

  1. Do you like hand quilting? What are your favourite things to sew by hand?
  2. Do you have any tips concerning hand quilting (or piecing)?
  3. What do you think is the value of hand quilting?
  4. What is your proudest most beloved piece with hand quilting in it? Place a link in the comments, I want to see it!

Find the other lovely HQAL participants here:

KathyMargaretEmmaTracyDebSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrinGretchenKathi,  BellaDaisy and Connie

Would you like to know more?

Next week’s post: A post celebrating my birthday and reflecting on the year to come

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: bella.g.bear.art) for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.


  1. Welcome, and Happy Birthday Bella! 🎂 Your Kenyan quilt is wonderful, and I bet it has a great story behind it too! I do enjoy hand quilting, and my advice to anyone wanting to try it is to just start! That’s actually why I started this group, I wanted to hand quilt a project and I knew I needed inspiration, advice and ideas from others to keep me going! It has been a wonderful place for me to learn and grow. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you ❤. I’m very excited to have joined this group. Hand quilting is definetly something you should just begin to do to learn. I see myself getting better at it and more creative with every quilt I make. Also, seeing other people’s work is a great inspiration. I’m eager to see the work of the other HQAL quilters

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s