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Do You Hand Quilt?

Amish hand-quilted miniature quilt by Susan Boring, 6″ x 8″

Last weekend Mike and I did a road trip to Elkhorn, WI for an estate sale. I had received this mass email from a woman named Angela:

“My mom, who was a devoted quilter, recently passed away and we are holding an estate sale.  She was a quilting fanatic and a member of many guilds through the years.  It has taken four weeks just to measure the fabric she had stored away and she has left many projects partially completed.  I was hoping you could share the attached flyer with your guild members.  I would greatly appreciate any help you can provide in getting the word out.  Thanks much and please let me know if you have any concerns or suggestions.”

I emailed her back to ask her mother’s name. I didn’t know Susan, but Angela included this sweet response:

“If you do come to the sale I would love to talk to you about finishing up some of her projects.  She made each grandchild a quilt, piecing it when they started high school and hand quilting before graduation as a graduation gift.  Unfortunately, she was unable to quilt the top she made for my son.  I have been praying for knowledge and direction.  Since you answered this email with “blessings” perhaps you are the answer.”

I enjoyed meeting Angela and seeing the beautiful sampler quilt.

Since all of the other grandchildren quilts were hand-quilted, Angela would really like to have this one hand-quilted too. I told her I wouldn’t be able to do this, but I would put the information on my blog. If you are a hand-quilter who would be interested in talking to Angela about it, please email her at:

The quilt at the top of this post was just one of my purchases at Susan’s sale. Isn’t her quilting lovely? I also couldn’t resist this adorable sewing machine. I’ve always wanted a vintage child’s machine!

I haven’t tried sewing with it yet, but it is a treasure.

March 19, 2017, Hand Quilting
Garment Art

Before I get to this week’s topic – I have some exciting news! I finished my most recent contest quilt this past month, and sent the photos and entry papers to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah 24 hours before the deadline. The New Quilts From an Old Favorite challenge block this year was “Flying Geese”. My quilt is entitled “Silly Goose” and it was accepted as a finalist!!! It will be hanging in the museum during quilt week this April – praise the Lord! I can’t share pictures until after the judging, but I learned a lot while creating this project and can’t wait to post about it in the future.

And now – my topic of the week:

I have a jacket I made to wear while presenting my “Gone to the Dark Side” lecture, but I like it so much I wear it often (and Mike is ok to be seen with me wearing it in public  🙂 .

quilted art jacket

quilted art jacket

I may have shared the jacket previously but, if you haven’t seen my lecture, you haven’t heard the story.

I often refer to my fabric stash and UFO’s as items that are marinating until they reach the perfect time to be used and enjoyed. Usually a project hits the UFO bin because I’m not sure what to do next, and it’s not until I learn a new technique that will work in it, or I have a person or contest to finish it for, that that particular project comes to fruition.

Way back in the mid 90’s I found a yard of fabric in a remnant bin at JoAnn Fabrics that grabbed me.


I wasn’t sure it was even all cotton, but I didn’t care. I bought it, brought it home, and threw it in the stash (a healthy stash needs to be fed regularly).

A few years later I passed by a clearance shoe rack at a major department store and found a pair of shoes in the exact same fabric (and I did still wear this type of shoe back then)!


Now I’m sure I need to use that fabric in a garment, so I buy the shoes and throw them on a shelf near the stash.

A few years later I’m at a discount store and there it is … a purse in the same fabric!


So I threw it on the shelf, next to the the shoes and pulled out the fabric. After pulling some additional fabrics from my stash, and finding a jacket pattern in the pattern box, I began string pieced units for the jacket fronts. About an hour into it I lost interest and everything was thrown into a brown paper sack and pushed to the back of the shelf.

Additional years passed until I met a trio of garment sewers at a Sewing and Quilting Expo, who referred to quilting as “the dark side” of the sewing world. This led me to create the “Dark Side” lecture. As I’m putting this lecture together I realize it would be great to have a “costume” to wear while presenting it. I dig to the back of the closet, decide I still like the fabric, and discover the shoes still fit. I also have a newer jacket pattern that I really like. It’s called the “As You Wish” jacket by Kate Art Designs. This is not only a well done pattern that is easy to use, but Kate has a video in which she shares the perfect way to fit your jacket on her site.

The marinating is finished, all the necessary components have come together, and the time to create the finished project has arrived.

I marked each pattern piece at the correct size, and cut it out about 1″ larger than needed from  3 fabrics: the outer fabric, the lining and a piece of flannel to act as a thin batting/filler. I layered each piece and began the fun part – creating a design. I played with design techniques from my most recent book: “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art”.


Squares and square-spirals were fused in place and then secured with top-stitching. The solid yellow areas are made from ultrasuede.

The sleeves yelled at me “don’t overdo it”, so I continued the square theme in a “Big-Stitch” with embroidery floss (click here for a post on the Big Stitch).

Once the designing was done, I cut the pattern pieces out at the correct size and sewed the jacket together, binding the outer edge and covering the seams with the focus fabric.

I’m so pleased with the results and especially thrilled that this very old UFO has a new and exciting life ahead of it. I’ve also discovered that I now utilize some quilting techniques to speed up and augment the garment creating process.

Do you have a garment background? Any garment pictures you’d like to share?

November 20, 2016, Hand Quilting
Even Stitch Length – by Hand and Machine

When stitching by machine with the feed dogs, keeping a constant stitch length is easy, because the machine is in charge. When free motion quilting without the feed dogs – an even stitch length becomes much more difficult to obtain. Using a stitch regulator is one way to handle this problem, but if you don’t have a machine with that feature,  I’d like to share my two favorite tips:

Tip #1: Slow down the motor speed to about half (if your machine allows for this). Push the foot petal all the way to the floor, and adjust your hands to match this slower machine speed. The advantage is you don’t have to think about what your foot is doing and can concentrate on your hand movement.

Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice!

When hand quilting or embroidering, keeping the stitch length even can also be difficult. Once again, practice will yield better and better results. Tiger Tape™ can be helpful. It’s a 1/4″ wide tape with regular marks on it. You simply stick it onto your quilt top, and stitch along the edge of the tape. It can be reused quite a number of times.

Tiger Tape

Tiger Tape may be purchased at:

And one last suggestion that I found delightful! I stumbled upon this slick trick while surfing the internet and have to share. A picture is worth a thousand words:

Even Stitches

Don’t you love it? Simple and yet so helpful!!! I tried to find where this picture came from, but the facebook page the search engine sent me to was in Italian and I couldn’t find the picture anywhere on the site. I’d really like to thank whomever came up with this wonderful idea. I can’t wait to try it – and if you do – please let us know what you think!

December 7, 2014, Hand Quilting
A Pony Quilt – 18 Years in the Making!

This week I have exciting news to share – well, at least it’s exciting to me! A quilt I began over 17 years ago, and chose to hand quilt, is finished!

Let me tell you the story and then unveil the quilt :-).

Quite a few years ago my husband gave me a pattern for a civil war era hoop dress and the hoop skirt to go with it.  He had been at a Civil War reenactment, found these items, and thought I could make a costume to wear when I lecture. This was the inspiration for my first lecture about antique quilts entitled “But I Still Love You”.

Vintage Quilt Lecture by Chris Lynn Kirsch

In planning an introduction for this lecture I came up with an idea that required me to have a vintage dog quilt and a vintage pony quilt. I acquired the dog quilt shortly after coming up with the intro idea, but there were no pony quilts to be found. I had planned to give the lecture for my own guild, Patched Lives, first. So I did my intro and asked the ladies in my guild to imagine that they were looking at a pony quilt (ha!ha!).

A few days later I received an envelope in the mail from a guild friend (thanks, Johanna). She sent me a pattern for a carousel pony block and a note saying that perhaps I should make a pony quilt. What a great idea! I grabbed my small pile of vintage feed sacks and took them along to Paducah with me. That year Wendy, Jill, my Mom and I were all spending quilt week in Paducah together and I conned them into making pony blocks. They each chose the fabric they liked and hand buttonhole appliquéd a pony onto a piece of muslin.

pony blue pony green pony pink pony yellow

Upon arrival home I stitched the top together, bordering it with orphan bow tie blocks which were given to me by my friend Barb.

At that point I decided the quilt needed to be hand-quilted, but couldn’t talk my Paducah buddies into doing the quilting on their blocks. I enjoy hand-quilting in small increments, and typically worked on this crib sized piece while traveling to Paducah each year (Wendy never did give in and offer to help). This past April I actually did do quite a bit of the quilting during our AQS adventure, so I decided to take it along when Mike and I drove to Philadelphia last month. I really worked in earnest on that trip, because I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. It only took me one evening of quilting after our return to actually finish the quilting. Putting the binding on was a joy!

carousel pony quilt

I love it!

I used the corners of a vintage hanky for the saddles, the same black trim from my dress became the poles, and embroidery floss (go figure), was used for the tails. They’re adorned with a few old beads and buttons.

Do you have a quilt that has taken you over 18 years to go from start to finish? Would you like to share your story?


This week I’ll be heading to Madison, WI for Quilt Expo! I’ve been blessed to teach there every year since the beginning. This year I’m doing “Sit and Sew’s” on free motion quilting, and lectures on many different ways to add circles to your quilts. It’s always a wonderful show. I hope to see some of you there!

Handwork – Lacy Hearts

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you probably can sense that I’m quite sentimental. This was most obvious in my November 24th post about the jewelry wreath I made from family treasures. I have a quilting class coming up this month, at Waukesha County Technical College, that also includes bits of family history and it’s sort of a rarity in my classes, because it’s all about handwork – even the quilting!

Lacy Hearts quilt handworkThe hearts are made from a variety of fabrics: satins, cotton prints, tone-on-tones, laces and … parts of old hankies! In the heart below, the purple and white embroidery was on a well worn hankie of my grandmother’s. I was able to strategically cut this portion from it.

lacy hearts quiltThese hearts were hand blanket stitched to muslin using embroidery floss. Then the fun of embellishing began. The next one was overlaid with lace, and pearls from a broken necklace filled the lace’s openings (The silver clasp from this necklace embellishes the purple embroidery heart above!)

Lacy hearts quilt

A locket from my other grandmother adorns yet another heart.

lacy hearts quilt

Many of the hearts feature buttons, but the piece that may put a smile on your face is the dangling heart in the lower right square:

lacy hearts quilt

It is an earring of mine that lost it’s mate. And here’s how I fastened it from the back:

lacy-hearts-earring-backQuilting is just such fun!

There is still room in this class, so if you live nearby and would like to learn a few new techniques while doing handwork and chatting with other quilters, please sign up at

What a wonderful season for handwork. I certainly don’t want to be outdoors in 20 below zero! Do you have a winter handwork project in progress?

January 5, 2014, Embellishing Hand Quilting
Big Stitches and an Exciting Saga

A few weeks ago at the Sun Prairie Quilt Show I was stopped in my tracks by a pieced, blue ribbon winning quilt called “Conceived in Liberty” and made by Patty Roost of Fort Atkinson, WI. What grabbed me was that the quilt was quilted with “the Big Stitch” and it really worked!

Big Stitch quilting

Typically hand quilting stitches are supposed to be even and small, with prize winning stitches smaller than 12 stitches to the inch. With the Big Stitch a larger thread is used (perle cotton) and the stitches are meant to be about a 1/4″ long so that they show (for a blog with instructions for the Big Stitch click here).

Big Stitch detailI found this quilting method very effective on this quilt and while I was smiling and staring at it, the white glove lady nearby informed me that she was Patty. I complimented her work and asked if I could feature her as a topic of the week. She obviously agreed – thanks Patty!

I’ve mixed the Big Stitch with free motion quilting in one of my smaller art quilts and really enjoyed doing it. Plus I felt it added some pizazz to the design.

Concentricities fiber artPatty’s quilt show’s how effective it can be in a traditional quilt.

Have you used the Big Stitch? Please tell us about it.

On a completely different note – I’d like to share a story in parts over the next few weeks in hopes it will make you smile:

The Saga of Quiltilly

Once upon a time there were 2 quilters, named Chris and Wendy, who liked to take others on quilting adventures in Europe. Prior to a trip to France in 2008 they talked about creating a traveling companion named Quiltina. She was based on a cardboard cut out called Flat Stanley who travels with school children and helps them to journal their trips. Wendy made the first Quiltina and then created her friend Quiltanna for Chris. These Quiltsissies joined the quilting cruise in France. They brought along a third friend, Quiltilly. While on the cruise a contest was held and the winner, Evelyn, was awarded Quiltilly as her prize.

Since then the Quiltsissies have been on many delightful adventures and they were reunited this past April in Paducah when Evelyn and her sister Hazel came to stay with Wendy and Chris. Here they are getting reacquainted in the kitchen/studio:

Quiltanna, Quiltina, Quiltilly

Quiltanna, Quiltina, Quiltilly

When Evelyn left to fly to Wisconsin she left poor Quiltilly behind. Upon realizing her error she texted this message:

Look after Quilt Tilly for me.  Hazel says you should drag her through the mud because she has been lost and abandoned.”

Wendy and Chris found Quiltilly stuffed in a tote bag and when they pulled her out they noticed that her left hand was missing, her feet were both hanging by threads and she looked a bit neglected and worn out by all her travels (she’s been all over Europe and even to Bali!). They were very concerned and wanted Evelyn to know how valuable she was, so they tied a knot in her stump of a hand and decided to write a ransom note :-)! This picture was texted to Evelyn:

Quiltilly and the ransom noteQuiltilly wanted to send a message and picture of her own:

“Mom, how could you? Aunt Wendy (she makes me call her that) tattoo’d my butt! They said you told them to drag me through the mud! But they feed me chocolate, take me to art galleries and doctor my damaged left arm. Maybe this isn’t so bad, but if you love me, you’ll pay the ransom. Love, Tilly

Quiltilly's tattoo

National Quilt Museum logo tattoo

To find out Evelyn’s response please join us next week for the continuing Saga of Quiltilly!

May 5, 2013, Hand Quilting
Hand Quilting

I enjoy hand quilting, but this may not be apparent from the content of my blogs… until now :-)!

Even though I’ve been very passionate about machine quilting for quite a few years, I usualy have some type of hand work nearby. My current project is a wall quilt made up of carousel horses which were appliquéd from feed sacks (yes, real vintage feed sacks!)

The blocks were stitched many years ago during quilt week in Paducah. My roommates that year were Ginny Walters (my Mom), Wendy Rieves and Jill Koeppel. Each of us hand buttonhole appliquèd a pony block and now I’m slowly enjoying the process of quilting them. I’m currently cross-hatching by using masking tape as my guide.

I thought it would be fun to hear from the hand quilters out there in blogland. Do you like to handquilt? Do you machine quilt too? Hoop or no hoop? I’m looking forward to the response!

August 14, 2011, Hand Quilting Vintage Quilts