Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hand Quilting vs. Machine Quilting

Hand Quilting vs. Machine Quilting? This is not a competition! And this post is not a debate about which is better. They are just different -- very different. Each project will vary depending on fabrics and batting, density of stitching, methods and skills of the quilter. But the same designs can certainly be be used for hand quilting or machine quilting. Here is one comparison using the same designs, each done quite differently.

This is a section of the antique 1848 applique quilt that inspired my reproduction quilt and my book, Baltimore Garden Quilt.* On this antique quilt, the various floral quilted designs between the applique motifs are emphasized by very close, straight diagonal lines of background quilting. There was no trapunto or stuffing of the quilted designs on this quilt, and no quilting "around" the applique pieces as we often do today. The batting is cotton.
This is the same area on my reproduction quilt made in 2008. After scanning the drawings that I traced from the antique quilt, Marty Vint beautifully quilted all the floral designs, and closely around each applique motif, with her Gammill longarm. We could have added dense background quilting, but we agreed this was enough. Oh, and there was also that book deadline! The batting is "Matilda's Wool" (no longer available). The quilting thread is a shade or two darker than the background fabric to add emphasis.

How will you decide to quilt?

Hand Quilting - photo courtesy Carla Therrien

Machine Quilting - photo courtesy Marty Vint

In a future post, I plan to show how to adapt these floral quilting designs to other quilts for hand quilting.

*All of the original 1848 quilting designs are included on the patterns provided (on CD) in the book. A full size pattern set (on paper) is also available separately. Avoid outrageous prices on amazon from third-party sellers! Buy directly from my website for $15.00 +3.99 shipping.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2017 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.


  1. For all of my appliqued quilts (needle turn applique - traditional) I prefer hand quilting. Machine over quilting in my opinion ruins the look and detracts from the long hours of hand work on a quilt such as the one above. If someone wants a quilt that has quilting on every inch of the quilt top then do it with a pieced quilt or do a plain cloth quilt and the enjoy the long arm machine quilting. An opinion only. Love your book

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