Hand-Piecing by Jennifer of Moving Hands

on February 6 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips | by | with 46 Comments

I don’t have time to piece by machine! – Jinny Beyer

Have you ever seen a quilt block that looked different, perhaps a bit more complex than usual, or even simple, but with inset seams or curves? Did you wonder how the person made it, or how she had the patience to finish it? Most likely, you were looking at a hand-pieced quilt. Popular patterns for hand piecing include tumbling blocks, Lemoyne star, bow tie and Lone Star.


Cactus Baskets, maker unknown.
Inset seams, like in these blocks, are easy when pieced by hand.
International Quilt Study Center

Linda Franz has a wonderful page about the benefits of piecing by hand. I agree with every one. For me, the benefits of hand piecing include socializing while sewing, relieving stress in a quiet setting, using simple techniques to see a complex-looking design develop, and freeing myself from the sewing machine and ironing board with a truly portable project. With hand piecing, the only pieces of equipment you need are needles, thread, pins, scissors, a thimble and your fabric. There are many expert hand piecers out there, with just as many favorite supplies and stitching styles. Don’t be overwhelmed!

Jinny’s book Quiltmaking By Hand is my favorite resource for hand piecing and quilting techniques. Her website also has instructions for basic and advanced techniques, from joining four points to setting in pieces. Watch Jinny’s appearance on Simply Quilts (type Jinny Beyer into the search box, and watch “Quilting By Hand”, parts 1-3), as she guides Alex through the first steps in hand piecing a quilt. At the end, she shows this stunning quilt that she uses for her beginning hand piecing classes. She presents it as a “mystery quilt,” made in sections, to her students, because many of them say that they never would have signed up for the class if they had seen the difficult-looking finished quilt first!

In my experience, hand piecers tend to be a quieter lot than others, mainly because I do not believe enough attention is paid to hand piecing in books and magazines. A check on this hand piecing forum will show you how excited quilters are about hand piecing, and how willing experienced quiltmakers are to share their knowledge, patterns and enthusiasm with new stitchers.

There is a time and place for all forms of quilting, and I enjoy machine piecing and quilting sometimes, too. But the emphasis these days on quick quilts that can be machine pieced fast means that hand piecing is perceived to be at the opposite end of the spectrum–slow. Once you develop a hand stitching rhythm and feel comfortable with the techniques, you may agree with Jinny, who pieces all of her quilts while on the go. Like her, you may find you no longer have time to piece by machine!

This article was written by Jennifer of Moving Hands. Don’t miss her introduction!

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46 Responses to Hand-Piecing by Jennifer of Moving Hands

  1. Ran says:

    I am a fan of this blog ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Aann Grillo says:

    I am trying to reproduce a Sweet Heart Quilt made by my grandmother in the 30-40s. Four heart around a circle in the center with a “do hicky”triangle in the corners. I am using maper hearts on the back to turn under and applique . Any one got any tips the might inprove the process. Thanks Ann

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  4. kim says:

    I loved Linda’ Franz’s handquilting class I took in Oct.
    I always have something hand piecing going for the times I sit and wait- drs, meetings.
    Currently it’s Amish Tumbling blocks or my 30’s Cathedral windows project. KING SIZE -lol insane, I know

  5. Kirsten says:

    Another hand-piecer here! I got into quilting before I had any equipment, so it’s only now, years later, that I’m starting to make friends with my machine! I do find hand-sewing infinitely more calming and peaceful – I often do it while I’m watching TV or a movie. The time just flies by!!

  6. Michele says:

    I love hand piecing and finally…..FINALLY someone has mentioned it! Jinny Beyer swears that it’s actually FASTER to hand piece for several reasons, one being that you can do it ANYWHERE! I think she might be right! Thanks for the links!

  7. Nada says:

    i’m totally intrigued! especially since my machine has been stuck under the bed w/ nowhere to set it up for months now…

  8. Jennifer says:

    Oh Joslin, I agree with you on everything! It IS fast, because you can do it anywhere. I find that hand piecing a quilt has very little to do with what many people call “patience”. I don’t lock myself in a room and say, “I am going to hand piece this quilt if it kills me!” I don’t have patience at all, so during times when I could be doing NOTHING, I prefer to do SOMEthing. And the hand pieced blocks go together SO quickly this way. I am happy to hear from so many people who have discovered this to be true. And, as a lapsed hand knitter, I agree that having some kind of portable hand work, whether embroidery, quilting, or knitting, etc. can be a great way to stitch memories of people and places into your work.

  9. Joslin says:

    I took a quilting class at a local quilt store and after we learned the basics of hand sewing and quilting we started on a sampler quilt. It did go together quickly because I took it everywhere! I also found that all of my points match better because I can see where my stitches are going and when I’m machine piecing I just hope everything is pinned right! This is the biggest quilt I have made so far and the most memorable because I can remember what I was doing when stitching each block.

  10. Deborah Fair says:

    I have been hand piecing, appliqueing, and quilting for nearly thirty years and am just now learning to machine quilt. I’ve pieced only a few quilts by machine and much prefer the “slow cloth” method of hand piecing and quilting. It IS a quieter, more peaceful (I almost wrote pieceful) way to work and does not have the hurriedness about it that machine work sometimes can get.
    There certainly are times when machine work is most appropriate, but what a joy to make and what a treasure to own or give a hand pieced quilt.


  11. Lil says:

    maybe I really should try handpiercing, I do so many things with my hands, so why not that one too

    Tomorrow I order Jinny’s book

  12. Rose L says:

    Ah, so that is what hand-piecing is. Can you really finish a quilt in any reasonable amount of time this way? The results are beautiful… but I think I would be far too slow.

  13. hillary says:

    I have a doll quilt that remains unpieced b/c I don’t want to sit at the sewing machine at night. you’ve inspired me. I’m going to do it by hand!

  14. Alisha says:

    I’ve been curious about hand piecing, but don’t know much about it. This is a great starting place.

  15. Embroider was my first hand needlework together with crochet and that was many years ago. When I felt in love with quilt making, it was natural for me to begin hand piecing and hand quilting. I agree with all Jennifer’s reasons for hand piecing and, for me, it ends to be much easier and streess free than machine piecing and adds quality time. Jinny Beyer’s book is full of info and eye candies and Linda Franz’ books are wonderful. Sheร‚ยดs a very nice person too ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. LadySnow says:

    I can’t even imagine piecing by hand.

  17. Amy W says:

    I’ve always stayed away from hand sewing–especially since I hate sewing hems by hand. But I’m so inspired to try it!

  18. Lil' d says:

    I like to hand sew, but I think it would take me years to produce even half a quilt…

  19. Jennifer G says:

    I always thought that hand piecing was for more advanced quilters–like maybe one day I could be good enough to do it. Man–I will have to try this next!

  20. Carol says:

    I agree with the fact that many of us might not find the time to machine piece, but my portable projects are usually knitting. I have to admit tho, I’m tempted to trade off between knitting and piecing. My grandma almost always hand pieced.

    Funny how hand knitting is the ‘norm’ and machine knitting is the exception (at least where I am), but hand piecing is the exception and machine piecing is the norm. I love being able to knit anywhere, so why not piece?

  21. Gina says:

    I’m learning so much about quilting this month! Thanks!

  22. RobinE says:

    I machine piece most of my quilts, but I also have a hand-piecing project on the side that I work on too. Sometimes, I just need that change of pace– from the frenetic to the deliberate. Just thinking about it is making me smile right now. Methinks it might be time to pick it up again. Thanks so much for the thoughtful reminder!

  23. Karen says:

    I love the thought of quilting, but getting out my sewing machine each time seems like such a hassle. Hand-piecing sounds like such a great activity to do just about anywhere. I’m going to give this a try! Thanks for highlighting this approach! Doing this never would have crossed my mind.

  24. Julia D says:

    WOW! Thanks so much. I may have to explore hand piecing now, too!

  25. Christie says:

    patience you say? not likely over here.

  26. heather w. says:

    i love embroidering, but have only done small projects….I’m not sure if I would have the patience to hand piece a quilt! Maybe I will try one day. =)

  27. Shelley Jo says:

    I love the portability of hand-pieced projects. I don’t have to be sitting at a machine (although that has its place in my life as well) in order to get some work done. I LOVE Jinny Beyer’s hand quilting book. My dh bought it for me last year for Valentine’s Day. He made me day!!

  28. Joanna says:

    One of these days I’ll stop using four kids 6 and younger as an excuse to not piece and quilt by hand. I think Jinny’s book may be the impetus. Thanks.

  29. Michelle says:

    Sounds time consuming but the results are sure worth it!

  30. Mellissa says:

    I might try my hand at this.

  31. Cassie Ogle says:

    I have just learned how to machine piece and will be learning how to hand piece in a few weeks. I can’t wait! I want to work on the go ๐Ÿ˜€

  32. Lisa Eichholtz says:

    I haven’t hand pieced anything in ages (and if the dust gathering on my sewing machine is an indicator, by machine either)….I think I am inspired to try a small project that I could bring to work and use as a lunchtime project. Hmm…what to make? The girls no longer play with dolls, so a doll quilt isn’t needed….I’ll have to look for a wallhanging idea..any ideas?

  33. alicia says:

    I like the tumbling blocks pattern. I would love to learn to hand quilt–maybe not now–but in a few years. Thanks for all the resources.

  34. Michele says:

    This is really an inspiring article. The example shown is beautiful. I remember my grandmother sewing many things by hand…it’s something that I would like to try in the near future.

  35. Regina says:

    I have been looking for something to do during lunch hours at work, or while cuddled under a quilt on the couch in winter – perhaps it is time for a hand pieced project.

  36. erin says:

    I didn’t consider hand piecing, either. I like the way this quilt came out. Beautiful!

  37. Amy says:

    I never considered hand-piecing until reading this. I’m inspired…..

  38. Melissa says:

    I wish I had the patience for hand sewing/quilting

  39. rachel says:

    My grandmother would churn quilts out so quickly, and she did everything by hand. I, on the other hand, just wind up making myself bleed.

  40. alison says:

    Those links are great – lots of tips

  41. mj says:

    Wow I can’t really imagine making the switch to hand piecing. But I do admit that the finished products are beautiful.

  42. Michelle says:

    Hurrah, hurrah! Hand piecing is the absolute best, and was the only way I used to make quilts. I find it infinitely more portable, forgiving, relaxing and satisfying than piecing by machine. Thanks for possibly turning others on to this method that lets you use up every free moment you have, doing the things you love most… creating beautiful objects and touching fabric!

  43. Sarah says:

    Wow, I’m not sure I’d have the patience for a whole hand-pieced quilt… Maybe a doll quilt?

  44. Lola says:

    Hand piecing is actually much faster than you would think, and you can take it with you in the car, to the ball park, doctors office…..

  45. I love to embroider and hand quilt. Why not try hand piecing next? ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. Lauri says:

    I think she is right…no one would believe that is a beginner’s quilt!

    I love to hand quilt, and have hand quilted everything I’ve made until the last year or so when I started dipping my toe into the machine quilting pool. A few months ago, I started to hand piece a tiny, almost doll size, simple patchwork quilt, and I truly enjoyed it! Just like hand quilting, I found it to be peaceful.

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