Musing quiltingly: By hand or machine?

Please be sure to scroll down to the very bottom of the post.  Meanwhile, if you are curious to see more pictures of any quilts, feel free to take a detour at your leisure by clicking on the quilt names… just be sure you scroll down to the very bottom of the post.

Stained Glass

stained glass6

Heirloom Pillow

Starry Pursuit


Silver Maple


Mosaic Stars


Monkey Around


Garden Mist


Mums the Word

Mums the Word10

Coxcombs and Berries


Out of the Nest


Midwinter Night


Sweet Meadow


Rising Stars


While doing a photo shoot of a couple of my quilts at a touristy spot recently…

Passerby:  What a gorgeous quilt!

Me, very politely:  Thank you.  You are very kind.

Passerby:  Did you do it by machine or by hand.

Me, very politely:  By machine.

Passerby looked totally unimpressed.  Passerby walked off.

I didn’t think much of the exchange, but my husband felt sorry for me.  He thought after all the time invested on the quilts, they were seemingly brushed off nonchalantly…  just because I didn’t make them by hand.

Upon further conversing about the matter, we concluded that perhaps sometimes people don’t quite know what to ask when they see a quilt.  So, my question to you is — besides “By hand, or by machine?”, what other things might you ask the quilter when you see a quilt?

Thanks for stopping by, Dear Friends.  I hope you have had a great day.

p.s. Just so you know, it will be a while before I get caught up with comments/emails.  The days are quite blurry for me these days, as I am trying to work down my workload.

45 thoughts on “Musing quiltingly: By hand or machine?

  1. I would ask how long did it take you to quilt it. What pattern did you use and where did you get the fabric. I’m a very new newbie to long arm quilting…am just stating to load my first one and am very excited to learn to do quilting. Hopefully as beautiful as yours!! Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours.

  2. I would ask you if you did it on your regular sewig machine or long arm. I am so impressed by your work. Don’t let their comments or lack of get to you. I experienced a similar situation but it was about the price I was asking for a piece. They thought it was too high, some people don’t realize all the work and time put in it.

  3. LOL, well I’m VERY impressed with what you can make your machine do! You should probably have said that you did it with a domestic machine! :)

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. I think that they think by machine somehow equates to completely automated assembly and quilting as if you did not makes the choices and guide the fabric. They don’t get how many hours of time and how much effort goes into a machine made quilt.

  5. I actually feel sad for people who think “hand quilting” is the only definition of quilting. That’s so small-minded. Anyone can tell that you are a master of your machine, and that takes lots of talent, too. Plus, don’t you do hand smocking? She probably thinks that art is only oil painting, and that only good writing is done with a quill. What people like her don’t see is that quilting is beautiful in many forms. And your quilts are outstanding and stunning. So sorry for her narrow view. She’s missing out on a lot of beauty.

  6. I think the person had no idea of the skill involved in doing what you do. She asked the most common quilt questions, unfortunately they are uneducated ones. I know it would have been hard for you to accurately respond without sounding like you were bragging. I would have asked was it on a special machine? How many hours did it take to do? Where did you learn to do such beautiful quilting?
    (How on earth did you manage those little snowflakes that look so great?)Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. I really couldn’t do either so I’m totally impressed. The finished product should speak for itself. Sometimes people turn their noses up if you cook/bake something and use a can of something instead of doing everything from scratch. Hope you meet all your deadlines and the “weather” headed your way doesn’t deter anything…

  8. I must admit—I’ve been a purist about only hand quilting,,,,,BUT I am rethinking that for sure…..I’m older and don’t think I want to invest in a new machine that will do the quilting, but IF I could, I’d want to take lessons from Ivory Spring, I would jump right in there…..She does more ornate quilting with machine than I have ever done by hand! I only feel sorry for those of us who are unable to see the beauty in something new!!! Ivory—keep quilting and sharing your talents and message to our world. You are appreciated!!!

  9. Being a quilter, I can see if it is done by hand or machine because I’ve done both. And I will say that it takes real talent to do both. So…I have big respect for either one! A quilt done well is a thing of beauty. I think your answer should be “By hand” because it WAS done by hand. If they have to ask, they don’t know the difference anyways. My soap box opinion! When I see a quilt, I like to express my feelings of the pattern and the colors and how the quilting enhances them. When I was showing my grandma my wall hangings 15 yrs ago, my cousin asked if I had any “real” quilts, the big ones on the bed. I was so startled by her unkind remark that I couldn’t answer these were “real” quilts done for art work and they were blue ribbon winners. She apparently had no understanding of what a quilt meant. My grandma loved my quilts. She was a quilter and understood the work that went into them. OK Wendy…have a Blessed Thanksgiving! And congratulations on being the Cover Quilt for 2014!

  10. Quite a difference in how it was machine quilted…was it done free motion on a home style machine whereas you moved the fabric every inch of the process or was it done on a computerized long arm machine where the quilt is loaded onto the frame and the machine takes over moving across the quilt to stitch a programmed pattern onto the quilt? Those of us who know you know you are not using a lingam machine

  11. Quite a difference in how it was machine quilted…was it done free motion on a home style machine whereas you moved the fabric every inch of the process or was it done on a computerized long arm machine where the quilt is loaded onto the frame and the machine takes over moving across the quilt to stitch a programmed pattern onto the quilt? Those of us who know you know you are not using a longarm machine and certainly not a computerized program for your designs, but rather they come out of your head and are lovingly put on stitch by stitch by your very own hand using your Bernina home sewing machine! Kudos to you!!!

  12. What great work your quilts are so much work in them I do admire you hope one day to be able to free motion a little like you .I am afraid some people can not see what is in front of them do not take any notice keep on quilting :)

  13. I really have to laugh about this! Besides doing quilting (I am both a machine and hand quilter) I am a machine knitter. I have had so many people turn up their noses about my knitting beautiful St John’s suits by machine. Excuse me, do they really think they are buying hand knits by this wonderful designer? My knits are well done and the only people who think knitting by machine is “cheating” are hand knitters. Do people who sew use a machine? Do they weave their own material? At this time I just shrug and say what have you to show me.

  14. If I could mach. quilt like you do, I would quilt all my quilts and not care what anyone else thought or said. I quilt by mach. but not like you!!! dide

  15. I first have to share, that while literally “drooling” over these gorgeous quilts I was thinking you were going to have a poll to ask us to identify our favorite. And they are all so spectacular, I knew there was absolutely no way I could pick my favorite.

    There was a time, many years ago that I focused on hand quilting only. And “at that time” I truly felt hand quilting was prettier than any quilt that was machine quilted (of what I had ever seen). But along the way I saw more beautiful quilts that were machine quilted and over time, their beauty began to grow. I’m now at the point where I feel the power of the machine can easily exceed the power of the hand, depending on the expertise of the quilter. I’ll confess to some degrees my eyes opened and to some degree machine quilting has improved.

    But the person that commented on your quilts had not truly opened her eyes. Even if she is a hand quilter, I can see how anyone would want to stop and look at more detail and admire your beautiful free-motion quilting. My point here is it is not you, not your quilts, but that person wears blinders that is stopping her initially impression (where she thought they were beautiful) not not appreciate the beauty and respect for machine quilting….even if they want to remain a hand quilter. Sorta like a traditional quilter opening up their eyes and appreciating mixed-media art quilts, even if they never want to make one.

    And, for what it is worth……I LOVE these quilts. Thanks for sharing. Like a personal quilt show that has brought me a super big smile. Thank you!


  16. Happy Thanksgiving Wendy. I’m giving thanks that you share your beautiful ‘machine quilted’ quilts with the blogging community! Your work is always inspirational. Have a wonderful week. Hugs, Karen

  17. Your quilts are so beautiful with marvelous quilting. You have made an enormous work with all the different types of design. Maybe some day I could be as good as you, but I have long way to go. One thing it is so fun to FMQ and I love it.

  18. I’m sorry for the response you got. Perhaps they thought it was machine embroidery rather true machine quilting. Some people are frozen in time so to speak and often speak from their ignorance. Yes, quilting by hand is very special as are machine quilting. Both have their challenges and involve so much work! It takes a lot of grace to not point out people’s ignorance. I tend to look closer when people say machine quilting because it is so much for difficult and takes so much practice. Machine embroidery takes hours to do, and a lot of precision. I think sometimes our biases affect our opinions and we don’t think about how our comments or lack there of are harmful. God forgive us for insensitivity to others.

  19. I had the same experience as Donna J did with my MIL. But now she is a quilter herself and constantly tells me how she could never make some of the projects I have! I’ve also had the opposite reaction from a man that saw one of my quilts while at the laundry. Because his grandmother quilted and he grew up with “hand made quilts” he was practially reverential looking at my machine stitched ones and even asked first if he could touch it!!

    So the moral of the story is that when someone asks you about your quilts, before answering ask them “do you quilt or do you know someone personally who quilts?”. Their reaction to the details about what you’ve made may be very different because of that. People whose only exposure has been to store bought quilts can’t (and can’t be expected to) appreciate the amount of effort and skill that has gone into making a quilt and their reaction to your work should be judged and accepted accordingly.

    Wishing you, your husband and Miss Baby a wonderful thnksgiving!

  20. First of all, your quilting is absolutely amazing! Your feathers are stunning and so full of life. When people ask if I do my quilting by hand or machine, my standard response is “While I respect and admire hand quilting, I want to finish my quilts before I die. Therefore, I quilt by machine.”

  21. I think that passer-by was old school not knowing how wonderful expanded the art of quilting has become. ;o) Now-a-days there’s hand, home machine, mid-arm machine and longarm machine quilting.
    Beautiful work!!!
    Have a great day.
    Always, Queenie

  22. I enjoyed reading through the comments and can’t add anything more than has already been said. There is nothing that makes any craft “by hand” more virtuous than “by machine,” and it does allow more time to do more projects that if we did everything by hand.

  23. Love your reply, Linda J!!!!! Exactly!!!! I so agree that most ppl don’t understand the FMQ concept of the art. Somehow, “machine” is equated to something akin to “mindless”, automated (who programmed it???), no human involvement/skill/creativity, etc, etc. One of our (all of us who are quilt artists!) tasks these days is to “educate” all those who are “out there” as to what exactly it is that we do. It is a very mysterious(some think) world we quilters of today are in. The ‘jargon’ is light years away from what is called “traditional hand quilting”. Ex. FMQ (free motion quilting), long/mid-arm machine, EQ, pantograph, etc. I have been met with such response on more than one occasion and decided a while back that each time it occurred I would seize the opportunity to gently engage the person and bring them along into “today’s world of quilting”. We will be ‘wounded’ by such facial expressions for it is with our hearts that we create these wonderful finishes. And we will continue………Hugs and Thanksgiving Blessings………….

  24. My answer is usually “by machine, but not computerized.” I think that’s what most people are really asking these days. The assumption is that “by machine” means “automated,” when that’s very much not the case. I make my quilts by machine except for the binding, but none of the process is computer guided.

    Not that I think that most people really care, but I feel like I’m answering the real question that way.

  25. What influenced your choice of color. What made you want to make this particular quilt. Did you learn any new technique. All good questions and ones I have asked myself.

  26. All of your quilts are gorgeous and your machine quilting is stunning. I think quilters would probably ask different questions than non-quilters. If I asked a quilter a question about her (or his) quilt it would be where their came from and how long it took to make. I’ve hand quilted my quilts or had LAQ quilt them. I’m only now stepping into the world of machine quilting on my sewing machine after practicing on small projects. People that say such things to quilters have no clue as to what goes into making a quilt whether it’s hand stitched from start to finish or machine sewn all the way. Both are beautiful, both take time, commitment, passion and skill for an art that is so very special.

  27. I love all of your quilts, Wendy.
    My mom used to make Belgian Lace by hand…. a painstaking process
    Everything she made was exquisite. I have several marvelous samples of her work. she tried many times to get me hooked but to me it was like macrame with thread and too much work, too tedious. I was not excited.
    I buy lace that is machine made from unknown parts – “imported”, not hand crafted for certain.
    My mom is a lace snob. She looks at machine lace as if it is garbage. I respect that since she has made lovely lace.

    So, I guess I can understand this lady’s biased sentiments from that viewpoint, sort of. Oh well. I think she has a complete misunderstanding of your effort, and that is a sad thing, …. not your problem! :-)

    I love every single one of your quilts, and I am alllllll for machine quilting because you controlled that machine, that is something that I do not think you can say about machine lace.

    Wendy, you built those quilts!
    Love always, Rosemary
    Happy Thanksgiving. Safe travels where ever you enjoy your celebration!

  28. Her honest gut reaction ‘what a gorgeous quilt’. Her next question displayed ignorance. Her reaction to the answer: ignorant and rude! Her problem, not yours so never take it on board!

  29. I have to add that this is one of the reasons I have started rethinking giving my quilts as gifts. I don’t make beautiful quilts like you do Wendy, but still love the fabric, the process and the creativity. When I have given quilts, even baby quilts, some recipients act as though it is a second class gift. I recently made, what I thought was a beautiful quilt, for my daughters BFF. She kindly accepted it, but it just did not seem like she was too thrilled with it. I think I would rather make quilts and donate them to the Children’s hospital, the Veterans hospital, or send them to the victims of the recent storms. Even if they don’t like them, I think they will use them. Isn’t that what quilts are all about??

  30. As a quilter who designs most of her own quilts, if I loved it, I might actually ask for the pattern name. I wouldn’t think to ask if it was by hand or machine. If I loved the quilting (Sweet Meadow comes to mind) I would ask if and how much you mark your tops before quilting, then I would ask how you get such lovely, perfect feathers.

  31. it takes all sorts, she had obviously never tries to machine a quilt before or she would have realised all that went into making and quilting these. Personally I cannot machine quilt only hand so I find it more amazing that they are machined!! All these quilts I would love to have on display each and every one is beautiful and a work of art

  32. Harriet Hargrave, a famous author of machine quilting books, said about maching quilting, “You’re hand quilting with an electric needle!” I admire the skills needed to make quilts by hand and by machine. The machine doesn’t really do the work, the operator who guides it does! Your work, Wendy, is astonishingly lovely.

  33. Wendy, your quilts are lovely, I don’t believe that woman had ever tried to make a quilt by hand or machine or she would have been able to tell. Furthermore those who have never attempted to do what you (and the rest of those out there) do have truly no appreciation of what goes into piecing a quilt, not to mention the lovely quilting you do. Your quilts are works of art, and unfortunately many cannot see or appreciate art when they see it. Thank you for sharing your beautiful work!

  34. I’m always amazed by people who behave this way. They obviously have no idea of the amount of skill required to make a quilt. Hand quilted or otherwise. Dear Wendy, please let these kinds of remarks slide off you as though you were teflon! We fans are here for a reason! You have a beautiful soul, full of talent, and creativity. And best of all you are willing to share your knowledge with us. Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! :)

  35. I love your quilts ..and how you are able to control the machine to do the work you do. Keep it up enjoy each quilt you make and ignore ignorant people. For every one of them there are stacks of us how enjoy seeing your work and ask to themselves how does she do it. Be yourself
    Best wishes
    Blueys Beach Australia

  36. I think many people think of ‘machine quilting’ as setting it up and walking away as the machine does the work. Very, very different from free motion quilting. But we (in the know) understand the difference and that is enough. I really enjoy your designs.

  37. I usually ask about the pattern, fabric choices, etc. Since so many of my friends are quilters, I’m more often asked if I quilt for customers. I don’t and don’t particularly want to…something about turning my hobby (and passion) into “work”. I certainly wouldn’t give that person’s attitude another thought. Your quilting is in a class of its’ own, and some people just can’t possibly appreciate what it takes to produce the kind of results you do!

    Loved the show and tell!! Hope you are having a Happy Thanksgiving!

  38. I had to smile – that’s the sort of response I get all the time here in France. When I’m selling fabrics at events for needlewomen I use several of my quilts as table coverings. I wish I had a euro for every time that someone has lifted the quilt, looked at the back, dropped it like it was poisonous and said to her companions “by machine” with a facial expression that would curdle milk! The worst one was a woman who asked if I made my quilts using a machine and when I said “yes” she told me in no uncertain terms that she did ALL her patchwork by hand and that anything else wasn’t “vrai patch” (real/true patchwork) and then she left! I must have looked rather taken aback at her lack of politeness and another French lady who had been standing by said “Don’t worry dear, I often use a machine too. The true transport is a horse and cart – but I bet she drives a car!” So now when something like that happens I think of her words and smile! After all it’s not that the sewing machine is a new fangled invention – it’s been around a long time!
    (I should say that there are many, many more French ladies who admire my quilts than those occasional ” toujours à la main” (always by hand) quilt snobs.There are others who tease me something rotten about using a machine but they are engaging with me in a shared joke and I don’t mind that – they are not being at all rude! I’ve seen some stunning quilts here all painstakingly and beautifully stitched by hand – but some pretty wonky ones too so it’s no guarantee of perfection. Your work is stunning otherwise we wouldn’t all be visiting your blog and appreciating your skills! )

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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