My Hand-Piecing Adventure

Prior to starting work here at Connecting Threads (CT) two years ago, I was a quilter who rarely did hand work other than sewing on binding. The daily exposure to various projects and ideas from co-workers and outside designers has inspired me to try new things. Staff members are often asked if they want to make samples for catalogs and blogs. I chose projects that stretched my skills, such as a small bag made with EPP and an embroidered table topper, and discovered I really enjoy hand work!

Piecing by Hand – The Old-Fashioned Way
Recently, two things coincided: I started remodeling my quilt studio in a new color scheme and I found a pattern in the August, 2013 American Patchwork & Quilting magazine called Make the Cut by Wenche Wolff Hatling of Northern Quilts. The geometric design was perfect for fussy cutting and hand-piecing. I read up on hand-piecing online and in my quilt books and decided to make a smaller wall hanging version in the new colors for my studio – yellow, gray, white, and black.

Sewing Supplies
I gathered my favorite hand sewing supplies which include:

•    20858 Essential thread in Grey
•    21198 Black Gold Needles –Appliqué/Sharps No.9 (see my blog about them) *
•    81742 Open-Sided Thimble (see my thimble survey blog) *
•    81979 Perfect Scissors by Karen Kay Buckley
•    81713 Omnigrid Miniature Kit – the 1” x 6” ruler from the set (any quilting ruler with 1/4″ marks will work) *
•    80937 Appliqué Pins, Resin Head *
•    82127 Essential Sandboard
•    81911 Clover Needle Threader *
•    82032 Dome Threaded Needle Case *

* These items are currently on sale!!

The Dome Threaded Needle Case has been around for a long time; it was often used by hand-quilters for the convenience of having several needles pre-threaded when they gathered to quilt as a group at a frame. The Dome keeps your threaded needles ready to sew at all times with no tangling, is easy to use, and helpful in situations when threading needles is awkward or a hassle. I find it useful on long car trips so I don’t have to deal with threading needles in a moving car (although it is manageable to do so with the Clover Needle Threader in your lap).

I would recommend watching the video on our CT website; I embarrassed myself demonstrating it to co-workers prior to knowing the correct way to load the needles! You do not tie the knot at the end of thread before loading; I do tie a single knot at the eye of the needle so my needles are less likely to come unthreaded when sewing. Here is a picture of the needle case loaded with ten needles and thread for the next time I need it:

Here are the steps so far:
•    I chose an assortment of fabrics with strong fussy cutting potential and a background fabric (the fabrics shown are not from CT)
•    Using the acrylic templates mentioned in the article, I carefully fussy cut all the pieces and used the template in the pattern to cut the background triangles
•    With a small quilter’s ruler and an Essential Sandboard (to stabilize the fabric while drawing), I lightly drew all the ¼” seam allowance lines with a tilted sharp pencil emphasizing the points where the lines intersected

•    After arranging the pieces on my design wall to plan color and fabric placement, I took a photo with my phone for later reference

•    I put the pieces for each block in a separate small plastic bag and the background pieces in a larger bag along with the individual block bags

•    I gathered all my sewing supplies and the bags for three blocks in a pencil box so I could sew when I had a chance

Recently, I had to take my elderly father to the Emergency Room. I took my loaded pencil box and was able to sit in the exam room with him and sew contentedly for five hours. My Grandma Willie Ann always told me “Busy hands, happy heart!” I was glad I had my Dome loaded; it was convenient to just pull out the pre-theaded needles. Dad was fine after he had IV fluids for dehydration and I got two blocks completed! Here are the two blocks and part of a third. Don’t you love fussy-cutting! I do!

Here is the front and back of one of the blocks.

For the third block, I will add the diamond-shaped pieces to the stars, paying attention to the paisley design placement so it swirls consistently around the star.

Using tiny, hopefully even, stitches, I sew along the drawn line. Some quilters take a backstitch every time they load the needle with a few stitches and pull the needle through. Since my seams were short and this will be a wall hanging, I took a backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam and pulled my needle through the loop of thread to tie a knot at the end.

Note: Even if you can’t find or don’t want to make the same pattern, I hope this information will help and encourage you to try hand-piecing! Popular blocks for hand-piecing include Tumbling Blocks, LeMoyne Stars, and Bow Ties. Blocks that have diamonds, hexagons, and inset Y-seams are sometimes easier to do by hand. Here are three downloadable patterns from independent designers that could be adapted to hand-piecing: Kaleidoscope, Chasing Rainbows and Little Ones. If you want to see an incredible hand-piecing adventure, search for Candied Hexagons online!

Please check back for my follow-up posting about this project. Next time I will show you what I learned about pressing the blocks and joining them together.

P.S. I would enjoy hearing from you about your hand-piecing adventures!


  1. jenna - August 13, 2013

    I enjoyed reading this blog post, very interesting! Thanks Ann

  2. Lorraine - August 13, 2013

    Oh, oh, oh! Do I have good news for you!! There is an easier way! Inklingo!! Fabric is pressed to freezer paper, run through the printer and like magic…stitching lines and sewing lines. And fussy cutting is a dream. Go to Your stars are fabulous, by the way!

  3. Ann - August 13, 2013

    Lorraine, thanks for your reply. I discovered Inklingo when I explored sites for hand-piecing hexagons…after I wrote today’s blog. 300 different hexagons – WOW! Have you tried printing and using their templates? It does sound like a great idea, especially if you can eliminate the step of tracing lines. I am not sure how it would work to print many of the same shape on a piece of fabric. I tend to plan the fabrics for one block at a time with scrappy quilts. I want to learn more about it since I do enjoy the hand-piecing and the geometric designs.
    The Candied Hexagons variations online are amazing. I have no business taking on another big project but I am so tempted to start making hand-pieced hexagons with my neutral/taupe collection!

  4. Ginger - August 13, 2013

    I love how your fussy cutting makes the stars pop.

  5. Ann - August 14, 2013

    Thanks Ginger! I enjoy fussy cutting and a star block like this is usually enhanced by the effect of the repeating design. Sometimes the effect you get is a surprise. For the block with the gray polka dots in the outer diamonds,I was disappointed that I cut the yellow design the opposite way than planned but I ended up with the interesting designs formed by the black lines!

  6. Sally Rooney - August 18, 2013

    This sounds a lot like Kalidescopic Quilts…I love the One Block Wonder too for the surprising and creative options of design and color. I to work on technique and perfect points….thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Mary Agnes - January 8, 2015

    I’ve been trolling the internet for hand piecing articles since I decided to do Mari’s little quilts by hand and I came across your post on Notions through a Google search. I can’t seem to get to it through CT though. Have you posted any thing further on your progress on this quilt. Earlier this evening I saw this pattern on someone else’s blog and now that I see your fussy cut version, I want to do it as soon as Mari lets me out of Little Quilts.