An Old Argument — Hand Quilting Versus Machine Quilting

To hand quilt or to machine quilt — decisions, decisions. It’s really up to the individual creating the quilt, as it’s simply a matter of personal preference. In my mind, when you’re quilting, you have to decide what makes you happy. Some people prefer quilting by hand, some prefer machine and some do a combination of both. There’s really no right or wrong way to do it, because the art of quilting is just that — an art. At the end of the day it’s about what brings you enjoyment.


What does hand quilting involve? Besides patience and dedication, it requires a certain amount of dexterity and manual sewing skill. Hand quilters sew the elements of the quilt together using a quilting needle. They attach the blocks, seams and binding all by hand. A quilt created by hand tends to look more traditional than a machine quilted piece. Hand quilters may stabilize their work using a frame or a hoop. If you want to try hand quilting, it’s best to start with a simple pattern that will give you an elegant and old-fashioned looking final product.


Though hand quilting may take longer, hand quilters often enjoy the process. Sewing can be very relaxing and therapeutic, and hand quilters may not want to rush through these benefits using a machine to quilt. If they’re in no rush for the finished product, why not enjoy the journey of creating?


Machine quilters prefer attaching the quilt top, backing and batting with machine stitching. Machine quilting gives you a different look on your final piece than hand quilting. The stitching is much more uniform and polished than a hand quilted piece. It’s also simpler and quicker to stitch together more complicated quilt patterns when using a machine. Fans of this style will also argue that sewing on a machine can be just as therapeutic and relaxing as hand stitching, with the benefit of being much faster.


Some quilters may prefer to use a combination of methods to create their art. It’s possible to hand stitch some elements of the quilt and do the final attaching of the batting and backing with machine stitching. This will give you a quilt with that old-fashioned hand stitching in the front, but the ease of machine stitching when you attach the backing. You could even switch things up just to keep the project interesting or practice one type of quilting that you don’t normally do.


Though some quilters like to argue about which method is better, there really is no value judgement here. The styles are just different. It just depends on how you like to work, what kind of finished product you want to create and what you personally value in the art of quilting. If you want to keep the art of hand quilting alive, fantastic. If you prefer the polished look of a machine quilted piece and you’re cranking out quilts left and right, that’s also great. In the end, if there are still people creating quilts with any method, the art of quilting is alive and well and that’s what truly matters!

Need some quilting ideas or help putting your quilt together? Contact me. I’d be happy to help!

-Teresa Giltner, Owner, MT Needleworks

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