Tips for Combining Machine + Hand Quilting

Today we are thrilled to have a post from our talented Aurifil Artisan, Jessica Skultety of Quilty Habit! She created a beautiful quilt using  Anna Maria Horner‘s new 12wt thread collection, Stitch Gallery. It is available as a Limited Edition in the super fabulous wooden box you’ll see below, and also in our standard cardboard packaging. She has kindly shared some of her favorite tips for how she combines hand quilting and machine quilting! Take it away Jessica!


Hi! I’m Jessica Skultety of Quilty Habit, and I teach, lecture, blog, and quilt obsessively. As an Aurifil Artisan, I’d love to share some quilting ideas with you today. Combining machine and hand work isn’t a new idea, but it’s an option that can add another special detail to your quilt. You don’t have to add a lot of either one to make a huge impact!

First, I’d like to introduce you to my latest passion project, “Bouquet,” and explain the process behind quilting it. Then, I’ll share 5 tips and more inspiration!

Quilting is my favorite part of the quilt-making process. It didn’t start out that way, but as soon as I started to free motion quilt on my home machine, I caught the bug. This is not to say that I don’t quilt with my walking foot – because I do!

One of my main goals for a quilt is to showcase or emphasize its design with the quilting itself. This is sometimes difficult to figure out, but it gets easier over time. It’s like deciding how to decorate a room: how will you accentuate its features? Often, for me, this means creating movement with waves and spirals.

I’m also a huge, longtime fan of Anna Maria Horner’s saturated, colorful fabrics, so I quickly began to dream up a wall quilt with her older fabrics and newest line, Floral Retrospective (which, luckily, contains some reprinted fabrics in brand spanking new colorways), plus her new special edition 12 weight Aurifil thread collection. Aren’t they so beautiful (and that box!!)? Since orange peel quilts are my favorites to make, I used petals as a starting point, much like my first orange peel quilt, Scatter.

After making the petals and adhering them with fusible and raw edge applique, I machine quilted in a circle from the bottom left to emphasize the circular, spreading out motion of the orange peels/flower petals. I quilted with 50 weight Aurifil 2600 (Dove Gray, my favorite) so that it would somewhat blend in the background but show on the petals.

My walking foot was a big help here; I marked the first couple of circles with my hera marker, starting at the bottom left corner, and then followed the lines roughly. You can use the guide on your walking foot to follow previous circles, but I chose to make them imprecise (imprecision in quilting is my favorite).

I’m admittedly a novice hand quilter, and I wanted to keep it simple but striking. First, I chose the Anna Maria Horner 12 weight threads that matched the quilt’s colors (leaving out just orange and yellow). The colors I used: 2566 (Wisteria), 4020 (Fuchsia), 2026 (Chalk), 1125 (Medium Teal), 4662 (Spotted, variegated green), 1248 (Grey Blue), 2845 (Light Juniper), and 3660 (Bubblegum, variegated pink). Can I just say how much I’ve fallen in love with using variegated threads for hand-quilting?

I marked my lines with a blue water soluble marker and ruler, right over the machine quilting. Then, I blissfully sat on my couch for a few hours with an audiobook in hand, stitching away. I’ve tried a few different hand stitching threads, and admittedly I love Aurifil because of the huge variety of colors and smoothness of the thread gliding through three layers. The thread doesn’t split easily. I wore my thimble but barely needed it!

Originally, I hand-quilted one line extending from almost every petal and between, but on second thought I decided to add another line of contrasting thread next to it. The quilting shows even more now! I love how it shows up on the back, too:

We took Bouquet for a walk down a (usually crowded) alley in Easton, PA. It was simply too windy to take more pictures, but this one will do! I’m really pleased that the hand-quilting shows up from far away. Again, another element added to my quilt.

5 Tips for Combining Machine + Hand Quilting

  • Machine quilt first, then hand quilt.
  • Use a frame or don’t – find what works for you. I’ve only hand-quilted small quilts and projects so far (see below) so a frame hasn’t felt necessary.
  • If you want to achieve consistency with your hand stitches and you’re new like me, try sashiko stitching first. If you buy a premarked fabric, you can practice making a beautiful design. Aurifil 12 weight threads can be used for this, too!
  • Get yourself a needle minder. Mine are magnetized and stick onto my project, so I never lose anything!
  • Be open to imperfection. It’s impossible for every single stitch to be perfectly straight, every time. Let loose and embrace the notion that you’re making a beautiful handmade piece of art

More Examples

  • I love how my friend Chawne Kimber (@cauchycomplete) regularly combines hand and machine quilting. Check out the details she added to her Cotton Sophisticate quilt.
  • Within the last year, I’ve been combining lots of machine quilting with hand stitching. Here are some other samples with links to their blog posts:

Clockwise from top left: “Starlight,” Fall Table Topper, Sashiko Flower Pillow, “Fractured Cathedral Window.”

And, if you’ve read all the way to the end, thank you! And thanks to Aurifil for providing the threads for this project. Let me know – have you tried combining hand and machine? If not, what’s holding you up?


Thank you so much Jessica! The quilt is beautiful and the tips and tricks are certainly a wonderful resource for anyone looking to try out this technique. You can find more details about all three of the Anna Maria Horner limited edition collections HERE. And stay tuned to the Auribuzz blog for the official collection announcement!

8 thoughts on “Tips for Combining Machine + Hand Quilting

  1. Loved your explanation and especially the tips. If I have to add one thing it’s be kind to yourself. Don’t be overly critical and don’t sit too long in the same position!!

  2. Thank you for all of this information. This really is right where I am with my quilting. Yearning to do more hand quilting but afraid to commit to the whole quilt. I am anxious to give it a try – machine and hand. You made my Day!

  3. I have a long Work in Slow Progress (WISP) mini quilt that is mostly hand quilting, but I did some quick stitch in the ditch to stabilize the layers as I knew it would be something that I worked on very infrequently. I’m going to think more about your tips the next time I pull it out to work on!

  4. Yes I have combined machine and hand quilting, on a lap sized quilt, which is the quilt I learned how to piece on. Everything about that quilt is a first for me. I used a large hoop as I moved from block to block. I marked my designs with a chalk pencil and made up my own motifs.

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