Hand Piecing: it’s “pieceful”

Hand Piecing: it’s “pieceful”

Do you like hand piecing? Are you interested but never gave it a try? I’m seeing more interest in it lately among quilters, especially on Instagram, so I am going to be doing a series of posts encompassing topics such as my current hand piecing projects, favorite blocks for hand piecing, using it for complicated piecing, different template methods, fun storage for projects, and why we are interested in slow stitching in such a fast paced world.

For the purpose of what I hope will become an ongoing discussion, I want to distinguish between “hand piecing” and “hand quilting” or “hand applique.” For this conversation I am referring to sewing together fabric pieces by hand to either create a quilt block or a quilt top using one piece over and over again. Below are two photos of projects I’m working on that illustrate what I mean. The top one is of 3″ Lemoyne Stars (quilt block) and the bottom one is a postage stamp top I am making by stitching together 1-1/2″ squares that will finish to 1″. That’s what I mean when I say hand piecing. It’s not a commentary on either hand quilting, which I define as joining the 3 layers of the quilts sandwich by hand, or hand applique, which is hand stitching motifs to the surface of a background fabric. They are just different things.

Lemoyne star quilt blocks
hand pieced quilt squares

I love hand quilting. Remarkably, I find I am very productive doing things by hand and am even able to make more of certain kinds of blocks faster by hand than by machine. I think part of that reason and is I spend far more time away from my sewing machine than in front of it so the opportunity to make things without the machine is just greater. Makes sense, right? Now, I mentioned “certain” kinds of blocks. What I mean by that is, typically, one block quilts – like the squares – or blocks with repetitive pieces – like the stars – because you can cut efficiently.

I am going to start my discussion with the stars. Back in 2010 I discovered Lemoyne stars by hand and decided that I could do one a day and wind up with a whole bunch of stars. Well, it worked. But I didn’t do anything with the stars and others discovered stars and star-a-day and they actually made something of their stars. So, I got discouraged. But I kept making stars and I wound up with a whole bunch of stars. Makes even more sense, right?

I have a lot of these stars – the ones with a couple of fabrics for the diamonds and a neutral-ish background. Then I decided to put them into 9-patches so I made some of these:

As I said (twice already, probably), I love to piece by hand and it is super easy to pick up some scissors, thread and a few geometric pieces and start sewing. It satisfies the immediate need to relax, focus and do something that is pleasurable. Maybe it’s an indictment of my current life situation that I find the need to do it so often but I’ve accumulated a lot of hand pieced blocks. Now, I will start focusing on what I can do with them. But, I’m still going to keep doing that random piecing thing. It’s what I love to do.


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9 thoughts on “Hand Piecing: it’s “pieceful””

  • I love this topic! I work in a very busy office at the University of Kentucky with very little down time. It is so relaxing in the evening to pick up needle and thread and hand piece. I admit that it takes much time to piece a block, piece the quilt and then hand quilt the quilt but I find the whole process extremely rewarding, fun – and as you say, “pieceful”! Looking forward to continued discussions on this topic.

  • I love your star project, they are darling! I describe myself as a “hand piecer”. Have I ever machine pieced? Yes. Do I enjoy it. No. LOL I do enjoy hand piecing and it connects me to the past. 95% of my quilts are hand pieced. It slows me down and I enjoy watching the blocks take form. I am not up against any time lines because I now only make quilts for my pleasure. I like to challenge myself with no lines drawn and a scant 1/4″ seams. I have a star quilt picked out to stitch, but no pieces cut as of yet. Perhaps I will make it my “star a day” project. Thank you for the inspiration and beautiful eye candy.

  • Your hand pieced projects are so beautiful. You are obviously very skilled at this technique!
    I used to demo hand piecing at a local heritage center, but I will admit I don’t love doing it. I have pieced several small blocks by hand, but I would definitely rather piece by machine. I enjoy handwork, but my piecing tended to frustrate me when doing it by hand. Maybe it is my need to finish things, and my limited sewing time. If I do it by hand, it never will get finished. 🙂

  • I love to hand piece. It is so relaxing and I can be much more accurate than piecing by machine. I recently made a quilt top out of ‘Rising Sun” blocks that were all hand pieced. I making a wheel of fortune quilt right now and while sewing the fan pieces by machine is pretty straight forward, I’m not anxious to do the curved piecing by machine. I will have to see how that goes.

  • Wonderful to see your postings again – along with such clear and beautiful images. I have never been a hand piecer – when I hear that phrase, panic sets in…similar to when told to applique circles/berries…but I eventually conquered those little pups so maybe I should try hand piecing again – never to old to learn!!

  • Taryn, I love your blog posts, and the star project is wondeful. I’ve seen so many people follow your good example. Thanks for blogging again. You are one of my inspirations, Judy

  • My very first quilt, the teacher wanted us to hand piece and hand quilt it. It was only 16″ square, but I learned a lot. I don’t like to hand piece blocks very often, but I like to hand quilt small things, or add some hand quilting, and I am learning to like some embroidery. Hand work is relaxing if you don’t have a deadline.

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