Machine vs Hand Quilting

Mary Ellen Cummings

Every June, at Rose Hill Manor in Frederick, Maryland, there is a juried quilt show. Each show seems to surpass the last. In previous years, variations of the same patterns were evident.

The year 2000 saw a few duplications. There were many innovative uses of different fabrics and "enhancers" such as braid, buttons, photos on cloth, etc. My companion chose "Tree of Life" (a sampler) as her favorite, but I couldn’t forget the wall hanging "Blue Heron Flying," an applique.

In a dimly lit corner of one room were shelves displaying photos, vases, cups, etc. It seemed a strange display in a quilt show. Closer inspection revealed that this was actually a quilt! The fabrics chosen, the dim lighting, and the craftsmanship created a perfect illusion.

Many entries were machine pieced and quilted. This fact was disappointing to me, as well as to my companion who is half my age, but prefers hand quilting. Machine piecing is acceptable, and even required for certain patterns. However, a beautiful quilt deserves the attention and loving care only hand quilting can give.

Recent issues of quilt magazines are featuring patterns designed for machine piecing and quilting. One quilter who buys flea market tops prefers machine quilting so the quilt will lie flat. Mt. Tabor Quilters have finished many "trunk" quilt tops which were often in bad repair and poorly made. Hand quilted and bound, these tops became lovely quilts just as the piecer planned.

This year’s visit to Lancaster County, Pa., to see quilts made by the Amish and Mennonites revealed deviations from the "sameness" of patterns in past years. Some of the same beautiful appliquéd quilts were available, but some of the eye-catching variations were new Log Cabin quilts— "Log Cabin Star", "Log Cabin and Fan", and "Medallion Log Cabin." Also a beautiful "Wedding Ring" which featured embroidered flowers on each piece of the white background fabric. All of these quilts were made for the non-Amish trade, or the "English" as the Amish say.

If you are a fabricoholic, you must visit Zooks. They have been at the same location for 28 years, but this was my first visit. The store’s interior is a sea of color. Yellow is not my favorite color and there were so many bolts of yellows that I could now concentrate on the other fabrics. Certainly my favorite Hoffmans, Cranston, and Bernatex fabrics were there, but I didn’t see them. If you know exactly what you want, go to Zooks; they probably have it. But don’t go there to be inspired by one fabric that begs to be purchased.

Read other Quilting articles by Mary Ellen Cummings