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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wadding , Needles and Marking Pencils

Wadding is what batting is called here in the UK. I've tried a lot of different brands over the years, but I've learned to buy good brands and not to buy the cheap ones. After all, if I'm spending a lot of time quilting, and spending a lot of money on the fabrics, it is a false economy to buy cheap wadding. I mostly make wholecloth quilts and also big Hawaiian applique quilts. My choice of wadding would be either wool or cotton wadding.

The pink quilt is a reproduction Allendale quilt. I traced the patterns of the older quilt and traced them onto the polished cotton. These Allendale quilts were professionally marked and I find them fascinating. Lovely designs to quilt. I now use wool wadding for all my wholecloths.

I also make very large Hawaiian quilts because I like the applique involved. Wool wadding makes the quilting look good on these, too.

When I took photography classes many years ago, we were taught about "archival" grade materials - materials that were of special quality and would last a long time. So I think that special quilts need to have natural, high quality materials to stand the test of time. Of course for a quilt that was for children or would be used a lot, I would use a good brand of polyester wadding.

I collect antique British quilts. North Country or Durham quilts mostly have cotton wadding in them. It was available in the local stores as rolls. Sometimes quilts were "double wadded" for greater warmth. These quilts have lasted very well although sometimes the wadding has shifted or thinned with use. No washing machines back then, I think it was a washing board and a mangle!

The Welsh quilts almost always have wool in them, either as carded wool or as an old worn blanket. Wool was readily to hand, if you wanted to scour it yourself, or you could get it ready to use from the local woollen mill(of which there were many in Wales). Wool looks great and is easy to quilt. It looks very sculptural - if I'm going to do a lot of quilting, I want it to look good, and not as flat as a pancake! Wool washes well in tepid water and all my old quilts wash well.

By the way, don't quilt with old blankets - I tried this as an exercise and it just about did my fingers in - I can't understand how the old quilters could achive such good results, but they did....

Another Welsh wedding quilt - you can see how the wool makes it look great.

The only problem with wool is the moth problem. As long as the wool is enclosed in cotton, you shouldn't have a problem. But all wool quilts need special attention. I keep mine in moth balls - which smell better these days. Museums treat these by freezing the quilt or item which kills the little beggers. I am told that if I want to have one of my quilts displayed at the Quilt Museum in York, it would have to be frozen first. The last thing a quilt museum wants to do is to possibly introduce an infestation of moths.

But that aside, I do find wool lovely to work with - and the needle really glides through it.

I just wanted to mention the pencils that I use. For the wholecloths on light fabrics I use a mechanical pencil with 2B leads (slightly softer). You have to use a very light hand with these. For dark materials I either use a Clover white pen or the Berol Karisma chalk pencils. These are artists chalk pencils and come in a variety of colours. They mark nicely (as long as you keep a nice point on them) and the excess easily comes off with a piece of poly wadding as an eraser. The dark colours also work well on light fabrics - I successfully used light green on a pine tree quilt.

Needles - I generally use a size 10 or 11 John James quilting needle - but in the "Big Eye" variety - they thread so much easier. Size 12 just break on me, as I quilt with a classic "rocking stitch".


  1. What size is your Hawaiian quilt? It's amazing!

  2. Great info and pictures....thank you!

  3. Pippa, Super information, and I love your quilting! You do beautiful work!

  4. love these quilts you show! so another that likes John James needles - I do believe I need to order some of these today.

  5. I love your quilting!
    I have always wanted to do both a whole cloth and a hawaiian have inspired me again! Beautiful work

  6. These are stunning examples-I am so pressed to start some hand quilting now! I just hate making samples-but I guess I will. Gotta start somewhere and you have all led me down the path!

  7. I love wool too and have used it. Great info on the care for them. Your quilts are just fantastic and to belong in a museum. I hope, I have a chance to make a gorgeous Hawiian quilt like that. Just a stunner! Great with the simple tools you use.

  8. Mary, that Hawaiian quilt is about 90 x90 inches. It is a traditional pattern from the 1930's called Kaui O Na Molokama and I bought it from Poakalani of Honolulu. I love to look at their patterns. Its amazing what you can do over the internet! Pippa

  9. Very stunning! Your hand quilting is gorgeous!


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