The Quilt Doctor shares tips and tricks for hand quilting.

Dear Quilt Doctor,

For the most part, I send all of my quilts to my long-arm quilter. But my sister is expecting her first baby and the fabric for the baby quilt I made is so soft and pretty, I want to hand-quilt this one. Do I need anything special?

Liz Hanson

Butler, TX

Dear Liz,

Aren't you the sweetest auntie! The new baby will love snuggling in the quilt, but the mom-to-be will be so touched by your efforts. Thinking about it gives me goose bumps!

Beyond the all-important needle and thread choices, there isn't too much more you'll need. Basically, hand quilting is a series of running stitches made through all layers of a quilt with a needle and thread. Betweens is the style of needle most quilters use. Experiment with sizes until you find one that gives you the look you want. Mercerized cotton thread is often used for hand quilting; however, you could use perle cotton and a larger needle if they would be appropriate for the style of your quilt.

I like to use a thimble to protect my fingers. There are many to choose from--leather, metal, plastic. There are even special pads that stick to your finger. Find one that suits you best. There are also custom-made thimbles for difficult-to-fit fingers.

To me, a quilting hoop is necessary. Wooden hoops, or frames, are used to hold quilt layers together. It keeps the layers smooth and tight for hand quilting. Hoops are portable and take up little storage space; you can retighten them and reposition the quilt as needed.

A hoop works well for small quilts, such as a baby quilt. Down the road, if you decide you like hand quilting, you can invest in a frame for larger quilts.

When shopping for a quilting hoop, make sure it is made from a sturdy wood, such as birch, and choose one that has a diameter of 10" to 20". Avoid wooden embroidery hoops for quilting; they just aren't strong enough.

Good luck with your hand quilting. Be sure to post a photo on our Web site gallery when you've finished!

Smooches to the new baby,