Skillful Stitching – Elsie Campbell

About twelve years ago I met Elsie Campbell in a machine quilting class taught by Diane Gaudynski. Elsie stood out not just because of her beautiful work, but because she was already an exceptionally talented hand quilter. As in, had won the Mary Krickbaum Award for Best Hand Quilting at the NQA show!! I admired Elsie for her determination to become just as skilled at machine quilting. And, I must say, she succeeded. Today she’s generously sharing some thoughts on adapting hand quilting patterns for machine quilting and vice versa.

elsie headshot
Elsie M. Campbell

Adapting Hand Quilting Patterns for Machine Quilting and Vice Versa

By Elsie M. Campbell

I have been blessed with equal success by being able to win awards in international competitions for both hand quilting and domestic machine quilting. When it comes to the actual quilting processes, I love it all. It takes a lot of work to become proficient at either skill. The results are worth it, I think.

Both processes can be time consuming to do well, but who’s counting? If you enjoy the process, it doesn’t matter how much time it takes. Hand quilting is something I do in the evenings while watching TV with my husband of 45 years, Ken, or in the car on road trips while he drives. Domestic machine quilting takes a little more equipment, and time to set up the machine and work surface, so I usually do that in blocks of time during day time hours. However, the process of choosing, drafting and marking quilting designs are pretty much the same for both kinds of quilting.

You may ask, “Are hand quilting and machine quilting patterns different? Can one be adapted to make them more suitable for the other?” The answer is simply, “Yes. There are subtle differences and of course, one can influence and be adapted for the other.”

Here is my point of view about this topic:

The major difference between machine and hand quilting is that in machine quilting, starting and stopping a line of stitching is tedious at best. It is difficult to keep both sides of the quilt looking tidy due to all the thread ends and lumps that can develop when a line of stitching begins or ends. Machine stitching threads cannot be run through the batting layer when moving from one area to the next as it sometimes is when hand quilting. It is important that the quilting be done as much as possible in continuous, unbroken lines whenever possible. While you can leave long thread ends and use a needle to bury them in the batting by hand, you will still want to minimize the number of thread ends you need to bury.

For example, feather quilting is executed differently depending on whether you stitch by hand or machine. When machine quilting, parts of the feathers much either be echo quilted or stitched on top of previous stitching to get from point A to point B. For hand quilting, the thread is simply run through the batting layer to move from point A to point B.

hand quilted feather
Hand quilted feather ©Elsie M. Campbell
machine quilted feather
Machine quilted feather ©Elsie M. Campbell

Sometimes quilting lines can be eliminated or added, or motifs can be moved closely together to accommodate machine quilting. In this apple border design, for example, by moving the apple motifs close together so that they touch, each side of the design can be stitched continuously by machine without stopping and starting more than once.

apples resized
©Elsie M. Campbell

Look for designs that can be traced without lifting your pencil from the paper. Sometimes designs can be stitched in two passes, the first on one side of the design and the second finishing the opposite side of the design.

Take inspiration from hand quilting designs, but understand that the machine-quilted version does not have to be identical to get the same effect as hand quilting. Look for the possibilities and use your imagination. Another way to adapt feather quilting for easy machine quilting is to separate the feathers so that you won’t have to overlap your stitching exactly.

There are so many great books and ideas out there to inspire your own quilting patterns, whether you quilt by hand or machine. It is most important, though, that you enjoy what you are doing, no matter what your expertise level, or which process you prefer.

Below: examples of Elsie’s expertise in both hand and machine quilting

Elegance Full resized
Elegance ©Elsie M. Campbell Best Hand Quilting at Road to California 2016 and Best Hand Quilted Quilt at AQS Charlotte 2015
Elegance detail resized
Detail of Elegance ©Elsie M. Campbell
Aunt MiMis Flower Garden II resizedWM
Aunt Mimi’s Flower Garden II ©Elsie M. Campbell Best Traditional Quilt at Road to California 2014 and Best Traditional Quilt at AQS Quiltweek Charlotte 2014 plus numerous other awards
Aunt MiMi's Flower Garden II Detail resized
Detail Aunt Mimi’s Flower Garden II ©Elsie M. Campbell (quilted on a domestic machine)


Thank you so much Elsie!

Elsie M. Campbell is an award-winning quilt maker who travels and teaches across the nation, teaching hand quilting, precision piecing, and hand and machine appliqué and quilting techniques and quilt design. She has produced many award-winning hand-quilted and machine-quilted quilts in addition to constructing many more as gifts for family and friends. To learn more about Elsie please be sure to visit her website, .


3 Responses to Skillful Stitching – Elsie Campbell

  1. Excellent article. You are gifted with the art of teaching along with your many other talents.

  2. Beautiful work, as always, Elsie! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your willingness to teach.

Leave a reply