When I first started hand quilting for a business was in the early '70's and was contracted by a company called Quilt Country out of Kansas City. It was in the garment district and run by 2 men. They had hundreds of quilts and tops they had collected and started their business in repair and sales. They contracted me to repair as in un-quilt the 'old' quilts and replace batting, backing and re-quilt along with tops to quilt. He would send the materials I needed,the batting, backing thread.
One particular quilt that had its own history was a small yellow and white print. I don't remember the pattern but the backing was in bad shape, it had dry-rotted and taking it apart VERY carefully to the batting, there were bug legs, tiny sticks in the cotton batt. It was real cotton bolls that was used by the little lady. I kept working on it and that was my first experience with researching.
I found out that the quilt belonged to a family who found it in the attic and had the notes of the quilt maker. They traveled West and she would piece a little when she could, sharing scraps with their travel-mates in wagons and then, nothing. We didn't know if they were killed on the way, but, there was still some blood on the quilt. Faint but there. To get to the topic...the hand quilting was Still There. The fabric had dry rot in places, but the thread and quilting was Still there.
As an amateur historian, this was a special quilt for me and was able to meet the owners when I was finished. This was before the 'quality fabric, thread, etc'. and we used what we had at the time. After several years, I cringed at the thought that ALL of the quilts I worked on for this company used 100% poly batting.....eeeeeeekkkk....
Now to add to this, there's Nothing wrong with poly-batt! But, you need to use materials that are period correct. If you're working on an antique quilt, be sure to use the materials for that period. In most cases, cotton or wool batting. These make for a nice, flat finish to the quilt as well. Practice with batting samples from your quilt shop to see which 'needles' better for you. There are different weights and density to these and some are a little trickier to work with.
Do hand quilted quilts hold up as well as machine quilted....of Course they do!!! There are quilts out there 200 years old and are still in tack. sometimes the semas or the fabrics are a little worse for wear, but....the hand quilting is STILL THERE!