12 February 2020

A little happy tutorial ~ Hand Quilting

I thought I would share today some of my 'little happy' tips for how I like to hand quilt.  I know I've been promising this blog post for days...months..years..ahem!!!   I do not profess to be an expert hand quilter and I am sure there are many that find my big stitches unappealing, however, I think they are one of things that makes my quilts recognisable as mine and most importantly, I thoroughly enjoy hand quilting my way!  WARNING...it's a very rambling post, so you may want to grab a mug of tea or coffee or something equally refreshing!

First off, lets talk about what items I use.  99.9% of the time I use Aurifil Cotton 12wt thread, I love how the 12wt, makes your stitches visible, yet not over powering... but heavy enough that all my hard work shows up.  I use a Clover Goldeye Embroidery needle.  I'm right handed and I wear a Prym Ergonomic thimble in size large on my right hand middle thimble.  I also like to have a little pair of scissors to hand.

For the wadding, most of the time I use Sew Simple 100% cotton wadding, occasionally I have also used 100% Bamboo wadding, but the 100% cotton is my go to and the one that is in all our kits.  The general of rule of thumb in terms of the wadding is to allow an extra 4"  all round on top of our quilt size and then a further 4" all round for the backing fabric.  So for example for a 60" square quilt top, your wadding would need to be 68" square and the backing fabric 76" square.  Once quilted, you then trim away the excess wadding and backing fabric.  On a mini quilt I make this 1" all round not 4".  

These days I use a quilting basting spray rather than pins...if you're on Instagram, at the top of my page in my saved stories, you can see a series of photo's where Andy (my willing helper) and I basted my Liberty Periodical quilt.  I've screen shot them and added them below....

So once you've you layered your quilt, you're ready to get started, but just to add, I do not use a quilting hoop, I simply lay the quilt on my lap and use it's own weight to get the right tension in my stitches.  If you find it easier 'hoop' up, there is no right or wrong!

I always start in the centre.

I make a knot in my thread and start from the back.  Put my needle in and then tug the thread so that it goes through the backing fabric and embeds itself in the wadding.   You may need to gently use your nail to gently help close the hole.  The reason that I always start on the back of the quilt is that I found that although the hole left in the fabric closes very easily, very, very occasionally it can just pull the the warp or weft threads slightly in the backing fabric, it's hardy noticeable, but if you're like me, your eye always goes to the slight imperfection in my work, but because it's on the back, then I don't worry in the same way. 

Also when I put my needle in, I don't start directly underneath where I want my stitch to begin, I move the needle just a smidge away, but I keep it in the line of where my quilting stitches will be.  The reason I do this is firstly, it gives the knot more chance of bedding into the wadding, but if I'm using a darker quilting thread and my fabrics are light in colour, then I will not see the trail of thread underneath.

So in summary, here's my thread and knot on the back of the quilt....

I've then given it a gentle tug and it disappears into the wadding, leaving the tiniest of holes....

and here it is after I've gentle closed the hole with my nail.

I then do a series of even running stitches.  Mine are not super tiny like traditional stitches, I get about 5 to an inch.  I hold my needle as I would for any hand sewing, rather than the traditional rocking method.

I like to put 2/3 stitches on to my needle at a time, I think this helps keep my stitches in a straight (ish) line...

and I use my thimble to push the needle through the layers.  

When it comes to finishing, I take my needle to the back, knot the thread ....

..and then pull the knot back into the wadding.  I then bring my needle back out an inch or so away, do a little over stitch just to be on the safe side, that way I know there is no fear of the quilting coming undone, then take my thread back in, come out again about an inch away and then pull tight and cut off.  Again, for all of this, I follow the line of my quilting stitches, so there is no worry of unsightly lines of thread being seen through the backing fabric.  Also, if there are any little holes from where you pulled the knot through, just use your nail to gently close them.

Here's the back of my Summer Sampler.  As you can see generally I tend to shadow quilt around the outside of my applique shapes and blocks.... normally my stitches are anything from 1/16" to 1/8" away from the shape or block outline.  From talking with people, one of the things that they worry about is the size of the stitches on the back of their quilts..... initially they can be tiny or too big, but certainly different in size to the stitches on the quilt top.  What I always say is even stitches do come with practice, so you will get there and honestly if all the stitches look the same, who would know that isn't what they are meant to be like anyway!

When I want to grid quilt, I use a Clover Hera Marker and a quilting ruler to crease mark the lines, which I then follow with my stitches.  I never use a pen or pencil or marker of any description.

When I did the grid quilting on my Spring Sampler, where the hand quilting went underneath the flowers, I simply ran the stitches through the backing fabric and wadding only and then bought my needle back to the front and continued hand quilting as normal when I reached the other side of the flowers.

****Edited to add**** My favourite 'go to' thread for hand quilting is Aurifil 12wt and my favourite needles are my Big Stitch Hand Quilting Needles...both available HERE.

I hope that helps and takes a little bit of the mystery of hand quilting away...honestly just go for it.  You will soon settle in to a rhythm of quilting and find a size of stitch that works for you.  

Happy stitches!


  1. This is really helpful thank you,I've been really scared of starting to hand quilt my 2 finished quilt tops. I love your work, the delicacy of your colour choices and embroidery..... So inspiring!

  2. Thank you! So very helpful. I enjoy your insta and blog. It is candy for my eyes. ��

  3. Welcome back. Thanks for a great photo tutorial of how you quilt. Wonderful.

  4. Thank you for a great tutorial xx

  5. Hi, your quilts are so pretty and I am inspired by your tutorials.I am going to try using a basting spray for the first time and wondered if you could recommend a spray that works well please? Many thanks, Pamela

  6. This is the most helpful tutorial I have seen for hand quilting, thank you so much for sharing this. x

  7. I love to hand quilt and see that we are very similar in how we do it! I also hand baste all my quilts, it might take extra time to get done, but it’s the part of the process when I make decisions about how I will quilt the piece.

  8. I hand quilt too but I have never used spray - I think this would improve my quilts. x

  9. Thank you so much for this! I tried a hoop as suggested by others & it just wasn’t working for me. I have started my quilting but haven’t used knots. I will now but am worried all the stitching I have already done will unravel 😵


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