A Comprehensive Guide To Big Stitch Quilting
Quilting by hand is wonderfully therapeutic.
Big stitch quilting, which is often called "utility quilting" is a technique for hand stitching a quilt, but what makes it special is the larger stitch size. The larger stitches are generally ornamental.
The first quilt I made as a kid was hand quilted, and while it's not the prettiest quilt I've ever made, I vividly remember how it made me feel to work on it, and eventually complete it.
Fast forward to today, I do most of my quilting with a machine, but still love the look of a perfectly imperfect large stitch hand quilted finish.
Whether you're new to quilting or came here looking for some tips on working with heavier materials, here's everything you need to know to get started large stitch quilting.
Hand Quilting vs. Machine Quilting
It takes a certain level of patience and love for the art of quilting to appreciate the allure of doing large stitch quilting by hand.
Sewing machines that can do quilting generally can't handle thicker thread, which is why many people are forced to quilt by hand if they want a particular look.
Using a sewing machine for quilting is faster, and ultimately accomplishes the same goal, its less personal, and leaves you with a softer look that isn't as eye-catching as the thick threads of hand quilting.
Materials You'll Need For Quilting Big Stitch Style
To get started quilting with this style, you're going to need some basic materials, most of which you should already have lying around if this isn't your first quilting project.
- Quilt Top Fabric - This is the backbone of your quilt. If you're making a large quilt, don't skimp on the quality of your quilt top fabric, especially if you're committing to hand quilting it. You want your hard work to last.
- Size 8-12 Thread - The lower the number, the thicker the thread. For most large stitch quilts, size eight thread works beautifully. It's thick enough to be prominent, but still easy enough to work with even on large projects. Perle cotton is a great choice. Perle cotton is generally larger, and aesthetically pleasing for this style of stitching.
- Big Quilting Needles - The needle you use is very much up to personal preference. With hand stitches, it's all about comfort and usability. The only thing to watch out for is to make sure your thread will fit in the eye of the needle.
- Painters Tape / Masking Tape - Minimally adhesive tape is a great tool to use rather than marking your quilt top with a marker. You can measure out where you want to quilt, then lay tape on that area to follow along as a guide. The beauty of using minimally adhesive tape is that they aren't very sticky and won't leave a residue on the fabric.
- A Ruler/Self Healing Cutting Mat - Most of the time, you can find these as a combo. You can purchase a self-healing cutting mat that has rulers as part of the design.
How To Big Stitch Hand Quilt
As with normal hand quilting, the first step is to figure out where you want to stitch.
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Step 1 - Lay a guideline.
Once you've determined where you want to stitch (assuming you already have a design drawn out or are using a template), use the masking tape to lay down a guideline for where you want to stitch. This helps keep everything straight and even.
Step 2 - Make a Knot
Get your needle threaded, cutting off a manageable amount of thread. On the end of the thread, tie a simple square knot.
To get your stitch started, stitch into your quilting fabric a cm above or below (depending on your design) where you want your first stitch to start. Bring the needle back up, then pull the knot through the first hole you made, so it rests on the backside of the second hole.
Now your anchored and ready to start quilting!
Step 3 - Quilting
If you want, you can use a thinner thread and a sewing machine for the bulk of the quilt and use the big stitch hand quilting for decorative stitching.
You can also do your entire quilt using larger stitches.
Starting where your knot is anchored, begin with a single stitch, but rather than pulling the needle all the way out, press it flat against the fabric and push it through to create a second and possibly 3rd stitch.
This method will drastically speed you up and make your stitches more consistent and even.
Step 4 - Tying Off The Stitch
Once you've finished a section or run out of thread, tie a knot that rests against the end of your last stitch. Sometimes pressing against the fabric while you pull the knot tight helps keep the knot flush.
Once you have a knot, push the needle through the same hole and pull it out the back to tie off stitch.
Step 5 - Get Creative!
You can do a lot with big stitch quilting, so switch up the color of thread you're using, play around with different patterns and have fun with it!
If you're going to hand quilt, you should make the most out of the creative freedom that stitching by hand provides you.
If you're more of a visual learner, check out this great video on quilting with big stitches:
Big stitch quilting gives your quilt a unique look that you simply can't get by using a sewing machine.
With these quick tips, you can get started big stitch quilting today.
Let us know about your quilting projects in the comments section below!