How to Hand Quilt - Hand Quilting Basics


Hand stitching gives your quilt a better overall feel and a more classic look. Quilting by hand is often a sought after style of quilting, and if you plan on selling your quilts, it can even make them more valuable.

Regardless of your reason for wanting to learn how to hand quilt, we are here to help. In this post, you're going to discover what you need to hand quilt effectively, as well as step by step directions on everything from making knots, to stitching, and miscellaneous tips.

Before we get too deep into it, heres the basics of how to hand quilt:

  1. Get the supplies you need
  2. Learn to pop your knot
  3. Learn the stitching basics

Let's get started!

Supplies For Hand Quilting

Before you can get started quilting, you're going to need the right tools and supplies.

  • Thick Thread (Size 8ish) - If you're quilting by hand, odds are you're doing it because you want to use a thicker thread than is allowed in a sewing machine. Thicker threads create a sturdy stitch, but also create a unique contrast that you can't get with thinner thread.
  • A Thimble - Thimbles are cheap. If you don't already have one, get into the arts and crafts store and pick up a couple. There 's a wide range of thimbles you can use, from plastic to metal to leather. Different people like different thimbles so buy a few, test them out and see which one you like the best.
  • A Sewing Machine (Optional) - This post is supposed to be about hand quilting, so why am I suggesting having a sewing machine? Well, in all honesty, hand quilting takes a LONG time. You can still hand quilt alongside machine quilting and get a similar end product in a fraction of the time. If you have a sewing machine, be open to using it even if you a hand stitched-style quilt.
  • A Fabric Ruler - These bad boys are one of the basic tools of quilting, especially if you plan on stitching by hand. A self-healing cutting board-style ruler works best. You can use this as a surface to work, in addition to using it as a ruler. 

Hand Quilting Tutorial & Basics

Popping Your Knot

The first thing you need to get comfortable with when hand quilting is how to pop your knot to get your stitches started.

Cut the length of thread you need for the area you want to stitch. Tie a basic double square knot on one end of the thread, with the other end threaded into your needle.

Drive the needle into the first two layers of fabric (don't go all the way through, just the quilt top and middle layer!) and back up about a half-inch from where you want to start stitching. From here, start a second basic stitch, then pull the thread all the way through the first hole, so the knot rests behind the fabric of the second hole.

The Stitching

There are a few ways to physically stitch a quilt, but I'm going to dive into my personal favorite.

With your knot popped, start another stitch on the quilt top and under layers, but instead of driving the needle straight down through the fabric and back up again, drive it in at an angle pointing ahead at your stitch line. Pinch the fabric a bit and push the needle through again, to create multiple stitches at once.

You should be able to do this using a rocking motion for super easy, even stitching.

This method makes it possible to have even stitches on the quilt top as well as the backside without having to flip it over to monitor each individual stitch.

This is by far the most efficient and effective hand stitching method you can use.

Quick Tips

  • Cheat And Save Time! - By far, the biggest tip I can give someone who is new to hand quilting is to use a machine if you have one for the nitty-gritty work. You can use hand-quilting on the more highlighted areas or solely to create decorative stitches after the fact, but use machine stitching for the bulk. The end product is very similar, but the amount of time spent stitching is dramatically reduced. (Check Out: https://justsewn.com/best-long-arm-quilting-machine/)
  • Pick A Thread No Lighter Than Your Lightest Fabric - When it comes to aesthetics, you want to make your thread matches the rest of your quilt, right? Especially if you're drawing attention to it with thick thread. So, pick a color thread that is no lighter than the lightest fabric you're using for your quilt.
  • Crease, Don't Color - If you need to layout a stitching path for decorative stitches, don't mark your fabric with a marker! Instead, use a bread knife to crease the fabric along the line you want to stitch. These creases will stay in place, especially if you've used starch on your fabric, and they will come out cleanly after you wash the quilt. 

If you're more of a visual learner, here's a great video to help:

Closing Thoughts

Hand quilting is a fun, beautiful, and gratifying way to make a quilt at home. With these basics down, you can get create with your hand quilting and hone your skills.

Do you have any other quick hand quilting tips? Let us know in the comments section below!

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