Quilting is the age-old process of stitching three or more pieces of fabric together to make a beautiful quilt.
It can seem wholly intuitive, but you do need to know some specifics to make a quilt with good design and longevity.
If you don’t use the correct stitches, your quilt could end up warped or eventually fall apart!
To make sure your next project is stitched to utter perfection, let’s look at the basics of different stitches.
In this article...
What are quilting stitches?
Quilting stitches are what hold the three small pieces of fabric together that make up a quilt.
You can conduct the process via hand sewing or with a sewing machine to give your item a textured or raised effect with the stitches.
What are the most common quilting stitches?
The design of quilting stitches can vary, depending if you are stitching by hand or with a sewing machine.
Let’s dive into the basics of the common quilting stitches.
Hand quilting stitches
The running stitch is used by most quilters to establish a steady sewing technique. Here, a quilt is stitched by inserting a needle through the front layer of the fabric and then through to the back of the fabric.
A tiny piece of the back fabric is caught, and then reinserted through to the front layer.
The needle is reinserted through layers of the fabric several times in a steady pattern. To make this faster, you could use a thimble, or longer needles are inserted a few times, therefore making multiple stitches at once before pulling the sewing thread.
A thick needle is used for the rocking stitch. Place one hand underneath the bottom layer to hold the fabric in place as the point of the needle pierces each layer through the top quilt, all while using a rocking motion.
After rocking four or five times, then pull the thread taut. This method requires lots of movement of the needle, and you can use it together with the straight stitch and running stitch.
The back-stitch is one of the strongest hand sewing stitches.
You’ve guessed it, the backstitch gets its name because the needle goes into the fabric behind the previous stitch to reinforce itself (almost like a knot) and prevent unraveling. This is used in tandem with all types of stitches.
To create the backstitch, make a few small stitches on top of one another, going through the top quilt layer to anchor the end of the thread like a knot.
The chain stitch is my favorite hand quilting and embroidery stitch, and looks great around the edge of the top.
To start it, move the needle up through the back of the fabric and take it back down through the hole you came up through, leaving a small loop of thread.
Next, advance one stitch forward and bring the needle up through the loop and pull the thread, once finished secure with a knot.
This is a basic quilting method that is implemented at the beginning and end of quilt stitching patterns.
To achieve the quilter’s knot, wrap the thread around the threaded needle three times, and then pull three loops over to make the quilter’s knot.
Trim the thread, and then stitch in another part of the fabric as you pull the knot through the fabric. This will help keep your stitch patterns in place when you are finished!
Stitch in the ditch
Another aptly named strategy, the stitch in the ditch is not a visible stitch on the quilt.
It is made on the inside of the seam line where two blocks or patches meet.
This helps to reinforce the form of the seam and outline parts of a quilted design – not too complicated. It can be achieved using a simple straight stitch.
Loading the needle stitch
This differs from other stitches in the way it looks. Basically, it’s a series of stitches that are grouped together.
Four or more stitches are placed in a row through the batting, but without going through to the backing.
You can make this stitch either with your hand or with a device. If you are using a machine, the needle plate will guide the thread around the fabric without piercing through the backing.
Sewing machine quilting stitches
Sewing machines are a popular way to design both basic and complex quilts. The machine techniques are transferable to all types of sewing, but be sure to use the correct foot.
The most common type of stitch for quilting is the straight stitch. This looks similar to the running stitch that is used for hand quilting.
Clean straight lines are aesthetically pleasing in form, and give a quilt top a soft texture. You can create straight lines in various ways from stippling and using free motion, or just filling in blocks.
This is sometimes called a meandering stitch, and it’s very popular for beginner quilting. This basic stitch creates a design that winds tightly over fabrics and holds it very secure.
Free motion quilting is when the feed dogs on sewing machines are dropped and the quilter is able to move the fabric in any direction they like. This is a really good method for giving quilts a nice, personal touch.
A regular sewing machine can create amazing quilts, but quilting machines offer a variety of additional accessories and capabilities. Free-motion quilting gives users full creative control over the length and size of stitches. And if you’re looking for the best machine for the job, here’s my review of the best sewing machine for free motion quilting.
Templates are used by quilters to create beautiful designs on their crafts. Templates can be made from acrylic or paper, and they come in a wide variety of designs and sizes.
The user inserts them around the needle, and guides them along a given line during free movement quilting.
Can I use a quilting stitch with another project?
Absolutely. A quilting stitch is long lasting and, if done correctly, will hold most types of fabric together for durability. Make sure the thread makes it through all of the layers and that it’s secured properly with a knot.
What are the best types of quilting stitches?
There are many different stitches for quilts used in hand quilting, each to create different textures and aesthetics on a quilt. You can even use these stitches to restore damaged quilts.
Horizontal quilting stitches involve straight line stitches made in parallel rows at regular intervals. This is the easiest of all quilting stitches!
Square or diamond shape stitches are a line of parallel quilting stitches made straight across. These stitches cross each other, forming square shapes.
How many stitches per inch with each type of quilting?
You only count the stitches on one side of the material, and either side can be counted. Only count the stitches that fall inside the inch, as well as any partial stitch.
Hand quilting stitches
It’s normal for hand quilters to count around 6-8 stitches per inch when hand quilting. When hand quilting in the beginning, I think it is generally better to concentrate on achieving nice, evenly spaced stitches instead of worrying about the stitches per inch.
The balance and even-ness will be easily seen, as opposed to the stitch count.
Sewing machine quilting stitches
Sewing machines indicate the stitch length in millimeters. The recommended stitch length for quilters to use is around 2.5 to 3.0, which is around 8 – 12 stitches per inch.
With experience, you’ll realize that the stitch you use for quilting may vary depending on the project you’re working on.
Smaller stitches are a pain to unpick if you make errors, while larger stitches risk making a cover look flat. Make sure you use the optimal technique when crafting your quilt!
How to space hand quilting stitches?
To practice spacing during hand quilting, I’d recommend using an embroidery hoop or frame to hold the parts of the fabric taut.
The QSnap frames are inexpensive and will keep the fabrics nice and tight.
How to quilt top to bottom
Before you add the quilting stitches, first you’ll want to do any applique, patchwork, or other surface embroidery on the quilt top.
The three layers of fabric are kept one on top of the other; the backing first, then the batting, and then the top layer later. To join the layers, they (top, batting and bottom) are pinned and sewn together along the seam.
Things to consider for quilting stitches
The thread used for quilting stitches should be of good quality, especially if your goal is a functional quilt.
Some people may prefer to use a thread of a similar color, or a contrasting color for their edge stitches.
The quilting design and overall size of it will affect the stitches you use. Before making a decision, you’d need to consider the elements of your quilt patterns.
If you are using an electric sewing appliance for quilting or stitching smaller shapes, you’ll want to use a smaller stitch to avoid the shapes looking warped.
You will need to explore the thickness of the thread when deciding on the stitch process. if you use a fine thread e.g. silk thread, the thickness of your stitches might have to be smaller.
A fine thread and long stitch could make the stitch look like basting.
On the other hand, if you are using a thicker thread, you will need to increase the stitch length.
If the stitch length is too short, you’ll end up with a thread that looks like it’s been stuffed in the hole of the needles.
There you have it – the most common type of quilting stitches that you’d need for all of your quilting projects!
With some practice, you can master any one of these quilting stitch ideas by following the instructions I laid out above. Additionally, you can read my guide on how to learn quilting if you would like to learn more tips and tricks.
There are many easy quilt patterns online for you to follow. Whether you explore with a sewing machine or by hand, have fun trying them all out!
For something new you might wanna try, check out some lingerie sewing patterns here. They’re nice quick projects to do and they are great gifts!