A perfectly executed hand quilting stitch has been envied and admired since the art of quilt making began. Quilters are in awe of beautifully hand-stitched quilts. Yet, most of them avoid using this method because they are never happy with how it turns out.
So what is the best thread for hand quilting? Cotton thread is considered the best thread for hand quilting. It is strong, smooth, and produces excellent stitches.
A sewing machine is perfectly calibrated to make each stitch even in length and spacing. Doing this by hand is never quite as precise. Many years of experience can rectify this problem, however, it does take a lot of practice.
During the learning and practicing stage, quilters will find they have uneven stitches, puckered fabric, and many visible knots. Other imperfections include “pin-prick” stitches, which means only a few of the threads went all the way through the fabric and pull out easily, and extended stitches which can get caught on something and break.
Smooth, even stitches enhance the beauty of the quilt and help it last for generations.
The Best Thread for Hand Quilting
The absolute best thread for hand quilting is hands down this cotton thread on Amazon.
It is cotton-covered polyester with a polished glazed finish and is perfect for hand quilting and machine quilting.
The price is also very affordable compared to other cotton threads, so save yourself time and energy and get this thread in your favorite color.
It comes in a variety of colors for all of your hand-quilting projects, and while I usually like to include a list of a few types of threads for you to choose from, I simply believe that this one is the only one worth buying.
How to Stitch the Perfect Hand Quilt
A perfect stitch is the same length on both the front and back of the quilt. It looks exactly the same, over and over. The space between each stitch is exactly the same as well.
Ideally, you want small, tight stitches, but not too tight.
Evenness and consistency is the key to a perfect hand-stitched quilt. Once you master this, small, tight and uniform stitches come automatically.
Here are a few things to consider before starting your quilting project.
Choose Your Thread
While I’ve already touched on the best thread for hand quilting, there are different options, so I’ll break down what you should generally look for when choosing your thread.
Thread specifically designed for quilting is the best choice. It is thicker and stronger than regular thread.
Of course, if durability isn’t that important and your project is purely for looks, you can use a less expensive thread. (The cotton thread I recommend is both quality and affordable. Win-win!)
Choose Your Fabric
The type of fabric you use will have a huge impact on the way your stitches turn out. Fabrics that are loosely woven are not ideal for quilting. Fabrics with a tight weave such as polyester or a cotton/polyester blend also don’t stitch well. Your best bet is 100% cotton.
With 100% cotton, you can make hand quilting easy and produce uniform stitches that will result in a fabulous looking quilt that will last for years.
Choose Your Batting
Batting is the meat and cheese in the sandwich. It is the center of the quilt that gives it bulk and warmth.
There are many types, like polyester, silk, and wool, but most quilters prefer cotton. Pellon Cotton Quilt Batting from Amazon is a very popular and affordable choice.
Choose Your Needles
An “in-between” sized needle is the easiest to work with. This type is short and has a thin shaft that makes it easier to maneuver in and out of the layers of fabric.
Basically, you can use any type that feels good in your hand. For a very low price, you can buy a pack of assorted needles and try a few to see which one you like best.
Choose Your Thimbles
Avid sewers will tell you that a thimble is a vital part of the arsenal. The eye of the needle is usually pushed through the fabric with the side or tip of your middle finger.
There are various types of thimbles available, after a bit of trial and error, you will find the one that is just right for you.
Thimbles are generally made from metal, leather, rubber, or wood. Glass or fine china is often used, but these types are mostly used as collectibles or decoration.
A metal thimble provides the best protection. However, many people prefer leather. Leather provides a better grip and gives better control. This is also the ideal choice for beginners.
Choose Your Marking Tools
After many years of making quilts, you may just want to go freestyle, but in the beginning, marking tools can be very helpful.
The most important factor of a marking tool is being able to remove the markings afterward. Test the marking tool first to see how easily it can be removed from the fabric.
Many experts prefer soap slivers, however, they are not the most precise. They can be difficult to work with.
Marking pens work much better. The marks can easily be removed with a little heat. These pens are specially designed to work with all quilting materials and come in a variety of colors.
Choose Your Quilt Hoops
A quilting hoop frees up your hands to make quilting easier. It is very similar to an embroidery hoop. The hoop comes in two parts which hold the layers of the quilt in place.
Tension is created by tightening a screw and bolt. This prevents slipping and keeps the fabric taunt. Most hoops are made of wood, however other materials, such as PVC are also used.
Choose Your Quilt Patterns
The pattern you choose for your quilt will determine its complexity. The simpler the pattern, the smoother everything will go.
Patterns with long, straight lines make a quick and easy quilting project. Uneven or crooked lines make stitching more complicated because the stitches are more difficult to keep even and end up being more noticeable.
Choose Your Basting
In sewing, basting is used to temporarily hold layers of the fabric together until the final stitches can be put in place. The stitches are long and loose to make removal easier and leave the least amount of damage.
Many quilters and sewers use safety or bobby pins, but these can leave holes in the fabric.
Others prefer different colored thread in order to see the difference between the basting stitches and the “real” stitches. The problem with this method is that the thread can bleed and discolor the quilt.
The Best Hand Quilting Stitch – The Rocking Stitch
The most common hand quilting method is called the Rocking stitch. Once mastered, this type produces the most beautiful results achievable. If you are having trouble creating neat and even stitches, then check out how the rocking stitch can help change that.
Below I’ve provided the step-by-step instructions on how to do the rocking stitch, but first, I want to show you this video by quiltcrafts on YouTube because she does a marvelous job of showing you every step from beginning to end. I’m really glad I found this video and can share it with you. Check it out.
The best way to tackle a quilt is to start from the center and work outwards. So, place your quilting hoop in the middle of your quilt and fix it securely.
Start by quilting the block in the center and work your way out and around to the outer edges.
This should create a beautiful result, however, it can be a bit cumbersome, especially if you are working with a large quilt because you will have to wrap the excess fabric and batting around your arms. You will just have to find a way to adjust everything to make it comfortable for you. This, too, will become second nature.
Cut a manageable length of thread (about 30 inches). If the thread is too long, it could get tangled or fuzzy when you pull it through your fabric. Thread the needle and tie off the end of the thread with a simple, yet secure knot.
Insert the needle about half an inch away from where you plan to start your first stitch. Push the needle through the top layer of fabric and the batting, then bring it up through to the top of the quilt, at the point where you want to start.
Gently pull the until the knot gets to the top of the quilt. Give the thread a hard tug to make it come up through the top of the quilt. The knot will be embedded in the batting. This might sound tricky, but you will get the feel for it in no time.
Quilters develop their own style of quilting after a while. A good method for beginners is to quilt towards yourself in a diagonal direction instead of from right to left. You might not find this easier, so try different ways until you find one that feels right for you.
Most right-handed quilters find it more comfortable to have their right hand on the top of the quilt while the left-hand guides the needle from underneath. The needle will poke through the other side and into your finger. This will hurt a bit at first, but after a while, a callous will develop and you won’t notice it anymore.
Using the finger underneath the quilt, push up to create a more bump on the top of the quilt where the needle is waiting. Using the thumb on your right hand, push down to make the small bump bigger. Now push the needle and thread through all the way.
Most quilters will use a thimble on the finger pushing the eye of the needle through the quilt. Keep in mind that this is the finger that guides your needle. The thumb on this hand guides the fabric and the hand on the bottom, especially the middle finger, is used to guide the fabric from underneath.
The needle is always held either vertically or horizontally. Practice makes perfect. The more you quilt, the better your stitches will become. Master the hand motions, understand your materials and in no time you will be able to create perfect little stitches.