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Finishing ~ Hand Quilting

how to hand quilt

We all have our favorite part of putting together a quilt.  For some it’s the piecing, or maybe you love the binding (I do!) or perhaps it’s the quilting?  Free motion quilting is definitely fun but if you don’t have all the right equipment, getting a large quilt through a domestic machine can be daunting! 

When I was deciding on how to quilt my sampler I changed my mind more than once (shocker!) I debated, and thought, and finally decided to hand quilt.  After all, I had the time… (right?) 

how to hand quilt

I have hand quilted smaller projects but this was my first large hand quilting project.  I loved the freedom of being able to quilt one block at a time.  It was fun to finish one block and then move to the next one and decide on how to quilt just that block.  I could multi task, watch Netflix (who got me hooked on fringe and mad men?) and quilt at the same time!  And I don’t think I used my seam ripper once!  BONUS!

Spooky thought it was a good idea too… she’s such a big help…

hand quilting tutorial

I used DMC Pearl Cotton #8  for my quilting~ SO YUMMY!  It comes in tons of colors, is easy to work with and shows off your hard work with it’s pretty shine.

hand quilting with perle cotton

Here are the colors I used:

purple 554, blue 519, yellow 725, green 3348, ecru, orange 947

I have this great DMC Color chart for choosing colors!


If you’re looking for a color chart you can also download this DMC Thread Color Card PDF or purchase a DMC Thread Printed Color Card.

hand-quilting with perle cotton

Gather your Supplies:

Here are some general supplies you’ll want before you get started.

Quilters Hoop ~ I’m using a 14″  Dritz 14-Inch Quilting No-Slip Hoop  

Thimble ~ I use this one  Clover Metal Open-Sided Thimble

Pearl Cotton #8

Scissors ~ small pair

Needle ~ I like the clover gold eye chenille 24 needle  

Needle Threader ~ optional

Painters Tape ~ for help keeping stitches straight

Basted Quilt Sandwich

This is the type of needle threader I used.  It has a hook on each end that slides through needle eye to grab the floss and pull through.  Made threading SO much easier!  This needle threader from DMC would also work.  You’ll just need to be sure your needle eye can accommodate the hook.

hand quilting tutorial

Getting Started:

It’s best to work from the quilt center out toward the edges, so position your hoop closest to the center of your quilt and secure.  I started my quilting on the center block of my quilt and worked my way around and out to the sides.  It worked out beautifully.  It’s a little more cumbersome when you’re working in the middle of the quilt, since there’s more quilt to wrap your arms around, but just adjust everything until you’ve got a comfortable set up.

Cut yourself a piece of pearl cotton no longer than 30″ (manageable length).  Any longer and it will be awkward to work with and it will get fuzzy when you pull it through the quilt sandwich too many times.

Thread your needle and tie a simple overhand knot in the end of the cotton.

hand quilt tutorial

Start by inserting the needle approx. 1/2 inch from where you wish to begin quilting.  Push your needle through the top and batting only and travel through quilt.  Bring your needle up at your starting point. 

hand quilt with perle cotton

Pull the thread until the knot reaches the quilt top and give it a sharp tug ~ it will pop through the quilt top and embed itself in the batting.  You will get the hang of this after a few tries.

how to hand quilt

Let’s get quilting.  I quilt toward myself at a slight diagonal, (rather than right to left) and I find it the easiest way for me.  Do what feels comfortable for you.  Start a stitch with the needle sticking straight down through the quilt.  I’m right handed and I have my right hand on top of the quilt making the stitch, and my left hand guiding the needle on the back of my quilt.  In the next picture my left hand is under the quilt sandwich and the needle is just poking through the other side resting on my finger tip.  (yes, this finger tip will get a little sore… occupational hazard)big stitch quilting tutorial

When I feel the point of the needle come through the back of the quilt with my finger tip, I tilt the needle backward away from me.   Now, push that back finger up, creating a small bump on the quilt top where your needle is.  With your right hand thumb, push down on the quilt top in front of the needle, making the bump more defined, and now you can push the needle through that bump. 

hand quilting big stitch tutorialReview steps:

  • needle straight up and down just through quilt sandwich touching left hand finger tip
  • tilt needle back
  • push up with left finger from under quilt
  • push down with right thumb in front of needle to make the defined bump
  • push needle through bump

big stitch hand quilting

Your thimble may feel unnatural on your finger, and you may struggle through the first several stitches but it will quickly get easier.  Stick with it!  Your left finger tips will get sore and there are some products you can use like another thimble or little ‘dots’ to stick on your finger to protect it but I couldn’t get the same results using anything on those left hand fingers.  I needed to be able to feel the needle.

big stitch quilting

When you are ready for another length of pearl cotton or done your quilting, you will need to tie off and embed the end in the batting.  Start by tying another overhand knot in the end of your pearl cotton. 

hand quilt with perle cotton

Pull the end of the pearl cotton, sliding the knot down near the quilt top. 

hand quilting with perle cotton

Knot should be right at the top of the quilt.

hand quilting with perle cotton


Insert needle back into hole that the pearl cotton is coming out of and travel through the batting only, then back out of top about a 1/2″ away. 

hand quilting tutorial

Pull needle through and give pearl cotton a tug to embed knot in batting and carefully snip off the tail.

big stitch hand quilting tutorial

If you are quilting a long straight line and need a ‘guide’ try using painters tape and just stitch along side of it!  It helps and the tape pulls right off and you can use it a couple more times before the ‘stick’ is worn out.  big stitch hand quilting tutorial

That’s it!  If your new to hand quilting start on small projects like I did, then when your comfortable, move your way up to a large project…

Sampler Quilt – details and quilted blocks

Find the

Scrap Happy Sampler Quilt pattern

 In My Shop 

sampler block of the month

I also hand quilted Modern Love if you want to go check out that quilt… And Warm Wishes is also hand quilted and includes a pdf pattern download.

I have a

Hand Quilting Bundle available in my shop

if you want to give it a go!  

Pearl Cotton Hand Quilting Bundle

I found these video tutorials very helpful:

This is another EXCELLENT free video tutorial if you want to get into hand quilting feathers:    how to hand quilt feathers video tutorial

If you are hard core into quilting ~ this looks FUN!   hand quilting motifs video tutorial

hand quilting tutorial

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how to hand quilt with perle cotton



If you want to see more of this quilt, here are all the


29 thoughts on “Finishing ~ Hand Quilting”

  1. You did such a beautiful job! I love all the colors, it’s very “cool” Lol. I used to embroider quite a bit, so I think I could handle hand quilting, but it’s just so big! I think you’re right about starting with something smaller, or maybe alternate, that could be an interesting look. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. I am blown away by this technique! Your amazing tutorial has opened up an entirely new approach to doing my own quilting. I can not thank you enough … there simply are not words to express my thanks properly. I will never stitch-in-the-ditch nor struggle with free-motion quilting again.

    Luv you AND your beautiful workmanship/talent!

    1. Hi Kay!
      Thanks for leaving a nice comment on my hand quilting tutorial. I buy some of my perle cotton online, usually on etsy but if you google you will find other options. I also have a local quilt shop that carries a selection of colors. If you like the look and want stitches to stand out, don’t be afraid to go with darker or brighter colors in those areas… they will show up better in your work. Have fun! :)

    1. Hi Anne,

      I mark in a couple ways… if it’s a small area and I need a quick straight line then I use painters tape and just stich right along side of it. If it’s a larger area or I have a template (like the heart in the modern love quilt) I use a water erasable marking tool to mark the quilt. I trace the template or for straight lines I use a ruler to make multiple marks that are approximately equidistant but I don’t concern myself too much with perfection. Marking makes it easy to move right along and then just spray the markings away when I’m done. Of course you can always just stitch around your quilting or applique and/or echo quilt. Hope this is helpful!

  3. Your quilting tutorial is AWESOME and I have shared it to the quilting club I belong to online. Do you know if those gorgeous colours are colour fast? And, does the perle cotton shrink when washed do you think? I love to really see the quilting and this work is fantastic.
    perry94022 at hotmail dot com

    1. I haven’t noticed any bleeding of color from the perle cotton I’ve used… and I would say it’s just normal shrinkage. I wouldn’t use it on a quilt that you expect to launder frequently as it’s more gentle than a machine stitched quilt.

  4. It appears you do one stitch at a time (instead of loading four or five on a #11 quilting needle). Is that correct? Sounds really interesting. I love hand work and have hand quilted a few projects. Can’t wait to try this.

    1. I actually quilt two or three stitches at a time after I get warmed up! But it’s much easier to demonstrate one ~ it’s hard to show the movement in pictures but I think you get the idea. :)

  5. Braaavoo!!

    I can not wait to quilt my second project (ahem, would sure be nice to finish my first quilt top that I’ve been working on since November, 2013). I want to hand tie the first one but working with perle cotton and big stitch quilting is so in my horizon.

    Your blog is well written, the photography is on point, AND it is simply a darn pretty website.

    Thank you for sharing.



    1. Yes! I really struggle with making my back stitches look nice. I also would love to see the back and read any tips for improving this.

      Great tutorial… Thank you!

  6. HI, THANKS for your Blog! Love all of today’s hints+resources. Your work is so nice; for those of us that are not that neat a tool I like to use is “Tiger Tape” evenly marked tape you can just move along beside your line of stitches. Have a great day!

  7. Thank you for this information! I REALLY appreciate the tip about the needle threader. I’ve tried to quilt with thicker thread but had such an issue trying to thread the needle. :D I’m looking forward to quilting with all the pretty threads!!! :D :D

  8. Hi thank you for sharing,this has really helped me as I have watched my friend do hand quilting, she has been doing hand quilting for years. I find it so hard to keep the stitches even, but with this way I think I could manage this one thanks again for this tutorial.
    I am from Kessingland Suffolk England UK

  9. I also like quilting with perl threads. What I do just before clipping the thread to move on is tie a knot fairly close to the fabric. Then I can just move on to a different location pull the thread through, bury the knot and continue. It’s just my tiny time saver. Just wanted to share.

  10. I really enjoyed this site, I’m from Park Forest Illinois, and I love quilts. My Aunt Mary died before she taught me to how to quilt, so I’m taking the initiative and learning on my own. Exploring this world has overwhelmed me, so little by little I’m getting to see and learn about the quilting world! Thanks, Lucy

  11. Hello from North Carolina,
    Your quilting stitches are beautiful!
    How many do you get to the inch?
    Have you ever heard of when you finish quilting to tie a knot you wrap your needle 2 times as close to the quilt as you can & pull your needle thru you’ll have to hold onto the tail of thread but it does knot pretty good
    Just a Wondering

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