Adding Some Big Stitches

I’m a machine quilter, mostly, but I love the look of hand-stitched quilting. I don’t often do it, but sometimes a quilt just screams for some different texture and I turn to something so hot right now: big stitch quilting. In honor of our Spring Issue (available here) features two projects with big stitches and the quilt I am working on for Bari J’s Quilt Market booth with her new line “Joie de Vivre” for Art Gallery, I thought I’d share with you my quick-and-dirty big stitch quilting.

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For this, I like to use #12 perle cotton, though you could as easily use #8 or even embroidery floss (I have a lot on hand for wool applique, so I pick whatever color suits my quilt best and go with it). Perle #12 makes it easier to deal with knots, because they aren’t as bulky. For the needle, I’m using a chenille needle #22 or #24, which has a nice rounded eye on the interior, so that it doesn’t shred me thread from repeated pulling through all the layers. I also like chenille needles because they’re very sturdy, and can stack quite a few stitches on at a time (more on that below).

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To start, I put a simple knot on the end, and start from the back, usually about a 14″ away from where I am going to actually push through to the front. This give me a little room to work with before I take the first stitch, since I pop my knot through the backing fabric.

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Why I work from the back to the front? By popping my knot through the fabric on the back and then pushing my needle through to the front, the knot gets firmly secured in the batting. Then I can start stitching, stacking several stitches on as I go. I’m not very interested in perfection here, since I am looking for a rough stitch that stands out.

Stacked stitches: Normally I only do three or so at a time, but this chenille needle is tough!
Stacked stitches: Normally I only do three or so at a time, but this chenille needle is tough!

When I am nearing the end of my thread, usually a good 3″ remaining at least, I like to bring my thread to the back side of the quilt, and tying off and burying the thread. First, I make a loose loop knot in the thread about an inch from the point where it comes through.

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Then, I place my needle inside that loop, with the point of the needle in the same hole where the thread is coming through, and tighten the knot against the needle (not too tight, or it becomes difficult to slide the knot down the shaft of the needle).

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By pulling lightly on the loose end of the thread, I can tighten the loop and snug it up against the fabric, which will make it very easy to bury.

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I rethread my needle, and then slide the needle through the same hole where the knotted thread is.

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I pop the knot through, and then rub it with a fingernail.  All done!

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This is the same technique I use for knotting and burying threads for machine quilting.  Enjoy!

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