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5 Ways to Finish Your Quilt Top

Summary

So you have the top of your quilt pieced or appliqued, and now you need to know how to quilt it.  What are your options?

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5 Ways to Finish Your Quilt Top

So you have the top of your quilt pieced or appliqued, and now you need to know how to quilt it. What are your options?

5 Ways to Finish Your Quilt Top

 

Traditional Hand Quilting

Traditional quilters made their entire quilts by hand and would hand quilt their completed tops. This is a beautiful option for those with the time to do so and the skill – believe me it takes both time and skill! It can be a great option if you want a minimally quilted look, or a design that is special for the piece, like small dog bones that are quilted around an appliqued dog. It can also be a great way to complete a small piece or a very special work of art that you consider to be a legacy quilt that will be passed down through the generations of your family. This is an awesome way to showcase your work.

Traditional Hand Quilting

 

Machine Quilting

Machine quilting can be accomplished on a domestic sewing machine or on a mid or long-arm quilting machine. Depending on the size of your quilt, you may be able to use your domestic sewing machine with a walking foot to quilt smaller projects. Most quilters will choose to use a mid or long-arm machine for larger pieces. Long-arm machines are a great invention and help many quilters complete their quilts a bit more quickly than hand quilting while still making them very special. Custom quilting can elevate the design of a quilt greatly and can really add to the charm of simple designs.

Custom Machine Quilting

 

Additionally, quilts that are machine stitched generally are more durable when subjected to repeated washings than hand quilted projects unless the hand quilting is very dense. Not all of our homes will accommodate a long-arm machine though, and many of us have not received training on how to use a long-arm machine, so we opt to "quilt by check" by hiring one of the many talented long-arm quilters that make their services available to us. Pictured is the work of Georgene Huggett of Gloucester, Virginia.

Custom Machine Quilting 2

 

Big Stitch Quilting

Big-stitch quilting is a great option for those that like to do hand work, but really want their thread to "show". Much like traditional hand quilting, the layers of the quilt are hand stitched together, but usually perle cotton is used instead of lighter-weight traditional hand quilting thread and instead of trying to make tiny stitches and getting in as many stitches per inch as possible, big stitch quilting focuses on making nice even long stitches (approximately 4-5 stitches per inch). One consideration when using this technique definitely needs to be the colorfastness of the perle cotton thread that is chosen, as bleeding of thread can be catastrophic to a quilt.

Big Stitch Quilting

 

Stem-Stitched Quilting

No, it is not a traditional technique for quilting, but it can be very effective on the right quilt. Sometimes traditional hand or machine quilting just doesn’t add that special touch to a quilt top and you need to go a little rogue with your choice of stitching. When this is the case, you can try using lines of stem stitching through your quilt sandwich in order to hold the layers together while adding a bit more design to the completed quilt. The red and white rows of stem stitching radiating out from the yo-yos in this quilt are a great example.

Stem-Stitch Quilting

 

Tying a Quilt

Tying a quilt is another means to hold the layers of your quilt together. This used to be very popular in days gone by because it was a much quicker way to finish a utility quilt and is much less expensive than having machine edge-to-edge quilting hired out. Generally people that tie quilts use a yarn or perle cotton, starting on the front of the quilt, they will hold the tale of the thread, take a few tack stitches close together, and cut the ends off just an inch or so above the quilt top and tie them in a knot. The distance between ties needs to be determined by the type of batting being used in order to preserve the integrity of the quilt. At times, old blankets or pieces of flannel are used instead of purchased traditional batting so that the quilt will not need to be tied as close together as is necessary when using purchased battings.

Tied Quilt

 

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Glossary

Batting
The layer in the middle of a quilt sandwich between the Top and Backing layers consisting of wool, polyester, blends, silk, or cotton.

Same As: Stuffing, Filling, Wadding, Filler
Big Stitch
A type of quilting in which embroidery or crewel thread is used in large stitch for a decorative effect.
Bleeding
The effect when there is excess dye in fabric or dye that has not been properly set. The wash water will take on the color of the dye and it will set on other fabric.
Domestic
A term sometimes used for unbleached muslin, dating from the nineteenth century when printed fabrics were generally imported and plain fabrics were generally manufactured domestically.
Flannel
A soft fabric which can be made from cotton, wool or synthetic fibers. It is usually loosely woven and slightly furry and is very warm. It's tendency to ravel makes it a very good fabric to use for rag quilt.
Hand Quilting
A running stitch that is made through all three layers of a quilt to hold them together.
Machine Quilting
Creating quilting stitches on a quilt using a sewing machine instead of sewing them by hand.
Perle Cotton Thread
A soft thread that is kind of like yarn and is used for quilting, decorative stitching or embellishments.
Quilt Top
The top layer of a quilt Sandwich.
Sandwich
Traditional description of a quilt: a sandwich consisting of a Quilt Top, Batting (filling), and a Backing.
Tying
The process of tying (or tacking) the layers of a quilt or comforter together with yarn knots or tacks. Thick bedcovers are often tacked instead of quilted.

Same As: Tacking
Utility Quilt
A plain, basic quilt meant to be used for everyday bedding. Often a simple design and older ones may be examples of rural folk art. May often be a tied quilt.
Walking Foot
A special foot which can be attached to a sewing machine which helps to feed the top layer of a quilt fabric sandwich evenly with the feed dogs feeding the bottom fabric.
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Quilting Contessa
Quilting Contessa is a collection of various authors around the world that have submitted articles for the QuiltingHub 'How To' quilt wiki.  These are authors that do not write enough to have their own authorship, yet provide valuable content for the site.  If you wish to submit an article, contact us on QuiltingHub.
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