There are several ways to finish off a quilt. Today we’re going to talk about one of the simplest ways! – I’m going to show you step by step pictures on how to tie a quilt.
Your quilt usually consists of 3 layers: The backing, the batting or middle layer and the quilt top.
It is important to connect those layers together so they don’t shift and come apart and receive more wear and tear when washed etc.
When you hand tie a quilt, usually you will use a tough heavy yarn or thread that will go through all of the quilt’s layers and then tie a knot to secure the layers permanently.
The knots that you hand tie are placed at regular intervals all over the quilt.
Why hand tie a quilt?
Hand tying a quilt is a really easy way to secure the layers of your quilt together that doesn’t involve fancy stitching or using your sewing machine. It is also a good solution for very thick or puffy quilts that have a harder time going through the throat of some machines.
The process of hand-tying a quilt also has a bit of a nostalgic feel to it for me. It is very similar to hand quilting in the fact that I get to spend time snuggled up under the quilt that I am making and really have the opportunity to look at it and study it as I work on it.
See the step by step directions below and continue reading for more answers to your questions about hand-tying a quilt.
Step by Step Directions: How to tie a quilt
Chances are likely that you already have everything on hand to tie a quilt right now!
You’ll need the following common sewing items:
- A heavier thread than you would normally machine quilt with – such as perle cotton, embroidery floss, or crochet cotton.
- Sewing needle with a large eye to fit thicker threads.
- Scissors – I just got these and I LOVE THEM!
- Washable marker to mark where your knots will be
- OPTIONAL: buttons or charms to embellish if you desire.
- OPTIONAL: Thimble or finger guards if you prefer to sew with them
Thats it!… Really, I promise! You won’t need anything else but you and your quilt and… well… maybe a really good movie or TV show to binge watch for a few hours!
I prefer the perle cotton threads for hand quilting and many of the little hand projects I work on in my sewing room. They’re a really great quality, come in a huge variety of colors.
Can you see the thickness in the thread? It has a a beautiful chunky weight to it that keeps to itself and doesn’t get all hairy like a yarn would. I like that it keeps its shape nicely.
I also recently ordered these scissors from Amazon to use with my embroidery machine because I need the super precise pointed end to get in the tiny areas… And I might need to order a second pair now because I’ve been using these them all over my sewing room. They are so sharp and I love them 🙂
… You know… just in case you need some good scissors too!
FYI the quilt that is shown in all of the photos is a quilting project I just finished. I’ve named it my “Social Distancing Quilt” haha You can see more photos of it here in this post if you like!
OK are you ready for the step by step instructions?
Step 1: Prepare you quilt layers
It is always important to make sure your layers are evenly laid out and you don’t have extra fabric bunching up.
This process is the exact same thing that you would do for any other quilting process.
Lay out the backing of your quilt on a smooth surface nice and flat. Then, layer the quilt batting or middle layer on top of it making sure you aren't creating any wrinkles. Again, make it nice, smooth and flat. Add your quilt top layer and make it smooth again with no big wrinkles or folds.
You’ll want to secure the layers temporarily before you start tying.
You can do this with safety pins or regular sewing pins.
Step 2: Decide where you are going to put your knots
Decide where you would like your knots to be and if you want the ties to be on the front or on the back of your quilt.
Use your fabric marker or washout marker to mark on your quilt where the knots will go so you will have a guide.
This is an essential step because if you think you can eyeball it wheile you’ve got the quilt all spread out on your lap while you’re watching TV later, you are wrong! Son’t skip this step!
Step 3: Thread your needle
Thread your needle with the yarn or thread you have chosen.
I find it easier to work with smaller sections of thread. There is less chance of it getting tangled while it is under the quilt and you really only need a few inches for the whole tie.
I usually will pre-cut a lot of several pieces before I begin tying that are about 10 inches each. Yes, it is more than you will need, but I find that it is a comfortable length. Not too short, not too long either.
Step 4: Begin tying your quilt!
Starting from the center of your quilt and working out, insert your needle through all 3 layers of your quilt and pull it back up as close as possible to your original hole.
Try to make the distance between the two insertion points no more than 1/4″.
NOTE: This is also the point where if you wanted to add a button or charm to your quilt, you would do so. add the embellishment on the side opposite where you will tie your final knot.
Leave about 3-4″ of thread still hanging out of the first hole you made. It will be part of the tails we’ll be tying in the next step.
Step 5: Tie the knot
You’ll want to tie the two ends of your thread together using a surgeons knot.
A regular knot like you would tie in a shoe lace is acceptable, but a lot of quilters prefer the surgeon’s knot because of the durability over time.
It is a very simple knot that you can see in the video below.
Step 6: The Finishing Touches
After your threads are tight and secure, you’ll want to trim up your thread ends.
I usually leave mine to be about 3/4″ long. I’ve seen some people prefer a 1/2″… It is up to you. You’ll want it short enough that the threads don’t get really super frayed and hairy after being in the washer a few times, but long enough that they don’t have a tendency to want to come un-knotted over time.
Step 7: Keep going until you’ve finished your quilt!
It really is that easy! Keep going by knotting in the places that you marked along your quilt in the beginning. You’ll find that time passes quickly once you really get the hang of the steps!
More Tips for hand tying a quilt
One of my favorite ways to make hand tying a quilt even more interesting is to change up the colors of thread.
It could be because I was a bit indecisive on this particular quilt project… but I chose three different colors of thread that coordinated with the fabric for an all over colorful fun look!
You can also add charms or buttons to your ties that add dimension and personality to your quilts.
Just a word of caution: buttons or charms of any sort should not be used for quilts that will be used by children ages 3 or under. There is a chance a child could swallow and choke on a button.
How far apart should the knots be?
Check your batting recomendations – each material is different in what it reccomends for the distance in your quilting lines. Your knots should be no further apart than the recommended distance for the batting.
If you do not knot the recommended distance, the knots should be close enough to prevent the layers of your quilt from shifting around.
Usually, I prefer to look at the design of the quilt and make my choices based on where my blocks fall.
For example, my favorite batting – Warm and natural brand – has a recommendation of quilting every 8-10″.. but when I tie a quilt, I may place my knots every 5-6″… at that point, it could be considered overkill on making sure it is secure but for asthetic reasons… it is just perfect!
So make sure you are doing at least the very minimum for what your batting requirements are… but make the right decision for your quilt’s design needs as well.
Binding, before or after tying a quilt?
Always tie your quilt layers first, then trim your quilt and add the binding on last.
So What Do You Think? Will You Try It?
Tying a quilt is a really simple yet effective way to finish a quilt. You’ll find that the more practiced you are at it, the quicker it gets finished.
Next time you don’t feel like sitting at your machine anymore or want to spend more time in your family room, try tying your quilt!
Let me know what you think or if you have any other questions in the comments below!