Machine Quilting, Hand Tying and Hand Quilting

You have pieced together your quilt top and now it's time to decide how you are going to stitch your quilt. There are several methods of quilting that you can choose from. This article will explore the various methods that you can choose when quilting your three sandwich layers together. Whatever method you choose, you will end up with a quilt that will have your unique signature.

I'll start off by giving the definition of a quilt. A quilt is a fabric sandwich. This sandwich is made up of three layers. The top, the filling (also called the batting or wadding) and the backing. There needs to be a method of securing these layers together. The three most common methods are machine stitching, hand tying or hand stitching. Let us explore the method of machine stitching first.

If you decide to machine stitch your sandwich, the easiest technique to use is straight line quilting. Straight line quilting involves stitching your quilt pattern in straight lines. The most popular straight line technique is a stitching technique called "stitch in the ditch". Stitch in the ditch involves stitching right along the seams of your patchwork top which in turn hides the stitches in the seam line. It is quick and easy to do and you can easily finish a crib sized quilt in less than 2 hours using this technique. Another variation of straight line stitching is a technique called cross-hatch quilting. Cross hatch quilting is straight stitching evenly spaced apart in a diagonal pattern over the whole quilt sandwich. When the stitching is completed, the stitching design on the fabric sandwich will look like many little identical diamonds evenly distributed throughout the quilt.

The other machine stitching technique is called free motion machine stitching. Free motion stitching creates graceful curved designs in a variety of styles. These styles may include stippling, echo designs, clamshell designs or you can stitch decorative quilting styles traced from quilting stencils.

If you want to quickly finish your quilt, you could try hand tying your fabric sandwich. Hand tying is often done to fabric sandwiches that have high loft batting but this technique is not just limited to high loft batting quilts. I have seen a few hand tied quilts that have low loft batting and the quilting style of tying complements the piecing on the top. Quilt tying involved hand stitching one stitch through three layers of a fabric sandwich using either thick thread or strong wool. The ends of the thread or wool are then tied securely in a knot on the top layer of the sandwich and the two tails of the thread or wool are trimmed to approximately one inch in length. Tying a quilt is much faster than hand quilting or machine quilting. Fabric sandwiches that are tied are often utility or every day quilts rather than fancy decorative quilts.

Hand stitching a fabric sandwich is the traditional way of quilting. To hand stitch a fabric sandwich, a hoop or frame is needed to keep the pieces of the fabric sandwich taut as you stitch the layers of the fabric sandwich together. It is recommended that a thicker hand quilting thread be used to reduce the chance of the thread breaking while the sandwich is being stitched. Hand stitching is the slowest method of quilting but hand stitched quilts gives a wonderful textured look when finished. Many hand stitched quilts are highly sought after.

Whatever method you use when you are quilting your fabric sandwich together, you know that your quilt is almost finished. Your investment of time and energy is about to pay off with a beautiful quilt you will be proud to call your own. May you enjoy the quilt you have created for many years to come.

Ramona Dunn is a sewer and quilter with over 35 years of experience behind the sewing machine. She has a diploma with honors in sewing and dressmaking from the Stratford Career Institute and she is the proud owner of her own online quilting web site called Those Cotton Pickin' Fabrics.