How to Hand Quilt (with Video Tutorial!)

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be. Get this Bayside Quilt pattern and make your own!

I learned to hand quilt a few years ago, and since then I've spent hundreds of hours stitching away. Those of you who enjoy these SQ tutorials have been asking me to "finally write that tutorial!" Even though I've filmed many spontaneous Facebook live videos and IG stories about hand quilting, only now have I planted myself in a chair and filmed everything I know on how to hand quilt. 

Writing this tutorial loomed large in my head, because there's so much to say! I have so many feeelings about hand quilting. As much as I love picking fabric, piecing on my machine and even (can it be?) basting, hand quilting will always feel special to me in a way other techniques don't.

Many of you already know how much I love diving into our shared quilt history and learning about our wonderful Quilt Mothers who laid the foundation for us. When I'm hand quilting, I feel a spirit connection with them. I feel tied to a strong sisterhood of makers, creators, builders, matriarchs and dreamers.

Check out our Fab Fiber Artist Series

Oh my fellow quilters, I could wax poetic on this for pages and pages, but that's not why you're here. You're here to learn a sewing skill that has been passed down from generation to generation for...generations! On to the hand quilting video tutorial!

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Read More About Quilt History

How to Hand Quilt Video Tutorial

Everything I cover here in this blog I also cover in the video. However, if you continue reading, you'll find all of the links I reference in the video.

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be. | Suzy Quilts
How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.
How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

Hand Quilting Supplies

After testing out many different kinds of needles, threads, thimbles, etc... These are the notions that I've landed on as being my go-to faves. 

And don't forget, after you stitch one million stitches to gather the family together for everyone to stand on it. 😉

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

Hand quilting is all about touch and what feels right. Because of this, I recommend trying a few different kinds of each notion and then deciding for yourself what is the most comfortable. I've stitched with many quilters who hate my leather thimble and love the thimble pads (which don't work for me at all.)

In-Depth Lists of Hand Quilting Notions

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

How to Hand Quilt: 3 Easy Steps

Now that you have all of your supplies (and there aren't many), it's time to learn the 3 basic steps to hand quilting: Knot, pop and rock it. Say that 5 times fast. Knot pop and rock it. Knot pop and rocket. Knotpopandrockit!

You got those 3 steps in your head?

1. Knot.

You can make a simple double knot with your thread, or you can watch the video above for a demonstration on how I make a fancy quilter's knot. The key here is to make a secure knot that's not too big to pop through the weave of your fabric. Oh! But I'm getting ahead of myself...

2. Pop.

You've tied your knot and trimmed your little thread tail. The next steps is to decide where you would like your stitches to start. Pierce the fabric with your needle, catching only the quilt top and not the batting or backing, about 1" away from where the stitches will start.

Poke the tip of your needle out where you will begin stitching and pull your thread through. Oh dear! You're left with a knot sticking out on the front of your quilt! Can you guess what to do next? We pop! (For some reason this always make me think of the bend and snap from Legally Blonde. ha!)

Give that knot a little yank and pop it through to the inside of the quilt. Be careful not to pop it through one hole and out the other. However, if that does happen, try again and be a bit more gentle.

Don't worry about ripping your fabric. The knot will find it's way between the yarns of thread that make up the weft and warp of the fabric. Once the knot is through, I give the hole a little scratch with my fingernail to close it up.

3. Rock it.

The best way to hand quilt a running stitch is to rock your needle in and out, up and down, using your thimble-covered finger. This will keep tension off of your other fingers and, with enough practice, will give you the most even stitches.

To know what I'm talking about, check out the video above.

Finishing Your Stitches and Hiding Your Knot

To finish your stitches we are going to implement the same popping technique to make our knot nicely hidden. Once the knot is underneath the quilt top, I like to rub it into the batting layer a bit so that the knot gets nicely tangled in the fibers of the batting. This will help ensure that your stitches remain secure.

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

More Helpful Tutorials on the Quilting Process

There are a few steps to take before and after you jump into hand quilting. Below are links to tutorials on the different stages of the quilting process. You can also find a lot of these, plus more, in the Quilting 101 tab located in the top toolbar.

I hope you found this video and tutorial on how to hand quilt helpful and informative! Please let me know if you have any questions on the quilting process or supplies. Also I'd love to hear your hand quilting tips!

Below is a finished picture of my Reflections quilt and also what I looked like at 14 weeks pregnant. I felt huge, but now at 23 weeks, I realize I wasn't. 😉

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

Below are examples of some of my hand-quilted quilts. Some of them are fully hand quilted, and some of them use both machine quilting and hand quilting. Let's start with my very first attempt at hand quilting. The photo is a bit blurry, but that's how I was taking most of my photos in 2014.

Mod Mountains Quilt

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be. Get this Bayside Quilt pattern and make your own!

Bohemian Garden jersey knit quilt pattern available for PDF download

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.
How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.
How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be. Get the Maypole quilt pattern!
How to hand quilt in 3 easy steps! In this blog and video tutorial I'll list out all of the supplies you need and show you how simple hand quilting can be.

Modern Fans is a bold, modern quilt pattern that includes king, queen, twin, throw and baby quilt sizes as well as a video tutorial! This baby quilt uses lots of different subtle textures.

80 thoughts on “How to Hand Quilt (with Video Tutorial!)

    • Venus Smith says:

      Thank you so much for the great tutorial. I learned a lot and have been quilting for a long time. Appreciate your expertise 💗

  1. Lisa says:

    My question is, how far apart can you space your quilting (say you are quilting straight lines—I’m asking about the space between lines rather than between stitches) without causing a problem? Is a hand’s breadth too far?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question and that is something I meant to cover, so I’m glad you bring it up. Your batting packaging will tell you specifically how far apart you need to quilt your quilt for the sandwich to stay together. Usually that ranges from 6″ – 8″. I, however, always feel like that’s still too far apart. My quilting is almost never more than 2″ apart and definitely not more than 4″ apart. I just think that if you want your quilt to stand up under wear and tear, it’s good to have those layers nice and secure.

  2. Pam says:

    I loved this video and picked up several techniques from you while watching it. I too like to add big thread quilting to the quilts that I’ve already quilted. The table quilting idea is one I’m really anxious to try. Thanks so much for taking the time to make this special video! Love your patterns too.

  3. gigi voegeli says:

    Thanks so much for the great tutorial. You are so generous with your time!
    One thing I do differently is when I knot off at the end, I go through the entire thickness of the quilt and pull the thread out through the back. That way the knot goes through the batting and lays between the batting and the back. Maybe that is more secure. Not sure if that’s better– it’s just how I was taught. Just bought the Campfire pattern and am going to make a baby size and try the combo of machine and hand quilting like your tutorial. I like that idea a lot! :=)

  4. Karen Chambers says:

    Great tutorial! Can’t wait to try on bayside quilt. One question: when you machine quilt above the ditch what weight thread do you use there and how long of a stitch?

  5. Margaret says:

    I think I remember that lovely flowered backing fabric from some other post but can’t find. Can you tell me what it is? I am recently moving from years as a hand-quilter (tiny needle, 10-12 stitches per inch) to machine quilting…can’t fit thimbles on my arthritic finger anymore. I must own 30 different thimbles and none work! But big needle/big stitch/big thread quilting is a little easier on the digits and I find a way to add some to my projects. I love the way the colors show up…tiny quilt stitches are more about texture. Thanks for all you do!

  6. Andrea Michelle Croak says:

    This is so great! I had two questions. Is the table technique the best for posture? This is going to sound crazy, but I hand quilted a quilt once and strained a muscle in my neck from looking down too much. Second question is on waxing your thread, seems like you don’t, but do people wax? Thanks again for all your advice, just from watching the video I can tell hand quilting will be quicker than I assumed!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I think resting the quilt on a table probably would be easier on the neck than resting it in your lap. One thing I like to do too is lean back in a chair, bed or couch, bend my legs at an angle and stretch the quilt over my legs. Make sense? In that posture I’m totally relaxed and have easy access to the back of the quilt.

      If you use thinner thread than 12 wt., you will probably want to coat it in a wax so that it doesn’t tangle. The thicker threads don’t seem to have the same tangle problem. Well, at least I haven’t encountered that.

  7. Kathryn Butterfield says:

    Great info ! I would have to say that Sashiko needles are my best friend! Truth! Their sharpness makes up for the hulking size ( my opinion) and they are my new go to … I love that you kick open the door for everyone to find their own way … art should be like that and often we try to stuff it and ourselves into a box that doesn’t fit! Goodness knows ‘comparison is the thief of joy! ‘ Good for you… keep up the good work…

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I knew someone would say they like the Sashiko needles! haha! Truthfully, I didn’t give them a fair shot. I took one look at their massive size, let out a little squeak and went back to my embroidery needles. 😉 Sashiko is a beautiful stitching technique, so I’m sure I’ll dust them off for another try soon. xo

  8. Vicki says:

    Thank you for the very thorough tutorial on hand quilting. Your teaching style is very straightforward and really answered any questions I have had on this technique. Your lovely personality shines through and is like a breath of sunshine. All the best to you and baby.

  9. Nicole Gendy says:

    Love this video! Thanks for taking the time to make it. I’ve already planned to talk to my quilt guild about hand quilting this month, so I’ll pass along your blog post to them too!

  10. Kathy says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve collected all my supplies and have been practicing. I’m using cotton batting and it seems like A LOT of fiber to stitch through by hand! What is your preferred batting if you plan on hand quilting? Thanks!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! I’ve used cotton, but I think my two favorites are wool and bamboo. Wool batting really shows off your stitches because of its puffiness and the bamboo batting is light with an amaaazing drape. I used bamboo in the sage and cream Reflections seen in this blog and wool in the Maypole and Modern Fans baby quilt. Here’s a blog post with a bit more info on batting if you’re interested.

  11. Trish says:

    Your video was awesome. I just finished hand quilting a Christmas quilt for our bed. I never in a million years thought I would ever “hand quilt” something but I decided this was one I would cherish forever and decided to go for it. I LOVED hand quilting – it’s so relaxing. I learned a lot from you even though I’ve already done this. I used embroidery floss and hope this doesn’t become a problem in the future with the 3 strands I used. I am going to invest in a multi color pack of pearl cotton for my next project. I LOVED your tip on machine basting it down. The pins in my quilt were quite a pain to work around. I spray basted first but as you can imagine with all the handling it came undone and so I stopped and pinned the whole thing before I went any further. I’m already looking for my next project to start. I’ve got several quilt tops done and ready to be quilted so I think I’ll start on one of those.

  12. Barbara says:

    I loved the tutorial, thank you! I learned so much. It doesn’t have to be dense quilting, just enough to add impact. I would like to know the plaid fabrics and the gold dot used in the quilt in the video. Thanks!

  13. Barbara Kochevar says:

    HI, loved the hand quilting video. So nice to know I can quilt that way more selectively and it looks so nice? What is the blue plaid with orange fabric used in the tutorial video? Thanks!

  14. Ann says:

    I’m debating whether to hand quilt a throw sized quilt (60×68) but I’ve never done it and it’s for a baby shower in 7 days. I have a fair amount of time to work on it – think I’m crazy to try it?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Not crazy, just very ambitious. haha! I think it’s very doable, but you may want to sew a combination of machine and hand quilting. If you start with machine quilting, then you can add as much hand quilting embellishments as you have time for.

  15. dopowell says:

    Suzy, loved your video. and am now a follower! Thanks for posting! I have only hand quilted 2 quilts so far and even though my stitches can be a little uneven, I love the look and the feel. I never thought about the mixing of machine and hand quilting but I am definitely going to try it as it will certainly save some time. I have only really used straight lines or outlining the pattern in the fabric within a block. I just bought your fly away pattern to make a baby quilt for my favorite niece. I really like the way you use the semi-circles. It looks like there is no machine quilting on that quilt. Can you confirm? Also, did you start in the middle and work your way out and what did you use to mark those perfect semi-circles? Thank you so much.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’m so happy your found my tutorial helpful! Yes, I can confirm that I used no machine quilting on that Fly Away quilt. It’s all wabi-sabi hand quilting. I started in the bottom left corner and grew those crazy rolling hills outward. I used a Hera marker as a went. I would mark a little then sew a little. You can see my post on marking tools here –

  16. Katie says:

    I tried hand quilting a few years back but ended up getting frustrated with the look of my stitches, but I think I’m ready to attempt it again (thanks to your tutorial!) You covered straight line hand quilting, but if you do a circle or any curve, do you stitch fewer stitches before pulling the thread through? I’d imagine stitching a curve would mean you make fewer stitches before pulling the thread through?

  17. Deb says:

    Great tutorial I only hand quilt with the Clover or John James #10 and small stitches I’m going to try this method on a batik top I have waiting to be quilted thx great name that’s my daughter’s name and only her dad is allowed to call her Suzy lol.

  18. Kelsey K says:

    Suzy this is just plain awesome. I just did my first little trial of hand stitching and it’s so addicting! Question about popping the knot, both at the beginning and end: is there a special trick to get it through without breaking? I broke the thread a couple times and am wondering if using pre-washed vs washed fabric makes a difference? With the density of the weave? I am just using quilting cotton but it really didn’t like letting my knot through, apparently!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Are you double knotting or triple knotting? Try only double knotting. And are you using DMC Pearl cotton thread #8? I haven’t found washing or not washing fabric to make a difference. The only time I thought, “sheesh this is a tight weave!” was when hand quilting with poplin. But even then, there are tricks to making it work. If you find that the weave of your fabric is really tight, one thing I do is stick my needle into the hole where I”m going to pop the knot, but before pulling it through, I stretch out that hole a bit with the needle. Stretch is the wrong word, I guess all you’re doing is pushing the threads of the fabric further apart from each other so the knot can more easily go through. Once the knot is through, the threads can be pushed back into place. Make sense?

      Your thread consistently breaking is really annoying and definitely something we can prevent.

  19. Claudia says:

    I have always wanted to hand quilt a quilt but I haven’t dared to yet. I have done smaller pieces and I’m far from perfect but I know I could manage. However I didn’t like the idea of having to do a whole quilt nor the idea of having to use a frame or a hoop. I actually even visisted a workshop once but I didn’t like the tiny needles nor the frame and there seemed to be so many rules to follow that it turned me off and I decided that handquilting won’t bee for me. Now that I have seen your excellent video my heart is full of hope again. Wonderful! You explain everything so well and give so many practical tips that it seems your way of working is more like mine. On my next quilt I will think about doing half and half and progress with your phantastic tips. I feel quite lighthearted again – thank you so much Suzy! I wish you all the best for the coming months!

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  22. Melanie says:

    I really enjoyed your hand quilting tutorial….since I’m new to your postings, I’m wondering if you have instructions on marking for Baptist fan quilting….I would love to use this design for a hand quilted project.

  23. Jeannie says:

    I just finished basting my rocksteady quilt and want to do a mixture of machine and hand quilting — any advice about which one to do first? Thanks!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I change my needle whenever the stitches begin to feel sluggish. If at any point your fingers are tired or if you’re having trouble pulling the needle through the fabric, try a new needle to see if that’s the issue. If it is, viola! Throw that old dull needle out.

  24. Bethe says:

    Oh my word, I’ve been doing it wrong for years! And that’s okay…. because handmade is beautiful and unique. But I’m so excited to get some better techniques so I can improve my handiwork! Also – your videos make me laugh – thanks for not being boring. 🙂

  25. Ina says:

    Thanks for your tutorial. I have never quilted, but I am encouraged to give it a try.
    I am more of a Machine embroidered.
    I have a possible suggestion for threads that keep breaking. When we have that problem, we’re advised to put the embroidery thread in the freezer for 24hrs to prevent breakages.
    I thought it may work for other threads as well.
    Bless you and your baby. Ina.
    Ps. I will be subscribing. Thanks

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  27. Andrea Jamieson says:

    I’ve started hand quilting Mod Mountains, my first hand quilting experience. You’ve totally converted me!! Thanks so much for the great tutorial!

  28. Laurie says:

    When you hand quilt and do not machine quilt at all, is there an amount of stitches per inch. I’ve seen 10-12 and 8-10. Any ideas?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! This could be answered two different ways. 1. Based on your quilt batting instructions, make sure you have quilting close enough together so your three layers remains stable. Your batting packaging will say and it’s usually around 8″ – 10″ apart. As for stitch length, that’s a matter of preference. You don’t want your stitches so large that they become like basting stitches and can easily be pulled out, however, they do not need to hit a certain stitch/inch quota to be secure. If you were to compare it to stitch length on a sewing machine, try to make them no larger than 6 in length.

  29. Samantha Groom says:

    Hi Suzy – Not sure if you are still responding to questions given how long ago you posted this tutorial .. which is awesome btw. My question is simple .. when you quilt with the rocking motion what are you doing with the hand that is under the quilt?!
    Thanks in anticipation, Samantha

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! Since I’m right handed, my left hand’s job is to gently stabilize the quilt sandwich. I also raise the fabric up and towards the needle for a more comfortable rocking rhythm. I think this is one of those things that will feel awkward until you figure out what works for you.

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  31. Samantha Groom says:

    Suzy, thank you for taking the time to get back to me, busy person that you are. I think I understand .. I have tried with a hoop, and having the bottom index/second finger used to pivot the needle, but it hurts! I shall run away and try your version. I’m also interested to see the size of the stitch, and the associated gap, I think I have been trying to make the stitch, and gap, too small which is making life really tricky! Happy 4 July to you from Australia 🙂

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  33. Felicia says:

    Thanks for this tutorial – super helpful! Quick question – how long does a ball of thread last you? I’m looking to do some hand quilting (already have some machine quilting) on a baby quilt on a road trip later this month. This will be my first hand quilting attempt so I’m trying to predict if I’ll need more than one ball or not. Certainly my husband doesn’t plan for Joanns to be one of the vacation destinations!

  34. Carolyn says:

    Truly enjoyed the tutorial, but my problem is that I am left handed…. and I can’t seem to get the rocking motion from the front to the back.. My stitches on the back don’t show up…Any suggestions. I know practice practice…

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      The rocking motion does take more practice than you think it should. The first quilt I hand quilted the back looks very different from the front. I probably only sewed through all three layers with every other stitch! In the beginning, try sewing two stitches at a time. Once you feel confident with that, add a third and then a fourth. I think you’ll get there.

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  36. Ellie says:

    Thank you for this terrific tutorial! Do you (and other hand-quilters here) “gift” hand quilted items? Will they hold up in a washer? TIA for all input…..

  37. melissa mcgillicuddy says:

    great tutorial! I have a multicolored quilt made up of 2″ squares on an angle backed with off white muslin…..if I hand quilt it with thread to match the squares won’t the back look kinda janky? what would you do?
    thanks, Missy

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I think multi-colored thread on a light background can look really cool! One rule of thumb is to match thread to the lightest fabric in the quilt. Have you thought about white to match the muslin?

  38. Allison says:

    I’m so glad I came across this post, your vid was enjoyable to watch and listen to… I’m a first time handsewer and I’ve been getting conflicting suggestions on type of stitch. Is a running stitch what you would always recommend? As opposed to a back stitch?
    Thanks for your advice and I look forward to reading more from you:)

  39. Marikay says:

    I just found your site this weekend and enjoyed the video. I have a friend of my mother´s pattern for the ¨Cathedral Window¨ and/or Saratoga quilt. It is done by hand, in squares, folded and the fabrics inserted into these ´folds´’brings such sparkle to the white background. Please consider this for a future project and demonstration. Let your fans know if you ever do it! PS our friend used white drapery lining fabric to make it along with scraps from her home sewing for inserts! What do you think of that?

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