Learning how to tie a quilt, but with a modern twist is a great example of what we 21-century quilters are all about – honoring the past through imitation and transformation. Sometimes I dress Scrappy up as a pioneer dog by placing bonnets and adorable chihuahua-sized aprons on her. But do I make her sleep in a barn? No. She wouldn't stand for it.
See? Imitation, but also transformation. Makes perfect sense now.
If you scour YouTube, you'll find lots of tutorials on how to tie a quilt using thick yarn and simple knots. And that's a great way to finish a quilt. But, can we transform that into something new? Check out the video below to see exactly what I mean.
Simple Supplies to Tie a Quilt
- Pearl Cotton Thread No. 8 (this can actually be as thick as you want. You could even use yarn, similar to how classic tied quilts are made. I used this kind of thread because it is what I prefer to use when hand quilting.)
- Embroidery Needle
- Needle Threader (optional but awesome)
This is a great way to finish a quilt or add some texture to a quilt that has been finished on a sewing machine. You can see in this example, I sewed simple straight lines with my machine and then added these extra ties.
Example Quilt Fabric
Before you ask, here's a quick list of the fabric I used in this Kris Kross quilt, which is a pattern sold in the shop!
- Pink Kris's: I used a variety of peach and pink solids I had laying around. You only need a fat quarter of each to make a baby quilt. Kona colors and links: Pink, Ice Peach, Peony, Primrose, Creamsicle, Bubble Gum
- Striped Kross's: IKEA duvet all cut up! I've purchased both gray and blue striped IKEA duvets and love using them in tons of projects. You can see a few appearances in my Rocksteady quilt and free table runner tutorial.
- Connecting Fabric: Nani Iro Double Gauze (this isn't where I got mine, but they sell a lot of Nani Iro)
- Background: Kona Bone
How to Tie a Quilt
- After threading your needle with a single piece of thread, insert the needle in the back of the quilt and pull it through to the top, leaving at least a couple inches of thread hanging on the back.
- Create a simple X with the thread, still leaving the extra thread hanging on the back.
- Once your X is complete, repeat the same X pattern to double lock the thread into place.
- After the X is finished for the second time, you are left with two hanging pieces of thread on the back of the quilt. Double knot those two pieces of thread into a square knot by first knotting right over left and then knotting again, left over right.
- Pull the knot tight and trim the tie, leaving at least a 1/4" of thread.
Have you tried this technique or tied a quilt before? Let me know in the comments!
75 thoughts on “How to Tie a Quilt…with a Modern Twist!”
When I was a kid I remember having a quilt my grandmother made that was tied with yarn. I loved it!!! I’m going to tie a quilt for my soon-to-be-born grandchild. Thank you so much foe the wonderful reminder and your tutorial! You have inspired me!!!
Wonderful! I’m sure it will be beautiful 🙂
I’m curious whether you’re familiar with “summer quilts” which are tied without batting? I saw these vintage quilts in Michigan many years ago.
I learned to sew when I was 5 yrs old. Started quilting when I was 50 yrs old. Got ill at 55 yrs old – half my brain died, but I lived, I had to relearn everything! My sisters convinced a teacher in a quilt shop to teach me to sew. I have been quilting constantly as I have relearned everything! It has restored joy and allowed me to reconnect with my family! Hand tying quilts to finish them renews memories of my mom and grandma teaching me to hand sew to help them finish quilts. It has helped to restore my life! Thank you for your understandable instructions!
We old quilters have been doing this for a very long time. I have only been doing it for 42 years now. I always have my ties end up on the back of the quilt and I too prefer the perle cotton as did many quilters of the past. I am only posting a comment to give you two tips that you need to learn as a quilter that ties quilts for going forward. The tie/knot you made will work it’s way out over time with washings. We old timers tie that knot twice, not once and we leave a 1/2 inch tail so that if that knot comes out, we have something to grab onto to tie it back.
Great tips! Thank you so much!
I also tie twice and leave 1/2 inch tail, just in case.
This is the problem with pearl cotton. It “works it’s way out over time with washings.” I once made a quilt with my granddaughter which we tied with pearl cotton. Those knots came loose in a short time. We had to go over the entire quilt with fray check to keep the knots from loosening. But we had made another which we sent to Kentucky to a mission as a charity quilt. And I still have anxiety attacks when I think of that quilt loosing its ties and no one there has the equipment necessary to fix them. Ties made with wool yarn will never come out. They just get tighter with washings.
Oh gosh, really? I washed this quilt once with no problem. Could it be how you tied off the knots? I’ll have to try wool yarn next time.
Thank you for the info on that.It’s inportant to know the little steps.
Hi Suzy! Do you think I could use Aurifil 30wt? I just finished piecing my RockSteady quilt top and picked up some Aurifil at QuiltCon that would go great with the teal and gold colors I used. Thanks as always for the great inspiration!
I think you could, however it will be a very delicate detail since the thread is much thinner.
I put a quilt together, then became very sick. After going through so many test, I learned I had stage 3b lung cancer.. this quilt is for my precious granddaughter . It’s a king size because she is planning a wedding. I am so sick and don’t think I cand hand quilt. I’m thinking of tying it but what should I use to tie it? I don’t have enough time left to quilt it. Granddaughter is so sweet and says we can tie it together. Any suggestions?
Hi Mary, have you thought about having a longarm quilter finish your quilt for you? I have a list of longarm quilters, so you may even be able to find someone local to you – https://suzyquilts.com/ultimate-guide-to-longarm-quilters-in-the-usa-and-canada/. I have recently been sending my quilts to Lilo of Trace Creek Quilting and she is incredibly fast and very sweet to work with.
I think tying it together would create some wonderful memories that she can treasure forever. You can tell her memories of your life and stories you remember of family members. Then every time she looks at the quilt, it will remind her of the wonderful time you spent together while tying the quilt.
Dear Ms Mary! Have you been able to finish the quilt?
What a cute and different way to tie a quilt. I’ve tied a few kid’s quilts recently. I like your method. It’s different and it’s pretty. Thank you. I pinned this.
Give it a try and let me know if you like it!
My granny made a crazy quilt topper when she was in her 90’s. (She lived to be 105!) Because I’m the only granddaughter who learned to quilt, sew, etc., she gave me that topper, along with the batting and back fabric to complete. That’s on my to do list for 2018 and, in her honor and following a strong family tradition, I also will tie this quilt…and cherish it forever. by using it on the guest room bed. “Precious memories”….glad to see tying is making a come-back.
105! WOW! She sounds like a really special lady 🙂
I tied a t-shirt quilt and it came out great. Looking forward to your way of tying. BTW, I love this pattern.
Barbara. I am making my first t shirt quilt. I am using fleece for backing plan to put right sides together turn and then tie. Someone told me to leave one whole side open until I’ve done my tie ing. Why? Did you tie on corners of blocks? Thanks for any tips
I just saw this tutorial, and your question. I’m thinking it’s to be able to smooth out any shifting in the batting. I’m just starting a self bound quilt and was worried about this myself. I can’t think of any reason NOT to leave the opening until it’s tied just in case things shift around and get wonky!
Love the resurgence of a past used technique! How far apart were you suggesting the tacks to be???
Some of that depends on your batting. The batting packaging should say how far about the quilting can be. I usually err on the safe side and keep my quilting at least 4″ apart.
I absolutely LOVE this pattern and your choice of fabrics!! You listed your fabrics for the top, but what is the fabric you used for the backing?
The article says the backing is Mona Bone.
I would love to know the backing material too! Kona bone appears to be the solid white used on the top.
You color combos are the best! These colors remind me of sherbert! The tied sections add more special effects! Nice work!
Thank you so much! The backing is fabric designed by an artist I absolutely love, Kelly Ventura. This is from her Botany line.
I love how this method looks! If I am not machine quilting and only tying, how close do you suggest I put the ties together to make the quilt secure enough?
You’re so great and I love following your work! You’re an inspiration!
Thanks, Emily! Your batting packaging instructions will probably say something like quilt every 10″-12″, but I think it’s better to quilt much closer than that. I’m going to say put ties every 4″-6″. I think you’ll sleep better at night. 😉
I am making a baby clothes memory quilt with a random design. Do you think it would look odd on the back if I placed ties randomly to avoid tacking where the clothes are placed?
I don’t think it would look weird. Would it be possible to use thread/yarn that would blend in with the backing?
Dear Suzy I clicked on some of the links in this tutorial, thinking I would see your patterns. NOPE just advertising links – some very false advertising going on here. Thought you should know aboutit.
I’ve noticed that an advertising company that I have been using has started placing multiple ads throughout my website without me realizing it. I think I’ll need to manually go through each post and weed them out. So sorry about the confusion and thank you for your patience while I work through this. So many growing pains! 😉
Would this still work if you only tied the quilt and didn’t do any machine quilting? Thanks!
It totally would!
I love that this is a little less busy then having all the stings on the top. My grandmother always hand tied her quilts. She passed away and I received all of her quilting supplies, including a box of tops that she had made. I am working on batting and backing them all for my siblings for Christmas. I decided to hand tie them just like grandma would have. Some of the tops are extremely busy, they were made in the area where no fabric was wasted, with lots of grandpas shirts, so I was looking for a more simple look to the hand tie. So thanks for the tutorial.
thank you for this. So many ideas in my head. and thanks for including the name Kelly Ventura. what beautiful fabric to choose from.
Nice touch. I am currently finishing my first hand-quilted piece using pearl cotton–a fiber that I love. I’ve also used it for several small pattern needlepoint pieces which turned out beautifully. Thanks for this tip on hand tying!!
Love love love, everything about this quilt. From the ties to the backing fabric to the quilt tag!
Where do you get your tags from?
I get them from a great online store called The Dutch Label Shop.
the The Dutch Label Shop link is totally broken 🙁 It goes to a search for “http://diastasis” thought you would want to know!
Well that’s weird! I just updated the link. Thanks for letting me know!
Suzy, thanks for the great tutorial! One question: How do you feel about “burying” the ends of the ties in the batting? Any tips on doing this? Do you anticipate any problems? I like your work, so I will take to heart any advice you have.
Great question! I would assume that you could do that just like you would bury threads during machine quilting. If you hop on YouTube there are some great tutorials on this.
This is beautiful. I have always loved the timeless look of tied quilts. I have never seen the little X done before. May I ask how long it took you to tie this whole quilt?
I have been enjoying your blog.
Sending admiration and inspiration from Canada
I don’t remember exactly, but once I got in the groove it went pretty fast.
Tying a quilt for the first time and I’m finding it relaxing. I usually take my quilts to someone for the quilting but this one is small. It’s actually for my best friend’s Chihuahua! 😉
I love this idea! What did you use for batting? I usually use warm and natural, but my quilts don’t seem to have the loft that this one does!
I can’t remember what batting I used in this quilt, but if you want more loft, I highly recommend wool. Here’s a post on more quilt batting info – https://suzyquilts.com/how-to-choose-the-right-quilt-batting/
Thank you for this info. Been looking for someone who tied a quilt and what they used and did. I have a top to sandwich and wanted to tie it.
I just finished a baby quilt and hand tied it. It’s beautiful, then I washed it to make sure no problems as suggested by some. Cold water, low heat, removed promptly. The fabric is so wrinkled, I’m so sad. I know a new mommy won’t have time to iron her quilts…any suggestions for next time? I’ve made 2 others that washed fine.
Did you prewash your fabric? My guess is that the type of fabric you used shrunk A LOT – causing the crinkle wrinkle look. Here’s more info on prewashing if you’re interested – https://suzyquilts.com/should-you-prewash-fabric-before-quilting/
I am making a flannel and fleece blanket, not batting. Just sewn around the edges and turned out. Bigger then a baby blanket. Can I do this but make the x’s slightly larger?
You can make the Xs any size and it will work great. Especially since you aren’t using batting, technically there is no need to quilt the layers together. Quilting is done to keep batting in place so it doesn’t bunch up in one area of the quilt.
I am going to try this on a baby quilt I have just made – thank you for such clear instructions
Our charity quilting group uses the hand tying but only half of the x–tie ends are on top using a surgical knot and cut to 1″. We find this knot holds better. I am currently using embroidery floss for tying a personal project. I use all 6 strands at a time because I look the look when the ends separate. It also comes in so many colors and is inexpensive. I do like the X and may give it a try. Thanks
I really like this idea–could I pop the knots to hide the tails somehow?
Hmmm… I don’t see why not!
I am in the process of making a queen size bedspread and decided to hand tie instead of machine quilting. Chose to use embroidery floss (3 strands) and make crosses, popping the knots at start and finish. After viewing your lovely technique, I am now wondering (over half done) if I should have gone over twice before finishing. The quilt will like only get laundered once a year (on gentle cycle) as it is for a guest bed. thank you for sharing this idea, especially for those of us who are not as experienced with quilting as others.
This has been so helpful. I am making an extra large king sized quilt 114″ wide by 96″ deep. 4 fabrics cut into 6″ squares [357 in total. The lady wants it to reach the floor and tuck under the pillow and back again hence the size. I know I wont get it in the throat of my Janome memory craft machine. Tying seems the way to go. Thanks for tall the hints and tips.
Love tied quilts. Yours is beautiful. Wondering how everyone does theirs? Does everyone use quilting frames? I have a hand me down quilting frame for large quilts that is more trouble than it’s worth. Any advice or suggestions on quilting frames?
Do I have to stretch my quilt to tie it?
You don’t have to stretch your quilt, but you do need to baste it first. Here’s some instruction on that – https://suzyquilts.com/how-to-baste-a-quilt/
Great tutorial and helpful comments! I love tying quilts, and this new approach to a great tradition is particularly inspiring.
First, I must tell you, your site has become my go-to for quilting techniques! Thanks so much for all this wonderful content. SO GOOD.
Anyway, are there any fabrics you wouldn’t advise for hand tying? I have some big, gorgeous pieces of linen I think would look cool tied in this “X” style, but when I look at linen quilts online for inspiration they’re generally quilted in larger squares. Any pointers would be very welcome!
Hi Annie! We’re so glad you like the Suzy Quilts website! You can quilt linen as densely or loosely as you’d like, and most fabrics will work great with ties. Fabrics with very loose weaves, like double gauze, might not be a great bet, but you can absolutely try out tying a linen quilt! If you want to make extra sure the technique will turn out how you’d like, you can always make a very small sample quilt to make sure it will turn out how you’re envisioning!
Hi! Beautiful quilt! I’m curious what pattern this band if I could purchase it somewhere?
We’re so glad you like this quilt! There is a link to the Kris Kross pattern under the heading “Example Quilt Fabric” and here is the link as well: https://suzyquilts.com/shop/kris-kross-quilt-pattern-download/
Enjoy making your Kris Kross quilt!
Dear Suzy, such beautiful work! I have a bedspread actually that’s quite puffy and when washed gets so wrinkled because it’s not tacked down to the batting inside. The batting doesn’t move around but I was thinking of possibly hand quilting some ties on it to keep it more together. What do you think of this idea and what product would be best to use? The bedspread is 100% polyester fiber. Would it be better to do just go down a few rows on the machine instead? Any advice is greatly appreciated 💕
Coming late to the video of tying a quilt! It was suggested to me that I might do this on a huge hexagon quilt that I got landed with to finish off. It was obviously started (and almost finished) in the 1970s so our group had to make the last bit up like a jigsaw with the hexagons left with the quilt. I have layered it up and almost finished hand quilting it, but with about 10 inches between each diagonal line. So having seen this lovely little cross tie (for which thank you Suzy), I am going to finish it off with these ties in the middle of the 10 inch spaces. I think it will look good and I shall then raffle it for MacMillan nurses next September. It was hard work. One of my group kindly took out the cardboard middles (yes cardboard!) for me – the tacking (sorry basting!) was with double thread and doubled up at each corner of the hexagon. Thank god we have better ways of doing things now!
This is my first time tying a quilt top. Top of quilt is cotton back is Mincky? What type of thread should I use and how far apart should I tie. Learned how to tie from my Mother when I was young , but have not tied since about 60 years ago. Hope you can help me Thank you
You can use any type of thread or yarn that you feel comfortable with. This post on how to tie a quilt uses yarn, which is more traditional in quilt tying. Just make sure to secure the knots well like in this post. The closer you place your ties, the more secure your quilt layers will be, so every 2-4″ is a good idea.