This quilt tying tutorial is the most beginner-friendly way to finish a quilt. If you are a new quilter, using yarn or embroidery thread and these simple steps will secure your quilt layers quickly, effectively and last but not least, beautifully.
Even if you are not a new quilter, quilt ties can be a fun addition to some machine quilting or just a fast way to finish a WIP that has been sitting on your work table for too long. The quilt pattern used in this quilt tying tutorial is the Gather pattern and can be purchased in the shop!
One of my first quilt memories is snuggling underneath an old blue and yellow quilt held together with fuzzy yarn ties. As I absentmindedly played with one of the ties I didn't think about the hands that spend hours sewing each piece of fabric together or the process of quilting tying. I just liked the warmth it gave and the cozy feel.
I couldn't have imagined at the time that my enjoyment of that quilt would plant a seed for a lifelong love of textiles and sewing. Quilt tying is a simple way to finish a quilt and is especially effective on larger quilts that you may not have the stamina to hand or machine quilt. Affordability is another factor in choosing to tie a quilt - for about the cost of a cup of coffee, you can tie a quilt!
Added texture may be the most compelling reason to tie a quilt. The options for ties are almost endless, you can use embroidery thread, yarn or even tassels. Get creative in your color choices, use more than one yarn type, make clusters of multi-colored ties or use them alongside some hand quilting. The only constraint is that the quilt tie must be able to fit through the eye of a needle and the needle must be able to be pulled through the quilt.
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Quilt Tying Tutorial Supplies
- Yarn: Pick a color that compliments the colors already used in your quilt. There are A LOT to choose from! Poly or natural-fiber yarn both work well; however, yarn made with natural fibers may fray more than synthetic. Read Step 6 below for tips on how to prevent yarn from fraying too much. If you have any suspicion that the yarn dye might bleed once the quilt is washed, run a quick bleed test by throwing some of the yarn into a bowl of hot water along with a scrap of white fabric.)
8 or 12 wt. pearl cotton thread or embroidery thread: Use or single or double thread - it’s all about your end design goals.
- Needle with a big enough eye for your yarn to pass through - for more info on needles, check out The 5 Types & Sizes of Hand Quilting Needles
- Basted quilt
- Needle-nose pliers (optional)
- Fray Check (Recommended for thicker yarns)
Step 1: Decide Quilt Tie Placement
The first step in this quilt tying tutorial may sound like a no-brainer, but it's really important. Before threading your needle, decide where you want to place your ties. Most batting requires quilting at least every 8" or 10", when you are tying a quilt I recommend that you keep that number closer to 4" or 5" since these ties are just single places of stability holding the quilt layers together.
Use a marking pen to make a small dot where each tie will go. If you like to live on the wild side, you can also throw caution to the wind and randomly place ties approximately 5" apart. Just make sure you aren't getting too wild and free and placing them too far away from each other.
Step 2: Thread Your Needle
The bigger the eye of a needle, the bigger a hole it is going to leave behind in your fabric. The good news is, a hand sewing needle very rarely breaks the woven threads of fabric. Instead, the needle just pushes them to the sides.
The downside to this is that the bigger the needle is, the harder it is to pull through the fabric. So to find that perfect sweet spot, select the smallest needle possible that will still allow your chosen embroidery thread or yarn to pass through its eye.
With yarn, I recommend twisting the yarn until its fibers are very compressed, then flatten it between two fingers so it can pass through the eye of the needle. You can also use a needle threader, however in my experience, if you get a mega cheap flimsy one, it will break pretty easily.
At this point, do not knot your thread or yarn. (That comes later.)
TIP! To avoiding having to rethread your needle after every single quilt tie, cut a really long piece of yarn (like really long – up to 10' is great!) This will come in handing during Step 3, Option 2 below.
Step 3: Pull the Yarn Through
Insert your needle into the quilt. Make sure it goes all the way through to the back. You can either pull the needle all the way through the quilt top and then reinsert it through the back of the quilt about ⅛" away, or you can use a rocking motion similar to hand quilting to take a ⅛" stitch in the quilt.
Option 1: Trim your thread, leaving two 2" tails sticking up through the quilt top on either side.
Option 2: If you cut a really long 10' piece of yarn, you are set up for the chain method. Instead of clipping your thread after each stitch, leave them all connected. After all stitches have been made, cut the yarns between each two connected points.
Tip: If using a thick yarn, this is where a pair of needle-nose pliers can come in very handy. Use the pliers to pull the needle though the fabric.
Step 4: Double Knot
Use a double knot on each of the thread ties.
First pass the right thread over and under the left. Pull it tight.
Then pass the left thread over and under the right. Pull it tight.
Step 5: Trim the Threads
Holding both thread tails together, trim the threads to your desired length, making sure to leave at least 1/2" tails.
Step 6: (Optional) Use Fray Check
You can purchase products for fray prevention as either a spray or, more commonly, as a liquid in a bottle. If you are worried about your threads unraveling or coming untied over time, add a small drop of Fray Check or a little spray of Fray Stop to the center of each knot.
And that's all there is to it! So whether or not you are pressed for time or simply would rather have a hand sewing project rather than working at a sewing machine, this quilt tying tutorial is a beautiful way to finish a quilt.
Comment below with any quilt tying tips of your own!