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Sometimes Bigger Is Better: Big Stitch Quilting Basics

Have you ever heard the term “big stitch quilting” and wondered exactly what that meant? It’s not just traditional hand quilting, and yet in some ways, that’s exactly what it is. Big stitch quilting is achieved with the same method as traditional hand quilting, and can be done on any quilt or quilted item. The only real differences are the type of needle and the type of thread used. This obviously, creates a very different appearance because the resulting stitches are BIGGER than traditional ones.

Let’s explore how to big stitch quilt for a fun twist on traditional hand quilting.

variety of perle cotton threads

What’s the difference between big stitch quilting and traditional hand quilting?

Traditional quilting is done with small, fine needles and cotton thread that can be used to create as many as 10 to 12 stitches per inch. (You can find out more about the basics of hand quilting here!) Using a larger needle and a much larger thread, will create stitches that are larger and more easily seen. Big stitch quilting is a wonderful way for traditional hand quilters to really show off their work with colorful thread, and it adds another layer of texture to the finished quilt.

Many quilters have been using all types of thicker, decorative threads to embellish their quilts with fancy stitches, but this kind of thread is also beautiful when used as the quilting stitches in a project. If you have ever hand quilted in the traditional way, this method will come very naturally to you. It is the same technique and method, just…BIG!

variety of needles

What type of materials should you use for big stitch quilting?

There are several different kinds of hand quilting needles that can be used. The important thing to remember is that the needle hole should be large enough to fit the thread, and the eye (opening) should be rounded so that the thread won’t break during the quilting process.

The threads that can be used include needlepoint or cross stitch floss, perle cotton or even wool thread. The important thing to remember when choosing a thread, is make sure it is ‘smooth’ enough to slide through the quilt sandwich without shredding or tugging, and that it compliments the fabrics of the quilt.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to big stitch quilt.

Just follow along with the simple step-by-step process outlined in the photos:

Step 1:

Create your quilt sandwich with the quilt top, batting and backing, as shown below.

quilt sandwich

Step 2:

Choose the thread and needle that work best together for your quilt. I chose the size 12 perle cotton and a #22 Hiroshima needle.

perle cotton spool

Step 3:

Thread the needle and then tie it off by laying the needle across the thread. Wrap the thread around the needle twice and pull it to the end, creating a small knot.

needle and thread positioning

Step 4:

The quilt stitches are made by running the needle up and down through all layers of the quilt sandwich as shown below. Because the needle is larger and the thread is thicker, you may only be able to load two to three stitches at a time.

loading big stitches onto needle

Step 5:

To tie off the thread at the end of the stitching, use the same technigue for making the first knot. Wrap the thread around the needle two to three times and draw the needle through the loops.

big stitches with needle and thread

Step 6:

After the knot has been made, insert the needle directly under the knot and pull the thread. Using the tip of the needle, wiggle it a bit to create a hole in the fabric large enough for the knot to be pulled all the way through, leaving it under the layer of fabric. I always do this from the back side of the quilt so it is even less noticable.

big stitches with knot

Step 7:

Now that the thread is buried with the knot, you can clip of the end of the thread and begin stitching the next row. If the hole created by the knot is still noticable, just use your needle or finger tip to rub the threads of the fabric back into place.

big stitches with hidden knot

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to leave your original knot showing as in the photo above (that was for demonstration purposes only). You want to bury it the same way you buried the ending knot. Again, always bury the knots from the back of the quilt, so any flaws will not show from the front.

Now do you see how this is just like traditional hand quilting, but it has such a different look? Why not try it with your next project and see how fun and creative you can be!

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Big Techniques from Small Scraps

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m spotten

I’ve been doing this for quite a while, often using baby yarn or regular yarn. Although I like cotton threads, the synthetic fibers slide thru the fabric a little easier than a crochet cotton and are more durable. For a large yarn, you can get quite large stitches, just don’t let them get bigger than about 3/8″ or little fingers and toes can catch in them.

Marlene Richards

big stitch is lots of fun and looks very nice. It moves along quickly to finish a beautiful quilt in short order.

Shirley Jones

I would love to learn to hand quilt by

Gail Sisson

I have been doing this for a while also i really enjoy the look of the finished product and it helps as i dont like to quilt as i dont wear thimbles. I use crochet cotton and usually one of the colours in the quilt and it gives them a lovely country naive look very nice. I have also used embroidery thread this also looks very nice when finished.


I think this post is misleading. I purchased this class after watching Sarah’s youtube video on the craftsy channel about big stitch hand quilting. That short video said to buy the class to learn more. So I did. I actually emailed customer service because there wasn’t a demonstration on the technique in the class. I kind of felt duped into buying the class. Customer service apologized. That was 2 years ago (7/18/13, almost exactly 2 years lol) and today I see this advertising the same thing. Hmm…I will rewatch the whole class and see if it’s since been added.

Karen N Miranda

same 🙁


love to learn big stitch quilting


Looking for ways to get this look via machine quilting ie. thick threads or a sashiko machine. Arthritis prevents me doing much hand stitching. Ideas??


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