Ways to Quilt Your Quilt

Skill Level: Beginner

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Once you’ve completed piecing a quilt top, it’s time to quilt it! Quilting is an important step in finishing your quilt which joins the layers of fabric and batting together to hold everything in place. Quilting can be done with hand or machine stitching. Let’s explore the options and the threads for each. (Catch up on part one of our quilting blog series here, plus get the printable Solid Squares Quilt pattern PDF we're using for this project.)

getting ready!

The quilting technique you choose will determine what threads or other quilting supplies you will need. Let’s go over some of the basic techniques and supplies:

01 machine quilting

Using a sewing machine is a simple way to quilt for beginners. Following the design lines of the quilt squares horizontally and vertically creates a nice clean grid.

Finsihed Quilt image

Quality all-purpose threads such as Coats & Clark™ Dual Duty XP® Polyester thread or Coats & Clark™ Cotton All-purpose sewing thread are great for quilts that will be used and laundered often and offer the widest color selection.

Coats & Clark™ Cotton Covered Quilting and Piecing thread image

Coats & Clark™ Cotton Covered Quilting and Piecing thread has a strong polyester core wrapped with cotton and is slightly finer than cotton machine quilting thread.

Coats & Clark™ Cotton Machine
              Quilting thread image

If you prefer a pure cotton thread, Coats & Clark™ Cotton Machine Quilting thread Is a strong, low-lint Egyptian Long Staple cotton thread that gives beautiful luster and definition to stitches.

Cotton quilting threads image

03 hand quilting

Quilting by hand is the most traditional technique and gives a truly unique and personal touch. For this, Coats & Clark™ Hand Quilting thread is a wonderful choice as it has a glacé finish, allowing thread to glide easily through the fabric, preventing fraying, knotting and tangling.

Like machine quilting, following the design lines of the quilt squares provides a guide to follow and creates a simple but effective grid design.

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For bolder, more primitive stitches try Coats & Clark™ Bold Hand Quilting thread. This is a thicker thread with the same no-tangle, no-fray glacé finish.

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04 tying a quilt

Tying a quilt is a great option for beginners!

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Yarn, thread or embroidery floss may be used for this easy and eye-catching technique.

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Layout your squares image

Have fun and play around! Different techniques can even be combined on the same quilt!

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Here’s an example of tying squares with floss and then using Coats & Clark™ Bold Hand quilting thread to create different designs.


05 thread color

Thread can be a bold design element or blend into the fabric colors of your quilt. If you are a beginner, you may prefer a thread that blends with the quilt colors to help hide any imperfections in your stitching. The same color thread can be used on the top and in the bobbin, or the bobbin thread color can be matched to the backing fabric.

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06 quilt backing

The backing fabric can be anything from an old sheet, pieced sections of 45” width fabric, or one piece of extra-wide 108” quilting fabric. The backing should 8” wider and 8” longer than the completed width and length of your quilt. This will give 4 extra inches on all sides to work with when quilting.

07 batting

BBatting is the middle layer between the quilt top and the backing. This layer adds warmth and helps to show off the quilted stitches, giving it that signature cozy quilt look and feel. Battings are available in a variety of fiber contents and come in pre-cut typical sizes—choose the size closest to your quilt allowing 2-4" extra on all sides. The "loft" of the batting refers to how thick it is and will give you an idea of how fluffy or thick the quilt will be once quilted.

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let's make a sandwich!

Once you’ve settled on your method of quilting, the next step is to make a sandwich—a quilt sandwich that is!

01 layering the quilt sandwich

Clear a large flat surface area such as a very large table or the floor. Lay the backing fabric on your surface with the wrong side facing up. Make sure it’s smooth and taut but not stretched. A good way to achieve this is to tape the fabric to the surface using masking or painter’s tape.

layering the quilt sandwich Image 1

Next, lay the batting on top of the backing fabric, spreading it out flat so there are no wrinkles. If your batting is wrinkled or has folds in it from being packaged, toss it in the dryer for a few minutes at medium heat to fluff and flatten it out.

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Finally, lay the quilt top over the batting with the right side facing up and the wrong side against the batting.

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02 basting

Once the layers are stacked and perfectly smoothed out, you'll need to baste them together. Basting holds the layers securely in place while you are quilting. You can choose to either spray, pin or thread baste your quilt.

02.1 spraying basting

Spray adhesives are temporary and wash out once the quilt is laundered. Starting with the batting and backing fabric, fold the batting back from the backing fabric and spray on the batting. Work in sections, smoothing the batting out against the wrong side of the backing. Once complete, fold the back the top and spray as you did for the back.

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02.2 pin basting

Pin basting is done with specially designed curved safety pins that make it easier to insert and close the pin. Place pins grid-style in rows about 3-4 inches apart, starting in the center and working your way to each side, top and bottom. It’s tempting to space the pins further apart, but if you do, shifting may occur between the layers of the quilt resulting in tucks and puckers in the finished quilt. The pins are removed as you quilt.

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02.3 thread basting

Originally all quilts were basted this way! Hand-sew long running stitches beginning in the center and stitching toward the edges starburst fashion on small quilts. For larger quilts, form a 3-4 inch grid starting with the center horizontal and vertical lines. These basting threads will be pulled out once quilting is complete.


ready to quilt

01 machine quilting

A simple way to machine quilt for beginners is to sew along the design lines of the quilt squares ¼" away from the seams.

Equip your machine with a new 12/80 or 14/90 Sharp or Quilting needle and thread the top and bobbin. It’s wise to wind several extra bobbins so you won’t have to stop and rewind the bobbin mid-quilt.

If you have one, install a walking foot on your machine. You can quilt without one, but a walking foot ensures that the layers of the quilt feed through the machine evenly without shifting.

Before starting on your quilt, make a small sample using your quilt fabric, batting and backing. Sew a few test lines of stitching to ensure your stitch length and tension are correct.

Sewing such a large piece on a machine can be tricky. To manage the bulk, roll it up starting at the right side to about midway. Place this in the throat space between the needle and the side. Quilt and unroll until you reach the edge then flip the quilt and repeat for the other side.

To begin, align the edge of the presser foot with the seam line of the squares. Stitch from top to bottom along all vertical rows, then turn the quilt and stitch horizontally, rolling the quilt and working from the center out.

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02 quilting by hand

For hand quilting, use a size 7 or 8 hand quilting sewing needle (sometimes called "Betweens") and a spool of Coats & Clark™ Hand Quilting thread. A hoop or wooden frame may be used to hold the quilt sandwich while you are stitching. You may choose to use a thimble to protect the finger that pushes the thread through the quilt layers.


Use a single thread, 20” [50cm] long and knotted at one end. Stitch from the center outward on the entire project by beginning ½” [1.3cm] from where you plan your first stitch. Push the needle through the quilt top and into the batting. Bring it up through the top at the site of the first stitch. Gently pull the thread to hide the knot in the batting.

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Quilting stitch: Stitch toward you in an up and down motion with the needle perpendicular to the fabric. Using 6-8 stitches per inch, go through all layers, making the stitches the same length on both sides. .


03 tying a quilt

Quilts can be tied instead of stitched using Red Heart® Super Saver® or Coats & Clark™ cotton embroidery floss. Thread a Susan Bates® steel yarn needle with the yarn or floss. Pull the yarn or floss through all thicknesses. On the top, knot and clip the ends.

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Tying a quilt Image 2
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Author, Lynn Brown

Lynn Browne retired from Coats Clark after 34 years in the consumer and education department. She learned to sew in 4-H and always enjoyed sewing clothing and home decor items. After years of seeing so many beautiful quilts at Quilt Shows attended on the job, she has taken up quilting in retirement and loves it!