Hand Quilting with Perle Cotton...Tips!


I often get a lot of questions about my hand quilting tools and techniques. Here is a list of tools I use and techniques. Hopefully, this will help you get started on your hand quilting journey!

Quilting Hoop. When I began quilting many years ago, Georgia Bonesteel was the 'it girl' on the scene! Georgia brought the idea of lap quilting to every quilter who longed to hand quilt, but not keen on the idea of sitting behind a large frame.

First of all, a quilting hoop is different from an embroidery hoop. A quilting hoop has thicker sides, about an inch thick. The heftier hoop helps to hold the quilt in place while quilting. The pvc snap frames do not hold quilts in place tightly enough, so my recommendation would be to look for a wooden hoop that is designed for quilting. There are many companies that manufacture quilting hoops, just do a google search for hand quilting hoops. I use an Edmund hoop because they are inexpensive and come in a variety of sizes. Also, there are beautiful custom hoops available, you can choose different finishes, sizes and shapes.

The purpose of the hoop is to hold the basted quilt sandwich together while quilting. The hoop stabilizes the layers to help control shifting and allows for more control when stitching. You need two hands for quilting. Your dominant hand is on the top and your other hand is underneath the quilt. It's much easier to use proper quilting techniques when you have the quilt in a hoop and your hands are free to stitch rather than holding onto the layers.

Needles. I use a Fons and Porter Utility Needle for hand quilting with perle cotton. These needles were specifically designed for Big Stitch Quilting. I like to stitch with size 8 perle cotton and the Fons and Porter needles are easy to thread when using size 8 or size 12. If you use an embroidery needle, it's important to purchase a good quality needle. You are putting a good deal of stress on the needle during the quilting and you need to make sure your needle doesn't bend or break.

Thread. For big stitch quilting, you will use perle cotton. This is a single strand of thread that is twisted. You do not separate this thread into strands. The quilting is done with either size 8 or size 12 perle cotton. The smaller the number the thicker the thread. For instance, size 5 is thicker than size 8. Size 5 thread is too thick for quilting....it would be too difficult to pull through the layers. There are a number of companies that produce perle cotton. Personally, I prefer Valdani threads. Valdani thread is hand dyed and colorfast. It is strong and quilts beautifully.

Thimble. You will need a thimble for the middle finger of your dominant hand. I am always searching for a thimble that feels comfortable and allows me to quilt effortlessly without injuring my finger. I like the Nimble Thimble, but I am always testing thimbles to find the most comfortable one. My suggestion would be to start with an inexpensive thimble because you will probably try several before settling on one you like.

Marking tools. I do not like to put marks on my quilt for quilting if I can avoid it. You can mark quilting lines by using masking tape. Simply stitch next to the edge of the tape without stitching on the tape. If you want to stitch lines or a grid, you can purchase tape that is the correct spacing width. For instance, for a 2" grid, purchase 2" masking tape. You might also choose to mark a quilt top with a Hera Marker. A Hera Marker makes a crease in the top....not an ink mark. There are also many different disappearing markers available. Air markers disappear over time. The humidity in the air causes the mark to disappear, so if you live in a humid climate your marks will disappear more quickly. Other markers disappear with heat or in the wash. It's important to read the manufacturers information and be sure not to iron over any marks before knowing if that will 'set in' the marked lines.


Begin quilting from the center of the quilt and work your way out toward the edges. You want to push wrinkles out, not in toward the center.

Smooth your quilt in the hoop. Your quilt should be basted before adding it to the hoop. It should be snug in the hoop and smooth.

Use a traditional 'rocking' method for quilting. It is more efficient and results in evenly spaced stitches. This method has stood the test of time and is easy to master with practice. There are several great videos to view, but my favorite would be Sarah Fielke's Craftsy video which can be found on her website.... sarahfielke.com under tutorials.

Finish all the quilting within the hoop area before moving the hoop.

I hope this helps answer a few questions and inspires you to try hand quilting!!!