Big-stitch quilting technique: have you tried this fun way to finish? (video)

When the quilt finish line is near, it’s fun to take a moment to decide which techniques you’ll use to complete your quilt, especially when it comes to quilting your top. There are lots of options! From quick machine quilting with free-motion methods or walking-foot techniques to hand quilting, hand tying, and tacking, the choice is yours.

Small quilts offer a chance to play with hand quilting and still reach that finish line fast, and the big-stitch quilting technique is a fun and surprisingly quick way to go. Gail Pan, author of the “Patchwork Loves Embroidery” series of books, uses pearl cotton instead of traditional quilting thread, and it really makes each stitch pop! Plus, big stitches mean you’ll cover the surface of your quilt top with stitches more quickly—the finish line will always be in plain sight.

Read on for Gail’s big-stitch quilting technique—maybe you’ll want to give it a try!


Gail PanBig-Stitch Quilting Technique
From Patchwork Loves Embroidery Too by Gail Pan

To add a little dimension to my projects, I hand quilt them using a big-stitch quilting technique and size 8 ecru pearl cotton. I begin by placing ¼" quilter’s tape so that one side adjoins a seamline or a motif in my project, such as an embroidered circle. Using the edge of the quilter’s tape as a guide allows me to stitch a quilting line that is even and exactly ¼" from the seam. Quilter’s tape comes on a roll and is both inexpensive and repositionable.

Pretty Floral ToteThread your needle with pearl cotton thread, inserting the end straight off the ball. Cut a length of thread about 15″ long. Knot one end with a single knot. Insert your needle through the backing fabric to the front, where you want to start. Pull the backing fabric away from the batting and tug gently on the thread so the knot pops between the layers.

Bring the needle up through the quilt top right next to the ¼" quilter’s tape, and then insert it back into the quilt right next to the tape and approximately ¼" from the spot where your needle came up. This will make a “big stitch” approximately ¼" long. Bring the needle back up next to the quilter’s tape ¼" from the point where the needle went down last. Continue in this manner until you have 4″ to 5″ of thread left. Take the thread to the back, knot the thread, and then pull the knot back into the quilt, between the backing and the batting. Bring the needle out approximately 1″ away. Trim the thread close to the backing fabric. For “wavy” line quilting, freehand the quilting as you stitch.

Big-stitch quilting technique - detail
Big-stitch quilting: wavy lines

We put together a little video about Gail’s big-stitch quilting technique, so you can see her how-to in action:


  Reading this post in email? Click here to view the video.

Ready to give big-stitch quilting a try? Let these projects from Gail’s books inspire you!

This pretty table runner is chock-full of big-stitch quilting and is perfect for enjoying year-round:

Wildflowers Table Runner
Wildflowers Table Runner from
Patchwork Loves Embroidery Too

See 13 more projects from Patchwork Loves Embroidery Too >

Here’s a sweet topper for the holiday on the way:

All Around the Snowmen Table Topper
All around the Snowmen Table Topper from
Christmas Patchwork Loves Embroidery

See 12 more projects from Christmas Patchwork Loves Embroidery >

Or tuck your secrets and dreams into this happy little fabric folder:

Secrets and Dreams Folder
Secrets and Dreams Folder from
Patchwork Loves Embroidery

See 15 more projects from Patchwork Loves Embroidery >

How do you usually finish your small quilts?

  • Big-stitch quilting, just like Gail!
  • Machine quilting—with the pedal to the metal to get to the finish line.
  • I like to mix it up with machine quilting, traditional hand quilting, and big-stitch quilting.

Share your finishing smarts in the comments! And if we’ve inspired you to try Gail’s big-stitch quilting technique, you can order one or more of her books now and instantly download the eBook version for free.

Patchwork Loves Embroidery Too Patchwork Loves Embroidery Christmas Patchwork Loves Embroidery


36 Comments (leave a comment)

Leave a comment

*Indicates required field