Quilt school: How to tie a quilt

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine

Need a fast finish? In this new addition to our Quilt School series, our Technical Editor Sarah Griffiths takes you through the basics of tying a quilt, plus some tips on how to pep up this traditional technique…

Read on to find out how it’s done, plus follow our instructions for how to make a bright and bold mini quilt project to try out what you’ve learnt.

Missed out on our earlier classes? Catch up here…

Before you begin tying quilts

Take a look at your quilt top and decide where you would like the ties to go. It’s important to keep in mind how close your ties should be, based on the batting you’re using (check the label when you buy and make a note of the recommended quilting distance).

If you’re not sure, it’s usually safe to place them about a hands width apart (4–5in).

You can work in an offset grid pattern for even coverage (Fig 1 below). Or use your quilt design as a guide, placing ties in the centre of blocks (Fig 2) or at corners over seams (Fig 3). If you want precise placement, you can mark your quilt with a removable fabric pen or for a more freestyle look, just eyeball the placement!

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, before you begin

Step one: Lay your basted quilt out flat on a table top with a cutting mat underneath. Thread a large eyed sharp tapestry needle or curved needle with two long strands of yarn, perle cotton or embroidery floss. Starting from the centre of your quilt, make a double stitch through all layers of the quilt, leaving a 6in tail of thread at one end. Don’t cut the other end of the thread yet.

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine

Step two: Work your way across the quilt, adding stitches at your chosen intervals. Work in a straight line toward one edge of your quilt. Make sure to leave at least 6in of thread between each stitch. If your stitches are closer together than this, just leave a little slack between them. When you reach the edge of your quilt, snip the thread, leaving a 6in tail at the end. Keep adding lines of stitches in this way, until your whole quilt is covered.

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, step two

Step three: Snip the threads between each set of stitches, leaving an equal length on each side. Tie a square knot (twist right over left, then left over right) at each stitch, using the long thread tails. Trim the thread tails to your desired length.

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, step three

Step four: If you don’t like the look of knots, you could also finish your thread ends with buttons. Thread the ends through the buttonholes, and finish them off as you would on a garment. Alternatively, you can push the thread ends to the back of the quilt and knot off.

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, step four

Machine ties

If you don’t fancy all the hand work, you can tie your quilt by machine instead. Here are a few stitches you can use to finish your quilt. Simply work them over the quilt at intervals, snipping threads close to the quilt to finish each one.

  • Straight stitch

    Lower your machine needle into your quilt. Stitch forward about 4 stitches, then in reverse for 4 stitches. Repeat one more time in the same spot before clipping threads.

  • Buttonhole stitch

    Use a very short buttonhole stitch to make a thin ring. This is a little fancier than the straight stitches, but also more time consuming.

  • Embroidery stitches

    If your machine has some embroidery stitches, you can experiment with using these for ties. We tried a small ring stitch and a satin stitch oval. Just make sure to lock your threads at the beginning and end of each stitch.

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, machine ties

From left to right: straight stitch, buttonhole stitch, and two machine embroidery stitches.

Try it now: Neon Ties quilt tutorial

Go for all-out colour clashing with pops of neon fabric and thread!

Quilting tutorial - tying quilts, Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine

You will need

  • Nine different fabrics each 812in square for quilt top
  • Solid fabric 18in square solid for centre back
  • Dotted fabric 14yd for back sashing
  • Binding fabric 14yd
  • Batting 25in square

Finished Size

24in square

Notes

All seam allowances are 14in, unless noted otherwise.

Fabrics used

Riley Blake Neon Dots and Solids

Equipment

Curved needles: these make it easy to add stitches to a flat quilt without straining your fingers. You can use any type of thread to tie your quilt; just make sure it’s colourfast and washable. Larger size needles are perfect for yarn or thicker threads.

Cutting out

Step one: From your dotted back sashing fabric cut two (2) 4in x WOF strips. Subcut each strip into one (1) 4in x 18in strip and one (1) 4in x 25in strip.

Step two: Cut three (3) 212in x WOF strips for binding.

Step three: Sew your 18in strips to the top and bottom of your 18in square of backing fabric, pressing the seams toward the sashing strips. Sew the 25in strips to the sides of the backing, again pressing seams toward the sashing strips.

Piecing the quilt top

Step four: Piece the quilt top by sewing the 812in squares into three rows of three, referring to the quilt above, or arranging as you choose. Press seams in alternate directions between each row. Join the rows together, pressing the seams open or to one side as you prefer.

Quilting & finishing

Step five: Make a quilt sandwich with your backing, batting and quilt top and baste together. Tie the quilt using the methods outlined in the technique focus. We used neon threads to tie our quilt, adding buttons in two corners. We also added some straight stitch machine ties in the other two corners.

Step six: Sew your binding strips together end to end. Press in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and use to bind your quilt.