Friday, July 22, 2011

Loulouthi Tiles {Hand Quilting Tutorial}

Loulouthi Tiles button Loulouthi Tiles is a quilt pattern designed to showcase large-scale prints.  There are several sizes available for you from baby to queen.  I'm using Anna Maria Horner's new Loulouthi collection, but you can use any fabrics!

Here's what has been posted so far:
1.  Versions & Design
2.  Fabric (with links for Loulouthi Tiles Bundles)
3.  Cutting
4.  Piecing

Today:  Hand Quilting!

Now that you're armed with basic hand quilting supplies let's make some stitches, shall we?  I designed Loulouthi Tiles to have 3 rows of hand quilting around each large picture frame tile.  To get started, you'll want to choose three colors of pearl cotton for each picture frame tile.  Take your time, try a few options and enjoy this part!  Here's what I chose:

pearl cottons for Summer Totem in Tart
pearl cottons for Summer Totem in Tart

pearl cottons for Clippings
pearl cottons for Clippings

pearl cottons for Summer Totem in Streudel
pearl cotton for Summer Totem in Streudel

All of these pearl cottons (except the yellow) are pulled from Anna Maria Horner's boxed sets of threads, which are due to be available in quilt shops any day now.  They're running late!  We thought that the threads would be available by the time I started hand quilting.  So sorry about that!  In the meantime, you might try finding pearl cotton sold separately at your local quilt shop, yarn shop or needleworks shop.  If you know of a great online source for Anchor or DMC pearl cotton size 8, please let us know.  So far, the websites I've found have had poor presentation that doesn't inspire my business.

Before walking you through how to hand quilt, let's talk about where.  Make your first, outermost line of quilting (shown in brown stitches below) along the seam that joins the picture frame tile sashing to the thinner, continuous sashing that runs throughout the quilt.  If you quilt exactly in the seam, your stitches will sink into the ditch.  I quilted just beside the seam, on the side closer to the picture frame tile.  No need to draw a guideline for this!

marking quilting lines

The next 2 rows of quilting are spaced evenly between the outermost line and the picture frame tile. Mark quilting lines at 1/2" intervals. Here I'm using my quilting ruler and water soluble pencil.

In addition, I plan to quilt through all the sashing paths in this quilt.  I tentatively plan to do some in hand quilting and some in machine quilting, but we'll see!  My intention is to thoroughly enjoy this project without rushing, which may lead to hand-quilting it all.  Oh, and I also realize that more quilting is needed to really secure this project.  I may add quilting inside the picture frame tiles in geometric grids or following Anna Maria's motifs.  Not sure yet!  I like to let quilting evolve as I go, in part to leave room for new ideas.

By the by, my quilt is basted with 505 basting spray.  Works like a dream and no pesky pins.  Love that!

{Hand Quilting Tutorial}

Step 1:  Thread, Knot & Insert Needle

loulouthi quilting 1

Cut a pretty long length of pearl cotton and thread your needle.  Knot the long end as usual.  Now, insert the needle through the quilt top only about 1 inch from where the needle will come up.  Make the needle come up precisely on your quilting line.  Remember, you're only going through the quilt top at this time.

This next part feels scary.  Be brave.

Step 2:  Tug Knot Through

loulouthi quilting 2

Pull the thread through until the knot catches at the insertion point.  Now grasp the thread near where it exits the quilt top and tug HARD until that knot pops through to the underside of the quilt top.  Pearl cotton is strong, as is your fabric.  I've only had my thread break once (my knot was huge, oops).  Broken thread is no deterrent.  You will win.

loulouthi quilting 3

To protect my fabric, I like to pinch the fabric near the knot and hold it up like so.  It seems to give way to the knot more easily when I do.

Once the knot is under, pull gently so that it catches at the thread exit point along your quilting line.  Now you are ready to hand quilt.

Step 3:  Insert Needle Vertically

loulouthi quilting 4

To begin quilting, insert the needle vertically through all layers of your quilt sandwhich.  Decide now how you will space your stitches for an even stitch pattern.  I like to aim to make my stitch length on the quilt top the same length as the space between stitches, just because it's easy on my brain.

Step 4:  Bring Needle Up

loulouthi quilting 5

Once the needle pokes through to the quilt back, angle it sharply to come up again to the quilt top.  Your quilt should not be held rigidly taut by your quilting frame.  A little give is necessary so that you can bend the fabric a bit as you bring the needle up.  Bending the fabric allows you to maintain the length of the under stitch.  Your goal is for the needle to enter the quilt back somewhat vertically.  That's pretty hard to do, but practice, practice.  Most of us (raising hand here) have shorter stitches on the back of our quilt than the front.  I say, don't sweat it.  Let's just keep quilting!

Step 5:  Load Another Stitch

loulouthi quilting 6

After you've gotten the hang of things, try loading another stitch on your needle at this point before proceeding to the next step.  My needle is short, so I can only do 2.  You'll repeat steps 3 & 4 to load another stitch.

Step 6:  Pull Through

loulouthi quilting 7

When you're ready, pull the needle out of the quilt sandwhich on the top side of the quilt.  To see your stitches, pull the thread all the way through as shown.  However, to save your arm and to save time, it's smart to make a few sets of stitches (each set is steps 3-5) before pulling the thread all the way through.  Continue in this way until you run out of thread or finish your quilting line.

Step 7:  Finishing

To stop hand quilting, you'll repeat steps 1 & 2 with a few modifications.  First pull your thread all the way through, so that only smooth stitches lie in your wake and the thread exits on the quilt top.  Now, make a knot a distance from your quilt top that is equal to the length of your stitches.  For example, if my stitches are 1/4" long, I'll make a knot only 1/4" from my quilt top.

I know, this is weird.

Next, insert your  needle to make the next stitch as usual, only this time only poke through the quilt top.  Make your needle exit the quilt top about 1" from your last stitch.  Now tug until your knot pops through to the underside of the quilt.  See!  Just trim off the thread very close to the quilt top where it exits.  The thread tail will drop to the underside of the quilt.  Hurray!

Questions?  I'm here for you.  Let me have them!


  1. Alewives Fabrics has the AMH thread in stock. Also, I know that Brenda at Pink Castle Fabrics will have it in stock -- her shop is my absolute favourite fabric source (awesome customer service.)

  2. Thanks, Rachael for your great directions and photos. I'm keeping up with you on this project and plan to try my hand at hand-quilting this baby!

  3. thanks Rachel! I appreciate the step by step tips for hand quilting. I've never done it before.

    have you done a tutorial for embroidery as well. I'd love to learn that too. Although I could just sit at your feet at the sewing summit and plead for directions then! lol

  4. Maybe I missed it already, but could you tell us about your frame? What kind is it? Where did you get it? How big is it? I've never used one before, so I have no idea how they work...
    THANKS! This is an excellent tutorial!

  5. thanks for the tute! Love your blog! And I appreciate your tip about taking your time! I feel I'm always in a hurry to finish a quilt, when that defeats the whole purpose! I need to sloooow down and enjoy, and taking more time to hand-quilt is key! I have never hand-quilted a whole quilt before and it's about time I do it for the pleasure, if nothing else!

  6. I'm gearing up to hand quilt my first one soon. I've looked at other tutorials on it and they seem to be lacking in visuals, which is how I learn best. Thank you for all the great photos of the process!

  7. Thanks for this wonderful tutorial. This is the best I have ever seen for handquilting. Not too scary. Beautiful quilt!

  8. I completely forgot to add that my local needleshop has an online store. Their web address is Not sure if you found them in your searching but they have a good variety available online.

  9. Thanks for this fabulous tutorial! I'm getting ready to hand quilt for this first time and will definitely be referring back here when I start.
    I just ordered some Perle 8 from this website
    It's my first order with them, so I can't comment yet on on how reliable they are, but they have a wide selection (one of the few with variegated options) and all the threads are on currently on sale.

  10. I'm really new at this and I was wondering if it is ok to use embroidery floss to hand quilt. Pearl cotton is extremely hard to find around where I live so I was thinking of substituting it for floss. What would the major difference be?

  11. The main difference that I'm aware of is that the embroidery floss would be more likely to break. Also, be sure that you buy a brand that is color-fast. I would not separate the threads, but use them all together. Tell us how it goes!

  12. GREAT tutorial, Rachel! You would have died if you had seen how I hand quilted with crochet thread the first time. I had no idea what I was doing and had all these little knots on the back of my quilt. I was so disgusted and started googling "how to hide knots when quilting" and finally figured it out. It was a process though!

  13. Nice tutorial - well done. I love the way the pearle cotton looks. Well done - and enjoy the hand quilting!

    All the best - Chris

  14. Very thorough tutorial. Thanks.

  15. What sort of needle do you use with the pearl thread?

  16. Hi Rachel! I'm just about to this step and this will be my first hand quilting! 2 questions - can I just hand quilt the tile block and then machine quilt the rest? And also, do you have a post with finished photos so I can see your finished hand quilting? Thanks much! I'll send you my blog post once finished. Lily.

  17. Lily - Yes, you can definitely mix hand quilting and machine quilting. I'm planning on only hand quilting, mine which is why it is still not done! Honestly, I'm taking a break from it now because the colors are not the "fall" ones that I'm channeling. So, that said, I expect to finish it in the spring. Hope that's not terrible news!

    And, regarding needles, I like to use a Chenille needle, #24 size. They're great with the pearl cotton!

  18. Lovely project! Just found your blog and fell in love with it! I adore your color combos, your projects are so inspiring....

    It's such a pitty we don't have such gorgeous fabrics in Brazil! But necessity is the mother of invention, as we say here =)

    Thanks for such a colorful and happy blog!

  19. I'm fascinated to know what kind of frame you're using for your quilt?

    1. Sure! It's a Snap-Ez frame that you can find on Amazon. It's very lightweight and allows you to easily adjust the tension of the stretched portion.

  20. Thanks so much, Rachel for this wonderful tutorial. Now I have no reason not to get those quilt tops finished. I've tried hand quilting before, but hated using the frame or hoop, and my stitches were never very even, unless I used the tiger tape. Now that I've seen how to do the big stitch, everything looks doable. And, of course, all the beautiful colours of the perle cotton certainly keeps one inspired.

  21. I've been quilting since high school, back in the mid 70s. I've never quilted by machine, only by hand. Today, however, you showed me two things that I think I'll try... using pearl cotton (I've always used white or off-white quilting thread), and using colored thread as an accent in white space! I love the look, and I'm going to definitely use it on my next quilt! Thanks so much for the lovely tutorial. I have used the technique you use for "hiding" my knots, and I'm glad you showed such a great tutorial for it. I'm not good at teaching anything, and I tried to explain this to someone recently and just could not make this technique understood. I will definitely refer them to you!! Thanks so very much for sharing!!

  22. Rachel the tut was wonderful! thank you so much for taking the time to do it (time away from quilting) I would love a tut on trapunto technique.

  23. I want to try this, how many spools of peri cotton will I need to do a baby quilt? 45X45

    1. Just one spool would be enough if you only want one color!

  24. I was wondering if l missed the kind of needle used and size

    1. Sure. I like to use Clover Gold Eye Chenille 24 needles!

  25. me gusta mucho tus tutoriales,
    un saludo desde Barcelona Capital


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