Quilting DIY: How To Hand Tie a Quilt

Posted by on Oct 5, 2013 in Quilting | Comments

It is not uncommon to find a quilter who has a stack of quilt tops that are waiting to be quilted. The actual act of quilting can be difficult and a bit intimidating. What exactly is quilting? It’s the process of sewing together the three layers of a quilt: the top, batting and backing. There are three different ways to accomplish this.

The first way is to quilt by machine. After the layers have been basted together, they are sewn together with the sewing machine (either a home or longarm machine) in the desired pattern. The second option is to hand quilt. This is a traditional technique that is highly beloved. Much enjoyment is had and a unique personal touch is created during hand quilting. The last option for finishing a quilt is hand tying, and this is what we are going to take a look at today.

Patterned Quilts Folded and Stacked

Photos via Nana Company

What does it mean to tie a quilt? This is a very basic and beginner-friendly way to hold together a quilt.

Embroidery floss, yarn or a similar product is used to literally tie the layers together every few inches. This works well on both pieced and whole-cloth quilts. It is suitable for a variety of different projects, including those with different weights. Quilts with no batting or those with extra thick batting that are not able to be quilted in any other way are great candidates for this type of technique.

Are you interested in tying a quilt? Here are the basics.

Step 1

Gather together necessary supplies: a basted quilt, embroidery floss or yarn, thimble, scissors, and a tapestry needle with a sharp point and large eye.

Step 2:

Decide where you’d like to tie the quilt. This can be in the middle of a block or across a seam. Be sure to keep the spacing equal in distances that are appropriate for the batting that is being used. These intervals can be anywhere from 4” – 10”.

Step 3:

Thread the needle with the preferred tying material. This can be tricky since yarn and floss is pretty thick, so use a needle threader if necessary. If that doesn’t work, try folding the thread in half. Pinch the fold in half and try pushing that new point into the eye. Cut thread to approximately 20 – 24”.

Step 4:

Insert needle down through all three quilt layers and then back up through ¼” away from the initial spot. Leave a 2” tail.

Step 5:

Repeat step in the same location to reinforce.

Step 6:

Cut thread, leaving another 2” tail.

Step 7:

Use a double knot to tie the tails together. Trim excess tails, leaving approximately 1”.

Quilt Featuring Hexagon Quilt Blocks with Ties

Photos via Nana Company

Hand tying is a quick and easy way to finish a quilt. It adds a touch of vintage inspired charm to any project. Despite its draws, be aware that a tied quilt is not as durable as one that has been fully quilted. Wash these types of quilts sparingly and use care when they do need to be laundered.

What do you think about hand tied quilts? Have you ever finished a quilt this way?


  1. I love it ! I finished two quilts this way and for an other one I just sewed buttons to hold the 3 layers …It’s fast and easy …And after several washes in the machine I can confirm they still perfect …so I guess it’s the way to go for all the tops waiting to be quilted !!!!

  2. Doris Friday says:

    A 4th way is to pick one stitch such as a star and sew the star where you would tie the quilt. This way the ‘ties’ do not come out when little fingers pull on them.

  3. Pat Ost says:

    I like it too- my only problem is the knot- reef, granny or???

  4. Sue says:

    I have made several tied quilts, one of which has been on my bed in daily use for about 7 years, and washed repeatedly (the cats’ favorite napping spot). The top is pieced entirely with 3″ squares with one narrow and one wider border. I tied with yarn at the corner of each nine patch. I notice now that the yarn has popped through the backing (all one piece) into the middle in several places where I took too small of a stitch, so your recommendation of at least 1/4″ is a good one. But otherwise it is holding together very well, I’d say. It was a queen size quilt and not “quick” even to tie, but a success.

  5. I hand tied a whole cloth quilt for my dorm room, a zillion years ago. I still use it; it’s on my bed under the down comforter. I can’t believe how well it’s held up!

  6. Kay says:

    I often tie my quilts and find that the ‘surgical knot’ makes a very sturdy tie, harder to undo
    than the double knot. I learned it from YOUTUBE, as I recall.

  7. Catherine Richard says:

    Your site is very informative. Thank you.

  8. Priscilla Pride says:

    I restored an antique quilt for a friend and did not find it fast at all. I did tie it closer than 4 inches though. It didn’t have batting in it.
    The quilt was made from old clothes, pants, shirts, and flour/rice sacks. It was evidently a quilt that was made because a quilt was needed. No particular pattern and the size of the patches was all different sizes. some were pieced to make the patch. The batting was more flour/rice sacks.
    I didn’t find it as a fast way to quilt a top. I have a long arm and I could do 4 quilts to what it would take to tie the one I tied.. But if you don’t have a long arm, don’t want to quilt on a domestic and can’t afford to hire it done this is a good way to finish a quilt. It also can be done while you ride down the road. i

  9. Karen Monteith says:

    I have a hexi quilt I have been hand sewing forever. I want to complete it for a gift. Maybe I will hand tie it; the possibility of completing it will be much greater.

  10. Kay Cinotto says:

    When I was younger, I helped my grandma and sisters and mom…This is the only method they use! I still love it to this day. I remember the huge, curved needles…In fact I might still have a couple of them. I am going to machine quilt my first time on the quilt that I am making now

  11. Anne Rightler says:

    I handtied several baby quilts for my first couple grand children. Needless to say the ties didn’t hold thru the hard use of baby/toddlerhood! The later ones I machine stitched and they held up very well.

  12. Patty Graves says:

    Yes but tie would not stay in,why?

  13. Gerri Dean says:

    I have hand tied many quilts and love it! It is easy and makes the time shorter to complete the project.