Quilting Blog

Starting to Stitch: Hand Quilting Stitches for Beginners

Basic hand quilting stitches can help you to achieve a variety of wonderful hand-finished quilts. However, everyone has their own spin on the basic stitch technique. In order to get you on your way to hand quilting bliss, here are several hand quilting projects from the Craftsy community, as well as some resources to help you learn specific hand quilting stitches and techniques.

As a general rule, any of these stitches can be used on any hand-quilted project, and you’ll want to look into hand embroidery stitches and how to hand appliqué if you are interested in combining those techniques on your project! Let’s take a closer look at hand quilting stitches:

hand quilting stitches Photo via Craftsy member Annies Quilt Craft

Quilter’s knot

The quilter’s knot is a basic hand quilting stitch that quilter’s choose for starting and stopping their stitch patterns. To sew the quilter’s knot, you wrap the thread three times around the threaded needle, then pull the loops you created down over the thread to make a knot at the bottom. After trimming the thread, you’ll want to start stitching in the center of your quilt, pulling the knot through the top fabric and to the back of your quilt.

quilter's knotPhoto via Craftsy member Thalia fromPrussia

Running stitch

A basic running stitch is what most hand quilters use to establish a steady hand quilting technique. The needle should be inserted through the front of the fabric, catching small amounts of the back of the fabric, being reinserted through all layers again and again in a steady pattern. Many quilters have tips for using a thimble to get a nice angle or inserting their needle through several stitches before pulling the thread all the way through, which makes the process a bit faster.

running stitchPhoto via Craftsy member Lauras Threads

Tunneling and rocking stitches

While the tunneling stitch is a technique that aims to keep the needle parallel to the fabric, the rocking stitch uses a lot more movement of the needle and the thimble, and the needle is actually perpendicular to the fabric much of the time you are stitching. Once you get the rhythmic motion of each of these hand quilting stitches, you’ll learn to complete them without much thought.

Quilter Mary shares her hybrid rocking stitch technique, with plenty of explanatory photos, which allows greater visibility of the needle position and resulting stitches.

tunneling and rocking stitchesPhoto via Craftsy instructor Andi Perejda

Unlike machine quilting stitches, hand quilting stitches are farther apart, as you’ll see in this informative post at Stitch This! Starting and stopping a line of hand quilting stitches is part of the process, but once you’ve learned hand quilting basics, you’ll be ready to grab a hoop and start stitching.

If you want to learn more about hand quilting stitches, you can enroll now in Andi Perejda’s course Hand Quilting: Heirloom Design & Technique, so you can learn step-by-step how to quilt your projects by hand for stunning results that will help you slow down and enjoy the process.

Which hand quilting stitches have you tried?


Scheri Manson

I have done some hand stitched running stitches on a baby quilt I made. I would like to try the rocking stitches in 2015.

Roseann Spyropoulos

What is the best thread to use for hand quilting? How thick should it be?

Barb Davis

Depends on the look you are going for, the purpose of the quilt; what it will be used for etc.
I have found that wall hangings that will not get a lot of ‘action’ can be quilted with any thread that achieves the desired look of the piece. A quilt that will see a lot of action through washing and bed usage, especially those made for children, should be quilted with a quilting weight thread with tightly spaced stitches. I used a single strand for such projects as I want the stitches to be ;hidden’ so as to bring the quilting effect out but not draw the curiosity of tiny fingers that may want to pull on them. Although I have quilted bed quilts with every day thread when none other was available. Those quilts are 30 years old now, have had plenty of use, and the stitches are still intact….although I can’t say the same for the binding! Hope this helps.

Barb Davis

I only hand quilt so I have used all of the techniques listed here – I have found that one important factor in hand quilting it the tension of the fabric – too tight and the stitches will be forced far apart and even have a sloppy appearance – too loose you run the risk of bunching up the fabric – after much practice though one can achieve a 10 stitch per inch rhythm. May take longer to complete a project but the value of the work and results are priceless.

Kathy Boss

I am quilting a twin size for my great-grandson and some baby quilt. My first time quilting as well. I can use all the help and advice I can get. Thank you!


I’ve only tried hand quilting on two projects. I used the rocking stitch and the running stitch. They came out really nice, however my fingers would ache after a while. Mild arthritis doesn’t help 🙁

Susan Gibson

I haven’t started as yet but plan to quilt an existing bedspread that has its own pattern. this is my answer to practicing without a lot of expense. Is this a workable plan? If so please give suggestions as to picking out proper threads and do I use a hoop?

Lindsay Conner

Yes, this sounds like a good plan! You can use a hoop to help get a handle on your workspace.

Kari Jawson

I am a beginner, no sewing machine, and want to learn how to make a baby quilt. Can it be done by hand? I don’t want to purchase a machine till I know this hobby is for me. How do I get started??? Any suggestions??

Lindsay L

Yes, you can piece by hand, but hand piecing is totally different from machine piecing. Each has it’s own merits.
I would look into a class at a local quilt shop. Most shops have machines to use/or rent and that will let you get the feel of it, not to mention answers to all of your questions that might come up.


I know how start the quilting stitches to keep the knot from showing on
the bottom, but how do you tie off at the end of the running stitch?
Thanks for your help.
Helen Brown


Same way. Knot your thread and pull it into the batting.


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