Big Stitch Quilting + HST Pillow Top Tutorial

on January 6 | in Quilting, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 28 Comments

Corey Yoder from Little Miss Shabby shows you how to incorporate Big Stitch quilting into your designs with today’s tutorial, which also includes this beautiful pillow top pattern featuring half-square triangles (HSTs). Corey is author of the upcoming Playful Petals, available this April. Learn more about Corey in her introduction, and head over to Little Miss Shabby for the Rainbow Row Along, Stashbuster blocks and so much more!

Hello! I’m Corey and you will usually find me blogging over at Little Miss Shabby. I’m excited to be sharing with you today a little bit about Big Stitch quilting. You may be familiar with this type of hand quilting, or you may have heard it referred to as Long Stitch quilting or Pick Stitch Quilting. In any event, it’s a great, quick method of hand quilting or a great introduction if you have never tried hand quilting before.

I grew up surrounded by hand quilters, generations of them in fact, so the world of hand quilting is not new to me. However, I had not seen Big Stitch quilting until somewhat more recently, within the last five years. And I fell in love! Big Stitch quilting is much quicker than traditional hand quilting and I get to use beautiful threads to add fantastic color and dimension to my projects. These are both bonuses in my book!

Supply List:

  • Completed pillow top (I will be sharing a great pillow top pattern to get you on your way.)
  • Batting (a low-loft 100% polyester batting is a great choice for hand quilting)
  • Pillow top backing
  • Variety of 8 wt. Perle/Pearl Cotton (12 wt. is also a wonderful weight for hand quilting)
  • Your favorite marking tool (I often use a water soluble fabric marker. Don’t use an air erasable marker as the marks won’t last long enough to complete the project.)
  • Quilting needles (I like to use embroidery needles; size 7 works well.)
  • Temporary fabric spray adhesive or safety pins for basting
  • Thimble (I know they can take a little bit of time to get used to, but your fingers will thank you!)
  • Scissors
  • Pillow backing/binding

Pillow Top
If you are anything like me, you probably have a myriad of quilt tops and pillow tops just waiting to be quilted. If not, here’s a great pillow you can whip up in no time. And, the great part is, it looks harder than it is. I always think a project should look like you spent more time on it than you actually did! For my pillow I used a variety of Liberty prints mixed with some Japanese fabrics. This pillow would be stunning in so many different fabrics.

This pillow top is made using all 2 1/2″ squares and 2 1/2″ half-square triangles (HSTs). You can see the layout below. Sew the squares/HSTs into rows and then sew the rows together to complete the pillow top. Use 3″ squares to make the HSTs and trim them to 2 1/2″.

Hand Quilting
After completing the quilt top, we are ready to begin hand quilting. First, mark the quilting lines. Note: The black lines illustrate the quilting lines, however, I used a water soluble marker for the lines I actually marked on the pillow top.

Sandwich the pillow top, batting and backing; the batting and backing should be 1-2″ larger on each side than the pillow top. Baste using your preferred method. For small projects, I love to use temporary fabric spray adhesive.

And we are ready to begin quilting. The nice thing about working on a small project is there is no need for a hoop or quilt frame, although you certainly can use one if you prefer. We will be working from one side of the project to the other, beginning in the center and working out. Choose your first thread and cut a piece long enough to reach from the end of one marked line to the other end. Knot the thread and begin working at the edge of the pillow top; the knot will be buried in your binding.

The stitch used for hand quilting is called a rocking stitch and it is the same stitch that is utilized during Big Stitch quilting. Once you get the hang of it you will be able to load several stitches onto your needle at one time. The key is to push the needle down vertically from the pillow top straight down (not at an angle).

Your other hand will be under the pillow top. Bring your needle down just so you can feel the tip has come through and then “rock the needle” using your middle finger (which should have a thimble on it) back up through the top of the quilt. Rock the needle back down just through the back and then up through the top again. Once you have a couple stitches on your needle push it through with your thimble and repeat the process. The space between the stitches should be approximately the same length as the stitches themselves.

Continue in this manner until you have quilted the marked line. Knot the thread and you are ready to begin quilting the next marked line.

Quilt all of the marked lines to complete the pillow top. At this point, you can trim the top and finish it using your favorite pillow finishing technique. I used an envelope enclosure and binding to complete my pillow.

Happy Quilting!


Today’s post is sponsored by Fabricworm, your source for modern, designer and Japanese import fabrics, perfect for crafts, quilts and home decorators.

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28 Responses to Big Stitch Quilting + HST Pillow Top Tutorial

  1. kathyh says:

    I finished my pillow top – although I may make it into a wallhanging.
    I used Road 15 fabrics by Sweetwater.
    Love it – thanks for the pattern.
    The hand-stitching was perfect to make a ‘simple’ project look more complex.

    http://runningwithrocket.blogspot.com/2014/01/i-dont-do-much-quilting.html

    • Kristin says:

      It looks great! I really appreciate your shots.

  2. Sharon W says:

    Thank you so much I am in the process of making quilts and will have many scraps left over and was not sure what I was going to use them for. You came along just in time this is perfect for the quilts to have pillow covers to match. Perfect, Perfect, Perfect.

  3. Jo Linehan says:

    Fabulous! I have a pillow top waiting to be hand quilted, and I just have been nervous to start since I haven’t done it before. This tutorial is just what I need to finish her up!

  4. Heba says:

    How can I make the edge of this pillow please

  5. Wendy says:

    Very pretty…I can see a new project on the horizon!

  6. Sandhya says:

    Beautiful. The way it is set and quilted it does not look like it is just HST’s.

  7. Celeste says:

    I LOVE this! I am definitely planning to make one for my bedroom! Thanks for sharing your talents!

  8. Diane says:

    Oo I thought that was piping not binding – it looks great. I will have a go at this block at some point. I also really appreciate the quilting advice, as so many blogs talk about the patchwork but this is one of the first, I’ve seen who actually talk about how to do the quilting, other than FMQ, which just encourages you to go surprisingly enough – free motion, without any guide. Thanks

  9. Diane says:

    This is the first time I’ve actually seen a pattern for quilting – fab! I love the cushion top too. A must do.

  10. Tisha says:

    I was just playing around this stitch on a project this weekend. It turned out so nice and added a great look.

  11. Beth in Michigan says:

    Love this! Hope to try it soon!

  12. jessie hansen says:

    I should use this to finish the last QAL from HQMelissa. This would be perfect for adding the flowers I was looking to add! Thanks for the Tutorial!

  13. Karen says:

    I love the idea of quilting with big stitches. Your pillow is just the kind of inspiration I have been needing to get back to my sewing room.

  14. Troy says:

    I agree that using this technique does bring a sort of new dimension thanks to the big stitches showing off the thread.

  15. lisa says:

    Excellent instructions and really cute pillow.

  16. Jessica says:

    This is a beautiful project, I love the pattern, I may just be a sucker for liberty prints… and the pattern created with the quilting makes it look even more dynamic. Thanks for sharing, look forward to giving this one a go myself.

  17. Corey says:

    It will make an 18×18 pillow.

  18. Kay says:

    Thanks so much for a great tutorial that has good pictures and is easy to understand.

  19. Susan says:

    I just love this pillow. I can’t wait to make one and the big stitch is awesome!

  20. Cristina says:

    This is beautiful! Love this tutorial.

  21. Jude says:

    Beautiful! Can you tell me what size pillow this will make since I would like to go out and buy a pillow form …is it 20×20 or 18×18? thanks!

    • Beth says:

      18″ x 18″… Have fun!

  22. This is beautiful! Thanks Corey!

  23. Christina in Cleveland says:

    Also, a big thank you to Kristin and Beth! :-D

  24. Christina in Cleveland says:

    Thank you Corey for such a great tutorial. The pillow looks wonderful. GREAT creative idea to do the hand stitching, love it!
    ~ Christina

  25. Alicia says:

    Thank you for the great tutorial. I had kind of thought hand quilting would be something that would be a little to “much” to try, but your tutorial reminds me that trying out on a small cute project can provide that satisfaction getting to try a beautiful new technique without a huge time committment (or fear if it doesn’t work out.)

  26. Lorrie says:

    Great tutorial. I love the fabrics.

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