Sunday, August 29, 2021

Thoughts about binding a quilt with Big Stitch

It's been a loooong time since I've hand quilted a quilt. With quilters, stitchers and makers retreating to the solace of handwork in 2020, I was inspired to add Big Stitch quilting to complement the Australian Aboriginal fabric designs in this piece. The colorful dots and dashes of perle cotton running stitches make a lovely, tactile addition to the organic Dreamtime designs. 

Hand stitched binding using Big Stitch with 5 wt. perle cotton threads.

In an earlier blog post, I highlighted the Big Stitch hand quilting on this quilt. This past week, the binding was attached and hand stitched down.  

The quilted sandwich was trimmed and binding pinned. It's ready for hand stitching.

Binding a quilt with decorative stitches

I frequently use decorative machine stitches to bind charity quilts and kitty quilts. This is when the binding is attached to the back of the quilt, brought around the edge to the front, and machine stitched down. It's fast and efficient. But this was my first "go" at using visible hand stitching as both a decorative and functional element for the binding.

Binding sewn down with Big Stitch running stitches in 5 wt. perle cotton.

Threads and Fabrics

I used perle cotton threads for the hand quilting and the hand binding stitches—8 wt. and 5 wt., mostly Eleganza from WonderFil Specialty Threads

Front and back of the quilt with hand quilting and hand stitched binding.

The fabrics used in this quilt are all Australian Aboriginal designs from M&S Textiles Australia.

  • Sandy Creek red in the center and cornerstones,
  • Sandhill red for the outside borders,
  • Kangaroo Path yellow for the inner border,
  • Women Collecting Water yellow for the backing and binding.

The pattern for this quilt is called Blue Girl by Villa Rosa Designs.

Sandy Creek quilt. Finished size: 50.5" x 51"

Thoughts about Big Stitching the binding

I really enjoyed the Big Stitch quilting... choosing the thread colors, following the lines in the fabric prints with running stitches, seeing the quilt come to life with the hand stitching. To be honest, although I really like the end result of the Big Stitch binding, it was more difficult and time consuming than I had expected.

Big Stitch hand quilting and Big Stitch quilt binding.


  • I found I could do only one stitch at a time on the binding. For the quilting, I could load the needle with multiple stitches before drawing the needle through the quilt sandwich. And although the hand stitching is a slower process, this one-stitch-at-a-time binding process was unenjoyably slow.
  • Even though I went through the binding and only the top layer of fabric and the batting, the needle was difficult to pull through with every stitch. The effort and struggle took the fun out of the hand stitching. Maybe a 12 wt. cotton thread would alleviate this??
  • I also wonder if a blanket stitch would be easier.
  • It was rather easy to keep the stitches at a consistent place on the binding. As one thread ran out, I chose a new color and continued. Just like with the hand quilting.
  • It was fun to add the "Xs" at the mitered corners.
  • The drape of a hand quilted quilt is quite lovely.
  • The free-motion machine quilting (with blending colors of thread) and the larger, more colorful running stitches are very sympatico on this quilt. Both techniques created a cohesive and beautiful texture on the quilt and the Big Stitch on the binding carried the concept through to the finishing... and the edge of the quilt.
Sandy Creek quilt with hand and machine quilting.

Further investigation required

If anyone reading has insights or suggestions for hand binding with Big Stitch, I would welcome your thoughts! Were I to try it again in the future, I might experiment with different/lighter thread weights or another stitch design (blanket stitch?). 

This was a good learning experience for a "first try" and I'm quite pleased with the end result (just not so much with the process). The Stitching Success Tracker is counting it as a "finish."

August Stitching Success Tracker.

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