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Big Stitch Quilting – What Type of Needle Do I Need?

There are some choices when it comes to what type of needle to use when quilting with Big Stitch. The most important features are:

  • Big eye for threading larger threads
  • Sharp point for piercing layers of fabric

Big Stitch Needles

I highly recommend picking up needles that are specifically designed for big stitch quilting. One of the brands I use is the Big Stitch Quilting Needle Pack by Pepper Cory. This package includes several different sizes of needles with different lenghts and different eyes. I use the needles with the largest eyes. What I recommend is that you pick up a pack, and try the different sizes to find your favorite. You may have more than one favorite depending on the type of thread you are using and the type of fabric in your quilt.

Embroidery Needles

If you have a lot of needles at home and want to use what you have, a hand embroidery needle is a good option. They will often have larger eyes, but not as large as the big stitch needles. As long as you can thread the needle, and the end is sharp for piercing the fabric, it’s a good needle to try. I don’t recommend darning needles. While they have nice large eyes, they are often very thick in diameter and have a dull point. The dull point will make it difficult to pierce the fabric of your quilt.


You will most likely want to use a thimble for Big Stitch Quilting. If you have used a thimble before and have a favorite, that is the one to use. If you have never used a thimble successfully before, I highly recommend trying a leather thimble. My favorite is the Bohin Leather Thimble, size medium. They come in small, medium, and large. If you’re not sure what size to try, start with a medium and see how it fits.



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Big Stitch Quilting – What Types of Thread Can I Use?

When I decided to try Big Stitch Quilting, on of my first questions was “What types of threads should I use?”

The first thing to know when choosing thread is Big Stitch Quilting is meant to be seen. The stitches are large. Using contrasting thread gives a very prominent folk-art feel to your quilt. I love to mix lots of different colors in lots of different shades on my quilt.

The first thread I tried was perle cotton. The reason I started with perle cotton was because I had a big one-gallon zip lock bag full of perle cotton. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could use this up?” The perle cotton was a size 5. What I found is I could use this size of perle cotton, but the size meant that sometimes it was difficult to pull through the fabric layers.

Next I tried the next size smaller, #8. This is a good size to use on most cotton fabrics. It is small enough to pull through, and yet large enough to be seen and add color and interest to your quilt.

But I didn’t stop there. I also had lots of embroidery floss. I have always loved hand embroidery. In fact, that’s one reason I really love Big Stitch Quilting. I get to use some of those flosses I have on hand. Most of my floss is six-strand embroidery floss. I tried using all six strands and found, again, while I could use it, sometimes it was tough to pull through the layers. I now prefer to use 3 or 4 strands. If I use 3 strands, that means I can separate each piece I cut into two even groups of 3 strands each and won’t waste any thread. Three strands gives me enough thickness to see the color and see my stitches.

But still I wanted to try every type of thread I had on hand. One that was surprising was a multi-strand metallic silver thread. I don’t know where I got it or when, but there it was in my stash. I figured, if it didn’t work, it would be easy to take out the large stitches and start over. To my surprise, the metallic thread worked well. I put it into one of my scrap quilts. After much use, those metalic threads are holding up just as well as the cotton thread. If you use metallic thread, you will want to use a thickness that will easily pull through the layers. The one I used was made of several strands. I was able to use three strands at a time with success.

Fabric Choices

The types of threads that will work for your quilt will depend upon the type of fabric you use in your quilt. For instance, batik fabrics have a tight weave and can be difficult to pull the larger threads through. For batiks, I choose a smaller size perle cotton or 2 or three strands of embroidery floss. This makes a small diameter thread that I am pulling through the fabric.

For some loose-weave cottons, I am able to use the larger perle cottons and the full six strands of embroidery floss with no problem. My advice is to test your thread. Try quilting one length of thread and see how it goes. If it’s difficult to use, move to a smaller thread. The good news is Big Stitch is easy to take out so if you change your mind, you can easily pull out the test thread and begin again.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like my YouTube video How To Hand Quilt Using Big Stitch Quilting.

Is your shop or guild looking for a good Big Stitch Quilting Workshop?  I teach “Big Stitch Quilting – Fast, Easy and Inexpensive Way to Finish Your Quilt”. See my lectures and workshops page for details.

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Big Stitch Quilting – New and Old

We think of Big Stitch as a technique that has become popular over the last couple of years. In one sense, that is true. We are beginning to see more and more Big Stitch quilting on baby quilts, utility quilts, children’s quilts, traditional quilts and modern quilts. But Big Stitch has been around for a very long time, called by different names, and used in different countries.

My fascination with Big Stitch began in the last couple of years. As I would talk about Big Stitch, I heard quilters, from time to time, say “Oh, that’s not new,” and then they would talk about quilts their grandmothers made, finishing them with big stitches and embroidery floss.

This got me looking around to see if I could find more examples of Big Stitch. I thought I would find American vintage and antique quilts. And while those likely do exist, my search began taking me in different directions entirely.

Japanese Sashiko Quilting

Sashiko quilting is a form of big stitch quilting. Sashiko is an ancient form of stitching practiced in Japan. It often is put onto just one layer of fabric, what we would consider just the top only. Then, the top is made into a more traditional quilt with a top, backing, and batting. These stitches are often very exact, very even, very precise. I see it most often on indigo colored fabric, made up of a different weave fabric than we see in our traditional cotton fabrics.

I also came across a slighty different use of Sashiko stitching in antique Japanese textiles. Not just for decoration, Sashiko was also used by farmers to mend their clothing and quilts. In previous centuries, fabric was precious, hard to come by, and expensive. Farm families often mended older clothing using patches and scraps of other pieces to cover tears. These patches were often sewn on using a form of Sashiko stitching that was very utilitarian.  It was a way to strengthen a patch and preserve the utility of jackets and clothing so that they could be used by another generation. These fabrics were also often dyed with indigo, as indigo is known for its lasting properties, allowing the fabrics to stay a beautiful blue and not need continual redying as other colors required. This use of Sashiko for mending is often referred to as Boro or Wabi-Sabi, a Japenese phrase that translates to “scraps” or “rags”.

Indian Kantha Quilts

 Another form of Big Stitch Quilting I discovered was the Kantha blankets made in many parts of India. Kantha blankets are typically made of layers of used Sari’s that have finished their life as clothing and are then reformed into blankets and quilts. The stitching in Kantha is typically straight running stitches, in rows that are about an inch or less apart, stitched vertically into the fabric layers. The saris are often patching large pieces of sari together. The fabrics are brilliant and beautiful and the blanket has a very soft pliable feel, very comfortable to use.

Contemporary Big Stitch Quilting

Large hand quilting using embroidery floss, perle cotton, and larger gauge threads is becoming popular now in western quilting. I enjoy teaching this technique to quilters and triggering their creativity, as they plan how they can use this technique in their own family quilts. As with the Kantha blankets, big stitch quilting makes a very soft and comfortable quilt, different from the quilts we send to long-arm quilters to quilt. I enjoy this softer feel for the quilts I give my family.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like my YouTube video How To Hand Quilt Using Big Stitch Quilting.

Is your shop or guild looking for a good Big Stitch Quilting Workshop?  I teach “Big Stitch Quilting – Fast, Easy and Inexpensive Way to Finish Your Quilt”. See my lectures and workshops page for details.

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What is Big Stitch Quilting?

Are you ready for a new quilting technique that is fun, easy, and helps you finish your quilts quickly and inexpensively?

Welcome to Big Stitch Quilting. You may have heard of it, but what is it?

Big stitch quilting is simply hand quilting (don’t get scared) done using embroidery floss or perle cotton, using large stitches.

Do you have a stack of quilts that you haven’t taken to the longarmer, or you haven’t had time to machine quilt yourself? Big Stitch Quilting. This is care-free quilting. Big stitch quilting is very relaxing and has an almost zen-like sensibility.

I have always loved embroidery projects and a have a lot of floss and perle cotton in my stash. And I have loved hand quilting and have done it since I was a teenager. Big stitch allows me to marry these two loves in a way that is easy and effortless.

In a nutshell, you use needles with large eyes so they are thread-able. You use 3 strands of embroidery floss, or #8 perle cotton. And you quilt with a simple running stitch. Your stitches should be large. Your stitches can be uneven. You can use contrasting threads.

This is goof proof quilting. I promise!


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like my YouTube video How To Hand Quilt Using Big Stitch Quilting.

Is your shop or guild looking for a good Big Stitch Quilting Workshop?  I teach “Big Stitch Quilting – Fast, Easy and Inexpensive Way to Finish Your Quilt”. See my lectures and workshops page for details.