Tips for Combining Machine + Hand Quilting

Today we are thrilled to have a post from our talented Aurifil Artisan, Jessica Skultety of Quilty Habit! She created a beautiful quilt using  Anna Maria Horner‘s new 12wt thread collection, Stitch Gallery. It is available as a Limited Edition in the super fabulous wooden box you’ll see below, and also in our standard cardboard packaging. She has kindly shared some of her favorite tips for how she combines hand quilting and machine quilting! Take it away Jessica!

Hi! I’m Jessica Skultety of Quilty Habit, and I teach, lecture, blog, and quilt obsessively. As an Aurifil Artisan, I’d love to share some quilting ideas with you today. Combining machine and hand work isn’t a new idea, but it’s an option that can add another special detail to your quilt. You don’t have to add a lot of either one to make a huge impact!

First, I’d like to introduce you to my latest passion project, “Bouquet,” and explain the process behind quilting it. Then, I’ll share 5 tips and more inspiration!

Quilting is my favorite part of the quilt-making process. It didn’t start out that way, but as soon as I started to free motion quilt on my home machine, I caught the bug. This is not to say that I don’t quilt with my walking foot – because I do!

One of my main goals for a quilt is to showcase or emphasize its design with the quilting itself. This is sometimes difficult to figure out, but it gets easier over time. It’s like deciding how to decorate a room: how will you accentuate its features? Often, for me, this means creating movement with waves and spirals.

I’m also a huge, longtime fan of Anna Maria Horner’s saturated, colorful fabrics, so I quickly began to dream up a wall quilt with her older fabrics and newest line, Floral Retrospective (which, luckily, contains some reprinted fabrics in brand spanking new colorways), plus her new special edition 12 weight Aurifil thread collection. Aren’t they so beautiful (and that box!!)? Since orange peel quilts are my favorites to make, I used petals as a starting point, much like my first orange peel quilt, Scatter.

After making the petals and adhering them with fusible and raw edge applique, I machine quilted in a circle from the bottom left to emphasize the circular, spreading out motion of the orange peels/flower petals. I quilted with 50 weight Aurifil 2600 (Dove Gray, my favorite) so that it would somewhat blend in the background but show on the petals.

My walking foot was a big help here; I marked the first couple of circles with my hera marker, starting at the bottom left corner, and then followed the lines roughly. You can use the guide on your walking foot to follow previous circles, but I chose to make them imprecise (imprecision in quilting is my favorite).

I’m admittedly a novice hand quilter, and I wanted to keep it simple but striking. First, I chose the Anna Maria Horner 12 weight threads that matched the quilt’s colors (leaving out just orange and yellow). The colors I used: 2566 (Wisteria), 4020 (Fuchsia), 2026 (Chalk), 1125 (Medium Teal), 4662 (Spotted, variegated green), 1248 (Grey Blue), 2845 (Light Juniper), and 3660 (Bubblegum, variegated pink). Can I just say how much I’ve fallen in love with using variegated threads for hand-quilting?

I marked my lines with a blue water soluble marker and ruler, right over the machine quilting. Then, I blissfully sat on my couch for a few hours with an audiobook in hand, stitching away. I’ve tried a few different hand stitching threads, and admittedly I love Aurifil because of the huge variety of colors and smoothness of the thread gliding through three layers. The thread doesn’t split easily. I wore my thimble but barely needed it!

Originally, I hand-quilted one line extending from almost every petal and between, but on second thought I decided to add another line of contrasting thread next to it. The quilting shows even more now! I love how it shows up on the back, too:

We took Bouquet for a walk down a (usually crowded) alley in Easton, PA. It was simply too windy to take more pictures, but this one will do! I’m really pleased that the hand-quilting shows up from far away. Again, another element added to my quilt.

5 Tips for Combining Machine + Hand Quilting

  • Machine quilt first, then hand quilt.
  • Use a frame or don’t – find what works for you. I’ve only hand-quilted small quilts and projects so far (see below) so a frame hasn’t felt necessary.
  • If you want to achieve consistency with your hand stitches and you’re new like me, try sashiko stitching first. If you buy a premarked fabric, you can practice making a beautiful design. Aurifil 12 weight threads can be used for this, too!
  • Get yourself a needle minder. Mine are magnetized and stick onto my project, so I never lose anything!
  • Be open to imperfection. It’s impossible for every single stitch to be perfectly straight, every time. Let loose and embrace the notion that you’re making a beautiful handmade piece of art

More Examples

  • I love how my friend Chawne Kimber (@cauchycomplete) regularly combines hand and machine quilting. Check out the details she added to her Cotton Sophisticate quilt.
  • Within the last year, I’ve been combining lots of machine quilting with hand stitching. Here are some other samples with links to their blog posts:

Clockwise from top left: “Starlight,” Fall Table Topper, Sashiko Flower Pillow, “Fractured Cathedral Window.”

And, if you’ve read all the way to the end, thank you! And thanks to Aurifil for providing the threads for this project. Let me know – have you tried combining hand and machine? If not, what’s holding you up?

Thank you so much Jessica! The quilt is beautiful and the tips and tricks are certainly a wonderful resource for anyone looking to try out this technique. You can find more details about all three of the Anna Maria Horner limited edition collections HERE. And stay tuned to the Auribuzz blog for the official collection announcement!

The Ultimate Collection by Tula Pink


Tula Pink has the amazing WOW-factor that draws crowds and inspires masses. Her fabrics are heralded and hoarded, hers threads coveted, her tools desired and from what we can tell, everyone wants to be her friend;). It’s always exciting to see a new collection or product unveiled and we’ve come to expect the bold, the unique and the grand. In true form, her latest Aurifil thread collection is awe-inspiring. The Ultimate Collection comes in a custom, gold-embossed case and contains forty-five small spools of 50wt thread hand-selected by Tula. The threads coordinate particularly well with the Strawberry color way of her latest fabric release, Slow & Steady, but would truly be a marvelous addition to any sewing room. We’ve heard people comment that they’d just like to dive right into the box and though we’re admittedly a little biased, we can’t help but agree!

The Ultimate Collection
Custom Box, 45 Small Spools – 100% Aurifil Cotton 50wt, 220yds each
Colors included:
2423 – 2425 – 2530 – 5002 – 2265 – 2260 – 2460 – 1100 – 2479
5015 – 2132 – 2135 – 1133 – 2240 – 2245 – 1154 – 6729 – 2420
2886 – 1147 – 5016 – 5017 – 2835 – 2860 – 2865 – 1148 – 4093
5006 – 2715 – 1128 – 6738 – 2745 – 2581 – 2540 – 2535 – 4020
2370 – 2324 – 2026 – 2021 – 2615 – 2620 – 5004 – 2630 – 2692

TulaPinkUltimateTo view this info on our website, click the images above. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.

What first drew you to this amazing world of sewing, quilting, and textile design? 

I was drawn to quilting and fabric through my local quilt shop when I was 12. I was given a sewing machine for Christmas to play on, no one in my family sewed at that point. I needed fabric to sew with and ended up at a quilt shop by chance. I fell in love with the rows and rows of prints immediately, it was a huge rainbow of color and design all organized and in color order. This shop was like a life sized box of crayons that I could walk into, I was smitten. If the fabric store that we had found had been any other type of store I don’t think I would be here today. If had been an uninspiring chain store or a home dec store or anything else I don’t believe I would have fallen in love with it the way that I did.

Tula's Spring 2016 Schoolhouse for The Ultimate Collection at International Quilt Market in Salt Lake City

Tula’s Spring 2016 Schoolhouse for The Ultimate Collection at International Quilt Market in Salt Lake City

Do you remember the process of creating your first quilt and how you felt once it was finished? 
My first finished quilt was a disaster. I was really proud of it back then and I still have it and love it because it shows how far I have come in my craft. It is an hourglass quilt made entirely of Kaffe Fasset woven stripes. I didn’t know that choosing stripes, woven fabric and all bias cut pieces was hard and I powered through it completely unaware that this was a challenging starting point to say the least. I think that is the beauty of early quilting, you don’t bring any fear to the table when you begin. You don’t know that some things are harder than others so you just dive in, head first. At some point a quilter is taught to fear certain types of sewing and that bravery of naïveté is a huge loss to the creative process. I embroidered skeletons and birds all over it to make it more rock ‘n roll I guess. It’s a funny quilt and one that I really love because it represents so much of my evolving philosophy on quilting.

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Gorgeous recent improv piecing by Tula Pink

Who or what has been your greatest creative inspiration?
Creative Inspiration is this really ambiguous thing. It is impossible to pinpoint. I would say that what drives me to design fabric is fulfilling a need. I always begin by thinking about what I would most like to sew with and then I try to fill that need. I push myself very hard to stay fresh and not fall into a rut of doing the same thing over and over. I try not to look too much at what other people are doing, I think that stifles creativity. The one thing that I have to offer above all else is my point of view. I look around my world and try to imagine it in a different way. If I see a rabbit hopping across my lawn my first thought is always” how cute would that rabbit be in pink or with stripes or made out of paisleys”. I am inspired by possibility and try not to limit my imagination to what exists.

Slow & Steady Heart

Slow & Steady Heart

Do you find that your previous career in the music industry has had any influence on your path within the quilting industry?
I find that my previous career as a designer in the music industry has greatly influenced how I manage my brand. I treat my fabric collections like album releases and consider my travel to be like touring. That is the business I know so it was natural for me to go back to that system when starting my own brand.

[projects made using Tula’s new fabric collection, Slow & Steady]

You have long been a user and supporter of Aurifil threads. How did you first discover Aurifil and what do you love most about using it within your projects?
I found Aurifil because I was having some trouble with a thread that I was using on a project and a friend gave me a spool of Aurifil 50 wt to try. I have not used anything else since. I have paid that forward ever since. I keep a healthy collection of spools in my studio for the sole purpose of handing out to friends who are using something other than Aurifil. Every single one of them becomes an Aurifil loyalist after that. It’s one of those things that you never really think about until you use something exceptional and then you wonder how you got through without it.

Stunning Machine Embroidery by Casey Taylor using threads from The Ultimate Collection

Stunning Machine Embroidery by Casey Taylor using threads from The Ultimate Collection

Do you have a favorite weight/color? 
I use 50 wt thread almost exclusively. I am a patchworker so my sewing needs tend to be really focused when it comes to thread. Color is a different matter all together. I don’t favor any single color as I tend to work in rainbows. I change thread colors at least a dozen times on any given project. If I am sewing by hand then that number will multiply really quickly. If I am working on a hand sewing quilt like an english paper pieced project, I will use every single color in that box without question.

This is such a special collection, a collector’s piece, really… How did you go about selecting colors and how did you decide on the art for the packaging?
This collection is designed to be the ultimate thread collection containing all of the colors necessary to complete a bright, happy sewing project. I sew every day and I find that 10 colors is never enough. I have built my brand on the foundation that if I need something there is a good chance that other people need it too. I was desperately searching for a collection of thread that contained a vast assortment of colors that expressed something more exciting and adventurous in terms of palette. It’s easy to find collections of neutrals and earth tones but that is not my style and I figured that if I was looking for something like that then other people probably were too.


The packaging is based off of my very first fabric design. That owl is sort of my holy grail, it is important to me because it is the image that set me on this path that has become an obsession of fabric and sewing. It’s the illustration  that changed my life. I was really focused on this collection not being about pairing with a particular fabric collection but something that would transcend one collection and would be useful for years to come. For me this is my ultimate dream thread collection!


How is this collection representative of your overall artistic vision?
This is the dream thread collection “the ultimate” collection in my eyes. I will never need a color outside of what is in this box. I spent weeks going over all of my thread and projects and pulled the colors that were used the most often. Usually, choosing thread is about narrowing down the colors to the essential threads that I can get away with but this collection is about shedding those limitations and covering every single need in terms of thread. Thread is the one thing that holds all of this together. Fabric without thread is pretty useless, a sewing machine or a needle has no purpose without thread, it the most valuable constant in my sewing room. I feel like the Ultimate Collection is just that, a source for unbound creativity.

Pattern preview for Tula's upcoming new book with Angela Walters!

Pattern preview for Tula’s upcoming new book with Angela Walters!

We’ve seen some remarkable projects created using these threads… do you have a favorite? 
Choosing a favorite is an impossible task. Every project requires thread to meet it’s own needs, sometimes I need a lot of colors so that the thread disappears into a rainbow of fabrics and sometimes I need the thread to show in a way that enhances the project all on it’s own. I think the thread worked the hardest on my Slow and Steady Heart quilt though. I needed to top stitch a bunch of hearts in so many color but I wanted the thread to blend in and ended up using so many of the colors in the box that I lost track. The other project that I really loved was the embroidered eye duffle bag that I made from the thread collection. I machine embroidered on my BERNINA 880 an eye in every color from the box and it’s a real conversation starter. Everyone asks me about that bag when I carry it.

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What do you love most about the process of creating, whether it be for a new fabric collection, a new pattern, or a new work of art?
My favorite part of the creative process is that moment right before I start a new project. I love staring down at that blank piece of paper and I have so many ideas and I have no idea where it’s going to go. It’s exciting like starting a new adventure. I aways think it is going to be one thing but I have done this long enough to know that the work takes on a mind of it’s own and will, at some point, start directing me rather than me directing it. In the beginning though it’s just infinite possibility and I can’t wait to see where it ends up.

Do you have any advice for designers just starting out in this industry? 
My advice to designers just starting out is to fully know who you are artistically and what you want your work to be about. Embrace your talents and never try to be something that you are not just because the industry tells you that’s “on trend”. If you are busy trend spotting then you are not creating the trends just following the path that someone else has laid out for you and you will end up putting out the same work that everyone else is putting out. Rise above it! The world needs your point of view more than it needs another version of someone else.


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To enter-to-win The Ultimate Collection by Tula Pink, click here to head to the Rafflecopter entry page, or simply click on the image above. You do not have to complete all the options to be entered but the more options you choose, the more entries you have!  Entries will be accepted from now through 11:59pm Eastern Time on Saturday, August 6! Winner will be randomly selected and announced here on Sunday, August 7. Good luck!

UPDATE (8.7.16): This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Brittany Burton!! 

WebsiteFacebookInstagram — Twitter
Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 2.36.22 PMTula Pink is an illustrator, a fabric designer, a quilter, an author, a maker and a generally good person who enjoys talking about herself.

Tula graduated from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, CA. It was fun but she was tired of being broke so she decided to get a job. Tula worked briefly as an Exhibit designer for Museums in Southern California, where she grew up, and when that became too quiet she relocated to the music industry. After about 5 years of that her ears began to bleed so she left her job and California and went in search of a new home. The plan was to move as far east as she could get without renting a boat and work her way back west until she found a place she liked. Tula got about half way and then she ran out of gas money so she stayed put.

Tula now lives in a small mid-western town outside of Kansas City, MO in a house that used to be a barn and still sort of looks like one. Tula’s main function in life is fabric design. She lives for it. Her signature designs have been adapted to fabrics, woven ribbons, paper products, needlepoint kits, embroidery patterns and sewing machines and can be found in independent fabric shops and retailers all over the world. Tula is most recognized in her industries for her dark sense of humor, a flair for hiding animals in the strangest of places (artistically, not literally) and her boldly unique use of color and pattern. Tula comes from the “more is more” school of design where there is never enough space and always room for that one last thing.

Today Tula Pink works closely with the good people at Free Spirit Fabrics to develop multiple fabric collections every year, is an Ambassador for BERNINA sewing machines, develops collections for Aurifil Threads and Renaissance Ribbons and writes books for F+W Media about quilting and sewing. She works all day everyday and gets very cranky when she is asked to leave the studio or if Tula Pink is her real name.

[For more, please visit Tula’s website]

** Images and all biographical text are courtesy of Tula Pink.

Big Stitch Quilting by Sarah Fielke


Sarah Fielke is an extraordinary quilter, teacher, fabric designer and author. She is a licensed designer with Windham Fabrics and has long been an Aurifil ambassador and champion of our threads. Likewise, we’ve long been admirers of Sarah’s work. It’s like a match made in heaven and we couldn’t be more thrilled to present Big Stitch Quilting, her second thread collection with Aurifil.  A stunning lineup of colors in our 12wt thread, it’s perfect for Sarah’s signature hand stitched details and quilting.

Big Stitch Quilting
100% Aurifil Cotton
Large – 12wt, 356yds each, 12 colors, Large Spools
2692 – 2024 – 5004 – 2615 – 2784 – 5006 – 2888 – 5018 – 2510 – 2260 – 2530 – 2423


Small – 12wt, 54yds each, 10 colors, Small Spools
2692 – 2024 – 5004 – 2784 – 5006 – 2888 – 5018 – 2510 – 2260 – 2530


To view this info on our website, click the images above. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got started in the world of sewing & quilting? 
My mother was a stitcher all kinds, including quilting. She taught me from a very young age to use a sewing machine, hand sew, hand embroider and knit. It wasn’t until my first baby was born that I started stitching professionally – I made everything for Charlie’s nursery, including all his little wraps and pram blankets. That was at the time where everything for babies was pink, blue, lemon or mint, and covered with lambs. My things were made of gingham and had fun appliqué and lettering, so all the other mums in my mothers group wanted to know where I got them. They were my first customers, and then later my first class! Charlie is 19 this year and so I will have been teaching patchwork for 19 years in December.

When did you first begin with the art of hand quilting and what do you love most about it? 
I hand quilted my very first proper quilt, when I was 12. I made it for my mum’s birthday. It has since vanished into the unknown – I have a sneaking feeling it may have fallen apart. 🙂 I hand quilted pretty nearly every quilt I made until I owned a shop (Material Obsession, which I co-owned for nearly 10 years). When we opened Material Obsession I taught machine quilting for a while, and I can machine quilt quite capably, but I don’t enjoy it. If I’m going to spend the time to quilt something myself, I hand quilt it. If I don’t have time, I have a wonderful machine quilter who does a fantastic job! I love hand quilting because of the quiet hours spent with the quilt itself. It’s amazing how each hand quilted piece will bring back memories of what I was doing when I quilted it (which very often is something like a season on Downton Abbey). The thing I love most though is the texture and character that hand quilting, especially with thicker thread like the Mako 12 weight, gives to the quilt. There is a drape and softness that machine quilted quilts don’t have, and the thicker coloured thread gives the quilts an extra punch and personality.

What are your greatest challenges and your greatest joys with hand quilting? 
My greatest joys are sitting on a cold winter’s day with something that needs quilting urgently – that means I can abandon everything else, binge watch Poldark and drink endless cups of tea with the quilt (and the dog!) in my lap. My greatest challenges are that there is never enough hours to hand quilt everything I want to hand quilt any more.I make too many quilts on deadlines to enable me to hand quilt them all. I’ve also got an issue with my hands (that, funnily enough, wasn’t caused by hand stitching!) and so I can’t quilt the endless hours I used to be able to without pain, and I have to stagger myself.


What project would you recommend for a hand quilting beginner? 
I think the best thing you can do is to make a lap sized quilt, something you aren’t attached to or want to be perfect, and quilt the heck out of it. People often think that the best way to start is with something little like a cushion. Actually those kinds of things can be more difficult to quilt because you can’t get them in a hoop properly, and it’s hard to develop your technique and gain confidence. Bite the bullet, sew together a whole lot of charm squares or something, and jump in on the deep end. You need to give your hand a chance to develop some stitch memory.


We love that you are such an active educator, both online and off. What do you love most about the practice of teaching?
Hands down, seeing my students achieve. I love the friends I make and the social aspect, I love doing the big shows and retreats. But my favourite thing is seeing a student who has proclaimed she can’t hand sew, or has trouble with colour, or Y seams or whatever it is, proudly hold their finished work up for everyone to see. I have students who I’ve taught patchwork and hand quilting, who are now teachers themselves, or who win prizes in quilting competitions. Hearing those things, no matter how small, just makes my day every time.

What is your favorite technique to teach and why?
I love teaching hand appliqué and hand quilting. My technique for hand appliqué is quite unusual, and it’s been developed over a long time to make appliqué easier for people. Quilters often assume that hand appliqué and hand quilting are these incredibly difficult, time consuming, boring things to do. Showing them tricks and tips to make their hand stitching rewarding, accurate, quicker and less painful always makes for a fun class.


When did you first discover Aurifil thread and what do you love most about it? 
I met Alex Veronelli at Market quite number of years ago and he gave me some Mako 50 weight to try for hand appliqué. I went home slightly dubious (you always love the things you’re used to), tried it out and immediately ditched all my old thread to the basting basket and became an Aurifil junkie. The 50 weight is so fine and smooth – but having now tried the 80 weight I am simply desperate for it to be available in all the colours because – OMG! Thats a discussion for another time though as it isn’t yet available, so I will wax lyrical about it at a later date 🙂

[editor’s note: Aurifil’s 80wt thread is due for limited release this Summer and full release this Fall, 2016]

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I did an appliqué collection for Aurifil called Folk Story which I love desperately – but funnily enough the appliqué collection came about because I was harassing Alex to produce some 8 weight Mako for hand quilting. I tried REALLY REALLY hard peeps, and Alex kept insisting that the 12 weight was beautiful and I should try it…. Finally I gave in, tried it, proceeded to hand quilt two entire books worth of quilts with the 12 weight and realised that of course Alex is the Mako thread guru and I should always heed his wisdom. You learn something every day.

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How did you go about selecting colors for Big Stitch Quilting?  
I find choosing the colours for these collections so difficult, they are all so pretty and I want everything! I thought really hard about which colours I use the most, for hand quilting both pieced quilts and appliqué. Neutrals were of course essential, so there is black and white, light and dark grey. I wanted a light and a dark in each colour because I like to highlight what I am quilting rather than blend, i.e. dark pink around a light pink flower or visa versa. Pinks and reds are so versatile because they can be beautifully blended with yellows and oranges as well as with themselves. Navy is my black, I always use navy unless the fabric I am quilting is actually black. I had to also add a cheery clear blue and some yummy greens for quilting around leaves and stems to round everything out nicely.


Do you have a favorite thread color/weight or does it truly depend on the project at hand? 
It really does depend on the project, as I use lots of different Aurifil thread weights for different projects, including the 50wt in cream in my machine, 50wt for hand appliqué and the 12wt for hand quilting. I also love to do EPP, I use a lot of Lana Wool threads for my wool appliqué, and I love to embroider and the Aurifloss is gorgeous!! How do you ever choose a favourite? If you’re going to make me, though, I’d have to say that 2888, which is the light green in my Big Stitch Quilting Collection, is my favourite colour for both quilting and appliqué. I always seem to be running out of it! However, my absolute favourite thing at present is the set of three different shade spools of blue 80wt thread I was sent to try out.  I’m hand appliquéing a quilt that is ALL blues at the moment and the 80wt just disappears into thin air!

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Sarah Fielke-Rafflecopter

To enter-to-win 1 Large Big Stitch Quilting Thread Collection and one copy of Sarah Fielke’s latest book, Old Quilts New Life,  click here to head to the Rafflecopter entry page, or simply click on the image above. You do not have to complete all the options to be entered but the more options you choose, the more entries you have!  Entries will be accepted from now through 11:59pm Eastern Time on Saturday, July 2! Winner will be randomly selected and announced here on Sunday, July 3. Good luck!

Update (7/3): This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Jo Hobson!!

quilts_Page_010Sarah Fielke has been a passionate stitcher ever since her mother first taught her to sew 30 years ago. It was when she was pregnant with her first child years later that her sewing skills became a career. She made little gifts for her friends’ newborn babies, decorated her son’s nursery, and began selling what she made and teaching her friends to sew.

Sarah is an award winning quilt designer. In her 15 years in the quilting industry, her four best selling quilt books have sold over 100,000 copies worldwide and have been translated into 5 languages. Sarah’s quilts have roots in both modern and traditional quilting, making her a firm favourite with quilters new and old. She describes her quilts as “contemporary traditional”. Her first book, Material Obsession, is widely described as having been at the forefront of the Modern Quilting movement, and is a staple in many quilter’s libraries. Her other books include: Material Obsession 2, Quilting From Little Things, Hand Quilted with Love, Little Quilts, and her latest release, Old Quilts New Life.

She exhibits her quilts at quilts shows in Australia and internationally. Sarah has designed fabrics for Lecien, Japan, and is now working with Spotlight Australia and Windham Fabrics to design fabric for both the major craft stores and patchwork shops. Her 6th fabric colletion, Snippits for Windham Fabrics is out now in quilts shops worldwide.

[For more, please visit Sarah’s website]

** Images and all biographical text are courtesy of Sarah Fielke.

Big Stitch Hand Quilting by Sherri Noel

Happy Thursday! We are so excited to introduce you to Sherri Noel, quilter, pattern designer, and sewing blogger for Last year, Sherri hosted the Sew Scrappy Sampler on her blog, releasing one 12″ block a month. Each block focused on a different technique, including foundation paper piecing, appliqué, english paper piecing, traditional piecing, dresden plates and more. Sherri’s quilt used fabrics from her Kaffe Fassett stash, a wonderful collection of bold and bright prints in a wide range of colors. She felt that her finished top, measuring at 90″ x 99″, would be best highlighted by hand-quilting and turned to Aurifil 12wt. We’re so thrilled that she was able to document her process in order to offer a tutorial on Big Stitch Hand Quilting here today. Welcome Sherri!


Hello! I’m Sherri Noel from and I’m so happy to be a guest here on the Aurifil blog. I’ve recently discovered Aurifil’s 12 weight thread, have used it on several projects now, and I’m loving it! I have a tutorial on Big Stitch Hand Quilting with Aurifil 12 wt. thread to share with you today.

I originally got started with hand quilting due to my aversion to machine quilting. Just when I’d finish all the patchwork on a quilt, I would stress over how I would get it through my machine. So, I got interested in alternative quilting methods and ultimately became addicted to hand quilting. I really love everything about it. I find it so relaxing , love how it looks, and love the organic feel and soft drape of the finished quilt. I really just love it all! If I have the time (and it doesn’t take as much time as you think), I always go for hand quilting… hands down! Some quilts call for big stitches… It’s just so yummy! Plus, you can use it for cross stitch, machine applique (I did!), redwork, hand applique and embellishing.


Here are some of my favorite colors… If you want your stitches to stand out, don’t be afraid to go darker than you think!


Aurifil has plenty of 12 wt. colors to choose from!


So, let’s get started!


  • Aurifil 12 Wt. Thread
  • Quilters Hoop — I used an 18″ Hinterberg Quilt Hoop on a stand for this quilt. I like to use a smaller 14” hoop when I’m quilting in my lap or on the go.
  • Thimble — I use a Metal Open-Sided Thimble by Clover.
  • Scissors — Small pair
  • Needle — I’ve been using a Clover gold eye Chenille #24 for hand quilting and I really like it. It’s sharp, has a nice large eye for threading and is a good fit for my hand.
  • Needle Threader — optional
  • Removable Marking tool — optional, for marking lines or motifs
  • Painters Tape — optional, use as a guide when stitching straight lines.
  • Basted Quilt Sandwich


Getting Started: 

It’s best to begin from the quilt center and work out toward the edges, so position your hoop closest to the center of your quilt and secure. I started my quilting in the center and worked my way around and out to the sides. It’s a little more cumbersome when you’re working in the middle of the quilt, since you have more quilt to wrap your arms around, but just adjust everything until you’ve got a comfortable set up. As you work out to the edges it becomes a little easier to manage the bulk.

Cut a piece of Aurifil 12 wt. thread, no longer than 30″ (manageable length). If you cut your thread longer, it will be too long to work with and it will get fuzzy and weaken if you pull it through the quilt sandwich too many times. Do you have a new 12 wt. spool? Did you know that the round stand comes off the spool so you can find the start of your thread? So convenient!

[editor’s note: There is a terrific Thread Matters post all about Aurifil spools right here.]


Thread your needle and tie a simple overhand knot at the long end.


If you need a needle threader, I recommend this style pictured below. It’s strong enough to pull the thread through the needle without the threader breaking.


Start by inserting the needle approximately 1/2″ from where you wish to begin quilting. Push your needle through the top and batting only. Then travel through quilt and bring your needle up at your starting point.


Pull the thread until the knot reaches the quilt top and give it a sharp tug ~ it will pop through the quilt top and embed itself in the batting. You will get the hang of this after a few tries. If you find your thread comes all the way through without getting stuck within the batting, try weaving your needle in the batting a little before coming out at the start point.


Let’s get quilting. I quilt toward myself at a slight diagonal, (rather than right to left) and I find it the easiest way for me. Do what feels comfortable for you. Start a stitch with the needle sticking straight down through the quilt. I’m right handed and I have my right hand on top of the quilt making the stitch, and my left hand guiding the needle on the back of my quilt. In the next picture, my left hand is under the quilt sandwich and the needle is just poking through the other side resting on my finger tip. (yes, this fingertip will get a little sore…)


When I feel the point of the needle come through the back of the quilt with my left hand fingertip, I tilt the needle backward away from me. Next, I push the finger behind the quilt up, creating a small bump on the quilt top where your needle is. With your right hand thumb, push down on the quilt top in front of the needle, making the bump more defined, and now you can push the needle through that bump.


Also notice in the picture above how my needle rests right in the lip of my thimble.

Review steps: 

  •  needle straight up and down, just through quilt sandwich touching left hand finger tip
  •  tilt needle back
  •  push up with left finger from under quilt
  •  push down with right thumb in front of needle to make the defined bump
  •  push needle through bump

Here is a side view of the bump created by my left finger at the back and my right thumb.


When you get started, your thimble may feel unnatural on your finger, and you may struggle through the first several stitches, but it will quickly get easier. Stick with it! Your left finger tips will get sore and there are some products you can use like another thimble or little ‘dots’ to stick on your finger to protect them. Personally I don’t like having anything on my left hand fingers, I need to be able to feel the needle.

Once you are comfortable with making the stitch, try rocking your needle to take 2-3 stitches at a time before pulling the thread through.


Again, look at the needle on my thimble in the photo above. All those little dimples do good work at keeping my needle in place.

When you are ready for another length of thread, or done your quilting, you will need to tie off and embed the end of your thread in the batting.


Start by tying another overhand knot in the end of your thread.


Slide the knot down to the top of the quilt.


Insert needle back into hole that the thread is coming out of and travel through the batting only, then back out of top about a 1/2″ away.


Pull the needle through and give the tread a sharp tug to embed the knot into the batting and carefully snip off the tail.


That’s all there is to it!

If you’re new to hand quilting, start on small projects like I did, then when you’re comfortable, move your way up to a large project.

Here are a few more pictures of my finished quilt…

photo 24

photo 22

Notice how the quilting can really make your piecing or applique pop like in this Dahlia block.  The stitching around the shell shapes really make them stand out.

photo 25

The most important thing is to have fun with Aurifil 12 wt. big stitch quilting and enjoy the process.

photo 26

And don’t forget that the quilting on the back of the blocks can be just as much fun to admire as the front!

photo 27

I hope you liked this tutorial and give big stitch hand quilting a try. You can find additional pictures and information about this quilt and more on my blog —

photo 19

If you’re wondering how you can use 12 wt. thread in your machine, check out this post.

Happy Quilting!
— Sherri 

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sherri 250x250 300dpiSherri Noel is a quilter, a pattern designer and a sewing blogger. You can find her bag and quilt patterns plus tutorials on her blog at, named after her daughters. She is best known for her scrappy block-of-the-month programs, big stitch hand quilting, quilt as you go tutorials (joining quilted blocks) and her popular Madawaska Mittens made from recycled wool sweaters. Visit her blog and say hello!