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Tying a quilt is an easy and quick way to finish a quilt. Tying a quilt means using thread or yarn to attach all three layers of a quilt together. This is a great option for beginner quilters as well as more advanced quilters! To add some extra interest, ties and quilting can be used together to add a fun flair to a finished quilt.
One of the most common ways to tie a quilt is to use yarn. I’ll show you an example of the more “traditional” quilt tying method, as well as several more modern alternative quilt tying methods.
Before you start tying your quilt, you’ll need to choose a thread or yarn to use and decide where you want to place your ties. Let’s go over how to make the best choices for your quilting project.
Choosing your Thread or Yarn
When choosing thread or yarn, the first thing to consider is if the fiber dye will bleed into your quilt. Avoid hand-dyed yarn and embroidery floss. If you’re worried that your thread or yarn of choice will bleed, you can test it by putting it in a hot bowl of water with a piece of white fabric. If it bleeds, it’s best to choose another fiber.
You’ll also want to consider what type of material your thread or yarn is made of. A cotton or polyester thread will work well for tying quilts. For yarn, you can use synthetic or natural fibers. Synthetic fibers like polyester and acrylic are long-lasting and strong but may come untied more often due to their slippery nature. Natural fibers have a nice hand-feel but may fray more than a synthetic thread.
All yarn types work well for tying quilts, it’s ultimately up to personal preference!
Quilt Tie Placement
Before you start tying your quilt, you’ll need to decide how far apart you want the ties. This will vary depending on your quilt pattern and the type of batting you are using.
First, read the label of your quilt batting. It will let you know the maximum amount of space you can have between quilting.
Most battings are generous with their space between stitching and recommend anywhere from 6” – 10”. If you are tying your quilt, I recommend staying between 4” – 5” because the ties are not as dense and quilting stitches. You can mark your quilt with an air/water-soluble pen to help you know where your ties will go.
Once you’ve determined the maximum amount of space you can have between your ties, look at your quilt pattern and determine where the ties will look best in your pattern.
A common placement is in the center of patchwork squares, but you can choose whatever placement you think looks best.
How to Tie a Quilt – The Traditional Method
Traditionally, quilts are tied with yarn. You can use any type of yarn, but acrylic or wool are most commonly used. Yarn-tied quilts usually have a bulky tie that offers great texture. The tie may come undone or loosen in the wash, so be sure to look over your quilt after you wash it. The ties can easily be tightened or replaced as needed.
Let’s go over a quick tutorial on how to tie a quilt.
Step 1: Thread your Needle. You can use a needle threader to help get your yarn through the eye of your needle. Use a long length of yarn so you don’t need to constantly re-thread your needle, but not too long, or else you’ll get knots. I like to use a length of yarn that is the length of my arm.
Step 2: Stitch into the fabric from the top of the quilt. Make sure that your needle punctures all three layers of fabric. Stitch through the back of the fabric about ½” away from your first stitch.
Step 3: Pull your thread through the quilt until you have a 2” tail. Cut your thread with the needle attached to get a second 2″ tail.
Step 4: Double knot your tails together. Trim the tails to your desired length.
Repeat these steps until your entire quilt is tied together for a fun yet traditional look.
Seven Unique Ways to Tie a Quilt
There are several non-traditional ways to tie your quilt. Here are a few examples:
Make an X with Embroidery Floss
This is a cute and modern way to tie your quilt. All you’ll need is some 12wt thread or embroidery floss. If you’re using embroidery floss you can choose how many threads you want to use. In my example, I used 3 strands of floss.
Create the first half of the X by stitching into the quilt from the back and stitching diagonally into the top of your quilt. Don’t knot your thread. Pull your thread through the quilt and make sure to leave a tail of about 2 inches. Finish the X by repeating this step but in the opposite direction.
Tie your threads together in the back of the quilt for a fresh take on a traditional tie. If you don’t want your thread tails to show, you can bury them into the quilt.
Make a Satin Stitch with Embroidery Floss
The satin stitch is a staple in embroidery and it can give your quilt a funky modern look. In my example, I used the satin stitch in the corner of my patchwork block, but you can turn your satin stitch into different shapes like circles or rectangles to add even more interest to your quilt.
Make a satin stitch by inserting your embroidery floss and needle into your quilt from the back and stitch back down into the top of your quilt about ½’ away. Repeat this step by starting directly next to the original stitch. Continue these steps until you’ve filled your desired shape.
Make a Star Stitch with Embroidery Floss
With embroidery floss and a needle, you can create this unique decorative stitch to tie your quilt. Make this stitch by inserting your needle into the back of your quilt and inserting it back down into the quilt top about ½” away. Repeat this motion in a clockwise circle three more times.
To add even more interest, you can change up the sizes of your star stitches and add a few clusters of stars throughout your quilt. You could even add in a few well-known constellations for the quilt recipient to find!
Use a Fishbone Stitch to Create a Leaf with Embroidery Floss
Stitches that tie your quilt together don’t need to be basic! The fishbone stitch gives a great texture and it’s the perfect stitch to make a leaf shape. Include a few stitched leaves through your tied quilt or use the stitched leaves for every tie! This stitch will add an extra special touch to any quilt.
I’m no expert on embroidery, so if you’d like to learn the fishbone stitch for yourself, watch this YouTube video!
Make a Hidden Tie with Yarn
Tying your quilt with yarn doesn’t have to lead to a frayed mess. Use the hidden tie technique to keep all of your ties invisible.
Follow this YouTube tutorial to learn how to do the hidden tie method.
Make a Tassel with Yarn
Tassels are a unique way to add some flair to your finished quilt. They may be a bit wild, but they are so fun!
Kaitlyn from Archaios Quilt Co. created a tutorial on how to make these. Head over to Kaitlyn’s blog post to get the step-by-step tutorial!
Make a Pom Pom with Yarn
Add fantastic texture and whimsy by tying your quilt with pom poms. A pom maker is a great investment if you plan to make several of these. Pom makers make perfect pom-poms every time and they will all be the exact same size. I like this pom maker.
Attach the pom by stitching both tails of the pom through all three layers of the quilt. Double knot the ties on the back of the quilt and trim the excess tails to your preferred length.
Quilt tying is a tried and true method of finishing quilts and it definitely doesn’t have to look old-fashioned. With these unique ways to tie a quilt, you’ll be able to finish your modern quilt patterns in a way that matches their style.
I’d love to see your finished quilts if you use any of these methods! Tag me on Instagram @haileystitches so I can see your finished work!