Wow! I received so many questions yesterday about how to hand tie a quilt and how I get my quilts to look so puffy. Soooo.....ask and ye shall receive! Here's my method for hand tying a quilt and making it super fluffy. And fortunately it's pretty easy to do!
I use high loft batting for my hand tied quilts. I sandwich it just like I would any other quilt. I lay the backing down (wrong side up), lay the batting on top and lay my quilt top on top of that (right side up of course). I pin it with lots and lots of large curved safety pins. I usually pin about 5" apart.
These are the tools I use to hand tie my quilts. Size 8 Crewel Needles, Perle Cotton (size 8) and hemostats. You can also use curved needles but I've found that I prefer working with a regular old straight needle and that's what I'll be talking about today. You can also use 6 strand embroidery floss or crochet thread. I've even heard of people using very narrow ribbon to tie quilts!
The first step in hand tying a quilt is to move your ridiculously cute cat from the quilt for 5 minutes and convince her not to run off with the needle and thread.....
To start a tie, you'll want to have one hand under the quilt pinching the three layers of the quilt together in the area that you are tying. I put my needle in at a 45 degree angle in the OPPOSITE direction that I want the needle to go. I don't go straight down. I do this so I can get a big enough "bite" of the backing. You're going through a lot of thickness and if you just try to go straight down or angle it in the direction that you'll be pushing the needle you won't get enough backing or you might miss the backing completely. In the photo below I'm angling the needle to the right but I will be pushing it to the left once it's through all three layers.
Once you've pushed your needle through all three layers you'll "rock" or swing your needle to the left and push your needle through. I usually try to make my "bites" about 3/8" on the front but they end up being about 1/4" on the back because I'm going through a lot of layers. Pull your thread through and leave about a 1 to 1 1/2" tail of thread.
Next up you'll tie a surgeons knot. This is where the hemostats come in. If you don't have some I HIGHLY recommend you get a pair. They are awesome for all sorts of sewing and crafting projects. You'll start on the long side of the thread. Not the side with the little tail. Lay your hemostats down on top of the thread.
And wrap the thread around the hemostats TWICE. Two full wraps.
Then grab the tail end of the thread with the hemostats.
And pull the tail end of the thread through those two wraps on the end of the hemostats. You'll gently slide those two wraps down the hemostat as you pull the tail end through.
Pull it tight. You've just created ONE throw which is HALF of a knot. ONE knot has TWO throws.
Now, you'll repeat the process but you'll only do ONE thread wrap around the hemostats before you grab the tail end of the thread. You'll be working from the other side of your knot as you make your second throw because that is where the long end of the thread is now. After you make the second throw you'll have a nice, tight secure knot. Then you'll want to do TWO more throws with one wrap each to create a second full knot.
To summarize: First throw has two wraps. Then three more throws with one wrap each. This gives you two full, secure knots. You always use the long end of the thread to wrap around the hemostats and you always grab the short tail end.
Then I cut the threads to be about 1 cm long.
I usually do my ties no more than 2-3" apart. And I kind of let the design of the quilt tell me where the ties should go. I love putting ties in the corners of the blocks and in the middle and along the seams. And yes, you can tie knots in seams, corners or in the middle of blocks. Wherever you like. Just do what looks good to you.
And that is how you get a super puffy looking quilt!
O.K. I hope I explained everything o.k. and that the pictures weren't too blurry. I wish I could have had Col. Sew Fab take the pictures and proofread this for me to make sure it makes sense but for some reason he thinks his job of helping to defend the country is more important than hand tying quilts! What's up with that?! (You know I'm totally kidding, right?).
Anyway, please let me know if you have any questions. It's pretty easy to get the hang of making hand ties with a little practice and it's such a great project to work on while sitting in front of the t.v. and sipping on some tea or wine!
Happy Sewing (and Tying),
P.S. Someone asked me if this replaces machine or hand quilting and the answer is YES. You don't need to do additional hand or machine quilting on tied quilts. The ties ARE the quilting.