Friday, September 1, 2023

Technique: How I Sew Chunky Stitches on Bindings / Beauties Pageant 226


It’s fair to say that I avoid hand stitching at all costs. I don’t enjoy it, it tends to be rough on my wrists, and besides, I’ve got some mad sewing machine skills ... Why would I hand-stitch something that I can sew by machine? 

The one exception for me is chunky hand stitching on bindings—I love the look of it!

This is what I am talking about, a thick line of imperfect stitches that contrasts with my binding and that reminds the quilt recipient an actual person made this object ... 

The technique is easy—so easy, in fact, that I hesitated to write this post. If you don’t already have this binding option in your quilty arsenal, I hope these instructions will help you make the leap.

Ready, Set, Go!

Chunky hand stitching is the final step of binding a quilt. At this point, I have already made my binding with 2.5-inch width-of-fabric strips and attached it to one side of the quilt by machine. Whether I attach it to the front or back depends on the project. Sometimes I like the look of the chunky stitching on the front. Other times, I prefer it on the back. Do whatever gives you the look you’re striving for.

Tools of the Trade

This technique requires notions you likely already have on hand ...



I use a 12-weight Aurifil thread when finishing bindings with chunky stitches. I’m sure less expensive thread would work just as well, and I think an 8-weight thread would be fine, too. (Remember, as the number of the weight decreases, the thickness of the thread increases.) I recommend trying what you have on hand and seeing how it works before purchasing something new.

I don’t use a thread conditioner, but if using one makes you happy, go for it!

Hand-Sewing Needle

There is nothing fancy about my needle. It’s sharp, has a big-enough eye to accommodate the thick thread, and is long enough that it feels good in my hand. If you’re savvy about needles (admittedly, I am not), I’d say something in the embroidery or crewel family would work. (If you have insight into needle selection, by all means let us know in the comments!)

Quilting Gloves

I do not use thimbles—I haven’t invested the time (or money) into finding one I like. Instead, I prefer to wear my Machingers quilting gloves. They help me grasp the needle, lessening the wear and tear on my hands.

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Cut a length (say, 24 inches) of the chunky thread you’re using, and double-knot the end.

2. Insert the needle an inch away (or less, whatever the quilting lines permit) from where you want to start (or, in the case of the photo below, to continue) your lines of stitches.

3. Pull the thread through, burying the knot between the fabric and batting. This will not hurt the fabric! Sometimes I have to lift the fabric a bit to encourage the knot to go through more easily.

4. Start sewing, ensuring the thread passes through the binding and the fabric without peeking through on the other side. My stitches are about a quarter-inch long. I strive for uniformity, but part of the beauty of this stitching is the little wobbles and inconsistencies. : )

Sometimes I can get away with weaving the needle up and down and making multiple stitches at a time.

5. Secure the corners by stitching an X.

6. When you’re close to the end of your thread, tie a double knot a little beyond where your next stitch will end. Sew that last stitch, ensuring the knot lies between the fabric and batting, and bringing the needle through the fabric about an inch from that endpoint. Trim the tail close to the fabric.

That’s it! I think the hardest part of this process is making sure I don’t poke the thread through to the opposite side of the quilt. : )

There are plenty of times when I still finish my bindings by machine—especially when I’m short on time—but I do enjoy hand stitching a binding here and there.

Have you given this technique a try? If so, tell us about it in the comments.

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  1. What does it look like on the front? Thanks.

    1. Look at the first picture under "Step-by-Step Instructions." It looks like any other binding. The stitches don't come through to the opposite side.

      It's worth noting that I don't always finish my bindings on the back side of the quilt. Sometimes I attach the binding to the back, wrap it around to the front, and finish it from the front with those chunky stitches.

      Does that make sense?

  2. This was really helpful. I had wondered just how to do this. I can’t wait to try it. Do you think it holds up well?

    1. That's a great question! I think it holds up as well as tacking the binding down with regular thread and hidden stitches. I have one quilt with a chunky-stitched binding that needs to be washed. I'll be sure to post a pic of it so you can see what it looks like after a wash and dry!

      I think what helps a binding hold up over time isn't the stitches used to finish it off but the kind of binding used. Bias binding wears better. Honestly, I can rarely be bothered to make it, though; I use width-of-fabric strips to make 99% of my bindings.

  3. I love how you do the corners with the X. ❤️

  4. I love hand stitching down my bindings, but I have never tried these chunky stitches. Thanks for the photos and tutorial!

  5. I was encouraged to try what I call Big Stitch sewing to finish a binding on a small wall quilt I made with remnant silk fabric. I really liked the results! Thanks for generating the idea. :)


  6. Thanks for sharing this! I love handwork as much as machine work, so I've done a bit of binding like this. However, I first hand-stitched down the binding in the usual way, with blind stitches. Then, I added big stitch hand quilting that went through the binding, so it showed on the back and front. As we know, that's the beauty of quiltingmaking - having different ways of approaching techniques. I love what you've done.

  7. I really like your idea of using chunky thread on the binding. Also, hand sewing it. I have gotten in the habit of machine sewing binding. Also, I like how you did the corners with an X. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I like machine-finishing my bindings, too, but it's nice to mix things up every so often!


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