This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation

Machine quilting stitches: Stopping, traveling, and starting

by Kathy Tabb
(Interlochen, MI)

I have seen demos where a quilter is quilting, say outline quilting.

She/he will get to a point where she wants to stop and "hop" to the next area (like across a sashing strip) and begin again. But she does NOT break thread; she just pulls on the needle thread for about 5 or 6 inches, re-positions the needle where she wants to start again, and away she goes.

It looks like a great way EXCEPT is sure doesn't work for me. When I finish, I usually find that several of the stitches have pulled out. She doesn't appear to be doing any micro-stitching.

How does she do this without any stitch raveling?????


Excellent observations! You may have your answer in the first few words of your question.

IF what you're seeing is truly in a demonstration, the quilter may be just trying to save time by not tying off and restarting pulling the bobbin thread to the top.

I know that when I demonstrate in my machine quilting classes, I'll do the same thing...lift the press foot, pull out some thread and move over...but for the first few times I've done it correctly so that my students can get the hang of it. (Actually after your question, I will drop that practice, since I want my students to develop good quilting habits. This short cut may not enforce the practice...with students remembering what I did and not what I said.)

The other possibility (if this is an actual quilt she's working on and not a 'practice' or 'demo' piece) is that her/his standards are different.

While I always knot and bury my thread tails or tie-off with micro-stitching (and not back stitching) others may choose not to with their own quilts. We all have different reasons for quilting, different expectations from how we choose to spend out time. For some, just the act of quilting is their fulfillment and that might be part of the demonstrations that you've seen.

Reality Check

Thread tails do and can pull out when a quilt is used, washed or folded.

If quilting stitches coming undone bothers you (and it WAY bothers me, but that is MY opinion on MY quilts) then make sure you tie off your stitches, either with micro-stitching or hand knotting and burying the thread tails.

One more thing as I re-read your question...

I do hop over to the next place for machine quilting and leave the thread connected...particularly for areas where there is no danger of sewing over these 'traveling' threads. However, I do use the micro-stitching technique both before and after I travel to secure my thread tails. As I go back to clip the thread tails, I'll clip the top thread first and then give a slight tug on the bobbin thread to pull any 'thread nub' into the quilt layers to avoid that little thread 'bloom' that can happen if the needle thread isn't cut close enough to the quilt top.

I hope this has added to your perspective of what you're seeing when you see quilting demos.


Julie Baird

Comments for Machine quilting stitches: Stopping, traveling, and starting

Click here to add your own comments

Reveling stitches
by: Erin


Since you mentioned raveling stitches at the start or stop, I was wondering what you can do about that after the fact?

I've seen somewhere the micro-stitching wasn't enough to hold and now stitches are pulling out as the quilt is used.

Is there anything that can be done to stop this or prevent it from worsening with such short thread tales that were already trimmed when the quilting was done.



From the Editor: If the quilt was already finished and something started to unravel—since there's already so many quilts in my head that I want to make—I think I would go back in with a monofilament thread (I do love my monofilament) and go over the area again with micro stitching.

I'm not one to go back and pick out quilting after the quilt is finished.

If I was concerned about this new micro-stitching unraveling, then I would leave thread tails long enough to tie off with on both ends of the stitching, and knot and bury them in the quilt sandwich.

The over-stitching should stop the unraveling.

I hope this helps.


Julie Baird

Click here to add your own comments

Return to GQP's Quilting Forum.

This article was printed from

Print Article

Follow Us