Completing Your Quilt: Quit Finishing Guide

Last updated on October 17th, 2021 at 02:01 pm

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Congratulations!  You have completed your quilt top and now you are ready to layer the backing, batting, and quilt top.  The information that follows will guide you through the remaining tasks of finishing a quilt.

Quilt smart standard finishing techniques

Every experienced quilter has developed a personal favorite set of finishing techniques.  There are a variety of approaches that can be taken.  For the sake of consistency among our books, Quiltsmart has adopted the methods that follow as our standard finishing techniques.  We hope you find them to be clear and beginner-friendly.

Preparing to Quilt

Cut and piece the backing fabric and the batting to a size about 6” larger than your quilt top.  Don’t worry about precision; the excess material will be cut away.

Choose a quilting method.  There are several options for holding your quilt together:

  • Machine quilting is relatively fast and the stitches are durable.  With machine quilting, your quilting can be simple straight lines or intricate designs, depending on your skill level.
  • Hand quilting is an age-old art, one that enhances the value (emotional and financial) of your work.  Hand quilting is time consuming, yet not difficult.
  • Tying is by far the quickest, yet it will not hold up as well to wear and tear.  Tying does not provide the texture and life that quilting stitches add.

There are a variety of wash-out or disappearing markers available at your quilt shop.  Avoid the heartache of marks that won’t go away.  Test on a scrap of your fabric before marking your quilt top.

layquit back side downStack and fasten the layers so they will not shift during quilting.   If you have a quilting frame, follow the manufacturers instructions for layering.

If you do not have a frame, lay the quilt back right side down on a flat surface.  Tape it to a floor or clamp with binder clips (common office supply used to hold thick stacks of paper) to a table.  Place the batting on top of the quilt back and smooth from the center outward.  Place the quilt top right side up on the batting and smooth again, taping or clamping as required.

Use safety pins not straight pins
Use safety pins not straight pins

Baste or pin the quilt with safety pins every 4 inches or so through all three layers.  Smooth the quilt as you work your way out from the center.

Machine Quilting

Quilt shown is Quiltsmart “Blossom” pattern
Quilt shown is Quiltsmart “Blossom” pattern

In this overview of machine quilting we touch upon the highlights of this wonderful and intricate craft.  For more details and information check out your local quilt shop for classes and books on machine quilting.

Use safety pins, not straight pins. – image

Guidelines for Machine Quilting:

  • Camouflage is the key to choice of thread.  By matching the top thread to the quilt top and the bobbin thread to the backing, you will hide any shakiness in your stitching.  Invisible thread is a good choice.  If you use it, loosen the top tension.
  • Use a long stitch length of about 8 to 10 stitches to the inch.
  • Rotate the hand wheel on your machine to bring up the bobbin thread before you begin stitching.  Secure in place by setting the stitch length to “0” and take a couple stitches before you begin.
  • Start at the center of the quilt and work outward. Check often for puckering on the underside.  Keep the quilt taut as you sew.  Smooth and re-pin as necessary.
  • When you are done with a section, either back stitch a few stitches, or overlap with previous stitching.

walking and darning footFor straight line stitching or shadow stitching a walking foot is helpful.  This convenient device eliminates most problems with bunching of the backing.  Use the width of the presser foot to form a line of stitches running parallel to the seams of the quilt.

Free-motion quilting with a darning foot allows you to stitch intricate patterns or random stippling. For free motion quilting, a darning foot is worth its weight in gold.  Free motion quilting requires practice.  Use scraps to hone your skills.  Don’t try it for the first time on your treasured quilt!

Hand Quilting

Hand quilting is a time-honored art form that requires patience.  It is not difficult, though it requires some skill that can be gained through practice.  The time you invest in hand quilting will be rewarded by the ooohs and aaahs of admirers.  You will also significantly enhance the financial value of your quilt.  Throughout history, quilting has been a social activity.  Hand quilting today presents the same social opportunities.  Gather your friends. The time will fly!

Quilt shown is Quiltsmart’s “Anne’s Butterfly” pattern
Quilt shown is Quiltsmart’s “Anne’s Butterfly” pattern

Guidelines for Hand Quilting:

  • Mark, layer, and thread baste.
  • Use a good quality quilting thread and a quilting needle.
  • You may use a running stitch or an up and down stitch.
  • Keep your stitch length short, yet long enough to be even.

Quilting frames are worth the investment if you do a lot of hand quilting.  Well-designed and constructed frames hold the layers in place, allow convenient access to the top and bottom of the quilt, and take up little space.  Some quilting frames (such as the Q-Snap frame) eliminate the need to baste the layers together.  This is a real time saver.

Another option is using a hoop for lap quilting.  Again, start at the center and work toward the outer edge.


Tying is fast, simple and a good method for beginners.  It will not last as long as quilting under daily use.  Tying is a good method to choose if you wish to have a heavy batt that cannot be quilted.  Whether thick or thin, you must use a batt that can be quilted up to 4-6 inches apart.  Warm & Natural™ 100% cotton batting is a good choice for a thinner batting.  Tie at least every 4-6 inches using a square knot.  Try to pick spots that follow the design of the quilt.

tying a double square knot

Guidelines for Tying:

  • Use embroidery floss to tie your quilt.  Though yarn and ribbon may be fine for a wallhanging, they do not wear well through years of active use and washing.  Embroidery floss holds a knot well and can add a bit of color if you wish.
  • A curved needle is ideal for poking and pulling through several layers of fabric and batting.  Sometimes a pair of pliers comes in handy to pull the needle through.  Try for a 1/8” to 1/4” gap between the insertion point and the return pass of the needle.

Use all six threads in the skein and a three to four foot length of floss.  Knot at the first tie point, then thread continuously through as many tie points as your length of floss allows.  After using a full length of floss, cut midway between the tie points.  Tie using square knots as illustrated above.  Use scissors to trim away the excess after tying leaving about an inch-and-a-half of floss.


There are almost as many ways to add binding as there are quilters!  This one piece binding method is the perfect combination – easy, fast, and terrific mitered corners with no fuss.

  1. Pin through all three layers an inch or so away from the outside edge of the top.  Check for puckering. Stitch through all three layers a scant Ľ” from the outside edge of the top.  Remove the pins as you stitch. Trim the back and batting even with the quilt through area
  2. Sew binding strips end-to-end.
  3. Fold one end of the binding strip over at a 45-degree angle.  Press the entire strip in half – wrong sides together, lengthwise.fold one binding
  4. Begin at the center of one edge of your quilt top.  (Preferably, the edge that will be at the foot of the bed or bottom of a Wall hanging.)  Place the binding so its raw edges meet the raw edges of the quilt. Stitch through all layers – binding, quilt top, batting, and backing – using a Ľ” seam. Stop stitching Ľ” before the first corner.tip9 finishing quitling
  5. Leaving the needle in the down position (through the fabric), lift the presser foot.  Rotate the quilt to the next side.  Lower the presser foot and backstitch Ľ” to the edge.
     5a Pivot and backstitch
    5a Pivot and backstitch

    Lift the presser foot again and fold the binding as shown in diagrams 5b and 5c. Lower the presser foot and stitch, stopping Ľ” before the next corner. Repeat this process at each corner. 

    5b Fold away from you
    5b Fold away from you
    5c Fold toward you
    5c Fold toward you
  6. As you come around to meet the start of the binding, simply overlap the ends and continue to stitch an additional 1 to 2 inches of binding.
    Overlap by 1 to 2 inch
    Overlap by 1 to 2 inch
  7. Wrap the binding to the back side of the quilt.  Use the line of stitches on the backside of the quilt as a guide as you hand stitch the binding to the back. At the corners, form a 45-degree angle.  Take a couple of anchoring stitches for durability.
    Hand Stitch to Back
    Hand Stitch to Back
  8. Don’t forget to sign and date your work, it’s important!