The Difference between Quilting Stitches and Sewing Stitches

Some Basic Sewing Stitches

Sewing stitches have been around since prehistoric times when animal parts were used to stitch together two pieces of animal hide to make clothing. Most sewing is done for the same reason today, holding two pieces of fabric together to create clothing, crafts, and decorative items made of various types of fabric. A straight stitch is the most common type of sewing stitch used, but different stitches come into play when the type of material being sewn is changed. For example, a chain stitch may be used to keep knit fabrics secure while still allowing them to stretch ,or an overcast stitch provides a secure edge when sewing fabrics that are loosely woven and prone to unraveling. So what is the difference between quilting stitches and sewing stitches?

Quilting is another form of sewing, where two layers of fabric with a layer of batting in-between are usually stitched together. The basic purpose of quilting is to provide warmth to the user, but quilt stitches are also used to create interest and beauty. They contribute to the design on the front of the quilt and on the backside.

People have been stitching quilts by hand since medieval times and many still prefer to do so. There are also dedicated quilting sewing machines in addition to basic sewing machines that have quilt stitches built-in. Although similar styles of stitches are used by hand and machine, those that are by hand are less precise and have a more custom appearance. Those made by hand are also farther apart.

Some Basic Quilting Stitches

Quilter’s Knot – This is the starting and ending stitch used by hand quilters to prevent the stitches they make in-between from coming out. The quilter’s knot is made by wrapping the thread around the bottom of a threaded needle a few times and then pull the loops over the thread so that they make a knot at the bottom. The stray ends are trimmed off before pulling the knot through the top layer of fabric and to the back of the quilt. Follow the step-by-step tutorial on Craftsy here.

Running Stitch – This is the basic stitch that most quilters use to create designs by hand. To use it, the needle is inserted through the top layer of fabric and the batting, catching a small part of the back layer of fabric before pulling it back through the top and starting the next stitch in the same way. It is virtually impossible to make the stitches perfectly even, resulting in the unique design that makes hand-quilting stand out from that done on a machine.

How They Are Used

There are numerous techniques used to perform these stitches, allowing each sewer to find the best ones for their use. Regardless of the design, the same quilt stitch is often used. For example, meandering is a freestyle design that resembles etching where the stitches go in random directions to form “S” curves without the stitches crossing. Although most quilters today prefer to use this type of quilt stitch when machine quilting, it may be used on solid areas or corners to complement the rest of the quilt design for minimal hand stitching.

Most of us never think about the stitching used to keep our jeans together or to craft a cap into the shape of our head. The stitches that accomplish this are expected to perform this important function and, sometimes, to add detailing that can add to the visual appeal.

In quilting, the stitches are used to form patterns while also holding all the layers of the quilt together. The biggest difference between sewing stitches and quilting stitches is whether you want the stitches to be hidden or to add to the appearance of the finished product.


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