The Big Stitch

Recently I talked up big stitches for quilting and embellishment to my MQG. I am on record as a resolute embroidery avoider, so I realize this this an about face for me.  In my defense I’ll say that big stitch embroidery isn’t dainty and doesn’t use those blue stamped patterns.

What are big stitches?  In my definition, they are quilting and embroidery stitches on steroids, done with multiple strands of embroidery floss, perl cotton, crochet cord, or 12 or 30 weight thread.  And the stitching is often improvisational, made up on the spot, rather than pattern specific.

The photos below show parts of a pillow I made with techniques from Craftsy’s Stupendous Stitching class.  I used french knots, lazy daisies, fern stitch, and lots of running stitch combinations. These are nestled between decorative machine stitches and couched trims.

big_stitch1big_stitch2So, what about big stitch quilting?  I can tell you it goes a lot faster that “regular” hand quilting.  I use it as an adjunct to machine quilting to add texture and color.  Here’s a short video made by Tim Latimer that shows how he does big stitch quilting.

neutrality_closeupMy-February-Fantasy-closeupI’ve been hesitant to use it as the only quilting for fear the perl cotton wouldn’t be strong enough to hold the layers together for the years I hope my pieces last. Also, even though big stitches take less time than conventional hand quilting, the technique still takes more time than machine quilting.

Here’s the way a friend used big stitches to add an intriguing border to her work.  It’s just weaving another color of thread through the existing stitches but it provides a great contrast.

Ks_ladiesI shared a few embroidery books with my guild that show all the cool effects you can get outside the world of traditional embroidery.

embroidery_booksbig_stitch_projectJenny Hart shows how flowers and leaves can be enhanced with some quick stitching. I can see using this to embellish a quilt.

Aneela_Hooey_workI’m in love with the leaves and cherries Aneela Hooey conjures up with lazy daisy and french knot stitches.  And the grass is done with a fern stitch.

Have you found ways to use big stitches on your quilted stuff, or some great thread/floss, etc.?


Filed under Techniques

4 responses to “The Big Stitch

  1. I’ve always been an improvisational quilter, i.e., not quite knowing what I was going to do until my needle is loaded. What I love about big stitch, besides the speed, is how the intensely colored threads display so beautifully. I use cotton batts only so there is a bit of an issue – the bigger needles do not glide through so easily. My arm does get ‘stitch fatigue’. I experimented with a polyester batt and there was no problem at all . . . except that it’s a polyester batt. I am quite fond of Finca Presencia threads and I just started using Valdana. They are both beautiful threads and I would definitely recommend them. Thanks for a great post! Take care, Byrd

    • I’ve also found that it’s hard to stitch with the thicker perl cotton as it drags when pulled through fabric. Since I often do embroidery type big stitching on the quilt top before I quilt it, I haven’t run into the cotton vs. poly batting problem. Does the batting you use have a scrim? And yes, Valdani perl cotton is wonderful, though expensive. I’ve been playing with a ball of variegated Valdani.

      • No, my cotton batting doesn’t have a scrim and yes, Valdani is expensive. I bought a bunch at Purl Soho and didn’t have enough money for lunch. Finca Presencia is less expensive and I think better quality. Their customer service people (I had a lot of questions) were very nice and enthusiastic . . .

      • I hope you had enough money left to at least get a street hot dog. That’s good to know about Finca perl cotton. I have some in bright crayon colors, but I’ve been trying to use up some cheap stuff that seems lintier than the high priced thread.

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