Quilting For Beginners: DIY Constellation Quilt Embroidery Stitches Tutorial, Part Two
This post is the second installment in our series on quilting for beginners--Catch up on the full series below:
- My First DIY Constellation Quilt, PART ONE
- DIY Constellation Quilt Embroidery Stitches Tutorial, PART TWO (This post!)
- DIY Constellation Quilt Tips & Tricks, PART THREE
- How To Sew A Quilt Binding, PART FOUR
Oh, quilting. How I have learned to love you and loathe you, after putting some real work & time in to my DIY constellation quilt. This week's post is the second in a series on quilting for beginners, and will cover how to sew the most basic of embroidery stitches that are needed for this quilting project.
But first. Have you checked out part one in this series on quilting for beginners? In that first post I cover everything that you need to purchase for your own DIY constellation quilt project, as well as all of the prep work involved. (And believe me, there is actually quite a bit of prep. WAY more than I expected.)
I have been itching to REALLY get started with my DIY constellation quilt, but I wanted to make sure I do it right. Because if you're going to spend 60+ hours on a project, then it should be done right. Right? (And yes.. 60 Hours is how long the company that makes the DIY constellation quilt pattern, Haptic Lab, expects the project to take.)
SO yah. I didn't really want to rush in to this project, no matter how much I have been dying to really get started with it. And since I have never quilted before in my life, I wanted to practice the embroidery stitches needed for the quilt on some scrap fabric before getting started with the real deal.
And I am SO GLAD that I did.
Not only did I practice and learn the actual embroidery stitches themselves, but I also tested which threads I wanted to use for what.
It's almost like knocking out two birds with one stone. You practice the embroidery stitches to make sure you know what you're doing, but you're also testing out which colors & threads work best for what. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.
According to the instructions for the DIY constellation quilt, they recommended using a metallic thread for the actual constellations.. But after testing out my thread & embroidery stitches, I felt like I wanted the opposite. (I really hope that doesn't come back to bite me in the end.)
I felt like it just worked better for the look I was going for to use the metallic floss for the overall radial dome, and to use the thicker white embroidery thread for the actual stars & constellations.
Oh, ALSO: When practicing with the embroidery stitches, I experimented with the different thicknesses of the the different types of thread. Again, SO glad I did this. I discovered that I liked the white embroidery thread doubled up for the stars. But I liked the metallic thread as a single thread throughout the dome. I'm not sure if that's how I'm SUPPOSED to be stitching this quilt together..
I also tested out how to stitch the tiny little stars that are sprinkled throughout the map. The instructions recommend that "advanced quilters" can use French knots for the tiny stars, which seemed a bit intimidating. "Advanced quilter".
Which I most definitely am not.
But I looked up in one of my sewing books how to sew a French knot.. And it's actually pretty easy. Surprise!
As expected, I will be using the gold & silver embroidery floss for the scattered stars on the map. I did end up pulling the skein thread in half though--The full thickness of that thread was just way too heavy for those tiny little stars.
Again, so glad I practiced these embroidery stitches ahead of time!
Embroidery stitches tutorial: What we'll be covering
SO. With this post we will be covering how to sew the following embroidery stitches:
- The Back Stitch: The back stitch on this DIY constellation quilt is used for the bigger stars and the lines connecting the individual constellations together.
- A Running Stitch: This stitch is used for the "radial dome" of the quilt. Basically any lines that aren't connecting constellations together, but still help to hold the quilt together.
- French Knots: These little babies are for the tiny stars sprinkled throughout the map. I'm a pretty big fan of French knots now because you can easily do different thicknesses for each individual star, which I feel gives the quilt even more depth & definition.
The embroidery stitches used for this project are really pretty basic stitches.
If you are a seamstress of any kind, then I can pretty much guarantee that you have sewn both a back stitch & a running stitch in some capacity. (We actually covered how to sew a basic back stitch in our first hand sewing tutorial. Check it out!)
As I mentioned above, the only stitch that I needed to learn how to sew up for this project was the French knot. Definitely not as complicated as everyone seems to make it out to be, so I wouldn't be too worried if you are making your own DIY constellation quilt!
So. Ready to learn how to sew some embroidery stitches? Let's get started!
Embroidery stitches tutorial: The back stitch
Oh, the back stitch! Seriously one of the easiest stitches out there, but also one of the most valuable. (If not THE most valuable.)
As I mentioned above, with this quilting project, the back stitch is used for the larger stars & the lines connecting the individual constellations. (i.e. The SOLID lines on the DIY constellation quilt map.)
What makes the back stitch slightly more difficult when it comes to quilting (versus just regular sewing) simply boils down to being CAREFUL and stitching slowly. The shapes (i.e. The circles & stars) that the back stitch covers are very unusual in shape..
So you have to think strategically about where the next stitch is going to pop up. We want the back of the quilt to be almost identical to that of the front (with the exception of the constellation names, obvi) so it is VERY important to think about where each back stitch is going. It's easy to just move from stitch to stitch, not caring how the back turns out.
But it requires care and time to ensure that the back of the quilt matches the front.
The stitches should also all be roughly the same length. Definitely not as easy as it sounds, which is another reason why I recommend practicing this stitch before hand. Practice makes perfect!
Embroidery stitches tutorial: How so sew the back stitch
To start, insert the needle in to the quilt, to the left. Push the needle back up, ensuring the tip of the needle comes back out where the stitch should end.
(FOR EXAMPLE: I tried to keep my back stitches about 1/4" long. So for this stitch, I would be pushing the needle back up 1/4" to the left from where it was inserted in to the quilt.)
To secure the stitch, move the needle back to the right and insert into the initial hole. Repeat 1-2 times. (This simply ensures that the thread won't unravel. VERY important to do.)
Once the stitch is secure, push the needle back in to the quilt. Push it back up 1/4" (or whatever your particular stitch length measurement is) away from where the first stitch ended. Move the needle back to the right and insert back in to the quilt.
You can either insert the needle back in to the same hole as the previous stitch, or slightly to the left of it. I experimented with both options during my practice session, and I liked the look of having a teeny tiny little gap between my stitches.
But again, the choice is yours!
Repeat the process until you reach the end of a line (or shape) then repeat the process of securing the end of the thread by repeatedly back stitching in place. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
It would be so so easy to simply go from line to line, star to star, without securing the end of each line or star. But that would result in the back looking different than the front, and thread lines going all over the place. We do not want that. It takes A LOT more time to secure each line & star. But I have a feeling it's going to look SO MUCH BETTER.
NOTE: I prefer to stitch from right to left. If you prefer to stitch from left to right, simply reverse the above instructions.
Embroidery stitches tutorial: The running stitch
The running stitch is an incredibly simple stitch to learn.
As I mentioned above, for this DIY constellation quilt project the running stitch is used for the "radial dome" of the map. (i.e. The DASHED lines spread throughout the map, separating the different sections of the Northern Hemisphere.)
The running stitch is still a pretty simple stitch when it comes to quilting.
What makes it difficult is that the space in between the dashed lines on this particular map is fairly short (maybe 1/4") so it's sometimes difficult to push the needle back up right where it should be.
And it's especially difficult with raw, aching fingertips. (Which you will definitely get after a few hours of hand stitching this quilt together.) But no matter: Slow & steady wins the race. Right? RIGHT?!
Embroidery stitches tutorial: How to sew the running stitch
To start, as with the back stitch, secure the thread with a simple back stitch.
Starting from the right side of the dashed line, insert the needle in to the quilt. Push the needle back up where the next dashed line (i.e. The next stitch) begins. Then push the needle back in to the quilt where the dashed line (i.e. stitch) ends.
And simply repeat! Once you reach the end of the line, close the line off again with a secure back stitch.
If done right, you will essentially have a dashed stitch line. The underside of the quilt will look identical, just with the opposite stitch lines showing up. The running stitch is a very simple, clean stitch. It goes much quicker than a back stitch, and (IMHO) is much easier to sew.
NOTE: As with the back stitch, I prefer to stitch from right to left. If you prefer to stitch from left to right, simply reverse the above instructions.
Embroidery stitches tutorial: The French knot
Oh, the French knot. After reading the instructions for the DIY constellation quilt that French knots are for "advanced quilters", I was kind of terrified. I almost didn't even try to learn them.. But I am SO glad I did.
Because they are actually incredibly easy to learn how to stitch.
I'm a pretty big fan of the French knot because knots of varying thicknesses & sizes can be spread throughout the map, very easily.
And I feel like doing the knots of different thicknesses & sizes enhances the 3D effect of the map. Because in real life, stars are always different sizes.
The only real challenge I faced with French knots is that every. single. knot. has to be tied off individually.
Otherwise we will get that effect that I mentioned above, with threads going every which way on the backside of the quilt. Which again: We want the back of the quilt to replicate the front as much as humanly possible.
And having thread lines connecting all of the different knots most definitely isn't going to do that. But no matter. The French knot!
Embroidery stitches tutorial: How to sew a French knot
Start by securing the thread with a TINY TINY little back stitch. I'm talking a back stitch that is smaller than the individual star. And these stars are not big.
(If not working on a massive quilting project, you could also backstitch the back of the project. Or even tie a small knot.)
Hold the threaded needle in your right hand, and pull the thread tightly with your left hand. Keeping the thread in FRONT of the needle, wrap it around the needle, still pulling the thread tight.
NOTE: Wrapping the thread 1-2 times around the needle will result in a smaller star. The more you wrap it, the larger the overall finished star will appear.
Still pulling the thread tight, insert the needle back in to the quilt, right next to the initial hole. DO NOT enter the needle in to the same hole, your knot will simply unravel. Back stitch once again to secure the knot. And that's it.. Really.
Embroidery stitches tutorial: You're ready to start quilting!
And really, those are pretty much the only embroidery stitches that you need to know in order to sew up your own DIY constellation quilt.
I'm not even really sure if a back stitch or a running stitch could be considered "embroidery stitches". But I feel like when working on a quilt they do require different care and attention, much more so than when working on a regular sewing project.
Which is why I really wanted to include how to sew them in this series on quilting for beginners!
Because even though I have been sewing for 10+ years, I'm still quilting this project VERY slowly. While the stitches are the same as ones I have been using for years, they are also completely different.
Again, just more proof that quilting DOES NOT = sewing.
Also! My fingers are completely raw, and I have put less than 7 hours in to this quilting project. I can't work with thimbles (my fingers just don't accept them) and I struggle with the silicon finger tips. When I wear them, I go even slower than usual.. And I'm already quilting pretty slowly. I tried some sticky leather tips, but those seemed to just fall off after less than an hour. And also slowed me down.
If you guys have any tips on how to help my aching, raw little fingers, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR THEM.
As I work through this project, I am taking note of all my tips & tricks on quilting for beginners, as well as any lessons I have learned along the way. Let me know of any questions you may have, and I will make sure to answer them in the next post!