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Thread: Big Stitch Hand Quilting- how many strands of embroidery thread do I use?

  1. #1
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    Big Stitch Hand Quilting- how many strands of embroidery thread do I use?

    This is a great site, I am new here & maybe this question has been addressed, if so, please tell me how you searched to find the info.

    Big stitch quiltng is a new concept to me, after all those years trying so hard to get those little bitty stitches, here comes another technique. I have not picked up a needle to quilt in over 20 years & boy was I shocked, my eyesight has gotten really bad, could not thread the needle quickly, stitches were lop sided & just plain ugly.

    Searching on the net led me to this thing called Big Stitch quilting..eureka, or so I thought. Bought some embroidery perle cotton in a lovely creme color & a size 5 embroidery needle & to make this long story short, I need help!!!!

    First off, I just cut off a long piece of thread & tried to thread the needle with the whole strand....would not thread through the needle. Do I need to seperate the strands of thread? If so, how many strands do I use to quilt with? How do I seperate all those threads without having a rat's nest? Do I need a different needle?

    Your help will be greatly appreciated....am anxious to get started hand quilting before it gets too hot here in Tx. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    ​If you are using the little ball of #8 perle cotton for Redwork, I use a # 8 John James needle and a needle threader.

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    I bought the skeins, which I think another quilter mentioned to get the balls instead. I shall try the ball of perle cotton & see if I have a #8 John James needle... thanks.

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    Depends on how you want it to look . I have some perle cotton in my "practice" basket but not sure what size it is; if you cut off 18-20", it's easy to separate into 4 strands, and 1 strand is plenty fat enough for big stitch work -- about the size of a heavyish crochet thread. I also have some 12wt cotton sewing thread, which could also be used for big stitch with a somewhat lighter, crisper finish; it's about the weight of 2 strands of embroidery floss. Any of those will work fine in a size 7 embroidery needle. I have a slimmer embroidery needle that they also work in, probably an 8 or a 9, nice big eye for threading.

  5. #5
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    You don't say what weight perle cotton you bought. That would determine the needle size you should use.

    Perle cotton comes in four sizes...#3, #5, #8 and #12 (the lower the number, the thicker the thread). It is a non-divisible thread (they are plies, not strands, and are not meant to be separated).
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    Member Esmerelde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostrider View Post
    It is a non-divisible thread (they are plies, not strands, and are not meant to be separated).
    I also didn't think you were supposed to be able to separate perle thread. I would buy a bigger needle/one with a bigger eye. Embroidery needles are meant to be used with embroidery floss, which you do (tend to) separate.

  7. #7
    Super Member KalamaQuilts's Avatar
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    I used a #8 quilting needle and #8 DMC ball embroidery. It came out kind of cool, but what drove me crazy was trying to hide the starts and stops. So I never did it again

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    Jeez....I am a dummy- bought the size #5 perle cotton skein & was trying to unravel the thing...no wonder I was having a terrible mess!! I was just about to give up on this big stitch quilting thing & decided to ask for help.

    Thanks everyone for you wonderful replies. I shall go hide underneath a rock now & work with my little ball of cotton thread that says size 8 DMC. I bought several different threads since I did not really know which to use. Now to find the right needle, only problem is I have a BUNCH of needles in a plastic baggie & most have fallen out of their little papers & now it is just pot luck as to what size they are....another boondoggle for me to overcome. Will I ever get it together??? Yes, I should have labeled an RX bottle with the size & whatnot or just stuffed the little paper & all in there, but years ago I was young & thought I would remember everything. Besides who knew those little buggers would fall out of their nest? Naughty naughty. I have no clue who belongs where. Anyway, I am tempted to just go out & buy what you all suggest & start brand new with labeling & such. Anyone care for some needles of unknown origin? Please tell me that after about 20 years those needles are now dull & need to be discarded...that way I won't feel so bad about this whole thing.

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    Another stupid question...noticed that you suggested #8 perle cotton with a #8 John James needle...is this a concidence or is there some logic to this?

    Quilters, this needle & thread thing is getting more complicated (but fun) with each new post...everyone has a variation of what goes with what. I am taking notes for future reference to what you all are using. It will be neat to try something different with each project. Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. #10
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    You can use any needle you want, as long as it doesn't shred the thread or leave holes in your fabric .

  11. #11
    Super Member Barb_MO's Avatar
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    I would like to see some of your big stitch quilting once you get some done. I have done it a little bit on some wall quilts, but never anything of size, and usually as outling fusible appliques.

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    You may want to check the needles for rust. I noticed rust spots on some of my counted cross stitch needles when cleaned my drawers of old craft projects.

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    I have been doing big stitch for many years and love it. I use the no. 8 Pearl cotton, but have to order it online and if I need something right away and don't have the right color, then I use embroidery floss which is readily available in many colors at Joann's or Michaels. I usually separate the floss in half which is 3 strands. I also use those small helpful thingamabobs to help me thread the needles. I guess they are called needle threaders

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    That sounds like an interesting concept - there is an answer for every problem isn't there!

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    Super Member purplemem's Avatar
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    I use 1 strand of #8 perle cotton and a large eye milliners needle, usually a 5, but sometimes a 10. I love the length of the milliners needle. Also I use a pair of curved needle nose spring loaded pliers to pull the needle through. It really saves the wrists. I use the running stitch and it goes very fast, my favorite method of quilting.
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    Barb_mo, I will also have to practice how to attach pictures to my replies. Thanks for your interest...gosh, Bigggg Stitches are what they are, but I am enjoying the process. Wish I had a bigger hoop so I don't have to shift around so much...oh well. Do you hand quilt on a hoop or what?

    Your quilts on Etsy are beautiful!!! What a wonderful way to earn some extra money.

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    So happy to find this topic! Interested in trying Big Stitch and this information was just what I needed to know!

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    Big Stitch is not new, it's always been around, just didn't have a "proper" name. Some people have referred to it as a utility stitch. Billie Lauder has put out a book titled "Quilting in the BigStitch Style" (one word). It is a small book, but has what you need to know. Somewhere I read that she gives credit to Jo Glover for teaching it. An excellent tutorial is "How to Big Stitch Quilt Like Lorraine Hofmann Slide Show" at TheBlueCatCreations.com , Blue Cat used two words. On 12-10-1011 there was a discussion on here in which Jan in VA discussed how she does it.

    I love the looks of it for the texture it creates.

  19. #19
    Senior Member SharonTheriault's Avatar
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    I looked for the book by Billie Laudner... at least I think that's how the last name is spelled. It didn't matter, it's out of print. If any one has one that they would like to sell, please let me know by IM.
    Thanks, Sharon
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  20. #20
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    Oh, thanks for posting this question. I am currently embroidering some blocks with pearle cotton and have been wondering how I would quilt it. This is perfect. Thanks!

    FYI: I read on Pintrest how to get the perfect size to work. In the skeins, there is one end that has two loops. If you cut the two loops, you can move the paper bands to the center and pull a single thread from the one loop end. There is usually a knot somewhere that you have to cut out,I always pull that thread first.
    Last edited by toverly; 05-14-2015 at 05:58 AM.

  21. #21
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    About 7 years ago, I made my first quilt, and I decided to hand quilt it. The lady who was teaching me to quilt was gracious enough to sit with me while I worked at hand quilting, encouraging me along the way. She explained that as I got more comfortable and experienced, I'd learn to make my stitches smaller and smaller. She suggested that I NOT rip out the larger stitches so as to see how I would progress. I didn't work ONLY on that quilt, wanting to learn other techniques on other quilts. When I finished a project (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) I went back to my original quilt to work on hand quilting. SOOOOOOO, back to the larger stitches, working to make them smaller and smaller. Fast forward to TODAY, and right here on this quilting board, I learn there is such a thing as BIG STITCH quilting. I will NOW explain (if asked) that part of the quilt was BIG STITCH quilted, and the other part was smaller stitches. In this way, I will be able to explain to new quilters the difference between BIG STITCH quilting and small stitch quilting. THANK YOU one and all. I'm off to my LQS to see in person, just what BIG STITCH quilting is all about. Perhaps I can teach THEM a thing or three. Oh, by the way, I have the last quadrant of the quilt to finish. No camera available to 'SHOW OFF' my beautiful sample of BIG and small stitch quilting. I wouldn't know how to do that anyway.
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