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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stab Stitch Quilting

I received a request yesterday about stab stitch quilting:

“I just discovered your blog and your great tutorials. Do you know of a tutorial or directions for the "stab stitch" for hand quilting? I have taken a class at Quakertown Quilts in my area (The Woodlands, Texas) on hand quilting using the traditional method. I have not seen a description of the stab stitch technique for hand quilting and would like to try it.

I appreciate any advice you can give me regarding this stitch.

Thanks much,




I always thought that “stab stitch quilting” was something that I did to get through thicker seams.  I use it after several attempts to use the traditional “rocking stitch” fails due to thickness at the seams.  Could I have been missing something after 30+ years of quilting?!?!  GASP!  So I started to do a search and see what I could find.

Barb Robson has a blog article on stab stitch quilting that you might find useful.  

Wikipedia has an article as well, and says that stab stitching is making “one running stitch at a time.  However, don’t rely on Wikipedia to always be accurate, as anybody can submit writing to Wikipedia as if they are an expert.

Linda Halpin’s website includes a mention of a workshop she teaches for “poke-pull (or stab stitch) quilting.”   Linda has been quilting for years, and I would rely on her expertise to be accurate.

I did a search on YouTube for videos on stab stitching, but came up empty handed.  I think that’s because most quilters only utilize stab stitch quilting the way I do – for those difficult, thick areas.  I think!

So, I’m turning this question over to our hand quilting experts on Celebrate Hand Quilting so they can provide their feedback to Dorothy. 

Ladies and gentlemen, can you help Dorothy?

from Caron Mosey at Michigan Quilts!


  1. sorry I can't help either. I use it for the thick seam areas like you do and I keep a finger very close to the area the needle comes through in the back in hopes that I can put the needle back up in the same area so it looks neat in the back to and in a fairly straight line.

  2. Hi Dorothy, stab stitching is, as Caron wrote, usually on the more difficult areas near or on seams. But as anything, if you are comfortable with using it on your whole quilt, as I have also seen with people, hey, who am I?!

    This is how I learned it from Ted Storm. With stab stitching I switch hands. My left hand is my upper hand, my right is under my quilt. With my left hand I push the needle straight down in the fabric, but not through.
    My right hand receives the needle. Now what's important is keeping your pinky from your right hand on the fabric to not loose your position. Otherwise your stitches will be wobbly. Take the needle with your thumb and indexfinger, while keeping your pinky in place. Turn the needle with your ring finger, by pulling your ring finger inwards against the thread. Then your needle is almost upright and with your thumb and index finger, push the needle in from under. Keep your pinky in the same spot! Check whether the needle comes up in the right spot. When not, reposition the needle without repositioning your pinky.
    The pinky is your base, that gives you the opportunity to play with position without making wonky stitches.

    It will demand some exercise, but you will bend no needles with this technique.;-)

    Have fun quilting!

  3. I know there are even special needles for this technique with a point on both ends and the eye in the middle, so you don't have to turn the needle. They are mae by 'john james' and 'colonial' (and may be more , but I just know of these 2) Both called quilting stab stitch twin pointed.
    I do remember seeing pictures of a group of women sitting around a large frame, all with one hand up and 1 under the quilt. But I can't find it, sorry :-))

  4. Sue Garman uses only stab stitching for her work-I believe she has a blog post about this. She certainly does beautiful work and would be an "expert" in this area.

  5. I sooo glad this topic came up! I just found a quilt frame at my local Goodwill store and am contemplating how to go about quilting a quilt in it. I'm a rocking stitch quilting in a hoop kind of gal...I've never even tried to quilt in a frame, but did I let that stop me from purchasing it? No way!!! I do a lot of stab stitching in my cross-stitch, so I have been thinking of trying that in my quilting on the frame. And heck, if Sue Garman can make it look so wonderful, I can too!

  6. I myself use the rocking method and only stab stitch in thick and difficult areas. But coach Tina is right that Sue Garman uses stab stitches and did post about it in her blog. I guess whatever works best for you is what I would stick with

  7. I do stab stitch quilting. I use a regular quilting needle and my underneath hand turns the needle before sending it back through. I'm not sure how you would video this being done. I taught myself. I didn't enjoy the rocking method and I figured out how I could quilt and enjoy it. I never quilted in front or other quilters because I thought that they would laugh. But I do well with this method ( I thought that I was the only one out there) and you can see my quilting on Elizabeth's quilt that I have posted.

  8. I am a stab-stitcher, or as I also call it, the Pokeanjab method. I have been quilting for 36+ years, and am self taught. Have tried to do the running stitch, but it is not comfortable to me.

  9. Another stab-stitcher here, I learnt from a book years ago - it was referred to as "punch and poke" stitch, the book was Quilt As You Go by Sandra Millett and had good instructions in it.

    I have tried the traditional method of quilting but it doesn't feel right to me and makes my hands sore whereas stab-stitching doesn't. Also with stab-stitching you can go in any direction after a little bit of practise.

    I've tried out the stab-stitching needles and they work quite well, you need to use shorter lengths of thread and you can prick your fingers more than with regular needles.

    It takes a bit of practise to get the stitches straight on the back, it helps if the backing fabric is patterned so the quilting blends in

  10. I'm certainly no expert having only made 3 quilts, but I do stab stitch quilting too. It takes practice to get the stitches on the backside even but it's way easier than the rocking method for me.

  11. My first quilts were all stab-stitched. The back side showed crooked stitches but over the years that has improved to the point you can't tell which stitches were made in which technique.No matter the technique, I only quilt one stitch at a time anyway.

  12. Glad someone was mentioning stab stitching. All those years I thought I am doing it wrong. The rocking. Ethos is not for me.

  13. I am currently working on a full size quilt that I have chosen to quilt without a hoop. I am finding the "stab" stitch to work better for me under these circumstances. I have "rocked" the stitch for the majority of the quilt only to realize that I am pulling out as many as I am putting in and if I do it one at a time my stitches are smaller and more even and I am happier with them. This may be my "new normal".

  14. I have been quilting for over 30 years, I learned to quilt using "poke and punch". My stitches come out almost identical on front and back, that's why I stick with it. I feel like a 'old timer' now watching new ideas on you tube. They also tie knots in their thread. My first teacher s rule was NEVER knot your thread. Insert the thread from the opposite direction, then start stitching over the 'tail'. I've never seen one come loose.


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