Hand Quilting the Tim way

I have been hand quilting for about 6 years now.  I learned to quilt by doing it…no one showed me the “right” way so I just did what felt right.  When I started I didn’t use a thimble but it didn’t take long to make a hole in my thumb…so I made a thimble for my thumb with leather and tape which wore out quite quickly.  I made several more with differing materials.  I finally made one with a copper pipe fitting lined with fabric and glue…this is what I am using in this short video .

You can get a brief view of Teddy check it out at the start of the video

What you can’t see in the video is what I am doing with my other hand.  I use my index finger to push the needle back up to the front …my index finger does most of the work…the copper “thumble” is what I push the needle through with.  My index finger and thumb hold the needle and move it down…my other hand pushes it back up with each stitch.

I have tried conventional hand quilting but I find it so much faster this way!

So that is the Tim way of hand quilting…I am sure that it is not the best way, or the right way, or the only way, but it is my way.

Happy Quilting


104 thoughts on “Hand Quilting the Tim way

  1. Sara says:

    Good grief, no wonder I can’t hand quilt worth a darn! Plus it looks even harder because you’re using the wrong hand (:))!

    • timquilts says:

      hahahha…its the right hand for me!

      • Mo Storey says:

        At last, someone quilts like me, except that I am right handed. Thought I was doing it all wrong. You are an inspiration, beautiful quilts.

      • timquilts says:

        Thanks!!!…I thought for the longest time that I was doing it wrong…then I decided that if I like to do it that way and it works it is the right way!…glad to hear someone else does it the way I do!!…now Im not alone 😉

    • Donna says:

      I am left-handed and it feels so good to see someone actually quilt left-handed. However, that being said, I ended up learning to quilt right-handed because I could not find a “lefty” to teach me. How freeing this is.

      • timquilts says:

        it really is hard to learn from a right handed person…..I had to teach myself and that is why I do it very differently than most

      • Marsha says:

        Whenever a lefty needs to learn from a righty, place a mirror in position to capture the righty’s hands. The lefty then looks in the mirror. This was told to me many years ago by a left handed crocheter. I was trying unsuccessfully to teach by left handed son to tie his shoesat the time. IT Worked! She told me that was the way she learned to knit and chrochet from her grandmother a righty! Boy could she make those needles fly…..
        Awesome work Tim!

  2. Amy says:

    You’re a leftie!

    • timquilts says:

      I am…and that makes learning how to do things difficult….right handed people cant show left handed people how to do things….and we have a hrd time showing right handed people how to do things

      • Sue says:

        So true, my mother is a lefty and I’m a righty and when I was a kid she tried teaching me to crochet, but to no avail. It just didn’t work out 😉

      • timquilts says:

        Some day I want to find a lefty to teach me to crochet

      • Sandra Guild says:

        I think a lot of times you can learn L handed by sitting across from someone. I deal cards left handed and play L handed because my brother sat across from me to teach me how to play cards. I am R handed for everything else!

      • timquilts says:

        that is true….when I teach floral design…it makes it easier for the student to do what I do because they sit across from me….do it left handed and they do it right

  3. Sue says:

    I’d say it’s working just fine as your stitches are beautiful. I think the correct way to quilt is what works best for each individual. You are quick with it. That was a great video 🙂

  4. Cathi says:

    Your stitches are wonderful! I’m so glad you did this little video so we could see you quilting. And I agree — whatever method works best is the one to use.

  5. antarabesque says:

    I get it, actually it looks fairly easy. I might be tempted to try it now.

    • timquilts says:

      try it…if it feels strange try to modify it ….in my mind there are no rules as long as you are happy with the stitches

  6. LoriD says:

    My friend quilts with her thumb too! She buys a leather thimble for it, although her dog has eaten several! lol

    • timquilts says:

      Teddy will eat anything that falls on the floor….if it is on the floor he thinks it is for him….I lost a marking pen last week that way

  7. Carla says:

    Wow! A thimble made from a pipe fitting! i guess a silver thimble wouldn’t impress you. Ha Ha I really love that you shared what works for you, just shows you if there is a will, there is a way.

  8. Regan Martin says:

    So cute that Teddy showed up for the video……had to see what all the excitement was about! lol And you are certainly fast with that thumb method……I’m going to try that! It doesn’t look like there is any strain on your hands while doing it, too…..my hand gets so cramped up when I hand quilt. My friend, who is a lefty, always said she could never teach me any crafts, because it would be backwards. But then I sat facing her, and just mirrored everything she did, and it worked out fine! She does beautiful knitting, crocheting, quilting, crewel work; I really wanted to learn from her!

    • timquilts says:

      it does put less strain on the hands …so it might work for you
      I will have to try that facing a person method to learn….I teach floral design and the hardest thing is for me to teach people how to hold and use a florist knife because I am left handed and mostly they are right

  9. Dixie says:

    Fascinating! You make it look so easy, and I love that you invented your own thimble!

  10. cmosey says:

    Wow, the wrong hand AND the wrong directions! LOL Hey, whatever works for you, right? I don’t think there is any right or wrong way. Your work is beautiful, and this quilt will be a masterpiece.

    • timquilts says:

      It is different …the thing that I cant figure out is how to quilt in a frame…the way I do it I have to turn the hoop constantly because I can only go one direction!

  11. Louise says:

    A lefty quilter! Thanks for showing how you quilt. My Mom tried to teach me to quilt with the thimble on the third finger and the rocking motion which is how I quilt. My Mom’s quilting was perfect little even stitches. Mine is not little or sometimes not even but it is not bad, it is just the way I quilt. Whatever works for each person is the right way!

    • timquilts says:

      I agree….as long as it works it is right…or left in my case.
      I think it is great that your mom was able to show you how she quilted, its so nice that it is a family activity

  12. Sue says:

    I know I’ve already commented on here, but I’ve watched your video again and think the next time I do some hand quilting, I will give this way a try. I do it the ‘conventional’ way. It does seem like this way would be quicker. I’m rather impressed with this method!

  13. Kathleen Campbell says:

    Left-handed people are always more creative! No I am not a lefte. Thanks for this video.

  14. I agree, the “right” or correct method is the one that works for you. I’m surprised that your copper thimble hasn’t left marks on your white fabric. I learned to hand quilt on a floor frame, so I can see why you’d prefer a hoop. The only advice I’d give you is try to develop quilting in more than one direction. It will help save wear and tear on those muscles and soft tissue you are using repetitively, plus it will be a good challenge for you to move forward!Thanks for sharing your method.

    • timquilts says:

      it is so much easier to just turn the hoop and keep quilting in the same direction…when I quilt in different directions that is when the muscles strain….doing it this way I can quilt for hours and hours at a time without any strain

  15. belinda says:

    You DO do it different than any way I have ever seen. As I sit quilting on my clamshell ( yes, I’m still plodding along on that one) I have thought and thought about your method and what it was like. I’m soooo glad to finally see it!! Great video!!

    OMG!……and your a lefty on top of it all!!!

    • timquilts says:

      I am glad I finally made a video to show how I do it because I know that it is very different….and it was the only way to explain it….I don’t expect anyone to change how they quilt because I think each quilter needs to find their own method…..but I am glad that you liked it

  16. audrey says:

    So creative! I can definitely see why you have such great stitching.

    • timquilts says:

      If I had seen someone else quilt prior to trying it myself I am sure that I would have tried to do it differently…sometimes things work out best when you just figure out your own way

      • I agree with Sue above. The right way to quilt is what works for you after you’ve played around with it. I read in a one of your later posts, Tim, how the amount of humidity in the air makes quilting more difficult. I had never thought about that, but I can see why it would be so.

      • timquilts says:

        Quilting continues to be a learning process….learning the way that works best for me and learning things about how the humidity can make a difference

  17. Judy says:

    That was very interesting to watch, I use the traditional ‘rocking method’ and am right handed, but now after about 10 yrs of use my silver thimble is wearing out, yes ! the needle is wearing a HOLE in my thimble, such a nuisance as I have grown very fond of that thimble,:)

  18. Una says:

    Tim! This was wonderful to watch. I tried it a little on my current project. One question, if you don’t mind: Is there a dent in your thumble, where your needle rests and stays in place when ‘working’? Will have to adapt more into it, as I think it would complement my quilting, when I have to stitch in other directions (without constantly turning the hoop). I’m a leftie too, so it was nice to see some clear instructions, for once:). Once I found a video of a quilting bee, and the ladies had an incredible ability to flip their regular thimbles from middle finger to thumb in a split second and back, chatting away, quilting as it appeared in all directions;) Congratulations on the finish of this tree quilt. It is a masterpiece! Take care, Una in Norway

    • timquilts says:

      Hi Una
      the was not a dent for the needle in the thumble when I made it. What I did is glue a piece of heavy fabric to the end, that allowed the needle to no slide, over time the needle wears away the fabric and I simply replace it….one thing I notice is that there is now a dent in the end that the needle has worn ..even through the fabric….hope that helps to clear it up for you….being left handed does present som problems doesn’t it

  19. I’m always on the lookout for a thimble with really deep dimples – like Thimblelady’s or Roxanne’s. But, if I understand you correctly, you don’t need dimples *at all* quilting by your method. Brilliant!

    • timquilts says:

      my “thumble” is made with a pipe cap (I cant find anything that fits my thumb)…no dimples at all….I do have a piece of fabric glues on to it on the end for traction, and I have to replace that periodically

  20. Trina says:

    Excellent video! I would live to see you quilt ‘curvy’ lines, like feathers. You certainly have an original technique! Thanks so much for taking the time to make the video.

    • timquilts says:

      Thanks! I will have to do another video with curves….I do it the same way….just keep turning the hoop….

      • Trina Schellhammer says:

        I am also amazed that you don’t seem like you tilt your needle very much yet you are able to still get those tiny stitches. Just keep watching this video over and over. Truly amazing. 🙂

      • timquilts says:

        A big part of the way I do it is the action on the back of the quilt…..my index finger on the back side is pushing up hard behind the needle tip…its hard to describe, but the under hand is really doing most of the work to make the stitch ….I should do another video using clear plastic rather than a quilt so that both hands show and you can see the entire picture

  21. Sanae says:

    That is so so SO true! I am right handed, my son is left handed. It was so hard to show him how to hold pencils, pens, chopsticks, and how to write …

    I just discovered your blog several days ago, I was searing of something quilting related which I do not remember what it was anymore, or I should say it really did not matter what I was searching after I found your blog. So many amazing things on your blog, and thank you very much for sharing 🙂

  22. Connie Hall says:

    Hi timquilts I am a quilter also but I’m always learning something new I love the way you make your stitches so tiny and perfect .I think I want a thumb thimble I might just do better with my quilting ,I have a hard time keeping my stitches small and even .loved your video ,Connie Hall ,

  23. Machelle says:

    I an so glad you shared this! I learned to quilt from my grandmother. she didn’t insist that I do it her way she encouraged me to do what felt most comfortable for me…. which was quilting by pushing the needle with my thumb! my grandmother said many women in her quilting group did that. She could quilt in any direction because she could push the needle with her middle finger or her thumb. The main thing she encouraged me to be was consistent with my stitch size. I really like your work. I also really enjoy hand quilting.

  24. Clara Zolud says:

    Well Tim I must say, I am impressed!!! I could never be this good at quilting and I guess it’s true when people say only *Only left handed people are in their right mind*. I love seeing your work. Thank you for sharing your wonderful craftsmanship with us, you are the best!

  25. Gaye Ingram says:

    A brief and partial view of Ted the Man! You take fewer stitches per “run” but move faster. I’m instructed, will practice. Thank you for showing this, Tim.

    • timquilts says:

      I do take fewer stitches per run…but this way I don’t have any trouble pulling the needle through….there is lots of talk on the Celebrate Hand Quilting Facebook page about needle pullers of various kinds and it baffles me why they don’t just take fewer stitches and then the needle pulls through with no effort at all….and Happy Practicing!!

  26. Victoria Webster says:

    I watched “utility quilting” a while back. Today I watched the regular hand quilting video. I couldn’t believe what you were doing. I think that I am caught up in all of the” rules”. I think that I will try your method and others plus different thimbles, threads and needles plus hoops and hoopless and see what feels good. If it feels awkward, it is not going to work for me. I will let you know. Hugs to that cutie patootie Teddy.

  27. Lori says:

    Fun to see how you do it. My needle moves about the same way but I push toward me with my middle finger. Backwards I am, I guess!

    The idea of learning things from people who are other-handed works for me. I’m a rightie and could NOT teach myself to knit…until I sat with a leftie. It all clicked then. The mirror-imaging worked for me.

    • timquilts says:

      That works for me in the classroom when I teach floral design….the students have an easier time doing what I do because they face me…and its the mirror image thing….the only problem is that I do lots of things right handed, and those are much harder to show

  28. michele duffy says:

    I definitely have to try the Tim method. Teddy approved, no doubt, and that’s good enough for me!
    The only question I have is–does your thumb ever get cramped?

  29. Jenny says:

    Hi Tim. I finally got the courage to try hand quilting. I tried several methods and felt comfiest without a hoop, and a very similar method as yours to sew. My stitches are huge! I guess with practice they should get smaller, but it does feel as if the wadding is too thick to enable me to make smaller stitches. Before I rip it all out to try with thinner wadding, can I ask what wadding you used in the demo? I am making a wall hanging, so don’t need warmth in this instance, but if I were making a quilt for the bed, I would use warmer (thicker) wadding. What do you recommend??

    By the way, I absolutely love your work!


    • timquilts says:

      Hi Jenny
      the batting (wadding) in the demo is Hobb’s Tuscany wool. I would try a sample with no batting at all….if you can get that to work then try a thin batting….I don’t know what brand to recommend because I use thick batting, I have tried quilting without a hoop because some people tell me that is how they do it, I get uneven huge stitches, no matter how I try I can not get a good result without a hoop… I need the hoop to make even small stitches…the hoop holds the fabric so I have both hands to make the stitch….the bottom hand pushed the needle back up to the top (you can’t see that in the demo)…and the top hand pushes it back down ….neither hand holds the hoop….that rests on the edge of a table or against your body….

      • Jenny says:

        Hi Tim
        Thanks for your reply. I guess the old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ applies here! I will try your suggestions to get the technique right.

        Keep sewing and posting, you are so inspirational.


  30. Joy says:

    I tried to watch the video but it said the video wasn’t loaded. Does this mean anything to you. I was reading the comments and I sew left handed but crochet right handed. Isn’t that weird. I am left handed when I write and eat.. I don’t use a hoop. How many stitches do you get per inch? Love your Blog and the great quilts you have.

    • timquilts says:

      Not sure what might be up with the video not working …it is fine on my end…perhaps try re-starting your computer and try again….
      stitches per inch depends on so many factors…fabric, batting, thread, needle….each quilt is different….10 – 12 is normal for a whole cloth quilt for me….as few as 6 for denim and corduroy and polyester…thicker batting for me makes for bigger stitches…as does quilting through seams….so there is no standard for me…. Now if I tried to quilt without a hoop or a frame I might be able to get 4 or 5 stitches to an inch at best…..I just cant imagine how people do it, I need the hoop to keep the quilt smooth and taught and free up both hands to do the work

  31. Kathy L. King Sherwood, Arkansas says:

    Tim, I too love to hand quilt but am a beginner. My first quilt took me over a year to do the hand quilting because I didn’t get to do it every day. The squares were assembled by my great grandmother in the 1950s or 60s. Given to my mother in the beginning of the 60s she passed them down to me when I got married at 18. I’d never quilted in my life but had watched my mother many times. I had to applique on the machine, the southern belles in the squares and measure and cut to size each square and add borders between them to make it a larger quilt. I finally got serious about finishing it so I could pass it down to my daughter and down to her daughter and so on. It is so special to me that I don’t have the heart to put it on a bed for fear of kids jumping on it and tearing out stitches. I wish I could get the video to play cause I sure need to see how you do yours.

  32. jan staley says:

    I am looking for a quilt frame for my 84 year old mother in law I cant decide on a lap frame or a larger frame, she has a set she has used for 60 years and they were her mothers so it is time for a new set she wants something smaller can you recommend one that is sturdy.

    • timquilts says:

      I really can’t recommend anything since each quilter is so different…I use a hoop not a frame and mine is very large (22″ diameter) and most people find it difficult to use one so large

      • jan staley says:

        thank you for your reply, I don’t think she wants a big frame because they take up so much room it is great though if more than one is working a quilt, also your technique of quilting is different from what I was taught but very beautiful

    • Lorij says:

      I have a 22 inch round hoop quilting Frame. It is very nice and doesn’t take up a lot of space. I believe it’s the same as the one Tim uses. I’m staying with my daughter for a little while and it’s in my room and I’m working on a quilt right now.Happy quilting, Lorij

  33. Lynda says:

    Hello, Tim. I have been visiting for some time this morning and enjoying everything! I have a question: What are you using to mark your quilting designs? So far, everything I have tried has been useless and frustrating because it would not wash out!

    • timquilts says:

      depends on the fabric…..I use wash out blue fabric markers a lot. they need to be kept away from heat or the ink becomes set, and they need to rinsed in cold water (not just a spray as it says on the package)and then can be washed with detergent….my favorite is a #2 mechanical pencil …the inexpensive disposable kind form the office supply store…on very dark fabrics I sometimes use a white chalk pencil…..and as much as I can i do not mark at all…I do as much as I can by eye

  34. Sandy says:

    Tim. This reminds me of the aunt Betsy tool. I have one but can’t get the hang of it. Thanks for your video. I love your work.

    • timquilts says:

      thanks…. I have seen the AuntBecky and I can not imagine it working for me…I use my index finger on the underside to push up the needle but the Aunt Becky covers the finger and I cant imagine not being able to feel the needle….I know lots of people use it and it works for them….ever hand quilter is a little different and I find it fascinating to watch different techniques…so many ways to do the same thing 🙂

  35. Lorij says:

    Hi Tim, low do you handle the bulkiness of the quilt when it is on the hoop. My hoop is a 22 inch floor style. I have always had trouble with quilts getting caught and a time or two the hoop actually fell over as I went to turn it. I’m short and have sort of short arms. I’ve tried pining the length up until I work the top and bottom but sometimes the quilts still are a bit awkward to handle, especially with a queen and double size. I’m wondering what I’m going to do when I start on the king sized one for my daughter. Thanks, Lorij

    • timquilts says:

      I just let it hang on the floor …..I wish I had a trick to make it easier but the bigger the quilt the more awkward it is

      • Lorij says:

        Thank you. I’ll just continue to do the best I can.
        All of your quilts are simply beautiful. One of the blogs talks about marking quilts. And someone above also has comments about marking, I’m not an expert like you but, I’ve found that chalk is really wonderful. If you make the making bold enough it will last through quilting and is easy to remove. Also light pencil as the ones you recommend work well and, if you quilt on the marks they don’t show. I have a white eraser that I’ve found very useful in removing marks from light fabrics and, dark erasers have done well if I’ve needed to use one on darker fabrics. I free hand all of my quilts and they look pretty good. But after seeing all of the beautiful ones you’ve done I’m going to try using a pattern of some type on my next one. Thanks for all of your inspiration. Lorij

  36. […] out this video of Tim’s “unconventional” method of hand quilting – it might just be the thing to get you started. Tim does trunk shows and lectures on quilts, and […]

  37. Donna holzman says:

    Your left handed? That is and interesting way to quilt . I have only done I full ,one queen, and a few small quilts . Had a hard time with thimbles ,tried leather, reg., ones with the magnet on the end, ring type, then I found the Roxane and love it . I think because I always wanted to push the needle with the side of the thimble or the end but couldn’t keep the needle in the little dimples. The only problem is it’s heavy on your finger after a while. I have in vested in a R.J Lane it was pricy but lighter. I haven’t had a chance yet to use it on a quilt though. I am doing throws for 2 sisters and 4 brothers and tying those,when I am done with those I have promised my self to get a quilt and start hand quilting again. it’s been 2 years since my shoulder surgery, and it hardly ever hurts any more so I think I can do it now. Thank you so much for sharing your work, the video was great . Happy Quilting and say hi to Teddy he looks like a wonderful companion.

  38. Emma says:

    Hi Tim, Lovely quilting that really makes your quilts stand out. Can you tell me what type of needles you use? I have trouble getting a short enough needle with a big enough eye to accommodate the thickness of perle cotton and don’t like traditional quilting thread. Any suggestions? Ps I am in the UK so generic suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks, Emma

  39. Nerida Duncan says:

    Funny how it goes. I watched someone else’s video today and they quilt the same way and then I realised they were a lefty and I wandered if that method is simply something that comes naturally to a lefty and now I have seen your video and hey its the same technique.

    Half my family are lefties (or cacky-handed) and half are right handed, I’m right my mother is left. My mother taught me to knit, crotchet, embroider, sew on the old treadle, we did macrame together, we did weaving, anything craft related we had a go. Pretty sure she did the facing each other for crotchet but I watched over her shoulder for knitting and somehow I worked it out.

    Right tool for the job is so important, my hand quilting was terrible (and my machine quilting is worse) until I found by accident there was a special thimble for quilting – it made a huge difference. It just never occured to me to start cutting up the plumbing 🙂

  40. […] Latimer is also a resource. He is an amazing hand quilter and has video tutorials. (here and […]

  41. Louise C says:

    Thanks for this very effective video. I would have liked to see the top of this diy thimble.. Is it used to squeeze the needle into the fabric or to protect your thumb or both at the same time?? Also, do you quilt only going upright? Sorry for asking these questions but I am a starter and feel so lost when I see what is on the internet. Your way of quilt seems to offer a perfect result and is quick to do so I would like to give it a try. Thanks again for your generosity in sharing videos and comments.

    • timquilts says:

      it is just to keep the end of my thumb from getting poked by the end of the needle …..I usually quilt away from myself and to the right and turn the hoop to change directions

  42. Donna Tyra says:

    I am interested in Big Stitch quilting, do you have a video. How many stitches do you do per inch. Do you count top and bottom or just top. What weigh thread and needle do you use? Thanks…..Donna

  43. Dees says:

    Hi Tim!! Just wanted to say hi and thank you..You are a huge inspiration for me . I am a newbie quilter and love hand quilting but am still learning…I love coming here and read and learn and get inspired by you (and your sweet doggie 🙂 ) and wanted to say that because of the way you talk about handquilting it reminds me to enjoy and have fun and not freak out over everything…so THANKS!!!have a great day!


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