Counting Quilting Stitches

When I look at my Blog Stats Page I can see what people have searched for that led them to my blog.  Recently Many people have searched for “How do you count quilting stitches”.   I also read a lot descriptions of quilts listed for sale and many of them list the stitches per inch.  There is no consistency in how the various sellers list the number.  Some count the stitches from both the front and the back which is actually counting the stitches twice.   Correct counting is done on the front of the quilt only and Is usually listed as stitches per inch. (in the United States)

Here is the quilt I am working on

stitches per inch 002

There are lots of curves so it is not easy to measure and show the ruler.

stitches per inch 003

But if I go to a place with straight lines it is easier to see.

stitches per inch 005

lets zoom in even more and see how many stitches there are

stitches per inch 004

between the 14 and 15 you can count 10 stitches.

I am not usually concerned about the stitch count.  My big concern is that they be even, and uniformly spaced.  The density of the fabric and thickness of the batting will have an effect on how many stitches can be made in an inch.  Quality quilting does NOT always depend on stitches per inch.

A few years ago I sold this quilt on eBay, I added a picture of a penny next to stitches to give an idea of stitch size.


that is about 5 stitches to a penny , which is about 3/4″ so about 7 stitches per inch, the quilt  has thicker cotton batting and thicker fabric, so less stitches but still they are rather uniform so the larger size does not bother me at all (also this was the second quilt I ever made).

2010_07187-18-10-weddingring0019 2010_07187-18-10-weddingring0008

So stitch count to me is not nearly as important as stitch uniformity and overall quilting design.

One more surprise for the day…I got some more Dick and Jane fabric in the mail today.  2 more panels like those I used for the quilt I finished yesterday, and one that features Sally.

stitches per inch 006 stitches per inch 007 stitches per inch 008

Happy Quilting


42 thoughts on “Counting Quilting Stitches

  1. Linda says:

    Thanks, Tim! I love to hear of someone who is realistic about their quilting stitches per inch. You do amazing work. I so enjoy reading your blog.

    • timquilts says:

      Thanks Linda.
      I think if you get much more than 10 or 12 stitches you might as well use a machine…the space between the stitches adds the dimple that makes for the texture of hand quilting

      • Linda says:

        Exactly! Besides, I think the quilters who tell others they can quilt 18 SPI or above using the rocking stitch are actually discouraging other quilters by making them feel that they will never be “good enough”.

      • timquilts says:

        Hopefully no one will ever get that Idea from me….good enough is what every you are happy with! I could do that many stitches but it would take all the fun out of it

  2. karen says:

    I’m with you on counting stitches. I don’t think it is important and think too many are obsessed with it. Neat is better.

  3. audrey says:

    I only get about 4 stitches to the inch which is why I will probably never attempt a whole cloth quilt! I can do a whole lot better, but then I have to slow down and concentrate so much that it’s not relaxing anymore. Should I quit hand quilting? Nah, I just don’t put my quilts into shows that having judging! lol Your stitching is wonderful and very inspiring! Keep up the good work.:)

    • timquilts says:

      I am with you…it needs to be relaxing…when it becomes tense, and hard work it shows….the quilt doesn’t have a same feeling of peace about it when it made in tension rather than relaxation

  4. Trina says:

    Thanks SO much for the explanation and excellent pictures about stitch count. I always wondered if I was understanding it correctly. I very much appreciate the wah you “keep it real” with your own quilting. =)

  5. Sara says:

    But do we actually know that all of that stitching is yours? Why is Teddy sitting so close all the time? He may be quilting along and we have no proof!
    I can see a Sally quilt on the horizon!

  6. Thank you Tim-impressive to see your close ups -tiny,even stitches- and as you described to the point-is has to become an *over all picture* all together it will be beautiful and pleasing.So many gorgeous patterns in patchwork can be ruined by not taking care and time for the quilting designs and stitching,too.

  7. Janet says:

    I enjoyed your thoughts on stitches per inch. When I started quilting I thought I needed to go for at least 12. Now I’m a little wiser and know how the fabric weave and batting affect the end result. I just concentrate on even and am much happier for it. I know I could go small with polyester batting but I hate the stuff.
    Thanks for the video, I loved seeing you in motion.

  8. Martyne Bailey says:

    Tim, thank you for the stitch clarification. Your Dick and Jane quilt so inspired me I ordered some fabric as well, should be here any day. Of course I think I should have ordered a bit more! I love the Sally print.

    • timquilts says:

      thanks!….so glad that you like the quilt…and I hope you have fun with the fabric! now that mine arrived I already think I should have ordered more…..I guess there is no such thing as too much fabric!!

  9. Mary Britton says:

    Tim, I love your quilts and the hand quilting is lovely. But with the wonder of computer enlargement I can see that you have some irregularities in stitch length, as do I. I keep working on it. I strive for 8-9 stitches per inch. and not to get the extra long ones or the smaller ones. Some days I do so well I think I am getting so much better – and the next day I don’t seem to do well at all. I have decided to put the blame on the barometric pressure. Can’t figure out any other excuse!

    • timquilts says:

      LOL….I blame mine on my eyes!….some days I can’t see as well as others….I saw the eye doctor today and get new glasses next week….but perhaps the result will only be that I can see the irregularity better

  10. Rae Parkin says:

    Hi,I have a question. I am hand quilting a log cabin quilt that I have machine pieced from mostly Civil War Reproduction fabrics. I bought all my fabric from collections from various designers who have these lovely fabrics. Something I have noticed? My stitch is much nicer in the lights. Much nicer. It feels so good. Then, when I go to any coloured log,well,the fabric feels different and my stitch isn’t as ‘lovely”. Why?. Rae Parkin.

    • timquilts says:

      I do have similar things happen depending on the fabric. One thing I have noticed with new fabric is that the light colors are thinner and easier to quilt….why is this? I think that the more dye in the fabric the stiffer the fabric. The answer I think is to pre-wash a few times….the problem is that it makes piecing harder, but the quilting is a lot easier

  11. David says:

    Great work, Tim. Thanks for the clarifications.
    Your work is incredible and executed
    With excellence! Have only hand quilted two
    Quilts but know the time/effort required.
    New to your blog but looking forward to
    Learning from your work.

  12. Kate says:

    This is a lovely post, I love to study hand quilted stitches up close but you don’t often get these close-ups on many blogs. I greatly admire your hand quilting and have alot to aspire to! The new Dick and Jane fabric is lovely, and you’ve answered my questions about quilting through light and dark fabric as I’d noticed the same thing – thanks for the tip about pre-washing, I’ll try this.

  13. Salley says:

    Cant wait to see Sally sparkle!
    ‘Tis a shame “Tim” hasnt got his own fabric fame spot….you might buy it all up then. Love your small stitches.. such precision.

  14. Mary Britton says:

    Rae, I always pre-wash my fabrics (once – not several times) but a few years ago I made a quilt with strips similar to log cabin around a trapezoid. Most of the fabrics were navy print so I quilted with navy thread. One light pink was so hard to quilt through. I think it had a higher thread count. Needless to say the navy thread on light pink shows all my irregularities! Not my best work, but I do love the quilt and it gets used more than some of the others.

  15. […] in general, Tim Latimer’s blog is full of hand quilting inspiration. This post in particular addresses the question of how to count your stitches if you care […]

  16. Victoria Webster says:

    I appreciate your pictures and comments. And I also think that neatness and even stitches are more important. What would be the stitch count in “big stitch” or utility quilting ? I love your blog. Thanks.

  17. kathy says:

    So far I have not been able to master the rocking stitch, as my top and bottom stitches are so different but I’m pretty happy with my punch and pull at 10-12 per inch. Hoping that with more, more and more practice my stitches will look like yours someday!!

  18. karen kaeble says:

    We spent Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Ma and enjoyed seeing everything, the one thing I truly enjoyed was at the arts and crafts building, the Wampanag Indians had many crafts but the Pilgrim women were sewing, I heard one lady say they got 25 stitches per inch, do you think that was possible, maybe could the thread have been very fine since it was exported, anyone who might know I’d love to hear, thanks, Karen

    • timquilts says:

      I have heard of the 25 stitches per inch …i have only seen it in quilts with very thin fabric, and no batting….and then only pictures….still a huge skill !!!!

      • karen says:

        Thanks for your reply. Yes, what the women were sewing was extremly lightweight, it was like an orcandy fabric and was almost like a slip that went at the top of their dresses. I was very impressed, knowing I’n never be able to accomplishment that task.

  19. […] I have been asked frequently about stitches per inch in hand quilting.   How many should there be?   How do I count them?   I did a post last year about stitches per inch here […]

  20. You just answered questions I know I had for over a year after I got into quilting, and just kept wondering. I agree with the how a thicker bite for the needle makes fewer stitches, but if they are even it looks so much better, Your work is gorgeous, as always, and you see right into my wondering mind, thanks!

  21. Elizabeth Marsden says:

    What advice/help can you give to someone who has never hand quilted before and is keen to have a go – like me for instance.

    • timquilts says:

      Well I can tell you about how I did it. I just did it. I didn’t read about it, watch videos, see how others do it…..I just bought needle and thread and did it. By all accounts I did it entirely wrong (at least according to all instructions and videos I have seen since then) I think that if I had tries to do it the book way, or the video way, or even had someone show me how to do it I would have given up well before ever finishing one quilt. By just doing it I made up my own way as I went along and that is what made it work for me. If I was trying to follow instructions I would not have been able to do it….I am left handed and dyslexic so I have to learn in my own way… that makes me a really bad student but a really good teacher….anyway my advice is … an inexpensive quilt hoop some hand quilting thread and a mixed size of between quilting needles, and give it a try. I find that small projects are actually more difficult to do….so do a quilt….crib size or bigger, dont worry about making tiny stitches, try to get a rhythm and make them uniform. I do plan to make another video explaining how I do it, but again it needs to be sort of personal….a way that works for you and feels right, and that really comes from doing it
      Hope that helps some at least……I know that the biggest barrier to hand quilting is that people are afraid it won’t turn out good enough but don’t worry about that! relax and let it happen…..your first hand quilted quilt will not be perfect, but it will be a learning experience


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s