How Far Apart Should my Quilting Stitches Be?

By: Penny Halgren

Q: How closely should quilting be done on a quilt?

This question comes to us from Judy Drichta-Legier:

A: One reason for quilting stitches is to keep the layers together:

This purpose dates back to when quilting began.  As you visualize two layers of fabric covering a piece of batting, the idea was to make sure that the layers traveled together, and that the batting inside stayed where it should be.

The quilters of yesteryear used cotton batting that was made without the benefit of needle punching or other manufacturing techniques that keeps the batting in one piece.  So, really, the only thing that kept the batting in place were the quilting stitches. 

The batting was likely to move quite a bit, so it was necessary to keep the quilting stitches close together – usually no more than 1” apart.  

There is probably some batting still available today that would require stitching that close together, although with the current processing, most readily available batting can be quilted much further apart.

Hobbs Heirloom makes several different types of batting, some natural, some synthetic; some blends, and has compiled a report about the different types of batting and how closely the quilting should be.  A quick click will get you to the report: Report on Quilt Batting.

In general, I have found that quilting stitches about 4” apart serve the purpose of holding the layers together and keeping the batting from separating inside the quilt.

There's Always an Exception

That said, I ran across an interesting situation when I made a quilt that used one piece of fabric with some randomly-placed blocks that were set-in.  The quilt is actually a wall hanging, and measures 41” by 68,” and I used wool batting. 

Since it is a kind of space quilt, my original plan was to quilt the partial outline of a sun at the top, with sun rays extending down past the floating 3-dimentional blocks.  I used black thread to match the background fabric because I was more interested in having the blocks be the center of attention.

Once it was finished, I proudly hung it on my wall.  Much to my dismay, the places that weren’t quilted became like little tunnels between the stitches!

Needless to say, the quilt came down from the wall, and more quilting stitches were added.  It was then that I realized the dynamic of seams in patches and blocks.  It would seem that the stitching of the blocks together creates stability in the quilt top and apparently eliminates the need for extensive quilting.

Lesson learned.

Click here to discover another reason for quilting stitches, and how that reason affects how much quilting to do.


Space Block Quilt. The black background is one piece of fabric, and the 3 dimensional blocks were set into the fabric. (That was before I discovered qpplique!)

















Happy Quilting!
Inspiration and Education for Beginning Quilters
Fast, Fun and Funky Quilts
Quilt Greetings Across the Miles

Penny is a quilter of more than 25 years who seeks to interest new quilters and provide them with the resources necessary to create beautiful quilts.

This article courtesy of
You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.

©2006, Penny Halgren