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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Have you ever ...

… broken your threads in the middle of a line of machine quilting? Or run out of bobbin? If so, you know how frustrating it is to try to get the thread ends knotted off so you can get back to the quilting. Here's how I do it, with very little fuss or muss. ;)

The first step, of course, is to pick out enough stitches that you will have at least a short length of thread to work with. Ugh. I know you probably hate that part as much as I do! But I've discovered that I don't have to pick out that many stitches any longer, since I've found a method for knotting the ends while still fairly short. When I have long thread ends, I make a thread loop around two fingers and pull the ends through that, but shorter thread ends can still be knotted with the help of everyday tweezers. (To give credit where credit it more than due, I learned this from Sharon Schamber.) I prefer the reverse tweezers — you know, the ones that remain tightly closed unless you squeeze them, but you can easily use the regular ones instead. Here's how, keeping in mind that I'm left-handed, so you may have to reverse direction on some steps. ;) All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

1. Hold your two thread ends in one hand. I've put my needle in the photo to give some general sense of proportion, and my thread ends are longer than needed so you can see them more easily.

2. While still holding the thread ends, slip your tweezers under the threads.

3. Still holding the threads, make a loop around the tips of the tweezers.

4. Open the tweezers (if they aren't already open) and grab the ends of the threads through the loop. You can release the threads from your fingers now. ;)

5. Place the tip of your needle through the thread loop and into your fabric where you'd like the knot to end up.

6. Use the tweezers to pull the thread ends through the loop. (Sorry this shot is a bit fuzzy!) Pull the thread taut to slip the knot down to the required spot on the quilt.

7. Okay, now you have a knot. But what if the thread ends are too short to be able to thread the needle and feed the whole thing into the quilt? Easy! Put the needle into the quilt before threading it! I like to use one of those self-threading needles for this, but use whatever kind you like.

8. When the needle is sufficiently into the fabric to allow you to thread it, go ahead and do so. I've done this with threads short enough that barely more than the eye of the needle was showing.

9. Pull the needle through ...

10. … and pop the knot into the quilt center.

11. Now all that's left is to snip of the threads close to the top of the quilt!

See how easy this is? Since the tweezers are so much thinner than human fingers, this technique saves lots of unpicking! I hope this helps someone. By the way, this can also work when your thread breaks during hand piecing or hand quilting. :)


  1. merci beaucoup Sandy pour le tuto super clair!!bisous et bonne journée!

  2. Thanks for this fabulous idea. I have always tried futzing a loop with just my needle--difficult if not impossible for a short thread. Your method sounds so much more doable. I'm sure it will be tried soon :-)

  3. Thank you, Sandy, for sharing that method. I used to pull the thread into the fabric and then put a drop of fray stop at the insertion point and hope it all held.
    I love the long tweezers used on serger sewing machines. They are my third hand.

  4. Thanks Sandy, will try and remember this tip next time I am machine quilting .... after the summer probably !


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