Beginning and Ending Machine Quilted Stitches

Each line of machine quilted stitching must be secured at the beginning and the end. But how? We could use back stitches, but this would build up an unsightly extra row of stitches. We could form a knot by taking several stitches with a stitch length of zero, but this would require threading every thread tail onto a needle to bury the knots. There is a better way.

To begin a line of machine quilting, insert the sewing machine needle into the quilt.

Lift the needle and pull on the top thread to bring the bobbin thread to the surface. Some machines will require that the presser foot be lowered for the bobbin thread to catch. This step will keep the bobbin thread tails from getting tangled and caught in the machine quilting stitches.

Return the sewing machine needle to the same spot, keeping hold of both threads. Reduce the stitch length setting to 0.5 or the smallest stitch setting greater than zero that is available.

Take five or six tiny stitches to secure the beginning of the line. Return the stitch length setting to the default length. Some machines have a “reset” or “clear” button that will do this instantly. Machine quilt the line of stitching until approximately 1/4″ from the end. Reduce the stitch length again for the tiny securing end stitches. Clip the top thread close to the quilt top surface and the bobbin thread close to the backing fabric. Clip both threads at the beginning of the line close to the quilt top surface.

If the line is interrupted by a motif or lines running in a different direction, it is possible to “jump” over the section and clip the threads later. Secure the end of the first section with tiny stitches, lift the needle and presser foot, and move the quilt to the beginning of the line on the other side.

Take the tiny securing stitches at the beginning of the next section and carry on. Clip all the threads when the line is complete. If the gap is very large, it might be preferable to clip the threads right away rather than jump to the other side.

For free motion quilting with the feed dogs lowered, the stitch length setting is irrelevant. The stitch length is created as the quilt is moved under the needle. Moving a short distance creates smaller stitches; moving a greater distance creates long stitches. Create tiny securing stitches free motion by moving the quilt very gradually.

Back to main


  1. You’re welcome Debbie! Glad it helped. 🙂

  2. Debbie Thomas says:

    Thanks!! I’ve been wondering how to do this so that the back of my quilt didn’t look like a knotty mess…my machine has a knotting button, but it is still visible on the back, so I switched to restitiching a couple of stitches and it still doesn’t look good…SO I went searching for HOW to do this and viola. I found your tutorial. Thanks!!!!!

  3. Karla Caldwell says:

    Thank you SO very much for showing how this is done. I’ve been wondering…

  4. Debbie Fawcett says:

    This is a real good demonstation of this technique.

Leave a comment