One of the jobs I’m not overfond of is the dreaded tails. Every time you start a quilting path there’s another two threads to tie in. And I do like to do custom quilting, so I always have lots of tails.

Now, I try to adhere to good practice principles and always pull my bobbin thread to the top when I start and finish so there is no chance of bird’s nests or bobbin threads getting caught under new sections of quilting. I do sometimes forget and use the sewing machine’s thread clipping function which leaves me with top and bobbin thread on the reverse of the quilt cut to about 1 cm long. Do you see my problem? Those tails are really short to thread in if I threaded each tail on a needle, even a self threading needle.

Luckily there is a much much easier way that works with almost any length of thread and the best part, you only need to thread one needle, once.

Step 1: Cut a length of thread about 40 cm long.

Step 2: Double it over and thread the two cut ends through an ordinary sewing needle.

Step 3: The loop at the end of your doubled thread is what works the magic. Place the loop over your tails so the loop is a little way from the surface of the quilt.

Step 4: Thread your needle between the layers of the quilt starting at the point where the tails are attached.

Step 5: Draw the needle through the layers. The loop will catch the tails and draw them with it, hiding the tails in between the layers of the quilt.

Step 6: As you pull through the loop will slide off the tails and you may see the remainder of the tail, now a few centimetres from the end of the quilting path.

Step 7: Cut the remainder of the tail off flush with the quilt.

That’s it! You can repeat for all your other tails and whiskers without ever having to rethread the needle. How good is that?

Here’s a link to a one minute video on the technique.

There’s another vexed question which you may have strong feelings about, and that is whether to knot the two tails before threading them through. My feeling is that it depends on the chance of the threads being able to be pulled out. If the stitches are relatively small then its extremely unlikely the thread will get snagged and the tails pulled out so I don’t knot. If, however, the stitch length is a bit longer and I think its not tight enough to hold the threads, then I will knot the threads a few millimetres away from the surface of the quilt, so that the knot will pull through and get hidden between the layers of the quilt.

Because tying in threads is just another job, I sometimes cut corners. I usually decide what I want to do based on the future of the quilt. For example, on a baby quilt for a work colleague (none of whom sew), I’ll sew a few very small stitches at start and finish of each quilting path and then cut the tails off blunt. On the other hand, if I’m making a wedding present for the daughter of a fellow quilter then I will have every tail beautifully threaded in.