Jan 05 09

The Mysteries of the EKG stitch are REVEALED!!!

I frequently receive emails inquiring about the EKG stitching that I often use to finish off the edge of applique shapes, like the edging on the tulip above. I received this sweet email just the other day:

I received regularely your news letters.
Your work is beautyful and I learn many things from you, I am a beguiner in the
quilting thing.
Please, I want to now what is this beautyful stich you do around your flower or
leave, is it a free hand stich or a machine stich and if so which one
Thank you for your help

Your note is so touching to me that I thought I would do a post on this finishing design because although it looks like it would be tough to do, it is as easy as pie! On top of that, it is very fun!

First, know that this is a design you will create-it is not a programmed embroidery stitch on your sewing machine. I call it the EKG design because it makes me think of an EKG pattern, kind of like a run of V-fib. Here is how to do it:
1. set up your machine for free motion work
2. you begin your stitching at the inside edge of any applique shape. The design is created by gently moving the quilt slightly back and forth as you travel along that inside edge, all the while creating “V” shapes. Notice that the “V’s” vary in length and also in how wide they are:

3. As you travel along that outer applique edge, your goal is to keep the “V’s” perpendicular to the edge. If you need to pivot your piece as you work to keep yourself oriented, that’s ok! See how I was trying to stay perpendicular as I moved around the heart below:

4. The more “irregular” the lengths/widths of the “V’s,” the more interesting your work will be. Never let the length of a “V” exceed more than 1/2 the width of the applique piece you’re working in. Most of the time, you won’t come anywhere near that. When you are working inside a “skinny” applique shape (like a long stem), NEVER let a “V” from one side intersect a “V” from the other side as this will look messy.

You can use this finishing design on just about any shape. In general, I try to use a thread color that is related to the fabric color, but I try NOT to match it. In mean, gosh, I’m going to all this extra trouble to do this stitching, so I want to make sure people SEE it! Because of that, I usually pick a color that’s just a bit different. I wish I could say that I had invented this technique, but I did not. I learned it many years ago in a class by a wonderful quilter named Laura Heine. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from her, do it!

One more thing about this…you can do this as a QUILTING technique, but I also it as an EMBROIDERY technique. In other words, I do all this stitching when the piece is just a quilt top…there is no bulk because there is no batting and because no portion of the stitch falls outside the fusible applique, I do not need to use a stabilizer. Once it’s in the final quilt sandwich, I stitch just outside the edge of the applique shapes with invisible thread and it creates a very cool texture. This technique realy is worth trying if you haven’t yet.

In a totally unrelated vein, I finally had the opportunity to read the winter issue of “Machine Quilting Unlimited. I scanned it when it first arrived but had set it aside until I had some real time to review it and all I can say is that this magazine is SMOKIN’! Every issue gets better and better and this issue

has an incredible article by Sarah Ann Smith on how to work with your sewing machine tension. This article is hands down the most concise, easy-to-understand, comprehensive review of machine tension I have ever read. If you are struggling with this, I really urge you to read this in-depth article. This subject tends to be kind of dry, but the way Sarah has presented the info, it’s an easy read! On top of that, the magazine has lots of beautiful pictures of gorgeous quilts, so if you’re interested in advancing your free motion work, subscribe to this wonderful publication here.


  1. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    OH MY…goosebumps… thank you so much! I noticed someone surfed in to my blog from your site so decided to visit and was thoroughly enjoying your EKG stitch (at first I thought it was a stretch blind hem stitch! but yours is more fun with the longer zigs), then I came across the magazine review.

    Isn’t MQU great??? I’m so thrilled they asked me to be a part of it. I’m just as thrilled with your review of my article. My manuscript about using thread on the surface of a quilt is just about done (the tension stuff will be in the book, too!), and the fact that you (who excel at quilting and get rave reviews on your DVDs) think I’ve done a good job with the writing really is special… THANK YOU!

    Cheers, Sarah

  2. Maggi Says:

    Thank you for sharing this brilliant applique method. Also the link to Machine Quilting Unlimited. We have nothing like this in the UK and I have subscribed, plus ordered a couple of interesting back issues. Once again thank you.

  3. Denise Felton Says:

    Wonderful! I’ve scheduled a link to this post to go live on my blog later this morning (Central USA time). I hope it brings you a few extra visitors.


  4. Tutorial: EKG stitch · Needlework News @ CraftGossip Says:

    […] Patsy of Patsy Thompson Designs is sharing the details of how to do her EKG stitch for finishing applique. She says it’s easy as pie. And you don’t need an embroidery machine for this great design detail. See the tute. […]

  5. Rosanne Bédard Says:

    Thank you so much to charing the details of your EKG stich whit us, I now I was asking for informations but I never dreamed to received all that details. It is wonderfull!

  6. Wednesday Web - January 7, 2009 Says:

    […] The Mysteries of the EKG stitch are REVEALED!!! […]

  7. Stacey Says:

    Hi Patsy,
    I was wondering if you every time you post(or even sometimes), you would reveal to us the name of thread that you are using in your posted pictures. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your thread choices, and would be so tickled to know what they are.
    Bless you!

  8. Julie Bagamary Says:

    Hi Patsy! I just finished appliquing some flowers on a piece and wish I had read this post before that. But, I’ll be ready for next time. 🙂