How to Machine Quilt with the Serpentine Stitch

Learn to Machine Quilt with the Serpentine Stitch - fb

You Can Quilt with a Sewing Machine!

Machine quilting may seem daunting.  So, do you send your quilt tops out to be quilted by a long-arm quilter?  You can easily and quickly machine quilt a quilt yourself by using the serpentine stitch.  The serpentine stitch adds gently waving lines to a quilt that look terrific.  But, all you have to do is sew straight; the machine does the rest.

To finish a quilt, I either hand or machine quilt it myself.  The serpentine stitch is one of my favorite machine quilting techniques if I need to finish the quilt quickly.  But, there are other ways to machine quilt a quilt top.  Besides the serpentine stitch, some other popular methods are stitch-in-the-ditch,  meandering, straight-line quilting, free-motion quilting, stitching a motif design and quilting with decorative stitches that come with your machine.

Some tips and highlights on quilting with the serpentine stitch:

  • New to machine quilting?  The serpentine stitch is a great stitch for beginner machine quilters.
  • Check if your sewing machine has the built-in serpentine stitch.  
  • A sewing machine walking foot is useful.
  • Create a serpentine stitch sampler.
  • Record the serpentine stitch width and length.
  • Decide how to machine quilt with the serpentine stitch.
  • You only need to mark the first stitching line.
  • Use a guide bar to quilt the remaining serpentine lines.

For more detailed instructions on how to quilt with the serpentine stitch, watch our video or keep reading this post for a photo tutorial with step-by-step instructions.

Watch our video tutorial below or click the link if you prefer to watch How to Machine Quilt with the Serpentine Stitch in Youtube.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission on sales through the affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your purchase and your support! Please see our full Affiliate Statement for more information.

To quilt with the serpentine stitch, you will need:

  • Sewing Machine with Built-In Serpentine Stitch
  • Thread
  • Walking Foot

Serpentine Stitch Quilting Tutorial

STEP 1: The Serpentine Stitch

Serpentine Stitch - Machine StitchQuilting with the serpentine is so easy.  Most sewing machines today have the serpentine stitch built into the machine.  On my Bernina machine, the stitch is number 4 and looks like this.  

If your machine has built-in decorative stitches, you probably have the serpentine stitch.  To find out, check the instruction manual that came with your sewing machine.

STEP 2: Walking Foot

Serpentine Stitch - Walking FootWhen quilting with the serpentine stitch or when machine quilting in general, it is advisable to attach a walking foot to the machine since you will be machine quilting through multiple layers of fabric. By machine quilting with a walking foot,  the fabric top, backing and batting will evenly feed through the machine and help prevent the layers from shifting as you quilt. 

If you don't have a walking foot, Amazon has many walking feet at reasonable prices but be sure to purchase one that fits your sewing machine.

STEP 3: Create a Serpentine Stitch Sampler

Serpentine Stitch - Sample StitchesNext, you should test the stitch. The factory setting of this stitch creates a short stitch pattern as you can see in the above example sampler.

Experiment with the serpentine stitch and record the results.  To do this, you should make a fabric sampler. To make the sampler, put a piece of batting between two pieces of fabric (I used muslin).  Experiment with the stitch by altering the stitch length and width and sew a line on the sampler.  Then, write beneath the stitched line the measurements; the stitch width and stitch length you used.

Keep the serpentine sampler.  It will come in handy if you want to quilt with the serpentine stitch on a future project.  I keep my serpentine stitch sampler and my decorative stitch sampler with my sewing machine instruction manual for handy reference.

STEP 4: Record Stitch Length and Width

Serpentine Stitch - Reminder Post It Note

It is a good idea to record the serpentine stitch length and width you are using.  WHY? If you can’t finish the quilting in one sitting or you get interrupted while quilting, you need to know how to replicate the same serpentine stitch.  

A simple post-it note is all you need.  Simply mark the stitch width and length on a post-it note and attach it to your sewing machine.

STEP 5: How to Quilt with the Serpentine Stitch

Before you begin machine quilting with the serpentine stitch, you have to decide how you are going to quilt the project.  Will the serpentine stitching be sewn horizontally, vertically, diagonally or a combination of them.  And how far apart do you want your quilting lines? 

The direction of the serpentine stitch and the interval between the quilting lines are primarily a matter of preference.  However, the maximum distance between stitching lines depends on the batting.  Not all battings are the same.  Our quick tip video on determining the distance between the stitching line will help you.

After making the above decisions, it is time to attach the walking foot and the walking foot guide bar to the machine.  With a ruler, position the guide bar the distance you want between the quilting lines.

Serpentine Stitch - Stitch Guide

Before you start quilting with the serpentine stitch, you need to mark the first stitching line using your marker of choice. 

To begin quilting, aligning the center of the walking foot with the marked line and start stitching.  The machine will do the rest by creating a waving line.  To continue to machine quilt the project, you will use the guide bar.  Simply align the guide bar in the middle of the previously sewn serpentine stitch and sew.  Continue in this manner until the quilt top is finished.

Serpentine Stitch - Finished Front

I recently finished a Disney Princess quilt with the serpentine stitch.  Above is a look at the front of the quilt and below is a photo of the back of the quilt.

Serpentine Stitch - Finished BackI love quilting with the serpentine stitch!  Try it!  I am sure you will love it too.

Thank you for reading my serpentine stitch tutorial. Check out my Quilting Projects Pinterest Board for lots of fun quilting ideas and projects.


If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.

A Few More Popular Quilting Tutorials for You To Check Out

Bobbin Thread Tip Bobbin Thread Tip - Why is it important to bring the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt.

Straight Line Quilting Straight Line Quilting - If you are a newbie to machine quilting, straight-line quilting is an easy way to quilt.

How to Bind a Quilt How to Bind a Quilt - Learn how to bind a quilt with no hand sewing but attaching with serpentine stitch.

How to Tie a Quilt Tying a Quilt - An easy way to keep the quilt layers together is to tie the quilt. Learn more about this technique.

Supporting Products and links: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. We make a small commission on sales through the affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your purchase and your support! Please see our full Affiliate Statement for more information.

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Machine Quilt with Serpentine Stitch - pin

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