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How to Apply a Sleeve to a Quilt

If you are hanging a quilt it needs one!

Part 6 of 7 How to Make a Small Quilt

How many quilts do you need for the bed, really! Besides displaying quilts on the bed, quilts can be enjoyed hung on the walls, hung over an entryway or stairwell, spread over a table. The possibilities are endless.

There are hundreds of beautiful quilts to be made. Small quilts are quick and easy to make. They make great gifts and fill small spots about the house. Making a small quilt is a much less daunting task than making a bed size quilt and done before you are sick of working on it - smiles

Quilts of all sizes are beautiful displayed on the doors and walls of every room in the house. I keep one hung over the toilet in the guest bath, hung over the piano, the wall behind the headboard of a bed, in the dining room, over the fireplace, I hang large ones in the family room. I display quilts in every room, more than one or two in most rooms. I have made outdoor quilts and banners.  Get it? I love hanging quilts!

If you will be hanging a quilt you will need a sleeve for inserting a rod. For directions how to make a proper sleeve for a quilt for hanging purposes visit Quilts. Save their pdf showing how to make one. It’s a quick and easy method to make. Their instructions for making a sleeve prevents the rod bulge seen in quilts hanging with a flat sleeve or tube.

This tutorial will show you how to apply the sleeve to the quilt


What does a sleeve look like?

A finished quilt sleeve

Quilts sleeve pattern is engineered to create a pocket for the rod to fill out. Inserted into a flat tube, a rod will bulge out onto the front side of the quilt. This sleeve pattern is genius - IMO!

A closeup of the pocket




  • Fabric for sleeve - I generally use the same fabric as the quilt backing fabric; the amount of fabric needed can be determined from the pdf at Quilts.
  • Hand sewing needle - Size 8 or 10 embroidery needle recommended
  • Cotton thread - size 50 or 60 weight
  • Thimble - recommend ‘The Comfort Thimble’
  • Straight pins - 1.25 inch sharp glass head pins
  • If you need glasses to see close up wear them.
  • As with any hand sewing you will need good lighting. I use Ott lights for best visibility.

Sleeve Placement

After you have made the sleeve, place it on the backside of the quilt at the top. It should be equidistant from each side edge of the quilt. There should be about inch clearance on either end of the sleeve to the edge of the quilt.

For the top placement location you want the sleeve to be low enough that it and the rod will not show over the top of the quilt. But that is as low as I put mine.

I place the top fold of the sleeve inch to 1 inch from the top edge of the quilt. If you made the sleeve according to the method at Quilts this measurement works for me and should work for you.


The All Important Thimble

I learned to use a thimble back in the 70’s when I started helping my mom quilt. I quickly found out I had to use one. To do otherwise meant not just sore fingers but a lot of blood on the quilt. 

We used nickel thimbles not knowing I was allergic to nickel. They made my finger itch like the dickens. Since then I have used plastic, wood, rubber, and leather thimbles. All better for me than the nickel ones.

One of my best friends is my ‘Comfort Thimble’. I bought this one year at quilt festival. It is ergonomically designed and is perfect for sensitive skin. It is soft and has some flexibility. Unlike other thimbles I have used, the dimples are deep and the angle of the tip give me very good needle control.

Mine is size medium for my right middle finger. I wear a size 9.5 ring on this finger - just in case this helps you pick a size should you order one online.

The All Important Thimble


Sewing on the Sleeve

The sleeve is sewn on by hand. The pressing done when making the sleeve creates nice sharp folds for you to sew into.

Pin in place the top fold of the sleeve onto the quilt back.


I prefer to baste the sleeve onto the quilt prior to sewing it permanently. I do this because it eliminates the pins. It is so much easier and much less aggravating to hand sew when your thread is not catching on pin heads. Also the pins are gone so no poking yourself with them and getting blood on the quilt.

I use one strand thread 20-24 inches long and a size 8 or 10 hand embroidery needle (has a bigger eye for threading). Longer threads knot up and give you a hard time. It is less aggravating to use shorter threads and re-thread as needed.

To baste, I use big stitches that do not look pretty. They only need to hold the sleeve in place while you sew the permanent stitches. Baste stitch about - inch from the top fold of the sleeve. Also baste sew the two ends as well. But be sure you leave the two ends of the sleeve open for inserting the rod.

After basting on the top fold, pin the bottom fold in place and baste it on the same way

Basting Stitches


Permanent Stitching

The goal of permanent hand stitching is for the stitches to NOT be seen. It is much easier to hide stitches than to try to make ‘pretty’ visible stitching.

I know you have seen and probably done this with hand stitching where the long stitches show and how mortified we are when they are not even or evenly spaced. Been there. But no more!

I use one strand of thread 20-24 inches long and a size 8 or 10 hand embroidery needle as well as my best friend thimble.

When sewing, run the needle and travel threads through the quilt batting. This will keep stitching from showing on the front or the back of the quilt. By travel threads I mean the long thread between the stitches. Mine are about inch or less apart.

Make two small stitches under the sleeve about inch from the fold. Or if you prefer make a small knot in the end of the thread. To hide the knot start sewing about inch under the edge of the sleeve where it will not be seen. Come out through the quilt backing at the edge of the fold.

Take a tiny back stitch into the quilt backing fabric and up through the edge of the fold picking up 2-4 threads of the fold. Pull the thread through.

Take a tiny back stitch, travel through the batting coming up about inch further down and along the edge of the fold. At the same time pick up 2-4 threads of the fold of the sleeve.

Take a tiny back stitch, travel through the batting. . . continue all around the sleeve.

At the corners take 2-3 stitches.

When the thread length runs out and at the end, take a few short stitches hidden under the edge of the sleeve. This will tie off the hand stitching.

If you look closely in the photo you can barely see my hand stitches between the sleeve and the quilt backing fabric. Mostly you see the dimples where they are located.

Remove the basting stitches.

You see hand sewing is nothing to be afraid of. Most of it is hidden from view.

Time to remove the basting stitches

Continue with this tutorial in this order:

  1. Laura’s affordable Method of Hanging a Quilt





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