Now that you’ve learned a little bit about the basic types of quilts, the tools that are handy to have, and the parts of a quilt, you’re ready to get started–and I can’t tell you how excited I am for you new quilters to become just as addicted as the rest of us! Here are 10 tips to get you going on the right foot.
1. Choose a beginner pattern.
Start simple. Choose a pattern that only uses one or two types of simple blocks. Even better, choose a pattern marked “beginner” so you know there won’t be too many twists and turns. There are even a lot of free patterns online for small table runners or baby quilts.
2. Start small.
I suggest starting with something small. Small quilts and table runners are easier to maneuver, and quicker to finish. You will feel so much more confident with your first project under your belt! Also, they (of course) require less fabric which equals less cost on your first try.
3. Use high quality fabric.
It will make a HUGE difference if you use high quality, 100% quilters cotton fabric. It is more expensive, but will save you a lot of grief and frustration. Higher quality fabric holds its shape better, feels better to the touch, retains color better, and is more durable. I promise it’s worth the extra price.
4. Read the directions, twice.
Seriously. Read each instruction in your pattern twice, and make sure you understand what it says before doing anything–especially cutting. You can unpick seams if you sew something wrong, but if you cut something wrong, you may end up short on fabric. As an old quilting saying goes: “Measure twice, cut once.”
5. Check your seam allowances.
Make sure you are really great at a 1/4″ seam allowance. Almost all quilting patterns use the 1/4″ inch, and if your seam is off it will make all your measurements off throughout the entire quilt. You don’t want that, I promise. So, take a little ruler, and make sure you know exactly how to sew that seam. Mark it with masking tape if you need to, or get a presser foot that is a perfect 1/4″ from the edge. Then, practice, practice, practice.
6. Keep your needle sharp.
Your needle should be changed every 8 hours of sewing. Why? A dull needle will make sewing your pieces really hard. The seams won’t be as straight or accurate, and your fabric can pull and pucker.
7. Press your seams.
Just press them. Don’t iron them. Pressing a seam means putting the iron straight down on the fabric, and not moving it. This helps the fabric keep its’ shape, and the quilt block from being skewed or warped. If your pattern tells you which way to press your seams, be sure to follow.
8. Choose appropriate batting.
If you’re going to try machine quilting your first quilt on your own, choose a thin batting. It’s easier to manipulate and work with, and will fit better under the arm of your machine. If you’re planning on tying your first quilt, you can use a bit thicker batting.
9. Use colors you love.
Lots of people will tell you different things about color–what goes together and what doesn’t, what not not mix, and especially what is trendy. When choosing the colors for your first project, choose colors and prints that you love. It makes a huge difference in your attitude and motivation to be working with fabric that you love to look at.
10. Don’t stress out.
Really, truly, just don’t. You will make mistakes. All of us do. Even the most experienced quilter rips out seams now and again. Take slip-ups with a grain of salt, learn from them, and move on. Keep a sharp seam ripper nearby, take a deep breath and jump in.
Starting a new quilting project is so much fun, I can’t wait for you to join the ranks! Enjoy the learning process, follow these 10 guidelines, and you’ll be whipping up beautiful projects in no time.
Quiet and calm
After all has been seen
Little bits of love
In carefully wrapped
All is calm
The longest day
Now behind them.
The lights still
But nostalgically now
As if they know
They’re now a part
Of memory keeping
And not anticipation.
The music plays
Fading as the evening
Draws to a close.
And when the light
We will welcome
I’ve been thinking about finding joy in this holiday this week, mostly because a sweet friend of mine taught a wonderful lesson in church on Sunday about finding joy in our lives. It got me thinking all about when I feel joyful (not nearly often enough), why I feel joyful when I do, and how I can feel it more often.
My conclusion? I am the stifler of my own joyful experiences.
Of course, I think all of us will admit to being more stressed than we should be, too distracted from the “important” things, and generally living the crazy life: kids, jobs, bills, keeping things afloat. And while certainly the execution of daily events can make or break a joyful experience, that’s not what I’m talking about. When I say I stifle my own joy, this is what I mean.
When I find a solution to a problem that seemed completely insurmountable only hours before, but I don’t allow myself to feel the all-encompassing relief and divine gratitude for my answer because I’m afraid I’ve misunderstood and something will still go wrong.
When I refuse to smile and laugh with my toddlers and their silliness because minutes before they were being stubborn and disobedient and I’m still angry about it.
When I get ready in the morning and ignore makeup or earrings (which I love) because I don’t like that my jeans are a little on the snug side.
When someone surprises me with something thoughtful and I refrain from reacting enthusiastically in order to avoid looking silly.
When I pout for hours (or days!) about an assumed slight, which of course I later find I completely blew out of proportion.
I could go on, and on, and on–and I don’t think I’m the only one.
You don’t have to raise your hands, or confess anything here, but think about it. Are you having a Merry Christmas? Are there things about your attitude that could change the way your world looks right now? Because even though my shopping isn’t done (or even started!), my Christmas tree is a bit lopsided, and I have yet to make goodies or dance with the kiddos to a rousing rendition of Jingle Bell Rock, I happen to know that my Merry Christmas starts right here with me. My head. My willingness to be joyful. To feel joy.
No one is going to make my life joyful, my Christmas Merry. Except for me.
I appreciate the reminder.
While there are millions and billions of quilting tools, templates, and doohickeys out there, there are only a few you really need to get started. The rest you will acquire with time, I’m sure. Here are the basics.
You can quilt with just about any sewing machine out there, because really, all you need is a straight stitch. If you’re new to quilting, but want to get into machine applique, you’ll probably want a machine that does decorative stitches as well. These days, even the most basic machines have at least a straight and zig-zag stitch.
You’ll read all kinds of information out there about which thread is better, discussions on cotton thread vs. polyester thread, and especially information on why you should never use one or the other. Here’s what I have to say: don’t stress it. Unless you’re planning on making quilts that will last centuries (I’m not), just choose the thread that matches best and go with it. I generally try to use cotton thread with cotton fabric and polyester with synthetics, but I don’t freak out if they occasionally mix it up. Here’s why: I use my quits. Every day. I fully intend that they’ll be reduced to shreds at some point, and that’s alright. Some people will tell you that if you mix cotton and polyester your seams will be stronger than your fabric, or vis versa. Quite frankly, my quilt will probably be trashed by the goobers long before it can fall apart on its own. If, however, you’re wanting to make quilts that last for-EV-er, you may want to read up on the thread controversy and come to your own conclusion. For the record, I use Gutermann 100% cotton thread almost exclusively, it’s a high quality thread that doesn’t lint up my machine as badly as the cheap threads.
Both sewing machine and hand sewing needles. In general, a universal needle will do you just fine. Be sure to stock up, you’ll want to change needles after about 8 hours of sewing with it. You’ll want little “straw needles” for applique and binding too, I use size 11.
Flat surface for cutting:
A desk, a floor, a counter top…the possibilities are endless.
Scissors and/or rotary cutter, mat, and ruler:
Some good sharp scissors will of course be helpful, as will a basic rotary set. It takes a bit to get good at rotary cutting, but it saves SO. MUCH. TIME. A rotary cutter is a circular blade that you roll along a ruler to cut through multiple layers of fabric at a time.
Iron & Ironing Board:
Nothing too fancy here, just a good, clean iron. It will help if it has a steam setting, but it’s not necessary. Make sure your ironing board cover is clean, too.
Get some quilters pins with a flat head, rather than a little ball or bead at the end. These will help you get things lined up just right. Also, you’ll want some curved safety pins, for basting.
There you have it! Really, most of this stuff you probably already have. If you watch for sales and discounts, you should be able to get a basic rotary set and some pins for under $30.