quilting Becky  

Quilting for Beginners

When I first started sewing I was drawn by the idea of making a quilt.  Something to snuggle my little kiddos in. Something that was reflective of who I was, my style and it even became a talent…and I totally lucky that it has become a way I earn money as well.

As a quilting beginner (which just might be you, we have all started there!) you might feel a little big overwhelmed with you new machine. It might even be in the box still!

This is where I started. A sewing machine in a box (or in a cabinet actually).  I had pushed the peddle a couple of times in a sewing class in high school. But when it came down to making a quilt, I was lost.  No idea where to start.

quilting for beginners where to start

Right at the beginning I hit the library.  I’m a total library and book store nerd. Love the smell of books, the quiet nooks and isles and the plethora of books.

I dug around until I found a pattern I thought I could tackle and got to work.

Just to let you know, the pattern was not for beginners and I jumped a few times from project to project before finally getting to one that made sense and got me to a spot where it could actually be finished.

Here is my first small quilt….no rotary cutting here.  Scissors only.  Nothing is perfect here. Just a show of the beginner.  I love it. But, it was squares. It was small.  Granted the size of the squares was smaller than I should have started, but here ya go. It’s the place I began.

my first quilt

So, today- I’m here to tell you let’s hold hands.  Let’s get your machine out of the box.  Let me help you find a few resources of where to start, what things mean and hints and tips to get you on your way.

Let’s begin this journey or Quilting for Beginners~

Top three things to make sure you follow:

1- Start with a small project. Pillow, wall hanging maybe even a table runner or baby quilt. Don’t go all in on a king size quilt. You’ll burn out and by the time you are finished and look back at where you started …yes you’ll totally notice the progress you’ve made.  But you will not like what you began with and want to redo everything.  So, let’s not play ring around the rosie.  Start with something small and something you can finish and be proud of when you accomplish it.

2- Start with a simple design.  Go for larger blocks, pieces or designs.  Ones with lots of points, flying geese…these are not for you!  Yes, they are beautiful.  No, you shouldn’t begin with them.  Those are projects that you can do down the road. Look for patterns with straight lines. Those are the best to start with.

3- Practice with crappy fabric.  Well, not fabric that will fall apart when you stitch it, but fabric that you aren’t spending a lot of money on.  This will allow you to get the hang of sewing, maybe set the tension of the machine if you’ve never sewn before or whatever.  You don’t want to jump right in with the good fabric.  Now, don’t go finishing the whole project with the yucky fabric.  Just do a few blocks or squares to get an idea of seam allowances and cutting and sewing.  After you get the hang of it, jump on in with your fabric and get stitching.

Proper Materials make a huge difference:

To begin your quilting journey you will need to spend just a little bit of money.  BUT doing so will make a huge difference in your sewing zen.  Here are a few things that you will want to make sure you have on hand.  I’ve even added a few extras, but they are not required.

  • Rotary Cutter The blades are very sharp and cut fabric quickly and accurately. The blade rolls, just  like a pizza cutter. There are many different sizes. I use the small-sized cutter most.  It whips around curves like nobodies business, and is easy for me to grip.  There are a few different kind of handles and blade sizes.  Before purchasing one, I would suggestion giving them a try.
  • A Self-healing Cutting Mat allows you to use the rotary cutter for cutting fabric.  Mats come in many different sizes, but an 18 x 24 mat is a good size to start with.  Need to clean the mat you have? Here is a quick how-to to help you out.
  • Scissors sharp sewing scissors are a must.  Trying to cut with something that is less than sharp can only make your experience frustrating.  Another thing to look for is the point of the scissor.  When you are snipping corners or curves having this part of the scissor sharp, and pointy will be necessary.
  • Pins the flower head pins are my favorite.  They lay flat against the fabric and are kind of a heavier pin so they hold their place.  Remove them prior to stitching the spot though to avoid breaking your needle.
  • RulersMy favorite size is the 6 X 12, but I find that I use other shapes and sizes almost as much.  Depending on the project that is being worked on, the ruler might change.  I suggest trying out a few of your friends to find out which one is your favorite.
  • Thread we’ve hit this topic before too.   This is the one thing that is holding all your fabric together. Don’t skimp here.  Use a few different brands until you find your favorite.
  • Wonder Clips these are right now my favorite thing!  They are great for holding your binding on.  They won’t stick you.

Optional, but they will be nice to have on hand:

  • Wonder Clips these are right now my favorite thing!  They are great for holding your binding on.  They won”t stick you.
  • Seam Ripper I have had many, and have used them all.  There is one in my travel kit, one in my sewing machine drawer, and one on the cutting table.  I call them my best friend because it helps me fix what is wrong and really knows best!

Extra resources:

Sewing machine buyers guide.

When you have gathered your resources and supplies and you have your pattern— boom. You have no idea what they are talking about!

Here are three terms that you should know:

Quilt top:  this is the large piece of fabric that you will have after you have you have pieced all those little parts together.  You have a center of the quilt, maybe a border or two and some sashing in between the blocks.

Batting:  this is the fiber that goes in between the quilt top and the backing fabric.

Backing:  the fabric that you have for the backside of the quilt.  It can be pieced or one large piece of fabric.

Binding:  this is the trim that goes around the quilt when it’s all finished. It protects the outside edges and can become part of the overall design.

If you are looking for more terms, check this out as well.   Quilting Terms.

Here is my second quilt…may have been the first, just was finished later 🙂  This was for the oldest daughter Jerika.  She is now almost 19.  The 9 patch was larger than the previous first quilt, and this one had people.  There were a few points to pay attention to, but overall they were simple in making.

first quilt people 1

Let’s Get started on the process of Quilting-

Preparation >

First thing you really need to get control over is your seam allowance. Learn how to check your seams and keep it consistent.  Starting off with this correct will make everything you sew fit right, look right and overall everything will be perfect, if this is right.  It’s a super important step.  Don’t skip it.

Keep your supplies together. Make sure you label your parts- binding, backing or whatever so you make sure you don’t use what you need for one project in another one.   If you’d like, you can put all the parts to your quilt in a bag or container and fill out the Quilt Kit printable.

Fabric quality is right up there with one of the most important.  I have made projects using totally not awesome fabric and things don’t work out.  It fades.  It is thin.  It doesn’t wash nice.  It is worn out wayyyy before I would like it to.

Sewing >

Now that you have all your supplies.  Here is the fun part.  This is where you piece all of your parts together and you watch that seam allowance and you get putting back together everything and reveal a beautiful quilt top that you and others will love.

Make sure you that start of with a good pinning habit.  Keeping your parts in place while sewing or in the waiting pile is important.  There is nothing fun about unpicking.  Use a pin to keep it in the correct place so you don’t build a relationship with your seam ripper.

Follow the instructions.  Don’t skip parts just because you think you know it.  Really read it and make sure you understand it.  If you don’t reach out to someone or a community (here is our online quilt guild!) and ask.  There is no shame in this and really it will make you so much happier!

Quilting >

Phew….all the sewing and patchwork is done! You have watched those seams, used those pins and now you are ready to finish.  You will need to put together a quilt sandwich.  That is where you will layer you quilt backing, batting and your quilt top on the top.  All right sides will be facing out.

You can use a fusible spray or pin baste to keep your parts together. Double check on the backing while pinning so you don’t find it bunched up after spending a long time putting your layers together. Nothing fun about that!

Now that you get the process and ideas…it’s time to give it a try!

Simple baby Quilt for Beginners : How to make a quilt from start to finish

Additional resources in case you are needing just a little bit more:

Quilting 101

Quilting Resources & Inspiration Community

How to Quilt


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