Advice for Beginning Quilt Makers

In interviews, people are often asked “What do you wish you had known when you first began xyz…?” Let’s pretend that someone just asked “What do you wish you had known when you first started quilting?”

Quality Matters:

Quality of your fabric really matters. Yes, sure it’s nice to get three times as much for the same price, but you’ll pay for those savings somewhere along the line eventually. When I first began quilting I would buy the cheapest fabrics, partly because I was poor but also because I was afraid to invest in my quilts in case I didn’t like them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like many of those quilts. Not because of my skills, but because the fabrics were either damn ugly, or felt gross to touch. (You know the kind I mean…the kind that feels like it’s mixed with a plastic feed sack.) If I had just invested a few more dollars per yard, I bet I would have loved my first projects.

Potholders can be your best friends:

 When my mom was teaching me to quilt, she got me a book on potholders. It’s probably a good thing too, because I get bored pretty easily. (I still loathe making a gazillion of the same block for a quilt!)

Using one of the potholder books, I was able to learn the process of making blocks (measuring, cutting, sewing a scant quarter inch, trimming, half square triangles, you name it!) I also learned a LOT of different blocks. I did not get overwhelmed in my projects, because I only had to make one little 12.5″ block. I could stop after that if I wanted, or I could go on and cut a bunch more out to make multiples.

I will forever be grateful that my introduction wasn’t doing full sized lap quilt or anything. In fact, it would be years before I learned how to actually QUILT! I spend a good 2-3 years just piecing and doing block exchanges online!

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The Scant Quarter Inch:

You can break a lot of rules, but I don’t recommend breaking the quarter inch rule.

I quickly switched over from traditional quilts to art quilting, art is in my nature. But one of the things I took with me, was a dedication to the quarter inch rule.

You might want to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter..and that following the SCANT quarter inch rule is just too much work. If you don’t grasp and adapt to this though, you’re not going to get any pattern out there to work for you without a lot of damn converting and trial and error. This HAS to be accurate, or being slightly off on each seam, is going to make a HUGE different at the end of a row. Messing up the scant quarter inch becomes a problem of exponential proportions. Trust me.

Those are probably my top ones. What about you? What things do you wish you had known before you started making quilts?

1 reply

  1. I made my first quilt with no help, classes, books, online info, nothing but figuring it out. It’s pretty amazing I made a second one. So, things I wish I knew… that rotary cutters existed; that a sewing machine that can keep its tension is important, and if yours can’t, see if you can borrow one… Those are probably the top: equipment. Next, fabric and thread. Third, technique. BUT attitude has a lot to do with it, too. That’s a whole post by itself. 🙂

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