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Words of Wisdom for New Quilters

by Beth Cooper

Last week I talked a little bit about how I was the beginningest beginner quilter there ever was at one time. (If you missed that story, you can find it here.) My first quilt was a sampler and it was hard. It was really really hard. I had decided to take a quilting class at an adorable local quilt shop. The owner was super sweet and assured me that this pattern was fine for a beginner. In hindsight, it was not something I would encourage a beginner to make. But in her defense, after I conquered that quilt, I really did feel like I could conquer any other quilt pattern. Maybe that’s why she recommended it? I certainly learned a ton!

This quilt is so far from perfect. In fact, I don’t even like looking at it, so I have had it in storage. I had the kids help me drag it down from the attic, just so I could snap a few pictures of it. (And yes, I know I shouldn’t store quilts in the attic. Let’s just say my house is overflowing with quilts and a few of my less-favorites went upstairs.) The pattern is Pioneer Sampler by Quilt in a Day.

Let me tell you a few things that I learned from my first quilt. If you’re a beginner like I was, this may be helpful!

  1. Start with a simpler pattern than a sampler. The term “sampler” means that each block is different and with each block you have something new to figure out or struggle with. For a beginner, this is overwhelming. Most beginners making the quilt I started with would have quit, walked away, and never looked back. Their attitude would have been one of “I tried to quilt, but I’m terrible at it.” Start simple.
  2. Practice your 1/4″ seam allowance on some scrap fabric before you start piecing your block. Read this article on how to master your 1/4″ seam allowance. (Click here to read article.) Piecing will be so much easier for you if your seam allowances are all the same size and all of your blocks come out the same size.
  3. Learn what “squaring up” means and how to do it. My quilt would have went together so much easier if I had understood what this was. When I had all of my blocks sewn, I began sewing them together without squaring them up. I had no idea I was supposed to measure each one and trim it up into a perfect square. Use a square acrylic ruler to do this. Make sure all of your blocks are exactly the same size before beginning to sew them together. Check out the tutorial below to learn how to square up your blocks.

4. Watch tutorials. There are so many out there! When I made my first quilt, I don’t think YouTube was invented yet, but now that it is available, use it! There is also a wonderful website and app out there called Quilting Tutorials. It is nothing but quilting tutorials by all of the best teachers. It is organized so that you can search by skill level, or pattern, or fabric, or many other ways to find the perfect tutorial for you. If you want to watch more Quilting 101 tutorials, like the one above, click here. There’s an entire video series by Natalie from Missouri Star Quilt Co. on quilting basics!

5. Join a quilt guild or sewing group in your area. The best way to learn is to watch others and help each other along the quilting journey. My quilting friends are so inspiring and I love seeing what they have made. Make a friend or two (or more!) that quilt and I promise, you will see your own quilting skills improve!

Me and my quilting friend, Dorothy

Happy quilting! ‘Til next time!


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6 months ago

Thanks from all the Rookies out here that want to try a quilt, but are put off by the “rules” not spoken of enough. Brava!

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