1. Learn About Fabric
Fabrics are the backbone of our quilts, but you might be surprised how many people begin to assemble their first quilt without putting fabric characteristics to work for them. It's much easier to make a quilt once you understand how to care for your fabrics and why quilting patches are cut using specific guidelines. Two important must-knows are:
You'll find more fabric advice in the Quilt Fabric Info Index
2. Sew a Quarter Inch Seam Allowance
3. Develop Rotary Cutting Skills
Rotary cutting is a technique that every new quilter should master, because it allows us to bypass the time-intense method of constructing templates to mark and cut individual pieces of fabric. You'll love the freedom that rotary tools provide, and speedy cutting is fantastic motivation for continued success.
4. Learn Strip & Quick Piecing Techniques
Strip piecing and other quick piecing techniques let you sew large chunks of fabric together, then slice off sections to create pre-sewn units. It is so easy! Learn the basics and you'll be able to create a quick pieced version of just about any quilt block you see. A few most-used techniques include:
- Quick Pieced Half Square Triangle Units
- Quick Pieced Quarter Square Triangle Units
- No-Waste Flying Geese
Most of my quilt patterns include strip piecing instructions, with illustrations to walk you through each project.
5. Get Pressing Basics Down Pat
6. Don't Pitch Those Quilt Blocks Just Yet
We've all sewn quilt blocks that aren't quite accurate. Most often, they're smaller than they should be, perhaps because we've either sewn a slightly large quarter inch seam allowance or haven't pressed adequately. Don't feel discouraged if that happens to you, because a high percentage of 'off' quilt blocks can be rescued.
7. Measure and Sew Borders... the Correct Way
Adding one or more borders to the edges of a quilt does more than provide an attractive frame for your work... the process offers an excellent opportunity to square up slightly skewed edges. It isn't unusual to see beginning quilters determine border length by measuring along the outside edges of a quilt. If the quilt is skewed, that technique ensures it will remain skewed. Learn how to measure and sew butted borders that will improve the structure of a quilt.
8. Be Sure to Try Mitered Binding
Sewing mitered binding to the edges of a quilt has developed a bit of a reputation of being difficult, but is actually a very easy technique. An important step is omitted from nearly all mitered binding instructions, and it creates problems for anyone who'd like to apply binding that's wider or more narrow than 1/4". My quilt binding instructions explain.
9. Become Familiar with Quilting Terminology
Keep a quiltmaking glossary or a basic quilting book at your fingertips when you're making a quilt or reading quilting articles. When you encounter a term you don't understand, look it up. It won't be long before you're familiar with all the terms you need to know in order to follow quiltmaking instructions.
Be sure to read How to Make a Quilt -- it includes important information about the skills needed for successful projects.
Remember that you can search this Web site for any term. The search box changes in appearance sometimes, but is typically in the upper right area of the page. Be sure to add the word 'quilting' when you search.
10. Don't Obsess Over Errors
See the little quilt to the left? I like to call it What Was I Thinking? It's awful, in part because of a (really) busy print at the center of Snowball blocks (which aren't even recognizable as Snowballs). Using a different fabric in those areas might have resulted in a (somewhat) better quilt, and altering contrast throughout would have been one more plus.
We all make errors, both technical and in our choice of fabrics, but our boo-boos nearly always lead to a better understanding of the quilting process. 'Mistakes' are really just learning experiences, analyze them and tuck that knowledge away for the next project. Your skills will grow with every new quilt you sew.