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Advice for a beginning quilter

I was chatting with a friend who recently retired and she mentioned that she has been sewing for years but would like to learn to quilt. Her words have been tumbling around in my mind and I thought I would jot down a few ideas for her. I am by no means an expert quilter but will list a few things that I have found to be helpful.

1. Start with a very simple, small project--nothing larger than a baby quilt.

2. Try to choose a pattern with just a few fabrics. If you choose something too complicated it can be overwhelming.
This book by Ursula Reikes is my favorite book for baby quilts:

3. Choose the right batting. I love the needle punched batting that's available just about everywhere now. (Hobby Lobby and Walmart carry it in my area.) This batting is thinner than some I first used and it's so much easier to stitch through with a regular sewing machine.

4. If you are going to quilt your project yourself be sure to purchase a walking foot for your sewing machine. I tried to quilt things in the past when I did not have a walking foot and was disappointed by the puckering on the back of the project. The walking foot has feed dogs on the foot which enables all the layers to go through the machine at the same rate and really helps to eliminate wrinkling and puckering. These feet are rather expensive (about $100 for my machine) but they are worth every penny. Some of the newer machines come with a walking foot.

5. Choose a very simple design for your quilting too. You can stitch in the ditch, use tape to make lines, use clear thread, etc.

6. Don't expect perfection from your first project. Look upon each quilted item as a learning experience. Try a new technique, tip, or tool with each new project. There are many books, classes, and websites which contain a wealth of information to help you learn. I learned a new tip recently about using a post it note as a seam guide:

7. Have fun! Quilting is a wonderful way to express your creativity and to get to play with color, pattern, and fabric.

I surprised myself by already finishing the quilt for my new little grand-daughter. It's not really a baby quilt but it does match the colors in her room. Because of the size I didn't think I would finish quilting it before her arrival this month. I made it from a kit and I used spray adhesive to "baste" the layers together before machine quilting. I followed the directions in the kit and quilted it in rows of straight stitching about 1 1/4" apart. Some rows were horizontal and some were vertical. The quilting went very smoothly and I will definitely try the spray adhesive again.

Here's a picture of little Miss M's quilt:

Would any of you readers who quilt like to add some advice that you think would be helpful for a new quilter?


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4 Comments on “Advice for a beginning quilter”

  1. #1 Deb
    on Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Love the new quilt for your granddaughter, Becka! I’m glad you commented that you liked using the spray adhesive; that’s good to know. Last year I invested in a quarter-inch foot (it probably does the same as your post-it note), and it was the best thing I did for my quilting. I have a tendency to eye-guess things, and this 1/4″ foot really keeps me on track so my seams are true 1/4″ seams. If I can think of any beginner tips, I’ll be sure and come back and leave a comment.

  2. #2 Megan
    on Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I love it, Mom! It will look great in her room! 🙂

  3. #3 Jan
    on Feb 3rd, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I agree with what you said, Becka. My two cents: start with a pattern that has squares (or rectangles) and no (or very few) triangles; try a pattern where you can “quilt as you go,” like a rag quilt.

  4. #4 Carrie
    on Feb 3rd, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Deb, I need a 1/4″ foot! I tend to guess-timate too. I also agree that people should start with squares or rectangles. You can do a lot with them, and they’re so much simpler than triangles. Your quilt is pretty!

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