So you’ve been thinking about taking your sewing skills to another level by learning how to quilt, but something has been keeping you from making that jump. Intimidation of learning a challenging new craft with a long learning curve, perhaps? The potential costs of buying new tools and equipment? Not knowing how or where to begin?
These are all understandable beginner’s concerns, but we’re here to assure you that learning quilting basics is not as scary as you might think. Like every new craft, it takes a willingness to learn (and make necessary mistakes), a sense of adventure and imagination, and an innate need to create and share hand-crafted things of beauty. And you’ve already got those in spades! So what are you waiting for? Let’s start quilting!
In this beginner’s guide to quilting, we’ll review the tools you’ll need, walk you through the basics, and give you tips, tricks, and resources designed to ease your entry into this challenging but immensely rewarding type of sewing!
Tools of The Trade
Every project needs to start with the right tools, and quilting is no different. Fortunately, if you’ve been sewing for any amount of time, you probably already own most of the essential sewing tools like scissors, rulers, fabric markets or pencils, and millions of pins. But here are some of the more quilt-centric tools that you’ll need before you can get started:
Sometimes it’s best to have a variety of sizes on hand, but a mid-sized mat works best for quilting. And it goes without saying that they will need to be self-healing.
The two most common rotary cutter sizes have 45 mm and 60 mm blades, and quilters are divided; each size has its fans, so try both and see what works best for you. Here’s one that worked well for us.
It’s best to have an arsenal of threads at your disposal, especially when it comes to color selection. But don’t go cheap on your thread; it’s literally what holds your masterpiece together! We recommend a nice 50-weight thread made from 100% cotton.
THE needle of choice for traditional hand quilters, they range in size from 3 to 12, with 12 being the smallest. Beginning quilters should start with a 7 or 8 and go smaller as your skills grow. Fun fact: quilting needles are also known as “betweens.” We like this set of needles.
Just like thread and cutting mats, you’ll want a lot of a lot when it comes to quilting clips. As those quilting projects get bigger and bigger, you’ll find you can never have too many clips.
Sometimes bad things happen to good quilting projects, and that’s when a good seam ripper will be your BFF.
Of course, a sewing machine is essential to the process, and the good news is that your current machine (preferably with a walking foot) will work just fine. Somewhere down the line, as your quilting abilities grow and improve, you may want to invest in a more advanced machine, but for now there’s no need to shell out a big financial investment when you don’t have to.
Ideally, we recommend working with 100% quilter’s cotton fabric, a medium-weight, sturdy fabric that is easier to work with than silks or polyesters, which have the frustrating tendency to slip and slide. Your local fabric or quilt shop will offer no shortage of excellent fabric for quilts, or you can shop online as well. And don’t forget about that bin of beautiful fabric scraps you’ve been saving up; utilize whatever resources you need to express your creativity!
Think It Out!
Before diving into your toolbox, though, you’ll need a well-thought-out plan, so here’s your chance to carefully lay out your design. Beginning quilters are advised to make things easy on themselves by starting with simple designs and shapes: go with squares, rectangles, and triangles until your skills improve. The important thing is to plot it out first. It’s only when you’ve got your design down tight that you can get on to the fun part!
Putting It Together
A basic quilt is constructed like a sandwich: a top, bottom, and the middle batting, which is the warm and fuzzy insulating “filling” that makes quilts warm, heavy, and oh-so comfy. Of course, the top is where you will express your bold creativity with a cool and interesting design made from the fabric of your choice.
Then, in a very brief nutshell, after finishing your top layer, put your sandwich layers together, carefully baste and bind all three layers, and a cozy work of art is born! Of course, the actual process isn’t quite that simple, and we’ve streamlined the steps for the purposes of this article, but like any craft or creative endeavor, practice, practice, practice makes perfect!
Basting and binding are two important steps in putting your quilt together and should not be glossed over, so let’s go to the video!
The video below solves the mystery behind basting large quilts.
Video Source: YouTube/Blueprint
This next video shows you how to bind your quilt in six easy steps!
Video Source: YouTube/Heirloom Creations
Click here for a step-by-step walk-through on how to put it all together.
In the meantime, here are a few other practical tips for quilting beginners:
In the beginning, perfection should not be your goal. Mistakes are all part of the process. Design and create simple quilts that will allow you to focus on honing your basic quilting skills; think baby blankets, beach bags, or table place settings. Just the satisfaction of making your first few quilts, mistakes and all, will be motivation enough to get even better.
Talk The Talk
Can you explain the difference between binding and basting? Do you know what a scrim is, or what surging means? Quilting has its own language that employs words and terms that may sound foreign to you now but learning them will help you better “talk the talk.”
Click here for a glossary of quilting terms that will have you speaking like a pro in no time!
Take Advantage of Online Resources
For beginning quilters, the Internet is a gold mine of resources, how-tos, and detailed instructional videos. A 2017 survey found that most quilters frequent online sources like websites, online classes and videos, and social media for information and inspiration. In fact, experienced and beginning quilters alike average nearly eight hours a week visiting quilting-related websites.
Simply Google the words “quilting for beginners” and you’ll find tens of thousands of online choices, more than you’ll ever use! But what’s there is choice, especially for beginners looking for detailed learning resources. YouTube channels like Quilt TV, Quilting Daily, and The Quilt Show, in particular, make it easy to learn from experts and peers. From classes to local quilting clubs and communities to shopping for tools and supplies, if you can’t find it on the Internet, it probably doesn’t exist.
Make It Personal
As your skills grow and progress, so will your ability to tackle more challenging designs. Look to your own life for creative ideas; a quilt is a wonderful place to tell a story about yourself or someone near and dear to you. And nothing says personal more than gifting someone with a quilt that you made especially for them. Therein is the power of quilting; it can be an extremely gratifying form of self-expression. It’s a true labor of love!