5 Things Beginning Quilters Should Know


Sometimes it seems like there is so much to learn that beginning quilters get a little overwhelmed. If you find yourself feeling that way, take a deep breath and tackle one thing at a time. You will learn as you quilt and your skills will continue to develop and improve every time you work on your quilt.

You can relieve that overwhelmed feeling by focusing on your skills, too.

As a beginner, try focusing on these five elements of quilting.

Learn the terms. 

It is easier to ask another quilter for advice when you use the correct terms. For instance, asking a quilter how to best adjust the “thing” on your machine could result in several wrong answers. Likewise, hand quilters could run into issues when asking about that “stuff” around the edges of a quilt. Get a notebook and write down terms you hear or read about, then jot their definitions beside them. You could also get a small quilting book to keep on hand. There are several good books that have glossaries of quilting terms provided in them.

Know thy cloth. 

We obsess about selecting the perfect fabrics for our quilts so it is worth knowing all you can about them. Knowing the content of your fabric will help you make educated choices on fabrics to use. Just because something looks like 100 percent cotton does not mean that it is.

Along these same lines, you need to learn about the fabric’s grain. You need to learn about cutting on the bias and against it, and the pros and cons of each.

Seam allowance is important. 

Practice sewing a one-quarter inch seam allowance, whether by hand or machine. You can use the markings on the plate of your sewing machine to serve as a guide for a quarter-inch seam allowance.

Consistency in seam allowance is vital to quilt making. If you sew with a quarter-inch in some places, a half inch or one-eighth inch in others, your quilt top will be one big mess. Your blocks won’t be the same size.

Keeping a straight seam allowance (or a consistently curved one when working with curves and circles) is also important. You need to be able to sew a straight line. Otherwise, your pieces will look skewed.

Become a sharp cutter. 

Whether you use scissors or a rotary wheel, practice cutting so you will start off with perfect quilt block pieces. If one edge of a piece is a little crooked, it can affect the outcome of the project as a whole.

Getting the hang of a rotary wheel takes a little time for someone who has never used one very often. With a little practice, you will soon learn how to keep the fabric from slipping as you cut it and how many pieces you can safely cut at one time.

Using hand scissors can be time consuming if you have a lot of quilt block pieces. It can also be painful. Repetitive use of hand muscles can create pain, even situations like carpal tunnel in the wrist.

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Set up good habits now. 

Good habits to get into include pressing your seam allowances as you go, organizing your fabric stash in a way that is easy for you to maintain, and allowing yourself time for learning new techniques.

If you, as a beginner, can concentrate on these five tips now, it should make your continued quilting an easier process. Learning about fabrics may not seem like much fun, but in the long run, you will save time and costly mistakes in your quilting.

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