You’ve decided to start quilting. You can’t wait to complete your majestic tapestry masterpiece. The only problem? Quilting is undeniably difficult, especially for newcomers.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. First time quilt projects are intimidating and you are not alone in your anxiety. Luckily for you, there are some simple methods you can use to overcome the quilting madness.
Here are 17 easy quilting tips that are sure to maximize your quilting potential and minimize your mistakes.
Quilting Tip 1: Choose an easy pattern
This step might seem obvious, but it needs to be said. You’re an overachiever and that’s awesome. You want your first project to have that “wow!” factor and you don’t want to go easy on yourself.
You’ll ultimately regret trying to manage so many things at once. Quilting is an art that takes time to learn. In order for you to be successful, you need to build your skills on top of one another. If you try to learn everything at once, you’ll become frustrated and confused with a messy project.
Simple designs don’t have to be lame. There is beauty in simplicity and you can use an easy pattern as an opportunity to highlight a minimalist aesthetic.
Sometimes less is more: an overly busy pattern might be impressive from a technical perspective, but the finished design might be a quilt that looks overwhelming.
Cut yourself some slack by keeping it easy.
Quilting Tip 2: Buy a pre-cut quilt kit
Pre-cut quilt kits are a great way to start quilting if you are a beginner. These kits include pre-cut pieces for you to sew together. This eliminates tons of time measuring and cutting and allows you to get the hang of quilting without knowing all of the intricacies of the trade just yet.
Have you ever started a new hobby and immediately made a mistake which turned everything sour? We all have. So instead of experiencing that again, use a quilt kit to get started and enjoy quilting with a little bit of help at the start.
Then you can venture into measuring, cutting, and getting more custom with your quilting.
Quilting Tip 3: Pre-wash all of your fabric
The first quilt I ever made was beautiful. My grandmother helped me to learn how to quilt and completing that first project was one of my proudest moments. I sewed the last stitch and washed the finished piece on a gentle cycle.
When I took the quilt out of the washer, I was devastated. The colors in my fabric squares had bleed across the stitching. Much of the dye had smudged into neighboring areas and the quilt looked like a splatter painting.
I made a classic beginner’s mistake: I hadn’t washed my fabric prior to beginning the quilt. It is crucial that you wash all of your fabrics before you cut out your design and begin stitching.
By washing the fabric ahead of time, you’re minimizing your risk of smudging the colors when you wash the finished product.
Make sure to carefully follow the washing instructions for the material you’ve chosen. Unique materials such as satin or silk might require different washing techniques.
Quilting Tip 4: Use uniform fabric
For your first project, it’s a good idea to stick with one kind of material. Using a variety can complicate your design and affect the sewing methods you use to construct the quilt.
Slippery materials can make stitching a frustrating process and make backstitching a pain. Using cotton or linen is ideal because it cuts the unnecessary distractions out of your work. Easy material means easy workflow!
Quilting Tip 5: Measure your quilt pieces evenly
Whether you are using quilt squares or a variety of shapes, you absolutely need to be measuring your pieces accurately.
The uniformity of your final quilt depends on the detail of the measurements. Every piece that contributes to the finished quilt must be uniform, or else stitching will appear sloppy and uneven.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to try to stitch together two pieces that are different sizes. If you are working with squares, you’ll want to make sure that all four sides match up to the adjacent fabric.
The same goes for other shapes. Any pieces that will be stitched together must have identical edges, which will make your life so much easier.
I recommend using a small ruler to ensure that your measurements are accurate. Don’t eyeball it—as painstaking as exact measurements can be, you will be thankful that you took the time to be thorough.
I also love using a rotary cutter. It’s basically a pizza cutter but for fabric! Scissors can mess up your perfectly measured lines by cutting a jagged edge. Rotary cutters make life much easier by cutting clean, precise lines every time.
Quilting Tip 6: Always backstitch
I’ve made the mistake of not backstitching enough while quilting, and I definitely regret it.
I’ve had quilt squares completely fall apart because I didn’t reenforce my sewing with a simple backstitch.
For those of you who have sewn in other capacities, I’m sure you’re familiar with this technique. Backstitching is a form of stitch reenforcement where you reverse your sewing machine to overlap additional stitches on top of your original work. By stacking these stitches on top of one another, you are protecting your quilt from coming apart at the seams.
Wear and tear is inevitable for quilts, and you need to make sure that your stitching can survive daily handling. Backstitches are simple, but they save you a world of hurt down the road.
Quilting Tip 7: Buy plenty of fabric
You’re likely to use more fabric than you think as a beginner. Maybe you mistake a measurement or you cut something too small… I’ve been there and done all of that. So if you don’t have a enough fabric to work with, you will be left without and a quilt that is unfinished.
So go ahead and take the tip from us that you need more fabric than you think. We recommend getting at least one more yard than you expect you need. Maybe even two if you’re on the cautious side.
There’s nothing more frustrating than running out of fabric and then not being able to get that same fabric or buying more of the same but it isn’t quite the exact color or wash as your other fabric.
Quilting Tip 8: Press your fabric the right way
Before you get started, please note that pressing your fabric is very important. Again, take it from me than you want to get your press just right otherwise you’ll likely have wrinkled fabric or stretched fabric. You don’t won’t either of those results. So what do we mean when we say press your fabric the right way? That means don’t press your fabric too light or too hard when prepping it for quilting. If you don’t press it enough then you will have wrinkles throughout. But… if you press it too hard you will have stretched fabric. So find that sweet spot. Again, this is why we recommend having extra fabric on hand. Maybe you press too hard and mess up a portion of your fabric. Take an extra piece, slow down, and press evenly next time.
You can do this!
Quilting Tip 9: Use the same type of fabric
When you’re just starting out, we recommend you don’t mix up your fabric types. Yes, some of the most unique and wonderful quilts around combine several fabrics. However, those were probably done by experienced quilters. And you can get there.
But for now, we recommend starting with 100% cotton fabric for all of your fabric. It’s the easiest to work with in the beginning and you won’t have issues with your fabrics doing odd things.
Then as you progress and become more skilled, start introducing some new fabrics into your quilts.
Quilting Tip 10: Use consistent seams
So, in the beginning there is a lot going on. You’re getting your tools and fabrics and prepping them to be quilted.
You’re likely to be excited about started and forget one of these important rules…
Always use a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Yes, when you’re sewing your fabrics together and creating your blocks, make sure you use that seam allowance throughout because consistency is key. If you aren’t consistent with each of your blocks, you will notice it when you start piecing everything together.
And trust me… it will be frustrating. So just avoid this completely.
Quilting Tip 11: Choose contrasting colors
It’s important to select colors that contrast from light to dark. If all of your colors are about the same shade, then you’re likely to lose your design throughout.
Of course, this is a problem if you’re using a pre-cut quilt kit because they are already designed to have more contrast and you don’t have to worry about this.
However, if you’re selecting your own fabrics, then make sure you keep contrast in mind and lay out your quilt before you start sewing anything so you can tell whether there is enough contrast or not.
This is important because contrasting colors will look much better as a finished quilt than colors that are too close in shade and depth.
Quilting Tip 12: Use a big mat and ruler
If you saw our essential tools post, then you read about the necessity of a cutting mat and rulers.
Our tip here, as a beginner, is to get a large enough mat (at least 24” x 36”) and ruler for starting out. You won’t be sorry about this.
You don’t want to get home and down to starting your first quilt without the right sized mat and ruler. Keep yourself from wasting another trip back to the fabric store for larger tools.
Quilting Tip 13: Change your needle
We recommend you get needles that are size 10-12. Needles need to be sharp throughout sewing so remember to purchase plenty to have on hand. You need to change out your needle frequently, especially after each project.
If you think your needle is getting dull then it probably is. Don’t think you can push on and finish what you’re working on with a dull needle. It can come back to bite you.
So remember to change your needle often and keep track of how well it’s doing.
Quilting Tip 14: Change your rotary blade
Just like your needle, make sure you change out your rotary cutter blade often too. You don’t want dull tools because your cuts will suffer and then you won’t be please with your quilt.
To keep everything looking nice and neat, and to keep the quilting experience fun, make sure you change out your blade frequently.
Quilting Tip 15: Measure and measure again
If you’re not using a pre-cut quilt kit to start, then take this advice: measure, measure and then measure again. There’s nothing more frustrating than measuring fabric once and then realizing it’s not the right fit, and then having to start over. You end up wasting fabric and time if you have to go back.
So go ahead and spend just a few more seconds re-measuring before you cut and sew. Trust us, a few seconds measuring is SO WORTH IT.
Quilting Tip 16: Get experienced help
It’s totally okay to go to a quilting or sewing class to learn more. Maybe you learn better by having hands-on training. If so, go for it. You can make big advances by getting this hands-on training.
Maybe you know someone who is an expert quilter and you just need an hour of their time to teach you. Offer to compensate them for their time and then sit down to learn from a master.
If YouTube isn’t cutting it for you… then please go ask someone to train you a bit. It can make a major difference.
Quilting Tip 17: Don’t sweat the small stuff
You’re going to make mistakes. You can research countless quilting methods and hacks to improve your skills, but you will never be perfect.
It’s important to remember that as frustrating as quilting can be, it is a form of creative expression and you shouldn’t limit yourself with unrealistic expectations.
If you make a mistake, take a deep breath and adapt. You’re an artist and you need to be willing to embrace your flaws alongside your triumphs.
These quilting tips are a great way to start your adventure as a beginner quilter! By applying these simple methods to your work, you’re sure to see consistent results as you move through the quilting process.
Take each step one at a time, and remember to enjoy the learning process. Beginning quilting is so much fun, and these quilting tips are just a few that saved my stitching!