Before you start your quilt, here are some tips I think you will find helpful. These are things I think are among the most important to make your quilting experience fun and relaxing.
1. The pattern. Always read through the instructions to make sure you understand the steps and to find all the cutting instructions. Most patterns have all the cutting instructions up front before any assembly instructions, but some do not. It’s good to be familiar with the pattern!
2. The fabric. Most patterns will give you fabric amounts that allow for pre-washing and cutting errors. I know I add in some extra when I write my patterns for just that reason. But, if you are not sure that is the case, add a little extra just in case. You may end up with a little left over, but you can then start your strip collection for your next scrap quilt!
3. Cutting. Whether you have a dedicated sewing room or you sew on the dining room table, make sure your cutting area is clear of items that can get in your way while you are cutting our your pieces. Also have your rulers close at hand.
Now, I’m going to admit, my sewing area is not always this clean. I’m guilty of piling up scraps on the sides and above the cutting mat, especially if I’m cutting several projects at once. But, I think it’s a good idea to keep the area clean.
Be sure you have a sharp rotary blade to cut your pieces correctly and avoid injury. If you have cut out several projects, you will notice if your blade has become dull if you have to press down hard or you feel your blade skipping as you cut. If this is happening, it’s time to change the blade. Dispose of the blade by marking an old rotary blade container “Used Blades”. Once this is full, you can discard the blades safely.
4. Organization. If your quilt has a lot of blocks made up of many pieces, organization is important. I’ve talked about it in other blog posts. My patterns usually have letters for each piece cut. I like to label a stack of pieces with a piece of masking or painters tape marked with the letter. If the piece is cut from several different colors, I keep them separated by color as well. Here’s what one of my quilts looks like cut and ready to go:
5. Sewing Machine. Be sure your machine is ready to sew. I think it’s very important to take your machine in to the dealer or quilt shop you bought it from for an annual maintenance check.
Make sure it’s clean and oiled and has a needle that is in good working order. Some people do not change their needle until it breaks. Not a good guide. If you have finished piecing a large project or several small projects, the needle should be changed. A dull needle will make a “punching” sound as it stitches and may make larger holes in your fabric than you want. Also, your thread will also break easily if the needle is old.
6. Accurate Piecing. Be sure you are using an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance when stitching your blocks, unless you are advised otherwise in the pattern. Using a 1/4″ foot helps with this but make sure to do a test seam if this is your first time using the 1/4″ foot. Sew 2 scrap squares together, then measure the seam.
Make necessary adjustments in your sewing to achieve a 1/4″ seam. Here is a past blog post I did on this subject.
7. Stock up and keep tools close. I suggest keeping tools you use frequently close by. I have a small hook on my sewing machine where I keep my scissors I use for clipping seams and a small ruler for measuring seams.
I also keep my wood pressing tool so I can press small seams without having to go to the ironing board for every tiny seam. Finally, wind several bobbins, so you can quickly change from an empty bobbin.
8. Pressing seams. How you press your seams is up to you. I like to press mine open because I think I get more accurate measurements for my units. When pressing seams, make sure you are pressing them and not ironing them. There is a difference! Here’s a video tutorial I did on this subject.
9. Measure units as you go. Most blocks are made up of several pieced units. I like to measure units as I go before piecing them into a block. The more accurate your measurements are, the more accurate your block will measure. For example, if you have an 6 1/2″ star block that has 4 flying geese units that are supposed to measure 2 x 3 1/2″ making up the points, I make sure I measure each geese unit.
10. Quilt layout. Finally, I recommend using a design wall or a large floor space to layout finished blocks. This makes it easier to arrange your blocks the way you want them before stitching them into rows and then into a quilt top. Otherwise, you might get all your rows stitched together and realize you have two blocks next to each other that you wished were not. This will save you a lot of “unsewing” time!
Here is a past project where the use of a design wall came in handy. The blocks were all the same, just scrappy. I wanted the colors to be distributed evenly throughout the quilt top, so this was the best way to do it.
I hope you learned some new information. Let me know if there are some quilting tips you can’t live without in the comments below. You will be entered into a drawing for my newest pattern, Open Windows. Drawing will be on Monday, February 18th! ***We have a winner! Congrats, Kay!***
KATHY SCHNOBRICH says
Helpful tips. I like your organized scrap strips! Good idea!
Lewcrese Shields says
I do a lot of applique so I keep a lot of odd size scraps. I keep them in shoeboxes with one color in each. I also have a label of the front of the box and stack them with the label out. This allows me to quickly find and use a large variety of fabrics for applique, thereby keeping my big pieces, BIG!!
Very good idea for those of us who applique. I do this too!
Nanette Chopin Cook says
Great reminder tips for all quilters, especially new quilters! I do all 10, but then have been quilting for 20 years. I really enjoy your Blog Post! So informative!
There are some tips that I may not know about!!!
Mary Salmon says
This should be required reading for all beginning Quilters. Spot on!
Barb Mapes says
It “seams” so logical to do each of your tips but its great to be reminded!!! Thank you
Susan Carter says
Great tips. I especially liked the hook for scissors and mini ruler.
Love all your tips!!!
Lorna Cunningham says
Love the way you have colored strips organized! Must do that!!
Checking the size of each unit can save a lot of time and inaccuracies as you piece. Also making sure seam allowance is correct – for a test, sew several 1 1/2″ short pieces together with what you believe to be the correct allowance. Now press carefully and measure. The measurement must be equal to the number of pieces + 1/2″. If it’s not, adjust and try again – until you get it right.
That’s a great way to check seams.
Theresa P says
Love the tips! Good reminders!
Gayle Shumaker says
Love the tips!
Lisa Suminski says
I loved all 10 tips!
Linda Nost says
Great tips! Thanks!
Karen in Ohio says
I have been quilting for 30 years. I do many of your tips and feel every beginner needs this list as a worthy guide for quilting. I especially like your tip on the small hook on the sewing machine for trimming scissors and ruler. It is a tip I will try.
Laura B in PA says
Great reminder tips. Love all your work. You have a knack for color
Thanks for the great tips!
Thanks for the reminders and the new ideas too.
Renee Stonebrook says
I am a firm believer in measuring as you go! The blocks go together so much easier if you do. My tip is to make half square triangles a little bigger by 1/8 of an inche and then trim down to size you need, if calls for 2 7/8 I cut a 3. No more too small squares!
That’s a great way to make sure your half-square triangle squares are not too small. I often to that and use the Quilt in a Day Triangle Square-up ruler to trim the squares to size.
Debra Miller says
Good reminder tips for everyone irregardless of quilting experience! I have been sewing/quilting for a very long time and still have issues sewing an absolutely straight line.
Mary Smith says
Love the tips. Do you have any for choosing colors or the number of different colors to put in a quilt?
Hi! I have done several blog posts on choosing color for quilting. If you page through the past posts you will find them. Glad you like the tips!
Great tips especially the first one. I recently started an appliqué pattern and when I went to cut the blocks , there were no cutting instructions! I had to email the author.
I can’t live without the best press . If I press as I go, when I sit down to quilt, everything is tidy.
I love Best Press. Helps press my seams really nice and flat.
Donna W says
Tip #1 is very important. Read the pattern all the way thru so that you understand the how, what and when to do something.
JJudith B says
Don’t forget to clean lint out of your machine when you change the bobbin. Maybe add a drop of oil, too. A little loving care will keep your machine working longer and better.
Definitely cleaning the machine is very important. I do that and oil every time I change the bobbin.
Great tips !! I just bought a quarter inch foot for my machine, it keeps my seams correct….what a difference!!
Lori G says
Great tips! I’m just getting back into quilting after being away for about 15 years, so I don’t have any special tips to share; but am eagerly absorbing everyone else’s! Much has changed!! And I’m bookmarking this page. 🙂 I’m also looking for some advice on buying a medium price sewing/quilting machine. Mine is old and a beginner machine.Thanks for tips!
Many people have had luck with finding a medium priced machine from Janome. They have a good line of really good sewing machines for quilters.
Great refresher! Thanks for the BOMs, putting the finishing touches on 2018 and on to 2019:)
Carol Sisterman says
Is this the “news” you mentioned earlier? Good job, Deanne. May your new business burst its “seams.”
Eight and nine are the tips I need to follow better. I tend to skip those a lot.
I’m just getting back into quilting after many years. I really appreciate the tips and I especially like the suggestion about the hook to keep your scissors and small ruler handy. Thanks for posting.
Great tips. I too measure and trim as I go. I really feel this makes a great difference.
Nice tips and reminders for many things we may know but sometimes forget! Now, can you help us find more time for quilting??
Barbara Hammons says
As a beginning quilter I found all of your tips helpful. Thanks
Thank you so much for ALL of these VERY helpful hints. I am going to try your theory about pressing your seams open for a more accurate seam measurement. This is the one area of quilting that has been VERY difficult and frustrating for me to consistently achieve, so I do appreciate the sharing of what works well for you (and will hopefully work for me, too). Woo Hoo!
Glad you’re going to try that tip out. I hope it helps!
Lori Dickman says
Thank you for the Great Ideas! Each one is so important while working on a quilt! Love the Scrappy quilt also! 🙂
Judy Perl says
I’m definitely going to try to be as organized as you are!
Great tips, and I always stress #9 whenever teaching a class. Amazing the emphasis on the 1/4″ seam but if the unit (front side) isn’t the correct size to be put into your block then into your quilt, well, the “perfect or scant” 1/4″ seam is a moot point. Wrong sized units “grow exponentially” within a block and thus your quilt. Organizing your project with labels and baggies or whatever, if needed, is a given and excellent advice.
When I began quilting, I heard all the cliches.
It’ll quilt out.
Better finished than perfect.
Won’t notice from a galloping horse.
It’s not going in a show.
It’s a charity donation.
We should strive to do our best and be accurate, yes, but not be paralyzed by “perfection.”
The more one sews and quilts, the better and more proficient we become.
Thanks for a great list! And I love your pattern!
Step 4 is something I need to become better at. I agonize over auditioning fabrics, and wondering if different fabrics will work together in a block, I need to learn to trust myself more and to set up something like your system to help myself become better organized.
Judith Kempen says
No picture after no. 4, but otherwise good advice. !!
Good Organization tips.
Gerrie Hotton says
Just getting back to quilting. Thanks for your tips!
Just found your story online – love the hints. As I am a quilt newbie this story really helps!
So glad these tips are helpful to you! Keep reading my blog because I try to share lots of tips weekly.