Have you ever decided to learn something new and searched for a few things to get you started on the right track? Knowing just a couple of things can make you more successful whether it is learning to crochet a scarf, knit a sweater, or bake a coconut meringue pie. One must still be prepared to learn as you go by trial and error but it certainly can save some time if you have a few tricks up your sleeve before you start. Listed below are five tips to get you started with learning to quilt.
My first tip centers around where to go to get the information you need to begin a quilting project. While I had previous sewing experience through my nine years in 4-H and ten additional years of clothing construction for myself and my daughters I knew there was some new knowledge that I would need when I started quilting. Twenty-five years ago I began by buying a book and subscribing to a quilting magazine. After reading both cover to cover I was ready to begin. These days I turn to podcasts, YouTube, and Google, as well as attending quilt guild meetings and quilting classes. I also rely on a couple of long arm quilters who have a lot of experience in this area.
Secondly, it is so important to have the correct tools whenever you are aiming for proficiency in a new skill. In the area of quilting I would suggest purchasing a quality cutting mat, a rotary cutter, and at least one good ruler. I am partial to the 24” x 36” cutting mat by Olfa as it gives me plenty of room on which to cut and I have an entire yard that I can use as a ruler. There are a variety of rotary cutters on the market but I like the 45mm cutter by Olfa as it feels good in my hand. As for rulers there are many sizes and brands available. I would recommend first purchasing the 6” x 24” size as it will be adequate in most situations. I also often use a 3” x 18” as well as a 4” x 8”.
Next it is important to become proficient in stitching a 1/4” seam. In garment sewing the seams generally measure 5/8” but not so in quilting. The 1/4” seam is used to reduce the bulk in a quilt top that can potentially be made up of a large number of seams. Many domestic machines come with a dedicated 1/4” foot but you can also use painter’s tape to mark that seam on the bed of your machine. With either method I would recommend practicing that seam width and using a measuring guide to be sure of your accuracy.
My fourth tip is to make use of your seam ripper and tear out any stitching in which your accuracy was lacking. While this may cause some frustration at times you will be much happier with the end result if you fix errors when they happen. Unfortunately they won’t disappear but will seem to actually multiply due to the number of seams involved.
My final tip is to invest in a quality iron. Pressing is an important skill to learn when quilting as it can easily make or break your entire project. A great debate exists between quilters whether the seams should be pressed open or to one side. I first learned to press to one side so that is my preferred method. I find that it works especially well when quilting in-the-ditch. I also found that trying to press open those tiny 1/4” seams was really more trouble than it was worth. I would also recommend establishing a cleaning routine for your iron as it will last longer and work much better if you do.
Now that you have a few tips to help get you started on your quilting journey all you have to do is jump in! Happy Quilting!