If you can sew a straight line (or would like to learn) and you can follow step-by-step instructions then you can make a quilt. One of the reasons many people start sewing is because they would like to make a quilt. You can do it and you will be so pleased with yourself.
Beginner quilters should
Start small – this is the beauty of quilting – your project can be as little or as big as you want it to be. If even a cot quilt seems to big, perhaps start with a dolls quilt, patchwork cushion cover or something similar. This will help get your confidence up.
Start with a simple design – a pattern that uses squares and/or rectangles
Components of a quilt
A standard/traditional quilt is essentially made up of three components called a quilting sandwich
1) The ‘quilt top’ – This is the front of your quilt that is made by sewing the fabrics into a design of your choice. You may add borders if you wish to make your quilt larger or to define the pattern that you have sewn.
2) The ‘batting’ or 'wadding' – The wadding the middle layer that gives the quilt its weight and warmth. Your local sewing/ quilting shop should stock various different types of batting. There are many choices of batting. The more expensive ones will most likely be made of natural fibres – cotton, wool, or bamboo, whereas the polyester poly-cotton or poly-wool blends should be a little cheaper. They also vary in thicknesses. It is usual these days for modern quilts to use thinner batting. If you live in a very cold climate and want extra warmth then go for a wool batting and double layer is now on trend.
3) The ‘backing fabric’ – This is essentially the back of the quilt. It is worth checking the width of your selected fabric (compared to the width of your quilt) before buying it, to see if you will need to join two pieces together. For most larger quilts you will need to do this, but for smaller ones this may be able to be avoided. You will need to allow for extra width and length of about 4" for the backing. The reason for this is that sometimes the fabric will pull in when it is being quilted.
Stages of making a quilt
1) Preparation – choosing a design and fabric, washing fabric (not always essential)
2) Making the quilt top – cutting and ‘piecing’ (sewing) together the blocks.
3) Quilting – sandwiching the batting in the middle of the quilt top and backing fabric and sewing them together with a quilting design.
4) Binding – sewing the binding on to make the edges all finished and nice and neat.
Then you’re done!
Lets look at these steps in a little more detail
Get a quilt design you like. This is a good beginner pattern HERE. You can find these online. As a beginner quilter you are best to have a design that uses mainly squares and rectangles. Simple is often better and looks more effective.
In quilting measurements are mostly in inches, and most quilt blocks are built on a (finished) 6 inch, 8 inch, 9 inch or 12 inch squares
A 1/4 inch seam allowance is almost always used, so if I want a finished 6 inch square I will cut it 6 1/2 inches square. This allows for the 1/4 inch seam allowances on all four sides.
Once you’ve finalised your quilt design, you need to select your fabric. You need to use 100% quilters cotton. This will make your sewing much more successful for you. As a beginner quilter there are now pre-packaged coordinating fabrics that you can purchase. If you would like to use certain fabric in your quilt , you will be able to purchase fabrics from the same range that will coordinate with the fabric you have chosen. A lot of online stores sell coordinated fabric bundles that are also great to use.
If you would like to select your own fabric then some tips below:
a) the selvedge ( the coloured dots on the fabric edge) of the fabric picks out the colours and tones used in the fabric. You can use this to help you match your fabric.
b) If you have one or two fabrics that are very busy, then it is a good idea to choose your other fabrics with a simpler design. I would suggest solid colours, spots (not too out there, go subtle) and stripes. You can also space out your fabrics with white, cream, or any other solid that blends and doesn't detract from the other fabrics.
2) Making the quilt top
It is important to read your pattern carefully. Reading through twice and highlighting key measurements and how many cuts of each is very helpful.
Precise cutting with your rotary cutter and quilting ruler will help with a lovely accurate finished quilt top.
As a beginner don't try and cut through too many layers at once. I would start off cutting two or four layers for squares and rectangles. When you move on to triangles you need to be very careful. I tend to fold my fabric so I can cut through a few layers at one and then line up a corner of this fabric with the markings on your self healing mat, to give a right angle. (You may need to neaten the raw edge of the fabric first, if it is not already cut in a straight line.)
Then you line up your quilting ruler to give the size you need to cut.
In the example I want to cut a width of 3 1/2 inches. It is best to use your ruler for your widths of cuts. Always remember the saying measure twice cut once. Before you cut check that the ruler is lined up properly both at the top and bottom.
There are lots of short cuts for cutting out your fabric. A good pattern will show you a cutting guide on how to cut your fabric.
You basically keep making your blocks and join them together with other blocks until you have a full row. Then make another, join the two rows together and you so on and so forth … and you will see your quilt grow before your eyes!
Accurate cutting is the first essential thing to achieve. The other things that are important are pinning your seams accurately and pressing your fabric as you sew. pressing your seams to one side, usually the darker fabric. You are then able to but the seams together when pinning the next row and get a more accurate join. Pressing the seams sets the stitching so you have your pieces the correct size.
Some modern quilters press their seams open. As a beginner it will be easier for you to press to one side. Do what suits you best.
When pinning I pay special attention to make sure that my corners and seams meet at the points before I sew. I also double check that the pins have not moved before I sew and as the machine is close to the pin before removing. Always remove your pins before sewing near them. Sewing a pin means that the needle will break or blunt on you machine and you will have to stop and change the needle and rethread your machine.
Once you have finished all your rows the borders are sewn on last (if your quilt has borders). Now you quilt top is finished. Yeah!!!
Before you can begin quilting you first need to ‘sandwich’ your batting in between your quilt top and backing fabric. This can be done on a large table or on a floor without carpet. (If you have pets or small children they love to 'help' at this stage so try to do this where they are not in the way)
First lay down your pressed backing fabric with the wrong side facing up on the floor (you may have had to join a couple of pieces together to get the right size if your quilt is large).Make sure this is smooth. I use masking tape or painters tape to secure my backing. Tape opposite corners, pulling the backing so as not to stretch the fabric but have it taut and smooth. Then tape the other two opposite corners doing the same thing. Place tape in a couple of places along the edges of the quilt back. The backing fabric should be smooth and firm now ready for the wadding to be placed on the top. Place your batting on top of the backing, hold in place with masking/painters tape, followed by your quilt top, secure the quilt top with the tape right side up. The backing fabric and and batting should be bigger than the quilt top. You can trim around the edges later.
Now you are able to start pinning through all three layers with quilters safety pins. The pins will hold all three layers together until it has been quilted. Use your fist as a guide. You should not be able to place your fist in a gap between any of the pins, if you can then more pins are needed. The more pins you use the less movement of the layers while quilting and a smoother final product you will achieve, especially on the back of the quilt.
Then draw your quilting design with a quilting pencil not a regular pencil and ruler. As a beginner quilter it is better to start quilting using simple lines following the seam lines and through the diagonals of your squares.
We can use the fist guideline for our quilting as well as pinning . The quilting holds the quilt together and if it is too far apart then the batting can move and the finished product won't look so good after it has been washed. As you quilt you remove your safety pins as you go.
When sewing your quilting use a longer stitch length, for example my normal sewing stitch length is 2.5 but when quilting I use a stitch length of 4. Take it slow , don't be a speed demon and floor that foot pedal. This will help prevent puckering of the fabric. If you have a walking foot(helps feed all three layers through the machine, you purchase these separately to suit your brand of machine) then it is a good idea to use it. The Pfaff machine has an IDT which is built in and I can engage that when ever I need the layers to be fed through evenly together.
I have had some of my quilts professionally quilted and the designs that you can have on your quilt are just beautiful. There is an extra cost to this and the quilter will like the wadding and backing to be certain sizes. if you choose to use this method check with the quilter any requirement before you cut your wadding and backing fabric.
You do not have to use bias binding for your quilts. The binding can be cut straight across the width of the fabric. The only time you need your binding cut on the bias is if you are sewing curves, this gives your binding fabric more stretch.
You can purchase precut binding fabric, but you must use 100% cotton and make sure the binding meets in the centre of the binding on the back, otherwise you will have difficulty.
I choose to make my own and then I have a much greater choice of fabric.
There are a couple of ways when it comes to sewing on your binding.
1) This is my favourite way - I cut my binding strips 2.5 inches wide across the fabric. I press in half and sew the binding to the front of the quilt with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I then fold the binding over to the back of the quilt and stitch by hand using a blind stitch.
2) I have also used this method. I prepare the binding as in 1) but I sew the binding to the back of the quilt. I fold over the binding to the front and use binding clips to secure the binding. I then sew a 1/8th inch seam to secure the binding.
Once your binding is complete, congratulations! You have just created a quilt, a work of art, a family heirloom! Well done!
I have designed a beginners quilt with step by step instructions and videos to help you with your first quilt. Click HERE
Happy quilting and many blessings