Tips and Tricks and Hints of Quilting

Through being a quilter, longarmer and quilt designer I've learned a few things about quilting and quilters. 

First: Quilters are the best in being willing to share their ideas, resources, and even fabric with other quilters old and new. 
Second: Not every quilter does quilting the same way. 
Third: As always in quilting --- THERE ARE NO RULES! 
Fourth: There are no Quilt Police!  

Plan and simple, to start to become a quilter you need fabric, a way to cut it into pieces and a way to reattach it to other pieces of fabric to make a totally new design. Beyond that the door is wide open. (There are several steps along the way, but we have to start someplace).

Now, are there better, easier, and preferred ways to make a quilt? Sure. And every quilter will share their 'better', 'easier', and 'preferred' way of doing it.

And so, here are my tips, tricks, hints etc. for quilting. Feel free to adopt any or all or none of them.  As time goes on I will add more and if you have any you would like to add please send me a comment or an email and I will work on getting them added here so others can read them and learn our wonderful craft.

When I first attempted to quilt many years ago I decided I could not quilt. I had cut out pieces of fabric, sewed them together to make a block and the seams just would not line up.  So... I gave up. 

Then with encouragement, the right (better for me) tools and positive attitude I was able to get my first quilt done. And the rest as they say, 'is history' - my history. 

The right tools:
1) Cutting mat
2) Rotary cutter
3) Ruler to measure and cut your fabric into pieces. 

With just those three tools you are well on your way to an easier quilting life. 

The process includes finding a pattern, and fabric. Other tools such as pins, to pin your seams so they line up better, an iron and ironing surface to press your seams..... and more. 

From there it becomes a matter of following the pattern, cutting the fabric to the right size, making enough pieces of the right color/pattern fabric to make your quilt, and sewing them together according to the pattern. 
In no particular order are tips, hints and tricks: 

Well known to quilters is the term "1/4" seam". Sewing machines may even come with a 1/4" foot, or you can purchase one for your machine. It makes a WORLD of difference and ease when stitching your pieces to make your blocks. 

If you don't have a 1/4" foot and adjust your needle so it stitched at the 1/4" line, create a way to mark your machine at the 1/4" line. Then sew ALL your pieces with the same seam allowance.  

By cutting correctly and having the correct and even seam allowance you will be able to make a better block and a better quilt.

When you have stitched your block, pressed it, double check your seams before you square it. Make sure the seams are holding, make sure your block matches what the pattern says it should look like. THEN square it up, set it aside and move on to the next one. 
This step may take a few minutes, but it is well worth the time. 

And don't feel bad if you look at your finished block and see that it is wrong. Even seasoned quilters make blocks backwards, upside down, sideways, too small or too large or just plan wrong sometimes. This is why so many quilters buy more fabric then the pattern calls for in the first place.  We all make mistakes.  That is also why our best friend is sometimes our seam ripper.  I've named mine "Jack". 

What to do when it's WRONG!

We have all been there. We are tired, we are multi tasking, we get interrupted, we rush to get something accomplished in the little spare quilting time we have. 

We painstakingly pay attention to all the steps to make a block. We finally get it done, press it, check the seams, square it up, set it down, look at the picture of the pattern and .....want to cry - we've make a mistake in placing the pieces. All that time - wasted. 

Here you have a choice - cry, scream, throw the fabric, grab the scissors to cut it into micro pieces, have a cup of coffee, or eat more chocolate, and ..... well it depends on you.   If you have the time and the patience at that time reach for your best  friend, the seam ripper, and carefully take the seams apart. If you are beyond having the patience - set everything down, turn off the sewing machine and iron and take a break. BUT--- Don't give up! 

The first few quilts I made had pieces that I had cut too short in them. I just cut an extra little piece of the same fabric, stitched it to make the correct length and went on with it. It used to bothered me until I accepted the fact that it was a quilt! A quilt is made of pieces of fabric. So I added an extra seam to it.  Unless it was a quilt for a contest I wasn't going to worry about it.  With practice I got better, and made less of these mistakes. 

If your block is too small and all the pieces are cut or sewn too small you may have to just start over with that block.  That is why you bought extra fabric in the first place right?   Just learn to deal with it and move on.  Quilting is to be for relaxing, enjoyment and a stress reliever, not a cause for stress. Don't let it get to you. 

And with those tips I'll call it a night for now. More will be coming soon. 

Welcome to a new day/evening. 

I spent part of my day quilting. I am working on a quilt that I have designed. While the previous designs I've created have been geared for the beginner this one seemed like it was too.  I am realizing that while it looks simple it is one that the quilter needs to pay attention to the layout of the quilt block and the lay out of all the blocks. The quilt is made up on just one block design. It can be assembled in random ways for a different look, or have various fabrics used for a total different look.  However, I designed it to have specific tones of single colors used and the placement has to be exact.

So the tips for today are just that - 

Follow the photo of the quilt design if you want the same look as the pattern. Any change in size of block,  how you assemble, matching seams, corners etc will change the overall look of a pattern. (Sometimes this is for the good and makes for an interesting quilt.)

This may require extra time with your seam ripper. Have I mentioned your seam ripper will become your best friend? lol 

The best  thing to do to assure accurate placement of your blocks in comparison to the pattern photo is to lay out your blocks, take a photo of them and look at your photo. It's surprising what you will notice in the photo that you will not see with just your eyes looking at your lay out. 

 When sewing the pieces together to make your squares and them to make your blocks you can get better matched seams if you take the time to pin the pieces at each intersection of seams.  Guide your piece carefully through your sewing machine and adjust the seam allowance which may tend to fold over the wrong way while you sew. 


When you are pressing your squares, and blocks there is a general 'rule' to press to the dark fabric. At times you will wonder which fabric is the 'dark' fabric so this 'rule' is hard to follow. 

Unlike in sewing clothes where you press the seams open, you will want to press the seams to one side or the other. And to alternate which direction they go so when you attach one piece to the other they will as flat as possible. 

As always - take your time, enjoy the process. Some quilts will take no time at all to complete. Others will take years. Don't get discouraged. Keep going.  Also, don't worry that you have to finish one quilt before you start another. Just ask any quilter how many quilt projects they have going at one time! Rarely do we have just one! 

Happy Quilting!

For further Tips and Tricks and some tutorials check out other areas on this blog:

For Tutorial on cutting your fabric:

For ideas on how to store your patterns:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for covering what to do when it is wrong. I think we have all had that feeling of being too close to the project and not realizing that something really big is wrong. You make a good point about quilting being a relaxing activity. Getting worked up about this kind of stuff isn't good for you or the quilt.