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Starting Your First Quilt

Starting your first quilting project can be a daunting task. There are so many questions, and many of them can’t be answered until you have just sat down and gotten started. My biggest ones were:

How do I baste a quilt top without getting the back all bunched up?

How do I piece so that the blocks are the same size and the corners match up?

What the heck is a miter?

Can I machine stitch my binding?

Why do I have to pick a simple design?

Is there any way to make this go faster?

The list went on and on. Before I knew it, I was spending more time worrying about the next step than actually doing it. My first quilt is a testament to how limited we can be by our own head. First I decided that basting a whole big quilt top was just too difficult so I quilted each block separately.

Unfortunately I didn’t think too much about what I was going to do to put them together. After much tedious playing around with the blocks I ended up satin stitching them together. The result is a quilt that is not very durable or well put together. I also didn’t prewash my fabric and the darker colors bled into the white sashing.

I learned a bunch from that experience and thought I would share the things I wish I could have done differently:

  • Find a quilting friend – they don’t have to have all the answers, but having a mentor really helps with your first quilting project. If you don’t like that idea, then do your research. Read, read, and read some more about any aspect of the quilt making process that is keeping you up at night. You might even consider taking a class on beginning quiltmaking. This is a great way to meet new people and learn a lot at the same time.
  • Start small – I know you might not like this, but making a Gargantuan Monster Quilt is very hard and the experience will be anything but fun. I think 50″ x 50″ is a good starting size. It’s just big enough to cozy up with on the couch, but not so large that you’ll be working on it for a year.
  • Design it yourself – I know this might strike some people as crazy, but I’m serious. I think designing your first project is a great way to see just how big the world of quilting is. I designed the block layout of my first quilt and am still very happy with how it visually turned out.
  • Quality control – This is your very first quilt. You want it to last right? Work hard then to make sure it won’t fall apart the first time you wash it. This is where I feel I messed up the most. My first quilt is still in one piece, but eventually I will have to sandwich and baste it again with a new batting and backing so that it all stays together. Also if you don’t wish to prewash your fabric (and I completely empathize with you), make sure you use a dye-grabber so that your white areas stay white.
  • Be Okay with Simple – Quilting is a challenging hobby to get into. Most people assume wrongly that if they can sew, then they can quilt. Quilting is not sewing, there are many more rules involved, so do yourself a favor and be okay with a simple first quilt. These first few quilts will really teach you a lot so that later you can create the more technically challenging designs with ease.

Quilting is so much fun and it really is a wonderfully rewarding hobby. It can be intimidating to get into, but as long as you take the time, and maybe even a few classes, your first quilt will be a big success!

Happy Quilting,

Leah Day

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2 Responses

  1. My friend the sewing queen is making a quilt for her 25th anniversary with quilt blocks made by their friends. We met this couple at a baby group many years ago and I wanted to perhaps do a block remembering that. I love to embroider and do some machine sewing for our kids costumes mostly. I have never done a quilt block so have no idea how to get started.

  2. Very helpful. Thank you, this is the basic information needed when you starting out blind, without previous experience / know how. Thank you!

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