A Guide for the Beginner Quilter + Tips from Experienced Quilters


With the release of my Patchwork + Make class this week I’m on the topic of the beginner quilter.  I get quite a bit of questions in my inbox from beginners and it’s almost always the same ones, so I thought I’d take a moment today and just answer a few basic questions and then move on to the tips I’ve been collecting.

I won’t be teaching anything today, just pointing you into the right directions.


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About Quilt Patterns

Yesterday I released my Patchwork + Quilt class.  It’s made for the beginner quilter to cover EVERYTHING.  We are talking what kind of sewing machine, supplies, and then how to sew, etc, all of it.  So if you are looking to get into the nitty gritty, I’d definitely recommend that.  Besides taking a class though, what can you do?  My answer is to just do it.  It’s really the only way.  Doing is usually the only way for everything.  You can read everything all you want, but until you are there pushing bits of fabric through your machine you won’t know.  You will learn everything else as you go.

The number one question I get  is what patterns are right for me.  I always hear that the pattern doesn’t tell you.  I can’t speak for all patterns, but in  my experience that info is always something that the pattern does say.  A pattern is usually marked something like “easy” or “beginner friendly” or even “intermediate”.  If a pattern is marked easy/beginner that is a pattern for you my friend.

You are looking for the basics, almost anything that doesn’t have tiny pieces or paper piecing or curves or anything like that.  Once you’ve mastered basic straight line sewing you will be ready to move beyond it.  You are looking for half square triangle patterns or flying geese patterns, basic stars, blocks that feature less pieces or units.

Let me give you some examples:




About Techniques

Many quilters teach an array of many different methods to get the same task completed.  I always feel that you are doing yourself a favor in learning that variety of methods so that you can best determine what method YOU like and want to use.  We all do it differently!  Everyone’s method usually works for them.  That pretty much tells me that there is no wrong method.

Since I have a class on beginner quilting now, I can tell you that it’s the most comprehensive of anything else I have to offer.  Not everyone can or will take a class, but I do have some freebies to offer as well.  Some of the quality is not as great on the freebies because it’s older (and I get better at doing stuff as I go along), but it’s stuff that’s been on my blog for quite some time that may be helpful to you.


I will be updating my posts on finishing your quilt very soon with better video tutorials.


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Advice I’d like to go back in time and tell my beginner quilter self

Here are a few tips from some experienced quilters.  Hope you find this helpful!


Melanie (this first one is from me) – I’d like to tell myself that taking the time to use a little precision is in your very best interest.  It means less stress later.  Take the time to starch, take the time to trim accurately.  Don’t run around trying to skip stuff that you think is a waste of time.  IT’S NOT!

Marie – I wish I’d known about the scant 1/4″.

Cbiro – I wished I’d had a 1/4″ foot and was told to stay with 100% quality fabrics.  I started with broadcloth.  🙁  It was cheap and it melted.

Lois – I wish I’d realized the importance of the 1/4″ and having your blocks all the same size.

Angelique – I wish I’d known about ironing seams in different directions in order to nest the seams when sewing them together.

DJ – Go for it.  Perfection is way overrated.  Need proof?  Look at old quilts.  Don’t let the quilting police keep you from starting.  Keep going.

Carol – Make sure you are sewing with a correct 1/4″ seam!  This was huge for me!!  I could never figure out why my blocks were not turning out the size that the instructions called for.  I thought it was in my measuring and cutting but I would check and recheck.  Then somebody suggested to me that maybe my 1/4″ sewing foot might not be exact and sure enough.  Game changer!!

Artemis – Invest in a piecing foot that helps you to keep an even seam allowance.  Don’t skip pressing between pieces!  Take the time to pin your pieces when needed.

Kathy – Practice seam allowance.

Danielle – Seam allowances matter!  My first two quilts fell apart because I used teeny tiny seam allowances.

Jessamyn – Buy and use your favorite fabrics!!  Don’t save it for when you are better at quilting.  Buying pretty fabrics keeps me happy and motivates me to keep sewing.  I made a few things early on with ugly scraps and I wasn’t excited about making them.

Anna – Don’t give up.  You keep getting better as you practice!

Norma – I bought a Janome 9500 in Atlanta about 2007, from a dealer who sold many brands.  I had problems for ages, threads breaking, tensions going whacko, etc.  Took it back maybe 6-7 times for repairs.  I moved to Pensacola and took it to a Janome dealer.  First time I took it there, they said the needle was the problem.  We put in a Janome needle and like magic is was perfect.

Carrie – Just like with cooking, get all your materials and tools prepared before you start.  I don’t do this and am learning it takes more time if I don’t.

Brooke – Break away.  If you think you can do a technique a better way, then try it.  The more you experiment the better quilter you’ll become.  And you  may find a new way to assemble a block that makes the rest of us go oooooooo.

Jeffrey – The iron is just as important as the sewing machine, because if you don’t press the seams fully, then the 1/4″ that you were so careful with won’t matter.

Lorraine – #1- state of mind at any stage in the learning and creating process is crucial.  Be relaxed, take your time, expect “mistakes”, and have a good time.  Treats close at hand help!  #2 – Learn the basics whether its usings your machine, piecing and naturals/tools.  Learn to thread your machine, wind a bobbin and insert the bobbin correctly, because that’s what it takes to do anything else with your machine.  For piecing, learn and focus on the three basics, which are accurately pressing, cutting and sewing 1/4″ seams.  With those basics, they can make anything as they build their skills.  For materials/tools I have learned and taught that needles, thread, and rotary blades are inexpensive, but not sewing machines and fabrics.  Change your needle regularly, use a sharp blade, and use quality thread.  Also use, quality fabric.  Quilts take a lot of effort, time, and love to make.

Stephanie – Use starch when pressing.


Thanks to everyone who contributed.  If you’d like to contribute as well, please leave your advice in the comments below.


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