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Basic Quilt Making Skills – for beginners

Complete Basics

If you already have sewn some, then some of what we are learning today you may already know.  If you’ve bought your very first sewing machine with big plans to jump straight into quilt making then this will be even more helpful to you.

We will walk through some of the basics including:  how to cut fabric with a rotary cutter, right sides together, 1/4″ seam allowance, pressing seams open, alternating seams, nesting seams, proper pressing techniques, making some basic building blocks including half square triangles and flying geese.

If I had known some of these techniques when I first started quilting I might not have had such a hard time of it.  I very vividly remember cutting fabric with a pair of scissors on the carpet in total frustration.  You don’t want to be that person.

Today, I’m going to talk about these skills and then explain why we use them.

If you already know these skills, but are struggling with them. I have a class called Precision Workshop that goes into depth with “struggles”. Read more about that here.

Cutting Fabric

Cutting fabric with a rotary cutter is the quickest and most precise way to cut fabric.  It’s easier to get perfectly shaped pieces when used correctly.

You’ll notice in some of my videos that I’m lining up the lines on my ruler with the lines on my cutting mat.  Both are used together to cut accurately. This isn’t the only way to cut, but it’s the only way I cut.

Always make sure that your fabric has been pressed and starched, and always begin cutting fabric by trimming off a bit at the beginning.  This will insure that you are start exactly where you “think” you are starting with a clean edge.

I have done numerous quilt alongs. In the majority of the most recent quilt alongs, “week 1” always begins with a cutting tutorial. Here’s a few of the most recent below. Mariposa or Lulu is probably the most extensive. The Hello Posy week 1 video includes a fussy cutting tutorial.

Right Sides Together

In quilt making, we are always putting the pieces right sides together and sewing on the back of our fabric pieces.  This keeps the seams hidden inside your quilt.

1/4″ Seam Allowance

If you are used to sewing clothing, then the 1/4″ seam will be new to you.  Seams in garment making are usually much bigger than that.  It’s important to be sure that you are sewing with a 1/4″ seam at all times when piecing a quilt, as this can decide whether you end up with blocks that are a bit short or a bit too big.  Unless you are instructed otherwise, always sew with a 1/4″ seam.

Some sewing machines will come with a 1/4″ foot or a patchwork foot.  These feet make it much easier to know where the 1/4″ mark is on your machine, but if your machine does not have one, don’t despair.  There will be a line on your sewing machine to guide you.

Seam allowance is the MOST IMPORTANT thing ever when it comes to your piecing. If you are frustrated, take my Precision Workshop class. It was created to solve struggles.



Happyfolk Quilt

Alternating Seams

The purpose of alternating seams is to create less bulk and help your points lining up.  Don’t go around thinking that this is nothing for you to bother with (like me in my early days).  You may end up very frustrated with your finished quilts if you skip out on this. Check out the week 2 videos of any of the quilt alongs below for more details about alternating seams.

Nesting Seams

I love nesting my seams!  And I really love my points lining up correctly.  That is the whole purpose of nested seams.  The week 2 videos of the quilt alongs above also cover this in detail.

Open Seams

We press our seams open to reduce bulk in your quilt top.  Bulk in your quilt top can cause broken needles when you begin quilting your quilt. It also helps everything lay nicely, makes getting precision easier and overall looks better. I use open seams for half square triangles, half rectangle triangles and all my cross seams within my blocks.

Proper Pressing

Before you cut your fabric, feel free to iron it the same way you iron clothing, but once it’s cut into a shape, particularly a triangle shape, iron no more. “Press” instead. Pressing is literally setting the iron onto the fabric and then removing it and pressing again. Up and down, up and down. If you were to iron over a half square triangle, you can bet that it is no longer perfectly square.

Basic Block Building

I have a video tutorial collection for basic block units, you know the ones we use over and over again within a multitude of blocks. Here’s a running list of what I have available:

Are you just learning to quilt? Check out my series created especially with the brand new quilter in mind.



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