So you want to make quilts?!
I am very big on the idea of helping new quilt makers get started. Let’s make sure that quilt making doesn’t become a thing of the past by spreading this skill around and keeping it going for future generations. Let’s support each other. You need it, I need it. On this page, you will find a comprehensible list of links to tutorials, basics, supplies, classes and more.
Got a question? Ask me here.
So fabric. Fabric! In my opinion fabric is the most important, most exciting, most gushable part of quilt making. I could go on for days, but let’s skip squealing and hand clapping and get to what you really need to know.
Where do you get it
If you live in an area where there is a proper quilt shop that sales fabric, you should definitely go and have a look around. All quilt shops are not created exactly the same. Some quilt shops lean towards traditional fabric, some are more modern. The choosing of fabric in person is not something that can be overestimated. It’s almost magical, plus there are people that work there that probably know a thing or two about the quilting world. If you find a quilt shop you like, support it.
Small note here: The fabric that you can buy in big box stores like Hobby Lobby, Walmart, etc. is not the same caliber of fabric from designer fabric manufacturers. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve bought it, I’ve used it, I’ve even enjoyed it, but when you hold one in one hand and a designer fabric in the other, you WILL notice the difference. Occasionally, I know Hobby Lobby has had designer fabrics among it’s own brands as well. This is not meant to discourage you from these fabrics. If you love them, use them.
For the rest of us who live in towns where places like that do not exist, we have to purchase online. Here’s my round up of my favorite online fabric shops:
- Fat Quarter Shop
- Bobbie Lou’s Fabric Factory
- Ava and Neve
- Modern Quilter
- A Needle in a Fabric Stash
- Hawthorne Threads
- Pink Castle Fabrics
Every Monday, I post a bundle of fabric and where I purchased it from. I use and try out different shops. Find all of those posts here.
Cuts and Sizes of Fabric
Fabric is sold in several different ways. Before we go through them in detail, let’s get a few things straight.
- Quilting cotton fabric is MOSTLY created with a width of about 42-44″.
- When cut from the bolt it is always folded in half. So if you purchase one yard of fabric, your fabric is cut 36″ long and when you unfold it, it will measure 42/44″ by 36″.
- Fabric is sold in yards (in US). You can buy a yard, a half yard, a quarter yard. You can also buy these pieces broken up even smaller.
Fabrics are designed by collections. Collections can have anywhere from 8-20 fabrics within them and then they will break them up into color palettes. These collections are a group of fabrics made to belong together. You could purchase a half yard bundle of a whole collection and receive enough fabric for multiple quilts.
Let’s discuss breaking down fabrics even more. These are called “pre-cuts”. A pre-cut is any fabric that is not cut by the whole width (that 42/44″ number). This means you could get a bigger variety of fabric for the money, though it does mean less of each print. Let’s take a look at some popular pre-cuts.
I feel like Fat Quarter Shop does an excellent job of having pre-cuts available to us. Here’s a list of what you could purchase:
- Fat Quarters – A fat quarter is a half yard of fabric cut in half. It’s measurement is 18×22″. It is probably the most popular of the pre-cuts. You will find a lot of patterns that are friendly toward fat quarter cuts of fabric. Find fat quarter bundles here.
- Fat Eighths – A fat eighth is a fat quarter cut in half. It’s measurement is 9×21″. By purchasing a fat eighth bundle you could receive an entire collection of fabrics. This makes buying a whole collection that you love even easier. Find fat eighth bundles here.
- Jelly Rolls – A jelly roll is a strip of fabric measuring 2.5×42/44″ taken from every fabric in a collection and rolled up together. If you know you are making a strip quilt or need a bunch of 2.5″ squares then this might be a good option for you. Half the work is already done for you. Find jelly rolls here.
- Layer Cakes – A layer cake is every fabric within a collection cut into a 10″ square. A layer cake will usually contain about 40ish 10″ squares, one from each fabric in the collection. Find layer cakes here.
- Charm Packs – A charm pack is the same thing as a layer cake except the fabric is cut into a 5″ square. Find charm packs here.
- Mini Charm Packs – A mini charm pack is the same thing as a layer cake except the fabric is cut into a 2.5″ square. Find mini charms packs here.
Styles, Types of Fabric and Other Details
When quilt maker’s are talking about fabric and patterns there are lots of words that are getting thrown out there that you might not know if you are just starting your journey into quilt making. Here are a few words that describe specific types of fabrics:
- Solids – A solid fabric is a fabric that has no design on it. It’s just one single color. Find solid fabrics here.
- Prints – A print fabric is a fabric that has a design on it. Florals and geometric are just some of the types of print fabric. Find print fabrics here.
- Low Volume – A low volume is a type of print fabric that reads as very light or white. I wrote a post about low volume prints here. You can find low volumes to purchase here.
- Tonals – A tonal is a type of print fabric that is one color on color. For example, the background of the print is orange, and the design is a different shade of orange. Find tonals here.
- Novelty – A novelty print is a print fabric that has theme to it or a conversation starter. They are sometimes cutsie or quirky. Find novelty prints here.
When you are first beginning your journey into quilt making, you may feel overwhelmed about the supplies. Let’s break it down into the basics and then everything else.
First and foremost, you will want a sewing machine. If you are unsure if making quilts is going to be something you stick with, you may want to go a little cheaper in this department. If you could borrow a sewing machine or find a used one you could definitely test the waters before shelling out a few hundred dollars.
I feel like the sewing machine is empowering. Whatever you want, pillows, dresses, Halloween costume, curtains, quilts, you can make all that EXACTLY the way you want it with a sewing machine. So naturally, I feel like you will want your own, but only you can really decide that.
I have owned a parade of sewing machines from the very cheap to the pricier ones. When you are first starting out, it may be smart to stick with something more basic.
I have purchased at least five machines from Sewing Machines Plus.
You can make a quilt on ANY sewing machine, but you will find out that some sewing machines will make the process easier than others. Some are even specially made for quilters.
I’m currently using a Juki 2000Qi for all of my piecing and a Bernina 550QE (this model has been discontinued) for quilting and all decorative stitches.
But what do I really need? You want a sewing machine that has a:
- Quarter inch foot. Sometimes called a patchwork foot.
- Feed dogs that drop. This will enable you to free motion quilt.
- A darning foot. This will also allow you to free motion quilt.
- A walking foot. This is the best tool for straight line quilting and having even fabric feeding for complicated fabric and binding.
You will need the following supplies to get started on your first quilt:
- rotary cutter – I like this one. I have a review of it here.
- rotary cutting mat – I have this one. A review of this is in the above link with my rotary cutter.
- a basic ruler – This is used to help you cut a straight line of fabric with your rotary cutter. For that reason, you want it to span at least a half yard of fabric to be the most versatile. 6×24″ is in my opinion the most perfect size on most of your cutting when using a rotary cutter. I like this ruler, it doesn’t slide much. Havel’s also has a ruler that works very well if you purchase their cutting mat too. Find it here.
- scissors – I use scissors mostly for cutting threads at my sewing machine. I like Havel’s cutting products, because I feel they are sharper than other’s. These are used at my sewing machine for snipping threads and such. I use these for almost everything else.
- thread – I’m currently using Sulky threads, available here. I like the 50 wt cotton for my sewing machine work.
- a half square triangle ruler – I guess this is not actually a “basic” item, but I use it so much and so often that it feels very difficult to make a quilt without it. Find it here, thank me later.
There will be lots of more items you may want to pick up along your journey, but the above list should get you started. Find other quilt making tools I like here.
I like to review products that are new to me from time to time. You can find those posts here.
I’ve created a page that includes some basics video tutorials that you will do over and over again while making a quilt. Find that page here.
On that page you will find:
- a rundown of your basic supplies
- how to cut fabric
- what is right sides together and what is a 1/4″ seam
- how to alternate and nest seams for better piecing
- how to make half square triangles
- how to make flying geese
- how to add corners to rectangles
- how to use a seam ripper
- how to sew on a quilt label
- how to combine fabrics
- how to machine bind a quilt
- how to free motion quilt a basic meander
- how to spray baste a quilt on the wall
- how to nest seams and pressing tips
- how to make better half square triangles
- better cutting methods
- how to chain piece
A quilt pattern is the design of the quilt, not to be confused with the fabrics within it (I’ve heard lots of people refer to patterns as fabrics. This is incorrect.). The pattern is the shapes within the quilt. Some common examples of quilt patterns are Dresden quilts, Nine Patch quilts, Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. Find a vast page of different quilt patterns right here.
I do like to design quilt patterns. You can find them here:
The best way to build your skills quilt making is to make sampler quilts, join a bee, or a quilt along. Get involved with the quilting community on Instagram (I’m here on Instagram and would love you to say “hi”). It’s super fun over there! Follow a bunch of quilting accounts and get in on the conversations.
Please don’t hesitate to ask me a question or comment. I’m always here to help you and I enjoy doing just that.
You will find that most of the online or even in person quilting community feels just the same way. I’ve never been a part of anything else that was as nice of a community than quilting is. People are kind and most are completely willing to help you on your journey. Say something nice about someone else’s quilt. Be supportive, leave comments. You never know what someone else is going through or how much they might need you to say just one kind word.
I have several posts on different thoughts, some technical, some just musings. Here’s a few:
- Thoughts on different methods, style and tastes – There are several posts on a variety of topics from using mini boards for difficult block making to methods of purchasing fabrics more mindfully.
- The What is Series – This series covers lots of questions for the new quilt maker, plus methods I use to stay organized.
If you are interested in taking classes with video lessons. I have taken classes and have subscriptions to the following:
- Creative Bug – I love Creative Bug. I can’t say enough good things about the quality of their video classes. I’ve been a subscriber for years and even when the class is on something I already know how to do, I still watch it. I always pick up small tips that I’ll use to make my own way of doing things even better. A few classes that I would recommend: Big Stitch Hand Quilting, Flying Gosling Baby Quilt, Mod Corsage Quilts, and Creating Color Palettes.
- Craftsy – Craftsy is a little different than Creative Bug in that you can have a monthly subscription and watch all the classes you want, but you can also just purchase individual classes without a subscription. Craftsy also has a bunch of free classes available that I found immensely helpful to a beginner. Here’s a few classes that I enjoyed: Fabric Play, Pre-Cut Piecing Made Easy, Word Play, and Playful Piecing Techniques.
You Tube also has endless free tutorials for almost everything you might want to know. You can view my own You Tube videos and page here.