Top Tips for Beginning Quilters

As I've been reorganizing my fabric, I've been thinking about what I feel is important for new quilters to know.  

1.  Buy the best machine you can afford.  $100 sewing machines are generally not your friends.  Avoid the hassle and buy a nicer machine, even if you have to save up for a long time.

2.  Buy a 1/4" foot for your machine.  There are branded and generic ones available for pretty much every machine--consult your sewing machine dealer.

3.  If possible, get a straight stitch throat plate--again, consult your dealer.

4.  If you are having trouble getting an accurate 1/4" with just the foot, buy and install a seam guide to help you.  Getting an accurate seam takes time and practice, but is worth the effort.

5.  Use the best quality thread you can afford.  Make sure it is actually a piecing or all-purpose thread.  Don't sew with decorative or embroidery threads (Sulky, for example)--they are not meant to hold together seams.

6.  Use pins.  I think pinning is one of the most helpful steps you can take for accuracy.  Pin your beginnings, ends, intersections, and anywhere else you need help holding the fabric together.  Just don't sew over the pins!

7.  Measure and cut accurately.  If you aren't sure how, ask for help.

8.  Press your fabric and your seams.  Make sure your seams aren't twisted--where the end of the seam is going a different direction than the rest of the seam.

9.  Be willing to rip apart and redo if things don't fit correctly.

10.  Don't buy fabric just to buy fabric.  After folding and sorting some 20 year old fabric, this one really hits home for me.  Tastes change, colors change, you change.  Buy only what you are realistically going to use within a year or two.  Trust me, it doesn't feel good to see a bunch of really old fabric sitting in your stash that you don't even like anymore.  See bottom of this post for an example.

11.  Try hard to finish what you start before starting something new.  I know, easier said than done.

12.  Use your scraps.  If you aren't going to use them, pass them along to someone who will.

13.  Make sure you don't have holes in your seams.  Check this during pressing at each step.

14.  Don't use the very cheapest batting unless you are hand quilting.

15.  Learn how to properly apply binding.  Here's a free tutorial I made.

16.  Always measure your own blocks for sashing lengths and border lengths.  DO NOT just sew a giant length of fabric to your top and cut off the excess.  I cannot stress how important this is.  Your quilt will not lie flat if you apply your sashings and borders incorrectly.   Long arm quilting exacerbates the waviness.  Applying your borders correctly will make your entire quilt look much better and more professional.  Please download my free guide to applying borders to learn the correct method.  

What tips would you add to this list?

Here's some of what I've been up to lately.

1.  I finished quilting Nakeetah's quilt.  This is the first one I did on my new long arm!
2.  I'm working on a secret sewing project.  I'm proud to say that I am using fabric from one of my UFOs to complete this project.  This fabric line is Gooseberry from Lella Boutique.  I think it's five years old now? Luckily I had the exact amounts I needed.
3.  This fabric will be the backing for my Morewood Mystery quilt.  I need to buy fabrics for the front.  I found one piece in my stash that might work, but I generally don't buy pieces over half a yard, so I need to go shopping. It's not too late to join in.  This month's task is fabric selection.  August will be for cutting, and the sewing starts in September.
4.  I found both of these larger-sized pieces of fabric in my stash and I think they could work as backings for Quilts for Kids quilts.  I am going to try my hardest to use more of my older fabrics.
5.  I also pulled fabrics from my stash to make another Quilts for Kids quilt.  Making quilts for charity is a great way to practice your skills.  Quilts for Kids is one I like because the amount of fabric you need is minimal and the blocks are repetitive, which gives you a great way to practice your seam allowances and cutting.  And your proper border application. 😉  I use them to try out different quilting designs.
6.  In the don't buy fabric unless you are going to use it right away category, I pulled this 20+ year old bunch of quilt-shop quality fabric from my stash.  The top row of fabrics were things I found that kinda coordinate. Anyway, what was I thinking with this???  There are two panel-type fabrics and they are weird.
Please be considerate of others and wear a mask when in public for your sake and theirs.  This goes for social gatherings too.  Proper distance and a mask.  Please.

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