In honor of this anniversary, I'm going to share with you photos of some of the quilts I've made in the last 12 months and what I've learned along the way. Who doesn't love a good list, right? Especially one that might save you some frustration!
1. Contrast is your friend
If you want to see the details in the blocks, you'll need some color or value contrast. I thought my Mod Sampler Quilt Along would be a home run by virtue of selecting all Amy Butler prints, but I was wrong. Some blocks had enough contrast to pack a punch, but others just blended into nothing.
2. Read the entire pattern before you start sewing
This one makes me laugh. I mean, duh! My mom told me this a hundred times when she was teaching me to sew.
3. Square up your blocks
4. Get advice from seasoned quilters
5. Be flexible and find other solutions
It's easy to get caught up in the euphoria of quilting. You're desperate to see the final product so you speed through the process. My dears, this can lead to serious problems.
|Hello Betty Retro Square in a Square quilt
Take the time to square up your blocks. Please! When I made this quilt I thought, "well, I cut all the pieces and I know I'm really precise, so I'm sure all the blocks are the same size." WRONG!
In the original pattern, all the blocks line up in perfect columns and rows. But in order for this to happen, the blocks must be the same size.
My blocks were not the same size. Sadly, I didn't figure that out until I had already sewn all the vertical sashing on all seven rows. The columns didn't line up at all when I laid out the quilt with the horizontal sashing.
I wanted to cry. The option was to rip out massive amounts of sewing or make the best of the situation. My friend and quilting doula, Clemma, suggested that I offset the rows to hide my mistake. It took some ripping and recalculating, but it turned out fine. Three cheers for making lemonade out of lemons!
6. Make small projects
Small projects are a great way to unwind after a monster quilt. You get immediate gratification as well as a chance to learn and experiment. Make a mug rug or a wall hanging. You'll love it!
|Wall hanging made with one Kona charm pack
|some of my Quilt-a-Day minis
6. Have no fear of large prints
Have a beautiful piece of fabric that you just can't bear to cut up? Then don't. Make a whole cloth quilt, instead.
|Sorry about the wrinkles - another lesson is to buy really good batting!
Quilting doesn't have to be a competition. Not every quilt needs to be made up of a million teeny tiny pieces. Large prints are great fun to work with and they turn themselves into quilt tops mighty fast!
|Inspired by windows panes
7. Invest in the tools of the trade
Buy a walking foot if you're planning to do straight line quilting.
I quilted this one without a walking foot. I was pleased with the results, but I must admit my walking foot (or even feed foot) makes quilting much easier and less "puckery." Also, I can't recommend painters' tape enough for marking the sewing lines, but steer clear of generic brands as they won't stick to your fabric.
Planning to free motion quilt? You absolutely, positively must have quilting gloves (lotion alone will not give you enough grip) and an extension table for your sewing machine or a table specially designed for quilting. You'll also need a way to sit up higher in your chair. Sit on pillows or a phone book (what's that??) if your chair isn't adjustable.
One tool I've discovered I don't need is binding clips. They slowed me down as I hand sewed and they compressed and distorted the fabric, making the binding look uneven. Save your money for something else.
8. Plan ahead
If you like the look of improvised quilts, hooray! You're home free. If you like your quilts neat and matchy-matchy (that would be me), then you need to plan ahead. Select your backing and binding fabrics before you start piecing your top. Do all the fabrics looks nice together? Does the backing fabric make sense with the overall intention of the quilt? This situation has bitten me in the butt three times now. Will I ever learn??
I came up with the pattern for this quilt months ago and jumped in with both feet. I didn't select my backing fabric until I had finished the top, at which point I really wished I had used an ivory solid in the gingham that would have coordinated with the backing fabric rather than white.
Here's another one. I didn't have any backing for a top I just pieced, so I headed to my local quilt shop, Glad Creations Quilt Block, and found a suitable fabric for the backing on the 50% off rack. Hooray for a sale, but directional prints can be such a hassle to match up when piecing a back. I didn't have to match up the print, but it would have been really obvious if I hadn't.
|See my seams? Not perfect, but good enough.
9. Do the math
The quilt top above will get a double border before it's done, but it's still pretty small. I used two charm packs of Moda's Charlevoix plus a couple of American Jane Pindot charms. What was I expecting from two charm packs? A king size quilt?? Look how much backing fabric I bought. FOUR YARDS for a quilt that will be a small throw at best. Good grief!!
Draw out your quilt design. Make your calculations and figure out your fabric requirements ahead of time. What's worse than buying too much of the same fabric (and cutting into your stash fund)? Not having enough! Take the time to figure out what you need.
I never thought I would like quilting. No way, no how. I grew up sewing clothes and doing home dec stuff. But man, quilting is so fun and the possibilities are endless. Even if you're a die hard garment maker, try it. You might just love it.
That's enough from me today. What's your favorite tip for a quilting newbie?