Have you ever admired a beautifully-made quilt in someone’s home or in a store? If so, you may have wondered what kind of skill is required to make such a beautiful quilt and if you would be able to do it.
Well, to answer your question, anyone can quilt and you don’t need any special equipment or machines! All you need is a willingness to learn and some enthusiasm to learn all you can about this thoroughly enjoyable pastime.
This beginner’s guide to quilting will touch on everything you need to know as a beginner and how you can also create exquisite quilts for your own home.
Ask any quilter and they will tell you that there is nothing more relaxing or better than sitting down and peacefully working on a quilt.
Quilting is a great way to pass the time during cold, winter evenings and times when you don’t feel like venturing outside.
Definition of quilting.
The actual process of quilting refers to making quilts by sewing various layers of patterned fabric together. There are some special skills involved in putting a quilt together but these skills are easy to master and there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to enjoy quilting.
Some quilters specialize in certain kinds of quilts, while others enjoy making a wide range of different quilts to keep things exciting.
Types of quilts include, lap quilts, heirloom quilts, mini quilts and quilted clothing. You can also make quilted homeware (such as tea cozies, table mats and cushions).
Many families have passed down the skill of quilting from one generation to the next and some of them have special ways of making quilts.
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of people becoming interested in quilting and it shows no signs of slowing down. This is evidenced in the number of quilting specialist stores and classes that are now available.
History of quilting.
Quilting has been around for several hundred years and actually has its origins in medieval times. The word “quilt” was first used in England in the 13th century and means “cushion” in the Latin language.
When quilting first began in medieval times, the most common objects made were covers for beds. These tended to be incredibly intricate and a lot of time and effort was made designing these bed quilts and they would routinely be passed down from generation to generation.
In modern times, it is still common practice to make a quilt as an heirloom.
Sometimes, in medieval times, quilts were used as effective jackets and other pieces of clothing to keep people warm. Quilted clothing was very popular amongst the nobility in England and Scotland and many historical quilted items can still be viewed in museums today.
Over time, quilting became a popular hobby and soon saw folks in Europe, and then later the USA also jumping on the bandwagon.
How to begin quilting.
Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert sewer to be good at quilting. You also don’t need fancy equipment, making it ideal if you are on a budget.
Many quilters do not even have a sewing machine and this is not a problem because you can easily quilt by hand. In fact, many quilters enjoy sewing their quilts by hand as they find this more enjoyable.
In this beginner’s guide to quilting, we will provide you with all the information you need to get started. Let’s take a look!
How does quilting work?
The quilting process involves sewing three layers of patterned fabric together. This is done by using a special stitching technique which can be carried out by hand or by using a sewing machine.
Quilts, with their 3 layers sewn together, are known as a sandwich.
The following layers of fabric will form a quilt sandwich:
- The quilt top (this is the top layer of fabric)
- The bottom layer or backing layer of fabric
- The middle layer consisting of a layer of batting material or wadding.
Depending on your preferences and whether or not you have a sewing machine or not, you can use a range of different quilting stitches. These are also known as knots.
When it comes to quilting stitches, these range from simple beginner’s stitches to more elaborate stitching that quilting experts use.
In terms of a machine, many quilters simply use a basic sewing machine for their quilts and this is perfectly acceptable and will serve you well. Other quilters like to use a special quilting machine, also known as a long arm machine. These are so-called because they provide a bigger area in which to hold your quilt in place.
A long arm machine makes it easy to feed very large quilts through the sewing section of the machine.
Whether you choose to hand stitch your quilts or you would prefer to use a machine, quilting stitches are normally quite small and are spaced very close together. This is done so that the fabric cannot move and shift around while you are making your quilt.
What are the benefits of quilting?
If you are looking for a new and fun hobby, quilting is definitely the way to go! There are countless benefits to quilting and the following are just a few:
1) It is very relaxing.
What most people mention when they start quilting is how relaxing it is. You can do it in front of the TV and on the couch or while listening to music or an audiobook. After a stressful day in the office, it is wonderful to come home to a calming session of quilting where you can toss all your cares aside and simply focus on making a gorgeous quilt.
2) You can do it anywhere!
While most people quilt at home, some like to quilt with a group of friends. You can quilt on the bus, while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and while traveling in a car. The possibilities are endless and all you need is some time to dedicate to your new hobby.
3) It has a great end result.
After many productive quilting sessions, you will eventually have a beautiful quilted object that you can show off. Put it on your bed, couch or chair and enjoy your creative work of art!
4) Anyone can do it!
As mentioned above, you don’t need any special skills to be able to quilt. All you need is a willingness to enjoy it.
How to make a quilt.
So, how is a quilt actually made? Well, this beginner’s guide to quilting is going to show you exactly how you can make a quilt. We will take you through the process step by step so that there is no room for confusion.
Steps to making a patchwork quilt top.
There is a very logical process to making a patchwork quilt top.
First, you will need to select a fabric for your quilt. You will then need to cut out square shapes for the quilt and then sew them together. This makes your quilt top and there are a number of ways in which you can do this and it will all be down to your own personal preference.
For instance, you could opt for curved piecing which gives you a lovely, rounded look your quilt. Log cabin quilts are also very popular and but, as a beginner, you will probably be better off starting with a four-patch quilt block.
The process is quite simple and all you need to do is to cut out a number of fabric squares. You then need to sew them together to make bigger squares consisting of 4 smaller squares. Whether you hand stitch the squares together or you use a sewing machine is entirely up to you.
Here is the process you would use to make your patchwork quilt top:
Measure out four equal sized fabric squares and carefully cut them out. This is the foundation of your 4 patch block.
Some quilters like to use different colored fabric and which colors and patterns you choose is up to you and the style you want for the quilt.
If you are a beginner, we recommend cutting out squares that measure 12 x 12 inches.
Take 2 of the squares and put them with the right sides together. Next, you’ll need to pin them together and create a seam by sewing along the edges. The seam should measure a quarter of an inch. Press your seam so that it is open on one side and then do the same with the remaining squares so that you have 2 pairs.
Take 2 squares and then place them with the right sides together. You will then pin them together and sew around the edges so that they are joined. Create a 1/4 inch seam and then press the seam so that it’s open on one side. Repeat the process with your remaining squares so that you have 2 pairs.
Press 2 pairs of squares so that the right sides are together. Be sure to line up the edges so that they are seamless in the top and the bottom. Each seam should line up nicely and, once you are happy with their appearance, pin them together, sew it up and then press the seam.
Position your quilt block so that the right side is facing up. Make sure that the centre point (where the 4 squares join up) is in alignment. If not, reposition the squares so that they match up seamlessly.
Now you can make some more 4 patch blocks and then sew them together to make bigger groups od 4 squares. Once done, you now have a quilt top!
Once you have completed your first quilt top, you can square your quilt tops. This means that you need to trim the edges so that it looks neat and there are no loose pieces of fabric.
Take a cutting mat and place your fabric on top. Ensure that there is a selvedge lined up with the horizontal marking. Take a look at the right side of the fabric and make sure that it is alignment with the horizontal line. If not, do a little trimming so that it matches up. Repeat the process on the other side of your piece of fabric.
Making a quilt sandwich.
The next step after making your quilt top is to proceed with a quilt sandwich. If you’ve never heard of this term before, it refers to the layering of your quilt top to include backing and wadding.
Another name for wadding is batting and this is available at most fabric stores or quilt shops.
Take a piece of wadding and shake it out. Then lay it so that it’s flat on your work surface. You may want to iron it on a cool setting but do so carefully as this fabric is quite delicate.
You can now cut your wadding so that it is smaller in size to the backing material but still bigger than the quilt top.
You can then proceed to make your quilt sandwich as follows:
The firs step is to prepare the 3 components to your quilt sandwich. You begin by gently ironing the quilt on either side. Make sure that the seams are pressed neatly and trim off any loose fabric or thread.
You will then need to cut out your backing and wadding, ensuring that they are both a few inches bigger than your quilt top.
Your sandwich can now be joined together by using thread, glue or pins.
Position your backing fabric on a flat surface, ensuring that it’s the correct side down and smooth out any creases.
Position your wadding over the backing and remove any creases.
Place your quilt top on your work surface so that it is on top of the wadding. The layers can be joined together using tape.
Join all 3 layers together by tacking them and work from the middle and the outwards. Instead of tacking, you could also pin them together or use a special quilting glue.
Quilting in depth.
After you have made your quilt sandwiches, you can now turn them into a real quilt. This is where the fun begins and you can now get creative by seeing in straight lines, vertical lines, in patterns or using free-motion stitching. It is up to you how you want your quilt to look.
The way in which you sew your quilt to create a decorative effect is one of the most important aspects of quilting. This is what gives your quilt its uniqueness and character.
We recommend marking your quilting design on the fabric before you assemble your quilt sandwich. This can be done with chalk, pencil or tape.
If you are a beginner, it is much easier to start with straight line quilting as this is the most straightforward stitch. This requires minimal marking on the quilt sandwich and, once you master this, you can move onto other, more interesting stitching methods.
The following are some of the most popular stitching techniques in quilting:
1) Contour or outline quilting.
This is done following the patchwork outlines in your fabric. You would normally stitch less than an inch away from the seams for a pretty and neat effect.
2) In-the-ditch quilting.
This beautiful stitch done is achieved by following the natural lines in your patchwork block or the smaller squares within it. This can also be done using a machine but is also fun to do by hand.
3) Echo quilting.
Echo quilting is quite similar to outline quilting but it involves repeating the shapes lines over and over until you have a rippling effect.
4) Grid or crosshatch quilting.
This unique stitching technique is done by sewing parallel lines in a square pattern to add additional creativity to your quilt.
Quilting tips and tricks.
Like any area in life, in quilting there are certain tips and tricks to make your life easier.
Here are some useful hints for this beginner’s guide to quilting:
If you want a neat a finish as possible, mark off your patterns before starting with the stitching. Sometimes you might not need to mark the patterns off, especially if the patchwork design is easy to follow. Marking off your patterns can be done with a pencil or upholstery pen. Some quilters make a crease where they need to sew but how you do this is down to personal preference.
Cutting quilting fabric is best done with a rotary cutter. It can be quite tricky mastering the cutting technique with a rotary cutter so we recommend using a quilting ruler to make sure you don’t make any mistakes.
When using a rotary cutter, be sure to cut away from you and always replace the rotary guard when you are done. Rotary cutters are extremely sharp and can easily injure you!
It is also a good idea to keep your fingers free of the cutter and try and replace the blade when it is showing signs of becoming blunt.
With a rotary cutter, you should always cut fabric pieces that are at right angles to one another and along the straight grain. This will help to ensure that your quilting technique is as accurate as possible.
Tracing designs can be done on your quilting fabric before you add your backing and
batting material. This is done by jotting your design on a piece of paper in a dark marker or pen. You will then need to fix this underneath a light course and then carefully place your quilt top over it.
Once this has been done, you can trace your pattern onto the quilting fabric with a pencil. Remember to trace slowly but surely and not to rush the process as this can result in errors.
If you are tracing only part of a pattern, you can do this in stages by repositioning your fabric and the pattern repeatedly until the entire quilt top has been marked.
An important thing to note is that your tracing tools should always be tested before you actually start using them. This is because you need to know that the markings will easily come out after the stitching process. There is nothing worse than tracing a pattern on your beautiful quilting fabric, only to realize that the markings are permanent!
Using quilting stencils.
One of the most enjoyable parts to quilting is using special quilting stencils to mark out a pattern. Such stencils are widely available at quilting and haberdashery shops.
If you don’t feel like spending money on quilting stencils, you could always look for interesting and traceable shapes in your own home. For example, cookie cutters make excellent stencils and there are a wide range of adorable shapes available.
The most important thing to remember with stencils is to line them up carefully and to make sure that there is a uniform pattern.
When you have decided on a stencil shape, test it out on your quilting fabric first.
Ensure that it fits nicely on the quilting fabric and then carefully trace around it with a light pencil.
Hand quilting is even more relaxing than quilting with a machine and can be done in front of the TV or even while traveling.
The easiest stitch to start out with is a basic running stitch. A running stitch fixes all 3 layers of your quilting sandwich and you can customize your quilting stitch length to whatever effect you are going for. Whichever length stitch you ultimately decide to go with is not important- just make sure that your stitches are consistent.
A great benefit to quilting by hand is that you can work on your fabric while it is on your lap. You may want to consider using a quilting frame, or even an embroidery hoop.
Some quilters find that embroidery hoops are cumbersome and too big to comfortably use so you might find that it is better not to use one.
The following is the basic process to follow when you are hand stitching a quilt:
Thread your quilting needle and make a secure knot at one end. The needle should then be pushed through your quilt top, the wadding and the batting so that it surfaces once again. The knot can also be pulled through the fabric and you can make a tiny backstitch by taking the needle backwards and into the wadding.
Now you are ready to start your first line of quilting. This is done by placing your middle finger behind the quilting square and then poking it through. You can then push the needle through in a vertical motion and swing it over forwards and then back again. All this is done in a vertical motion and the process is repeated until you have several stitches in your quilting square.
Next, you can pull your needle through your quilting square so that you have a row of neat stitches. Repeat this process, making sure that each stitch is the same and that you sew as neatly as possible. When you get to the seam junction, this is where things get tricky but just try and be as uniform as possible.
When you are finished stitching, you can now form a knot and then pull the needle through the batting.
Hand stitching really is easier than many people believe and once you are used to it, you will be able to do it without really thinking about it!
Machine quilting is obviously quicker than regular, hand quilting. Here are some basic steps to follow if you want to try your hand at machine quilting:
Gather your quilt sandwich together and mark out your pattern on the fabric. If the quilt is very big, a good tip is to roll it up until it is a smaller size and easier to handle.
Now you can begin stitching. Always start in the middle of the quilt and then work your way outwards. Make small, neat and consistent stitches.
As you stitch, be sure to follow your marked out pattern. Some quilters find it easier to finish their quilting stitches at the edges of the fabric.
When you have made your stitches and the project is complete, trim any loose threads before you start on the binding. You can now remove any tacking that you have made and then tie off the remaining threads by forming knots.
The final step is to carefully iron your completed quilt on a very cool setting. Iron in gentle and smooth motions so as not to damage the fabric.
As can be seen from the above, quilting is a wonderful pastime to consider. It is relaxing and very therapeutic and can be done by young people and old folk alike.
If you are recovering from surgery, injury or you are looking to find a hobby that doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion, then quilting is the perfect hobby for you.
Not only is quilting fun and highly pleasurable, but it also gives you the opportunity of making creative and unique gifts for loved ones, friends and family.
The quilts that you create will last for years and even for several generations and quilting is therefore an excellent way to leave your mark in the world!