Beginner Quilting 

At the beginner quilting level quilting is the act of applying stitches to hold the quilt's three layers of fabric together.

This is what we call a quilter's sandwich.

It is not easy to be a beginner. Those of us who want to quilt start with enormous self-expectations...

What drives some quilters is earning a ribbon, or scoring big at the quilt shows or being able to lavish a quilt on the new born baby! 

Some of us only like to create design stitches to hold the quilt sandwich together.

But most of us like to do both...piece the top together, and then add the quilting stitches.

And that is what we want to introduce on this page!

For a fun and relaxed learning experience beginners require simple and straight forward easy quilt patterns when they are first learning to quilt .

We will learn how to make a quilt using a single block that when repeated enough times becomes a full quilt.

Beginner Quilting Students

Growing up we all had a mentor. Maybe not a quilter mentor but some one that showed a great enthusiasm for sewing.  Maybe that mentor was a friend, a neighbor, a 4H Club advisor or better yet your mother, who had a self-taught talent for sewing. 

The best projects to work on as a beginner are simple patchwork quilts no larger than what we call a wall hanging.

Start with a simple patchwork quilt with a plain border and straight setting of patches such as our Free Stairway To The Stars quilt.

You'll soon be able to make prettier, better and larger quilts in the very near future. 

Beginner Quilting Students
Learn Quickly

fabric for quilting

It is important to understand a few things about the characteristics of a piece of fabric.

You can figure out the lengthwise grain of your fabric because the selvage runs parallel to the grain.

That means the selvage and the lengthwise grain always run the same direction.

Another name for lengthwise is warp. Once you cut the selvage off and there is no visual, it is still important to be able to differentiate between the lengthwise and the crosswise directions.

When you pull on the lengthwise grain it most likely will not have much give. When learning how to make a quilt this is one of the hardest points to break it down to make it easy. Even us 'seasoned' quilters have to stop and think on this one.

fabric for quilting

The crosswise grain is the width of your fabric (from selvage to selvage). It is also called the weft.

The crosswise grain will likely have a bit more give but it should not stretch permanently.

The weft threads act as the stabilizer and doesn't allow for too much stretching.

quilting techniques

To cut on the bias is a true 45 degree angle from the lengthwise and crosswise grains.

Any cut not parallel to one of the grain lines is called a bias cut...remember this one!

When you tug on the bias there is quite a bit of stretch. With no straight threads to stabilize it, the fabric stretches easily.

Fabric cut on the bias must be handled gingerly. It will lose its shape and will be very difficult to match up with intended adjacent patches.

There are a few do's and don'ts when working with fabric cut on the bias when making a quilt:

 Do's and Don'ts
for Beginner Quilting

  • Try very hard NOT to put a bias cut on the outer perimeter of the finished block when making a quilt; 
  • Attach any bias edge to another patch as quickly as possible to avoid unnecessary handling;
  • When possible, a bias edge should be sewn to a straight grain edge (lengthwise grain) to help stabilize it;
  • Make bias edges work for you not against you;
  • Cuts other than a 90 degree angle, such as triangles and diamond points, almost always involve cutting on the bias;
  • You will always use a bias edge when binding a quilt;
  • Applique work is also a place for bias edges.

Beginner Quilting Skills

rotary cutter

With pattern in hand and fabrics selected let's get started with how to make a quilt at the beginner quilting level.

We are ready to cut the fabric into the required shapes for making a quilt.

You do this by following the cutting directions located on How to Make a Quilt - Using the Free Quilt Pattern called Stairway To The Stars.

Rotary cutting is highly accurate and almost guarantees perfect piecing for making a quilt.

Did I mention that anytime you need clarification on any  quilting term used on this web site just click on the "Search This Site" button at the upper right hand corner of any page.

Beginner Quilting Requires a Perfect Seam

quarter inch seam

Once everything is cut we are ready to piece all those little parts together.

It is best to stitch a scant 1/4-inch seam (a scant 1/4-inch seam and the fold make a true 1/4-inch seam). When turning the fabric to press the seams open, you tend to lose a slight amount in the fold.

If you are a beginner quilting student, always test your finished seam allowance no matter what equipment you use . This is a good idea even if you are an experienced quilter.

Not all sewing machines are equal and not all eyes are equal.

When you first Learn to Quilt always do a quick check using a 6-inch ruler to make sure you get the feel for an exact quarter inch seam.

If you deviate from a quarter inch seam the mistake will multiply itself over the course of completing a block and you will find that all of your blocks will not be the same size.

Your goal as a beginner quilting student is to strive to make all matching blocks the same size. Check and re-check to be sure your seams are exactly 1/4-inch seams after pressed toward the darker side of the fabrics.

I can't say it enough; everything is predicated on a true 1/4-inch seam allowance.

Basic Machine Piecing For Beginner Quilting

easy quilting

The end of the Civil War brought some of the first sewing machines. The break through allowed a package of needles and a spool of thread to be replaced with a foot treadle and belt driven non-electric sewing machine.

I learned on a treadle Singer Sewing Machine and still have a usable Feather Weight as a part of my display of sewing room furniture today.

 How to Chain Sew - Beginner Quilting

  • Stitching like fabric pieces in an assembly-line fashion saves time and thread…fast too.
  • Pin identical pairs together making sure the same fabric is on top.
  • Stack the pairs to the left of the needle with the same edge facing right.
  • Use a 'scrap starter' piece of fabric to stabilize the beginning stitches. Think of the starter piece as your first square. Advance several squares and then cut the starter loose to be ready to add it as an end piece.
  • Butt the first pair of patches directly against the scrap starter.
  • Stitch across the pair, stopping at the edge with the needle in the down position.
  • Do not raise the presser foot after each pair has been stitched.
  • Rather, butt the next pair and repeat the process in an assembly-line fashion.
  • Be careful! do not overlap each pair but rather only butt up against the previous pair and keep the needle in the down position after stitching the pair. This will keep the pair from slipping out of alignment.
  • When all the pairs have been stitched,including the end square, raise the presser foot and clip the ending threads only. Do not cut apart just yet!
  • Take your joined pairs to the ironing board to learn how to elicit precision pressing skills.

Precision Pressing Skills for Beginner Quilting

learn to quilt

Set your iron to a dry steam. Steam can stretch and distort your pieces and if you happen to press the seam in the wrong happens! it is more difficult to undo. Don't you love all these tips?

Take your joined pairs to the ironing board and place on the board with the dark fabric facing up. Then 'set' the seam by pressing directly on the seam line before you dis-join or open the pairs.

You set the seam with an up and down motion of the iron...not a push and pull motion of the iron! If you push and pull as if ironing a blouse you will surely stretch the fabric.

easy quilt

Remember, you placed the pairs on the ironing board with the dark fabric on top and the seam allowance facing away from you.

Once seams have been 'set' with the dry iron, clip apart and stack to the left of your iron. Don't reverse the order.

When the patches are opened, the seam will automatically be pressed toward the dark fabric if you placed the pieces on the board exactly how we explained (dark on top and seam facing away).

Traditionally in all quilts the seams are pressed toward the darkest color fabric if at all possible. This way there are no head lights shining through (dark lines)!

Since the seam allowance is a scant 1/4-inch, be careful not to burn your fingers in the pressing

easy pattern

I generally open and flatten the seam allowance by lightly running my thumbnail across the pairs before applying the iron.

This is a terrific tip when leaning how to make a quilt and a necessary forerunner before you actually place the hot iron on the seam to avoid getting burnt!

For those of us who have thin nails this is a sure splitter! Be careful using your thumb can break!

There is an alternative tool called the little wooden iron which is a real handy gadget when the iron is not available or you don't want to use your thumbnail.

This gives you one more chance to double check that you will be pressing the seam allowance toward the darkest fabric. Remember, once you press it is more difficult to undo!

Beginner Quilting Technique to Seat Seams

easy pattern

Now that we have decided on the pattern, selected the fabrics, cut the fabric into required shapes, pieced using the assembly-line process, pressed seams toward the darker fabric, we are ready to match seam intersections.

All these beginner quilting steps contribute to well-matched seam intersections.  Not being accurate in any of previous discussed areas can lead to problems when it comes to matching seams.  

Pick up and hold two units together between your thumb and forefinger. Then slide the seam allowances in a back and forth motion until you feel the seam drop into place.

The two seams will recess and match exactly. Pin on each side of this seam intersection, placing the pins perpendicular (at right angles) to the fabric edge and with the top of each pin projected out.

With the pin heads facing out it is easy to use them as a navigational tool to assure the seams pass under the feed dogs smoothly. Do not use them to pull the pieces as this is the job for the feed dogs...only use pins to slightly navigate!

If possible, stitch with the seam allowance of the piece underneath facing you and the seam allowance of the top piece away from you. This will assure that the feed dogs will control the seam allowance on the underneath piece and hold it nice and flat.

If it ends up not being flat you should clip one or two stitches, flatten the seam out and then re-stitch. You can use a stiletto or seam ripper to assure the seam on top does not fold under but rather lays nice and flat before re-stitching.

Adding the Borders

Want to make your quilt just a tad bigger than the pattern shows? Well that is easy to do...just increase the size of your borders.

For a good explanation of the relationship of quilt-to-border visit our page on rules for adding quilt borders.

Adding the Batting

Our batting guide will give you pointers for choosing the right Quilt Batting for your quilt.

Clip and save this Batting Tips for future use. It takes you through the process of selecting the right batting that will be perfect for your new quilt.

Selecting the Backing

Always try to have your backing material the same quality and weight as the top fabrics. A thread count of 70 to 80 is a good choice...less likely to shrink and will wear well.

The reason for this is ease of sewing. Look for one-piece backing. You can find it up to 120-inches wide.

Getting ready to add the Quilt Backing? Learn how to piece a backing and square it up before quilting.

 Beginner Quilting Stencil to Quilt With

mitered corners

Decide whether to hand quilt or machine quilt. Maybe you are already a hand sewer so hand quilting would be second nature. Hand quilters know that hand quilting stitches can elevate what was formerly a ho hum top design.

Visit our page on hand quilting for more information on how to conquer this art. We have a few pointers that will get you going.

If you decide to machine quilt you will find that it goes much faster. This is a rewarding skill too. Continuous and Free-motion Quilting can be done on your regular sewing machine...or why not hire the quilting out?

We have a good source! Alice has a longarm machine and enjoys quilting for others. Her Machine Quilting Patterns. are beautiful. Look around the site to see many examples of Alice's can tell she likes what she does.

These steps on how to make a quilt are easy. Feel free to print any of our pages and keep the free quilting instructions for your use. Or better yet, put this in your favorites and come back often. Look around and you will find many, many free quilting instructions on this site! Be sure and visit our Machine Quilting Patterns and Continuous Line Quilting Patterns for quilting ideas on quilting quilts.

Beginner Quilting Stencil for the Borders

border designs

The quilting stencil should be about an inch to a quarter inch smaller than the block to be quilted.

Maintain this size ratio between the quilting and the size of the block.

Here's a tip to compute this ratio. Simply divide the DESIRED length or width by the ACTUAL length or width; then multiply by 100 to get the percentage of enlargement or reduction.

Example:the block is 8"; the template is 5"; 8/5 = 1.6 X 100 equals 160 percent. Using a photo copier, enlarge the template by 160 percent.

We created a chart at the bottom of this page that you can print and save.

Binding Off the Quilt

There are a couple of ways to bind a quilt. In both cases you start with a square of fabric large enough to make the necessary amount of binding to go around your quilt.

To decide which method is best for your quilt visit our page on binding a quilt.

You will find a guide on the amount of yardage you will need to go around your quilt plus many other tips and suggestions for a perfect binding.

Have more questions? Just look around...or visit the Site Map to learn about needles, thread, selecting the right colors, more free quilting basics and on and on!

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Beginner Quilting Instruction and Tips

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Prewashing Instructions
Squaring the Fabric
Avoid the Bends
How to Press
Handling Bias Edges
Chain Piecing

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