I get this question all the time — I want to learn how to quilt, someone will say to me, but I don’t know where to start. Just tell me where to begin. Well, frankly, the more experience I gain, the less I know the answer to that question. One of the hardest things for me to teach is beginning quiltmaking, and not because I don’t know the basics of quilting — but what I don’t know is what you don’t know. Or better said, I don’t know what you do already know, and what you’re missing.
So I’m going to suggest a bit of subject matter that you might want to become familiar with or even gain mastery over, since they play an important role in quilt piecing. I’m going to save the finer points of quilting — the sewing of the three layers of quilt top, batting, and backing together — for my other blog (the Lily Pad, the journal of my business White Lotus Quilting). It isn’t that I don’t think the quilting is important (perhaps obviously since it’s my ‘day job’ I think it’s the cat’s meow and the dog’s bark and all that) but rather that the piecing is the beginning of the quilt story, and quilting is at the end. If I see lots of problems at the quilting stage, many of them would have been better addressed at the piecing stage. This is my attempt to prevent some of the problems I see every day, and to help people have more fun in the piecing, with better and more accurate results.
The subjects you want some familiarity with are the quarter inch seam, pressing, chain piecing, nested seams, and choosing fabrics. And oh yeah a page about setting your sewing machine tension. I’ve given each of these a new page and I’ll add resources to those pages as I find them. I hope you’ll find these useful.
I figure they have to be more useful than the guidance I got when I started quilting over 20 years ago, which was pretty much ‘cut up some fabric and sew it back together.’ I had a machine that mostly worked (which I traded in for one that did), a selection of calicos (the only fabrics I could find at the time), and a stack of bleached recycled/retired diapers — the cloth kind — that I used as a batting. Oh, yes, I went there. Let’s face it — you’ll probably have better tools than I did and a network of quilters to reach out to on the Internet piecing in their pj’s.
And no, the calico quilt never did get finished. Besides, it’s made of tons of triangles — don’t worry we won’t go there, at least not right away — and I’m not in any hurry to finish piecing it. But it could happen, right?