Help me be crafty by quilting...
April 10, 2007 10:06 AM   Subscribe

I am interested in learning how to quilt, from scratch, with no experience whatsoever.

My best friend is having a baby at the end of October/early November and I have decided that a homemade quilt would be the perfect gift. My grandmother will probably pass away this year and before that happens, I would like to start quilting with her. She has never actually quilted, though she has a lot of experience sewing and using a sewing machine. I have done neither. Can anyone recommend books or websites that can get us started? I won't have time to take a class, so I will need a fairly detailed book or plan to work from.
posted by blackkar to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I recently started quilting - I took a three hour "My first quilt" class at the local fabric store. I Know that you said that you don't have time to take a class, but it probably would have taken me 10 hours to learn on my own what we learned in class. But, I am a visual person and learn more by seeing someone else demonstrate than I do by reading about it.

What you need to begin:
- A rotary cutting system. This is a self-healing mat, a rotary cutter (looks kind of like a pizza cutter) and a clear quilter's ruler.
- Safety pins - special stainless steel ones for sewing. Plain old regular safety pins will leave little rust spots on your quilt even if they don't appear rusty
- Straight pins
-100% cotton fabric
-Good quality coordinating thread
- Sewing machine (optional but recommended)

I don't have any recommendations on quilting books, but I would recommend starting off with a quilt that is made of up squares and rectangles.

Even if you don't take a class, maybe you could go to the fabric store and ask for a copy of the pattern that they use in the beginning quilting class. I would guess that they would give it to you, especially if you're going to be buying your supplies there.

It's surprisingly easy and satisfying. Kind of like putting together a puzzle! Good luck and have fun!
posted by Ostara at 10:30 AM on April 10, 2007

I don't know what your style (or your friend's style) is like, but I really like Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle's books. The Modern Quilt Workshop in particular goes through the whole process step by step, including some color theory, which is helpful. If you'd like to do something more traditional (ie: stars, flowers, etc.), there are many many books out there that are compilations of hundreds of different quilt block patterns. Once you have the basic idea of how to make a quilt, you'll be able to figure these types of blocks out easily. I also like Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, for good ideas and inspiration.

One more thing to keep in mind is that the whole process will be made easier if you use rotary cutting methods (instead of templates). Most newer books will use these methods.
posted by weezetr at 10:35 AM on April 10, 2007

Your friendly local fabric-store is the place to start. A good one -- not JoAnn's, ferchrissake -- will point you towards books and give you tips. Plus you'll see all the fabric and get obsessed.

I got a lot of good advice from rec.crafts.textiles.quilting when I was learning the basics (which I still am learning) -- you should be lurking there.

This book
by Denyse Schmidt has some easy quilts to make, and easy-to-follow instructions.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2007

My advice to you is to start with a simple pattern like 9 patch or rail fence. (In my opinion - rail fence is a good first project.)

As far as books go...pretty much all the books annoyed me when I started. I had better luck learning from quilt magazines. There are usually a variety of patterns ranging from really simple to so difficult it will make your head explode.

Make sure you have a decent acrylic ruler, a cutting mat, rotary cutter, good thread (I prefer Gutterman), good cotton batting, and extra fabric.

One of the magazines out right now most likely has a simple rail fence pattern with good instructions for beginners. (I don't know this for fact because I haven't looked at the magazines but it's generally in one of them.) It's a classic.

Go to a local quilt shop - they are usually run by women or couples that have a geniune love of the craft and they will gladly hook you up with great information whether it's in book, magazine, or pattern form! Find out when/where the local quilt guild/group meets. Those ladies know their stuff and love to pass on the info.

Also, quilt store fabric is more expensive than the cotton fabric you find at JoAnn's. It is also higher quality. For a baby quilt I would use quilt store stuff since it's going to be washed and maybe put in a box for keeping at some point.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2007

I'm new to quilting and I've really enjoyed The Modern Quilts Workshop. I found it after seeing these blog entries, which have real people making really gorgeous versions of quilts from that book.

Quilting is actually pretty easy. There's three layers of fabric (top, batting and backing), and the 'quilting' is when you sew through all three. Good luck!
posted by lhall at 10:40 AM on April 10, 2007

I found just about everything I needed to make a simple square patch quilt in Your First Quilt Book. It has instructions for a few different patterns. A baby quilt is a great place to start, though. I might suggest tying or bar-tacking the center portion and quilting only the border part. Here's one I did like that (before the borders went on.
posted by Addlepated at 10:56 AM on April 10, 2007

I made my first quilt with the Log Cabin Quilt in a Day book. Log Cabin quilts are crazily easy - just strips and strips and more strips, and a nice variety of patterns you can make with the blocks.

It looks like the Quilt in a Day website has a bajillion other resources you might be able to use as well.
posted by cadge at 11:03 AM on April 10, 2007

This is a great idea, but just so you know -- quilts are a lot of work, so I'd get started soon, and I'd let your grandmother know you don't expect too much from her (just that she help you learn to use the sewing machine, help you re-thread it when it gets tangled, etc.) Good luck!
posted by salvia at 11:06 AM on April 10, 2007

Are you more interested in the piecing (sewing together the cut-up squares to create the quilt top) or the quilting (sewing together the layers)?

If you're more interested in piecing, it might make sense to tie the quilt. This looked like a free pattern along the lines of the rail fence. It's all strips and without the borders it'd be about baby quilt size.

If you're more interested in quilting/needlework, it might make sense to buy an unfinished quilt top from ebay and then quilt that (after a few practice pieces). Or do a pattern with one of the large blocks in the middle with a printed fabric pattern.

I know my mom did the jacob's ladder pattern as her first quilt (though she wished she chosen something without triangles later). Also, practice seam allowances if you do piecing.

ps. second hand knowledge from helping my mom
posted by ejaned8 at 11:14 AM on April 10, 2007

also check out if you have a local quilter's guild. if you can't attend a class, a meeting or two might help you ask questions or get a few tips.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:20 AM on April 10, 2007

Yep... find local resources- quilter's guild, quilt store. My wife took some quilt classes at a local store and got pretty good at it.
posted by Doohickie at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2007

All of the above plus:

- Learn sewing basics first. Get your grandmother to teach you to use the sewing machine, if she is able. Get proficient enough to sew a straight seam and troubleshoot thread tangles and breakages, needle breaks, and tension issues.

- Choose a very easy pattern with big pieces and right angles. The books mentioned above have quite a few of these. Yellow Brick Road is a popular beginner pattern. (I think the blues/yellows in the example is ugly, but the pattern is very neutral, taking on the character of the fabrics you use. Also, the instructions are easy to follow.)

- Choosing coordinating fabrics and, especially, deciding how much of each to buy can be hard. As fluffy battle kitten said, the people at the small local quilt store should be delighted to walk you through these steps. And I second that you should buy from them ($7-9 yard fabric) because most fabric from the chains is really low quality (the $2-5/yard stuff) and will make the construction way more difficult and less satisfying than it should be.

- Finishing: skip the border and binding for your first time out -- look up "pillowcase binding" which is sewing the right sides of the top and back together and turning it all inside out. Also, consider tying with yarn or embroidery floss rather than quilting. You don't get heirloom quality with tying but that's OK.

- Frequent the boards for help along the way!
posted by kmel at 11:40 AM on April 10, 2007

My recommendation is to go to a quilt shop and purchase a quilt kit. You'll get all the fabric you need for the top and a pattern. The people at the quilt shop are always willing to help out a new quilter, too.

Rail fence is a very good beginner project. I also like Easy Breezy by Sandy Brawner for a quick and easy baby quilt.
posted by mamaquita at 1:02 PM on April 10, 2007

Yes, Quilt in a Day is great. That plus my mother is how I learned. (Never underestimate the power of having an experienced sewer around-- your grandma will probably be very helpful even if she hasn't quilted specifically much... quilting is really mostly straight seams, if you're wise about pattern choice).

Trip around the world is in my opinion the easiest quilting pattern, although log cabin is a close second. Only if you're nuts will you try something with curves like Dresden plate.

For a baby quilt this isn't a big issue, but for a larger quilt it will be: make sure the machine you're using has a large enough space to pass the whole quilt through. Otherwise machine quilting is a huge hassle.

Good luck with your project.
posted by nat at 1:28 PM on April 10, 2007

Additional note - I have this book of baby quilt patterns and it's been a great help:
Quilts for Baby: Easy as ABC
posted by cadge at 1:57 PM on April 10, 2007

Sounds like your grandmother could do it with her eyes closed she just does not no what 'it' is just yet. You'll laugh when you realize (technically) how simple it truly is. Nobody's mentioned a Quilters Hoop (that I noticed). It's known by other names embroidery hoop ect.

Anyway they come in various sizes and consist of two hoops one fixed the other able to tighten and it works much like a cheese cake tin. You lock the quilt in it, fabric held taut. Hand sew in your patterns, lines, edging ect (whatever you had in mind). Release it when your done and there you go all that glorious puffiness to behold.

Don't stress that you can't go to classes, your quilt won't suffer from lack of gossip :) You may need a book or mag for a pattern. Alternatively math and a tape measure and make an original pattern of your own. I adore sentimental heirloom beautiful type things the motivation behind suggesting that.

My favorites are those quilted in patterns that are both separate and in places complimentary as an overlay to a patch work design that is still patchwork but in a structured and deliberate way like this "> the lines in the yellow panels are done with quilting. It's a very simple version but if you could imagine a beautiful design (use a stencil) repeated in place of the lines. I have a feeling I've done that link wrong just in case
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:06 PM on April 10, 2007

yep messed it up sorry.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:07 PM on April 10, 2007

On top of that I just realized that page has quilts at random. But the good news is if you keep reloading it you'll see a few good examples of different types of things you might like to try.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:16 PM on April 10, 2007

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