How To Quilt.
Quilting 101
How to make a quilt.

You can learn how to make a quilt or how to quilt quickly and easily, but you can also spend the rest of your days trying to master all the subtleties of quilting 101.

How do you choose the best design for your project?

How do you make a quilt?

There are many choices and each project raises more possibilities.  But somehow you have to decide what design to use on this project.  Indeed, this is only the first of many decisions you will need to make in creating your beautiful quilt.

The design you pick will guide you in selecting the right fabrics, patterns, tools, and other materials needed for your quilt.

You might, however, see a gorgeous piece of fabric and think to yourself, "Now this would make a beautiful quilt."  In this case the fabric itself may dictate the design features you choose.

These three must work together: design, fabric, and pattern.  A great design can be ruined by choosing the wrong fabric or pattern.

So how do you choose?

1. Imagine the finished product first.  Try to see through your mind's eye, what your quilt will look like when it is done.  Dream a little.

2. You might use one of the many software programs available to help bring practical definition to your project.  Use the program to draw out your ideas.  You can arrange, group, and sort quickly and easily.

3. If you don't have software, try using pencil and paper.  Draw out your thoughts. Do whatever it takes to define your finished project.

4. You may prefer using certain techniques or tools.  Consider how these might affect the construction of your quilt.  You have many options including paper piecing, patterns, and stencils.  If you prefer a specific quilting process, use it to layout the design of your quilt.

5. A beginning quilter often, learns one way of doing things, and practices that approach on several quilts before attempting new and different approaches.  Keep in mind quilting should be fun, so avoid stressing out over having to master whole new sets of skills on each new quilt project.

6. When you use small pieces to create a block, it is called piecing.  While there are several different ways to do this, one of the first thing quilters learn is to use the traditional 1/4" seam allowance.  This will affect how you cut out your fabrics, how you lay them out, and how they go together.

7. You may choose to embellish you quilt blocks with appliqué, embroidery, or stenciled designs.

8. When you use a block design approach, eventually you have to join the blocks together.  Before joining them, however, it is essential that you square your quilt blocks to insure that they are all exactly same size, shape, and uniform. Then you may complete the assembly.This again may be done in several ways, but  Block to Block and using borders are the most common.

Once you complete all your blocks, and you have assembled them together, we say that the quilt top is finished.  There are still some big steps before we can say the quilt is done.

How to batt a quilt?

BATTING: The next step is to select the backing material and the batting or fill material for your quilt.   There are different types of batting including all cotton, all polyester, and blends of polyester and cotton.  Ask you local quilt shop or teacher, about what batting they recommend for your project.  You may prefer one type over another or you may decide based on your current project.   All you have to do is open the bag and unroll it. This type of batting comes in different lofts or thicknesses, the thicker the loft, the warmer the quilt.

BACKING: Color, texture, and fabric content are considerations when choosing the backing fabric.  Generally, the backing fabric is not as important as the quilt top, so you may get by with a little less quality fabric or even a lower thread count fabric. Generally, you want a woven fabric because you want it keep its shape instead of stretching.  There are larger width fabrics, but in many cases you will need to seam the backing fabric together to make it just a little larger (2" all the way around) than the top. Before using backing there are a few things you will need to do. First, trim off the selvage edge.  Then preshrink the fabric to prevent shrinkage after the quilt is finished.  Finally sew three lengths of the fabric (equal widths) the length of the backing. Finally,  press the seams to one side.

ASSEMBLY: Lay the backing down on the floor with its wrong side up and right side down. Roll out the batting smoothly over the backing fabric. Trim the batting about one inch shorter than the backing fabric and one inch longer than the quilt top.    Center the quilt top on top of the batting face-up.

BASTING: The three layers of the quilt are now ready to assemble. Before attempting to finish sew, however, the layers must be temporarily fastened together.  This may be done by simply pinning the three layers together. Sewing with a long straight stitch will Baste the layers together.  Begin in the center of the quilt. You may use running stitches or Z stitches for basting.

MACHINE QUILTING: You are now ready to quilt the finished project. The most common way to achieve this is by machine quilting.  With smaller projects, this can be accomplished with a standard sewing machine, but with larger projects some type of machine quilting frame is required.  The new Grace Quilter does a great job for the home, but there are many quilt frames available.  The quilt is rolled onto a frame and sewn together according to specialized templates or by using one of the following techniques.  This is what it means to quilt.

STITCH IN DITCH: A common practice is to use the sewing technique of stitching in the ditch, or sewing right into the seam itself.  With a little practice, the thread almost disappears.

ECHO DESIGN: You may decide to use Echo Design which is stitching along the outline of the block repeating lines of stitches every quarter inch to create repetitious sections of very heavy quilting.

OVERALL QUILTING: You may choose to use an overall quilting design using square grids, diamond shapes, or clamshells.  This approach does not follow the outline of the block but ignores it.

HAND QUILTING: Hand quilting will require quilt frame, or a large hoop. Hoops are more portable, but require more basting. Once your project is secure you begin stitching the three layers together in very small uniform stitches, using the design you chose earlier. Start With about 18 inches of thread and begin working in the centre of your project, quilting toward the outside edge.

TYING: Hand quilting is often viewed even by hand sewers to be excessively meticulous.  An alternative is typing the quilt together ever four inches or sew using a think twine.

BINDING: Now that the quilt is quilted, all that remains is to finish the edge.  Double check the square of the quilt before beginning and adjust as needed.  Then bind the edges by using bias strips of fabric or pre-cut bias tape sewn on one side, folded over and sewn on the other.

You may now hand your quilt over a solid quilt rack for display.


Donna Trumble is a professional designer, seamstress, author, sewing educator, and sewing business owner.   She leads several Sewing Show And Tell groups in her stores guiding participants to shop sewing machines and learn about sewing and quilting.



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