Basics of Quilting

The Basics of Quilting: Tips For Beginners

So, you’ve decided that it’s time to make a quilt. Maybe someone gave one as a gift or maybe you found the pattern online. Either way, here is some information about what you will need and how to start making your first quilt.

What You’ll Need

A table top (or dining room chair) – This should be long enough to accommodate all of the steps involved in piecing the quilt without having to move around too much. If possible, use something sturdy like an old wooden desk.

Large cutting board – This can also be used as part of your work surface if you don’t want to cover up your floor.

Markers/pencils – It helps keep track of measurements when working by hand rather than using pins or markers.

Scissors – These should not be dull utility scissors which may cut unevenly. They should be sharp craft scissors specifically made for fabric such as rotary cutter scissors.

Iron – Ironing boards aren’t necessary because most fabrics won’t require pressing. However, ironing cloths are needed for certain types of fabrics. Use a hot dry iron set at high temperature. Don’t over-iron delicate materials. Wearing protective gloves is recommended.

Thread – Choose cotton thread as opposed to polyester since it doesn’t fray easily. Also choose colors that coordinate well together. Cotton threads come in white, light tan, dark tan, natural, black, red, blue, green and brown.

In addition to these items, there are other tools and supplies that you might find useful depending upon the type of project you’re planning. Check out our list below to see what else could help get your started on creating your very own quilt masterpiece.

How To Piece A Quilt

The following instructions assume that you already know how to sew a basic seam and that you understand proper machine stitching techniques.

Begin by choosing several pieces of material from your stash of fabrics. Generally speaking, you’ll want to use 2 yards per block but you should experiment with different amounts until you discover what works best for you. Some people prefer smaller blocks while others prefer larger ones.

More beginner tutorials, Embroidery Stitches for Beginners

Once your chosen fabrics are ready, gather them into stacks according to color. Place a few sheets of newspaper under your stack of fabrics just incase any gets wrinkled during assembly.

Next, take each group of fabrics and lay them right sides facing outward forming a pile. Lay the top piece of fabric down flat onto a large cutting board. Using your marker, mark off the edge of the fabric measuring 6 inches from the end of the roll. Take another piece of paper folded in half lengthwise and place it underneath the previous layer of fabric marking off a second side measurement approximately 12 inches away from the original edge.

Cut strips of batting slightly less than twice the width of both edges leaving extra tape so that you’ll have plenty after trimming. Starting with the short edge, apply sticky tacky glue along the marked line, then fold back 1 inch and press firmly against the tacked line. Repeat folding process with remaining lengths of batting. After all of the strips are pasted, spread them evenly apart across the layers of fabric. Set aside for now.


Now, we’ll continue adding more layers of fabric. Working with a new strip of batting, repeat same procedure outlined above except measure 12 inches instead of 6 inches from the end of the roll.

Trim excess batting, setting aside once again. Continue laying strips of batting alternating direction every 3rd row. Once all rows of batting are laid, cut final strips to match the last measured edge of the bottom layer of fabric.

Apply tacky glue to the wrong side only, starting at the corner nearest to you, run a pin through to hold in place. Fold corners toward center crease and pinch tightly to form tube shapes. Run pin horizontally through center to secure. Remove pins and smooth wrinkles. Glue ends of tubes closed securely. Let dry completely before continuing.

After everything has been glued, remove newspapers and place your newly created sections of batts vertically next to each other. Weave narrow strips of matching cotton binding between the sections to serve as seams. Secure binder clips on opposite ends of quilt frame. Thread needle with 4 strands of embroider floss and knot ends flush with seam allowances. Insert threaded needles into appropriate spots on either side near middle of quilt section.

Bring yarn forward, insert tip of needle under uppermost layer of batting, pull through almost entirely, turn tip sharply counterclockwise to tighten loop, bring yarn behind, repeat on opposite side, pull through entire thickness of batting, tie off neatly to form loose knots. Repeat on opposite sides of quilt.

To complete the quilt, refer to Piecing a Basic Block diagram showing how to attach borders. Referring to diagrams, sew individual blocks together in pairs. Attach diagonal sashing squares diagonally to intersecting points of adjoining blocks. Join two blocks together through their centers by inserting point of curved needle under corresponding seams on opposing sides of quilt.

Pull gently to snug bias bindings. When joining three blocks together, overlap seams on third block and stitch closely to join. Sew straight lines connecting four corners of five joined blocks. Fill in spaces with small triangles formed by crossing straight stitches. Sew sashing strips to fill in spaces between blocks. Turn under ½” hem on outer edges of all seamed areas. Overlap raw edges and whipstitch in place. Turn under ¼” hem on inner edges of all unseamed areas. Overlap raw edges and whipstitch in place.

Note: Whipstitching refers to securing hems by overlapping the raw edges and running the raw edges though each other. Then turning under the finished edges, they are stitched together to prevent fraying.

Where Do I Start Sewing My First Quilt?

It really depends on how complicated you’d like your quilt to become. Even beginners often feel overwhelmed by the scope of projects available. Here are some suggestions for getting you going.

Make a simple single square. You can even throw a party for family members who love doing crafts. Everyone brings his or her favorite scraps and contributes an equal amount of fabric. Have everyone put their scraps in separate piles based on color, whether solids, stripes or prints. Decide ahead of time how big each person’s contribution would be to ensure that no one feels left out. For example, if you plan to add 5 squares to the mix, allow each participant to contribute 10% of the total number of squares. The remainder of the squares will consist of leftover bits of various sizes. Now you can decide what size you’d like your quilt to be.

Try a scrapbook layout. Divide your quilting space into 9 sections (3×3). Arrange nine small squares within those sections. Designate one section for embellishments such as buttons, beads, ribbon and decorative trims. Allow yourself ample room for error when trying to precisely arrange the squares. Once you’ve arranged the squares, sew them together. Leave open a little gap for attaching border elements. Layer small squares sideways, rotate 90 degrees, sew them together. Make sure all your seams align properly.

You can hang it with the help of clothespins and yarn. When you’re done stitching it, use velcro to fasten the quilt to a wall. Or, hang it like this:

How Do I Sew Borders?

Borders are an important element of quilting on your first quilt. They join different sections together and otherwise signal your intent as a quilter. There are several ways you can attach them to your blocks.

Fold and whip stitch. This is the most basic approach of sewing borders and what you should start with. Gather scraps of fabric to bring up the edges. Sew a seam ½” in from the edge on top side of each square to be joined. Place them at an angle over top of squares, matching seams and edges, tack securely at corners then stitch all around border firmly enough so it won’t pull out by stitching on the back side of your work.

Now that you know how to make quilts, find out how to clean and store quilts.


By now, you should have a good grasp on how to construct a quilt. But don’t stop here. Once you’ve created some blocks, think about adding more and more fun fabric to your quilts. Being creative is simply the beginning of your journey.

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