Quilting for beginners: Easy step by step instructions to start a quilt

Some easy step by step instructions to start making your first quilt for a beginner.

Whether you chose a sampler quilt that tells a different story or part of your life with each block. Or you have chosen a scrap quilt, which is made from left over pieces of cotton material, the rules are the same.

They will go in this order, making of the template, fabric preparation, grain line, hand piecing, machine piecing, pressing, setting the blocks together, marking for quilting, lining, quilting, tying, binding and finishing.

Now that you know the steps to make your quilt, we will carefully explain each step. And in no time you will be an expert. Let’s get started.

Making your template. The template will have two distinct lines. The solid line is your cutting line. The separated or dashed line is your seam allowance. You will also notice an arrow in the center of the pattern, this indicates the grain line. The seam allowance will always be ¼ inch width. When tracing the pattern onto the tracing paper you must indicate both lines. Include the arrow on your tracing also. After you have accurately traced the pattern, you will glue the traced piece onto either, cardboard, sandpaper or thin plastic.

Quilting for beginners Easy step by step instructions to start a quilt

Now go back and trim all the points, pre-trimming reduces bulk in the seams and also gives clues for the alignment for machine sewing. Trimming positions the seam lines of adjoining patches to fall into place for stitching when the cut edges and the trimmed points are aligned. After you complete the template, it is advisable to make a sample block to test the accuracy before cutting out the whole quilt. If your block is accurate, move onto the next step.

Hopefully you have chosen your fabric with a balance of colors. Even though your quilt may be a variety of colors, one color should dominate. To play it safe try to confine your choices to four different colors or designs. If you have picked a variety of floral or print designs incorporate a solid color.

If you are having difficulty in picking a color scheme, look around your home. Perhaps, it will give you a hint as to what colors to chose. Look at your carpets, wall paper, curtains and your furniture. Decide whether the quilt will be used for a show piece or everyday.

Your color balance is very important to the outcome of the quilt. And your borders can also change the outcome of the quilt. Here’s a little hint, some beginners prefer a floral or print design to camouflage their first attempt at quilting. But in the end, the quilting is hidden by the design and the quilting is not highlighted.

Some favorite choices by quilters are muslin, unbleached and bleached, pastels and white. When it comes to your color scheme, the only limitation is your own imagination. Take some time and truly decide on your color scheme. Once you decided on your colors next you will need to know yardage. If your pattern did not give the yardage, there is a method that is used to help you. Take your pattern pieces and lay them on a piece of material or a sheet and determine how much of it you will need for a one block by using a yard stick. Then multiply that measurement by the number of blocks you will be using. Always purchase an extra ½ yard, allowing for error.

If you have purchased a pattern, this information will be supplied. It will appear similar to this description: (This is based on a 12 inch block)

Four 12 inch square blocks sewn together make one 24 inch square.

Baby quilt 48″ X 48″ 4 blocks 2 across 2 down

Twin quilt 72″ X 96″ 12 blocks 3 across 4 down

A clue, always check your individual bed size.

If you include a border or ruffle determine that separately. A suggestion, a 3inch border around a baby quilt will be 1 ½ yards. Again purchase extra to allow for error.

A baby quilt without a border, total yardage will be 2 yards.

Backing or back sheet 3 yards, three squares can be made from fabric 45″ in width. There will be excess which you can make use of in another quilt.

After the material and matching thread has been purchased your next step is to wash the material. Pre-shrinking your material will save you a lot of heartache after the quilt is made. Once you have preshrunk your material, you will need to iron it out. It will lay better when you are cutting your pieces and will avoid bunching.

Before you cut, you will have to decide on the grain line. Generally, one or more straight lines of the patch (block) should allow for either the crosswise or lengthwise gain. This is especially true of the blocks that will be on the outside edge of your quilt. As I have indicated with the template, the grain line should be indicated by an arrow on your pattern piece. It is best to follow the direction of the grain.

Now turn your material over to the wrong side up, then place your template face down on the material. With a pencil trace around the template, repeat this procedure until you have one row completed. After marking the patches cut along the top line of the row, if you are afraid of not cutting a straight line, use a clear plastic ruler as a guide. Measure the width of your traced pattern on the material against your template for accuracy. In time your eye will know when it is not accurate. If you are satisfied with your measurements continue, cut out the individual pieces using your penciled lines as your guide. Using a rotary cutter is sometimes easier than using scissors. A rotary wheel can cut along the edge of the ruler or T-square if you have one and through more than one layer of fabric. The wheel can be found in all fabric stores. Of course it will be your preference as to what you use.

There are two methods of joining your pieces together, hand quilting and machine quilting. Machine quilting goes faster than hand quilting. However, hand quilting is the method of our ancestors.

Hand piecing your quilt. Compile your pieces into separate piles by color and shape, this will make it easier to complete the blocks. Put the right sides of two pieces together and join them with short running stitches, sew right through the pencil line. Many hand quilters prefer not to have the seam allowance included with the template, however for your first attempt there is a trick or two you can use until your eye is perfected.

Begin and end each seam at the seam line, ¼ ” in from the edge. If you are unsure of the width, you can purchase masking tape at the fabric store made expressly for this purpose. Place the masking tape to the wrong side of the fabric up against the cut edge, this will assure accuracy. Or you can measure with a ruler using a pencil to mark the line.

When you are sewing a dark piece to a light piece match the thread to the fabric toward which you will be pressing the seam allowance. Usually this will be the darker piece as the seam will not show through.

Machine sewing your pieces. Unlike the hand quilters, many machine patch workers prefer the seam allowances to be on the template. Machine piece workers will mark the cutting line instead of the sewing line. The reason for this is that accurate cutting is very important when doing machine piecing. When sewing the pieces together by machine, align the cut edges together with the edge of the pressure foot. Most machines come with a seam allowance guide that screws into the right of the making this a bit easier. If you do not have this, masking tape can be adhered to the right side of the pressure foot to guide your material for an accurate allowance. For machine piecing you can actually use two different color threads, one in the bobbin and one for the top color. However, if you have a multi-colored design a neutral thread would be best. Once you become accustomed to using your sewing machine you will pick up your pace. You will be able to secure your pieces with quilting pins, most sewing machines will go right over the pins, and you will move along faster. No basting would be required. But make sure when you pin the pieces together, that the edges are flush.

When a block is completed, you will need to press the seams to one side, (not open) this should be to the darker fabric to avoid showing through. Next we will set the blocks together, for adjacent or alternate blocks, join the blocks for the first row with a ¼” seam. Then join all blocks in the second row and so forth. When joining your blocks together be careful not to stretch or force them to fit. After the row is completed, press out your seams.

Next join row one to row two, then row three to one and two, so forth and so on until the top sheet is completed.

Press all the seam allowances of the joined rows in one direction, up or down.

When top sheet is completed it is time to move onto the back sheet. Sometimes the quilt is small enough that only one piece will be needed for the back. But usually two or more pieces are needed which you will seam together using the 1/4″ allowances. Be sure to remove the salvage edges toavoid puckering. Be sure to press the seams in one direction.

Next place the back sheet on a flat surface, wrong side up, which means your design will be against the surface. (If you do not have a large flat surface, some quilters have been known to use their kitchen floor.) Next place the quilt batting on top of the back sheet. Then place the top sheet, right side up, on top all of the layers. Smooth out the sheets making sure the edges stay together. You should have a sandwich effect. Next pin all the edges together with your quilting pins, use as many as you desire.

Next, starting in the center baste all layers together in an “X”, then you will baste in rows 4 to 6 inches apart horizontally and vertically. Next baste around the four sides. You are now ready to begin quilting or tying.

You will now need either your frame or hoop, or you can simply lay the quilt in your lap with no additional aids. It is best to use quilting needles, numbers 7 through 9. Thread the needle using only a single strand of thread that goes through the three layers of material. Knot the end. However, do not hang yourself with the thread. An 18″ length is good.

Your first stitch will be through the back sheet and batting only. Go in through the back sheet and into batting about 1″ in length and come back out through the back sheet. Tug on the thread to bring the knotted end between the layers. Begin quilting. Take straight, even stitches that are the same size consecutively on both top sheet and back sheet. If you have difficulty pushing the needle through, use a thimble on your middle finger. When you reach the end of your thread, do not knot, take a back stitch and repeat the first stitch. Allow the end to slip back between batting and back sheet. The actually hand quilting will take a time too perfect. The stitches should be very small. Here again you can use the 1/4″ masking tape to keep your stitching straight.

Tying. A quick alternative to quilting, use the same basting method previously described. Place quilting pins where you want to tie the quilt. Next you will need a large eyed needle. Thread it with about two yards of baby yarn or acrylic thread and pull it up double. Do not knot. Push needle through all layers, leaving a 2″ tail. Take a ¼” stitch and come back up will you went in, leave a 2″ tail. You should have a tail on top and bottom. Tie a square knot with the tail, pull tight and trim.

Binding and finishing off your quilt. First trim all excess batting and back sheet to match the top sheet leaving at least 2″ extra at each corner end. To complete your quilt, to give it a finished look, you have to bind all the edges. You can buy blanket binding to match the quilt or make your own. The binding should be 1 ½” wide. Next you will need to pin the binding right sides together onto the top sheet starting at the top. Machine sew through the three layers following the seam allowances which will be 1/4″ again. Begin and end with the seam line for a straight line. This will secure all three layers. Repeat this process with the remaining three sides. Next fold the binding over to the back sheet. Tuck under 1/4″, pin to keep in place then blindstitch it down. At the corners, trim, tuck in the excess, square the corner and stitch it closed.

Congratulations, you’re done.

Since you have worked hard on your quilt, you should take credit for it. In the bottom right hand corner embroider your name and date that you completed your quilt.

Leave a Reply