Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quilting Basics

While writing my pattern and thinking of quilting basics, I remembered this guest post I did on Melanie's blog, that I never actually posted here. It's been a whole YEAR since this was posted, I couldn't believe it! Anyways, I decided to throw it up here too as a reference. As soon as I figure out how, I will make a link or button for it to sit on my sidebar, easily accessible. Enjoy!

Hi! I am so excited that Melanie asked me to guest blog for her! I have put together a basic quilting how-to for any of you that want to jump into the amazing world of quilting. It might seem kinda involved or scary, but it can be really easy! So come on, take the plunge! You won’t regret it!

First, how about a list of basic tools:
(Notice my TWO quilts in progress in this picture...)

1. Cutting mat- very important!! You need this to uh, cut. I use this mat for almost all of my cutting. It is a 24”x36” Olfa self healing mat. This is a good size, because you can cut across a folded width of fabric. Mats can get pretty expensive, but you use them a LOT, and Joanns puts them on sale often. If they are not on sale, it is also an awesome item to use a 40 or 50% off coupon on at Joanns. I also recently added a smaller mat to my supplies (12”x18”) and it has been helpful when I don’t need my big mat(And when my big mat is put away under the crib and the kid is asleep…)

2. Ruler or straight edge- another very important tool! A great starter size is 6”x24”. That is all I had for a very long time, and it served me well. Another great item to use a 50% off coupon at Joanns on! Omnigrid and Creative Grids are both awesome brands.

3. Rotary Cutter- A must! A good rotary cutter with a sharp blade makes cutting much easier! I really like mine (Fiskars brand), though I don’t see a lot of other quilters using my particular cutter. Once again, Olfa makes great products, but pricy, and new blades are definitely an expense and something to think about. I am lucky enough that WalMart carries replacement blades for my cutter.

4. Iron- THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL!!! An iron is usually the difference between nice, matching seams and a good looking finished product and shoddy-looking, oh no I don't know what I am doing, work. You CANNOT IRON TOO MUCH! If in doubt, iron your seams! And your fabric! If your fabric is folded up before you start cutting into it (and you know it is...), iron it flat! Whenever I decide I’m in too much of a hurry to iron my fabric before I cut, I have to go back and re-square it up after it is ironed. It is just not worth it! I keep an ironing surface (a TV tray with the top covered like this tutorial from Oh, Fransson!) right next to my machine so I don’t have to move very far to iron, or even stand up. I’m lazy like that :) ps- you don’t have to have a “good” iron. I had a crappy, 15 year old iron until last summer when it died. Just have an iron!!!

5. Good quality thread- Well, thread is not optional, but if you really want to (please please don't, it's just not worth it!) you can use cheap thread. I use Gutterman thread. It doesn’t break as easily, and as Mel can attest, cheap thread = problems with quilting.

6. Curved basting pins- Not necessary, but once you have them, you feel like they are! Once you are assembling your quilt sandwich, these make the entire process sooooo much easier. Joanns sales and coupons, people!

7. Calculator- unfortunately, quilting takes some mathematics. I don’t like math, I don’t do math in my head, and I don’t trust math I have done in my head! So, the calculator lives near my machine.

8. A sewing machine- well, yeah. Unless you plan on hand piecing. I’m not that ambitious.

Whew! That was quite a list. Oh, something I didn’t include in the list was high quality fabrics. While I definitely shop Joanns for notions and even for batting (I use warm and white, and buy it by the yard), I don’t get my fabric there. Ok, I do have some, but most of it predates my discovery of my Local Quilt Stores and high quality fabric such as Moda, Free Spirit, Kaufman, P&B Textiles, and more. The better fabrics are much easier to work with, but are more expensive. Shop sales and clearances! I think I only have 2 cuts of fabric that I bought full price.

My Oh Cherry Oh quilt
There are so many awesome tutorials and patterns online, both free and for sale. When I was thinking about where to find quilt patterns, I realized that I have never made a quilt from a pattern! I usually get an idea, pull out the graph paper, draw it out and do the math. This seems like a daunting task for some, and that is why there are patterns available! There are also many many quilt-alongs going on in blogland all the time. The host usually puts up step by step instructions, and this is a great way to make a quilt if you don’t want to venture out all on your own. Here is a list of great places for tutorials, patterns, and quilt alongs:

Cluck Cluck Sew

Oh, Fransson
Old Red Barn Co. (she has a step-by-step how to make a quilt tutorial that is amazing!)

Ps I Quilt
Moda Bake Shop

Crazy Mom Quilts

A few ideas for good beginner quilts:

Plain ol’ patchwork squares. Classic, great to begin with, and with pretty fabric, it will look fabulous!

Coin quilt

9 patch (Or a variation thereof if you want a little more oomph, like a disappearing 9 patch or wonky 9 patch)

Wonky Log Cabin baby quilt

A standard quilting seam is ¼”. Many machines either come with a foot that ends ¼” away from the needle, and others have them available to buy separately. Mine doesn’t, so I have to just follow my 1/4” line. It is very important to be as precise as you can with your seam allowance, so that all of your pieces will match up when you are piecing your quilt. I am not a pinner, but if you feel like pinning will help you get your seams matched up and keep your ¼” seam allowance, use those pins!

Once your quilt top is made, and your quilt backing is ready, you get to make a quilt sandwich! Here is a great tutorial for that.

And a few tutorials for free motion quilting. I recommend straight line quilting for beginners, either on the diagonal, along seams, vertically, whatever works best with your quilt top.

Oh, Fransson!

And then binding! Truthfully, I haven’t found a binding tutorial that I completely like. My binding is a mix and match between all the tutorials. However, I think it all depends on what you are comfortable with. Here are a few good tutorials, and you can decide what you like:

Heather Bailey
Crazy Mom
Red Pepper Quilts

String quilt for my daughter
 So, that’s pretty much all there is to making a quilt. If you are a first timer, and feeling a bit overwhelmed, start small. Like, doll quilt or baby quilt small. It gets easier as you do more, and I warn you now, it is ADDICTIVE! I just got Melanie started quilting last summer and look at how she is flying! If you have made it all the way through my post, thank you for reading! Feel free to drop by Maniacal Material Girls see more of my work and what we are up to lately! Thanks again Melanie!

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