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SERIES ONE – Planning your quilt
Do you have an interest in quilting but don’t know where to start? That was me several years ago. I love learning new things and I really wanted to learn to quilt… I was at a disadvantage though. In high school I had Auto Tech and Agriculture instead of Home Economics. I could hardly stitch a seam by hand and no knowledge of a sewing machine. I had never even touched one! But I was bound and determined to learn. Through this Quilting for Beginners series I’ll walk you through on how I quilt. I am in no way a professional, but I wanted to share how easy it is to quilt for beginners.
This is a large tutorial, so I’ll be breaking it up in sections.
My best friends mom gave me a hand-me-down sewing machine and I googled how to thread it and where to begin. Before I started quilting I did make a few odd and end items like a table runner and place mats. Just to become familiar with it and learn how it worked. This was very helpful.
Once I got in the swing of things I started planning my quilt.
Sewing Machine – First and foremost you’ll need a sewing machine to quilt. I have a very old Singer sewing machine, but at some point I’d like to upgrade. The sewing machine linked above is a great machine for quilting.
Fabric – You can go to sites like Amazon.com or Joanns.com. But I really like to select my fabric in person.
Sewing Machine Needles – I generally replace my needle every time I start a new quilt. This is probably overkill, but I want to make sure my needle is perfect for every quilt and they’re inexpensive.
Sewing Thread – You’ll need a quilting grade thread for your quilt.
Self-Healing Cutting Mat & Rotary Cutter – The set I have linked here is a great starting set. It comes with the same self-healing cutting mat and rotary cutter I have.
Square Template – I like the look of the 6″ squares (with 1/4″ seams) so I use the 6-1/2″ template. You can pick whatever size you’re happy with.
Fabric Shears – Fabric Scissors are generally more sharp and give a straight cut.
Quarter Inch Presser Foot – This is optional. it is a great tool to have to help make perfect 1/4″ seams.
Batting – Batting is what is sandwiched in between your top layer and your back layer of fabric. You don’t have to use batting if you’re looking for a lighter quilt, but I like to use a thin batting to give it some extra fluff.
Quilting Pins – You’ll use A LOT of these to pin your quilt and add the backing. Stock up! I also use large safety pins too. I actually purchased some quilting clips for this quilt. I LOVE them. I like them better than the pins for binding. And the little tin is adorable!
Basting Spray – I like basting spray because it temporarily holds my quilt together while I sew it. Not all quilters use it, but it makes things simpler I think.
Iron – Some people iron their fabric before they cut, I don’t do this. But I do iron the seams after I have sewn my rows. I use an old hand-me-down iron, but the iron I have linked is one that’s on my wishlist!
Painters Tape – When you baste your quilt you’ll want the backing to be flat on the floor so you can baste it more easily. Some people also use it on their sewing machine as a guide (kinda like a ridge so when the fabric hits it, it doesn’t go past the line) when they sew their 1/4″ seams.
Water Soluble Pen – I use this pen when I’m marking my row numbers on the back of my fabric. If you’ve got a complicated pattern you’re stitching together, this comes in handy. It washes right off the fabric when you wash the quilt.
Patience – there’s no link for this one, but you’ll need lots of patience. Don’t rush through it. Enjoy the process and making something beautiful with your hands!
Step 1: Planning
First step is to plan the size of quilt you want. I’m making a size that’s in between a queen and a king. There are some “standard” quilt sizes, but the best practice is to physically measure the bed and size quilt you’ll want on it. Below is a chart with standard quilt sizes. This quilt is for my grandmother and she has a queen bed, but wants it a little bigger. To figure how many yards of fabric you’ll need you’ll first need to figure out how many fabric patterns you’ll be using. As a general rule of thumb I use two bold main fabrics and the others are soft fillers. I like to use between 6-8 different fabrics. I feel like this gives it a better variety and more color.
Step 2: Figuring Fabric
There is probably an easier way to figuring fabric yardages, but for me this makes sense. This may boggle your mind when you first read it, but take it one step at a time. For this quilt I’m using 8 different fabrics. The size of my quilt will be 102″ x 108″ (not including my 1/4″ seams on each side of the square blocks that will be sewn together). I need to know how much fabric total I’ll need including the inseams.
*So I take 102″ (my quilt width) and divide it by 6″ (the total inches that will be visible when my quilt top is sewn together) to see how many squares I’ll need across. I’ll use 17 squares across.
*I take 108″ and divide it by 6″. I come up with 18 squares for the length. So my quilt will be 17 squares across and 18 squares long.
*If I times the number of squares in the width (17) by the number of squares in the length (18), I come up with 306 total squares needed for this quilt.
*306 squares divided by the total number of colors I’m using (8) is 38.25 squares (or rounded up to 39) needed per color.
*39 squares per fabric multiplied by the total size of each square (6.5) is 253.5 (rounded up to 254) inches required per fabric.
*This website has a nice little inches to yards calculator and it makes figuring this A LOT easier. From experience, do not try to figure this in the store. Now I know I need 7 yards total of each fabric.
*Most fabric bolts are 45″ long, which is 1-1/4 yards. Take your total yardage needed (7 in this case) and divide it by the length of the bolt. 7 yards divided by 1.25 is 5.6 yards, so I round up to 6 yards per fabric color.
Step 3: Planning Ahead for Supplies
Some quilters will go ahead and purchase their backing (the back fabric of the quilt) and their batting (the stuffing for the quilt when the quilt top and the back are sandwiched together) while at the quilt shop. I do purchase batting, a new quilting machine needle, and make sure I have the correct color quilt-grade thread; however, I do not buy the backing. I like to see the front of the quilt after it’s pieced together and then determine what backing fabric I’ll go with. I think the backing is important because it sets the mood of the quilt. So I like to wait until the front is finished.
Sometimes I’ll buy my fabrics, get them home, and hate the color combo after I cut the squares so I end up going back and changing colors. One big thing to remember about your color choices is you want the filler colors to compliment your two bold fabrics.
Here are the color fabrics I chose for this quilt.
Stayed tuned for the next series on cutting your fabric!