Where do you start with quilting? If it all looks so difficult and you are having difficulty getting started in quilting, there is help at hand. For years I would stare at quilting books and magazines totally bewildered. Quilts can look so complicated. Most of them are not. The trick is to break them down into bite-sized pieces. Even better there are foolproof ways to quilt for beginners.
It is important to recognise your sewing skills and to work on something you can finish. Build your sewing and quilting skills and improve as you learn. Concentrate on your strengths. If you are confident with one aspect of quilting – make that shine. Get one quilt finished and you’ll be hooked.
1. Work with plain fabrics if you find it easier to begin with Kona have a wonderful range of plain fabrics. I know I would love to have a fat quarter or more of every one. There are plenty of outlets in the U.K. for these fabrics and new colours are introduced regularly.
2. Introduce pattern with easy-to-use pre-cuts. You have lots of choice from strips to squares and if you are not so hot on cutting, this is a good way to start that first quilt.
3. Keep the design and colour choice simple at first.
4. Decide whether the design or the quilting is most important. This will depend on your own individual skills. Consider taking the design course.
5. Look for simple ways to cut your fabrics that have a magic complicated effect.
6. Work on small projects that you can finish in a day or a weekend.
7. Try quilt as you go – it’s an easier way to complete a quilt. There is a tutorial coming up soon.
8. Short of time but still want to quilt? Try number 7 or try hand quilting that can be done in short bursts like EPP. See our guide to different types of quilting.
9. Build your skills – once you can piece in straight strips or squares, try dividing the squares and piecing triangles.
10. If piecing is not your thing, try a multi- coloured background and applique.
Beginners’ quilting? Where do you start? What basic equipment do you need?Quilting is an ancient craft that can be created by hand or machine. With hand sewing it can be as simple as fabric, needle and thread.
Here is my top ten of what you need:
1. Fabric anything from plain calico cotton to hand dyed fabrics or commercial fabrics. I would choose cotton over polyester or mixes every time, however I do like to experiment with other fabrics. Check out our exclusive hand dyed fabrics
2. Whether hand or machine, choose good sewing needles appropriate to your fabric. Hand quilting needles are tiny and take some getting used to.
3. I would choose cotton thread over polyester in a suitable weight for your project. Opt for hand quilting thread if you are hand quilting. For embellishing your quilt, we have a range of undyed threads in cotton, wool, linen and silk.
4. Wadding – small projects can use felt but it is usual to choose a special batting or wadding. I do like the cotton wadding. There is a wide range of natural and synthetic wadding available. It is mainly a matter of choice. For bed quilts, choose the best you can afford. For wall hangings, many people opt for polyester.
5. Scissors – the best you can afford that are kept ONLY for cutting fabric.
6. Pins – you will most likely need more than one type. Long straight pins are useful for piecing. Curved safety pins are useful for basting the quilt layers.
7. Cutting requires either good scissors, but to be more accurate (and you know that is the byword of all quilting) you will need a rotary cutter. Feeling flush? Invest in an Accuquilt cutter or similar.
8. Cutting also requires rulers. Use a quilt ruler to cut accurately along with a cutting board.
Here is a list of quilting books I have found to be really useful, with the reviews I wrote about them if applicable. It is a work in progress, starting with the most recently released books. I will add to the list as new books come out, so keep checking back please.
Quilt Traditions by Devon LaVigne. ISBN 9781617455223. What a wonderful way to learn traditional quilting. 12 great projects and 9 skill-building techniques. Each quilt has a story to tell. Good design is the basis of this interesting book. Perfect your quilting skills with strip piecing, half-square triangles, templates, paper piecing, machine appliqué and sewing set-in seams and curves. You can see how the harmonious colour selections enhance these wonderful quilts. Easy to follow instructions and clear photos and diagrams seem to make the process easier. I really enjoyed this book.
Pioneer Quilts by LL and K Triplett. ISBN 9781617454653. The authors are the proud owners of a large quilt collection from their pioneer grandmother. They are documenting their historic collection for all to see and enjoy. In this book, you will find 30 quilts from the famous Poos collection. These are photographed in detail. 5 projects give instruction for you to make a quilt from an antique design. The book begins with an introduction based on historical research and diaries from the 1800s about life on the Plains and migration west. There are superb reproductions of the quilts, each with a description. The 5 patterns have been re-created for the modern quilter and are suitable for the intermediate skill level. The large Delectable Mountains quilt is c. 1850, Wild Goose Chase from c. 1875, Cake Stand from c.1890, Red and white Nine Patch from c. 1870 and Double Four-Patch Crib Quilt from c. 1880. You’ll find everything you need to know to make these 5 wonderful quilts. They are not my favourites from the book however, but each of these quilts is a piece of history.
Artful Log Cabin Quilts by Katie Pasquini Masopust. ISBN 9781617454509. Katie is one of my favourite quilt authors. She has the most wonderful ideas. If you are thinking traditional log cabin quilts, think again. This book takes you from inspiration to a modern interpretation of log cabin quilts. Make free-form blocks from any image. Contents include history, inspiration, grids, fabrics, cutting, construction, quilting and finishing plus a gallery. There are lots of ideas for composition. The book has easy to follow instructions and is illustrated throughout with fabulous images of work. A simple design idea that works and will transform your quilting. It doesn’t, however make me think of log cabin quilts, but very very artful, yes. Great designs, great use of colour, fabric and stitch.
Modern Triangle Quilts by Rebbecca Bryan. ISBN 9781617453137. 70 pieced triangle blocks make bold, geometric designs to play with in your quilt-making. There are 3 basic triangular shapes used to make blocks. These are used singly or joined to make diamonds or larger triangles. You’ll also find 11 sampler quilts that are simple to piece with no set-in seams. Explore bold, dynamic design, colour, visual texture and balance. Enhance with stitch. I love the Upstart quilt (I would have put this one on the front cover). It is dynamic and a very adaptable design, as shown in Skylines and Facets. At the back of the book are fold-out template patterns. The instructions are clear and I would expect this to be one to be a bestseller.
All Things Quilting with Alex Anderson. ISBN 9781607058564. Don’t know how to quilt? Want to learn but can’t get to classes? Here is a superb book to help you along the journey. Few sit down and create a masterpiece straight away, but this book will certainly iron out a few wrinkles. Learn all about materials, tools and techniques. Found out how to design, draft, cut, piece, applique, construct, quilt and finish. Expand your quilting horizons no matter what your skill level. This is not just about tips and measurements, this book encourages you to play and think before committing. Includes great photography and easy to follow instructions throughout. An absolute classic.
Quilting Is My Therapy by Angela Walters. ISBN 9781217455162. I have admired all Angela Walters’ books but this one has me mesmerized. That gorgeous cover is soft to the touch and I keep stroking it – it is almost like a piece of fabric. This is a collectible book of the stitches and quilts created by this amazing machine quilt artist. See how she chooses free-motion stitches to adorn her quilts. Such a magnificent book with incredible knock-out photography. Includes beginnings, hand to machine quilter, going pro, go big, back to the future, about the author, Special detail has been paid to extra thick paper and a cover with flap and it is simply superb in a word. It’s like stitch combining to accommodate the quilt design and enhance perfectly with stitch. Sharing her fabulous skills for all to see what they too can achieve. This is all about the beauty of quilting, highlighting the stitch. It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Angela does it so fine. It is not a step-to-step free-motion instruction manual, but Angela talking about her incredible journey to be one of the best quilters. Highly recommended.
Anyone who has studied business should be aware of how to cost a product. However, for some makers that are usually hobbyists or makers for friends or for anyone who is baffled, here is the ultimate low-down on how to cost that quilt.
A few guidelines to start with, which should go without saying but you’d be surprised! Ensure you are actually proficient enough to make a product for sale. Many times I have seen posts on social media saying ‘My friend wants to buy this. How much should I charge?’ Sadly the accompanying photo is one of a crumpled, badly made object.
Be professional. If you are not up to making a quilt at ‘for sale’ standard, then do not accept payment. If you can do it, then charge accordingly. Never think this is pin money or a hobby.
Far too many people think they can sell without telling the tax man. Do not do it. Even if it is for friends and family, you could be in violation of business law. Ask the taxman, they will tell you if you are taxable. Be aware that selling on Etsy, eBay, Facebook and other social sites means you can be found. Be honest.
Accepting A Commission
1. Can you produce exactly what the person is asking for?
2. Who is providing the materials? If it is the purchaser – you need to ensure they are providing you with top quality materials, or you need to exempt yourself from the results of washing etc with regard to different materials that shrink at different rates; thin, worn materials that might fall apart; material that might colour bleed. I much prefer to select materials myself.
3. Delivery – is it a realistic time schedule? Ideally you want to set the delivery date yourself but it must be agreed. If it is imposed upon you and you cannot meet the deadline, you could be in breach of contract.
4. Ensure you know what is being asked of you with regard to size, fabric, binding, and any other requirements.
4. You will need to be specific about cost. There is no reason, if you are producing a professional product that you should not charge accordingly. Quilting is a skill that is often under-rated. Some quilts are quicker to make than others.
5. Get it in writing and produce two copies, one for the buyer to keep and the other for your records. Ensure both copies are signed.
Working Out The Cost
There is much more to costing a quilt than one thinks (especially buyers!), so ensure you factor in everything.
A. Materials – fabric, wadding, quilt label, thread, one sewing needle, rotary cutting blades. Anything used in the quilt, which cannot be used is charged at cost. Some makers might factor in a small profit margin here. You have taken the time to purchase these goods and need to add shipping costs too. Things that are purchased but can be used several times over such as sewing machines and tools are assets and for these you would factor in a percentage of the cost of the tools and machinery you have had to buy to make that quilt – that specialist ruler, the longer machine. My advice is use the best fabrics available and charge accordingly. You are producing a heirloom, something that will last a lifetime and beyond. Include any embellishments such as buttons etc.
B. One day you will have to replace that machine. Factor in a percentage of your running costs, including servicing and repairs. Also factor in a cost for electricity and any other running costs. If you have a website or pay for advertising or exhibitions, then factor a percentage of these in too. It is a matter of working out how many quilts you will sell a year, dividing your running costs by that number and finding out the running costs per quilt.
C. Design cost if applicable including any meetings and delivery time.
D. Time to make the quilt – again be professional, charge the going rate. The minimum you should charge is the minimum hourly rate for your age. You might wish to add more for experience, complexity of design. If you are a slow quilter, you might like to charge the bare minimum. If it takes you 3 hours to do what it takes most people one hour, then one hour would be the charge. What I would not advise anyone to do is just charge 50 pounds or just times the materials by two or whatever nonsense someone has told you. This undermines professionals and demeans quilting as a whole.
E. Are you taxable? Take into account the amount you will have to pay in tax.
F. Do you belong to any quilting associations that you have to pay for? Factor a small percentage in.
G. Add delivery costs if the quilt is not being collected in person.
H. Profit margin? That’s your time spent quilting at the hourly rate you have set. If you are embarrassed about your hourly rate when questioned, then just give the price for the quilt as a whole. You might want to factor in a small percentage for extras.
I. What if things go wrong? So you thought that quilt would take 20 hours and the machine was not working right and you had to unpick. The truth is that it is hard to cost this in – your buyer is not to blame. It is however wise to factor in a couple of hours extra on every quilt so that over time, if things do go wrong or simply take longer than you thought, you are covered.
J. You cannot price-match major retailers and mass-produced quilts, so just concentrate on providing a unique quilt with a personal service, made with love. At the end of the day there is a limit to what the market will pay, but this may be much higher than you think if you have identified your market correctly.
Be aware of what is tax deductible when you declare your income:
If you are using part of your home to make a living, you can claim a percentage of heat/light/telephone etc. Know that if you use part of your home exclusively for business, such as a home studio that has no other purpose, that you can be liable for Capital Gains tax when you sell your home. So sometimes it is better to use the kitchen or spare bedroom. The products you buy to make the quilt are tax deductible as allowable expenses. The assets, you are allowed to take a percentage until such time that they are defunct, sold or replaced.
Welcome. This is the new blog where I shall be showing and discussing my textile work. My stitch and embroidery as opposed to quilting, which is in separate blog posts.
My stitch life began many years ago and is something I just have to do. It is a part of me. I cannot just sit, I have to stitch or knit.
The two pieces shown here began life as pieces based on ancient art. The essential ingredient is circles made by ancient man. However, I was not satisfied with either piece, and certainly the one on scrim was almost consigned to the bin on several occasions. Yet, I am not one to throw work away. Everything has a purpose, it is just that the purpose does not always reveal itself straight away. So both pieces sat in the drawer awaiting for the finishing of a book.
Then I started another book on lichen – containing mainly images for inspiration for textile artists. I began creating some work depicting lichen. Yesterday I was just about to start a piece on the embellishing machine with pre-felt and merino tops. Suddenly I had a feeling of deja vu. I went through that drawer and selected not only these two pieces shown here, but several others I could work up into something better than they are at present.
The first is worked on cotton scrim I lightly attached merino wool in several colours using an embellishing machine (you could use dry felting needles). I then stitched circles that almost disappeared into the merino wool. I was never happy with this piece. Yesterday I started enhancing the piece with more stitch and additions. It is looking better and I shall work on it today, then it will go under the embellishing machine once more.
The second piece is worked on hessian in the same way and this needs relatively little more to make it a finished piece.
There comes a time in every quilter’s life when they no longer want to lay a quilt on the floor, dining room table or other surface. When you need to see a quilt in front of you and not at a skewed angle – your best option is a quilting design board.
When I moved into my new workspace, even though it is small, I decided a quilting design board was essential. My floor space is limited anyway so I was struggling to lay out a full-sized double quilt on the floor. The wall seemed the perfect option. I can now step back from my quilt, leave it for an overnight test, play with different layouts.
It is super easy to make a quilting design board. Materials needed:
1. Foamboard, cheap and available
3. Fabric or pins
1. I used 10mm thick foamboard. It is lightweight. If you have it delivered, understand that it might arrive damaged, but that probably is unlikely to matter because you are going to cover it. I bought 8 A2 panels. Size matters – think of your ultimate space and how best you can have a layout to view the size of quilts you make. I used just 6 of the panels.
2. To fix the panels to my wall, I used Command picture hanging strips.
3. You can pin directly into the foamboard, but one thing to consider is that with all the pinning, you will one day have to replace your panels. Better to use fabric to cover your panels and pin it at regular intervals. Your quilting fabric will then just magically stay put without pins. I used scrim available here
Alternatives are felt – try any fabric and see if your quilting pieces will stay put.
Opt for a wall that does not receive direct sun, otherwise your fabric might fade if left in situ for long. You do need good light though.
I now use my quilting design board for all my quilt layouts. It cost under 25 pounds and is my favourite quilting design aid.The only problem now is that I would like more wall space to have at least one more design board!
Discover different ways to quilt. Here’s my exclusive guide to quilting to help beginners upwards decide which types and styles of quilting they want to try.
Check out the eCourses page regularly for new courses and why not ask your quilting group to host me as a speaker.
Quilts are made of 3 parts, often referred to as a sandwich
The quilt top
The wadding or batting in the middle
The pieced top is usually referred to as patchwork
The quilting is stitching by hand or machine usually through all 3 layers
A quilt is normally a bed sized quilt, but these days there are far more uses of quilting in wall hangings, clothes, home accessories including anything from mug rugs and coasters to cushions and sewing machine covers plus quilt sizes ranging from mini to King Size bed quilts.
There are different types of quilts
Block quilts have existed from the 1800s at least and are still extremely popular today. There are many traditional and modern block patterns. Take a look at our Block Design eCourse.
Applique is also a traditional quilting technique.
Historical methods of quilting include Cathedral Window Quilting and Japanese Folded Patchwork. Take a look at our eCourses on these two subjects.
Whole cloths or traditional hand stitch quilts are heirlooms. They take a long time to make, but are worth it. See our modern slant on a hand stitched calico cloth quilt in the eCourses section of the website.
Modern or Contemporary
With the advent of freeform quilts – informal designs and free motion machine quilting, this art form has really taken on a free spirit again. We offer a number of eCourses on modern methods of quilting including design eCourses and tutorials using traditional hand stitch methods or computer design.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of some methods of putting a quilt together:
A method of adding cut shapes to quilts to the surface of the quilt top. There are several types of applique. This can be done n formal blocks or informal designs.
Technical ability: Confident beginners to Advanced
Technique: there are various techniques of machine or hand stitching shapes to the quilt top some more complicated than others. You need to find a way of cutting and piecing the shapes to the surface. Hawaiiian quilts are a form of appliqué. There is also reverse appliqué – Mola is a form of reverse applique. Broderie Perse is another type of appliqué.
A freeform design that conveys a beautiful image or a message. This type of quilt is usually a wall hanging and can use traditional or modern methods.
Technical ability: Intermediate up
Techniques: often involves multiple techniques including appliqué, free—motion or hand stitching, embroidery, hand-dyed fabrics, text and more
As challenging as you want it to be, a chance to show off your ability
Improvisational quilts are ones which are not bound by rules and often include freehand cutting and innovative piecing.
Landscape quilts are art quilts that mimic the landscape, they often rely heavily on stitch and using the right fabrics.
Photo quilts use your own photos, transferred to fabrics.
Repetitive blocks are an easy way to create harmony. Blocks are often referred to as units. They are used in traditional quilting.
Technical ability: Beginners to Advanced depending on the complexity involved. Simple blocks can be made using geometric shapes.
Technique: accurate straight stitch quarter inch seam. Piecing can be more challenging depending on the design and include matching points
Versatile including anything from two colour simple striped blocks up to the exhilarating challenge of Double Wedding Ring or Dear Jane quilts or Sampler Quilts which contain different blocks.
Attic Windows Quilts are another type of block involving an optical illusion using a frame to give the effect of windows.
Simple blocks are an excellent introduction to traditional quilting.
Cathedral Window Quilting
A type of quilting that requires no wadding, so is often referred to as a patchwork method
Technical ability: Beginners to Intermediate
Technique: Accurate hand stitching. Can also be machine stitched, but I do not find it any quicker. Accurate cutting and folding to ensure all the ‘blocks’ are the same size
Design can be varied to offer challenges
A style of irregularly-pieced quilting. Shapes can be random or follow a design pattern. Embellishments are usually added including buttons, beads and embroidery. Unusual fabrics such as velvet and lace might be introduced.
Technical ability: Confident beginner up
Technique: Accurate piecing of different shapes.
You need expert knowledge on how fabrics behave and if they will behave the same when washed.
English Paper Piecing or EPP for short
An easy way to achieve precision. If you are struggling with accurate seams, inset seams or matching up shapes – this is the way to do it.
Technical ability: Beginners
Technique: easy accurate piecing using whip stitch
Challenging depending on the design but easy to accomplish accuracy. Hexagons are a favourite of EPP
Bonus: portable. These days you can repeat your template easily in software and print out as many templates as you need in the size you want. Templates are removed once the top is completed.
Foundation Paper Piecing or FPP for short
Fabric is stitched to paper or muslin forming foundation pieces. It’s another accurate paper piecing method. When you look at perfect points – this is the way it is done. Patterns that look complicated can be achieved easily with this method from triangles to picture quilts. The paper pieces are numbered for piecing.
Technical ability: Confident beginners to Intermediate
Technique: accurate machine piecing
Easy to accomplish complicated designs.
Japanese Folded Patchwork
This is known as patchwork even though it does have a type of wadding, though it is usually felt
Technical ability: Beginners
Technique: Accurate hand stitching. Accurate cutting of circles to ensure all the ‘blocks’ are the same size.
A style of quilting that traditionally uses the clothing of someone you wish to remember or to give to someone as a keepsake. Photo quilts can also be a type of memory quilt.
Modern or Contemporary Quilting
Emphasis on bold colours, design, use of space enhanced by quilting stitches. These quilts often look equally good on the wall as on a bed.
Technical ability: Confident beginner up
Technique: can be as simple as lines breaking up negative space to challenging designs with multiple techniques.
One Block Wonder Quilts or OBW for short
A way of cutting and arranging fabric to produce a stunning look from just one fabric
Technical ability: Intermediate to Advanced
Technique: Accurate cutting of triangles with points
Challenging to find a fabric that will work. Challenges accuracy of cutting through several layers of fabric. Takes more fabric than other quilts. Can be boring to piece but can produce stunning results from fabrics you would not normally use BUT not every fabric works. See the tutorial on OBW from my own hands-on experience
Pre-cuts – squares, layer cakes, jelly rolls
Like strip quilting but you can cut into shapes
Technical ability: Beginners to Intermediate
Technique: accurate straight stitch quarter inch seam. Piecing can be more challenging if you cut your squares into triangles.
Lots of examples in the Quilting for Beginners eCourse
Quilt As You Go or Quaygo (or QAYG) for short
A simplified way of working on one block at a time, piecing onto wadding then quilting before you move on to the next block. Blocks are then joined together to form the quilt with minimal quilting of the whole quilt because the quilting has already been done.
Technical ability: Beginners
Technique: quilting on smaller pieces as you work that avoids having to do extensive quilting on the whole quilt.
Bonus: can be fitted into small sessions and you feel as if you have accomplished something because you have a pieced and quilted block.
These are quilts using traditional methods but including non-traditional materials such as denim. The seams are exposed on the front. They are assembled differently to traditional quilts.
Raw Edge Quilts
A type of quilting with exposed raw edges.
Japanese quilting with precise stitches that form designs. Special sashiko cotton is available in different colours. The fabric is usually dark blue (indigo). Sashiko quilts traditionally have no padding.
Scrap or Scrappy Quilts
A quilt that uses leftover bits, often in small pieces to make a quilt.
The selvedge (selvage) is normally cut off the fabric as it does not behave like the rest of the fabrics as it is woven differently. However recently, people have started putting selvedges together to form accessories or quilts. Nothing is wasted.
Strip quilting is an easy method and you can use pre-cut strips
Technical Ability: Beginners
Technique: accurate straight stitch quarter inch seam
Challenge yourself with a Bargello strip quilt. You could also try different ways to cut up strips once sewn together.
Seminole Patchwork is another type of strip quilting.
An Italian style of quilting that is ‘stuffed’ with padding to add dimension to the design, a bit like stumpwork.
Technical Ability: Intermediate
Technique: raised areas are formed by inserting padding
This guide is free for personal use only. The contents are not to be copied nor shared nor distributed in any way.
Copyright Karen Platt 2018
Welcome to the new website. This is now my new home for all things quilting and textiles. You’ll find quilting talk, professional tips, ecourses, ebooks, kits, patterns, supplies and finished quilts. Mark this page to follow my professional practice making and designing quilts. We welcome beginners to advanced quilters.
We aim to provide the information and know-how no matter what stage you are at in your quilting. We are an education based practice that provides tips and the knowledge you need to create wonderful quilts from designing your own to technique know-how. Our ecourses and ebooks contain all my hands-on experience. I am a fully qualified and experienced teacher with a background in education and I have been a designer since the early 1990s. I launched my first quilting ecourse in 2017 and a textile design ecourse in 2016. I also provide Inspiration Books for all designers. The focus is on enabling you to become a better quilter and to reach your potential. Tutorials start at just 10 pounds, techniques courses at 30 pounds and we have longer courses for design.
I work with both traditional and modern techniques of quilting, including using computer design. I aim to push the boundaries and make you think again just what quilting is all about.
Supplies include non-woven fabrics such as Lutradur, Evolon and Zeelon, Bondaweb, undyed threads for stitching and undyed as well as hand dyed fabrics and digital fabrics. Quilting patterns, kits and finished quilts – just check out the categories on the website. The eCourses and eBooks are my main focus.
You’ll also find my finished textile art. My digital art and paintings have found a new home on Artfinder
Other fabrics and makes can be found in my Etsy shop including more fabrics and rust-dyed fabrics.