Quilting Skill Builder Series

There have been so many amazing comments over the past few days! As well as those who gently reeled me in, I’ve heard from people who said, “Yeah, what’s up with that?!” Others have let me know that, as beginners, they really like to see bloggers explain their processes more completely. They don’t necessarily want to see step by step instructions on how to make a block – they’re wondering about less concrete things. I’m going to quote a couple of comments because they put it so well:

I appreciate all of you wonderfully talented artists giving me your thoughts as to why you choose the fabrics you choose (so I can be inside your head), problems you encounter as you’re piecing your quilt (and how you think through your resolution of those problems), various options you consider when considering what the quilt will finally look like (and why you rejected some and decided on the one you chose).
I like seeing the process involved getting from Point A to Point Z when making a quilt. Seeing the finished product is nice, but I’m still trying to learn how to sew a consistent 1/4″ seam. So I enjoy seeing the process from beginning to end. And I love hearing all of you “seasoned” quilters tell me “WHY” you picked the colors you did, and “WHY” you changed your mind about some color choices when you did that. And “HOW” you fixed something you screwed up because you didn’t want to go buy more fabric, or you just wanted to prove to yourself you could fix a problem you created because you cut the fabric too short, or sewed something together wrong and didn’t discover you did it until you had sewn more fabric to that incorrect item. – Deborah in Atlanta

…one of the things that drew me to quilting is the design aspect of it. And from a design perspective, simpler quilts can be just as good, if not better, than complicated ones. Choosing colors and fabric and making them work together IS a very challenging part of the process, and a huge part of what makes a quilt successful, regardless of how difficult it is to piece. So the design aspect, in my mind, is a separate issue from the technical execution aspect, but shouldn’t be considered any less important. – Lee from Freshly Pieced

Perhaps as new quilters develop confidence with less demanding patterns we will see more complex patterns reappear because there will be a larger demand for complicated patterns. – Anna from Quilt Mom’s Journey

A friend of mine (and yours, I imagine, since I keep posting links to her blog!), Jeanne from Grey Cat Quilts, talked about creating a series of skill builder posts. The recent comments seem like such a great time to start, and she and have decided to tag-team it. We will work together to provide constructive information geared toward newer quilters. Here are some things we talked about, and we’d love it if you could chime in with any suggestions. If there’s something in particular you’ve always wondered how to do, or know how to do but still struggle with, let us know and we’ll try to work it in.

Purchasing fabric
Color theory
Fabric choices in a quilt
Rotary cutting tips (like don’t cut off your finger!)
Quilting terminology
Basic components of quilt blocks and their construction: squares, rectangles, half square triangles, quarter square triangles, flying geese
That darned scan quarter-inch seam!
Rescuing blocks (wrong sizes, etc.)
60/30 degree triangles
Foundation piecing techniques
Curved piecing
English paper piecing
Applique (in all of its variations, but we’ll need a guest blogger to take care of that one!)
Leader/Ender projects
How to break down the construction of a block so you can recreate it without a pattern (there are hundreds, if not thousands of traditional blocks that are copyright free)
Resizing blocks
Drafting your own block
Calculating yardage
Border options – solid vs. pieced, borders vs. no borders, how many borders, what fabric, what width, straight vs. mitered
Backing options
Choosing a quilting design
Basting a quilt
Quilting on a domestic sewing machine
Documenting your quilts



  1. I am a new quilter (a year and a half) and it is funny because even as a new quilter I have picked up on the ‘trends’. Wonky, Ash, pinwheels. As a new quilter, I don’t know where to look for new methods/patterns. I am not confident enough to pick up a pattern off the shelf and just give it a try. One of the skills I want to pick up in sewing curves. That may sound very basic, but I am the next generation of quilting and having a strong foundation is what is going to keep me quilting 20 years from now. Thanks for the skill building posts to come.

  2. Even as an experienced quilter, I am so interested in seeing how others do the things on your list. Great idea for a post series.

  3. This sounds really great. I’m an intermediate quilter at least, and I still struggle with quilting designs, and I don’t want to send all my quilts out to be quilted.

  4. I need to learn about squaring blocks and quilts both and also how to trim before binding.
    Also,what steps are used in machine quilting as well, like do you backstitch and what about basting around the edge?

  5. All great ideas!
    Perhaps something on handquilting, if either of you ladies do that. I love doing a combo of hand and machine quilting on my pieces and it may be useful for others, too.

    Also maybe about designing a pattern. Some people are math-challenged and may be afraid to try to design their own quilt, even if they are a creative person and would rather make something they’ve imagined in their head instead of buying a pattern.

    Looking forward to your posts in this series.

  6. That sounds like a great idea. One thing I stuggle with is making the quilts big enough to cover the whole bed. Most patterns are not big enough and so when I try to enlarge them. I usually do it by making a bigger border.

    BUT then

    I heard a judge tell someone that they need to make with border more interesting.

    If the main part of the quilt had stars in it do you put a row of stars in the border or could you make a border but using rectrangles of the fabric used for the stars.

    So I look forward to this new post.

  7. Took me a while to work out that the comment link is at the top of the post so I have redone my comment here now.
    Loved reading your blog. I am new to quilting and consider myself to be fairly intelligent. I didn’t have a clear ruler. I was managing just fine with my metal craft ruler and cutting mat lines and had a clear one on the shopping list. I saw a tutorial on cutting with a clear ruler ( a big square one) straighten the edge with the fabric on the left then cut the required widths with the fabric to the right. Man did that look easy. Needless to say I bought myself a 10″ clear square that day. So what I am saying is that there is nothing too basic to make a tutorial for. Go for it.

  8. You are awesome! Can I be your new friend? 😉

    I am working on a quilt class and am thinking about putting the info into a wiki. I am going to include links to your skillbuilder series in my handouts. Thanks for your hard work!

Comments are closed.