The Beginner's Guide to Quilting: Tips to Make Your First Project a Breeze!

Quilters of all skill levels come through our doors, and we are pleased to say that we have helped many new crafters learn to quilt over the years! Collectively, our staff has a wealth of quilting knowledge to share with new quilters. In this post, we share our best tips for making your first quilt project easy & painless!


While the internet has tons of helpful videos and tutorials for sewists of all skill levels, it’s hard to beat hands-on learning with an expert that's in the same room. Don’t feel shy about signing up for a class - that’s the best way to learn a new skill and avoid a ton of frustration as you embark on your new hobby! We always have plenty of classes happening in the shop;  click here to view current class options & register online.

this book is a shop favorite for new quilters!
For at-home reference, you’ll find a lot of great resources & tutorials from trusted brands such as Bernina and Babylock, not to mention we’re always saving our favorite tips and tutorials here on Pinterest!


Fabric Considerations

Using pre-cut pieces of fabric (called precuts) will save you a lot of time and take some of the guesswork out of your first few projects, allowing you to focus on perfecting basic quilting techniques. We have a lot of great pre-cut jelly rolls here in the shop, which contain everything you need to make your first quilt project. One of our current shop favorites is the Wayside Jelly Roll Quilt (below left) which is a free pattern designed for the Wayside Jelly Roll (below right). We sell kits for this project, which include the pattern and precut fabric, here in our online store as well as in the shop!

wayside quilt pattern and jelly roll precut fabric

If and when you decide to cut your own pieces, remember to purchase enough fabric. Ideally, you should purchase more than you think you need (you can always use it for something else - we’ve collected a lot of clever small projects here on Pinterest to help you use up your leftover fabric scraps!), The best advice we can give you is to measure TWICE, then cut ONCE. Mistakes during the cutting are easy to make, so take your time and make sure to cut what you need with care and accuracy. 

In particular, pay attention to seam allowance. This is easy to overlook when you're learning the ropes, but if you don't have the exact right amount, your quilt will not look right! 

Bright square pieces of fabric, patchwork tools, sewing equipment, traditional quilting

Finally, try to avoid mixing fabric types whenever possible. Different types of fabric behave in different ways, and having to account for a variety of fabrics in a single project can be a real challenge, even for an expert quilter. We recommend sticking to 100% cotton fabrics for your first quilt. 

Pattern Considerations

In general, any pattern marked “beginner” or “novice” will be a good first project. A smaller pattern, or something that uses bigger blocks will minimize frustration and set you up for success. Not only will a project using bigger blocks be completed faster, there is also less room for error because fewer seams will be required. 

Also, your first quilting project doesn’t necessarily need to be a large quilt! Smaller mini-quilts, pillows, potholders, bags or totes are great ways to practice quilting techniques on a smaller scale before you dive into a bigger project! 

Here’s another thing to keep in mind: rectangular and square blocks are easier to work with than triangular or circle shapes. Shown below is a free quilting project from Baby Lock, the Springtime Quilt by Elizabeth Cecchettini. It’s made using just two simple blocks: the square-in-a-square block and the rail fence block!

sprintime quilt pattern from baby lock sewing

Prewashing Fabric

Always pre-wash your fabric before starting a project, as some fabrics will shrink. This is also a great time to test for color fastness, which is just a fancy way of saying whether or not the dyes in your fabric will stay put when you wash them. The more contrast you have from light to dark among your blocks, the higher the risk of bleeding. Nothing is sadder than colors running in a quilt after all of your hard work!

The only time you wouldn't prewash fabric is if the fabric or pattern explicitly states not to, but you should still test color fastness. Here is an excellent post that walks you through the steps for checking colorfastness in your quilting fabric.

finished quilt

Pressing vs. Ironing 

After washing your fabric, it’s time to remove all the wrinkles! Learning how to properly press a quilt will help you from start to finish, starting with uniform, unwrinkled pieces to work with and ending with the right finishing touch to preserve your seams and make your work look nicer! 

You will not use the back-and-forth motion you are probably used to when ironing; here is an excellent blog post detailing how to properly press a quilt block to avoid distortion while still removing the wrinkles for accurate piecing. 

using an iron to get wrinkles out of fabric

The Right Tools

Investing in a few key tools will make your quilting experience much more pleasurable! If you aren’t using precuts, having a good-quality Rotary Cutter, Ruler and Mat will make cutting your pieces significantly faster & more accurate. As you may have guessed, a good iron is also nice to have! Scissors, marking pens, and good-quality thread is also on our list - click here to learn about our 6 favorite quilting tools here in the shop!

quilting tools

Whether you’re just getting started with your quilting adventure or have enjoyed many years perfecting your stitches, we’re pleased to be your go-to for whatever you need to make your next project shine! You can contact us online, give us a call at (815) 836 - 8735, or stop by the shop - we’re open 7 days a week for all of your quilting needs.

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The Beginner's Guide to Quilting: Tips to Make Your First Project a Breeze!