Your 1st quilt: introduction

Welcome to the first post of the Your 1st quilt series!

Here is what you can expect in the next few weeks:

  • Tutorial 1 – Introduction & supplies
  • Tutorial 2 – Starching & cutting
  • Tutorial 3 – Piecing & pressing
  • Tutorial 4 – Backing & basting
  • Tutorial 5 –  Quilting
  • Tutorial 6 – Binding

Today’s post will include definitions, costs, and supplies. I’m going to try really hard in this series to assume nothing about your knowledge of quilting. Feel free to skip ahead if you already know something or if you get bored.

Also, it should go without saying that these are all just my opinions. This is how I do it. I absolutely encourage you to utilize as many sources of knowledge as there are available: youtube, other blogs, magazines and books, craftsy, etc.

What is a quilt?


Generally a quilt is a blanket made of small pieces of fabric sewn together into a larger piece. That process is called patchwork. The patchwork quilt top is then sandwiched with batting and backing and these layers and then sewn together and bound on the edges. The sewing of the layers is called quilting. Even if the quilt top is not patchwork (i.e. if it’s all one fabric), it can still be a quilt. This is called a whole-cloth quilt.

The distinguishing feature of a quilt is that it is made of layers of material sandwiched together and sewn repeatedly in the pattern of your choosing. Sometimes a quilt might be smaller than a blanket and used as a wall hanging, pot holder, coaster, etc.


Modernly there are many different styles of quilts. A lot of people still make super traditional quilts with civil-war era reproduction fabrics or 30’s prints. Some people are totally rejecting tradition and using all solid fabrics with a very sparse or minimalist aesthetic.


Most of us fall somewhere in the middle and embrace the freedom to dabble in multiple styles or create our own unique style. Part of what makes quilting so exciting is the ability to make something different every time and try new things.

How long does it take?

Some quilts take many, many hours. When I made my first quilt I was honestly a little floored by how long it took. Have you seen a magazine or book promise you a “quilt in a day” or a “fast quilt”? Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. But do not be discouraged because there are many moments of satisfaction along the way to keep you going. And then at the end, the incredible feeling of finishing a quilt will make you want to start another one right away!

So my answer is this: it takes a long time but it’s worth it.

How much does it cost?

You have some choices to make that will determine the cost.

High quality quilting cotton costs $10/yd at my local quilt shop and at my favorite online shops. The good quality quilting cotton at JoAnn’s costs a bit less if you’re a good coupon user, maybe around $8/yd. The lower quality stuff is even cheaper, maybe $4/yd.

If you wanted to make a 72 x 88 inch quilt, the quilt top would require at least 4 yards (but probably more depending on the design). Let’s say 5 yards to allow for seam allowances and cutting waste. That’s $20 to $50 for the quilt top, depending on the price per yard that you paid for your fabric.

If you watch the sales, batting might cost between $10 (polyester) and $25 (cotton).

If your quilt back is another 5 yards, that’s a total of $50 to $125 for a large quilt.

In my early quilting days I experimented with lower quality fabrics in the interest of saving $$$. But somewhere in the middle of my second quilt it dawned on me that the time investment is the real price of a quilt. In my own opinion, if at all possible, it’s better to use the good stuff, even if it means you make fewer quilts. With all the time you’re going to spend on it, it’s worth it to have good quality materials so that the end product is durable and soft.

That said, it will be beautiful either way and I am still very fond of my JoAnn’s discount rack creations.

The pricing above is based on the assumption that you are purchasing fabric by the yard off a bolt. There are other options. Quilt shops sell fabric in cute little fat quarters and other precut shapes. A fat quarter is 18 by 22 inches. This size is extremely convenient because it fits comfortably on most cutting mats. It’s also easier to iron than yardage.


Other precuts are available as well: 5 inch squares, 10 inch squares, 2 1/2 inch strips, etc. Generally speaking precuts are more expensive per yard because the manufacturer is saving you cutting time. A lot of precuts also eliminate the need to iron. You can just proceed right to your sewing machine!


Although modernly most quilts are made with cotton specifically designed and manufactured for making quilts, you can also make quilts with other materials. You should do so with some caution and always do your research first. For more on this you can read my posts about using men’s shirts or linen and voile.

What supplies do I need to make a quilt?

To make a quilt you will need the basic sewing supplies (sewing machine, thread, pins, scissors, seam ripper, starch) as well as a few specialty quilting supplies.

The primary supply a non-quilter will need to acquire is a rotary cutting set. My first set was the $30 Fiskars starter set from Joann’s. I have since upgraded to an Olfa cutter and Omnigrip ruler and I will tell you that I definitely noticed a difference right away. The Olfa cutter is sharper and the Omnigrip rulers are easier to keep straight and steady.


Another supply that you probably wouldn’t own as a non-quilter is a set of basting pins. These are specialty pins with a curved edge. You use these to temporarily attach the quilt to the batting and backing during the quilting stage. The number of pins needed depends on the size of the quilt. The largest quilt I’ve made (95 by 95 inches) required three packs of pins.


Once you get going, you may or may not get a little crazy about the rulers and templates and other fun tools you buy. For our purposes you can consider this list to be sufficient to get you through a first quilt of the size and type I will be demonstrating:

  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • seam ripper
  • scissors
  • spray starch
  • rotary cutter, ruler, and mat
  • 1 set of basting pins
  • 9 squares of cotton fabric 5 by 5 inches each (a charm pack would work)
  • a piece of batting at least 16 inches square
  • backing material measuring at least 18 inches square  (a fat quarter would be perfect)
  • a walking foot attachment for your sewing machine
  • a 2 1/2 inch strip 72 inches long for binding
  • hand sewing needle to stitch down the binding

The project I will be making in these tutorials is a 13.5 inch square quilt made of nine 5-inch squares. I think it’s nice to try things out on a small scale like this but you could definitely use these tutorials to tackle something bigger if you’re ambitious like that. Just adjust your fabric and batting requirements accordingly.

In the next tutorial we will start by starching and cutting our fabric!

10 thoughts on “Your 1st quilt: introduction

  1. Perfect, this series is just what I need. I have made lots of bags and other small things but not a quilt and I really want to become proficient at it as they look so lovely.

  2. Pingback: Your 1st quilt: piecing and pressing | Sarah Quilts

  3. Pingback: Your 1st quilt: backing and basting | Sarah Quilts

  4. Thrilled I found this blog on Pinterest! I have sewn for (gasp) roughly 45 years (that is not a typo) but now that I am retired am attempting my first self designed quilt. I have made several basic quilt kits but your step by step back to the basics tutorial is just what I needed to gain the self confidence to do it all myself! I just finished cutting out the appliques, backing, borders and dashing … away I go!

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