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!

Penny progress

We are almost done with the appliqué portion of the Penny Sampler class!

Here are my blocks to date:

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These are the new ones from this week:

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My style tends to vacillate between “pretty” and “funky.” The quilt was feeling more on the funky side so I purposely did 2 things this week to start to soften it a bit: I chose floral fabrics for my sunflowers and I forced myself not to sketch stitch them. I think it was the right choice. When we add some of the large sections of borders I plan to use large scale florals and that will do a lot to prettify things as well.

I am going to love the heck out of this quilt.

Houston, we have a winner

Mr. picked you, comment 98:

Sarah from milaandcuatro

on September 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm Edit

I follow you already on BlogLovin’. Reply

Yay Sarah! I’ll email you for your address and get that charm pack off ASAP! I can’t wait to see what you do with it.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated! We had 187 entries, including over 50 new followers. I even hit the big 1-0-0 on Bloglovin! I can’t tell you guys how much it means to me to have people who are willing to listen to my obsessive quilting ramblings. My husband thanks you.

I hope to be back tomorrow with my penny sampler progress!

My first quilt/ Your first quilt

Melissa at My Fabric Relish is hosting a fun linky party about first quilts for the next couple of weeks. It’s just in time to help kick off my “Your first quilt” series: 7 tutorials that include all the information needed to make a first quilt!

So here is my first quilt:



Will all its various (charming) flaws.




Despite its flaws, I still view this quilt with pride and affection. And just try getting my 3-year-old to sleep without it! He knows I made it and somehow even at his age that really means something to him.

I’m thinking through a couple of giveaway/promotional ideas to kick off this series later this week so stay tuned for that! And you still have until midnight today (Monday, Sept. 9) to enter my Sunday Funday giveaway.

Sunday funday giveaway/ Sunday stash

What better way to celebrate the beginning of a new week than a giveaway?

Julie over at 627Handworks is doing a series of Sunday giveaways and inviting us along!

Here is what I’m offering today:


A sweet little charm pack from Kate Spain’s brand new line, Sunnyside! I got one for myself and it’s already cut up for my hexi project.

To enter, simply leave a comment. Leave an extra comment if you’re a follower or if you become one today! The giveaway will close Monday at midnight and I’ll announce the winner Tuesday. *Yes, I will ship internationally.*

And since I had to order the charm pack anyway, I threw in a “few extra things” for myself (NOT part of the giveaway, ha ha)…



I’m particularly excited about the design possibilities here:


Today and tomorrow I’ll be frantically trying to catch up on my Penny Sampler blocks and I’ll be back to share those as soon as they’re done!

Linking up with Sunday Stash!

Finish it up friday: hexagon quilt

Just kidding, it’s not really finished. I wish!


But I have (bravely) done the math to see just how long it will actually be until it IS finished. I thought you guys might find this math helpful in case you are considering a 1-inch hexi quilt.

As I mentioned in my hexagon tutorial, hexagons are measured by the length of one side. A 1-inch hexagon is 1 inch per side, but actually measures 2 inches across the long side and 1 3/4 inch across the short side.

I want my quilt to be a throw size so it can live on the back of the couch and be enjoyed by all. I started with an approximate goal of something like 50 x 70. Since I have a pack of 1,200 papers from I started my math by trying to figure out if that is enough or if I’ll need to reuse some.  After some trial and error I discovered that if I make 38 rows of 32 hexagons that will yield a 56 x 76 finished quilt. I’ll need 1216 papers, so I will need to reuse some. In fact, I’ll need to reuse a fair amount because I’ve given some papers away and I’m sorting out any fabric that’s not low volume enough (you can read about that here).

So far I have a slab of 70 hexagons all sewn together. I also have a stack of 15 rows of 5 (that’s 75 hexagons). Then I have an additional 270 basted hexies. So I’m about 1/3 done with basting. And some very low percentage done with sewing them together.


It’ll be well into 2014 until I even get close to a finish on this one.

But I’m not depressed by that and I’ll tell you why. I consider this a sort of “bonus quilt.” An extra. It has no deadline. The fabric is all either scraps or mini charm packs I’ve picked up here and there so it hasn’t been a big expense. I’ve mostly worked on it at times I would not have otherwise been sewing: outside watching the kids play, in front of the tv, in the car.


Plus, who wouldn’t want these pretty little hexagons stacks all over their house?

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Even a bad quilt is still a QUILT

A few weeks ago my mom and I stumbled upon this at an antique store in Holland, MI:


So pretty, right? I liked the colors and design right away but my “quilt budget” is not unlimited and we were going to a quilt shop next so I decided to let it go with the fervent hope that someone else would come along and love it.

After we left my mom couldn’t stop thinking about it and ultimately talked my dad into taking her back to buy it (as he likes to say, “another good deal for Mike”). We knew it had stains but upon closer inspection there are some additional… “challenges.”


Woah! That girl has got some curves. I investigated the back of the quilt top and it appears that someone’s grandma expertly hand pieced all the diamonds and then someone a little less savvy added all the red setting pieces with a machine. Perhaps that person got discouraged and banished the project to the land of forgotten WIPs.

BUT… but but but what that person may have forgotten is this: even a bad quilt is still a quilt, and quilts are really almost 100% of the time a-mazing. To me, that’s the great lesson of this quilt. It’s a message of consolation for those projects that we feel are less successful than others. It’s a message of encouragement to first-time quilters that their quilt will be amazing no matter how flawed. And, of course, it’s an exhortation to keep your eyes open at antique stores!

We backed it in a high quality cream muslin and I outline quilted all the stars. My mom is hand quilting X’s in the red boxes and then we’ll bind it. It’ll probably always have stains and curvy edges and might never feel soft and clean like a new quilt. But it will be absolutely stunning hung over a vintage ladder in my parent’s living room.

What a privilege to finally finish this multi-generational effort.