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Beginners Guide to Quilting (Hobby Guide to Quilting)




very beautiful quilted blanket

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If you are a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you probably remember Ma and Pa tucking Laura and Mary into an old wooden bedstead, complete with a cozy patchwork quilt.

Or perhaps you love the old ranch style and home decor of Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. If you want to inject some shabby chic creativity into your life taking up Quilting as a hobby is for you. 

Creating patchwork quilts is an American tradition and full of the resourcefulness and creativity that has made the nation great. Once the quilts were made for necessity, to add warmth and beautify. Now quilting is one of America’s biggest hobbies, a powerhouse and 3.9-billion-dollar industry. 

It is easy to see why so many people fall in love with the simplicity and addictiveness of this pleasant pastime. Once you get the hang of how quilting works it’s simply a matter of planning and executing the designs you create.

Some quilters use their work as an artistic medium, others curate traditional American motifs and patterns which often display the culture and character of individual states.

Quilting is great because you do not need much to start the process and the fabric costs are much more economical than sewing. If you or a relative already have a sewing hobby and have built up a big bag of scraps, making a patchwork quilt is a great way of putting them to use.

Join us as we provide the low-down on quilting, how it all works, what you need to do it, and where you can learn this classic craft.

We’ll also provide loads of inspiration with tips and links from some of our favorite quilting bloggers. 

Create Something Amazing with Hobby Quilting!

Quilting is an all-American tradition, but it is no longer just for grandma. More and more people across the globe are taking up the hobby of quilting and mastering age-old techniques to produce beautiful, stunning textile art. 

Though the average age of a hobbyist quilter is 63 years of age, this is decreasing rapidly, particularly because several artists are using quilting as a medium, and blogs and YouTube are bringing the pastime to younger generations. 

Looking at and handling a well-executed quilt is a sensory feast, but for some, the techniques involved may seem a little complicated, especially when the design is delivered at scale. However, by learning how the quilts are made, you will be able to see that quilting is a very achievable hobby, built on basic principles. 

What is Quilting?

The hobby takes its name from the act of quilting, which is one of the final steps in the creation of a quilt. 

Quilting takes at least three layers of fabric and joins them together with stitches that pass through all three layers to create a padded effect. This is an aesthetic and functional feature of the quilts that are made up of repeated pattern pieces of fabric known as quilt blocks, the basis of the hobby. 

Contemporary quilting draws from a rich history and is a well-known American tradition.

Though examples of quilting can be found all over the world. It is in the United States that quilting is best known as a hobby and cultural characteristic. Back in colonial times, quilts were made by both Spanish and French settlers who would have been familiar with the fashionable quilted doublets and other garments produced in Europe. 

Early quilts were whole-cloth quilts, with decorative stitching used to add a padded, intricate design. Old, damaged, or worn-out blankets would be sandwiched between the layers of new cloth so that nothing went to waste, another feature of quilting. 

What we now recognize as a patchwork quilt, developed from experimentation with other textile techniques like applique and foundation piecing, to create the geometric quilt patterns. 

american flag quilt blanket
American Flag Quilt Pattern

A significant contribution to the development and innovation of quilting has been made by the African American community, who are notable for their expertise in this craft. Many of their groundbreaking designs have been inducted into the Smithsonian Institution. 

The Amish are also famed for their quilting, which is a communal activity and industry, bringing together women from various households, to produce their sought-after designs.

The Native American communities have also passed on this tradition with the creation of star baby quilts and distinctive Seminole piecing that pieces scraps of fabric together to create intricate designs. 

Famous quilting designs patterns and motifs for the hobby quilter.

Many contemporary hobby quilting projects involve the reproduction or adaptation of the classic, historical designs that have been passed through the generations. Some quilting designs you may have heard of include:

  • Star of Bethlehem an eye-catching design focused on a central star; whose points extend to the quilt’s edges. 
  • Diamond in a Square is a traditional quilt block pattern that has a large center diamond with its points touching the sides of a square.
  • Bars, broken bars, or jolly bars involve patterns made from rectangular lengths of fabric. 
  • Lone Star is a Native American block and one of quilting’s oldest motifs. It features a six or eight-pointed star in what is one of quilting’s most complex designs. 

What Does Quilting Involve?

The techniques involved in making patchwork quilts will vary according to the size and complexity of the design but essentially, once a quilt pattern design (quilt block). Quilt blocks are of a standard size, usually 6-inch squares excluding seam allowance. The component pieces are cut out from pre-washed and ironed fabric.

The pattern design of the quilt is laid out in full and then gradually sewn together in rows. Further ironing and piecing together of the rows with careful alignment and sewing produces the completed design. Further assembly is required to make a quilt. 

Backing and batting layers are stitched into place using a standard or long arm sewing machine, which can add additional quilting detail with the stitch pattern used. Originally, this work would have been completed by hand, but sewing machines are the mainstay of the hobby quilter. 

5 Great Reasons to Take Up Quilting as Your New Hobby.

  • Hobby quilting can be used for some great home decor projects.

A beautiful patchwork bedspread is a cozy luxury that can cost hundreds of dollars in the stores. With your quilting hobby, you can create gorgeous blankets, wall hangings, and even potholders using quilting techniques. If you are into sustainable living, you can use old clothes for the fabric needed to make your quilts. 

  • Your quilting hobby can also be used to create beautiful gifts and heirlooms.

Use your quilting to make mementos from baby clothes or treasured old bedding. A quilt that you have put hours of time and labor into is an incredibly thoughtful gift especially if you use colors and patterns the recipient will love. 

  • Foster an intergenerational love of quilting with your new hobby.

Quilting is a great pastime to share with people of all ages and the sewing skills involved are often passed down from grandparents to grandchildren. A lot of quilting relies on traditions and techniques that vary by region and household, so some communities encourage quilting as a way of sharing family history too. 

  • Your quilting hobby is a great creative outlet. 

Once you have mastered the basic principles of quilting you can make just about anything you want. Why not curate ideas from quilting magazines or purchase coordinated fabric bundles to make your designs? Because you are using quilt blocks to create your quilts you can experiment with the motifs and patterns used as well as include embellishments and decorative quilting stitches.

  • If you are able to, joining a quilting group is a great way of meeting others who love your hobby.

Quilting has always been a social activity and many experts recommend group sewing of quilts as the best way of learning. If you have the opportunity to join or observe a group you should go for it as they work hard to organize events, charity sewathons, and demonstrations. 

quilting fabric rolls

What do I Need to Become a Hobby Quilter?

Here are your beginner quilting supplies – everything needed to make a success of your first foray into quilting. It is best to ensure that you source and use the right tools for quilting. Though it is tempting to just have a go with some fabric scraps and a pair of scissors, the results are likely to be poor and discouraging. The right tools and techniques offer the best opportunity for success.

  • Desk or worktable:  Craft hobbies like quilting require adequate space to lay out your work and keep everything to hand. Many crafters use trestle table systems that can also accommodate the sewing machine and storage for fabrics, threads, and embellishments. 
  • Chair:  A supportive chair that swivels is useful while you work on various stages of your project.
  • Lamp with magnification:  Good lighting is critical for the detailed work you will be doing. Magnification may help examine seams or handle small quilting pieces.  
  • Self-healing cutting mat: This is a surface for accurately cutting fabric pieces for your quilting blocks when you use the rotary cutter below. These mats often feature a grid with ruled measurements to assist in arranging quilt pieces. 
  • Rotary Cutters: These are much better than scissors for making precise cuts to your fabric. Like a pizza cutter, you simply roll the blade along the fabric to cut an accurate line. 
  • Scissors: These should be used for other aspects of sewing your quilt as the rotary cutter does the best job of cutting quilt pieces. 
  • Quilting ruler: These acrylic rulers are gridded with all the standard measurements and angles that are specific to quilting. The quilting ruler is used to mark lines to make the necessary precision cuts and seam allowances. 
  • Thread: A good all-purpose cotton-polyester yarn should work with both natural and synthetic fabrics and washes well. 
  • Fat Quarters: Fat quarters take their name from the ‘quarter yard’ measurements and are pieces of fabric cut to a 22 by 18-inch (45 by 55 centimeters) dimension. This gives you a substantial piece of fabric which should provide enough material to make a standard quilt block. Fat quarters are an affordable way of sampling a wide range of good quality fabrics. Many companies that specialize in selling quilting supplies sell colorfully coordinated bundles of fat quarters for quilting. Collecting them can become a hobby in itself. 
  • Sewing machine: A basic sewing machine is more than adequate for quilting though some quilters will use a long-arm machine to complete their larger projects. This powerful industrial sewing machine can sew through all the layers of a quilt and can be used to add stitching patterns to the design as it is completed. 
  • Mini ironing board: This will need to press, press, press at every stage of your quilting project. You can get combination ironing boards and cutting boards specifically for quilting.
  • Steam iron: Ironing is critical for accuracy. A mini-iron or travel iron may be easier to work with when sewing small pieces of fabric.
  • Quilt basting pins: These pins are specifically designed for holding parts of your quilt together.
  • Clips: Clips can be used to hold the edging of the quilt to the quilt while it is sewn together.

Where Can I Learn to Quilt Properly?

If you are serious about quilting as a hobby you will need some expert instruction and perhaps assistance on how to get things right. Thankfully, there are so many resources available that it is easy to get great results early on in your project. The quilting community is full of enthusiasts who love to teach techniques and design new blocks and hacks. Here are the best ways to learn quilting as your new hobby

Books on quilting are a great way of learning the craft at your own pace. Many professional quilters author books on the key techniques involved in producing stunning quilts.

A great example is The Quilters Complete Guide  by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter. Marianne is one of America’s best-loved quilters and this handbook covers everything involved in creating a stunning quilt.

They make great coffee table books too due to their beautiful color illustrations and photos of classic quilt designs.

Online courses are another popular way to learn to make patchwork quilts or improve your existing skills. They can be live-taught or pre-recorded lessons. You can purchase a course on quilting from these reputable providers:

  • Craftsy will be familiar to most hobbyist quilters as they are one of the web’s best resources for the crafting community. You can purchase their high-quality courses which cover all aspects of quilting with varying complexity. 
  • Udemy The Complete Guide to Quilting for the Beginner is a competitively priced comprehensive course. You will benefit from an enthusiastic and engaged instructor who will turn your selected fat quarters into a beautiful quilt in no time with tried and trusted methods. 

Tutorials are a quick way of having a go at aspects of your quilting hobby, particularly block making. If you have the tools and fabric to hand then you can head over to YouTube and try sewing some of these classic quilt blocks:

  • Swoon sixteen block tutorial choose some colorful fat quarters to run up this striking star motif 16-inch block.
  • No Y-seam 8-point star this 18-inch quilt block is easy to make and delivers striking results with easy-to-follow steps.
  • The Dresden Plate quilt block is a stunning motif, but this tutorial by an experienced quilter breaks the complex design down into simple steps.
  • Carpenter’s Wheel quilt block is a classic design with loads of rustic farmhouse charm. Use this tutorial to learn how to make an expansive classic patchwork quilt. 

Sewing supplies stores are where you are most likely to find local quilters and lots of advice and experience in creating a beautiful quilt. These independent shops are pleased to share knowledge and expertise, and many will offer quilting classes and groups after hours. One of the best things about fabric stores is trawling the remnants bin for quality off-cuts of fabric to collect and use in your projects. 

Quilting groups are the best for learning the skill from old hands. You may have been to one of these meetups with your grandma and a potluck and watched them chat and sew for hours on end. If you have one near you, why not pop by? They are often run by retired people but as quilting becomes more and more diverse this vibrant community is welcoming all sorts of people. 

10 Last-Minute Quick Quilting Terms.

  1. Allover quilting: this is long-arm quilt stitching that goes all over the quilt irrespective of the block pattern or fabric design.
  2. Background quilting: involves putting stitching in the spaces of your quilt block such as within squares, diamonds or stars. The lines of stitches flatten the quilted area of a low-relief effect.
  3. Block: the basic square unit of quilt making which is typically repeated to make larger and larger quilts.
  4. Center point: the center of a quilting design where all the patterned units meet. 
  5. Darning foot: a sewing machine foot that has an open toe so you can use it for free-motion quilting techniques. 
  6. Equilateral triangles: triangular fabric pieces where all three angles are 60 degrees. By combining 6 of these triangles, you can make a hexagon.
  7. Finishing: is a heat-based or chemical preparation of a completed quilt to preserve it and deliver texture like nap or shine.
  8. Nine-patch: this square quilt is made by piecing 9 quilt blocks together.
  9. Sashiko: a distinctive Japanese embroidery design that is used in quilting. The Japanese are also excellent quilters with quilting being a popular pastime in their country. 
  10. Zig-zag stitch: a zig-zag machine stitch setting used for applying appliqué to a quilt design.

Rounding Up

Well! With all this newfound quilting knowledge under your belt, we are sure that all that awaits is running up your first block on the machine.

Like most creative hobbies, quilting is excellent for drawing on things that are around you and interpreting them in your designs.

Many US states have museums and galleries where quilts are exhibited (like the National Quilt Museum in Kentucky) and we thoroughly recommend that you visit them and get inspiration for your projects.

Enjoy your new hobby!

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