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How to Quilt a Quilt: Just Start Stitching!

If you're new to quilting, chances are you've received advice on the "right" way to quilt a quilt. Traditionally, there are many rules in quilting, but it's common for beginners to feel apprehensive about sharing their quilting journey due to fear of criticism from the so-called "quilt police." To those individuals, I'd like to emphasize that while the advice may be well-intentioned, it's not always the only correct approach. The worst thing you can do is give up! Quilting has evolved from its traditional roots, and in modern quilting, there's no strict right or wrong way to quilt, piece, or stitch your quilt together. As long as it's something you've created, it's special and meaningful to you. So, how do you go about quilting a quilt? Well, the first step is simply to start stitching.

This quilt is in the process of being quilted

Quilting involves stitching layers of fabric together, and it's worth noting that some quilts have two layers while others have three. The choice of layers can affect the quilting process and the overall look of the finished quilt. While you can outsource the quilting to a Longarm Quilter, there is something special about doing the mahi yourself. However, as a beginner when it comes to quilting techniques, the options can feel overwhelming. You can use fancy stitches on your sewing machine, experiment with free-motion quilting, try cross-hatching, or opt for straight lines. Each approach has its advantages and considerations, so I've compiled a few of the pros and cons of each for you to help you on your way.

Fancy stitches.

Embracing the fancy stitches on your sewing machine can add intricate detail and texture to your quilt, enhancing its visual appeal. I learned most of my quilting through trial and error, and this is one of my favourite ways to quilt a quilt, as while it does require knowledge of your sewing machine settings and what foot to use, I still believe it is one of the easiest way for beginner quilters to achieve a more sophisticated look. Here's an example of the quilting I did on my Bumblebee Table Runner Quilt, using a fancy stitch on my sewing machine to achieve a unique look:

This is an example of the quilting I did on my Bumblebee Table Runner Quilt. I used a fancy stitch on my sewing machine to achieve this look.

Free Motion Quilting.

For me, Free-motion quilting is still a bit of an enigma, some days I can manage it well, and others I fail spectacularly and resort back to another method. It's a skill that tends to come with regular practice, but once you have mastered it, you will find that it offers a significant amount of creative freedom in the designs and stitching patterns you can use in your quilting. My advice is to start small and try a few smaller motifs, like the flowers I stitched on my Chicken Quilt below. That way if you feel the need to unpick, the task will be less daunting. If you are keen to learn more about free motion quilting, I highly recommend reading Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project.

Start small with free motion quilting and practice will improve your skills.

Cross-hatching and straight lines.

The great thing about straight lines and cross-hatching (which is just a crisscross of straight lines) is that they provide a classic, timeless look to quilts, lending a sense of structure and elegance to your designs. These techniques are perfect for both beginner quilters and seasoned veterans alike, offering a straightforward approach with beautiful results, however, it is worth noting that wonky lines happen occasionally and it takes practice to get straight and evenly spaced lines. One thing to consider if you decide to do some straight stitching is your lines don’t all have to go in the same direction. Try outlining a block, or drawing some random angled lines, you might be surprised at how effective this can look. For example, the quilting on the Shapo Ball Quilt below is essentially a spiral with square edges!

Straight lines can be a simple and highly effective way to quilt a quilt.

But no matter which quilting style you choose, the most important thing is to start stitching. In the end, the only thing that truly matters is that the quilt gets stitched together, piece by piece, stitch by stitch. It's about embracing the process, learning from your mistakes, and finding joy in the act of creation.

Even if the results aren't exactly what you envisioned or if your stitches aren't perfectly straight, that's okay. Quilting is a journey of growth and discovery, and every quilt you make is a testament to your dedication and passion for the craft. So don't be afraid to give it a go, to experiment, to make mistakes, and to keep on stitching. Because in the end, the essence of quilting lies not in perfection, but in the love and care stitched into every quilt.

Happy Quilting, Rachel