Advice to seasoned quilters…from a beginner (+ videos)

From Simple Quilts from Me and My Sister DesignsCan I tell you a secret, dear reader?

I love quilts. I’ll never get tired of seeing new quilts on the walls of the Martingale office, with their beautiful, bright patterns. Even three years later, I am still utterly in love with the two quilts my husband and I received for our wedding, one from my fabulously talented mother-in-law and another from my incredibly generous coworkers. I have a fabric stash, and I sometimes dream about pulling out piles of lovely yardage and happily cutting, measuring, and sewing on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

But that’s not my secret.

You see, I have never completed a quilt. In fact, I have only ever started one quilt, and it sits with my fabric stash, with binding patiently waiting to be sewn on. Why do I leave that quilt unfinished when there is so little left to do? Because the sight of that quilt, with its wonky half-square triangles, yarn knots in place of the quilting I couldn’t do myself, and finicky binding are too discouraging to face. When it comes to quilting, I feel a bit defeated. After spending so much time on that first quilt, I don’t have much to show for it.

Simple Quilts from Me and My Sister DesignsLittle did I know, a clever book we published recently was written for me. The authors of this book knew that their designs were simple—perhaps too simple for the seasoned quilter, except when they wanted to showcase novelty prints or whip out a quick quilt for a baby shower. But what they also knew was that non-sewists, like me, would never move past that first quilt if it wasn’t something they could complete quickly and feel good about. They knew that the tiniest boost of confidence was the most critical factor in turning a curious beginner into a full-fledged quilting addict.

When I sat down with Barbara Groves and Mary Jacobson one month after the release of their book Simple Quilts from Me and My Sister Designs, I’d already retired my bargain-basement sewing machine and begun a list of ways to use my fabric that didn’t involve sewing (hello, embroidery-hoop wall art!). Barb and Mary came to our video-filming session unsure if the tips they’d prepared would be useful or not—they had no idea that they would completely change my mind about my ability to quilt.  Check out the tutorials that rocked my quilty world:

Watch the “How to: sew four-patch quilt blocks (two at a time)” video on YouTube

Watch the “How to: sew half-square-triangle quilt blocks” on YouTube

Watch the “Easy stitch-and-flip quilt technique (how-to video)” on YouTube

If you’re a seasoned quilter, you might be thinking that a couple of videos about how to do basic blocks aren’t for you. And maybe they’re not—maybe you already know these clever little patchwork tips (though a few of our veteran quilters at Martingale had never seen this four-patch method). But when I, the never-finished-a-quilt-newbie, saw Barb and Mary flip and chop those blocks like magic, my mind was effectively blown. And suddenly I thought, “Wait, I can do this!” Now I’ve started a new list: sewing machines that I’m considering purchasing within the next 6 months. Can I get a "hip-hip-hooray"?

We have a wide range of readers at the Stitch This! blog, with every level of experience from beginner to master quilter. It’s easy for quilters with years of experience to forget how intimidating it can be to jump feet-first into a hobby you know nothing about, where you don’t even speak the language. I encourage you to try watching these videos with fresh eyes, and then sharing them—maybe on your Facebook page or maybe in a note to a friend who’s admired your quilts but has never tried one of her own. Offer to take that friend under your wing. Give her a copy of Simple Quilts from Me and My Sister Designs and schedule a sewing day. This quilt would be great for a teachable afternoon project:

From Simple Quilts from Me and My Sister Designs

As a beginner, it can be difficult to identify the places you need help or guidance, much less wade through the vast sea of information to find the correct instruction. I suggest you begin here, with Simple Quilts from Me and My Sister Designs. Now that you’ve seen the sisters whip out a four-patch, pick up the book so you can try it on your own. Laid out like a skill-building workbook, it will take you through each of the basic patchwork skills for quilting. And of course, the little boost of confidence that comes from completing a simple quilt will make a world of difference.

What do you wish you had known before you started quilting? Share your advice in the comments!

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