Best ways to cut, sew, press: this quilter knows. Do you?

Review of Quiltmaking Essentials 1Lots of quilters have posted reviews of Martingale books on our website. But once in a while a review comes along that is so in-depth, we couldn’t have described the book better ourselves!

That’s the case with a review that was recently posted for Donna Lynn Thomas’s book, Quiltmaking Essentials 1. The reviewer, Rebecca Rumpf, is a quilter just like most of us, with a love for the craft and a desire to learn more. After reading Donna’s book of techniques for cutting and piecing, Rebecca tested them on some Bear’s Paw blocks she’d been making. Here’s part of what she had to say about her experience.


Quiltmaking Essentials 1Quiltmaking Essentials 1 explains everything you need to know to get started with any quilt pattern, whether it’s a stand-alone pattern, a magazine pattern, a project from another quilt book, or an idea you came up with on your own. It’s a book that will help establish good habits from the very beginning.

There are a lot of how-to quilting books on the market, and I’ve read most of them. So, what makes this one a must-have?
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Sewing tip from Quiltmaking Essentials 1So many books geared toward beginners downplay the need for accuracy in cutting and piecing. How many times have you heard quilters comforting one another by saying “there are no quilt police”? Yet, as Thomas points out, tiny inaccuracies have a way of compounding into a great deal of frustration. Quiltmaking Essentials 1 will help beginners establish good skills with their very first quilt, and will help veteran quilters correct bad habits that may be holding them back.
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Pressing tip from Quiltmaking Essentials 1The section on pressing is worth its weight in gold. I’ve read many quilt books that have warned me to “press, not iron” and that I should “be careful not to distort the bias,” but I had no idea what that actually meant. I thought “press” and “iron” were synonyms!

Thomas explains how to press seams properly with handy little diagrams. It is NOT the way I’d been doing it. When I pointed my iron like the iron in the book illustration, lo and behold, my half-square-triangle unit looked much more like a square after I pressed it open.

Create a pressing plan for quilt blocksThomas also explains the hows and whys of creating a pressing plan for your blocks. This chapter alone could have saved me frustration and tears if I’d read it 10 years ago. I’m planning to go back to some Bear’s Paw blocks that I made and press some of the seam allowances in the opposite direction to eliminate the bumps and bulges I created. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another beginning quilt book that teaches you how to create a pressing plan for your quilt.

Thank you, Donna, for giving me this opportunity to improve my own piecing and pressing skills. Your book is definitely a keeper, and one I’ll be reaching for again and again.

–Rebecca Deming Rumpf, blogger at Cheeky Cognoscenti


Thanks for allowing us to share your review, Rebecca! 

Head over to Rebecca’s blog to read her full review and take a look at the quilt she’s been working on using Donna’s techniques.

Quiltmaking Essentials IWould you like to learn the precise, efficient techniques Donna shares in Quiltmaking Essentials 1? You’ll rely on her advice for as long as you quilt:

  • rotary cutting
  • pressing
  • block construction
  • machine piecing
  • special sewing techniques





Print book: $18.99 eBook: $13.99

> Already own Quiltmaking Essentials 1? Write your review at ShopMartingale.com!


What trips you up most when it comes to quilting accuracy: the cutting, the sewing, or the pressing? Tell us in the comments!


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27 Comments (leave a comment)

  • In sewing, getting the corners of to match correctly.

    —Patricia D. Roberts on November 20, 2014
  • I would have to say the pressing. I know there are "rules" or the best way to iron/press….I just can’t ever remember what they are!

    —Patty on November 20, 2014
  • I like to chain stitch but if I am not careful, I end up "trailing off" at the end or start of the current or next piece. In other words, the start of a seam or the end of a seam is not 1/4″. It is so much easier to slow down and watch one’s seams than to try to piece together 2 pieces that are not the same size. I also measure sections of a block as I go along instead of waiting until, for example a 12″ block is done. It is easier to trim before putting it all together because if you wait until it is done, the only way to correct the size is to cut off tips, corners, etc.

    Elaine West on November 20, 2014
  • I think it is a combination of all three. When you take a class on piecing miniatures you really understand the importance of all three.

    —Barbara on November 20, 2014
  • Thank you for posting this thorough review of Ms. Thomas’s book. The pressing tips seem rather useful! Keeping that 1/4″ seam accurate to the end of the piece I am sewing is probably my weakest point but I’m working on it 🙂

    Loris Mills on November 20, 2014
  • The pressing is what trips me up the most…looks like this book is a ‘must have’!

    —Terry on November 20, 2014
  • I find the pressing of the seams a challenge. I’m not always sure which side of the seam to press towards. It takes several attempts before I find which direction looks and works best.

    —JudyW on November 20, 2014
  • What trips me up? It’s the sewing…sometimes I don’t get that 1/4″ seam, and it throws the whole block off, so have to get out the old trusty seam ripper ad sew it over…sometimes is very frustrating, I always seem to want to get it done so fast, so I need to slow down…but I’m not stopping…back to it…

    —Jeanette on November 20, 2014
  • My 1/4″ seam is not always precise. It is why I like free form piecing when accuracy does not matter and paper piecing when it does!

    —Linn Jencopale on November 20, 2014
  • Clearly I need help on the pressing….could it be that I "need" another quilting book? Probably…

    Margaret on November 20, 2014
  • What I have the most trouble with is blocks with multiple triangle squares coming out too small even when I my seam allowance is a thread or so slimmer than my usual scant quarter inch. The more triangles in the block, the smaller the finished block. I’ve decided that from now on I’m going to cut the squares that will be cut into triangles, at least 1/8 inch larger than called for. After I sew the triangles into squares, I’ll trim the triangle squares to the correct size. It’s a lot more work, but the few times I’ve done it, the result was correctly sized triangle squares that result in a correctly sized finished block. This assumes, of course, that I have enough fabric. That’s not always the case with quilt kits and BOM kits.

    —Theresa on November 20, 2014
  • Cutting. I am never sure exactly where the lines should be? Some Rulers do not measure the same as others! Yes! That tiny bit of a fraction shows up to haunt me when I measure originally with one brand and then use another’s specialty ruler! I had my seam allowance checked by a teacher and what we found was one brands ruler was just tiny but smaller and when there were several seams, the difference became 1/8 to 1/4 inch differences!

    —Judi on November 20, 2014
  • Any or all of those can be a problem depending on what I am making. I am getting better at just pressing and not trying to iron.

    —Judy on November 20, 2014
  • Cutting accurately trips me up!

    —Nicole Sender on November 20, 2014
  • The pressing trips me up a lot, however, sometimes the sewing does especially with the pinked edge precuts.

    —Laurie Travis on November 20, 2014
  • It’s very helpful when a quilt pattern suggest which way to press when piecing and or joining the blocks together. Thanks for showing this book.

    —Rita S on November 20, 2014
  • Cutting!!

    —Kathy U. on November 20, 2014
  • After reading that review, I think I will ask for this book for Christmas!

    —Lynne on November 20, 2014
  • My seams are great thanks to my quarter inch presser foot with guide but my pressing needs improvement.

    —Debra on November 21, 2014
  • Cutting and pressing. I agree that rulers are not the same. And where do I line up the measure=on the line or just to the side of it. And I have learned to square up fabric because quilt shop workers are not perfect cutters either.

    —Pat D on November 21, 2014
  • The sewing….scant quarter inch seam. I probably need to learn more about pressing.

    —Linda on November 21, 2014
  • I guess it would be the exact quarter inch seam and the scant quarter inch seam.

    —Nancy Angerer on November 21, 2014
  • Pressing

    —Karen on November 21, 2014
  • I’d say I probably re-press projects more often than I re-sew. It’s so important to have it pressed well and in a direction that won’t add bulk.

    —Janet in ND on November 21, 2014
  • I would have to say the pressing. I need to take more care when I am doing the pressing.

    —Renea on November 22, 2014
  • Before Creative Grid Rulers came out with their sandpaper like circles on the back of each ruler to "grip the fabric" and keep it in place when cutting; I had problems with my Omnigrid and Bonnie Hunter’s usage of Tri-Recs and Easy Angle rulers sliding around the fabric because my hands shake. If I glued sandpaper on the back of my rulers, it did not permit me to see through to make sure my cutting lines were straight.

    I learned the hard way: pressing versus ironing. My ironed fabric looked like something from the "Twilight Zone."

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on November 22, 2014
  • The sewing on a machine, then pressing – the seams are to bumpy.

    —Quilting Tangent on December 1, 2014

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