How to quilt (by a true quilt geek)

Posted by on March 15, 2012, in quilting & sewing,

Robin StrobelAs part of Martingale’s new web launch, we’re devoting space to quiltmaking basics—downloadable, free information on many of the techniques used to make today’s quilts. For the most part these how-to-quilt articles are basic techniques and methods you often find in the back of our quilt books. Wouldn’t you rather have that information available online? Now you do!

I’m Robin, and I’ve been in heaven because I got to write many of the articles for the new How to Quilt section of our site. I work for Martingale as a technical illustrator and editor, and I also do whatever writing I can get away with. I hope you’ll explore these in-depth articles on a variety of quilting methods and let me know how you like them. I always love learning something new too. Our first articles include:

How to Quilt: Free Quilt Techniques at Your FingertipsWe have many more articles in the works that will touch on every aspect of how to make a quilt, so be sure to bookmark our How to Quilt page.

If you’re like me, quilting has saved your sanity many times. I can’t say it’s been cheaper than a psychiatrist, but it’s been a lot of fun! I took my first quilt class when I was in my second year of teaching science in a tough, impoverished district. There were 700 students in my school, 23 different gang affiliations, and the first armed security guards in my state’s public schools. It was grim.

I was desperate to create something I could complete, as there is never a finished product (only summer vacation) when dealing with students. I knew how to sew garments but had never considered making a quilt until I accidentally wandered into a quilt store. I was completely seduced. In that moment, I became a quilter. Quilts are color and texture and design. They represent history and the present. They are comfort and love made tangible. If you’re a quilter, you know this too.

I hate to admit it but that was over 20 years ago. Since then I’ve indulged in my love affair with fabric and quilts. After my brief science-teaching career I worked in a quilt store, took many quilt classes, and began teaching quiltmaking. Rotary cutters notwithstanding, it was a lot less violent teaching experience. I took classes on computer-based illustrating and spent hours happily drawing quilt patterns. I started freelancing as an illustrator for Martingale and was thrilled to be hired on staff and even went on to write a couple of little quilt books (The Casual Quilter, 2002; and Quilter’s Bounty, 2004).

Loon Quilt Lighthouse Quilt

Two of Robin’s many quilts, from left: "Loon Quilt" and "Lighthouse."

When they asked me to write a series of how-to-quilt instructions my bosses were probably expecting something short and succinct, but I’m not a “do it my way or the highway” sort of gal. There are lots of different ways to do many of the basic quiltmaking techniques and I’ve tried to include and illustrate several of each. I admit, I have my favorite methods, and I’m not shy about saying so, but my hope is that you find the methods and techniques that work for the way you make quilts—to find ways to make it easier, or to push yourself past your personal comfort zone. Now I happen to be rather fond of my comfort zones but if I can get past my beginner’s anxiety (and yes, after 20 years of quilting I still feel it) there’s a huge rush that comes with accomplishing something I wasn’t sure I could do. Don’t you love that feeling?

I hope you turn to our How to Quilt articles whenever you need a little boost. Check back every now and again to find something new. Enjoy.

13 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I love being able to download the different information and the instruction booklets. I am retired now and on a very fixed income. My youngest daughter has caught the quilting bug and I am teaching her how to quilt.
    These books will become part of both of our libraries. Thank again for the information and the quilt patterns.
    I love your books also, they are priced reasonably especially the e-books.

    —Gerrie on March 15, 2012
  • What a great article! Robin, I took one of your quilt classes many years ago on the Tipsy Nine patch. You are definitely a great teacher, and the Quilt How-To’s show that.
    Thank you!

    —Karen on March 15, 2012
  • Any information on adding a sleeve to the back of a finished quilt that was given to me?

    —Rebecca on March 15, 2012
  • Hi Rebecca–the short answer is yes! We have many more PDFs coming for specific quiltmaking topics, and how to sew a quilt sleeve is one of them. Check our How to Quilt page in the near future, as we’ll be adding new PDFs often. Thanks for your uestion!

    —Jenny on March 15, 2012
  • Thank you for the wonderful booklets. I was trying to show my friends how to do some of the stitches and these instructions with diagrams are very helpful

    Dianne on March 15, 2012
  • When I retired I said that I was going to quilt, visit with my grandkids, travel, and read. I’m doing all of that plus! But my most favorite is the quilting. To design something and then see it to fruition – what an awesome experience. Most of my quilts are finding homes to go to which makes me happy that family and friends will enjoy having them as much as I enjoyed making them. Looking forwarding to your articles in the future.

    —Norma/IL on March 15, 2012
  • Hi

    Thank you for this, I have been quilting for over 10 years, but still need help once in a while. Even more so, is that I can refer some of my friends who are beginning quilters to you, Martingale, this new sight, etc.

    I love the e-books and patterns that I have been able to acquire in addition to books I have purchased on line from

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. I have bookmarked Stitch This under quilting.

    Pat Hogan, Seattle

    Pat on March 15, 2012
  • I am a relatively late convert to quilting – five years now. I took it up after I had taken my granddaughter Sophie for an hour’s lesson that I had won at our church’s Auction of Promises. Sophie decided that she much preferred making stuffed animals but I was hooked.

    As my memory is no longer as reliable as it was, I appreciate your helpful guides and look forward to seeing further additions to the series. Well done and thank you.

    Sylvia Stone, Suffolk, UK

    Sylvia Stone on March 17, 2012
  • What wonderful articles on quilting. It makes me wish I still had the flexability to sew by hand again. The fingers just don’t work the way they did 50 years ago but I can still enjoy reading your guides.
    (Love you, Aunt Mike)

    —Myra Blaker on April 1, 2012
  • I, also, worked in education in an impoveriished area. I think I learned more from the students than any place else. They were an amazing group of people. The skills they learned to get through life are incredible and useful in even my quilting. I really enjoyed your article and look forward to your how-to’s. I would love more info on back to basics like squaring blocks, working with bias edges, etc. I have been quilting for a long time (with a big break) and need reminders in the basics. Thanks for your hard work!

    —Janet Leko on April 10, 2012
  • Is it possible to get the pattern for the loon quilt. I love it

    Elaine, I’m afraid not. It’s a quilt that Robin made a long time ago and we do not have access to the pattern any more.
    ~Cornelia from Martingale

    —Elaine on January 24, 2013
  • Where can I get the pattern for the loon quilt

    Elaine, this is a quilt from Robin’s personal collection. She made it many years ago and we do not have access to the pattern. Sorry!
    ~Cornelia from Martingale

    —Elaine on January 27, 2013
  • Your quilt examples are beautiful! Is there a pattern for the lighthouse quilt? I’d very much like to make one.

    —Erin on May 11, 2017

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