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15 tips on how to make your first quilt

Buttonhole Quilt


Guess what I did? I made a quilt. My first quilt. And I didn't die.

And because I didn't die, I thought I would pass on my new wisdom to you, so that you too can make your first quilt without dying.

Buttonhole Quilt
Buttonhole Quilt

1. Realize that this will be the hardest thing you've ever done.
Going into this, I was more than a little nervous. After all, most of the sewing I do is by hand, and this is a big project. (More on choosing a size later.) I doubted myself and recognized that it wouldn't be easy.

2. Look ahead and know that it won't be as difficult as you think.
Remember how I didn't die? That's because this didn't end up being as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, there were times that I questioned my sanity, but consider: If I could do this...so can you!

Buttonhole Quilt

3. Choose a pattern designed for beginners.

4. Plan on this taking six months.
I bought the supplies for my quilt back in September. I finished it last week. But quilting is one of those things that's supposed to take a long time, right? That's why people have all those unfinished quilts, right?

5. Just start & keep on working until it's done.
Even though I bought the fabric months ago, I didn't actually start cutting until December. And at that point, I decided that I needed to work bit by bit and not stop. Because I didn't want this to be one of those unfinished quilts. Trust me...if you just keep working, it will get done!

Buttonhole Quilt

6. Measure twice, cut once. (Let's not talk about why my quilt is a bit shorter than it's supposed to be...)

7. Keep someone handy to do the hard parts for you.
Having my mom on standby gave me a different level of confidence than I would have had without her. I kept telling her that I might need her to do ________, and she was always there and ready.

8. Do the hard parts yourself.
My mom would have sewn whatever I asked her to, but I ended up doing all the sewing myself. Because of that, I learned a lot, and am much prouder of the finished quilt.

9. Watch out for pins.

Buttonhole Quilt

10. Aim for perfection.
My first inclination was to say, this isn't going to be perfect...don't worry about this mistake or that. But little mistakes can be magnified, so when I was able to fix them, I did and was happier for it. You won't have perfection, but if you are aiming for it, you'll get closer than shooting in the dark.

11. Live with mistakes.
I'll repeat myself: You won't have perfection. There were times when I just couldn't get it right. Yes, those things bug me, but I'm living with them and realizing that it was my first try. And by gum, I did pretty good for my first try!

12. Start small.
A napping quilt is bigger than you think. Managing 66 x 70 inches of quilt is quite a task. It's heavy, it takes up lots of room, and squeezing it through your sewing machine makes you question how you could ever even consider giving birth.

13. Tweeting that you're almost finished will delay your project by a week.
Buttonhole Quilt
Buttonhole Quilt

14. Don't freak out when you see a large spot on your almost finished quilt.
There's a chance that when your fabric gets wet, the coloring changes. And when you try to get the spot out, the spot will look worse. And then when it dries, it will all go away and you'll feel silly. Yes. That happened.

15. Enjoy the process.
My quilt-making time was mainly late at night, with Christmas music playing and a scented candle burning. I imagine that I'll always remember those times with joy...especially as I did everything I could to avoid telling my baby sister that it was for her as she kept asking.

I realize this probably wasn't the "how-to" you expected...but I hope it helps! Despite the fact that this was the hardest thing I've done, I did enjoy it all. Thank you Wendi for sending me the pattern and encouraging me to make it happen!

Notes: The pattern is Buttonholes by Wendi Gratz. The backing fabric is Kona cotton. The buttonholes and accents on the back are from two packs of fat quarters from JoAnn, but I don't know what company they're from.

36 comments:

  1. congrats on your first quilt! I love the cheerful colors and the pattern :)

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  2. Bravo! My mom is a quilter, so I know how much work it is. I love the colors! Hugs, Aileen

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  3. This is wonderful:)Congratulations ! This looks like a tricky one too! how awesome that your first quilt wasn't just a plain old patchwork;)
    I love the way you wrote this because I think most peoples feelings when thinking of starting a quilt is the overwhelming scary factor(that's how I feel at least) very inspiring!
    great job!

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  4. I just made my first quilt without dying too! Although mine was a queen size hand quilted patchwork...with 6" squares. I clearly could have used your helpful size choosing tip! Having my mom on hand is probably what saved me! The best new quilter tip? Have your mom there! :)

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  5. Have been quilting for years now but one of best tips that you gave is to not sweat the small mistakes. My daughter when I helped her make her first quilt and as she sewed her own clothes showed me not to fear trying new things and making mistakes. You learn from them. Ah, the confidence of youth! There is a saying that if it looks good to a man going by on horseback it is good! Also the mennonites always leave (or make) one mistake to keep them humble!

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  6. I love this post. I'm currently trying to psyche myself up to make Wendy's Squaresville quilt. I need to buy the fabric, but I'm scared I'll never finish it and so it's hard to convince myself to buy the fabric!

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  7. Mollie! It is so so so awesome! I knew it would be when you told be you were about to make it! :) xo

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  8. Yay! Congrats on joining the dark side. :) It's kind of addictive. I've only been quilting since last March, and I've made five quilts since then! There are lots of people whose blogs I love to read who churn out a quilt a week or every two weeks, but that's just not feasible in my life. It's a hobby, after all, so just enjoy it!

    And you're right, mistakes don't usually matter too much. Especially little ones--they're almost never noticeable 1) to someone who didn't make it and didn't know how it was supposed to look, and 2) after it gets quilted and washed and delightfully crinkly (I don't pre-wash fabric, so my quilts are always super crinkly, which covers a multitude of sins.) ;)

    Glad you didn't die. :)

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  9. Thank you for this post! I want to make a quilt this year and this post actually makes me believe I can do it :)

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    1. Sewphie,

      I only just started quileting in January, I have made one queen sized quilt, one table runner and 4 place matts and I am now working on a compas start king sized quilt which i am almost done with. you can do it and you will never want to stop...i love my new craft.

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    2. Wow! Good for you! You're making me want to set aside all the other projects and go cut some fabric!

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  10. You're very funny. Being partial to dramatic statements myself I can spot a kindred spirit!
    Fair play for the 'not dying' part but seriously that quilt is a feat in itself. I'd say you'll miss it now its done - or at least you will in a week or two when you've forgotten the hard bits!
    Well done.
    Helen, www.thebusymamas.blogspot.ie

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I was just thinking about making my first quilt to brighten up my currently dull (but temporarily bedroom). This was perfect timing, because now I feel that I need to put it on my to-do list ASAP! :) You did great on your first one, it looks beautiful!!

    http://apinksunset.com

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  13. Mollie - it's gorgeous! I love the colors you chose - and you did the pieced back too! Woo hoo! I'm so excited for you. Welcome to the quilting world! :-)

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  14. Your quilt is beautiful! I love the tips, too. I'm currently in the process of pumping myself up to actually start my first quilt and you definitely helped move it forward :)

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  15. Hey~ that is a great first quilt! My first quilt was so ugly and wonky. Yuck. The hardest thing for me to learn was how to cut fabric with a rotary cutter. I slowly learned that most fabric is not quite on grain and that a lot of times, the selvedges won't line up like you think they will. If you don't have an experienced quilter nearby, go to a local quilt shop and ask them to show you how to cut your fabric. Quilters love to help new quilters!

    Also, buy the best quality fabric you can afford and use a Color Catcher and Synthrapol when you wash your quilt the first time. Synthrapol keeps the colors from bleeding, especially those reds! Retayne is another washing chemical that you can use when washing just one fabric that you are worried may have excess dye in it.

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  16. I too made my first quilt in late 2012 and didn't die either! Lol. Love the tips. I made mine for my 3 year old and it's nice-he was so happy to get it, and doesn't even know terms like "corners matching up" so he is completely uncritical, lol.
    Now I'm going to try to make a baby quilt before I have my next baby. Probably ought to buy fabric since I'm already having Braxton-Hicks...

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  17. It's just lovely! Congratulations!

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  18. Very pretty! I too recently finished my first quilt. It was a lap size in neutral colors. Now I am working on an uber girlie one for my little one's bed. I laughed out loud at some of your tips. Great post!

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  19. Love the colours, you did a fantastic job:)

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  20. Good for you Mollie...I'm glad to see you tackled that dreaded sewing machine.
    Love the colours and don't worry about any mistakes, he who comments on any mistake is not worthy of using this quilt!!!

    Love, Leslie
    In Calgary

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  21. Fantastic work! My first quilt was much less ambitious, so I'm very impressed. I started quilting a few months ago and I am now, shall I say, addicted. (Phew, feels good to admit that.) :)

    Your tips are all spot on, especially #9 and #13.

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  22. You did a wonderful job, Mollie, and your colours are gorgeous! I really liked all your helpful tips, too. I have been quilting for a long time and used to strive for perfection, pointing out all my mistakes and fretting over them. LOL! Then I went to an antique quilt show, what an eye-opener!!! Some of those quilts were just awful in their construction, and their points didn't match and the plaids were all askew :) and these were on exhibition!!! HaHa, I'm not so serious about my quilting now...I just go ahead and love it!!!
    Great job!

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  23. Wow! you did a GREAT job!! I've been procrastinating in getting started with quilting for about a year now - got books, fabrics, materials, following wonderful blogs with amazing hand crafts, but I'm just to scared to get started!

    This is a great and inspiring post (and comments) - guess I wont die either ;)

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  24. Hey Mollie, I've been contemplating (notice the word choice)making a barn quilt (to hang on my barn) but didn't want a traditional pattern. Did you make your own design? Where did you find your inspirations?

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    Replies
    1. Carol, I love the idea of a barn quilt! Keep contemplating and then do it! My pattern came from Shiny Happy World (http://shinyhappyworld.bigcartel.com/product/buttonholes-quilt-pattern), but I am playing around with creating my own pattern for a future project.

      There are lots of non-traditional patterns to be found, along with new interpretations of old patterns. Check out Threadbias.com for some wonderful quilting inspiration!

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    2. Thank you , Mollie, for giving me some sites to look at. Shiny Happy World had a "Starry Night" block a month project that was really intriguing to me, because I really love the artwork that inspired it and the star has been a signature symbol for me since I was a teen. I've been in theatre since then and my mother gave me a gold star on a leather thong necklace that I rarely take off. We have a moon and stars hanging on one door into the barn now, so a star quilt might be the best choice for a barn quilt.
      Threadbias.com had a Feature Friday with star quilt patterns and several of those were very appealing too.
      Thanks again,and, with any luck,I'll be encouraged to do it!

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  25. Congrats on your first quilt! You might find them addictive.

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  26. Yay for you! Next thing you know you will be entertaining the thought of embellishing a quilt with some of your amazing embroidery!! Congratulations on a job well done. My 21 year old daughter just completed her first quilt also ( I was the Mom on standby:) , like you she did it all herself!)

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  27. Love it! I've sewn garments for years, but have been quilting only about 6 months or so. Now I'm teaching my 15 year-old Granddaughter to quilt and have plans to teach my 10 year old Granddaughter to quilt.

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  28. Heather3:58 AM

    Mollie,
    Your quilt is beautiful. As for your number 10 and 11... I live in a small town with a lot of Amish neighbors. The Amish are known for their BEAUTIFUL quilts, both done by hand and machine. Speaking to a wise Amish woman one day about quilting and how I kept making mistakes she told me, "Only God is perfect. If you didn't have a mistake in your work, you wouldn't be human.". It gave me something to think about and ever since then I let my quilts sing for themselves, dimples, skips and all. :)

    Good luck to you and all your quilting endeavors!

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  29. Thanks for your honesty! :) x

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  30. Hmm, good job! This is really something!

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  31. Anonymous8:33 AM

    Great tips! That is an awesome quilt.
    I'm starting my first, a baby quilt for a family friend.

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  32. Great job. I love Wendi Gratz

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