Things I learned the hard way!

~10 Important quilting tips for the beginning quilter~

1.  Don’t over analyze- no quilts are perfect! If it was perfect they could have bought it at the store:)

2.  Learn an accurate 1/4″ seam.  More accurate piecing, while slower, will make the whole process happier.

3.  Learn the right way to use your seam ripper. Break every third or fourth stitch and then the bottom thread will pull out in one tug.

4.  Change your needle…a lot! Use a new needle every project.

5.  When the machine is acting like it is possessed……re-thread. Re-threading is always your first response.

6.  Change or resharpen your rotary cutter blades often.

7.   Quality thread.  Cheap thread is linty and hard on your machine; it also breaks a lot. (Gutermann -not so expensive favorite)

8.  Learn how to clean your machine. (Craftsy has great free video class.)

9.  Buy extra fabric when planning a quilt, allowing for mistakes.  Not only is it annoying to have to stop your project, on more than one occasion I have not been able to locate the same fabric again!

10.  Make sure your fabrics and threads have enough contrast.  I have pieced a block that looked like a solid piece of fabric and have quilted a quilt where the stitches were practically invisible, hard work ….down the drain!

Feel free to leave a comment and share some things you learned the hard way:)

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  1. mary ann hymel says:

    Never throw away a scrap! It is amazing what you can do with something as small as 1 1/2″ square. Now that I’m retired I’m discovering the msgic og true scrsp quilting. I’m using all of the fabric I bought before cotton cost $11/yd.

    • sassyquilter says:

      So true!

    • I am now using my little scraps for 1 inch hexies, which I am paper piecing together!

      • Wow! You make me feel wasteful. I have even been using my extensive stash but that tiny. No.
        I find work with miniature pieces to be difficult to manage.

    • LOL. I’m 10 years late to this discussion having just discovered Sassy’s website. Quilting fabric in Australia is now $20 -$55 per mtr. Needless to say I do not waste any of my fabric, thread or batting, even the smallest of slivers is placed into a prepared pillow-slip style fleece bag, hanging near my cutting table, for pet beds. I scrap quilt and do frankenbatting, being on a limited retiree income I cannot afford to waste any of what I buy.

  2. Tish Ceccarelli says:

    Great tips! I try to use most of my left overs for the quilt back. Keeps life interesting!

    • sassyquilter says:

      I love an interesting Quilt back! I usually take the easy road and go solid though…laziness I think;) Thanks for checking in! Good Luck.

  3. Great list of reminders!

  4. One thing I learned the hard way is: to always test drive your quilt thread color on a swatch, not on the quilt top… Once you start FMQ a top, ripping out is timely and requires patience. Don’t rip because of poor thread color choice… Try a swatch first. Thanks for the great tips Paula!

  5. Rhonda Borne says:

    I am new to quilting and on my second quilt and for some reason picked a flannel for the back fabric. Well, it is giving me fits and bunching all over the place while machine quilting. I guess because it is a stretchy fabric, it’s moving. I really don’t know as I’m new to quilting. I’m so discouraged and don’t know what to do to recover it. Any thoughts? It’s for my son so I know he won’t mind the bunching but just really would like to fix it as much as I can. Help please. Rhonda

    • sassyquilter says:

      How did you baste the layers? If used safety pins, go back and use as many as you can to hold in place. They should be as far apart as your fist.
      Flannel shrinks a lot! So it will get pretty crinkly anyway If you didn’t pre wash. So most of your mistakes won’t show. Feel free to email me pics @ and can better tell:)

      • Rhonda Borne says:

        Yes, safety pins but probably not enough. Mine were probably about 5-6″ apart. I think I need smaller safety pins too. I used the large safety pins. It’s not bunching on the flannel side – but on the top and it looked so good before I started putting it together with the batting and the backing. Will take a pic and send it to you a little later this evening.

  6. Great tips – and so true about rethreading the needle! One tip to share: always try to let your seams butt or nestle. It makes it easier. And put your put your piece with the biiggest gaps on the botton when sewing.

    • Karen, I am not sure what you mean by, “the biggest gaps.” Could you elaborate? Thank you.

      • Peg, I believe she meant that if pieces don’t line up…put the bigger one on the bottom. You can find that under my sassy tips section too. Thanks so much for stopping by:)

        • That’s nailed it exactly, Paula@thesassyquilter. I meant to say, if your patches are different sizes, try to put the bigger pieces on the botten when sewing blocks together. The slack will be equaled out by the transporter foot and the two pieces will become more even in the end. So sorry for my Dinglish. Sometimes I think in German and it doesn’t translate to English very well. : )

  7. As a newbie to quilting (I moved to a larger city and joined a guild) one of the things I have learned in the past 8 months and 10 quilts later is that quilting is a PLEASURE to be savored…take my time to enjoy the process, make sure things are done right and the end will be a treasure! Also, someone talk some sense into my daughter (she’s 30 and “city-fied”) and says she doesn’t like anything “quilty”…arrrgghhh

    • She might like a more modern style quilt. Try straight line quilting and less colorful prints. I made a quilt for someone how doesn’t like quilty things and they love the straight lined quilts. I could send you a couple pictures of what I made if you want.

  8. I wanted to make a flannel picture quilt and am so glad I washed (by hand in hot water, in the laundry trough) the flannel fabrics first. My darker fabrics ran a bit ! And they also shrank slightly, but it was worth the time. I also had to iron all the fabrics after they dried, of course, so I could cut them out easily. And flannel makes so much fluff and it frays! I swore, no more flannel after all that, but they ARE so lovely and soft. Big learning curve, wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner unless you have a great deal of patience!

    • I did a couple of picture quilts and I serged the ends of my fabric and prewashed it. However if you are making a rag quilt you don’t want to prewash your flannel

  9. Learning which way to press seams seems to take forever. Make a sampler quilt with BIG blocks and see what happens…seek advice as not all quilt patterns tell you which way to press the seams to get a nice flat block instead of a lumpy one. I do wish I had taken a basic quilt making class before I made my sampler quilt…oh well. I think using wool/polyester batting/wadding helps hide those lumpy blocks a bit !

  10. I’m here as an absolute beginner, and this is the best (most helpful) site I’ve found so far. Answering lots of questions. Thank you. Not being a sewer but loving fabric, I use tiny pieces in card making – I use them the same way you would use scrapbooking paper. I also do embroidery (basic) where I copy a child’s drawing by sewing the outline they drew, onto plain calico/cotton and I add little bits of fabric for the clothing etc to make it more interesting. A great way to use up tiny scraps of awesome fabric.

  11. I’m also a beginner. One quilt done, ready to start on a new project. My question now is, what’s the rule for prewashing my fabric? Wash fabric before starting or not?

  12. Clash of Clans Hack is good utility that would placing limitless treasures in your report.

  13. Valeria Huber says:

    Sometimes I find that the cost of the plastic templates for squares (any size) is too expensive, so I go to a plastics store and have them cut me the size of templates I need. However, there is no measurement lines on these templates. I am looking for a stick on sheet with the markings in inches. Any suggestions where I can get them. Any and all sizes from 4″ squares to 12 1/2″. Thanks

  14. I am trying to subscribe and keep getting “error try again”. Help!

  15. Valeria Huber says:

    I am glad I read through the comments above. I was not aware that flannel shrinks and I am starting to make burp cloths and bibs for my infant granddaughter and, maybe, a small flannel quilt. Thanks for the prewash suggestion

  16. That’s nailed it exactly, Paula@thesassyquilter. I meant to say, if your patches are different sizes, try to put the bigger pieces on the botten when sewing blocks together. The slack will be equaled out by the transporter foot and the two pieces will become more even in the end. So sorry for my Dinglish. Sometimes I think in German and it doesn’t translate to English very well. : )

  17. Lori-Lyn Dunn says:

    I learned a tip for finding and setting a “scant ¼ ” is to use a Sean guide, be it a screw down or a few layers thickness of blue painters tape, and a lined 3×5 index card. The lines are ¼ inch apart and if you set your needle just inside the line and then set your seam guide against it, you will sew a scant ¼ inch. And a good rule of thumb is to press your seams towards the darker of your fabrics, and to lay open the intersection so all 4 fabrics lay flat or “flower”.

  18. the tips are really great and helpful. thanks for recommending such tips for us. appreciate your job. the beginners are really helped by this.

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