Start Here – Quilting 101

New to quilting? Looking for some help with the basic skills and terms? Start here! Quilting tips tricks and little bits of inspiration for the newbie to intermediate quilter.

  • What Quilting Actually Teaches You – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

    What Quilting Actually Teaches You…

    Can you really learn full-on life lessons from a box of scrap fabrics?

    This will be quick but backpedal with me for a moment back to when I had my first brush with sewing skills.

    My mom taught me how to hand sew when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I would use the scraps fabrics that she had leftover and create my own designs for clothes for my barbies. At the time, I thought I was The Next Top Model material before there was even a Next Top Model. Do you feel how cool I thought I was?

    Truthfully, I’m sure those creations were so crude and barely held together… but those beginning sewing lessons were the foundation for a love of creativity and a lifetime of artistry. (thanks mom 🙂 )

    I didn’t dive deep into sewing until I was married and scraping pennies together to furnish our little apartment into a home. Fast forward a few more years and I decided that pillowcases just weren’t enough for me anymore. I decided to try out my quilt making skills. I dabbled with a few baby quilts for family and friends eventually (and gradually) working my way up to larger sized quilts.

    Had we had youtube back then… whew, I would have been a total star 😉

    So, can you really learn full-on life lessons from a box of scrap fabrics??

    Just to name a few…

    Quilting teaches you patience. – i.e. time with the seam ripper. Made a boo-boo? Don’t just sit there and cry over it.

    Fix it.

    Have you ever see a quilt so amazing you just can’t fathom the amount of work it must have taken to complete it? It wasn’t sewn in a weekend. Maybe not even a year. Quilting is a labor of love and like many things in life, it doesn’t happen overnight. Sure, there are “weekend quilt patterns”. But for the truly amazing results… there will be sweat, tears and possibly even a little blood and the eminent utter of a lot of curse words of your choosing.

    Quilting teaches you consistency. – change your plan halfway through? Nope. The path has been laid out in front of you in the form of a specific pattern. Do “A” and “B” and you’ll end up with “C”. NOT “A” some “Q” and maybe some “R”….. Follow the plan and you will be guided to glorious completion… change your path or abandon it all together and well… those are the nights in life where you’re surrounded by leftover bagel bites and no idea where your life is going but you sure didn’t believe it was here… wine anyone?… you don’t end up where you were supposed to in the end.

    Quilting teaches you that mistakes happen. – I don’t care how “professional” you are. How many blue ribbons you’ve taken home or if you haven’t sewn a single stitch yet… mistakes happen! You have to decide which mistakes you can live with and which mistakes you have to go back and make right. No one is perfect. Try not to let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Quilting teaches you that the little details matter. – Some of my favorite quilts are my favorite because of one small detail. A scrap of fabric that I snagged for a bargain but was JUST right… or maybe it was given to me by a friend because she thought of me when she saw it. Maybe its nothing to do with the fabric and the quilt design was just something that I fell in love with from the beginning.

    I once had a flaw where my seams didn’t line up and the way the pieces came together it looked like a cat head. I swear no one else could see it. But I could. And I didn’t go back and fix it. I left it and adjusted later to accommodate it. I still see it and that is all that matters.

    Sometimes it the little things that make the biggest impact.

    Quilting teaches you that sometimes obsessions are totally ok. – so maybe I’m making this one up? I’m obsessed with fabric designers and a soft place to cuddle with my favorite book. It’s not black market drugs, high dollar gambling or cute cat videos at 3 am… oh… wait. wait. wait…. um nevermind…. moving on…

    Quilting gives you permission to be you and no one else. – I don’t quilt because other people like me to quilt. I quilt because I love to do it. Quilting is a part of me. Quilting brings me personal joy and because if I’m feeling very purple-y… well I’ll make a purple quilt if I feel like it! I don’t have to apologize for my love of quilting. And I don’t apologize for being Christen either. You be you and I’ll be me. Deal? Deal. 🙂

    I believe yes, you can learn many lessons from quilting. If you’re looking to learn some new skills, join me. I love when I get messages from a reader or someone who just happened upon my blog one day!

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    Do you have any lessons that you’ve picked up from your quilting days? Share them in the comments below! I would love to hear them.

    Happy quilting!

  • Favorite FREE Quilt Pattern

    You know how much I love a great quilt pattern… and bonus points if it is a freebie! This particular quilt that I am sharing with you today is a pattern of my very own and totally my Favorite FREE Quilt Pattern!

    I love my quilting friends and I’m happy to share all my internet hunting finds and any other great quilt bloggers you should be following. **Plus, if you look at the bottom of this post there is a bonus blooper shot of this photo shoot ;)**

    This one was one of the first patterns that I created. I’ve created many more designs since then, but this one is still one of my favorites. It comes together really quickly as well.

    I actually took the time to carefully plan and write down everything instead of just sewing my seams by the seat of my pants and praying it all works out in the end. That was how I used to live my sewing days. Out on the edge. As hardcore as I’m trying to make that sound…. (and I’m a bit ashamed I even attempted to do that in the first place), I was the furthest thing from hardcore. I was silly and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I’m so glad I’ve grown up in my quilting skills since then… for both our sakes, honestly.

    This Windy Days quilt pattern is full of possibilities for happy spring colors!… suitable for any color palette, but I created it with spring colors in mind, so let’s go with that today, mmmk?

    That’s the front of the Windy Days Quilt… This quilt is an easy quilt! Do not let all the angles and corners fool you.

    It is totally beginner friendly!

    I wouldn’t lie to you or set you up for something I didn’t think you were totally capable of.

    And then here is the backing! (it’s just a really amazing solid printed piece that I used, I promise… don’t be scared, ok?)

    Beautiful backing choice, don’t you think? – This quilt lives with me in my office. It’s the perfect lap quilt size for when it gets chilly in here.

    So, on to the FREE part!

    I’ll e-mail you the pattern that lays out the foundation and goes over every step how to piece this impressive beauty if you join my e-mail list. *please don’t groan* I swear I hate junk mail just as much as everyone else. I promise I’ll only e-mail you once a week (at max!) and it’ll always be full of fun goodies… no garbage and no gross sales-y tactics. I’m a marketer in my day job. Quilting is fun and in my opinion, has no room for that sneaky product pushing!

    Let’s build a group of wonderful quilters together!

    Side note: I’ve been asked about the fabric choices I used for my quilt. I used a 6″ layer cake by Moda for the bright colored pieces. The backing and the ‘ink splatter’ grey and black fabric on the front are by Art Gallery.

    And a special thank you to my husband who didn’t ask ‘why’ when I told him to ‘go over there and hold my pretty quilt up so I can take a picture’ for the thousandth time. He gets it now and he loves me 🙂 

    The Bonus Blooper Shot

    If you want to see what a blooper shot of a quilt photo shoot looks like…. well here you go. That’s my 6 year old who wanted so desperately for me to take his picture too. I still don’t know why it didn’t make the final cut 😉

  • Fabric Shopping – The Smart Way To Do It in 6 Steps

    Is there really a smart way to fabric shop?

    Don’t you just love when you’ve got inspiration in your soul and you walk into your large personal fabric storage armoire and your fingers glide effortlessly to exactly the right piece you were needing?

    Is she serious? …The Answer is no. I’m not at all. And I apologize for my sarcastic tone. I can’t help it because the usual truth is so far from the above example that it’s laughable. More often times than not, I know what I want and I have to go diving through bins of fabric scraps, a few plastic bags that I haven’t unpacked yet a few ‘hey, I didn’t know this was in here!’ and ‘oh, I forgot about that project’ moments… And then I still don’t come up with what I had in mind.

    Can you relate?

    The only option is to go to the fabric store to buy new fabrics! (at least that’s what I tell my purse that the only option is)

    If you’re new to quilting and don’t have a huge stash of fabrics already at your disposal, these spur of the moment trips can get rather costly. I mean there is so much that you don’t already own… if you don’t have the willpower to go in with your blinders on and laser focus on the ONE thing you were shopping for, you’ll likely want to buy it all.

    The Smart Way To Shop For Fabric

    Here are my 6 tips for Smart Fabric Shopping.

    1. Remnant bin – aka buried treasure. You may have to ask for it if you don’t see it immediately. It’s usually located somewhere behind the fabric cutting table. This bin/stash has all the end of bolts and ‘oops’ cuts.

    A remnant is anything less than 1 yard of fabric. But not all of them are skimpy. I’ve found many many just an inch shy of 36″. This is a great way to build up your collection of beautiful fabrics that are discounted (yes, discounted!)… even if you have to dig through a big drawer full of ugly ones to find your treasure.

    2. Use sales to your advantage – Stock up by buying more than what you need. Hear me out on this one. Think trips to Costco strategy. Buying in bulk. This is not a wasteful technique and it does not have to be all at once obviously. I’ve seen several deals that were closeouts of a fabric line and it was on clearance for less than $2 a yard. $2! Guess who walked out with the whole bolt under her arm. This girl! You can save money in the long run, but its super spur of the moment because these sales are unpredictable. – Still, keep an eye out for these deals.

    If your fabric store has a sale section, make a habit of browsing it when you shop. I love this area for quilt backing fabrics. Buy only the prints you know you will use. It’s not a good deal if you buy 10 yards of baby puke green fabric and never use it. Look for neutral fabrics and simple prints that you know you’ll always be able to add in with another focus print/color.

    4. Fat Quarters are your friend – These little gems make pulling off a big amazing multi fabric quilt a total breeze. It feels a little easier to bite off than walking to the cutting counter with 20 bolts of fabric stacked higher than your head. They’re premeasured as well so you don’t have to buy more fabric than you need. They are taken from one yard of fabric, cut in half lengthwise and then in half width-wise. The dimensions are approximately 18″ x 22″

    Fat quarters are already folded nice and tight and easy to store in your sewing space. Bonus: Keep an eye on these little beauties in your sale fliers. JoAnns has them on sale for $1 each every once in a blue moon and for not a huge investment, you can walk away with a huge stash and variety of fabrics that will easily piece together a beautiful thrifty quilt. (and no one will ever have to know)

    5. Coupons! – Speaking of sale fliers… I can’t leave these little lovelies out. Do not ever shop the big chain stores without your coupons people! I repeat, DO NOT! Yes, they have us all trained, but money saving is saving money. Just roll with it, mmmk?

    JoAnns has a fantastic App with built-in coupons. Hobby Lobby has an app as well and a fantastic 40% off one regular priced item coupon that is super handy.

    Most small shops will not offer as big of coupons as the chain stores. Their profit margins are less. We understand that and love them anyway.

    Ask your fabric/quilt shop if they offer any discounts for quilting groups or guild memberships. If I show my guild membership card at my quilt shop, I get 10% off. It never hurts to ask.

    5. Shop Online – This is probably my least favorite tip but if you aren’t wanting to spend a fortune in eye candy fabrics, its one of the best ways to go. You’ll find an even greater selection than in the store in most cases and a greater chance of finding specialty fabrics.

    Let me get one thing straight… It’s not that I dislike shopping online. I actually love to shop online. You just don’t get the same experience in a virtual fabric shop as a fabric shop. I like to touch the fabrics.

    If you know exactly what you need and how much you need, sites like http://www.fabric.com and http://www.fatquartershop.com will make your shopping experience a breeze.  Always do a quick google search for active coupon codes and possible free shipping codes as well.

    Fat Quarter Shop Quilting Fabrics and Supplies

    If you’re looking for sewing tools , always check Amazon.

    6. Avoid shopping at the store when you aren’t sure what you’re looking for – If at all possible, at least realize that walking in a fabric store not knowing what you need is going to lead to a long receipt.  It’s like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry. We’re all guilty of this one. So many beautiful things surround you. No one can really fault you for buying it all.

    If you’re like me, you may cringe on the outside when the final bill comes around but secretly we’re doing a dance on the inside because with all these beautiful fabrics who can be sad? It’s totally natural to do that, isn’t it?

    If you’re looking to shop smarter for your fabrics, keep these tips in mind and you can’t go wrong.

    If having a large personal collection of fabrics seems like a far-off dream without spending a fortune, just you wait… you’ll get there.

    Then again… if you’re able to wander aimlessly through the aisles of the fabric store buying whatever your heart desires… hey, you do you, honey 🙂

    PS – If you’re looking for some FREE quilt patterns to use all those lovely new fabrics on, check out this post – 5 Free Weekend Quilt Patterns

    What is your favorite tips for shopping smarter for fabric and sewing supplies? Please tell me your secrets and favorite shopper habits in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

     

  • What is a Walking Foot?

    Walking Foot

    What the what? Yes, a walking foot (also known as an even-feed foot). I’ve had questions about this tool before. Why I use it and if it is truly a necessity for beginner level quilters. Here is a bit long, tell it all, post on the Walking Foot.

    Answers to your Walking Foot Questions

    Is it a standard sewing foot? – No, your sewing machine (most of the time) does not come with this attachment.

    Do you REALLY NEED it? – I honestly did not start out with one. I used the same sewing foot on everything (yes, everything. I’ve moved on, thankfully. Being self-taught has its drawbacks, ok?) It wasn’t until I was struggling with more advanced quilting techniques that I upgraded to a walking foot and man… It was like night and day. I’m not going to say that I’m not dramatic or anything but I swear I could hear the angels sing. ‘So this is why people enjoy quilting’… If you’re serious about quilting, I highly suggest looking into getting one. It will be the grease to your quilting gears.

    Walking Foot

    How much does it cost? – It is more expensive than most of the sewing feet but you can find one for anywhere between $10-$70 depending on brand and where you buy from.

    Some walking feet are brand specific models designed for you machine. There are also generic one-size-fits-most models. As you can guess, generic is a little cheaper.

    There are a few on Amazon for around $8. I personally have not tried those and can not either recommend or not recommend those products. I suggest going with a middle of the range tool unless you’re just curious for a bargain. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for and I would never ever steer you towards something that could be a waste of your money.

    These are a few models I have personally used and DO recommend:

    Singer Walking Foot

     

    Singer Even Feed Walking Presser Foor for Quilters – $22.79

     

     

     

     

    Janome Walking Foot

    Janome Even Feed Foot (Open Toe) – $59.99

     

     

     

    What does a walking foot do? – A walking foot makes sewing thick layers easier because of the presser foot on top of your fabric moves (or walks) too. It moves with the feed dogs underneath. In theory, this means that the top layer will move at the same speed as the bottom and middle layers.

    Sewing Machine Feed Dogs

     

    How do you put on the walking foot? – It is a little different than your regular sewing feet. It takes a little practice, but if it wasn’t worth it, I wouldn’t bother with it myself. It’s totally worth it, trust me. There is a little bar that fits over (or on) the needle tightening screw. You’ll know if you don’t put it on the right way because your machine will make a terrible noise when you go to sew but rest assured because once you install it right, you’ll know what to look for!

    Here are some close-ups of the walking foot on my machine and what to look for when you put yours on.

    Walking Foot Walking Foot

    When do you use the walking foot? – It is a must-have accessory for straight line quilting. It keeps the layers together and prevents the top layer from getting pushed ahead of the middle and bottom layers. This prevents puckering and tiny pleats from occurring when you change the direction of your quilted lines. I use the walking foot whenever I am straight line quilting, which is what most beginner quilters will be using.

    You can also use it when sewing on your quilt binding. It will keep the top layer of the binding from shifting ahead of the bottom layer. Essentials, you’ll want to use your walking foot whenever you are sewing multiple layers and feel like the layers are not moving at the same speed. Your walking foot will solve that problem.

    Do you have a walking foot yet? What is your opinion? Do you just love yours? Did you notice a huge difference when you switched to a walking foot for quilting like I did? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

    This post uses affiliate links. I wouldn’t recommend products that I didn’t own and love. If you make a purchase using my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for allowing me to continue to provide you with patterns and tutorials!

  • The Best Seam Ripper!

    Seam Rippers. Ugh. You know its real when you have to pull it out to correct a seam. But what is the best seam ripper?

    Do you have a timeout corner somewhere in your sewing space?

    Maybe its known by another name, but you know what I mean… you sewed something wrong, or the bobbin went haywire and you just.can’t.deal.with.it. right now. It’s usually when I’m in a hurry to finish a quilt and then things go bonkers. Heres a tip: Never let your sewing machine know that you’re in a hurry. Ever. 

    We all make mistakes. Sad but true. I usually save my seam ripper sessions for a night in front of the TV on the couch with some tea…. *ahem* ok… so it’s usually wine. My mistakes are usually not a quick and fix so why not make the most of it? And if you’re going to correct your mistakes, why not do it in style? So now I present…

    The BEST Seam Rippers

    Go ahead, make some mistakes.

    I have owned several of these little mistake erasers. I have found some that I hate and a few that I LOVE (as much as you can love a seam ripper?).  I’ve tried so many thinking it would make the process better. When you’re quilting and learning quilting, you’re bound to make mistakes… but buying the wrong seam ripper doesn’t have to be one of them!

    Let’s start with the No No Seam rippers, shall we? Honestly, if you find a seam ripper for the bargain price of $1… that is a risk you take. It may work just fine for today but in the end, you get what you pay for. You need the blade to be sharp or it will pull your fabric too. You need the pokey part at the end (is there a more formal name for that part?) to be small and not bulky so you can get in the stitches with as little damage to the rest of your project as possible.

    Don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m not saying you have to spend a fortune on the bedazzled one either. Seam rippers are actually among the most affordable tools in your sewing kit. So let’s get started

    These are my favorite seam rippers

    Dritz 5101 Ergonomic Large Seam Ripper – $6.07

    This little purple gem is one of my favorites because the shape is ergonomic and fits well in your hand. You’ll never appreciate an ergonomic seam ripper until you’ve had to rip apart a whole quilt. I speak from a very frustrating ‘learning’ experience. If you’re going to be sitting for a while, this is the route to go. The texture of this one is also non-slip so it stays put in your hands. Bonus!

    Mini Seam Fix Seam Ripper $7.49

    This one reminds my kids of ice cream, but don’t let it’s bubblegum and rainbows exterior fool you. This seam ripper means business. It has your standard pokey/ripper pieces inside. The rubber pieces on the outside work like the back eraser end of a pencil to grip your stray tiny threads and gently pull them out. It’s total magic. So tiny and so cute!

    Tula-surgical-seam-ripper
    This gorgeous little bite of terror is something that I’ve wanted to try but just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it (yet). I adore Tula Pink. Everyone I know raves about this seam ripper and how amazing and powerful it feels. Sewing goddess and wielder of the stitches fate. It’s a surgical seam ripper, y’all. A bit scary for the clumsy girl like me. If you’re a seamstress by day and expert surgeon by night, you’ll fall in love with this one! Just be careful, please!

    So when you’re browsing the isles of your craft store or going through the pages on Amazon (one of my favorite places to shop for a good deal) remember that your seam ripper and you are one day going to be forced to become BFFs, whether you choose to or not. You might as well pick one that you’re not going to detest later on.

    Turn on some late night TV shows that you’ve got stored on your DVR and a glass of tea… oh who are we kidding, grab the wine sweetie. You deserve it. Now, go and you show that quilt who is boss. If you like to save the small talk, you may look into adding this shirt to your wish list. You got this!

    *This page contains affiliate links. – That just means that if you make a purchase using my recommendations/links I receive a small commission of the sale at no extra cost to you. I wouldn’t recommend a product that I don’t already own or love. Thanks so much. I appreciate your support and I appreciate you!

  • My FAVORITE Pins for Quilters

    How do you find the best pins for quilters?
    There’s like a jillion different kind of pins at the craft store. There are cheap pins and expensive ones. There are ones that are long, short, silver, gold, some are glass, some are butterflies. AH!

    Does it all just come down picking your favorite color? Or is there a method to the madness?

    Short answer? You CAN pick your favorite color. And yes, there is a bit of method to the madness.

    Let’s get started.

    This post will cover the which pins are best for quilting (and when is it ok to buy pins just because you like the pink ones).

    For Quilting, you’ll want to look for long and strong pins. The shorter ones will not go through as many layers of the quilt without damaging them. And the flimsy or easy bend ones? Don’t even bother. You’ll just end up stabbing yourself more than you need to. Side note: If you can create a whole quilt without pricking yourself once, I’ll give you a medal. 

    It’s also important for them to be brightly colored. You will want them to be easily seen on your fabrics/project as well as your floor (Do I need to explain this one? I think not. ouch.)

    I use these pins all.the.time. BRIGHT YELLOW is super easy to see. They are made by dritz and they are long enough to go through layers of fabric + quilt batting without bunching of the fabric. I never have to worry that it is going to accidentally slip out either. My carpet is a beige color so these yellow pin heads stand out against the dull color easily!

    You can see the difference in the pin lengths below:

    When I’m pinning to my inspiration board or I need one that I can easily grab, I switch to my pretty ones (like the butterfly ones above).

    Pictured below is my absolute favorite because of the way the end curves up. It makes it easy to grab and the colorful tips are easy to spot on your projects. And just look at that magenta! Ah, I love it! (you can snag your own colorful leaf pins here)

    If you’re going to be quilting, you need the longer quilting pins. From there you are free to decide what color and style and how fancy you want to be. For just regular sewing, you are free to use your standard pins. Do you have a favorite style pin? Give me your oPINion in the comments – get it? 🙂 haha… ok ok. I tried.

    Bonus Project idea

    And if you’re looking for a fun way to store all your pretty pins, check out my free tutorial: The Less than 5-minute pincushion! It’s super cute. You’re going to love it!

    This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase using one of the links on my page, at no additional cost to you, I receive a small commission of the sale. My opinions are completely my own and I wouldn’t recommend a product if I didn’t already own it and love it!