Packed with step-by-step instructions and quick tips, this quilting guide is your gateway to transforming fabric into a timeless masterpiece.
Chapter 1: Gathering Your Quilting Essentials
To begin, we’ll discuss fabric, batting, and thread selection as well as the tools needed to breathe life into your quilting project.
Selecting the Right Type of Fabric: Explore Fat Quarters at Fabric on Demand
We recommend all quilters begin with fat quarters.
A fat quarter is an 18x21-inch piece of fabric. Since they are pre-cut, fat quarters are easier to work with than entire yards of quilting fabric.
At Fabric on Demand, you can order fat quarters in all our fabric types. To select the right quilting fabric for your project, consider:
- Purpose: Is the quilt intended to be decorative or functional? This will help you determine if you need a durable, stain-resistant fabric or if a more delicate material will suffice.
- Weight: Fabric weight refers to the mass of a fabric per unit area. The higher the value, the warmer the fabric.
- Texture: Consider the texture of the quilting fabric. Is it smooth, coarse, or somewhere in between? Think about how the tactile experience will contribute to the quilt.
- Price: Depending on your budget, you may also want to compare fabric prices.
Essential Quilting Tools and Supplies: Beyond the Basics
After selecting your quilting fabric, you must compile your quilting tools and supplies.
Basic quilting tools include:
- Sewing machine
- Pair of fabric scissors
- Rotary cutter
- Heat-erasable pen (or other fabric marking tool)
- Self-healing cutting mat
Beyond these fundamental instruments, you may choose to purchase:
- Quilting gloves
- Specialty quilting rulers
- Walking foot (a sewing machine attachment that allows you to feed multiple layers of quilting fabric through the machine)
- Magnetic seam guide (a magnetic strip that ensures your stitches stay a consistent distance from the fabric edge)
Choosing Batting and Thread for Your Quilt Project
The next step is to select the right batting and thread for your quilt.
Quilt batting (aka wadding) is the layer of material placed between the quilt top and the backing fabric. Batting acts as insulation, giving your quilt weight and warmth.
There are two factors to consider when selecting your batting: loft and fiber.
- Loft: Loft is the thickness of the batting. Low loft batting will afford a thinner, more breathable quilt, while high loft batting will afford a thicker, warmer quilt.
- Fiber: Batting is commonly made out of cotton, wool, polyester, bamboo, and blends of various fibers.
Though selecting thread for a quilting project may seem simple enough, you must consider thread weight, type, and color.
- Thread weight: Thread weight refers to the thickness or diameter of a thread. Most quilters stick to 40 to 50wt for piecing and 60wt for delicate detail work.
- Thread type: Thread is made from a variety of fibers, including cotton, polyester, silk, rayon, and nylon. Cotton thread is the traditional choice for quilting.
- Thread color: Most quilters will select a thread color that matches the quilt fabric.
Chapter 2: Designing Your Quilt — A Creative Exploration
It’s time to have some fun! In this chapter, we’ll teach you how to design your quilt.
Unleashing Your Creativity: Patterns and Color Schemes
A pattern is a blueprint for your quilt. It helps you envision how each block of fabric will be sewn together.
Traditional quilt patterns include:
- Log cabin
- Nine patch
- Double wedding ring
- Flying geese
- Rail fence
You can also design your own quilt pattern. To do this, you must determine:
- The size of your quilt
- The size of each quilt block
- How many quilt blocks you will need
During this planning phase, you should select your fabric prints and colors. You should also determine the layout for your different fabrics.
For example, you may choose to alternate a paisley and floral pattern in a simple ABAB pattern to create stripes. Or, you may stagger the fabrics to create fun diagonals. Don’t be afraid to get creative here.
Incorporating Fabric on Demand’s Unique Fabrics Into Your Design
To make quilting dreams a reality, Fabric on Demand helps customers design custom fat quarters.
You’ll start by visiting our online design studio and selecting one of our 20+ high-quality fabrics. Breathable and soft, our Quilt Cotton is a go-to among fiber artists. However, other fabrics like our Linen Cotton Blend and Spandex Jersey Knit are also solid picks.
After choosing a fabric type, upload a photo of a graphic. Then, specify how you want the graphic to be printed on the quilting fabric.
From there, it's as easy as selecting your quantity and adding the custom fabric to your cart!
Utilizing Quilt Design Software: A Modern Approach
Depending on your comfort with technology, you may choose to use quilt design software like Electric Quilt 8 and QuiltAssistant. This software allows you to experiment with different block patterns, fabric colors, and layout options.
Of course, you can also design your quilt the old-school way using pencil and paper.
Chapter 3: Cutting Techniques — Laying the Foundation
Now, it’s time to measure and cut your quilting squares.
Mastering Accurate Cutting for Perfect Piecing
To cut your fat quarters into accurate squares, begin by ironing your fabric. This makes the fabric smooth, flat, and easier to cut.
Next, place the quilting fabric on your cutting mat and use the ruler to ensure that every edge is straight. If some of the edges are crooked, use your rotary cutter to cut off any excess. This process is called “squaring up” the fabric.
Once your quilting fabric is square, determine how many blocks you can cut from the fat quarter. For example, if your quilt calls for five-inch squares, you can cut 12 squares from an 18x21-inch fat quarter.
The rest of the process simply involves measuring and cutting your fat quarters into the designated number of squares. (Pro tip: Use a heat-erasable fabric marking pen to designate where you need to cut the fabric.)
Other tips to keep in mind:
- Pay attention to the quilting fabric grain. Cut along the straight grain to avoid distortion.
- Double-check your measurements before making any cuts.
- Cutting fabric can be repetitive. Take breaks to avoid fatigue and maintain focus.
Chapter 4: Assembling Your Quilt Top — Bringing Pieces Together
Learn how to turn your quilt squares into a cohesive quilt top.
Sewing Blocks Into Rows: A Detailed Walkthrough
In quilting, "piecing" refers to the process of sewing together individual pieces of fabric to create a quilt. To piece together your quilt, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Arrange Quilt Squares
Using the quilt pattern for reference, arrange the squares on a flat surface.
Step 2: Sew the Rows
Next, sew the quilt blocks together to create rows. Use a ¼-inch seam allowance and match the edges carefully. If needed, pin the blocks together to maintain alignment.
Step 3: Press the Seams
After sewing a row, use an iron to press all the seams to the left or to the right. (The exact direction doesn’t matter. However, all the seams in a row must be pressed in the same direction.)
Step 4: Sew, Press, Repeat
Continue sewing your blocks into rows. After finishing each row, press the seams in the opposite direction as the previous row.
Once you have sewn all your rows, the next step is to sew the rows together. Once again, you will use a ¼-inch seam allowance. You will also need to press the seams.
Tips for Ensuring Precision and Alignment in Your Quilt Top
- Choose a high-quality thread that is suitable for quilting. 40 to 50wt is preferred.
- Double-check that your sewing machine’s tension settings are appropriate for the thread and quilting fabric.
- Pin fabric pieces together before sewing to make sure they stay aligned.
- Press seams carefully after each step.
- Maintain a consistent ¼-inch seam allowance. Accuracy in seam allowance is critical for matching blocks and maintaining uniform block sizes.
- Periodically check your seams as you sew, making adjustments as necessary.
Chapter 5: Layering and Basting — Preparing for Quilting
In this chapter, we help you prepare the different layers of your quilt.
The Art of Sandwiching: Layering Your Quilt
Quilting involves a meticulous process called “sandwiching.” Sandwiching involves layering the quilt top, batting, and backing together. We walk you through this process below.
Step 1: Prepare Your Quilt Top
Ensure your quilt top is pressed and free of any wrinkles or folds.
Step 2: Choose Your Batting
As discussed in Chapter 1, batting is the insulative layer of material placed between the quilt top and the backing fabric. Batting is available in various materials and thicknesses. Depending on your project, you may choose low loft batting or high loft batting.
Step 3: Cut Your Batting and Backing
Next, you must cut your batting and backing. Generally speaking, you want your batting and backing to be at least four inches larger than your quilt top in each direction.
Step 4: Layer the Quilt
Start by laying the backing fabric on a flat surface, wrong side up. Be sure to smooth out any wrinkles.
Next, place the batting over the backing fabric, centering it carefully. Lastly, place the quilt top over the batting. Double-check that all edges are aligned.
Basting Techniques for a Smooth Quilting Process
In quilting, “basting" refers to the process of temporarily securing the quilt layers.
There are several basting techniques and methods, including:
- Pin basting: With this method, quilters use large safety pins to secure the layers. These pins are inserted through all three layers at regular intervals.
- Thread basting: Thread basting is a traditional method in which long, loose stitches are hand-sewn through the layers using a needle and thread.
- Spray basting: The fastest method, spray basting involves using a temporary spray adhesive to hold the layers together.
- Basting gun: A basting gun inserts plastic fasteners through the layers to hold them in place.
Chapter 6: Quilting Methods — From Traditional to Modern Techniques
We’ll now explore three distinct quilting techniques.
Hand Quilting: A Touch of Tradition
Hand quilting is a timeless craft in which artisans use a needle and thread to sew the quilt’s layers together. Though labor-intensive, this approach offers increased precision and control. It also creates a unique, textured finish.
Machine Quilting: Quick and Creative Approaches
Unlike traditional hand quilting, machine quilting involves using a sewing machine to stitch intricate patterns, designs, and quilting motifs through the layers of a quilt.
Exploring Free-Motion Quilting: Tips and Tricks
With the free-motion method, quilters use a sewing machine. However, they create intricate designs without the constraints of predetermined patterns.
Chapter 7: Adding the Finishing Touches — Binding and Beyond
In this chapter, we’ll help you complete your quilt.
Choosing and Applying the Perfect Binding
Quilt binding refers to the finishing edge surrounding the outer perimeter of a quilt. This strip of fabric encases the raw edges of the quilt top, batting, and backing, securing the layers while enhancing the quilt’s appearance.
You can use almost any fabric for your binding. However, you should try to select a fabric that complements the colors, patterns, and textures of your quilt.
To apply your binding, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Trim Excess Batting
Use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim any excess batting. You want to trim right to the quilt’s edge.
Step 2: Calculate Your Binding
To determine how much binding you need, calculate the perimeter of your quilt and then add 12 inches to account for overlap.
Step 3: Measure and Cut Your Strips
Next, measure and cut 2.5-inch-wide strips of binding. The number of strips you cut depends on the length of your fabric.
Step 4: Join the Binding Strips
Sew the binding strips together at a 45-degree angle, then press the seams open.
Step 5: Fold and Press the Binding
Fold the binding strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press to create a crease along the entire length.
Step 6: Align the Binding
Align the raw edges of the binding with the raw edges of the quilt.
Step 7: Sew the Binding
Using a ¼-inch seam allowance, start sewing the binding to the quilt. Sew along the edge, stopping about ¼ inch from the quilt corner. Backstitch to secure.
Step 8: Miter the Corners
Fold the binding strip up, creating a diagonal fold at the corner. Then, fold the strip down, aligning it with the next side of the quilt. This creates a mitered corner.
Step 9: Continue Binding
Sew the binding around all sides of the quilt, mitering the corners as you go. Stop when you're a few inches away from the starting point.
Step 10: Join the Ends
Trim the excess binding, leaving enough to overlap the starting point by a few inches. Open the ends of the binding, fold one end inside the other, and sew them together. Trim any excess.
Step 11: Finish Sewing
Continue sewing the binding to the quilt, ensuring a neat finish. Backstitch at the end to secure the stitches.
Step 12: Press the Binding
Press the binding away from the quilt, creating a clean and crisp edge.
Creative Edges and Borders: Personalize Your Quilt
Beyond its practical functions, binding can bring an extra layer of creativity and personalization to your quilt.
For example, you may select a contrasting fabric to add texture. Or, you may play with bold colors, gradients, and ombre effects to make a visual statement.
Patterned binding is an option, too. Rather than select a solid-colored fabric, you can opt for stripes, checks, florals, or geometrics to contrast with the quilt blocks. You may also add embellishments like lace, beads, and embroidery.
Chapter 8: Caring for Your Quilt — Preserving Your Masterpiece
Learn how to preserve your creation for the generations to come.
Cleaning and Storage Tips for Longevity
Do you want your quilt to be a cherished heirloom? If so, follow the guidelines below.
- Spot clean stains with a gentle, fabric-safe stain remover.
- If the entire quilt needs washing, hand wash with a mild detergent. Avoid wringing the fabric.
- If the quilt is too large to hand wash, use a delicate setting on your washing machine.
- Always use cold water to prevent fading or bleeding.
- Allow your quilt to air dry.
- Make sure the quilt is completely clean and dry before storing.
- Store the quilt in a sealed container in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space. Avoid areas prone to temperature and humidity fluctuations, such as attics or basements.
- Periodically inspect your stored quilt for signs of damage or discoloration. Occasionally refold the quilt to avoid permanent creases.
Repair and Maintenance: Keeping Your Quilt as Good as New
Over time, your quilt may begin to show signs of wear and tear, such as fraying threads, small tears, and loose seams. Luckily, most small imperfections can be addressed with a backstitch.
A backstitch involves sewing backward into the existing stitches, thereby reinforcing your original handiwork.
A basic backstitch requires that you:
- Create a knot at the end of your thread.
- Insert the needle from the backside of the fabric at the beginning point of your stitching line.
- Bring the needle backward, passing it through the fabric right behind the point where the needle was initially inserted.
- After completing the backward stitch, move the needle forward to the next point in your stitching line.
- Repeat, and then tie off the thread with a knot.
You may also consider taking your coverlet to a quilt expert, depending on its state of disrepair.
Conclusion: Embarking on Your Quilting Journey
Let’s summarize what we’ve learned in this quilting tutorial.
Recap of Quilting Essentials and Techniques
The first step in making your quilting dreams a reality is to compile fabric, batting, thread, and other necessary supplies. From there, you’ll either reference an existing quilting pattern or flex your creative muscles and come up with your own.
Once you have a blueprint for your quilt, it’s time to measure, cut, and piece together the individual quilt blocks row by row, being sure to use a ¼-inch seam allowance.
After all the rows have been sewn together, you must layer the batting, backing, and quilt top and temporarily secure the layers through a process called “basting.”
In the final steps of your quilting journey, you will fully secure the quilt layers together. Then, you can complete the quilt by attaching the binding.
Next Steps: Start Your Quilting Project with Fabric on Demand’s Fabrics
Now that you have a firm grasp on the quilting process, it’s time to turn inspiration into action.
At Fabric on Demand, we can help you begin your creative journey with our custom fabric design studio. Intuitive and easy to use, our studio allows customers to create unique, eye-catching fabrics that can be ordered by the yard. We also sell pre-cut fat quarters.
If you’re interested in breathing life into your quilting project, visit our custom fabric printing design studio today!