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Thread: Self taught quilter missing the basics

  1. #1
    Senior Member debp33's Avatar
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    I'm a self taught quilter. No mom or grandma showing me, no classes. I don't even know anyone personally who quilts/sews!

    I've watched quilting shows on PBS and have read books, (and use the tutorials on this board :thumbup: ), but that's about it. I've made several quilts, but usually make mistakes and have to redo some part of the process.

    So my question is - are there any basic tips/tricks/secrets that all quilters should know? I know it'll get easier with experience, but I'm afraid I might be making it harder than it should be.

  2. #2
    Super Member donnajean's Avatar
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    I am self taught & started back before Internet & all the tutorials & video's. Many of the books like the Quilt in a Day books take you step by step through the basics. My philosophy for quilting as like anything else, if you read directions & go 1 step at a time, you can do anything.

  3. #3
    Power Poster Sadiemae's Avatar
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    I don't know where in Idaho you live, but if I can ever help PM me.

  4. #4
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    Be consistent with 1/4" seams, square up blocks, measure twice and cut once and most of all-enjoy!

  5. #5
    Super Member greenini's Avatar
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    My first quilt was from Eleanor Burns Log Cabin in a Day. I really liked it and made a ton of blocks and quilts. I just recently finished my first beginners quilt class and that was helpful too even after 10 yrs on my own.

    I buy quilting books when ever I find them at thrift stores, used book stores, online. I read thru them and get a lot of tips that way, some are duplicates, but enough are new so that it's usually worth the $4 or $5 bucks I have paid out. You could try a real basic beginners book like Carol Doaks, too. Robbie Fannings Complete Book of Machine Quilting is good too. I also like Quilting School by Ann Poe and The Careless Quilter by Miller (more a this is ok if you do it). I also like technique books. Hope these are of some help.

  6. #6
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    I learned from books and videos too. :)

    Here are some things that I had to learn the hard way:

    A consistent 1/4" seam is a lot harder than it looks. Murphy's law - if you've hit it perfectly, you will have forgotten to re-set the stitch length from your basting project and you'll have 6 stitches per inch in that seam. Conversely, if it's far enough off 1/4" that you need to remove the seam, you will have sewn it at 30 stitches per inch. :mrgreen:

    Keep little scraps of quilting cottons on your sewing table and check your stitching top and bottom every time you change bobbins, needles or thread. Adjust the bobbin tension for the thread that's in it and balance the needle tension with the bobbin tension. The one time you forget to check your stitching, your needle side will be making beautiful stitches and the bobbin thread will be pulled tight - and therefore, useless - on the underside. Naturally, you will have sewn several miles of this type of seam. ;)

    Change your needle every six or eight hours of sewing, or when the needle starts making a little popping sound as it enters the fabric.

    Don't collect all medium-value, medium-scale prints. Your quilt needs contrast in light and texture to show off the design and your constantly improving piecing skills.

    Stitching in the ditch is hard! If you sew a shallow zig-zag or wavy or serpentine stitch in the general vicinity of the ditch, you won't be pulling your hair out trying to keep the needle IN the ditch and not jumping off to one side and then the other. This can help you disguise little oopsies in the piecing, too - stitch in the ditch emphasizes those oopsies.

    Learn how to "ootch and scootch" or "fudge" seams - when you go to sew two blocks together and one is 1/16" longer than the other, put the bottom block on the bottom, hold the ends aligned with each other and keep a little tension on the fabrics as you sew them together.

    When you're sewing rows, pin the intersections on the side that will go under the needle first. The top block will be a scootch larger sometimes and the bottom block will be a scootch larger at other times. Only pin at the intersections, where you want the blocks to line up. In between intersections, hold the blocks aligned at the pins and put a little tension on them to ease the very slight extra fullness into the shorter block.

    Breathe. ;) Have fun with it - learning is a great joy and I'm glad that I'm still doing a lot of it every day!

  7. #7
    Super Member MrsM's Avatar
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    I bought the book "Quilting for Dummies". I also learned through quilt in a day books, magazine patterns and this board. :wink:
    Good luck and ask questions as often as you need to!

  8. #8
    Moderator kathy's Avatar
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    i think most of us are learning on our own and if we ever quit learning....we're dead! :shock: good luck and hang in there, we're all in this together

  9. #9
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thepolyparrot
    I learned from books and videos too. :)

    Here are some things that I had to learn the hard way:

    A consistent 1/4" seam is a lot harder than it looks. Murphy's law - if you've hit it perfectly, you will have forgotten to re-set the stitch length from your basting project and you'll have 6 stitches per inch in that seam. Conversely, if it's far enough off 1/4" that you need to remove the seam, you will have sewn it at 30 stitches per inch. :mrgreen:

    Keep little scraps of quilting cottons on your sewing table and check your stitching top and bottom every time you change bobbins, needles or thread. Adjust the bobbin tension for the thread that's in it and balance the needle tension with the bobbin tension. The one time you forget to check your stitching, your needle side will be making beautiful stitches and the bobbin thread will be pulled tight - and therefore, useless - on the underside. Naturally, you will have sewn several miles of this type of seam. ;)

    Change your needle every six or eight hours of sewing, or when the needle starts making a little popping sound as it enters the fabric.

    Don't collect all medium-value, medium-scale prints. Your quilt needs contrast in light and texture to show off the design and your constantly improving piecing skills.

    Stitching in the ditch is hard! If you sew a shallow zig-zag or wavy or serpentine stitch in the general vicinity of the ditch, you won't be pulling your hair out trying to keep the needle IN the ditch and not jumping off to one side and then the other. This can help you disguise little oopsies in the piecing, too - stitch in the ditch emphasizes those oopsies.

    Learn how to "ootch and scootch" or "fudge" seams - when you go to sew two blocks together and one is 1/16" longer than the other, put the bottom block on the bottom, hold the ends aligned with each other and keep a little tension on the fabrics as you sew them together.

    When you're sewing rows, pin the intersections on the side that will go under the needle first. The top block will be a scootch larger sometimes and the bottom block will be a scootch larger at other times. Only pin at the intersections, where you want the blocks to line up. In between intersections, hold the blocks aligned at the pins and put a little tension on them to ease the very slight extra fullness into the shorter block.

    Breathe. ;) Have fun with it - learning is a great joy and I'm glad that I'm still doing a lot of it every day!

    Elizabeth, you gave the greatest "hints & tricks"!! All those are not the standard things to tell a new quilter, but are the real "tricks" that we have learned over years of quilting that make our quilts a success. I couldn't have said it better!! :thumbup: :thumbup:

  10. #10
    Power Poster MadQuilter's Avatar
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    If you spend the time and effort in the prep work, the rest will be easier. Accuracy in cutting, accuracy in a consistent seam allowance, pressing so the blocks can nest, squaring up the blocks.....It is a pain to be sure, but the top will be better for it.

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