What Are the Basic Skills Needed for Quilting?

At some point, every accomplished quilter made the decision to try quilting for the first time. More often than not, their inspiration comes from seeing the diversity of beautiful, artistic quilts that someone else has done. Like any craft, quilting requires a certain set of skills that will improve over time. Learning the basic skills needed for quilting before you choose your first project will help you get the best results possible and keep getting better with every project that you do.

Skills Needed for Quilting

1. How to Sew

If you plan to hand-sew, you will need to be adept at sewing through the quilt sandwich and leaving consistent stitches on the top and bottom of the quilt. You will be able to start with just a straight running stitch for most of what you do but you may find that it takes more skill to sew by hand than by machine and it will certainly take you a lot longer.

If you will be quilting by machine, then start by learning everything about your sewing machine. The time to learn the different stitches and stitch lengths, threading pattern, and tension adjustment are before you get started on your quilting project. You will also need to know how to consistently sew straight ¼” seams to prevent distortions when putting the pieces together.

2. Learn the Lingo

A basic guide book can go a long way towards teaching you the terms and techniques that you will run across with quilting patterns. If you don’t know what an abbreviated term means, it could bring your project to a halt or cause a fault in the finished product.

3. Cut Precise Pieces

This is one area of quilting that can be especially challenging for new crafters who haven’t developed the patience needed to get things just right. It may be a good idea to make your first project from a pre-cut quilt kit just to get the ‘feel’ for how the pieces fit together. Once you start cutting your own, you will need to know how to use a ruler, quilting square, and rotary cutter to get your pieces just as accurate as those that come pre-cut.

4. How to Square

No matter what design the quilt may be, it will be put together in squares. Each piece, each square, and the entire quilt top need to be squared prior to cutting to create a perfectly square quilt.

5. Chain Piece

This technique saves time, prevents seams from puckering, and helps keep you organized.

Skills Needed for Quilting

6. Pressing

If you have sewn clothing, you know that seams have to be pressed in a certain direction. The same is true in quilting. The direction you press the seams will determine how the quilt block lays.

7. Adding Borders

The border is the part that frames the entire quilt and compliments the design. You need to know how to cut the fabric out and stitch it to keep the quilt square.

8. Make a Smooth Sandwich

Once the quilt top is made and ready to add to the rest of the quilt, the top, batting, and back are put together into a ‘sandwich’. The quilter needs to be able to do this without any ripples or folds that will alter the fit of the three pieces and stand out as a glaring imperfection once the quilt is made.

9. Add the Finishing Touches

Binding the quilt is the final part of the quilting job and mitered corners should always be included. You may also want to add your personal label to commemorate your first completed quilting project!

There are many tutorials online that can help you master any of these skills. A good quilting guide will also help you with choosing projects at the right level of difficulty for your skills and knowing which fabrics are right for the project.

Although learning the basic skills may require some trial-and-error until you get the knack, you can expect to keep getting better as you continue to practice and add more techniques and skills to your reservoir of talent. The more you learn about quilting, the more you will enjoy trying new and more challenging projects.


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