New to quilting?  Here's some basic instructions to help you get started or to use as a little refresher course if you're already a quilter, but just need a help.  You can read the instructions here or download them to your computer.

Download Basic Instructions (No Pictures)

Download Basic Instructions with Pictures

Let's Make a Quilt!

Before you Begin to Sew:

Starting a new quilt is always exciting, whether it's your first quilt or your hundred-and-first.  Make sure to read through the pattern instructions before you begin cutting.  Select quality, 100 percent cotton fabric for most quilts.  Many people prefer to prewash their quilt fabrics before sewing to ensure any shrinkage or bleeding of dyes has been eliminated before the fabric is sewn into a quilt, particularly one that will be washed often.  The quality of quilting fabrics and dyes has improved immensely, however, and so more people are skipping this step.  It's a matter of personal preference.

Cutting Your Fabric with a Rotary Cutter:

When cutting your fabric, most quilters today use a rotary cutter and cutting mat, although it's still possible to make precise and beautiful quilts using templates.  These instructions will cover the rotary cutting technique as it is the most popular.  All strips are cut on the width of the fabric unless otherwise specified.  Fold fabric in half lengthwise, with selvedges together, making sure fabric lies smooth and unwrinkled.  Iron if necessary with a hot, dry iron.  Fold in half again so the selvedge edge meets the fold. 

Line up a marked line on your ruler with the folded edge of the fabric and use the rotary cutter to cut a straight edge on the right-hand edge of the fabric.

If you're right-handed, turn your cutting mat around (move the mat, not the fabric!) so you will be able to cut strips from the left side of your fabric, and if you are left-handed, you will cut strips from the right side of your fabric so you can leave the mat and fabric as is.  Always cut away from yourself, never towards yourself, and never leave the rotary cutter blade exposed when not in use.  Remember the blade is razor-sharp. 

Referring to your quilt pattern, cut strips the required width and then cut strips as needed to create the quilt pieces (squares, rectangles, triangles, etc.)  To keep cut edges even, always move the ruler and not the fabric.  Check after three or four strips to make sure your strips are straight.  Trim fabric again if necessary.  Good cutting makes for easy piecing and quilting.  The more precise you are now, the more precise your blocks will be and the more pleased you will be with your finished quilt. 

Cutting with Templates and for Appliqué:

Templates included with a quilt pattern are usually full size.  If they include a ¼" seam allowance, the dashed line is the stitching line, and the solid line is the cutting line.  Templates for machine piecing include a seam allowance.  Templates for hand piecing do not.  Templates for appliqué do not include a seam allowance unless that is noted in the pattern. 

Appliqué Methods:

Appliqués can be applied to your quilt by machine or by hand.  There are three main methods of appliqué:  Needle-turn, which is done by hand, machine appliqué, which is done by machine and has a turned-under edge around the appliqués, and fusible appliqué, which does not have a turned-under edge. 

Needle-Turn Appliqué:

Trace appliqué pieces on the right side of fabric, adding a scant 1/4" seam allowance if one is not already included on the template.  Pin appliqué on background fabric and stitch in place, beginning with the underneath pieces first.  Use your needed to turn the seam allowance under as you stitch and use fine thread and stitches placed approximately 1/8" to 1/4" apart.  Needle-turn appliqué requires practice to make your stitches even and nearly invisible, but many people find it relaxing, and it's an portable project, so you can work on it in doctor's offices or when commuting.  There are many books available on needle-turn appliqué that can give you more detailed help.

Machine Appliqué:

The method of preparing appliqué pieces for machine stitching described here is called the freezer paper and starch method.  Cut appliqué shapes with no seam allowance out of freezer paper.  Press shiny side of freezer paper to the wrong side of fabric, and cut around template, leaving an approximate ¼" seam allowance.  Spray or pour liquid starch into a small container.  Using a Q-tip or small paint brush, paint the seam allowance around the freezer paper template with starch.  You can be generous. 

Using an iron, press seam allowance over freezer paper template, using the template as your guide.  Clip curves if necessary.  Outside curves do not usually need to be clipped, as the fabric will stretch enough for those.  Inside curves can be clipped sparingly, just enough to allow the excess fabric to be eased in.  A small craft iron can be very useful here, but you can also do this with a regular-size iron.  A wooden or metal skewer can be helpful to hold fabric while pressing to avoid burned fingers.  It does not matter what the underside of your appliqué looks like as long as the right side is flat and smooth, and the folded and pressed edge is smooth.  As with any technique, practice will make you better.  Once pieces are cooled, you can carefully remove the freezer paper. 

Position appliqués on background fabric and pin or glue into place with a glue stick or other washable glue.  There are specific glues on the market designed for appliquéing.  Machine stitch around each appliqué using a blind hemstitch, a blanket stitch, a decorative stitch, a satin stitch, or even just a straight stitch.  If you do not want your stitching to show, using monofilament thread and a blind hemstitch. 

Fusible Web Appliqué:

When using fusible web, always follow the manufacturer's instructions as methods for fusing vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.  Asymmetrical pieces will need to be flipped unless the quilt pattern already includes a mirror image template.  Trace appliqués on the paper side of the fusible web. 

Cut shape out roughly and fuse to the wrong side of your fabric. 









Remove paper backing and fuse appliqué to your background fabric. 

Use a blanket stitch, satin stitch, or other decorative stitch to hold your appliqués in place.  If you want the look of a raw edge, just straight stitch around the edges of your appliqué approximately ?" from the edge. 

Piecing Tips:

Use a fairly short stitch length (2.5 mm or 12 stitches to the inch).  All seam allowances in quilting are ¼" unless otherwise specified.  Mark your throatplate with tape ¼" to the right of where the needle pierces the fabric for accuracy in piecing.

You can also buy a special quilting foot for most sewing machines that has a flange along the right side so that you can sew an exact ¼" seam allowance.  

When sewing several similar pieces together, you can chain stitch, which simply means you do not stop and cut your thread at the end of a seam, but instead feed the next set of pieces under your foot and continue sewing.  When all your piecing is done, you go back and cut the threads between each set of pieces.  Make sure to always trim off any thread tails at the beginning and end of each seam. 













For hand piecing, begin with a knotted thread and make tight running stitches, backstitching approximately every four stitches.  The seam allowance is a scant ¼" for hand piecing.  Sew on the marked line from point to point, not edge to edge, and secure with backstitches before cutting the thread.  In hand piecing, it is important to plan out the most efficient order of seams so you can cut the thread as little as possible. 

Pressing Tips:

Press with an iron set on the cotton setting.   A hot iron is necessary to get crisp and flat seams.  There is a debate amongst quilters about whether or not to use steam when pressing.  Some do, some don't.  When pressing, first press along the stitching line to "set" the seam, and then press the seam to one side, usually to the darker fabric.  Abutting seams will need to be pressed in opposite directions.  Follow your pattern for any special pressing instructions.


Adding Borders:

Measure through the center of your quilt top at a couple of places lengthwise and use the average of those measurements as your side border measurement.  Pin and sew the two side borders, easing the quilt top to fit, and sew with a ¼" seam.  Press seam to the border.  Measure through the center of your quilt top with attached side borders widthwise in a couple of places and use the average of those measurements for the top and bottom borders.  Sew in place.

Making the Quilt Sandwich:

Now that your quilt top is finished, it's time to make the quilt sandwich in preparation for quilting.  The back of the quilt and the batting for the quilt should be cut approximately 3 inches larger on all sides than the quilt top.  Piece the backing if needed.  Cut all selvedges off any seams or edges. 

Place quilt back on a flat, smooth surface wrong side up. 

Next place a layer of batting approximately the same size as the batting.  Make sure there are no threads or lint on either the backing or the batting. 

Center quilt top on batting and backing. 

At this point you need to hold all three layers together temporarily.  You can hand-baste it using large running stitches, basting approximately four inches apart in all directions.  You can pin the quilt sandwich together with safety pins.  You can also use a light spray of temporary spray adhesive on each layer.  This is especially effective on a small quilt.

Quilts can be quilted by hand, by machine using a sit-down sewing machine, or by machine using a mid- or long-arm quilter.  If you choose to quilt by hand, please consult one of the many excellent books or other resources that will teach you all you need to know to hand-quilt.  If you choose to send your quilt out to a professional long-arm quilter, follow their instructions on how to prepare your quilt top to their specifications for quilting.

If you choose to machine quilt your quilt on your own sewing machine, the easiest way to quilt is called "stitch in the ditch", which simply means stitching a straight line in the seams of the piecing of your quilt.  Use a walking foot so that all three layers of your quilt will feed evenly through the machine. 

Take your time, and guide your quilt without pushing or pulling.

Binding the Quilt:

Once your quilting is completed, you're ready to bind the quilt.  For straight-edge quilts, cut straight-of grain strips for the binding.  For curved-edge quilts, cut bias strips for the binding.  Cut strips 2 ¼" wide and sew together with diagonal seams, cutting off excess fabric and pressing the seams open. 

Fold binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press.

Do not trim excess batting and backing off quilt until the binding is completed.  Place cut edge of binding along one edge of quilt, leaving about 8" of binding free and starting approximately one-third of the way down from the corner.  With a ¼" seam sew binding to quilt stopping ¼" away from the corner.  Remove quilt from sewing machine.  Fold binding up and then back down on itself in order to make a miterd corner.  Aligning the raw edge with the edge of the quilt top, begin at the corner and stitch, using a ¼" seam.  Repeat until all four corners are completed and you are within 8 inches of the starting point. 

Remove quilt from machine.  Lay both ends of binding on top of each other along edge of quilt top.   Trim top binding to 2 ¼" past cut edge of bottom binding.  Unfold binding and join ends, using a diagonal seam.  Trim excess, press seam open.  Make sure binding fits on quilt and finish sewing. 

Trim back and batting.  Turn binding to back of quilt and blind stitch in place by hand, making a miter at each corner. 

You've finished your quilt!  Now it's time to make another one.  These instructions cover the very basics of quilt-making.  For more information on advanced techniques, there are literally hundreds of books, magazines, and online articles on making quilts.  Good luck in your quilting journey, and remember that quilting should always be fun.

Your friends at Patchplay.