I recently met a gal who is a very beginner quilter. She found a quilt she liked on Pinterest and is trying to teach herself how to quilt. I applaud her for that and what she has done so far on her quilt is great. She went to a quilt shop and started with high quality fabric – bonus points right there! Then she made a few mistakes – mistakes she could have avoided if she had taken a class or found a quilter who could help her get started in person.
Mistake 1: Assuming that everyone who works at JoAnn’s knows what they are talking about.
She went to JoAnn’s and told them she was making a quilt and asked what she needed for batting. Batting (or wadding in Australia and the UK) is the middle layer of the quilt. It provides the warmth for the quilt and can determine the finished feel of the quilt. This is what they told her she needed:
This is not even close to what she needs. This batting is for stuffing pillows or stuffed animals. There are lots of quilt batting options out there, but this doesn’t even make the list. I frequently shop at JoAnn’s for a variety of things, but I do not depend on the people working there to be knowledgeable about every product they carry. It’s not their job. I don’t blame the worker at JoAnn’s who recommended this product. They honestly didn’t know what this new quilter needed. But that’s what they should have said or asked someone else for help. My advice – if you need something at JoAnn’s you might be better off asking another customer.
Now for what she really needed:
See any differences?
Mistake 2: Not considering the long-term.
In the first quilt class I ever took I was told that the best, longest-lasting quilts are made from all the same material. So if you are using 100% cotton fabric for your top, use 100% cotton for your thread and for your batting (or at the very least another non-synthetic material like silk, wool or bamboo.) Mixing natural fibers with synthetic fibers can cause all kinds of problems down the road. And your quilt will only last as long as the least durable product it is made from. An illustration of this is shrinkage. Say you make your top out of 100% cotton fabric, you use a polyester thread and an 80/20 poly/cotton blend for your batting. All three of these materials are going to shrink at different levels, which is bad. After a washing or two your quilt will become misshapen and it will wear out unevenly. I know some people who swear by polyester threads, but I just don’t use them. The idea of using all the same material to build a quilt makes too much sense to me. If you want more information about batting check out Amy Smart’s post on the subject.
Mistake #3: Using old thread.
For this particular quilt, my new quilty friend has fabric in all the colors of the rainbow and in multiple shades of each color. It is going to be very striking. To match all of her colorful fabric, she is going to use the same colors of thread. Which means she will end up needing about 20 different colors of thread. That will get spendy. So she found a box of old thread that was her grandmother’s and was so excited because it contained all the colors she needs and it’s “vintage” so it must be high quality. Wrong. It may have been high quality 40 years ago, but now it is dusty, brittle and will weaken the quilt in the long run. Don’t use old thread! Take grandma’s beautiful collection and come up with a great display for it, but don’t put it in your quilt.
After spending about an hour with this gal, we came up with a plan on how best to finish her quilt and I left her with some other bits of advice:
Change your needle every 6 to 8 hours of quilting.
A lot of new quilters (and even those who have been sewing their whole lives) aren’t aware of this, but it can make a big difference in the performance of your machine and will reduce frustration levels. Don’t wait until a needle breaks to change it!
Have your machine professionally serviced every 1 to 2 years.
People who are new to sewing think they don’t need to take it in if they aren’t using it much. Not true. Even if your machine is just sitting it should be looked at regularly by a professional. This will prolong its life and leave you with a better working machine when you do get around to sewing.
Clean under your needle plate regularly.
Fabric and thread produce lint. Using high quality fabric and thread can reduce the amount of lint that is produced, but not eliminate it entirely. Lint build-up under your needle plate can really affect machine performance.
These are all things that I learned in my first beginner quilting class. So that leads me to my number one bit of advice: take a beginning quilting class if you think you might want to get into quilting. You will learn so much that will alleviate headaches down the road and will be an investment in your future as a quilter. If you can’t take one in person, check out Craftsy for online classes.