Lessons Learned from My First Quilt

To be fair, this wasn’t my first quilt. But it was my first in a decade, and my first time quilting and binding (someone else did that for me last time and I just did the piecing). So technically, it’s my second quilt. I’m a liar.

  1. Don’t skip the ironing. Where I sew, it’s not convenient to leave the ironing board out all the time and it’s a pain to put it away and set it up frequently. However, I can definitely see the difference in pieces of the quilt where I took the time to press the seams correctly not only for piecing but also for measuring and cutting.
  2. Gather everything you need for the whole project from the start. This quilt took much longer than it should have to finish, and I attribute that to a combination of pregnancy and lack of preparation. The pregnancy I couldn’t have done anything to change, but I easily could have been more prepared before I started the project. Between the two items below, I ended up losing a lot of momentum and I’d leave the quilt for days or weeks without working on it.
    • I didn’t have backing or binding and ended up using a white flat sheet for both. It was super wrinkled (and I was too lazy to iron) and ended up being difficult to work with.
    • I also didn’t have a walking foot for my machine, and had to order one online as I couldn’t find locally.
  3. Use the right tools. Because I’m pregnant, I wasn’t able to use a spray baste product and ended up using straight pins. Next time I’d make sure i have the curved safety pins as I think it would have made the process easier, faster, and delivered a better end product. I ended up abandoning the pins after I’d quilted a few lines because I was tired of getting poked.
  4. Take your time. This is pretty obvious, but I do feel like I rushed some parts of the process and the end product suffered as a result.
  5. Make wider binding. I read several tutorials on machine binding a quilt and while they all used 2.5″ strips for binding, I personally need to use something wider in the future. I am still not a very precise sewer and I struggled with keeping the binding straight when it was so narrow.
  6. Read, read, read. Read the pattern, read the sewing machine manual, read the pattern again. Read tutorials, several times, and for different processes. Read until you comprehend not just the steps, but why you’re taking those steps.
  7. Just do it, no fear. This was, for me, the most important lesson. It’s easy to put off trying something out of fear of failing, or because it may not turn out perfect. I can’t tell you how many crafts or recipes I’ve bookmarked or pinned on Pinterest and never tried. With this quilt, I found a roll of fabric strips on sale for $7, used a white sheet from Walmart as the backing (probably another $7) and got started. I figured that if it turned out horribly, I hadn’t wasted a lot of money or fabric, and I’d learn a lot along the way. And guess what? It’s not awful. If you look closely it’s easy to see the mistakes, the puckers, the less than ruler straight lines. But from a bit of a distance, it looks great. The only way anyone becomes an expert at something is by first being an amateur.