How to Sew Quilting Fabric for Beginners: Tips and Instructions

Quilting is a skill passed down from generation to generation. With the prevalent surge in demand for knitted fashion and craft, there is no greater time to learn than now.

What is Quilting?

Quilting is the process of sewing together layers of fabric. Fiber artists or quilters use this skill to make appealing lap, mini, and heirloom quilts. In addition, you can also make quilted clothes and homeware like cushions and table mats.

However, sewing on quilting fabric can be overwhelming and skill-demanding. Therefore, if you are a beginner, you can learn to sew quilting fabric by seeking direction from an experienced quilter or watching online tutorials.

Let’s delve in!

What is Quilting Fabric?

A quilt or quilting fabric is a layered material comprising two clothing pieces that envelop a filling stitched together to form a thick bulged unit. You can also say that quilting fabric is any fabric used by a quilter or a fiber artist to sew a quilt.

Therefore, quilting is a technique of sewing two or more layers of fabric to make a thick padded fabric. Quilted fabrics are available in various weights, materials, colors, and styles.

What is the Composition of a Quilt Fabric?

Quilting fabrics consist of nylon, cotton, and polyester materials, to mention a few. The sandwiched unit prevents any filling and provides heat insulation.

There are three layers of standard quilting fabric. They include:

Layer

Position
The quilt top

This is the top layer of the quilt that consists of numerous rows of quilt blocks.

The batting

Batting is the middle layer of the quilt. It consists of polyester or cotton wadding. The wadding consists of loose fibers that maintain the warmth of the quilted fabric.

The backing fabric

As the name suggests, this is the back support of the quilt. Therefore, before making a purchase, ensure to check the measurements of the quilt backing fabric and quilt top match.

If you are wondering what makes a good quilt fabric, look at the following characteristics.

    • A good insulator
    • Wind resistant
    • Decorative
    • Comfortable
    • Waterproof
    • Light in weight

What Tools and Materials Do You Need to Make a Quilt?

When choosing the quilting tools and materials, it all comes down to your desired goal. However, for a beginner, you only need the bare necessities to start quilting.

What materials do you need to make a quilt?

    • Fabric
    • A strong nylon thread
    • Backing fabric(optional)
    • Wadding(optional)

What tools do you need to make a quilt?

    • Long pins
    • Seam ripper
    • Sewing machine
    • Pen
    • Chalk
    • Pencil
    • Ruler
    • Tape measure
    • Scissors
    • Adhesive(optional)
    • Walking foot(optional)
    • Safety pins(optional)

How to Quilt Fabric for Beginners    

Are you trying to make a quilt for the first time? I’m sure you wonder where to start, what to buy, and where to buy them. No need to look further! Let’s delve into how to quilt fabric for beginners.

Step 1: Come Up With a Creative Quilt Pattern

Denim and stars quilt pattern
Image Source: Creativepursuitsetc.com

Since you are a beginner, the first step is to learn basic quilt patterns and techniques. There are numerous quilt patterns available. If you are a beginner, choose the following patterns:

    • Baby quilts
    • Jelly raw jam
    • Herringbone quilt pattern using half-square triangles
    • Eazy zigzag
    • Pixel heart quilt
    • Quick and easy basketweave quilt
    • Half square triangles
    • The log cabin

Step 2: Gather Your Quilting Tools

Basic quilting supplies
Image Source: Diaryofaquilter.com

Quilting cannot be successful without the right tools and materials. Therefore, gather the essential quilting tools and materials and slowly start the process. 

When buying the quilting fabric, ensure accurate measurements to avoid buying defective or excessive material. If you lack quilting tutorials with measures, find out the measurements of each block and calculate the size of your quilt.

Step 3: Cut Your Quiltblocks

Fabric sewing quilting
Image Source: Weallsew.com

If you have a large quilting fabric, cut the patterns into sizeable quilt blocks that are easy to design.

The perfect sandwich is dictated by how accurately you cut your patchwork. There are different ways to shape your quilt blocks.  Be keen to cut the patchwork angles and align using a ruler accurately. You can also opt to buy a cutting tool as an alternative.

Examples of quilt blocks for beginners include

    1. Long strips
    2. Rectangles
    3. Squares
    4. Segments
    5. The squared strip ends

Step 4: Sew Your Patchwork Seams

Woman's hands quilting
Image Source: Theinspiredsewist.com

For you to get the perfect results, the seams of your patchwork should be neat and tightly stitched. Ensure there are no wavy seams or wrinkles.

Watch this video to see how to perfect set-in seams.

Step 5: Baste the Quilt

Fabric sewing quilting for beginners
Image Source: Craftsy.com

After preparing your quilt top, it’s time for you to baste your quilt. 

What is basting?

Basting is the process of loosely sandwiching your quilt before sewing. Discover how to baste a quilt using the following methods:

Type of Basting

Meaning

Pin basting

The use of safety pins

Hand basting

Using your hand to make long loose stitches

Spray basting

The use of an interim adhesive spray 

Fuse basting

The use of fusible products. For example a fusible tape

Step 6: Quilting Stitches

Quilting stitches for beginners
Image Source: Blogtreasurie.com

If you are hand-stitching, ensure to practice on a different fabric before stitching your final quilt. There are several quilting stitches you can use. They include:

    1. Free motion quilting
    2. Straight line quilting
    3. Quilting with an overall pattern

Step 7: Bind the Quilt

When you add binding, it ensures the edges of your quilt are neatly finished and improves the appearance of your quilt. As a beginner, you can learn how to bind a quilt using the following methods 

    1. Double fold binding
    2. Mitered quilt binding corner
    3. Quilt binding with words

Step 8: Enjoy Your Work

After all is said and done, label your quilt and place it in the desired area.

Watch this video on how to sew your quilted fabric.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Quilting Fabric

When selecting your quilting fabric, consider the following tips:

The Purpose of the Quilt

There are several reasons why people make quilts.  Therefore, knowing the purpose of the quilt makes it easier to choose a suitable fabric.

Choose Fabrics That Go Well Together

Select the materials, patterns, and designs that complement each other instead of clashing. For instance, if a large-scale print is your quilt’s focal point, match it with two or three small-scale prints. In addition, the colors of the small images should match the large print.

Use Pure Cotton Fabric

When shopping for quilting fabrics, always buy 100% cotton fabrics. Cotton is sound-absorbent and can firmly hold a crease. Be keen not to purchase polyester fibers.

Experiment

When buying quilting fabric, you don’t have to stick to one type of pattern, texture, or color. For example, don’t select small-scale prints only or large-scale prints only. Experiment and mix them up to make your quilt enjoyable.

Use a Quilt Kit

Not everyone is imaginative or creative. Therefore, if finding the suitable fabric becomes challenging, consider a pre-cut collection of materials or use quilt kits.

Quilt kits and pre-cut collections come with pre-quilted fabric, and all that’s left of you is to complement the different shades, textures, and patterns available and sew a quilt.

Watch this beginner tutorial on how to use your first quilt kit.

The Four Types of Fabric Sewing Quilting Styles and Techniques

    1. Hand Quilting

This is the traditional fabric sewing quilting that involves stitching the pieces of fabric to create the quilt top. Although hand quilting is a cost-effective method, it is time-consuming and requires a lot of patience.

The traditional method of hand quilting involves using a needle, thread, and hoop to enable the fiber artist to control the fabric while stitching. Interestingly, hoop usage has reduced over the years since more quilters find freedom stitching without it.

While some designs and patterns require the hoop, others don’t. However, patterns and designs greatly determine the type of stitch to use. Large and wide stitches take minor detail and time, but they take time to perfect.

Short and narrow stitches require more attention and time, but they quickly make smooth, neat lines that enhance the appearance of your quilt. Since there is no machine support, hand quilting stitches require a steady hand to be perfect.

In a nutshell, consider all the factors affecting your quilt design and pattern beforehand quilting.

      2. Machine Quilting

This is the modern and most popular method for quilting due to the numerous advanced machine models available in the market. The machine typically does almost all the work for you; hence it’s a time-saving and efficient method of quilting.

In addition, there are various options to choose from to fit your desire. With machine quilting, you can adjust the machine stitches, techniques, and feet.

      3. Free-motion Quilting

Free motion quilting
Image Source: Babylock.com

This quilting method is not your everyday ordinary. You need a durable thread, darning foot, or free motion when using this type of quilting style. Free motion means freely adjusting the fabric and utilizing the machine needle.

Free motion quilting is achieved on any machine and uses straight stitching. Although you are using a straight stitch, you can draw and stitch in curvy or wavy motions. Did you know you can even stitch words? (specifically cursive words).

This quilting style allows the artist to create and design of their choice, although it takes time to perfect.

      4. Longarm Quilting

Longarm quilting machine
Image Source: Vault50.com

Unlike free motion quilting, the longarm quilting style uses a particular machine. This specific machine is suitable for quilters with quilting fabric bundles and bulk orders.

Why is the machine special?

The longarm quilting machine is a giant sewing machine featuring a stretched quilting head between 10 to 14 feet. The quilting head can be guided by the human hand or the computer, thus making it the best sewing machine for quilting.

The heat penetrates the quilt layers in a matter of seconds (depending on the width of your fabric). Consequently, the machine saves on time and energy. In addition, the device comes with a frame and fabric rollers.

Despite its efficiency, the longarm quilting style is not suitable for beginners since accidents are likely to occur. It would be best to consider the space available before purchasing a longarm quilting machine due to its large size.

The Types of Fabric for Quilt Making

If you are a newbie in the sewing world, you might go from store to store looking for fabric types for quilt making. There are many types of quilting fabric. However, when shopping for quilting fabric, choose one kind of material for the whole quilt.

Mixing different types of quilting fabric may damage the quilt since materials stretch and shrink at different rates during cleaning. In addition, ensure to use the same quilting thread material to avoid constant switching of thread pools.

Voile

Voile is a soft, lightweight, and semi-transparent fabric with a satiny feel. Traditionally, voile consists of either 100% cotton, 100% polyester, or a poly-cotton blend. Often, quilts meant for artistic purposes use this light and sleek fabric.

Due to the satiny nature of the voile fabric, sewing can be challenging for a beginner. You will need to switch the pins to silk pins and use a thinner sewing needle. However, you can alleviate the problematic task of slippery sewing pieces of voile fabric together by using spray starch.

Although voile fabric is more costly than cotton, the material has low shrinkage compared to other types of polyester fabric.

Quilters Weight Cotton

The quilter’s weight cotton is the most popular quilting fabric. The material is highly durable and thick to increase the longevity of the quilt. Unlike other quilting fabrics that stretch or skew during sewing, the quilter’s weight cotton fabric rarely stretches when pinning and sewing.

The quilter’s weight type of cotton fabric has stiff edges that don’t fray quickly. Therefore, the material can be easily cut and enables precise matching of shapes for your quilt. Nonetheless, since the quilter’s cotton is prone to shrinkage, ensure to wash the material before quilting.

Did you know that not all quilter’s weight cotton fabrics are equal? Different brands have different thread count for the quilter’s cotton fabric. For instance, good-quality cotton consists of 69-78 threads per square inch, while the standard has 60 lines.

Although the quilter’s weight cotton is prone to wrinkles, the fabric also irons well. However, if you are a beginner, ensure not to confuse quilter’s cotton and clothing cotton. While quilter’s cotton makes various types of apparel, the fabric is too stiff for your skin.

Quilter’s Weight Linen

Linen is available in various weights. The weight is in the form of thickness or density. A thicker and denser category of linen is called the quilter’s weight linen.

Linen is an all-natural fabric made from loosely weaved flax fibers that give the material a soft feel and provide a homespun look. In addition, the flax fibers have sunken pores that provide insulation.

Despite the few advantages of quilter’s weight linen, some experienced quilters oppose using linen when quilting due to its high shrinkage levels and loose weaving that causes jamming during sewing. 

However, if you decide to use a quilter’s weight linen, make sure to make a few adjustments.

Firstly, sprinkle spray starch to prevent unraveling when cutting out the pieces. Secondly, do not mix cotton and linen when making a quilt. Both materials shrink at a fast rate, and you risk destroying the aesthetic of the quilt.

Thirdly, use tiny stitches, a total seam allowance, and finished edges if you want to quilt with linen.

Essex Linen

The Essex linen is a powerful blend between the two following natural fibers:

    1. 45% cotton
    2. 55% linen

The Essex linen is available in various colors and designs due to its perfect blend of fibers. Therefore, whether you are creative with your décor or want something warm, the Essex linen is a high-quality fabric that offers versatility.

Some quilters even prefer to use additional materials when using Essex linen to achieve more compelling looks.

Cotton Flannel

The cotton flannel fabric is a soft weave consisting of scratching metal bristles placed on the woven cloth.

Consequently, thousands of lifted thin cotton fibers create that elegant velvet look.

The cotton flannels are perfect for special occasions and baby apparel.

Home Décor Weight Cotton

As the name suggests, the fabric is perfect for decorating your home. The fabric is a heavier version compared to other types of quilting cotton and has a satin finish. 

Due to its weight, the material does not drape and hence cannot serve as apparel fabric. For decorations that require more expansive spaces, the fabric is available in widths of 54, thus making it economical to use.

Home décor weight cotton fabrics are perfect for accessories that need that extra thickness desired. Examples include throw cushions, quilted bags, duvets, and pillows.

Note: Since the home décor weight fabric is heavy, a lightweight batting is suitable.

Conclusion

Quilting not only transforms the visual and textural appearance of a garment or object but also adds sentimental value. In the modern world, quilting is one of the most valued and expensive skills in fashion and artwork.

If you are a beginner interested in learning the skill, start small and practice patience as you remember. You don’t even have to pay a tutor for you to learn how to quilt. Instead, watch the numerous tutorials online and slowly learn how to quilt as you go.

Got any ideas on how to sew quilting fabric for a beginner?

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