In the “olden days”, little girls learned to sew at a very young age. Their tiny hands were trained to stitch up four patches, hourglasses, and shooflies—all without rulers, rotary cutters, or even sewing machines!
This week, Jenny is using those same old-fashioned beginner blocks to whip up a dazzling Sunshine Shoofly quilt. And like all our favorite patterns, this super-simple layer cake quilt looks SO much trickier than it really is! Click HERE to watch the video!
During the 1930s, Nancy wrote a column for the Chicago Daily Tribune featuring a new quilt pattern every single day. A diagram of the daily block was printed next to helpful tips and bits of quilt history. (The pattern could be purchased for “5 cents in stamps or coin.”)
Nancy’s column was chatty and casual, like a tea time conversation between friends. I think I would have loved her!
On January 27, 1933, Nancy highlighted a simple half-square triangle pattern called The Old Gray Goose. Of course, like all old-fashioned blocks, it had other names, too, including Double Z, Devil’s Claws, and Brown Goose.
98 years later, Jenny is whipping up this pretty, antique block using 10-inch squares of precut fabric. We’re calling it Brown Goose, and you won’t believe how quickly it comes together! Nancy Cabot would be proud!
If you’re interested in learning about the basics of quilting, then you’re in the right place!
Getting started with something new is usually the hardest part. Quilting can be a laborious process — it requires many steps that can seem really overwhelming when you’re new to it all! Many beginner quilters can get stuck when thinking about piecing together their first blocks, but we’re here to help! Today we’re going to be talking about the steps before you start piecing. A good foundation is the key to success, so before you dive in and start stitching up your first creation, let’s learn about the very first steps in your quilting journey!
Jenny Doan always says “finished is better than perfect” and we can’t agree more! No one will notice if you lost a point or if you had to add back fabric with an extra seam after a cutting mistake or if you had to rip out the stitches in your block one too many times with your handy seam ripper (we’ll learn more about this tool soon!). Finishing a quilt or project is a huge accomplishment and you should never let your fear of imperfection get in the way of creating! So, let’s start with the basics and build our foundation and you’ll be sewing confidently in no time!
When it comes to buying fabric for your first quilt, pre-cuts are a good place to start! They come ready to go in various sizes in bundles of fabrics that coordinate with one another. If you haven’t had the chance, you can learn more about pre-cuts in our previous Building Blocks blog post. If you aren’t ready to take the leap into buying pre-cuts yet or you have other fabrics in mind for your project, have no worries! Virtually any fabric can be used for a quilting project.
The Memory quilt, for example, utilizes old neckties and shirts to create a quilt to honor a dear one’s existence. These materials are not designed for quilting projects, but with a little creative energy and ingenuity they come together to make a fantastic project that makes a truly powerful gift to honor the memory of a loved one. Old denim jeans, fabric scraps, recycled materials, t-shirts, and more can be materials used in your projects! So the next time you open your closet, keep in mind what you can repurpose to add a unique and modern touch to your quilting project.
You have many options for materials to use in your projects, but keep in mind that some materials are trickier to use than others. If you are just entering the world of sewing, we recommend choosing a material that is 100% cotton!
Cutting & Measuring
Now that you are getting comfortable with choosing fabric and learning about all the choices you have, let’s talk cutting that fabric! The old adage “measure twice, cut once” has never been so pertinent. In many projects, the fabric measurements are very important to get right, so that the rest of the work goes by smoothly! Quilting can be a precise art form, so it’s best to get used to measuring out your fabrics and cutting as accurately as possible in order to get the best results. There are a few handy tools that can aid in making this process the easiest it can be!
You’ll need a rotary cutter, a cutting mat, and a ruler. Scissors are very helpful in the sewing process, but when cutting up fabric as accurately and quickly as possible, rotary cutters are our go to — especially when paired with a gridded cutting mat. These mats come blocked out in one inch squares to assist in your fabric measuring and cutting! By learning how to sandwich your fabric between your mat and ruler and using the marked, premeasured guides on those tools, you can soon become comfortable with using your rotary cutter and making as accurate cuts as you can! It takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you make mistakes along the way. No one is a master in the beginning!
The last item that we suggest getting familiar with that will help in the quilting process is something that you likely already have in your house – an iron! Irons are an integral part of the entire quilting process — they are with us almost every step of the way! You may already be comfortable with the iron you have at home and if you are not, don’t fret! They usually are pretty quick to learn and may just take a little studying and practice to find the settings that work best for you. Ironing makes many steps of the quilting process easier and soon you’ll figure out how much or how little ironing you like to do during your quilting process! Everyone is a little different — some people utilize the steam feature on their iron often, some people iron every little piece, and some iron rarely. It’s all personal and a part of the learning process!
Remember to always iron on a safe surface — an ironing board is great if you have one, but if you want a space closer to your sewing area, you can always purchase an ironing mat or even make your own! You’ll be ready to press in no time and create beautiful smooth fabric that’s ready for the next step, piecing!
In our next segment, we will be talking all about piecing. Take this time to familiarize yourself with your quilting tools and measuring and cutting fabric. Remember, these basic steps, although simple, will make all the difference when creating your first quilt project. We can’t wait to see what you create!
Precut fabric revolutionized the quilting world. The quilting skill was historically passed down through teaching – one would learn the intricate and mathematical approach of measuring and cutting fabric by hand from the generation that came before. Anyone who has pieced a quilt knows it’s difficult work! Before you could even consider your project or layout, all the fabrics must be cut from bolts or repurposed from used materials. The margin for error was extraordinary, a single miscalculation could jeopardize an entire quilting project.
Quilting is now easier and more approachable thanks to precut fabrics. Precuts are perfect for beginners (that’s why Jenny uses them to teach!). If you don’t know what exactly a fat quarter is, or if you never heard of a honey bun, we hope this guide kicks off your quilting journey with confidence.
A Layer Cake is a curated bundle of 10″ squares of coordinating precut quilt fabric from a designer’s collection. These versatile packs can be used for a number of projects. Their larger size allows them to be to cut into strips or smaller squares if needed! A typical layer cake contains 42 squares of precut 10″ fabric, enough for a small quilt top. Depending on the distributor, layer cakes are also called ’10 stackers,’ ’10 squares,’ ’tiles,’ and ’10 karat crystals.’
With such a big cut of fabric, layer cakes can dazzle because the printed design catches the eye first. If you want to showcase a gorgeous fabric, consider Jenny’s spin on tradition and create the Irish Change quilt. The Layer Cakes in this project are left completely whole and highlighted with fabric strips to create a beautiful showcase of 10″ squares!
For an easy introduction to the world of Charm Packs, use the pack as it is and create the Charm Quilt on Point! This simple creation turns the Charm Pack fabrics on point before sewing them together to create a beautiful layout with little effort! Select your favorite Charm Pack (much like in the Irish Change quilt, your Charm Pack fabric will be the focal point), add a border and a back – you just created the easiest quilt you ever made!
Have you heard the saying “there’s always a bigger fish”? How about “there’s always a smaller square”? As you probably guessed, a Mini Charm Pack is exactly that – a smaller version of a Charm Pack! These fabric bundles contain forty-two 2.5″ squares of precut fabric, half the size of their larger counterpart! With a name as specific as Mini Charm Pack, it’s difficult find this precut under a different name (but let us know if you do!).
Think small when using this precut, it’s better used as a compliment than a feature! Mini Charm Packs create intricate and impressive designs, even though it’s really no different than sewing a larger square. The 2.5″ Mini Tumbler Quilt is a great option if you want to play with these mighty minis, but you can add creative flair to any quilt with a 2.5″ square as a cornerstone!
Let’s get away from squares and focus on strips! A Jelly Roll is a bundle of 2.5″ strips of precut quilt fabric, featuring an array of coordinating fabric from a designer’s collection. Jelly rolls make sewing up a cute strip quilt a snap. Not only are there countless patterns that use only a Jelly Roll, but you’ll find these strips so handy you may use them with other precuts. A standard Jelly Roll contains forty 2.5″ x 44″ strips of fabric and is also called a ‘rolie polie,’ ‘strip-pies,’ ‘roll ups’ or even just ‘2.5″ strips.’
One of the easiest quilts for beginners is the standard Jelly Roll Race quilt! Piece your Jelly Roll strip by strip, and you can stitch up 1,600 inches of fabric in less than an hour! This pattern can be wildly colorful, with constantly changing colors and designs – so be bold with your Jelly Roll choice!
The Honey Bun is the Jan to the Jelly Roll‘s Marcia. Have you ever heard of it? This slender roll is perfect for sashing and strip quilting. The Honey Bun is a bundle of forty 1.5″ strips of coordinated, precut fabric. When piecing a quilt top, it’s more common to use a Jelly Roll, but don’t count the Honey Bun out. Whether creating a small quilt top or an intricate design, the Honey Bun will serves up loads of versatility. If you can’t find a Honey Bun, try looking for it’s alter ego – Skinny Strips!
Jenny’s very first quilt was a Log Cabin quilt, so they’re near and dear to her heart. If you want to feature a Honey Bun in your next project (and not just for sashing), a simple log cabin block is the way to go. You can get 21 log cabin blocks from a single Honey Bun!
If you absolutely adore a line of fabric, the answer is the Fat Quarter! A fat quarter bundle is a stack of fat quarters (quarter yards of fabric, cut wide) of coordinating quilt fabric from a designer’s collection, and of all the precuts, it gives you the most fabric! Fat quarters measure 18″ x 21″ and make it easy to build a quilt with your fabric lines. With just a little extra cutting, the possibilities are endless for this precut bundle. Fat Quarters are sold in bundles called Fat Quarter Bundles, but sometimes they are also advertised as “rolls.”
Gardening and quilting are the perfect pair, both producing an amazing result with a little time, effort and patience. Traditionally quilters have always incorporated their surroundings in their blocks, so it’s no wonder as to why so many vintage quilts feature flowers! Check out these five incredible patterns featuring flowers and traditional garden elements!
Developing from English landscaping techniques of the 18th century, the style of an English garden is both elegant and structured. The English Garden quilt captures the feel of a beautiful blooming garden by using 10″ squares of precut fabric to create order and structure among the quilt blocks. Neat and orderly lines are key in this project, so pick up your Clearly Perfect Slotted Trimmers and watch your garden grow!
Due to the elegance and aristocratic nature of an English garden, it’d be a shame not to capture that ambiance in your quilting project. Focus on a traditional, muted color palette with just a splash of green to give your quilt a beautiful, classic feel. Best of Days 10″ Squares for Henry Glass are the perfect addition to this project as they feature tiny dragonflies and intricate flowers on a muted palette!
Once those gardens are in full bloom, it’s just impossible to not bring them into your home life. Cutting a bouquet of fresh flowers to brighten up your kitchen table is a simple and cost-effective method of home improvement; not to mention the outstanding floral scent that will fill your home! The Bud Bouquet quilt plays off this idea and uses 5″ squares of precut fabric in a simple 9 patch made with half square triangles. But no bouquet is complete without a little flair! The real magic happens when you add sashing and cornerstones and set your blocks on point with big setting corners!
Adding cut flowers to your home adds a natural brightness to the room, so go bold and bright with your fabric choices! Glowing yellows, rich greens and bold blues are all terrific options to create the Bud Bouquet quilt and you’ll find all three in Madison 5 Karat Crystals for Wilmington Prints! This beautiful line of fabric is a vibrant spring collection that will make you feel like you’re stitching pure sunshine!
Not only are tulips a popular addition to any garden, the Totally Tulips quilt has quickly become one of our most popular designs due to the demonstrated versatility of the Triple Play! Tulips video! By using 10″ squares of precut fabric, you can create an entire garden full of tulips as your next project. If you’re looking for even more incredible options, check out the Triple Play video below for three unique takes on this adorable design!
These tulips are just too cute to believe! Draw some attention towards them and add a little fun by selecting an overly bright fabric that will make this flowers pop! Nouveau Soul Batiks Stacks for Island Batiks are the perfect combination of fun, with fruitful floral patterns, and bold, with traditionally bright batik colors! You won’t be able to draw your eyes away from this beautiful field of flowers!
If there was one flower to stand out above the rest, it would be the romantically classic rose. Often seen as the symbol of love and elegance in many cultures, the rose is so beautiful and delicate that the perfect bloom is a sign of gardening mastery. Take your 5″ squares of precut fabric and cut them into half-square triangles and wonky leg blocks to create this stunning design that is just as intricate as the rose itself!
While roses come in many different colors, shades of red through pink are the most traditional. Give your Rose Garden quilt a sense of traditional elements while keeping it bright and fun with Wilmington Essentials – In The Pink 5 Karat Gems by Wilmington Prints! From a vibrant hot pink to a delicately soft, light pink, this fabric choice will create an unbelievable effect for this project!
While many of us learned to quilt from our grandmothers, many learned to garden as well! Honor your grandmother with the Vintage Blossom quilt, a take on the classic Grandmother’s Flower Garden block, that despite it’s age is still a fabulous design today! For Jenny’s tutorial on this project, you’ll need 10″ squares of precut fabric to create the beautiful budding flowers that fill this quilt!
This classic quilt demands a classic fabric, so make your grandmother proud by selecting a vintage or reproduction fabric! Aunt Grace’s Apron 10″ Squares for Marcus Fabrics feature classic 30’s florals and Scotties that are just so perfect for this project! These darling flowers and adorable Scottie pups will give this quilt a vintage feel while adding a slight element of fun!