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A Beginner's Journey into Quilting

Updated on April 2, 2013

As long as I could remember, I have wanted to learn how to quilt. My mother would tell me stories of my great-grandmother Ida and her quilting bee which met monthly on their farm. The bee, consisting of other farmer's wives, created treasured gifts that were bestowed upon young brides and new mothers.

Ida was a remarkable woman; she was a poet, a quilter, and a farmer's wife. I never met her, but always felt her guiding hand in my life. I am the keeper of her handwritten poems and last surviving quilt. When I was a teenager, I visited her farm for family reunions; a place she had long since vacated.

One of the first strip quilts I made for Project Linus.
One of the first strip quilts I made for Project Linus. | Source

A Reason to Learn

In 2008, I joined the local chapter of Project Linus, a charity that provides handmade blankets to children in need. The group consisted of several master quilters; I had the opportunity to learn firsthand how to quilt from talented artists.

As I have found out in life, women are generous with their knowledge and are willing to help anyone who wants to establish a new skill or hobby. Being around the women in my Project Linus group, I found quilters to be extraordinarily generous people. They succeed in teaching others skills learned from their mothers and grandmothers. A few are self-taught experts who make the process a bit easier for beginners, like me. Either way, I have discovered these women love what they do and don’t mind sharing.

A simple quilt made from a charm pack and strips from fat quarters.
A simple quilt made from a charm pack and strips from fat quarters. | Source

Missouri Star Quilting Company on YouTube

Keeping It Simple

Since I had never sewn before, I started with basic, modern quilting patterns. Strips of fabric cut in different widths are what I found to be easiest for me to practice on. A simple quilt made of beautiful fabric is a fabulous gift that will become a family heirloom.

I have to admit that I truly hate to cut fabric. Plus, I’m not particularly adept at it which makes me hate it even more. But, there is a solution to this dilemma: pre-cut fabric. The selection process of pre-cut material is made fun by each style having cute names. Indeed, how can anyone resist names like jelly rolls, layer cakes, fat quarters, honey buns, charm packs, and turnovers. The pre-cut fabric is perfect for beginners who want to concentrate on sewing technique instead of exact cutting.

In addition to learning from the experts in my Project Linus chapter, I have watched countless online tutorials. A great place to start is YouTube. There is a large community of quilting experts who post free tutorials to YouTube. The tutorials are for all skill levels including basic, intermediate, and advanced. What I have found most useful is the ability to save the video, allowing for stopping, starting, and replaying as needed.

A Fast and Easy Quilt Tutorial

Finding Inspiration

After two years of quilting, I am still partial to the modern patterns. One of my favorite go-to websites for free patterns and creative inspiration is Moda’s Bake Shop. Moda makes high quality, beautiful fabric created by some of the most talented designer’s in the business.

I'm still a newbie by all standards, but, I think my skills are improving with each new effort. Sewing takes a lot of practice, as most valuable skills do. It is my hope grandmother Ida is proud of the work I have done and will continue to guide my hand in future creations.

About the Author

Catherine Dean is a freelance writer, gardener, quilter, and blogger. Her professional background includes nonprofit program development, grant writing, and volunteer management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Georgia College & State University.

Her blog, Sowing A Simple Harvest, chronicles a modern couple trying to live a simplistic, sustainable life. To explore Catherine's professional credentials, visit her website. She can also be followed on Google+.


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