Friday, August 7, 2009

Easy quilts for beginners

There are some new and not-yet-started quilters reading my blog and I got a question about which patterns are best for beginners. Something fast and easy, something that won't lead to a half finished quilt top. I took some time to think about it and here are my recommendations:

First, whole cloth quilts are the easiest of easy quilts. There's no piecing, no measuring, just two pieces of fabric with a layer of batting in between. I love this ultra modern quilt from Katie Did. The straight line quilting is easy and fun and you can pick any solid or patterned fabrics you like. I've been planning to make one of these for a while now but I can't decide which colors to use.

If you want to try your hand at piecing a quilt top, I recommend one that uses minimal patchwork and large portions of solid fabric, like this quilt. Or this, this, this, this or this. Or what about stripes?

Another easy one is a Stacked Coins quilt. Once you have your coins stacked, you just add a row of sashing in between. This means there's no points for you to line up. Also, this pattern is very versatile...see examples here, here, here, here and here.

If you want to try lining up points, you can't go wrong with a 9-patch or a squares quilt.

A zig-zag quilt (made with rectangles!) makes for a flashy quilt but it's as easy as sewing squares together.

And then we have my favorite! Log cabin quilts are also very easy but a bit more time consuming. That said, they're also more interesting (in my opinion) than simple squares quilts. They look complicated but they are actually very easy and fun to make. I prefer the scrappy look but you can plan your fabrics just as easily. I make my log cabins like this tutorial because I hate cutting fabric into pieces when it's not necessary. Log cabins can be pretty fast when you make them this way. She goes on to show some ways the cabins can be arranged to make the quilt top.

Here are two more log cabin tutorials that I like. Or you can use the same techniques to make one big log cabin! I've wanted to make one of these for a long time but keep forgetting.

Tips for speed:

-Sashing between blocks or borders on your quilt top adds inches without having to sew up more blocks.

-Chain piece and strip piece if possible

-Use a rotary cutter, clear quilting ruler and self healing mat.

-Piecing 12 large blocks takes as much time as piecing 12 small blocks...but 12 large blocks can be all you need to finish a quilt top. If your blocks are small, you'll need many more to finish a top which will require more work/time.

-Keep it simple. As you can see...these patterns are all very simple but the quilts are all gorgeous! Complicated does not always mean better or more beautiful.

Tips for finishing a quilt:

-Make a quilt that's large enough for you to enjoy. This will provide incentive to finish it without being so large that it's overwhelming. My favorite size is around 60"x80". This way I can piece the back out of two widths of fabric. Sew two pieces of 60" fabric along the selvedge edge and ta-da! Instant quilt back.

-If you want to make a smaller quilt, I suggest making a baby quilt. And if you don't know any babies, doll quilts, table runners and wall hangings are fun too (although not to everyone's tastes). Make it something you will use or give away, give it a purpose so you have a reason to finish it.

-Pick fabrics and a pattern that you simply cannot live without! Don't think "this is a practice quilt, I should make it out of these boring fabrics I already have lying around." Trust me, this plan will only lead to a quilt that is boring to sew and easy to abandon. Treat yourself to something fun and interesting, something you LOVE. It may be the only quilt you ever make so make it a good one.

-Don't get overwhelmed. If something's not working, if you get frustrated, take a break. I give you permission to take as long as you need...days, months, years? Quilting is supposed to be fun so if you're not having fun, take a break until it sounds like fun again.

So, that's it! I hope this helps out a few aspiring quilters and, of course, feel free to ask questions. I know quilting seems overwhelming but it's actually pretty easy once you break it up in parts.

For those of you who are already quilters, do you have any ideas for easy quilt blocks or patterns? Any tips?

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