The Quilt Notebook: The Skills Inventory


Folk Art Quilt


Over the last several weeks of our Quilt Notebook series, we have concentrated on organization.  We started a Quilt Notebook  HERE to hold all of the information about our quilts.  We made a complete list of all our ongoing projects HERE, and then we established priorities HERE.  We are currently working on our Big Three quilts HERE and many of you have made great headway already–Congratulations!


Today, we are going to change directions a bit and look at skill development. Over the next few weeks we are going to establish a system for continual improvement.  In order to improve our quilting skills we must first make an honest assessment of where we are today and then decide what techniques are important for us to acquire.

Your assignment for this week:  Look back at your last three to five completed quilts and ask yourself these things:

  • What new techniques did I use in this quilt?  If you are a beginner quilter, the new techniques may include accurate cutting and straight line piecing.  If you are more advanced, the skills might include hand dyeing fabric and pattern design.
  • Are there any techniques employed in this quilt that still require more practice?
  • Does this quilt demonstrate mastery in any aspect of quilting? You might want to grade this on a scale of 1-5.
  • Was there a technique that was difficult in the execution of this quilt–needs improvement?
  • Was there some aspect of quilting I avoided in this quilt because I wasn’t sure how it was done?  For example, did you use corner blocks because you don’t know how to miter a corner?

When you are doing this exercise, consider every step of the process, from pattern and fabric selection to binding and labeling.

Folk Art Quilt


In your quilt notebook, create two lists:  Mastered Skills and Techniques to Try.

On the Mastered Skills page, make a list of all the skills that you have acquired (A grade of 4 out of 5 or better).  Include skills with which you are comfortable and look great in your quilt.   (It doesn’t have to rise to the level of perfection, just quite good).  Include the name of the quilt that demonstrates your mastery, and the date.  It will be interesting to watch this list grow over months and years!

On the Techniques to Try page,  create a list of skills that you are interested in learning.  As you see new techniques, add to your list.    Whenever you find a great example or tutorial of any of these skills, make notes on this page.  Include websites, articles, books, etc for further reference.  (You might consider a “Techniques to Try” board on Pinterest.)  I’m going to add one today…

Now go back to your Big Three Works in Progress and write down the techniques and skills required in each of these quilts.  If you are an advanced quilter, you don’t need to include the basic skills like accurate piecing- just include the skills that are somewhat challenging for you.  The skill may be as simple as improved efficiency at chain piecing.


In order to constantly improve and develop our skills, we must try new techniques and be methodical in our efforts.  The Techniques to Try page in your Quilt Notebook will help you think about and organize your skill development.   It will also help you establish goals.  To advance those goals:

  • Try at least one new technique in every quilt.
  • Try to improve your skill at one “old”  technique in every quilt-better execution or improved efficiency.
  • Choose quilts that challenge you a little.
  • Use your quilting “free time” (when you aren’t working on The Big Three) to practice and experiment.
  • Use your web-browsing and Pinterest time to research the techniques.


On Open Line Friday this week, I would like to have a discussion about The Essential Ten–skills every quilter must master and I would like YOUR input on choosing the most important basic quilt skills…

Tomorrow:  It’s time for another Tuesday Tutorial and we’re going to rock a little green leaf..

Till next time…


NOTE-The Folk Art Quilt featured today is one of my very first quilts, circa 1998.  Techniques used:  Hand applique, Machine piecing, Hand quilting…

PS…All information, tutorials and images are property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog and Pin with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other uses, please contact me at  Muchas Gracias!




16 thoughts on “The Quilt Notebook: The Skills Inventory

  1. I think top mastery skills for quilt makers are: accurate cutting, 1/4 seams, pressing, basic understanding of how quilt is constructed, math skills for construction and how all the pieces go together, understanding of materials (cotton vs polyester fabrics, how different threads come into play), tools (different types how to use them properly), sewing machine basics and allowing free play and experimenting. Also to add a few more, how to make quilt sandwich(pinning blocking) and basic machine quilting, how to prepare a binding and putting it on. I just taught my first official quilt class and as a more experienced quilter I forgot some of the basics that I so easily do. It was awesome to help construct those quilts with those ladies and see the process from their eyes. Thanks for all your insights and great ideas. Glad I found you.

  2. I look forward to reading your blog daily…except for Sunday. Honestly, because of you, I have grown as a free motion quilter and realize I have no boundaries, anything is possible with practice..
    I started making quilts in 2007, after all of my 4 children were off to college or own their own. Long story short, I have had 2 friends that have taught and guided me along and I value the wealth of experience they shared with me.
    A month ago, I was really struggling with getting my perfect 1/4″, especially when sewing very small pieces. A few years ago, I went to a Kaye England retreat and purchased her rulers and DVD. I reviewed her DVD again and WOW!! I got my 1/4″ back. Measuring and watching the guide on my Bernina makes everything work!
    Your workbook ideas are worth millions! I can always refer back to them when a problem crops up.
    MOST IMPORTANTLY, you said in one of your blogs that one reason you quilt is to leave behind a part of yourself for life times to come. (Or something like that.) Thank you! I now look at my quilts in a new light. Part of myself will always be in someones life after I am gone.

    • Jane, Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful note. I am so glad to hear of your progress as a freemotion quilter! Great idea–even experienced quilters should check their seam allowances once in awhile…Keep Stitching! Lori

  3. As long as you are talking about skills, this might be a good time to also talk about ergonomics…. and your Vermeer painting from a couple of days ago reminded me. I once had the opportunity to watch some Italian lace makers and they also propped their work up on a pillow. I began to do that when I was doing any handwork (applique, sewing on binding, hand quilting). It really helps your neck and eyes to have the work closer- such a simple adjustment that makes a huge difference.

  4. My number one requirement or skill in quilting is to be able and willing to learn. That may entail seeing and copying, or being able to listen and follow directions, or to be able to read and follow directions, or if you are not “into” directions, then to be able to forge your own path and learn from what you created last.

  5. Hmmm… I’ve been watching this quilter’s notebook thing from the sidelines, mainly because I have not been quilting as long as most of you have and I don’t have the issues of multiple works-in-progress, etc. I have only made nine quilts and I worked on them one at a time, from start to finish, plodding away in stolen moments here and there in between work, child rearing, etc. But I do try to push myself with each new quilt so that I learn something new. I really spent a lot of time last year learning some free-motion quilting just by doing challenge exercises for practice along with SewCalGal’s 2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge (which I did not complete until midway through 2013).

    I’d say that my piecing skills have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. My current project, which I started last April, was supposed to be challenging because it was my first shot at hand applique (or any applique, for that matter), but I have also realized that my piecing skills weren’t as precise as I had thought and I’ve had to do a lot of screaming, rip-stitching, and resewing to get my points just right and my finished units all the correct size. Also, with so many months of work in this, I’m feeling real anxiety about the quilting phase. My piecing and applique look really good to me, and I just don’t know if my machine quilting skills are good enough that I will be able to do this quilt justice instead of “ruining it.”

    I have a really hard time switching gears as you suggested for practicing and experimenting with new techniques, but I saw what a big difference it made when I just did those twelve fat quarter sized samples full of different quilting designs. I almost feel like I should make up a small throwaway applique quilt just to practice the quilting, but I feel this awful guilt about setting my Jingle project aside, and fear that I might never come back to it and it would become a UFO! Right now it’s blocks, setting triangles, waiting for me to come up with some pieced borders and then I feel like it needs to be quilted, bound, and FINISHED.

    • If it’s hand applique, you may want to consider hand quilting. For some of my quilts, I’ve combined hand and machine quilting to speed up the process. Just a thought…

    • I understand your fear with ruining a beloved top. I recently struggled with the exact same issue. I pieced a beauty of a queen size quilt for my niece who turned 13. It was so amazing that I wanted to keep it for my own bed! The pattern would have allowed a talented long arm quilter to have a field day and really show the quilting! I would have been willing to pay a few hundred to have it done but instead my husband encouragingly suggested that I g forward and do it. I took a class at my local quilt shop so that I could use the long am machine they rented and then I took it 2 small tops that I had waiting to be quilted for a couple years and practice FMQ and panto with them. THEN still a ball of nerves I hear the B-day party was to be in 36 hours! YIKES… CRUNCH TIME… I managed to do a fairly decent job with a panto for the center and FMQ the borders and was only 3 hours late to the party with a complete quilt for a gift. I am so glad that I did the quilting myself. Yes someone with more experience could have done MORE with it but in the end the love I had for the top and the recipient shows in the quilt and even in a few spots that I thought turned out terrible they didn’t ruin it but add to it. They are being called my humility patches. I encourage you to try small practice pieces before your jingle quilt just to get in the mode for any project switch I think a throw away patch is worthwhile and especially when a bundle of nerves and worries. Then march on and do the best you can and no matter what this will be your quilt work start to finish and no one will be able to give it the love that you will as you quilt it. Just as we love our children in way no other can same I have come to think of the love in a quilt by the maker!

  6. I am so inspired by your blog! Thank you. My quilting goals for 2014 were to challenge myself with more difficult designs and to learn how to organize and use my scraps and stash. I’m proud to say I’ve already completed a couple of stash/scrap projects this year, and I’ve tackled a couple of quilts that challenged me – either due to the complexity (for me) of the design, or the challenge of composing the fabrics. I started quilting last year and completed 20 quilts. I quilted all but two of them myself. Now, it wasn’t pretty, but they got better as I went along. I’m so excited to take some of the great lessons you have here and push myself to the next level. Thanks again.

  7. I had missed your previous posts so I’ve caught up and am looking forward to making the notebook. Loved your ideas and challenges! I’m definitely a beginner and will try to keep up! 🙂

  8. Pingback: Open Line Friday – The Essential Quilting Skills | The Inbox Jaunt

  9. Pingback: Twelve Essential Skills Every Quilter Must Know | The Inbox Jaunt

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