Open Line Friday–Advice to “Newbie” Quilters

Embroidered House Quilt


In keeping with our conversation regarding abbreviations  (Read more HERE)—– TGIF!  (Thank Goodness It’s Friday!)    It’s been a wild week AND MONTH here at the Kennedy Household-and it’s about to get even crazier–We have  25 baseball games, one confirmation,  two college graduations, three showers and a wedding– all in the next six weeks.  That’s a lot of costume changes! (Any bets on whether we’ll get the wedding quilt done in time???)

So if I’m a little inattentive to blogging, please be patient…


Today on Open Line Friday, I’d like to hear what advice YOU would give a “Newbie” quilter.  If YOU ARE a Newbie Quilter, what have you already learned or what advice are you looking for???

I’ll start the ball rolling…

I  (should tell myself)  would tell every Newbie out there—

LESS IS MORE–in other words, go slowly and enjoy the process.  Resist the temptation to buy every new gadget,  pattern, ruler and piece of fabric …there’s plenty of time to collect all that stuff –IF you even need it!   And the corollary to that is:

MAKE IT WORKPut your creativity to work by using what you have...(Sounds like a challenge we could try as a group???—after the wedding….)

Embroidered House Quilt002

Hope YOUR life is filled with family, friends, fun and of course….QUILTs!


If you like this style quilt…you might also like Flower Fantasy HERE.

PS…All images, tutorials, and information are the property of Lori Kennedy @ 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 purposes, please contact me at  You’re an angel!

44 thoughts on “Open Line Friday–Advice to “Newbie” Quilters

  1. My advice would be if you can keep your sewing machine up all the time in a corner somewhere so that you can pop and use it when ever you have a moment, if you have to get your machine out it can put you off using it. But just have fun and enjoy it, oh and try to join a group, that’s so encouraging to be surrounded by other loonys xx

    • I agree! Do not think that you must block off a whole day or even a few hours to work on your projects (although if you CAN do that it’s great!). Even fifteen minutes of sewing every day can get a few seams sewn or a block done. You’d be surprised how quickly those bits of sewing add up to a whole quilt!

  2. Second rule of quilting: it will never be perfect. You will make mistakes. It’s OK. Make them into design opportunities or lessons learned. Barb H

  3. Third rule of quilting. Be brave with colour. They don’t all have to match and tone, bright quilts are as much fun as soft pale ones.

  4. Rosemary B here:
    I have been sewing for 40 years, but never made a “real” quilt. ::::blushes::::
    I have a lot of questions.
    I have learned about myself, just in my years of sewing, that not every one enjoys every part of the process. So with that I will admit, I like being the “worker” I will piece, pin and sew and sew and press and press.Everything in between. I am still completely nerved by choosing fabrics, choosing patterns, and assembling. Big things.
    Hence I make lots of little projects.
    Thanks for all of the advice so far.

    Your month sounds like the past two years for me. We had two weddings and mom’s stroke recovery. It was a lot of brianwork haha
    I hope everyone shows up with the appropriate attire on, every thing else will be a big happy time.

  5. My advice to newbies is to strive for accuracy, in which case you will probably achieve normalcy and the result will be avoiding bad habits. If you do, in the end you will be happier with your results.

  6. When you start to buy rulers, it’s a good idea to stick with one brand/manufacturer for cutting out fabric pieces. Rulers just are not consistent/accurate when moving from one brand to the next. I have said it many times, “We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t make rulers that are accurate!”

  7. Wow!! Sounds like a whirl wind of activity and excitement! One day at a time Lori!!
    New quilters…hmmm… I think be ok with what you like and don’t get hung up on all the new and matchy matchy stuff…it’s impossible to keep up with…and expensive. Enjoy it, lose yourself in the process of creating and don’t critic yourself too hard. 🙂 Don’t let the quilt police get to you…you know how some people get when handed a badge…(heehee)…maybe we should ask to see their badge when that happens. LOL!

  8. My advice to newbies is to take a beginner quilting class from a local quilt shop or a tech school. Learning the basics will give confidence for using the tools and methods that form the foundation to quilting. And you may even meet other newbies to sew with or learn of a local guild to join. I met some lifelong friends as a result of my beginners quilting class. 30+ years later we still gather and quilt together. And most of all, have fun with quilting. Take chances. Don’t worry about perfection.

  9. Start with a small, simple piecing project and fabrics you love. You don’t need all the gadgets. They will come. Work your project from beginning through quilting and binding. Find what you love best. Repeat. Don’t expect perfection. Like playing a musical instrument or learning to drive, skills gets better with practice.

    Attend some quilt shows and find a guild or other quilting group to join if you find you love quilting. Relax! Enjoy the creative process and experiment. Sometimes mistakes provide us the best opportunities! Share your knowledge to help others learn. Enjoy!

  10. My advise is to find a blog that is there to help others. I have 3 that are excellent and this is one of the 3. I have been quilting for 10 yrs and learn something new every week how to improve my quilting. One of the other blogs yesterday posted…”Be proud of your work”. Thanks Lori for your easy to follow patterns!!

  11. Only sew with fabrics you love. You are going to spend a lot of time with them, so make sure you are happy doing it.
    btw, I have learned SO MUCH from this blog – so glad you take the time to share. The directions are well documented and easy to follow and the projects are inspiring.

  12. I always tell newbies there is nothing you do that we can’t fix and even if it looks like we can’t fix it, it’s just a creative opportunity.

  13. I don’t know what it is about quiters, but they (and ESP newbies) think quilts need to be PERFECT! You don’t need perfection to keep you warm or brighten your home. I quote someone wise who said: if you can’t see a problem from a galloping horse, its not a problem. We tend to stick our noses RIGHT up in our quilt and point out every little missed seam intersection. When I stopped pointing out my quilt flaws, I enjoyed the process and the product MUCH more.

  14. I have been sewing for 70 years (yes, 70!) but I am a newbie to quilting. I took a beginning class and read, read, read…everything I could find. My biggest problem to overcome was perfection. It doesn’t happen. I have seen pictures by pros that have mistakes/mismatched seams. NO ONE IS PERFECT. Let it go and enjoy. It took me a couple of months, but now I love quilting. Yes, some seams don’t match. But only I see them.

    • I like this Nancy — I’ve been sewing since 4-H 60 years ago, but just took a quilting class this past year and I am LOVING it!!! I completed that quilt and it’s beautiful! Now I have one more completed and three more tops completed — for four of my eight grandchildren! My goal is a quilt for each AND I’m retiring late June! Absolutely LOVE quilting and Lori’s blog!

  15. Pay attention to what you are doing so that you can…
    Learn from your mistakes.
    and then, as you say: “LESS IS MORE–in other words, go slowly and enjoy the process.”…
    And now, let me give YOU, Lori, some advice: LESS IS MORE–in other words, go slowly and enjoy the process. Enjoy your games, confirmation, shower, graduations and wedding. and don’t worry if you do less… We readers of your blog have lots of previous posts that we can read / re-read. There’s so much here…
    I’m sure the reflexion time will bring stronger and re-newed posts. Enjoy the process.

  16. One of the things I say to my friends who have started to quilt is to remember that unless its for a competition, no one is going to look at your quilt up close. The quilt will be looked at as a whole and from a distance and hopefully wrapped around someone so those little bits that you know aren’t perfect will not be scrutinised. So don’t scrutinise them yourself, just enjoy the process, be proud of what you’ve achieved and realise that you will improve with experience. Also if you really are nervous about picking fabrics, matching colours etc then there are some wonderful kits available which do all that for you until the time comes when you feel more confident.

  17. Practice makes better every time. It is good to strive for perfection, but don’t kick yourself around the block if you don’t achieve it this time. Every quilt gets better even if one or two remain UFOs. You learn from each one. Take classes, read books.

  18. Take classes – even if you have quilted for years, a class is a good thing. We learn from one another. And, yes, join a quilting group – or two. If you have the space, claim that space as your studio – fill it with the stuff you love. Keep something next to your sewing machine to work on or to inspire you. Keep a small bag by the door or in the car with handwork to work on when you are waiting on something or somebody.

    Lori, take time for yourself in these busy days. And enjoy!!

  19. I found when teaching quilting, new quilters often had a hard time picking colors, so I often suggested they look at advertising. Make a quilt from the colors of your favorite candy wrapper (I made a Milk Duds quilt in red, yellow and orangey-brown). And enjoy what you do…as Georgia Bonesteel used to say “If you can’t see the mistake from the saddle of a galloping horse, then don’t worry”.

  20. I have quilted for 25 years & find that i still have questions. I like to support local quilt shops with quilter employees—(I’ve encountered a shop that knew how to cut fabric, sell thread, etc.) Yikes!
    Usually one of the employees can answer any questions I have from color, how to get a good seam that I’ve trouble with, & most anything else.
    Do not be afraid to ask!
    I echo others Lori, “Take cafe of yourself during hectic periods”.

  21. Dear Newbie, You’re going to encounter many people who think their way is the best and only way to (fill in the blank…)….Rest assured, there are Many Right Ways to accomplish many things. Try as many ways as you can find to do something, then merge those ideas to create your own style. Keep open to new opportunities to learn and grow!

  22. I have three: Perfection is a myth. Quilting is an art form with a purpose, relax and enjoy the process. My highest stress is picking fabric so I find one piece of fabric I love and pick from the colors in that.

    And, what seems like a mistake today has a way of morphing into a kind of funky/quirky interest by tomorrow; go with it and call it creativity.

    And if the pieces refuse to fit, fix it now. Most likely the problem is a slightly miscut square or triangle. When its squared up, things will fit without being forced.

    (All learned by trial and error. I then decided to ignore most of what everyone told me and found my own path.)

  23. Don’t be intimidated when you see other people showing awesome quilts. I’ve been quilting for 40 years and I belong to several guilds and groups. I try to bring something for show and tell. Almost always there is a ribbon worthy piece right ahead of me. Part of me wants to sit down and pretend I didn’t bring anything. It’s hard to defeat the “I’ll never be that good” voice in your head. Be brave.

  24. In chosing colors I usually find a print I love and then go with colors within the print. Use a veriety of textures and scale. Remember, you are cutting small pieces unless it is a border. Relax and enjoy the process

  25. I am a “newbie”, and I thank you all for your encouragement! I think I set too many limitations on my creativity. I want to be free to experiment, but I’m afraid I will waste expensive material on a failed attempt. I love art quilts, and have created a few for my own home. Does anyone have a set of steps to making a crazy quilt?

  26. Always close/lock your rotary cutter when you’re not using it. That blade is sharp!

    I love to choose a focus fabric first – then, if you look in the selvedge, there are usually color dots – those are the pure colors of what’s used in the focus fabric. I then go hunting for my coordinating fabrics from those.

    Mostly, play and have fun! Work on consistency first (straight line quilting like log cabins and 4 or 9 patches are really forgiving for that), then perfect that 1/4″ (which perfection comes in handy once you start working on triangles of different degrees..)

  27. When I started quilting five years ago I would read instruction for a certain quilt patterns from start to finish even though I had no intention of making most of them and that helped me to understand the lingo and various processes. Also, every time I received a 50% off coupon from JoAnn Fabrics, I thought I “needed” to buy a ruler, piece of fabric or a book, many of which I have yet to use and won’t live long enough to do so. Take it slow and enjoy the process!

  28. I am a very new quilter (only been quilting for one month maybe…..) I have just finished making my first one – a lap quilt, and have just finished the top of another….(seems I should have spaced my children out a little more – 3 days between 2 birthdays is a little short!) I hope I never say “One day I hope to be a real quilter” again.

    I’d been looking at a lot of quilts online that look perfect…all seams seem to meet, the bindings are perfect and I saw that my first attempt was just a little wonky…rustic, I call it; and I was feeling disheartened, incompetent and a little stupid that I couldn’t get all my seams to match up no matter how many pins I used! My quilt wasn’t perfect and it bothered me. I thought that if I was even half competent at sewing it would at least be near perfect…. This post has shown me that “perfection” doesn’t exist (even if we wish it!)

    My daughter Wendee, the intended recipient of said rustic lap quilt, is in raptures and that means a lot. I had a lot of pleasure in making it and part of that was the person I was making it for, part of it the sheer pleasure of creating, part the sheer pleasure in trying something new, and part the reaction of my daughter whose quilt it will be. I also found quilting to be INSTANTLY ADDICTIVE!! I have various mug rugs spread about the house too (“rustic” practices of FMQ that actually mostly resemble mug rugs!) and it gives me pleasure just to see them and use them.

    I came across this blog just a fortnight or so ago and I have found inspiration, very good advice, comfort and a lot of great ideas here. Thank you, Lori for your blog and for making me think not only “I think I’ll try that!” but “I reckon I can DO that!” Now my daughter Naomi is inspired to make a quilt also. It will be a lot of fun sewing together….. Quilting has started me on a whole new, wonderful adventure in life when health problems seemed to overpower me. I’ve enjoyed the short journey so far and I intend to keep enjoying the journey……. wherever it takes me……. Thank you, Lori for showing the way!

    • Welcome, quilters are friends here anytime you need us. My rule-don’t let guilt change you or your thoughts-just do(create) as you think your piece should be. We all are nodding our heads yes to all of the “rules”. I’ve taken a 30 year break and after retiring found I love it still and am welcomed by all again.
      I do donation quilts ,mostly, now and enjoy the process as much as when it was for family or close friends.Enjoy.

  29. Don’t fall into the trap where you are afraid of “ruining” a top because you don’t think you’re quilting is good enough. Make up some simple tops, nine patches or practice on cute panels. The more you practice the better you’ll be. AND don’t just read this blog…quilt up the lessons.

    • Yes, Lori’s comment on her blog somewhere about doing a little practice every day is how I come to have mug rugs scattered all over the house. I couldn’t bear to not have them put to use….. I’m going to try a scrappy quilt next….. once I have finished the one I am doing now.

  30. What great advice everyone is giving! I’d like to add, understand where you are. That first quilt/project will have many mistakes but it will be the best you can do and it will be beautiful. Keep at it and there will be less mistakes and it will be beautiful. Enjoy the process or find a new hobby. I’ve taught painting for years and it’s frustrating for me and a student when they say “why can’t my painting/drawing/quilt be as good as yours?” Duh! Because I’ve been at it a whole lot longer than you. Be patient and all good things will come to you. Meanwhile, enjoy!

  31. To those of us who have a hard time picking fabric, I found that my favorite quilts turned out to be from “Mystery Quilts”. I took several classes or the last one I found in a quilters magazine. The instructions tell you what values to choose for your quilt and how much fabric it takes. Then you get instructions one step at a time to finish the project. My first thought was I don’t want to waste the money on something unknown, however, the project gets me out of my comfort zone and I feel a little liberated and love seeing how it all comes together. A Mystery quilt doesn’t have to be a large quilt, you can make a small one to see if you like it first. My first Mystery quilt was a twin size and after that I decided to make all of my quilts at least a queen. Who uses a twin be any longer. Sometimes I make that Mystery Quilt as a throw and then donate to our local stitchers group as a “healing quilt”

  32. Measure twice, cut once! Which can also translate into “take the time to do it right the first time”, no need to be in any big rush, as my husband points out frequently “quilts are supposed to take a while to finish, no one expects a good piece of art to magically appear in a couple hours”. Remember you’re making an heirloom (most likely) so be prepared to invest some love and time into it. And that’s my I’ve-stayed-up-past-bedtime advice. 🙂

  33. Slow down…the speed at which you measure/cut, sew, accumulate fabric/rulers/patterns. There is no race, enjoy every step of the process. This is not brain surgery and no one is going to die if you make a mistake – embrace the imperfection as your special mark as an artist! Have fun with color – take inspiration from nature! There is nothing wrong with quilting on your DSM, tying a quilt, paying someone else to quilt your quilt, or quilting it yourself on a longarm – all ways keep the sandwich together and that’s the point. There is nothing like wrapping someone in a quilt you made with love in every stitch!

  34. Pingback: Free Motion Quilting on Patterned Fabrics | The Inbox Jaunt

  35. Thank y’all so much for the encouraging words of wisdom! I haven’t yet begun my first stitch on Quilt #1, but I’m glad to have found this site–the “quilt notebook” is a fantastic idea and I just hope I don’t misplace it during our cross-country move 🙂 Thanks again for all the great suggestions and future ones too…


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