Twelve Essential Skills Every Quilter Must Know


Quilt Notebook, Sulky Thread


In our last episode of The Quilt Notebook see HERE, we started with this premise:    In order to constantly improve and develop our skills, we must try new techniques and be methodical in our efforts.

To this end,  we created two lists in our Quilt Notebooks:

  • Techniques to Try
  • Mastered Techniques

We also discussed how to systematically improve our skills by working on one or two new techniques in every quilt.

While there are a myriad of quilting techniques to try,  there are several basic skills that every quilter must master first.   Once these skills are learned, the entire quilting process will be more enjoyable and then the truly creative process will be possible.

Twelve Essential Skills for QuiltersTHE ESSENTIAL TWELVE

After consulting with over 4000 of my colleagues (Read more HERE), I have  THE LIST:  Twelve Essential Skills Every Quilter Must Learn  in order to create a quilt from start to finish.

  1. Sewing Machine Knowledge–Every quilter must learn the basics of using their own sewing machines.  Necessary skills include oiling, threading, changing a needle,  adjusting stitch length and adjusting tension.
  2. Read a Pattern-The quilter must have a basic understanding  of terminology, abbreviations, cutting and sewing instructions.
  3. Cut accurately with a rotary cutter-This skill includes how to read a ruler, how to square the fabric, where to cut.
  4. Stitch an accurate 1/4 inch seam consistently-This is a skill that must be learned and rechecked periodically.  Inaccurate seam allowances cause distortion (and headaches)  when piecing any block or quilt.
  5. Chain Piece – This method allows for increased quilting efficiency and accuracy. Using “leaders and enders” is helpful here as well.
  6. Pressing Techniques-The Quilter must understand how to press (not iron) to avoid distorting the quilt block.  This skill also includes understanding which way to press each seam and why.
  7. Square-Fabric, blocks and quilt tops  all require “squaring” before cutting to prevent distortion of the entire quilt.
  8. Add Borders-The quilter must learn to cut and stitch borders correctly in order to prevent distortion of the quilt.
  9. Create the Quilt Sandwich-layering techniques to prevent folds and ripples
  10. Straight line quilt–Basic quilting using straight line quilting with feed dogs engaged. (What? no Free Motion Quilting?–While I consider FMQ “Essential”–it is possible to create a beautiful quilt using only straight line stitching!)
  11. Bind a quilt– The finishing touch to any quilt.  Should include a mitered corner.
  12. Label-The quilt isn’t finished until it’s labeled!

And I guess we could make it a Baker’s Dozen:

13.  Five crock pot recipes to get you through a week of non-stop quilting!

These 12 skills are all that’s needed to create a lovely, prize winning quilt.  Once we have mastered these techniques, we can be more creative and break the rules or Gild the Lily with techniques such as applique, embroidery, embellishments, curved piecing, free motion quilting……..(We’ll discuss THE NEXT TWELVE later in the year!)

We will be reviewing all of these techniques in great detail this year with tutorials, reference materials, and online examples.


For now…Add a new list to your Quilt Notebook:  The Essential Twelve…

Then ask yourself:  (Grade yourself if you like–and date the report card to check progress over the year.)

  • How do you rate in each of the twelve categories?
  • Are you confident in each of the skills?
  • Do you need to do a little remediation here and there?
  • When is the last time you checked your 1/4 inch seam allowance
  • Do you avoid any of these techniques because you aren’t quite sure of your skill?
  • Do you need to increase your efficiency of any of The Essential Twelve?
  • Do you know the skills well enough to be able to teach another quilter?

Make these twelve skills a priority for your Big Three quilts on which you are currently working.

Remember:  In order to constantly improve and develop our skills, we must try new techniques and be methodical in our efforts.  THE ESSENTIAL TWELVE FIRST!

Quilt Notebook, Sulky ThreadIf anyone knows of any great tutorials for The Essential Twelve, please let us know.  I’d like to start a list of reference material.  Also, if anyone would like to write a Guest Post on any of The Essential Twelve, I’d be happy to link to your blog…

Gordon B. Hinckley

“Do your best, and be a little better than you are.”
― Gordon B. Hinckley
Happy stitching,
PS…All images, tutorials and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Please feel free to Pin and Re-blog with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!