What I Wish I Knew When I Started Quilting

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Suzy Williams

It can be amazing to look back and realize how far you've come. My first quilt (made at age 15) was a strip quilt for my musician boyfriend — yes, I actually used fabric with musical notes. He still has it! That first quilt was not my best work, so whew, I'm glad it lasted. Here's what I wish that baby quilter had known.

  1. No lead pencils! My teacher, a traditional quilter, used a regular lead pencil to mark dark Civil War reproduction fabrics. I kept doing that as I moved into a modern aesthetic — so I now have a beautiful quilt where you can see lead pencil lines through my solid white fabric. I quilted over those marks, and they're not going away. Lesson learned! Now I use a hera marker for hand quilting, and for more visibility, a water-soluble fabric marker.
  2. Batty for batting. My teacher only made tops, so I didn't learn to baste and quilt until I was a fiber arts major in college. I went to buy batting and thought the only decision was polyester or cotton, but now there's bamboo, wool, even silk, different densities and lofts, and it all makes a difference in results. The batting I'm most excited to use now is wool! Wool batting plus hand quilting makes a fluffy, puffy, wonderful blanket.
  3. Chain up. At some point I realized that I could not only chain-piece quilt blocks, I could chain-piece quilt rows, and put a whole quilt top together SO FAST. My jaw hit the floor. I was like, Suzy, what have you been doing all these years?
  4. One Direction isn't just a boy band. A lightbulb moment happened when I saw someone quilting every line in the same direction. I had always snaked back and forth and thought wavy fabric between lines of stitching was inevitable — it's not! It takes a bit longer to stitch in one direction only but the results are worth it, especially for matchstick quilting.
  5. Slap! Notions matter. It was so fun to discover that a magnetic pin-holder slap bracelet exists! I don't need to put pins in my mouth anymore (don't do that). There's probably a notion to solve every quilting problem, so check out what's out there. Another favorite trick? Use a glue stick to adhere appliqué pieces.
Bohemian Garden Quilt by Suzy Williams

These days I'm on a journey to push the boundaries of the quilting canon, and I've been exploring different fabric substrates looking for cool textures. My Bohemian Garden quilt uses all knit fabrics, and I'm so proud of it because it's unique. And It's a long way from that first quilt. So my last piece of advice? Learn to make things the "right" way, then try something new!

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What I Wish I Knew When I Started Quilting