The Complete Idiot's Guide to Quilting

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Quilting

3.2 7
by Laura Ehrlich

You're no idiot, of course. You know how to sew a button and can even stitch together a last-minute Halloween costume. But when it comes to making a beautiful quilt to hang on your wall, you can't tell one patch from another! Don't tear your hair out just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Quilting provides you with what you need to know to put together a quilt

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You're no idiot, of course. You know how to sew a button and can even stitch together a last-minute Halloween costume. But when it comes to making a beautiful quilt to hang on your wall, you can't tell one patch from another! Don't tear your hair out just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Quilting provides you with what you need to know to put together a quilt without hassle. In this Complete Idiot's Guide, you get:

Product Details

Alpha Books
Publication date:
Complete Idiot's Guide Series
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
7.38(w) x 9.08(h) x 0.75(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Quilting - CH3 - Time to Plan Your Quilt!

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Quilting

- 3 -

Time to Plan Your Quilt!

In This Chapter

  • Understanding the decisions you will make in planning your quilt
  • Learning how the quilt top is set up
  • Surveying pattern designs and choosing your pattern

Where do you start? After learning about our quilting ancestors and how they developed
their quilts, it's your turn. There are many questions to ask yourself in order to
determine what type of quilt you should make. Once you've decided, your decision
is not written in stone. One of my students wanted to make a small crib quilt and
started piecing blocks together. She enjoyed the process so much that her crib quilt
ended up as a queen-size quilt! That's the beauty of the block method--you can add
or subtract squares to suit your need.

When you have decided on the size of quilt you intend to make, you have to pick
out the quilt patterns you want to tackle. I have drawn out all the designs for the
patterns that are included in this book at the end of this chapter. Look at the patterns
and start to recognize them in the quilts pictured in the color section.

This is where we really begin!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

There are several things you have to think about before starting your quilt. Let's
take them one by one.

Quilt Talk

A lap quilt is a small quilt put together with six to nine blocks, usually
60 by 60 inches square. I like to drape one over a sofa or at the base of a bed.

What's Your Quilt's Use?

First of all: What do you want to make? Almost everyone wants to make a
bed-size quilt to show off their workmanship. I do not suggest you do this.
A quilt of that size is a huge undertaking and could take more than a year to complete.
I have found that beginners are much happier working on a project that they can finish
quickly. You need the positive reinforcement of accomplishment--a wall hanging or
lap quilt is a perfect small project.

This baby quilt features hearts constructed with pastel fabrics.

Another important question is: "Who will use this quilt?" If you want
to make a crib quilt or a quilt for a young child, you may have to change your ideas
about colors and patterns. Children love colors and bold patterns. Be sure to use
fabrics that are durable and totally washable. Don't make something that is so difficult
and time-consuming that you will be offended if something happens to it--kids will
be kids.

Will Your Quilt Be the Center of Attention?

Look around the room that your quilt will live in. Do you want it to be the focal
point of the room or blend with the surroundings? Bright dynamic colors will ensure
that everyone's eyes are on your masterpiece. While a Scrap quilt fits in with your
colonial decor, a Danish Modern may not. Look through quilt books. Check out the
room decor--a dramatic quilt can pull together an eclectic room.

See how the Pineapple table cover pulls the elements of the room together?

What Do You Like?

Everyone has preferences. Do you like rounded shapes or angular? Flowers or geometrics?
Many men do not like the floral motifs of appliqué quilts (and not just men--several
of my women students hate those rounded, fussy patterns). Quilts can look either
modern or traditional, masculine or feminine. Find out the names of quilt patterns
that you are drawn to. I hope you will find many of the patterns you like in this
book. When I started quilting, I wanted to make a Dresden Plate quilt with all pastel
colors. I didn't start with that block, but took a class to learn about quilt basics.

Be Realistic

Once you have tried a variety of patches in a small quilt, you can tackle a large
project. The Sampler quilt is a challenge to coordinate; that's part of the fun.

A quilt isn't meant only for a bed. Here is an example of a beginner's Sampler
quilt made by Marie Varner. She uses it as a wall hanging in her living room.

Here are several suggestions that I have found to be helpful in avoiding problems
that beginners have. Make sure you know the parts of the quilt and the terminology.
Be realistic about your abilities. Check out the difficulty of the quilt patterns.
A hint: The smaller the pieces in a block, the more time-consuming to make; the larger
the number of pieces in a block, the more work you have to do. The 12-inch square
block of the Churn Dash pattern has 17 pieces, while the Bear's Paw has 53. That's
a big difference! Creating a quilt using only one quilt pattern may be aesthetically
pleasing but may also become monotonous. Piecing 20 patches that are all the same
is not as challenging or as creative as stitching 20 different blocks.

The Quilt Setup

It's important to understand the language of quilting. Before you start planning
your quilt, look at the diagram of a quilt top and learn the parts of the quilt.
Understanding these terms is important because I will be discussing their construction
for the quilt top throughout the rest of the book.

Parts of a quilt.


A block is a square of pieced or appliquéd patchwork, also called a square,
that is put together with other blocks to make a quilt.


A lattice is a strip of fabric that frames each block in a quilt. The strip can
be a solid strip or it can have small squares at the corner of each block. The lattice
is also sometimes called sashing. I will discuss this part of a quilt in Chapter
17, "Setting It All Together."


A length of fabric that frames the outside edge of the quilt top is the border.
Borders can be as simple as solid strips of fabric or as complex as intricate geometric
patterns or appliqués. We'll learn about borders in Chapter 17.


The batting is the inner lining between the top, or face, of a quilt and the bottom
layer, or backing, that gives the quilt its fluffiness and warmth. Back in the "good
old days," stuffing or filling was anything to fill the middle layer in a quilt.
It could be cotton picked in the fields and stuffed into the quilt, or the cotton
could have been carded or combed to smooth it out. Sometimes old, worn-out quilts
were used as the middle layer, or old, discarded men's suits were cut up and used.
Cotton batting purchased in a store was used for many years in the early 20th century.
Polyester batting bought either in packages or from a giant roll dates from the 1970s.


The bottom part of a quilt that sandwiches the batting with the quilt top is called
the backing. It is often considered the "wrong" side of the quilt.


The binding is the folding of the backing or a long strip of bias fabric that
finishes off the edge of a quilt.

Now you know about all the parts of the quilt top. Let's start planning which
designs to create for your quilt.

Quilt Designs

Now that you know the parts that make up a quilt top, find the blocks that appeal
to you. Pattern blocks are divided by method of piecing and arranged in the order
of difficulty. Just remember to match your capabilities to the difficulty of the

The first set of blocks are where a beginner should start--I know I did. Easy
pieced blocks have few fabric pieces, and the shapes are easy to assemble. Full-size
patterns and instructions are found in Chapter 12, "Easy Pieced Patchwork Blocks."
The easy pieced blocks are: Double Nine Patch, Churn Dash, Ohio Star, Eight Point
Star, Dutchman's Puzzle, Weathervane, and the Rolling Star.

Beginners should start with one of the easy pieced blocks.

Examine the challenging pieced blocks on the following page. You can see that
there are many pieces and the designs are more elaborate. Before a beginner tackles
one of these blocks, you should read Chapter 13, "Challenging Pieced Patchwork
Blocks," to learn special cutting and piecing know-how. Challenging blocks are:
Drunkard's Path, Pinwheel, Virginia Star, Mexican Star, 54-40 or Fight, Flying Geese,
Clay's Choice, and Bear's Paw.

Our quilting ancestors developed blocks that combine both piecing and appliqué
techniques in the same design. In some blocks, pieces of fabric are sewn together
and the patch is appliquéd onto a background of fabric, as in the Dresden
Plate and Grandmother's Fan. There are also blocks that are made in just the opposite
way, by piecing the base of the block and then appliquéing specially shaped
fabric pieces, such as with the Honey Bee's wings and the Peony's stem and leaves.
Check out Chapter 14, "Combination Pieced and Appliqué Blocks."

These blocks will challenge your cutting and piecing ability.

Blocks that are pieced and appliquéd.

Traditionally appliquéd blocks have separate pieces of fabric that, when
positioned in a specific pattern, form a picture or design. The blocks found in this
book are Hearts All Around, Tudor Rose, and Tulips. Patterns and instructions are
found in Chapter 15, "Traditional Appliqué Block Patterns: Add a Layer
to Your Quilt."

Appliqué and machine-pieced blocks.

The last category of blocks in this book are for those people who love and know
how to use their sewing machine. The Rail Fence and Log Cabin blocks can be joined
by using the hand-piecing method but can be sewn quickly and accurately by using
the sewing machine.

These are just drawings of the blocks you can make from the instructions found
in this book. It's up to you to add the color and visual texture with your fabric,
which brings us to the next stop: shopping!

The Least You Need to Know

  • Choose a project that will be easy to finish. Be honest about your abilities.
  • Decide who will use the quilt, what your preferences are, whether you want the
    quilt to be the focal point of the room, and how you will use it.
  • The parts that make up the quilt top are blocks, lattice, and border.
  • Survey the quilt designs in this book and choose patterns that you like and that
    match up with your know-how.
  • A sampler quilt is the best learning experience for a beginner.

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Complete Idiot's Guide to Quilting 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like the title states, I've only started reading this guide but it's absolutely wonderful. I can't bear to put the book down for a moment! It's great for the beginner because it starts from groud zero. The experienced quilter will not have a problem finding some pretty difficult patterns in there either. I already love all of the Complete Idiot's Guides and this just makes my opinion even higher! I definately recommmend buying this book.
SewExcited More than 1 year ago
I've sewn for over 30 years, but it's always been clothing/home decor. I am working on my first quilt. I was almost done with the quilt top when I found this book. I really wish I'd had it from the beginning. It covers fabric selection, planning the quilt, and other things that would benefit beginners. It is very step-by-step. There aren't any assumptions that the reader 'already knows that'.
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