How to Make a Quilt
From Start to Finish

I

f you’ve ever been intimidated by the thought of making your own quilt, I hope this post changes your mind about giving it a try.

Over the years, I’ve heard many people say,  “Oh, I could never make one of those“.

Well,  I’m here to say yes you can and throughout this post, I’ll walk you through all the fun steps.


For those who may not be that familiar with quilting, allow me to walk you through the basics, from start to finish.  Of course it all begins with your fabric selection. The fat quarters below are from the fabulous Lotus Collection by Amy Butler.  Fat quarters are equivalent to 18 x 22-inch cuts of fabric.

I don’t know about you but I love to see fat quarters all stacked up like this.  Brand new fabric is so crisp and fresh looking.

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Just like scrapbooking, many quilt companies offer kits which include the pattern and all the necessary fabric to complete the quilt. Quilt kits are good for beginners too because all the fabric comes pre-selected for you.

This is my first-ever quilt from a kit.  I picked it up at The Pine Needle, which features wonderful on-line shopping for quilts and related projects.

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The quilt pattern I used is called Cheaper By the Dozen.  While the pattern was included in the quilt kit, the pattern is also available separately.

The Cheaper By the Dozen quilt requires 12-fabric choices. The project is actually just a series of identically-sized rectangles cut from the various fabric selections.

The rectangles arranged in the photo below will appear in this order within the quilt blocks.

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When you’re working with multiple fabric patterns, it’s a good idea to have a swatch key to help you keep up with what you’re assembling. The Cheaper by the Dozen pattern includes a blank swatch key form and you just staple a small sample of each fabric right onto the sheet.

Be sure to make a copy of the blank sheet that comes with the pattern before adhering your samples. This way you’ll have the original sheet that you can use if you decide to make the project again.

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Your fabric key will help you keep up with the order in which you will sew each piece of fabric to the next.

In this case, sew the three rectangles on the top row together, then you sew the three rectangles on the second row together.

When you sew these two completed rows together this will create your first BLOCK as in the photo below.

Thanks to Jordy, my smiling block-handler.

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Repeat the same process with the next two rows of rectangles to create BLOCK #2.  Ultimately you’ll end up with 12-blocks, that will then be sewn together to create one very large square.

To make this 12-block square even larger, I added 8-inch wide fabric strips to each side.  This is now the quilt TOP, which is similar to a queen size sheet.

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Imagine the unfinished quilt is a sandwich in which there are three main parts.

The TOP, which  resembles a large sheet as in the photo above.  Next there’s the BATTING, which is the middle cotton layer which ultimately helps add thickness, and finally, there’s the BACKING  which makes up the last layer and is similar to another large sheet slightly larger than the top.

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When choosing your backing you may want to choose a lighter fabric than your top, so your decorative quilting stitches will be more visible when the project is completed.

I selected this soft orange/swirled fabric called Fall Jewels by Red Rooster Fabrics.

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Quilting is the process of putting these three main pieces (top, batting and backing) together using decorative stitching.  Many people do this by hand, which can be very time consuming.  Others use their regular sewing machines, which can be difficult for larger quilts if your machine has a narrow throat.

There are also many quilters who use long arm quilting machines.  The long arm quilt machines, like the one in the photo below have a very deep machine throat with ample space for the three layers of the quilt project to be rolled up and then easily glided during the quilting process.

I would never be able to successfully roll up this large quilt under my own standard-size sewing machine.

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Nearly all of my quilts have been professionally stitched by my good friend Joni Baumli who uses the most awesome long arm quilting machine.  She owns a successful quilting business called Threadplay here in Illinois.

Joni’s quilting machine is pretty fabulous and I dare say that Joni’s quilting skills and quest perfection rival no other in the region.

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Joni’s long-arm quilter is linked to a computer program called the Statler Stitcher which is truly technology at it’s finest.  After a decorative design is selected (she owns thousands) the design is loaded into her computer which is linked to the long-arm quilting machine.

The Statler Stitcher relays the decorative pattern directly to the long arm quilting machine and the needle is guided by these instructions.   The photo below shows the paisley pattern as it appears on her computer screen.

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Because the computer guides the long arm, every design stitched is consistent and flawless throughout the project.

It’s also pretty cool to watch the long-arm in operation.

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Take a look at the decorative stitches from the back of the quilt.  This is why you want to be careful about your fabric selection for the back.

You definitely want these beautiful stitches to be clearly visible and not lost in a fabric choice that is too busy or too dark.

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Once this part of the quilting process is finished on Joni’s end, the quilt is back in my lap to complete the remaining steps.  On this project I opted for a scalloped edge which is pretty much my standard application.

I use a piece of mylar which I pre-cut into a scallop shape to mark the straight edge of the quilt with a cutting guide.

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It does take some extra effort to scallop the quilt edge, but I think the end result is always a wonderful finishing touch.

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After tracing the scallop border with a chalk marker, I simply cut along the marked line to create the scalloped edge.

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Remember, if your quilt has a scalloped edge you really need to use a continuous bias binding.  The pieces for this kind of binding are cut on the “bias” of the fabric versus the horizontal or vertical grain of the fabric.

This ultimately gives the binding a crucial stretchiness and flexibility which is needed to curve over the scalloped edge of the quilt easily.

For a link to easy instructions on making continuous bias binding click here.

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Once you make your binding it will take quite a few straight pins to attach it to a scalloped edge.  It’s actually better to use too many pins than not enough to ensure that the binding is lined up perfectly with the scalloped edge and there are no gaps or puckers.

Notice how the binding curves and stretches over the scalloped edge in the photo below?  Regular binding will not curve this easily over a scallop.

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I always sew my binding to the top side of the quilt first.  Once I’ve attached the binding all the way around the scalloped quilt edge, I remove all pins and fold the binding over and onto the backside of the quilt.

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At this point, iron the binding neatly around the scallop.  After ironing, pin once again to temporarily secure the open end so that you can hand stitch it to the backing side of the quilt.

My apologies to the wonderful quilting purists out there, but this is the only part of my quilting process that involves any actual stitching by hand.

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After the hand-stitching, I typically go over the entire scalloped edge with the steam iron once again to give the border a nice neat, crisp look.

I love how these scallops look.

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I want to thank my friend and “quilting goddess”, Joni Baumli who always helps my projects come to life with her skillful attention to detail and perfection.  She really makes all the difference in the final presentation of my quilts.

I can’t do what she does and I really admire her abilities.  It’s also a pleasure to showcase her wonderful talents here and share pictures of her fantastic long-arm machine.

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Feel free to drop Joni a line and let her know what you think of her beautiful work.  You can see more of her influence on my quilting projects if you click here.

Also, if you have a project you’d like quilted, you can e-mail Joni at [email protected]aol.com.  She has many out-of-state clients and believe me, her work is always exquisite.

How to Make a Quilt

As you can see, there are quite a few steps in a quilt project.  I think it’s well worth it in the end, especially when you’re left with a finished project you’re pleased with.

I hope you’re inspired to try your hand at making your own quilt and here’s hoping it’s picture perfect-from start to finish.

  • ws

    Hello I am so glad I found your site, I really found you by accident, while I was browsing on Bing for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a incredible post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the great job.

  • Gale, Ky quilter

    Wow! I just found you, today, April 15, 2013, and I am in love with your blog. I am a HUGE Amy Butler fan and this quilt is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen of her fabric.

  • marli

    this quilt is sooo beautiful!!

  • Shelby

    Lisa, I just came across your blog while searching for quilting information, it is adorable, I love your quilts and other projects! You are so talented 🙂

  • Lisa

    the quilt is so beautiful, but so are those kids!

  • Sarah

    I know I am a couple of years late, but wow! I am so pleased I stumbled across your blog and you have confirmed that it is time for me to start making my own quilt…Love your blog, love your quilt – and thanks for the inspiration.
    Sarah
    Melbourne, Australia

  • Ilene

    Lisa, I love your blog too! I adore your quilts, magnificent pieces of art. I honor your creativity and your patience to be so creative. Very Inspiring.

  • Kathleen Solomi

    Hello Lisa, you left me a comment ,thankyou so very much.I,m so into orange at present,Tshirts especially. I,m going to look on the pine needle site.Personally I think you only get these sensational quilts if you buy the kit.So much time can be spent searching for Fabric. And what about those gorgeous children, the pride on their faces just radiates. I live in the east midlands of Leicestershire, England. I have a webshots site name of cottonreel, many of my quilts, and also my village is posted on there,I am putting bits on to my blog page also

  • T

    What an incredible quilt! I am just finding time in my life at 45… to once again enjoy what I love most. Crafting! You’ve inspired me today and I wanted to let you know. THANK YOU for being Creative You and for sharing!!
    Tere

  • Sarah Keith

    so great! may have to have a quilt just like it!

  • Michele

    Beautiful quilt!

  • Audrey

    Lisa,
    It was great to see the beautiful quilt made from our pattern. I love the scalloped border. All our patterns are available on our website http://www.makingalegacy.com.
    Thanks
    Audrey

  • sonia

    I found this blog post after I googled “amy buter quilt” and omgosh! What a wonderful amount of detail in your blog post! I’m trying my hand at sewing right now…and thought I would do a little research on quilting. THis quilt is absolutely GORGEOUS. It makes me want to start quilting now 🙂

  • amandajean

    what a beautiful quilt!

  • Cheri

    Gorgeous quilt! I love how even a simple pattern can look sumptuous and just plain amazing when you know what you’re doing with fabric. No wonder your sister wants that quilt!

  • Julie

    Wow, Lisa! Your posts are chock full of so much wonderfulness, I’m having a hard time focusing on what to say!
    Let’s see, the quilt is just amazing! Your kids are so, so cute and photogenic. You are quite generous in what you take the time to share in pictures and instructions. Excellent tutorials!
    I followed a link you gave for your sister and read the bio on her. You two obviously come from a family of high achievers. So interesting…I think I could spend the whole day here on your blog if I didn’t have a life I need to take care of! ;D
    Hope you’re having a great Friday!

  • Z.

    wow, this is awesome. It’s the best post on quilt I ever seen!!! You do great, love your blog!

  • SmilynStef

    This is beyond gorgeous … those edges really make it extra special … love it!

  • Penny

    Thank-you so much for posting this step-by-step! I am currently in the process of making my first (baby) quilt and just asked about what the next step is on my latest post. All my questions have been answered!

  • Em

    Wow, I love how you walk everyone through each step! Your pictures are wondeful and this is so helpful to make sure everything is done just right!

  • Jodi

    O.K. So I’m in love with your blog! LOL. What a beautiful quilt! And what a great “tutorial” wow! I am so impressed.

  • Jodi

    O.K. So I’m in love with your blog! LOL. What a beautiful quilt! And what a great “tutorial” wow! I am so impressed.

  • ellen Crimi-Trent

    wow what an amazing quilt and all that work, this is why I cannot do that!! Your children are beautiful and congrads on the magazine!!! Thanks for stopping by my blog and your lovely comments, I am always impressed by those who can quilt, and although I design for fabrics I do not do it sadly, just not enough time in the day.

  • Dena Berg (Sugar Shop)

    Lisa, seriously gorgeous quilt!!! So are the two little dolls holding it up!
    xoxox
    Dena

  • Heidi Sonboul

    this reminds me of those amazing russian rugs! so beautiful!

  • Ivory Spring

    Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for the lovely comment you have left on my roses — I am hoping the summer heat wouldn’t be too hard on them.
    By the way, I love your quilt — the colors are simply vibrantly pretty!

  • Tanya Whelan

    Gorgeous Lisa!!!

  • Linda

    I am inspired. I want to make even one quilt that is half as nice as yours, or embroider something that will look as nice as the cat on your daughters t-shirt! I have read your blog several times in the last week and each time I get something more from it.
    Thank you
    Linda (from Ontario Canada)

  • Linda

    I am inspired. I want to make even one quilt that is half as nice as yours, or embroider something that will look as nice as the cat on your daughters t-shirt! I have read your blog several times in the last week and each time I get something more from it.
    Thank you
    Linda (from Ontario Canada)

  • Angela

    Oh that is gorgeous!

  • Toni from NC

    That is absolutely beautiful! Love the background info.

  • Natasha Burns

    Wow Lisa your quilt is gorgeous! Love the colour combination. Just yesterday I went around taking photos of my mother’s quilts, she hand stitches every piece together (your sister would probably die if she heard that!) and hand quilts it too. They are incredible. I’m just finishing up working on one I’ve been doing for 6 years now, all hand pieced…. phew!

  • Anne

    Oh, your blog is lovely. I’m adding you now!

  • Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio

    Lisa, your quilt is beautiful! Thank you for sharing the step by step process. You do take wonderful pictures…Great light you have there!
    Hugs,
    Penny

  • Carla

    LOVE your gorgeous quilt. I just posted another challenge, and this would be PERFECT to link to it! Hope you have a nice lazy summer! Congrats on your mention in the magazine. I love that one. How fun!

  • June Parrish Cookson

    Hi Lisa,
    Fabulous! I discover something new every time I visit your blog. Although I can’t imagine ever quilting, this is certainly inspirational.
    Thanks for your comment. Things here a bit hectic with you know what…ahem. I’ll let you know about what’s going on with ahem next week,ha ha.
    Cheers friend,
    June

  • shai

    Ok, Lisa now I see why you seemed so familiar. I live in Detroit and watch Paula on the news. The maiden name and somethinga about your face reminded me of her. LOL. Small world.

  • Nanette

    Wow what a fabulous post! I’m so impressed with the photography and writing. Such a great idea. The quilt is lovely. I am in love love love with squares. I love the clean lines and simplicity and I use squares in my quilts constantly. Great job!

  • Liz

    My goodness. That quilt is giving me heart flutters. Fascinating post.

  • June

    Thank you for sharing the quilting process. It’s very helpful as I’m going to start making my first “grown-up” quilt (as opposed to simple little doll quilts) in July. I was wondering about the exact process in terms of the actual quilting aspect and then the binding. Your post has helped enormously in helping me understand. Thank you!

  • Nance

    Wow Lisa, you’re not only an amazing quilter but also a very good teacher and photographer! May I link your blog to mine? I love to keep coming back here. and of course, feel free to link mine, if you want to. 🙂
    cheers

  • Beverly

    This was great. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • sheree

    This is so lovely, Lisa! And what a great explanation of the process. I will be dropping your friend a line. I’d love to make some large quilts for my home, but I’d never be able to quilt them. Her work is gorgeous!
    Hugs,
    Sheree

  • Missy

    Thanks for the great post. Your post make everthing you do look so simple to make. Loved seeing the process. Your quilt buddies are really cute and I bet are very helpful. Have a great weekend MISSY

  • cindy

    No wonder she has her eye on that quilt. It’s beautiful!

  • Tina

    Thanks for this amazing how-to. I hope to take up quilting, right after I learn how to knit. You’ve taken some of the anxiety out of the whole process by your detailed but simply stated instructions. It’s also great to know there are people like Joni to put the perfect finishing touches on such awesome works of love.
    Have you ever considered making quilts on commission?

  • Lucy

    You did a beautiful job with that quilt and the quilting is impeccable. Well done and enjoy it!

  • Nikki Brey

    Your quilt is great, but I have to say your carpet looks even better!

  • melissa lewis - off the wall

    My grandmother has always quilted and I ‘ve always been interested. I’ve never actually tried myself, but your instructions make me want to try!
    I love this quilt, especially the Amy Butler fabric:)

  • melissa @ the inspired room

    You are a twin? Wow, amazing fact!
    Lisa, I always love coming to your blog. Even though I do not sew or quilt or do much crafting, I get so inspired by what you can do.
    Your patience, as someone said, is unbelievable. The time all this takes to create and photograph is unbelievable. But that goes to show how much effort and talent it takes to get such beautiful results! You are a class act!
    Happy day (ps. your kids are ADORABLE, such great little models!)
    Melissa

  • Tara

    You are so amazing Lisa, I love coming here and getting my dose of inspiration. The time and care you take with each post is outstanding. And you never told me you were a twin! To think there are 2 of you in the world? Double the talent!~xo

  • Teddi

    Lisa, thanks so much for that post. I have been lurking and admiring your quilting for some time – especially the scalloped edges. I had visions of you doing the quilting yourself and you have given me great hope by showing that you send it out to be long-arm quilted by someone else! While I still think you’re practically perfect…I thank you for the detailed tutorial and how to do the scalloped edging! HUGS!

  • suzy

    That is a stunning quilt and I love the scallop border. xo, suzy

  • berta

    Wow, the quilt and color choices you made are beautiful! And a great quilting tutorial! My GF has just gotten into quilting and loving it. I am going to send her a link to your blog. She would love seeing this. Especially the quilting machine. Thanks!!!!

  • christy

    the quilt is beautiful!! thanks for sharing the step-by-step.

  • Jen ~ Artful Dreamer

    Amazing quilt Lisa – love the bold color choices. This project is way beyond my skill level but it is so inspiring to see the colors and patterns mixed together with such harmony. BTW, love your “holders”, they are little works of art themselves :~)

  • Kylie

    Lisa, I love your blog! Thankyou so much for showing step by step, especially how you do the scalloped edge. When I finally make a quilt I will definitely use it, it just adds so much to the end product. Truly beautiful as always. 🙂

  • Carolr

    Oh, !!!!WOW!!!!

  • Michelle

    So wonderful of you to share your time and creativity on how to quilt. I love quilts. That is one thing I like to learn. You laying out step by step makes appear do-able. Inspired me as well.

  • denice

    Oh my goodness, there is just so much to say about this post… The fabric is just beautiful, the combinations are awesome, the quilting is astounding, the scalloped edge is such a cool finish, the handwork and binding are impressive (I am a hard-core short-cutter on binding), that block handler is just a cutie pie, and the photos are inspiring. Good golly, what a post! Thanks!

  • Mary

    Really, Martha Stewart should be green with envy. And you have such cute little helpers, too! Loving the scalloped quilt border. It really does make it that much cooler.

  • Barbara

    Gorgeous, as always, Lisa! I marvel at how you have the patience not only to tackle these projects but to photograph them so carefully, step by step. Those helpers, by the way, are gorgeous, too!

  • Page

    Wow, that quilt is beautiful and I LOVE the scalloped edge. Thanks so much for taking the time to show us how it’s done. I’m getting ready to start on a quilt for my daughter and I might have to figure out how I can incorporate a scalloped edge into it.

  • Sarah

    What a beautiful “diary” of a quilt. The paisley pattern you chose is perfect for your piecing and all that beautiful Amy Butler fabric. Your little quilt helpers are darling too!

  • Stephanie

    Beautiful!!

  • adrienne

    Ok, this was just AWESOME and right up my alley! Thanks for taking time out to do such a great and informative post!!!

  • Sonnja

    What a beautiful Quilt.
    The quilt is also made of beautiful fabrics.
    Kind regards
    Sonnja & Beertje Zonn
    From the Netherlands

  • Miss 376

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. That quilt looks lovely. My son has just asked me to make a quilt and this is the inspiration I need to plan it and have a go.
    Happy Stitching