Tag Archives: New quilters

Allow Your Heart To Lead You

The other day I posted some tips for “newer” quilters, and many of you chimed in with more in comments. Since then I stumbled upon something I read a few years ago. It is a 2009 interview with a newer quilter, someone with little experience in the art. She also provides a few tips, from her own perspective. I’ll start by sharing this question and answer from the interview [edited to note that the quotes below are from a longer version of the interview that no longer has links]:

KM (interviewer Karen Musgrave): What advice would you offer somebody making their first quilt?

JM (quilter Joy Major): Jump in. I would suggest [laughs.] that they allow their heart to lead them. They can search through all the quilt books, quilt magazines that they want, but quality inspiration of their heart, I think there is something to be said for traditional, the Amish type of quilt, and I think there is something to be said about expressing life through quilts. [Bold emphasis added by me.]

I’ve never seen better advice on quilting or any art than this:

Allow your heart to lead you.

At the time of the interview, Joy Major, the quilter, had made only one quilt. Even so, she understood what makes a great quilt:

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt? In your mind, what makes a great quilt?

JM: Love. The energy, the thought. The care, the care in making it. When I had my pieces of material, I treasured each one of them. A small piece, that piece right there. Love, that’s what makes a special quilt. The meaning of the quilt. The purpose of the quilt. The energy that it carries with it, the response that I had, the response that perhaps other people had, your response. I think that is the most important part. Certainly love. [Bold emphasis added by me.]

At the time of the interview, Joy Major was an inmate of the Ohio Reformatory for Women, serving a minimum of 25 years for the murder of her husband. She was invited by her prison chaplain and encouraged by her therapist to work with a quilting project called Sacred Threads.

Participants in the quilting project had limited access to resources of all kinds. Time, fabric, and notions were in short supply. As you know, constraints often lead us to our most creative work, and that was true for Ms. Major. What she did not lack was the desire to honor her own story and that of fellow inmates with her work and with her heart. She allowed her heart to lead, and created a fascinating quilt unique to her.

I encourage you to read the here.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear in comments. 


Best Tips For Newer Quilters

Em’s baby quilt, before being rebuilt and enlarged. December 2003. This was the first quilt I ever made.

When I made my first quilt fourteen years ago, there weren’t many online resources for quilters. There were no blogs, only a few message boards, and a small handful of sites that, at the time, weren’t interactive with reader comments. But those few websites provided me with a vast amount of help as I learned to quilt.

I thought it would be fun to offer some “best” tips for quilters, especially tips that could help newer quilters. AND I’d like YOU to join in! In comments below, give a recommendation or two (or ten!) of things you wish you’d known as a new quilter. Or if you’re moved to write your own blog post with tips, give us the link in comments.

Here are a few of mine, in no particular order:

1. Have some basic equipment that will make your efforts easier, like a sharp rotary cutter with mat and rulers, a sewing machine that will make a good-quality stitch, and an iron. These don’t need to be fancy.

2. Buying is often a substitute for making. Either one is okay (assuming you can afford it!) but they are not the same thing. Decide which is more important to you.

3. Learn to make a decent 1/4″ seam allowance. If you do, it will save you lots of hassle, including trimming blocks, making parts fit, and making your quilt look the way it should. Here are some tips on improving your seam allowance.

4. Don’t get hung up on particular designers for your fabric choices. Your quilts will have a more timeless quality if you mix and match designers and lines.

5. When choosing color palettes, audition a broad range of colors including some you think couldn’t work. Unless you’re deliberately using a muted color scheme, err on the side of too bold rather than too meek.

6. The same idea works with value contrast: unless you’re deliberately going for a “low-volume” (low value contrast) look, have a range of value from very dark to very light. This means your purchases need to include that range.

7. If possible, take some classes in person. A good teacher can make your learning curve easier.

8. Work on improvement, but ignore the quilt police! If you like it, that’s the most important criteria.

9. If you get stuck within a project, ask for help. Often the solution is pretty simple if you only know what it is.

10. Starting projects is exciting, but finishing is deeply rewarding. Make sure you finish some of your projects so you understand the benefits of both.

Alrighty, now, it’s your turn! What advice do you have for less-experienced quilters?