how I learnt to quilt

I got a great question over on my Facebook page yesterday about how I learnt to quilt. And I’m going to start out by saying that I wish I hadn’t learnt the way I had. If I had my time over again I would have loved to have gone to a course and learnt the basics from a teacher. But I was keen and had a little baby and a husband working away so self taught was the way I went. I had been sewing for a while and going to sewing classes and joined a quilt swap. I had never quilted but wanted to join a quilt swap and challenge myself. And this is my very first quilt from 2007!

Now this was before you could pop onto youtube and watch videos or a few good books were out but I read a few books, asked my sewing teacher how to use a walking foot, got sold the wrong walking foot, tried it, took it back, came home with the right walking foot and ta da I did my first quilt pictured above. Ahem. A doll’s quilt. Nothing too fancy and definitely not my best work but I learnt a lot with that little quilt.

Quilting involves a few techniques to master. The cutting of fabric using a rotary cutter, mat and ruler. Piecing (whether by machine or hand). Then basting your whole quilt together with a backing fabric, batting in the middle and the quilt top you’ve just pieced, then you need to quilt it (again it’s up to you whether it’s by machine or hand).  And then lastly there is the binding which goes around the edges of the quilt. Phew. Quilts take time but are so much fun and so satisfying to complete. And they are addictive. Oh the addiction.

The first few quilts I did were machine pieced and hand quilted with circles or love hearts and quilting cotton. I enjoyed the hand quilting as I only had 1 baby and no real rush to finish the projects. Oh how times change. Now I have 5 ‘babies’ of my own.

After I had the twins and wanted to get through my quilts faster, I realised I wanted to learn free motion quilting. It was about this time I had discovered crazy mom quilts and loved her free motion. I watched her video and just got stuck into it on my machine. For me, free motion quilting is forgiving. You don’t need straight lines, you move the fabric around and stitch as you go. It’s very addictive and when you first start you find yourself dreaming of moving the quilt around on your machine. Practise makes perfect and it’s fun just to practise with a big quilt sandwich and cut it down to make coasters and placemats. Try it.

I made my own little video on free motion (sniffing and my very aussie accent are included free of charge!) and you can watch it here. This was a quick spur of the moment get retro daddy filming  behind me for the video.

I’ve done a couple of quilting posts – this one on your free motion questions, my free motion video post here and the infamous charm square tutorial part 1 here that I didn’t get to finish because I got pregnant, sold a house, bought a house and got crazy busy. These Christmas holidays I will sit down and finish that tutorial. A fabulous tutorial if you’re after one using 2 charm square packs is over at the lovely Amy Smart blog here.

OK so the great thing about quilting now compared to 4 or 5 years ago are the great books that are out there by bloggers for everyday sewers like you and me. And here is my blog post on a few favourite quilting books – please add Sunday Morning Quilts to the list which I love too. And Block Party is another one I’m loving. I have a couple of quilting books en route to me to go under the Christmas tree and I’ll let you know what I think of them when they arrive. Yes, you guessed it. I love craft books.

my fave quilting book atm

I also love youtube – a few tutorials are here. But nothing beats learning in person so in short if you can find a beginners course near you then do it. It’s a great way to make friends and if you’re making any boo boos then you’ll nip them in the bud early. Just look up your local quilting/patchwork store and they should have a class list. And if you really want to start and just can’t wait then grab a charm square pack which is a pack of precut squares that you just need to join together. They make the best quilts and are a great way to start. Just google Moda charm square packs or check out your nearest quilting store to grab some

Got a question? Just ask………..


  1. Corrie you write so openly. All the quilts I have seen from you look so beautiful. I love your sense of colour and placement.
    A few years ago a friend who is very crafty asked me to join her in a machine quilting course. Why not! Well I had a machine but I didn”t really sew. Lucky for me the teacher was excellant. I”m good at cutting & love maths & precision but I’m not very creative. I was so pleased with myself at creating something I could keep (usually it gets eaten)
    I realise now thanks to you that I could actually buy charm squares etc and have another go. Maybe I need a new sewing machine too!

  2. CharlotteE says:

    Corrie this is a post after my own heart. I taught myself to quilt last year using mainly the Elizabeth Hartman book, pictured above. I have become totally addicted, fuelled on by all the wonderful inspiration and tutorials found all over blogland. I love that they can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I’ve still got to try FMQ and my basting certainly needs work to make the back as smooth as the front but hey practice makes perfect right and it gives me an excuse to make another quilt or two (as if I need an excuse).

  3. I wish I had the confidence to finish the quilt I started for my daughter! I cut it out when she was 4, made the quilt top when she was 5, she will be 8 in May….. I really wanted it finished before the baby arrives in Marc/April but I cant see that happening! I dont want to ruin it and its to fit her king single-so it’s not that small! I need to try and save up to have it done professionally but I am trying to set up for the baby so I don’t think she will be getting the quilt anytime soon :( bad mum award-I feel terrible-especially when she looks at it and tells me how beautiful it is and that she wants it on her bed :(
    I am going to try a pram sized one for the baby though-will see how I go!

    I LOVE all your quilts!!! They are sooooo beautiful! I hope to one day have a house full of quilts!

  4. Pauline Howatson says:

    When I was pregnant with our first child (who is now 8yo) I told my husband that I woul love to fill the house with quilts that I had made. I did one course and made one quilt. However, I did pay for someone to bind and quilt it for me. Then I started one recently and realised I have forgotten how – yes this will be my second quilt! So, thank you RetroMummy for inspiring me to get it out and finish it and hopefully kick start me filling my home with quilts. I now have three children – youngest is 20 mths and the one quilt I did finish is the most used item in our lounge. It is getting a bit old a needs some repairs but we all love it.

  5. Thanks for this. I have been wondering. I am far too self taught and I will look your video up.

  6. Oh I wish I had started with a doll’s quilt! I have taught myself too, and started with a vintage sheet quilt for my daughter’s bed. It looks lovely, but lets just say that the quilting is rather “rustic”. I’ve since done one for my son and it’s getting better.
    I think I need a rotary cutter, doing it all with scissors is the most off-putting bit for me.
    Thank you for sharing your GORGEOUS quilts with us.
    x Rhi

  7. As it happens, I had my children wrap up ‘Sunday Morning Quilts’ up and put it under he tree for me! I enjoyed reading about your quilting journey – can’t wait to see your youtube video (I have just done some quilt wrangling with a king single size!), as I’m always happy to pick up a few more tips!

  8. Thank you for that post. Your quilts are beautiful and I would love to
    Create such a beautiful thing for my own kids rooms. Quilting is on my wish list for 2013. Perhaps I could time it with the onset of winter.

  9. I totally agree, a class is the best way to go, if you can. I’d sewn for 25+ years when I learnt to quilt, bits from a quilting friend, bits my own sewing ways. A few years & a couple of quilts later I took a beginners quilting course at a patchwork shop – I was doing so much wrong! Which doesn’t matter, except now I know how to do things so much more efficiently, safely (rotary cutter use) & little things to get a better finish more easily. I now know some lovely patchwork ladies in person (not just online!). Next up for me is to learn to actually machine quilt my quilts, I’ve done them by hand or sent off to a professional til now, so I’ll be looking up your links, thanks.

  10. Love it all, the quilt in picture three, may i ask if the fabric come from a certain range? the colours are so devine, you are very clever!! :)

  11. How great to stumble upon your blog – so many great projects! Always a pleasure to see beautiful projects made with Lily Ashbury fabric!
    Keep up the great work!

  12. Thanks for the link to the article about the YouTube videos (I think I’m YouTube’s biggest fan :)

    I’m just starting quilting again after a long time of not, and I’m definitely going to need some help.

    Yours are gorgeous, btw.

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