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3 Things I Wish I Remembered When I Started Quilting

I came to quilting when I had already learned a few life lessons, but when I was a new quilter, I regularly forgot some important ones. Not always ... but often enough to make being a new quilter feel harder than it had to be.

1. There is NO one right way to do things.

The quilt police don't exist. Not even self-appointed ones.

Learn how to read a pattern and follow instructions, but don't be afraid to try new ways of doing things. Try techniques you see on someone else's quilt or in a tutorial and see if they work for you and your projects. This includes your quilting. I once spoke to a quilter who forced herself to quilt her own quilts, even though she didn't enjoy it because someone once told her that sending a quilt out for longarming meant it wasn't "her quilt" anymore. If that's how you feel about it, that's perfectly fine ... but it's not a rule for every quilter.) If it works for you, go for it!

Don't be afraid to take away or add steps to a project. I cut out several steps when I made my first quilt. I didn't pin baste. I didn't make a proper quilt sandwich. If I had been listening to the quilt police, I wouldn't have considered that first one a "real" quilt. Don't be scared if an off-hand remark from a quilting friend doesn't feel right or if it seems like something can be improved. You bring your own experiences to quilting, even as a new quilter, so if you think of an easier way to do something, go for it!

2. Use the tools that others have invented to make life easier.

Even with scant seam allowances and perfect points, I have seen some downright ugly quilts made by experienced quilters and some beautiful ones made by first-timers. It often comes down to fabric choices. But you're faced with a dizzying array of fabrics at the quilt store, and they're often arranged as a rainbow of colors when you don't want a rainbow, so find another way that's less work.

Try using pre-bundled fabric like fat quarter bundles, charm packs, layer cakes, or jelly rolls. Grab some paint chips from the hardware store to be able to quickly toss around color combinations. If you're a tech nerd like me, consider sites like Playcrafts' Palette Builder or Steph Skardal's Color Palette Tool, which both let you load an image and generate a color palette from your favorite manufacturers based on the colors in the image. You can generate your own palette at or see what's trending in design circles. And if you want to get your next-level quilting nerdiness going, you can dive into Electric Quilt, a quilt design app that includes the ability to generate color palettes for your quilts (and about a million other cool quilt design features). I'm just scratching the surface of the tech toys that are out there, but these can help you feel more confident in your color choices for your quilt.

3. It's ok to be perfectly imperfect.

Quilting is often about precision. And that's fine. Those masterpiece quilts are an inspiration for all of us. But new quilters spend a lot of time looking at the work of experienced quilters and trying to figure out how to get there. The answer is usually time and practice, so be kind to yourself and let yourself make some less than perfect quilts. Let them be beautifully flawed or enlist your local longarmer to help camouflage those little imperfections. The people you're making them for won't even notice the imperfections. And if you're making them for yourself, you'll be creating a textual record of your developing skills that will--I guarantee--make you feel warm and fuzzy inside as well as out when you look back on it in years to come.

What life lessons have you brought with you into quilting? Please share in the comments!

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