How to Make a Quilt By Hand: Reflecting on My First and Latest Projects – and a Contest! – Quilting Daily

Why did I ever take up quilting? Necessity! I was 16 years old and redecorating my impossibly small bedroom.

A section of my second quilt, when I was a newbie at quilt making.

Armed with a redwork pattern of kittens in a variety of poses and a few yards of calico, I set to work. Twelve embroidered blocks later, my neighbor showed me how to make a quilt from my blocks: adding the sashing, tieing the quilt, and finally, binding it. That quilt remained on my childhood bed for years, and eventually was used as a cushion by the family dog.

I’m sorry to say there is no photo of that beginning quilting project, and it was many years before I made another. My second attempt was a much more ambitious–a Storm at Sea pattern–and that sits on the foot of my son’s bed. It is so heavy, both visually and literally, that it usually stays folded and is rarely used. I learned so much from making that quilt, from the importance of precision cutting (I discovered rotary cutters half way through its construction) to the need for looking at the value of fabrics as well as the color when designing a quilt top. But, despite all of its construction and design problems, I still feel it deserves a special spot in my home.

These days when I make a quilt, I am much more studied and thoughtful. I sketch, measure, and plan. Sometimes I take weeks working on a design before jumping in with the piecing, and often I have even planned the quilting.

how to make a quilt by hand vivika denegre
My most recent quilt. They both have wave themes,
but my technique has changed considerably!

My latest piece, “Waves at Stony Creek” is one of those highly planned quilts. Despite the appearance of being improvisational, I worked from sketches, revised size and scale to fit hanging requirements, ordered “just enough” fabric (twice) and planned every stitch. This quilt has just been framed and will hang in the lobby of the Maternal Health Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Although there are stark differences between my first quilts and those I make today, there are also many similarities. My heart still races when I start a new quilt, and there is a real feeling of satisfaction when I put in the last stitch. I love every step of making quilts (ok, I don’t love adding the hanging sleeve) and can’t wait for the next stitching adventure to begin.

So, how did you decide to start quilting? Go back to the time when you made your first quilt, and share your story. And, by sharing your story you have a chance to win big! That’s right. Share, enter and you might win up to $200 worth of products. Check out the blog posts by Kristine and Rose for inspiration, get all the contest details, and share your first quilt story.

P.S. These days, when you’re learning how to quilt, there are so many options: books, videos, TV shows, and more. Here are some of my favorite resources for beginners and more experienced quilters, from the Quilting Daily Shop:

Quilting Arts CD Collection: When I wanted to learn art quilting techniques, I subscribed to Quilting Arts Magazine. This CD compilation give you the entire first 10 years’ worth of articles, all as they originally appeared, in one convenient and economical package.

Vintage Quilt Revival:  This book will teach you basic quilting techniques while creating modern block quilts. The patterns range from beginning quilting projects to advanced, so as your skill grow, you can attempt more complex designs.

Art Quilt Design Quilting Arts Workshop Video:  Value is an important design concept in quilt making, but it can be tricky to learn. I know of no one who uses–and teaches–value better than Carol Taylor.

“Quilting Arts TV”: We like to say that “QATV” is the magazine come to life. In 13 seasons, the show has covered everything from quilting for beginners to soy wax batik to digital design–and everything in between.

Hand-Carving Premium Collection:  Printing on fabric is one of the easiest surface design techniques to learn. This collection includes two hour-long videos on surface design and stamp carving, plus a stamp-carving kit. 

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