Saturday, February 9, 2013

getting started

One of the interesting and unexpected results from the articles I have written recently is that I get asked questions about aspects of quilting that I usually do automatically. For instance, I recently received an e-mail asking how I get started on a quilt. How do I organize my fabrics? How do I choose which fabrics to use? Do I cut out everything first?

Nope. For me the process is simple. Not easy but simple. Now obviously you find other ways of doing this but this is how I do it. And yes, it was interesting to stop and think about it rather than just doing it.

Now, I have an order to make a quilt similar to ancient light but more golden for a wonderful customer. You may remember this quilt. A color progression with blocks or windows of light shining through.

But what colors to use? I always tell myself to start with what I know. The quilt will take on a life of its own as I work on it.

I pull out my boxes of fabric. No, I don't spend a lot of time sorting the fabrics. I just put them in boxes in some form of relationship to the basic color of the fabric. Often it is just groups of fabric that I used on the last project. Why spend time sorting when I am going to look through the box again?

Then I sort through this box depending on the color I am going for. I pull out all the colors that might possibly work.

Some I reject because though the background color is just what I want the print may be too busy or have the wrong colors on it. Purple flowers just won't go with this quilt--alas.

I always know my reject pile is much larger than the ones I choose to use. And even for the first block I will need about 8 fabrics. Since there will be five blocks in this row and I don't want to just repeat myself this is a LOT of fabric.

I cut the fabrics into the wedges I am going to use for this quilt. This lets me again think about the colors. Wonder if there are any other fabrics that will work. Maybe in the yellow boxes there will be something. Is there an orange or a grey that may work? I do spend time searching for just that little snippet that will make the quilt. And yes, I save all the wedges that I cut and go through this box also. You do never know, do you?

If the pile of wedges is too big, it takes too long to go through and find the piece that I know will be just right. If it is too small, then I spend too much time cutting more wedges.

Finally the fun begins. I choose two fabrics to start and lay them on top of the batting. This is some ways does actually determine what the final quilt will look like.

Finally I get a row done and pinned onto the wall. Looks so small and insignificant doesn't it after all that work. And then repeat and repeat and repeat the process until it is done.That's it. Simple though not always easy.

So how do you start? What tips can you share?


  1. Thank you, Ann, that's so helpful! Will be sorting my strips asap.
    Your quilts are so beautifully finished. Do you stitch and flip all your pieces straight onto the batting - and if so, how do you sew the strips together to get such a beautifully flat result?
    Love your blog!

  2. Thank you for this description of how you get started on a piece. I love seeing your fabric and the variety of prints you might use. I've been quilting about five years, but I have yet to develop a personal style. My method of starting a new quilt generally begins with reading a book by an exciting quilter like you, and diving into a similar style quilt. I've learned a lot, but I'd sure like to develop my own "look".

  3. lovely lovely lovely seeing you at ACC in Baltimore today....and I love my "landscape" table runner....keep blogging

    Kathleen :-)