Skill of the Month: Quilting: Wrap Your Family in Love

Guest post by RightWingMom, our Skill of the Month editor.

When my 14 year-old was a newborn, I chose to resign my teaching position and become a stay-at-home mom.   After three months I found myself in need of a hobby.  My husband suggested I consider quilting.  It has become a beloved and favorite pastime ever since.

Quilted pillows by RightWingMom

The process of quilting is basic and straightforward.  Using a few basic rules, you’re only limited by your creativity and imagination.  Quilts come in all sizes: baby, lap, twin, queen, king, etc.  You can even quilt other items like pillows, wall hangings, Christmas ornaments, pot holders and clothing, like a lady’s vest.  The possibilities are endless.

Quilts can be made from almost any fabric from high-end and expensive to cut up denim jeans and scraps from other projects.  Stockpiling a few of the basic supplies ensures that you can create wonderful gifts for family and friends even during hard times.

Imagine giving a new mom a baby quilt or making simple quilted pot holders to give to a newly married couple.  It’s also a good skill to keep your hands and fingers nimble and a hobby that can be done even if the grid goes down.

The basic quilting steps are:

  1. Fabric Prep ~ Wash, dry, and lightly starch all fabric before cutting.  Even if your fabric claims to be pre-shrunk and pre-washed, there’s nothing more disheartening than finishing a quilt, washing it, and finding major puckers or bleeding in your finished project.
  2. Piecing your top ~ This involves sewing, by machine or hand, cut shapes together to make blocks and then sewing those blocks together into your quilt top.  Many quilters use rotary cutting supplies to make this job easier.  You will learn the ¼ inch rule that applies to all patterns.  It is a universal measurement allowance that keeps quilting patterns consistent.
  3. Marking your top ~ Use different stencils, designs, and patterns to mark your top piece.  The blue ink pen (for quilters) will remain visible until you wash your quilt.  The purple ink pen is temporary and will disappear after 24 – 48 hours, as I found out the hard way!  There are also chalk and gray pencil options.
  4. Backing ~ The back of a quilt is usually only a few large strips of plain fabric sewn together.  I prefer mine to be just a little wider and longer than the top piece and batting.
  5. Batting ~ Most quilters prefer cotton batting over polyester.  It wears better, feels softer, and doesn’t rub the fabric and break through like synthetics.  Never pre-wash batting!
  6. Sandwiching ~ Once your top piece and backing are complete, lay them out in order:  backing wrong side up, batting, then top piece right side up.  Make sure you pull each piece taunt and smooth out as many wrinkles and puckers as possible.
  7. Basting ~ This is a critical step that will temporarily hold your project together while you quilt.  Many quilters, including myself, pin our layers then use general purpose thread to run large stitches in a grid or clock face pattern.  Make sure your thread is a color very different than the one you’re using for quilting.  Other basting techniques include: quilters safety pins, spray adhesive, and basting tape.  Find what works best for you.
  8. Quilting! ~ For me this is the fun part!  There is a debate: hand or machine.  My personal preference is to hand quilt.  The fundamentals of hand quilting are to use quilting needles called “betweens” and quilting thread which is thicker than general purpose thread.  Thread your needle so that you use a single thread and knot it.  Your quilt should be secured in a hoop or frame.  Put on your thimble, insert your needle from the back or front; pull the thread firmly but gently until it “pops” between the fabric and batting.  Now that you’ve secured your thread, begin stitching in and out of all three layers.  When you reach the end of your thread, tie a knot approximately ¼ inch from your last stitch.  Insert your needle between the layers, pull gently but firmly until the knot pops through.  The fabric and batting will secure the knot.  Continue following your blue or purple pattern lines with another thread.  It is true that most quilters try to have tiny stitches, approximately 10 per inch.  The best advice I received was to not worry about the length of my stitches but focus on making them even.  Tiny stitches will come along with time and practice.
  9. Binding ~ Once you’ve quilted the entire work, remove all basting thread.  Sew a binding around the edges and you’re finished.  Toss it in the washing machine on gentle cycle and delicate dry.  Don’t forget to write your name and date on the back bottom corner of your piece and take a picture of it.  No matter how good or bad you feel you’ve done, your family will appreciate your effort and you can take pride in creating something that will (literally) cover them with love for generations!

Basic Supply List:

  • sewing machine with basic settings (You don’t need a Bernina unless you want one!)
  • quilting needles (betweens)
  • thimbles
  • needle threader
  • seam ripper
  • fabric scissors
  • self healing cutting mat
  • rotary cutter
  • Omnigrid clear rulers
  • blue or purple marking pen
  • fabric
  • batting
  • quilting thread
  • general purpose thread
  • iron
  • spray starch

There’s a vast resource of information on quilting.  If you have a quilting store near you, the ladies are always eager to share their wealth of knowledge and love of sewing with anyone who asks.  Trust me.  There CANNOT be enough quilters in the world!

Online Resources:

“How to Make a Quilt”   This link provides a good general overview with other links to expand your information and knowledge.

Missouri Quilt Co. Video: “Tube Tutorial ~ How to Quilt”   This video does a good job of demonstrating some of the fundamentals of cutting, sewing, and piecing.  It’s a good place to start.


There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2012 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(9) Readers Comments

  1. For anyone who wants to do something a bit decorative with quilting check out They have a free block of the month tutorial. Oct 1 they will post the final 2 blocks. It’s really pretty. You can make it in any style you choose. Most people posting photos have gone for a scrappy look.

  2. Quilters are the original recyclers. We not only recycle jeans, but as you alluded to aprons, tablecloths and the like. When some peice of fabric clothing or utility cloth wears out, the whole thing is usually not. Quilters cut out what’s good and resuse it.

    Normally we do not only quilt. Many of use use salvage edges, jean seams, etc, rolled into balls to make rag rugs. We save buttons, zippers and other fasterners for reuse; old quitls can even become “batting” for new ones. Scraps of fabric that are too small to sew, can become stuffing for many items from dog beds to household decorations (I don’t use for childrens toys)

    I tell everyone, try it –you find some form you like. My personal preferenece is to hand quilt most quilts, prayer shawls and wall hangings. But, sny way you quilt is good. :-)

  3. Wow that is great to know you can make a quilt by hand. I don’t own a sewing machine but always wanted to try it. I used to work with a lady who was a fabulous quilter but she told me the only way to do it is with a sewing machine. She had one of those fancy quilting sewing machines that cost a fortune. I am encouraged by your article to give it a try. Thank you!

    • Apartment Prepper,
      The pillows featured on the blue bench were done 100% by hand. The quilt on the chair was pieced (top layer) on a simple Singer sewing machine that I picked up at Walmart, for about $100, several years ago. The rest of the quilt was done by hand.

      I encourage you to jump in. Start with a simple project, like the pillows or a wall hanging. :)

  4. I have been sewing and quilting for years. It’s a great hobby (keeps me from sitting in front of the tv and eating) and sewing will be a necessary and useful skill if things go south. ( you can not only barter things you make but offer mending services) I have a few flea markets that I go to throughout the year and of corse a yard sale here and there. I make shopping bags, blankets, dog coats and dog beds….. All from scraps and material found at yard sales. (so very little investment). IMHO a sewing machine is a wonderful investment. A hand stitch sewing kit is a must but a maching can be used even without electricity when you want a tighter, more even stitch. You just have to sit and turn the wheel by hand. Time consuming but effective

  5. This article is excellent! I felt as if we were sitting together having coffee and you were talking with me about quilting – friendly, informative and easy to understand. Made me want to go out and get supplies and get started!
    I must say this is one of the “prettiest” skill of the month articles! The pictures are so nice. I have a feeling rwm has a lot of other projects she could show. Apartment Prepper, I have kept up with your site for over a year now, love it! I would encourage you to get into the hand quilting – you will find it so enjoyable and useful :)

    This article is excellent! I felt as if we were sitting together having coffee and you were talking with me about quilting – friendly, informative and easy to understand. Made me want to go out and get supplies and get started!

  6. I love sewing! This article really makes quilting sound as fun and easy as it should be. It’s a great skill all girl’s should learn. I’ll be teaching my 4th grader how to quilt this school year. Do I put that as a credit for art or math? :) I’m starting a baby quilt for my new nephew. I also have on my list to tackle sewing clothes from a pattern. Do you have any good tips on reading patterns because it’s Greek to me!?!

  7. I love quilting, but haven’t done it in a long time. I think it’s time I pick it up again and refresh my skills.

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