A Beginner’s Guide to Quilting

Kimberlee Tanner

Learn to Quilt

This month we are mixing things up a little and doing a short series for the absolute beginner. For this video, we are using our free quilt pattern, Floppy, which can be found in our Subscriber Library. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, you can sign up for immediate access. The first tutorial will teach you how to quilt and is geared towards those that would like to learn, but have never actually quilted before. It’s the perfect video to share with your friends that don’t quilt yet, but want to know how! Next week, we will go over very basic free motion quilting and share a quilting motif that anyone can do. Finally, the third week will teach you how to bind a quilt by machine so that you can have a completed project that you can actually use. Feel free to jump in on any of the weeks that have something you want to learn, or just head over to our Subscriber Library and get your free quilt pattern. For the experienced quilter, Floppy can easily be made in a weekend and is a fun throwback to our younger years.


To jump around in the video you can find the topics at the following times:

Supplies – 0:51

Cutting Fabric – 5:16

Making the Blocks – 19:15

Applique – 34:30

Sewing the Blocks together – 50:20

Adding the Border – 1:00:40




In our opinion, the absolute basic supplies you need to make your first quilt are a cutting mat, a cutting ruler, and a rotary cutter. You can quilt without these, but they will make it so much easier. All can be purchased at any quilt store or big box craft store. We recommend a cutting mat around 18×24″ and a ruler around 6×24″. There are lots of other options, but these are a good starter set. You can always add more later as you decide what types of quilts you like to make. You will also need a sewing machine and thread.

For fabric, you will find the fabric requirements in the pattern. For this quilt, we recommend bright fun colors for the floppy disks. They are big blocks, so you can get away with bigger prints if you want. The pattern calls for 6 different fabrics. To make it easy, you can think in terms of a crayon box or rainbow when picking out fabrics, getting one of almost each color. If you are using scraps or 12 different prints, you will need a minimum 9 1/2″ width, so just over 1/4 yard of each print. A fat quarter would work really well to do each floppy a different fabric. To keep things simple, we recommend avoiding directional prints for your first quilt (prints that obviously go in one direction). If you find one you have to have, just pay special attention in the cutting instructions on how to deal with directional prints.

Cutting the Fabric

When cutting the fabric, take your time. Precision here will set you up on the right foot for the rest of the quilt. Pay close attention to your markings and try to keep things as square as possible. We always cut from the biggest piece to the smallest. Cut a strip the full width of the fabric (selvage to selvage) the width that you need, then cut it down into the smaller pieces. For example, the first cut of dark gray fabric is 12 pieces at 4 x 4 1/2″. Cut the strip of fabric 4″, then cut off as many 4 1/2″ pieces as you need. If you run out, cut a second strip. When you finish cutting all the 4″ wide pieces, you can then trim that strip down to the next measurement and keep cutting from it, cutting more strips the width of fabric (WOF) as needed. By starting with the largest pieces first, it will ensure you have enough fabric for all the cuts.

Making the Quilt Blocks

When making the quilt blocks, the important thing to remember is your 1/4″ seam allowance. Paying close attention and being as accurate as possible here will make things better later on. If you aren’t positive that your 1/4″ seam is accurate, sew a test seam, measure, and adjust your needle position as needed. Use pins to keep the pieces even and lined up. If you have a walking foot, we highly recommend them for piecing quilts (plus you can check out our Walking Foot Quilting video for fun ways to finish your quilt using it).

When pressing your seams, make sure not to push and stretch the seams with the iron. Place the iron on top and hold it in place, then pick it up and move it as needed. A little starch can also be used to keep things nice and square if you want.


This quilt does have a small amount of very basic applique. We go over a few different stitch options and show you how to complete it using raw edge applique. You can use needle turned applique for this project, just make sure to add 1/4″ seam around the template first. For beginners, the raw edge is going to be the easiest and quickest way to complete the blocks. We use a blanket stitch and matching thread to finish off our pieces.

Sewing the Blocks Together

To lay out your quilt blocks, you can simply place them on the floor. I like to take a picture when I think I have the layout I want and look at it through my phone. Things tend to jump out more on my phone and I can see where I want to rearrange blocks to make it flow better overall. When you sew the blocks together, you will have your first seams that need to be lined up. Place a pin on either side of the seam to keep it in place. Also, take advantage of alternating the direction you iron the seams and nest them when putting the rows together.


When sewing the border strips together, first cut off the selvage and then use a 1/4″ seam, using a backstitch, to sew them all into one long strip. In the video I state that they will be 80-90″ long, that is two strips sewn together. You will need 7 strips total to go around all four sides.

The biggest thing to remember is that you want to measure the side of your quilt and cut your border length to match. This is the best habit to get into when attaching borders and will help ensure you are not adding in extra fabric (if you want to get really fancy right out of the gate, measure a few places across the width and length of the quilt and take the average, ensuring that both sides are cut to the same length, we’ll explain more about this in a future video).  If you simply sew the border on, then trim to size, you may end up with friendly borders that wave at you.

After you attach your borders, you are done! Pat yourself on the back, grab some chocolate and celebrate. Next week we’ll go over batting, backing, and how to quilt all those layers together.



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