50 Best Readers' Tips

This wonderful collection of quiltmaking tips comes from you, our readers! A while ago, on our McCall's Quilting and Quick Quilts web sites, we asked you to share with us your best quiltmaking tips. We heard back from many of you, offering advice on fabric choice, design, cutting, piecing, and much more. Certain themes arose over and over in your tips, and there was an overwhelming emphasis on the importance of accuracy—when cutting, piecing, and pressing. Many thanks to all of you who contributed. We are pleased to be able to share with you a comprehensive list of the tips you submitted.

Download the Tips...

Check out our downloadable version.  (Problems downloading our .pdf? Click here for troubleshooting tips.)



1. Don't be afraid to use color in your quilts.
2. Pick a print that grabs your attention. Coordinate colors around that print.
3. Always pick a fabric that is a little different from the others to add interest.
4. Choose fabrics from the same collection. They usually blend well and have a variety of lights, mediums, and darks, as well as different scales.
5. Purchase extra fabric (1/4 yd. or more). You might make a mistake or need an extra strip or two. Plans for quilts change!
6. When shopping for fabrics, take the pattern. Also, tack fabric samples to a 3" x 6" index card so you can find just the right fabric by comparing it to what you already have.
7. Wash and press fabric before cutting.
8. When prewashing fabrics, clip the corner of each piece to prevent a big, tangled, spider web mess when the machine stops!
9. To straighten fabric after washing, in preparation for cutting, fold across the bias and pull. Get a friend to help. Pull at the fold and every few inches out to the points.



10. Get the right tools
11. Use high-quality, 100% cotton fabrics.



12. Press as you go.
13. Be sure to cut accurate templates.
14. Cut accurately when using the rotary cutter.
15. Do whatever is necessary to achieve accurate 1/4" seams. You'll have fewer headaches!
16. Learn to sew accurate strip sets.
17. Be sure to square up each block before stitching them together. Square up your quilt top before adding borders.
18. "From my dad, a master cabinetmaker, MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE."


19. Use a flannel board or design wall and place fabrics/blocks on it while piecing.
20. Stick a small stack of Post-It Notes beside the presser foot as a 1/4" seam allowance guide.
21. On your sewing machine table, draw two lines, one for the stitching line and the second, 1/4" to the right. These will help with machine piecing accuracy.
22. Use a scrap of fabric for a starter when chain piecing.
23. Speed up your piecing by chain stitching.
24. Always have your seam ripper nearby.



25. Choose patterns with clear instructions and useful diagrams.
26. Read through the pattern before you start cutting.
27. Make a practice block.
28. Learn proper pressing techniques!
29. Use diagonal seams when piecing binding to cut down on bulk.
30. Learn how to properly turn corners when stitching binding to your quilt.
31. Learn the difference between half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles. Then learn the calculations for adding seam allowances (finished dimension + 7/8" for half-square triangles and +1 1/4" for quarter-square triangles).
32. Sew the hanging sleeve onto your quilt while attaching the binding.



33. Don't feel guilty about starting a new project even though you already have lots in the works.
34. It is OK to have a mistake in your quilt. No quilt is perfect.
35. When learning to hand quilt, focus on making even stitches, not on stitch length. Long stitches look just as good as short ones, provided that they are the same size.
36. Quilt with your friends.
37. Practice. Have patience with yourself.



38. Be open to trying new methods.
39. Take classes at your local quilt shop.
40. Buy a rotary cutter. They have revolutionized quiltmaking.
41. Follow the step by step rotary cutting instructions provided on the McCall's Quilting web site.
42. Learn to use a grid for making half-square triangles.
43. Make flying geese with rectangles and squares, using the corner sew and flip method.
44. Use safety pins to baste your quilts, and close them with the aid of a grapefruit spoon.
45. Learn to make bias binding (see Continuous Bias for a quick lesson).
46. Binding can be done with straight-of-grain strips.
47. Visit your local quilt shop to find out about quilting motifs.
48. Make use of all the quilting links on the Internet! A great place to start is www.mccallsquilting.com, just click on Lessons!
49. Listen to advice from experienced quilters, then listen to your inner self. Don't be afraid to try something different.


50. Remember that each quilt is different, each quilter is different, and all have value.
Post a comment
To comment on this article you must be logged in. Not a member?


Response to jeragan
First join four pairs of two points, then join into two sets of four points, then join into one complete star.
8-point star
what is the best way to join an 8-point star?
Work space organization
Use a clear plastic cookbook holder to keep your quilting instructions in view by your sewing machine for easy reference. It helps to be able to see quickly what the next step is without having to look for the book or instruction sheet.
Work space and organization
When teaching my grand children to use the sewing machine I used a piece of moleskin (with adhesive back) cut 3"X 3/4". Place in Straight line 1/4 inch from needle. Place far end at end of foot extending toward sewer. This will not move, lasts for many years and they can easily run the fabric along the edge and always have a perfect 1/4" seam. Moleskin can be purchased at your nearest drug store and for very little cost.
1/4' Seams
I use a paper piece pattern to set my quarter in measurment. It has worked really well and really easy. I can change machines and always have the same 1/4" seam allowance.
I found that putting down a stick-on tape measure on my sewing table, right in front of my sewing machine has been extremely helpful..
beginner quilter
I appreciate so much the info.that you all share, I have taught myself what I know about quilting, Ihave sewed since I was about nine years old, but was never intestered in quilting until I went a quilt show and I was bitten, the real quilters are great people
A lot of the tips I knew but some were brand new to me. Thanks for keeping us on the bias.
50 Best Tips
I loved reading these tips. They were a great encouragement to one who has just started on her third full size quilt. It is especially great to hear that every quilter is different and it is ok to make mistakes. I learned with the quilt I just finished that a mistake can become a "planned adjustment" to the original pattern. Also, practice may not make perfect but it certainly does make better and better.


Forgot password?
© F+W All rights reserved.