5 Lessons Learned from My First Quilting Projects

Quilting lessons learned from my first couple quilt projects.


A little more than a month ago, I wrote a post about a new endeavor: beginning my first “real” quilting project. As I noted in that post, quilting has always intimidated me, but I still felt drawn to giving it a real try. We had just started the process of a bathroom remodel and I was feeling antsy. Distracted and slightly stressed out by the fact that people were showing up at my house by 7 a.m. every day, I needed something to keep my hands and mind busy. (Something besides housework, because that doesn’t sound like any fun at all.)

So I dove in and am happy to report that in the last month, I completed that first project, worked on some practice pieces, and completed the top of another simple project. In addition, I have a list of quilting projects I’d like to try. Am I addicted? I don’t know if I’d say that just yet. But I am enjoying the process and want to get better at it. We’ll just take it one step at a time.

Here is the completed first project, which was advertised as a wall-hanging, but will probably be used in this house as a table-topper or cat-mat.

Blue and Brown Quilted Table-Topper

My quilting is far from perfect, with many wavy lines that were supposed to be straight lines. And I messed up the binding more than once. But I learned so much from this project — lessons that have helped me already as I continue down the quilting path.

Next, I whipped up the tops for some little “mug rugs.” My goal here was purely to practice cutting and piecing. I still need to back them and quilt them.

Mug-Rugs. Small Quilting projects.

My next project was a Zig Zag Table Runner using 42 5” squares. I used this tutorial from Missouri Star Quilt Co. It’s super easy, but again, I needed to practice piecing. Sometimes it seems that no matter how much pinning I do, or how slowly I go, I still don’t get my squares lined up right. But I’m trying to be okay with that.

Zig Zag table topper made with 5" squares

My next project is a fun one that will give me plenty of practice in piecing squares together, but I’ll blog about that another day.

For now, here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from my first few quilting projects. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m excited about the progress I’ve made so far.

1. Starting small makes sense.

I knew I needed to start with small projects — table toppers, mug rugs, etc. The thought of jumping in to a full-size bed quilt was enough to send me running for another crafty endeavor altogether.

Small projects felt doable and less overwhelming, and also gave me some early encouragement as I saw the projects work up quickly. They are also easier to quilt and work with on my small sewing machine.

2. Precision is important, but consistency is more important.

If you’ve done any quilting, you know that the craft standard is to put your pieces together using a 1/4” seam. Patterns are based on that foundation, and it truly is important if you want your final result to be the expected size and shape. But in my first project, I learned that consistency is even more important than being precise about a 1/4” seam.

Part-way through piecing my rows, I changed my method of arriving at that 1/4” seam, and it ended up creating quite a few issues. My first three rows turned out to be one length, and the rest were a different length. Hm… Guess my two different methods were resulting in two different seam allowances. Yes, they were close, but the difference still affected my ability to line up the rows as I put them together, and also affected the final shape of the piece. Let’s just say that my table-topper is a bit more of a trapezoid than a rectangle. 😉

From now on, I’ll stick to one method for achieving that 1/4” seam!

3. The right tools go a long way.

In my short time quilting, I’ve learned that certain tools make the entire process so much easier.

My 1/4” presser foot helps keeps my seams consistent. I love Creative Grids rulers because they have little non-slip bits on the back, which helps me make more accurate cuts. Wonder Clips were perfect for keeping my binding in place as I did the final hand-stitching. And a magnetic pin catcher saves me from worrying about whether my cats (who are not always smart) would try to eat a dropped pin.

4. Perfectionism can paralyze you.

I might be a little uptight about some things. And that uptight-ness carried right over into my quilting attempts. Mismatched seams, in particular, drive me crazy. I know I need to keep practicing, and not worry so much about whether everything is “just right,” but there’s a little part of me that wants to rip things out and start over every time I see a corner that is off.

I quickly realized, however, that if I did that, I would never complete a quilt. And I would come to dislike quilting before very long.

So for now, I will keep practicing, and keep trying to get everything lined up correctly, but I will also keep telling myself to relax. “Done is better than perfect,” I will say. And I’ll take the advice of a friend: a quilt is good enough if it would look good while riding past it on a galloping horse.

5. Quilting has its own language, and it’s one I’m still learning.

Bias binding? UFOs? Chain piecing? Fat Eighth? Fussy Cut?

All bits of “quilter’s lingo” that I’ve learned in the past month. I’m sure as I continue this journey that I’ll come across many more terms and concepts to learn! But that’s all part of the fun.


Stay tuned for future updates on my quilting adventures. Next up is a quilt for L., specially designed around one of his favorite things!

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