Saturday, February 11, 2012

10 Tools that Changed my Quilting Life

How do you go about advancing from a beginner quilter to an intermediate quilter? Here are the 10 tools that helped me "move on up the ladder."

1.  If you have 4 feet of wall space, install a design wall. My first design wall was nothing more than a 2 yard piece of white flannel and a handful of pushpins. Pin your fabric on the wall..go at least 6 feet up from the floor, 7 is even better. When you start sewing blocks, get them on the design wall. It's amazing how that change of perspective helps the process.

2.   When I purchased a raised height cutting table, I could now cut all day without a backache. It's way past time to graduate from cutting on the kitchen or dining room table!

3.  A digital camera is great for snapping photos of potential color schemes, your favorite quilts in a quilt show, and photos of guild show and tell that particularly speak to you. You'll become aware of the styles you like best.

4.  One of the best gifts I ever got was Electric Quilt (, a computer software design program to help me design my own quilts, help figure out yardage, play with color, and create handouts for my classes. I LOVE it! It's sooo fun!

5.  Rotary cutters and the latest cool rulers. I'm old enough to confess my first quilt was a rail fence quilt marked with a yardstick and pencil---and cut out with scissors! And I marked and cut out the whole thing while sitting on the family room floor!

6.  Taking classes from national teachers...some of my favorites were Marsha McCloskey, Carol Doak, Nancy Johnson Srebo and Jinny Beyer. Even if you don't particularly like their style, take a class from them when they visit your area, you will always learn something worthwhile from them.

7.  Join a group that meets regularly at your local quilt shop. Shops that offer "block of the month" programs, or groups like Thimbleberries or Jo Morton clubs encourage show and tell each month...which helps motivate you to get the month's "homework" done so you can show it off. Plus, you will learn a lot from your fellow club members each month.

8.  Learn all you can about color by taking a class on color, or work through a book on color intended for quilters. Bookmark these color blogs and visit often: and Design Seeds even has color "books" that you can download to your iPhone or iPad. Check out the books titled "crafted color" for yummy color palletes based on craft items, "creature color" features palletes built from photos of dogs, cats, birds, fish, etc. and floral color, featuring nature-inspired color schemes. Yummy, yummy, yummy!

9.  Keep a quilters journal documenting each quilt you make. Begin writing when you first start each project; include the pattern source, fabric swatches, where you bought the fabric and how much you paid for it. If you made it for a gift, tell the story (wedding, new baby, graduation, etc.) Draw a quilt block and color it in and include a photo or two. This journal will become a priceless record for you to look back over and enjoy.

10.   Teach a class! All it takes to become a teacher is to learn something well...and pass it on to someone else. Teaching really causes you to grow!

I hope you enjoy the whole quilting process as much as I do!


  1. I have many books that are strictly for shop hops that I go on - either alone or with a small group of friends. Pictures, snips of fabric, and of course the owners and/or workers of the shops sign my book. I am on my 5th book now with one book strictly from a Alaskan Cruise and a bus tour back to Vermont and New Hampshire. I embroidery a cute design on each slip cover I make so I can know the years. They are fun to go back and look at and reread from time to time.

  2. What a great post. Although I agree with all the ideas I must say they aren't all "tools." But great ideas none-the-less. And, I love your template for your blog. I am fixin' to change mine but I'm doing research on what I want to use instead of my (Yawn) boring blog template. One of these days soon I will be taking the plunge into something NEW.

  3. Excellent list.....I agree with them ALL!!!

  4. I am so excited you have created this blog. I have learned so much from you. Thanks for the 10 tools list. Looking forward to more of your posts.

  5. Maybe I should have put "tools" in quotes, because I didn't mean it literally...I would love to see your books, Gail, what a wonderfully creative idea! And Bonnie, if you visit you can download this template and many others for free! I am an absolute beginner and was able to follow her easy instructions. Thanks for sharing, girls!