What I wished I’d known as a beginner quilter


For my 100th post, I thought I’d tell you what I would have loved to have known about quilting when looking for a hobby 23 years ago, but first I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has read my blog posts, (I hope you’ve learnt a thing or two or been inspired in some way) and to those who have bought my books (that in a million years I’d never thought I’d write).

Without further ado, here it is…

  • It will get you through everything from tragedy to triumph and build your self confidence in so many ways.
  • Quilters are very special people – many are perfectionists at heart but develop free spirits and a willingness to get out of their comfort zones, and are good at problem solving and adapting.
  • It’s all about experimenting and allowing yourself to be okay with making a mistakes. Mistakes can turn out much better than the original plan. You don’t have to know what it’s going to look like when you finish.  It’s about having faith in yourself that you can do it.  Learning to be adaptable and giving something a go without the expectation of perfection on the first go is a much better frame of mind to be in.  This might be the single biggest lesson I’ve learnt.

Never, ever judge yourself by your first efforts. Look at the quilt objectively, embrace the successes and learn from the whoopsies.


  • Machine quilting will teach you that persistence and patience will get you as close to perfection as you want to be. It can be done, you’ve just got to do it. It’s so much darn fun!!!
  • Anything you can draw, you can piece, appliqué, hand or machine quilt.
  • You don’t have to be an artist to make art/contemporary quilts. If someone has told you that you can’t draw or sew, prove them wrong. (This is something I learnt from my students who were told such things.)
  • There are at least six ways to do anything so try them all and see which one works the best for you. Don’t let the quilt police decide how you do things.
  • I need to work on one project at a time. This keeps me motivated to finish it and start the next project.  I don’t finish quilts if I have a couple on the go. This is works for me. There are many quilters out there who can work on multiple quilts at once, I am jealous admire that it works for them!
  • Have a vision and see it through. You’ll learn something even if it’s that the technique is not for you at this time.
  • Make a list of everything you want the quilt to teach you, colour schemes, time of day/year (if it’s a landscape), what style, techniques to use, etc.  You’ll find you’ll use the quilt as more of a teaching yourself something exercise (even though it might be a major project) but that list will keep you calmer and get you through the problem solving times. You don’t need to know everything about the quilt before it happens, you can still be a free spirit and improvise the whole thing, it just gives you a framework or vision of what’s in your mind for the project.  It’s also subject to change at any point.  Look at making the next project impossible for your perceived skill level and after completing the quilt, look over the list and you’ll probably see you’ve accomplished a lot, if not all (and more) than you set out to achieve.  It sets a goal and gives a great sense of accomplishment.


I had the photo…but could I make a quilt of it?
There was only one way to find out.
You can do it too!

  • When you give a quilt away, you need to distance yourself from it. Not everyone’s a quilter and even if you love the person dearly, they may ruin the quilt, use it as a picnic blanket, let the dog lay on it, or the cat pee on it. You know how much hard work you’ve put into it.  If you don’t think you can let the quilt go emotionally, it may be better to teach the person how to make one instead of doing all the hard work for them.  Then they’ll look after it well.  If they really want one, they’ll put in the effort to make it.  I’ve found it funny when people have asked me if I’d make one for them, say I was too busy to do it but I would teach them instead – suddenly they didn’t want the quilt so bad. You don’t have to be the person that gives all their quilts away to feel like you’re a generous person.  You spend the money, time and effort to create something beautiful.  If you want to quilt for the love of giving a special gift, that’s wonderful and right for you.  I used to get asked how many quilts I’d made and by the time I’d made 22, I’d given half away.  I realised that I’d got into quilting for me, and that if anyone else wanted a quilt, I’d teach them to make one themselves.
  • Find your own voice. This phrase has been around in the quilting world for a while now. We may be jealous of someone else’s talent—we think it came naturally to them and you can pick out their quilt or someone’s interpretation of their style immediately.  You are allowed to have several different voices or styles.  Don’t box yourself in.  We all start in roughly the same place.  I was incredibly naive about quilting when I started. I had only seen two simple quilts back in the 80s, and one of those was from a distance.  I had no idea that you could make a bedspread and choose the colours.  I didn’t even know that they didn’t have a doona (duvet) inside.


  • Designing your own quilts is easier than following someone else’s pattern.  Landscapes don’t need that much perfection – just remember to keep the horizon level unless you’ve got a stormy sea and the boat isn’t level.  If there’s a little more grass than rock on the ground, who’s going to care?
  • Although curves need attention when sewing, they are very forgiving and flow wonderfully.
  • Being brave enough to share your quilting and insights with others will greatly benefit your life and others.  Showing your work will get you out of your comfort zone but others will inspired by it.  Teaching someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another person.

That’s about it. Enjoy the journey!

Happy quilting,



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