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What You Need to Start Quilting

Oct 13, 2007
Quilting is done by hand, sewing machine, or Longarm quilting system, and refers to the process of attaching various fabric materials and layers to make a large flat quilt. Each technique makes use of a needle and thread to merge at least two layers of material to create the final product. The most common quilting is done from three distinct layers: quilt top, insulation, and backing.

The actual act of quilting occurs as the quilter or the sewing machine passes the needle and thread through the layers and then brings the needle back through to secure the layers.

Quilting is done back and forth like that all across the quilt to secure all of the pieces. In most cases, quilters use a running stitch which adds a decorative look to the quilt. Quilts are most often showcased on beds, as wall decor, as clothing and attire, and within several different textile products.

What Do I Need to Know About Quilting?

Standard quilting generally follows four steps -- piecing, layering, quilting, and binding. Piecing occurs when the quilt top is sewn. The quilt top features small strips or squares of fabric set in a pattern. This is commonly the colorful and creative part of the quilt.

The assembled pieces are called blocks, and they are the components that are sewn together to create the full quilt top. They are put together in one of two ways -- either each pieces is laid together with their edges touching, or sashing (small strips of fabric) is sewn along the edges of each. In some instances, one full piece of cloth is used for the quilt top instead of pieced together blocks.

Quilting occurs when the three layers (top, insulation, and backing) are sewn together. The quilting employs stitching in a decorative pattern that often follows or complements the design of the quilt top. Sometimes the top is not pieced but is a single piece, and only the stitching forms the pattern. Binding is the final step to finishing the quilt by adding the edges with a piece of trim fabric.

What Do I Need to Start Quilting?

If you will be quilting by hand, the basic equipment you will need include a thimble to protect your fingers from the needles, needle & thread to complete the quilting process, and a frame or hoop to hold the quilt fabric taut as you work. Should you decide to use a machine to quilt your craft, basic supplies include safety pins, thread, a walking foot, and a darning foot.

Of course, you'll also need the fabrics, insulation, and backing materials from which you will create the quilt.

Where Did the Art of Quilting Originate?

In its earliest days, quilting was done for necessary purposes rather than for decoration. Some scholars believe that quilts were first created to provide additional protection under armor for soldiers in combat. These quilts were also used for warmth during cold winters and cooler weather.

The ancient Egyptians are believed to have quilted clothing for warmth and protection -- this belief is based upon the sculptures that have been discovered with ancient figures dressed in quilted clothing. By the time of the American colonial period, upper class women engaged in quilting as a showing of their class status.

Are There Different Kinds of Quilting?

Although there are many variations to the art of quilting, the two most common types are quilting done by hand and quilting done by machine. When a quilt is created by machine, the person operating the machine runs the material through in the stitch pattern desired while the elements of the machine handle the actual process of the needle and thread.

When hand quilting is done, the frame is usually used to hold the material solid and tight for the quilter. He or she will then manually pull the needle and thread through the material to create the stitch pattern.

What Fabric Do I Use for Quilting?

Quilts are so popular partly due to the fact that there are a number of fabric designs, colors, and materials available for creating custom, colorful quilts. Many of these quilts are so unique and personalized that they quickly become family heirlooms.

To make a quilt, you must first decide on the design and print of the main part of the quilt. Major hobby and craft stores will carry a wide variety of these fabrics, which can be purchased by the yard. In addition to the fabric, you will also need to select insulation, backing, and sashing, which is optional and depends on your preference.
About the Author
Steve Dolan is an artist who loves arts and crafts and has been quilting for years. See his favorite quilt patterns at Quilts and Quilt Patterns, and be sure to visit Quilts and Quilting for more quilting fun!
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