I am not a follow-the-rules crafter.
I grew up dabbling in many different crafts and spent a little time after college working at a crafts store. Depending on what items were on sale (or what my discount could get me), I would bring home different crafts supplies every week. I made jewelry, knitted scarves, and even binged on cake decorating supplies. I loved experimenting. I loved seeing how a certain item would inspire an idea and eventually become something beautiful to show the world.
I was never a person to buy a book of patterns or read directions. I liked having a spark of an idea and working with the supplies to create the look I wanted on my own terms. I once scrapbooked a year of my life using burlap accents (not a common scrapbooking supply). I crocheted four 3D Star Wars figurines as a Christmas present without a pattern (or any idea how to crochet). And the amount of things I’ve used wallpaper for besides my walls is ridiculous.
When I interviewed for my job as web editor for the Meredith crafts group, my boss asked me if I knew how to sew. Now, sewing was never a craft I dabbled in. I’d done a little embroidery and hand-sewing, but I’d never touched a sewing machine. It worked out perfect! Since I didn’t know how to sew, I made the ideal candidate for helping them start the blog HowToSew.com. Through that project, I’ve not only touched a sewing machine and learned how to work it, but have successfully sewn quite a few projects for my home. But quilting was a different challenge.
Starting in January, our staff began our Passion 48 projects. (Read more about it here.) Every week, we spend an hour making a quilt for ourselves. For someone whose never quilted before, this was an overwhelming project! I chose my project–a small Dresden Plate wall hanging. After a week of working on it, I decided I couldn’t follow the pattern. I started making a bunch of Dresden Plates in different sizes for what was now a throw. I added hand embroidered accents and am now making a scrappy pieced binding. It looks nothing like the original project (you can see the difference below). But it is something that I’m proud of and that fits my personal style.
While making this first quilt, though, I had a million questions. Not surprising for most of you, I’m sure, quilting is not a craft you can start on without knowing the basics. Knowing how to sew was not enough. Quilting has a language of its own and can involve some pretty complicated techniques. I luckily work with an amazing group of quilters who love to share their quilting knowledge, and they were so helpful answering my questions and showing me how to do things. But my questions did get annoying, I’m sure. I asked them to suggest a great book I could bring home to read to help me learn.
In an act of serendipity, we’d just published the Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Quilting: Second Edition. You can buy your own copy here. It’s like learning from a friend. It’s published by my creative and knowledgeable coworkers with the same language and style of the magazines that I work with on a daily basis–it was such a perfect way for me to learn! Plus, the book is filled with beautiful photography and really detailed step-by-step photos, so I can easily see the techniques (great for someone like me who doesn’t necessarily like to read instructions all the time). It even has great diagrams, like the machine quilting diagrams below. I’ll be referencing these soon!
The book is divided into 16 chapters with everything from basic tools to cutting to binding and finishing. It breaks up each step in the quilting process for an easy reference guide. I started going through the book page by page since I had questions about each part of quilting, but the chapters and the index at the end of the book make it easy for me to look up a specific technique quick, so I can get back to sewing. It has loop book binding, so your pages lay flat without flipping, which is nice when I need to set it down next to my cutting board or sewing machine. It even has blank pages at the end of each chapter for me to take my own notes.
One of my favorite features of this book are the handy measurement, yardage, and size charts. I don’t like math very much, so it’s great to have a chart I can scan quick or bring with me to the quilt shop. They have charts for everything you can imagine. I can tell you how many 4″ half-square triangles I can get from 3/4 yard of fabric in two seconds. Or how big my twin bed quilt needs to be to have a 10″ drop and a 10″ tuck. They even have a calculator for determining the yardage you need for a mitered border–no matter what size your quilt is!
This is absolutely my to-go guide for quilting. It’s a book that will live on my shelf my whole life (unless they come out with a Third Edition!). It not only taught me the basics, but I know it will be something that I can keep coming back to learn new techniques for an upcoming project or even to brush up on my basics.
Visit the Moda Fabrics blog to see what other designers are reading right now and what book inspired them to start quilting! Plus, Moda Fabrics is giving away 6 great new books–enter to win on their blog!
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