When you’re a new quilter, you can easily get frustrated and discourage yourself by biting off more than you can chew. It can be overwhelming to start out with a quilt that’s very large, for instance, or one that requires you to cut and sew a thousand tiny pieces, or master complicated blocks or advanced machine quilting techniques.
I made exactly this mistake with my very first quilt. I decided to make a twin bed-sized quilt, because I didn’t know there were any other kinds of quilts besides bed quilts, and because I didn’t know that a large quilt is much harder to handle than a small one — more time-consuming to cut and piece, and much harder to baste and machine quilt because of its size.
I wrestled with that quilt over a period of months before I finally got it finished. Don’t get me wrong — it was definitely a thrill to complete my first quilt! But I could have experienced the same thrill a lot sooner and with a lot less anguish if I had just chosen to start out with a smaller and simpler project.
Avoid my mistake by starting small
Instead of jumping into the deep end and struggling to finish a large or challenging quilt, we recommend starting small. A small quilt lets you try out new techniques and practice your quilting skills without taking big risks. If you make a mistake, no big deal! You can fix most mistakes easily, or if you do something really wrong, just throw it away and start over.
What kind of quilts do we recommend for beginners? There are lots of fun little quilts you can make in a day or less. There’s a mug rug, which is a little quilt used as a coaster:
Mug rug. Photo by agistadler, Flickr.
Or a fabric postcard, which is a little quilt you can send through the mail:
Fabric postcard. Photo by Sonja Threadgill Nelson, Flickr.
There’s a table runner, which is a slightly bigger quilt designed to decorate your kitchen or dining room table. This one takes less than a day, and less than an afternoon if you’re dedicated:
A lot of new quilters have fun making simple quilted pillows. This one is a variation on the classic Courthouse Steps log cabin block:
Quilted pillow. Photo by MissMessie, Flickr.
Because these quilts are small and easy, you can try them all without a tremendous investment in time and materials. My favorite of all these types is the fabric postcard. People love to get postcards in the mail, and a handmade postcard is even more exciting. (Top-secret hint: your postcard doesn’t even have to look all that good to make the lucky recipient happy! No one will notice any flaws except you.)