The Super Basic Fundamental Rules of Quilting

Read the Directions!

This doesn’t need explaining. Just do it!

Work with Clean Flat Fabric

Prewash to remove any sizing or factory stain retardant. Iron your fabrics flat before measuring and cutting.

Cut VERY Accurately

Invest in a clear plastic ruler, a cutting mat and a rotary cutter. It is SO worth it. The one pictured here is a basic, multi-purpose ruler. Be sure you get one that has a 45 degree angle measured off.

Measure what you’ll be cutting, mark it, then measure again BEFORE cutting to make sure you’ve measured accurately. Make sure you line your fabric up accurately under the ruler. Check that the top and bottom are square as well as that the line you’ll be cutting is straight. The combination of top and side being lined up is what keeps a cut square.

If you can’t invest in a clear plastic ruler, measure with a regular ruler and a corner square. Keeping small pieces square before sewing is vital to creating most quilt blocks.

Keep one hand pressed down on the ruler while you cut.

Stand up to cut with a rotary cutter. You get to put more of your weight behind the cut and your fabrics won’t slip as easily as if you were sitting.

Sew Accurately

Almost everything in quilting requires a ¼” seam. There are many ways to achieve this consistently, but two methods are very easy and practical. First, get a ¼” foot for your sewing machine. This foot extends exactly ¼” beyond the needle on each side so you can simply line up the edge of the foot with the edge of your fabric and sew. Quarter inch feet are available from most sewing machine supply stores, and many fabric stores. Second, mark a solid line on a piece of typing paper with your ruler.

Then measure CAREFULLY ¼” away from that line and draw another line.

Verify that what you have is 1/4″ beyond the line you drew.

Cut carefully along that second line and put the paper under your machine as if to sew.

Hand crank your needle down into the paper exactly in that line.

Notice where the edge of the paper falls on your machine and mark that line.

Now you have an exact ¼” marking ON YOUR MACHINE. You can’t miss with the combination of these two techniques.

Check your work

Especially when you are a beginning quilter, you’ll need to verify that you’re sewing 1/4” seams. Just slip whatever you’ve sewn under the ruler and check it out.

Do this frequently until you start to feel more confident in yourself. It won’t take long to develop this talent. It is just about as hard as it was to learn to stay in your own lane while driving. Just remember to check!

Press Everything

Each seam you make should be pressed to one side – preferably towards the darker fabric although this is not always practical. Any time you will be sewing together items that already have seams in them, be doubly sure that you’ve pressed the seams before sewing again.


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