8 Common Quilting Mistakes You Might Be Making
Quilts are a labor of love. I think we can all agree on that. And perfection is practically impossible to achieve... However, there are some common quilting mistakes that you can learn to avoid!
This post is all about pointing out the poorly executed techniques that may be making your quilts look more amateur than others. Whether you’re a beginner or a more seasoned quilter, I hope you learn something new and can improve your quilting skills.
1. Not Looking in the Right Place as You Sew
The first mistake you might be making is watching your needle instead of your guide as you sew. When you do this, it’s easy for your quilting lines to go off course. You should always form a plan before quilting and use a guide, whether that is a quilting bar on a walking foot or literal lines that you have drawn onto your quilt with a marking pen.
FYI: I recently wrote a post about straight-line quilting if you need some more tips on this quilting technique.
When free-motion quilting, you should look ahead of where you want to sew instead of at your needle. It’s kind of the same concept as driving—you need to imagine where you want to go to stay straight!
2. Not Squaring Up Your Blocks Before Assembling
Another mistake you might be making is assuming that your blocks all ended up the same size after piecing. Even experienced quilters who have mastered the scant ¼” seam sometimes see little variations in the size of their finished quilt blocks. To avoid this problem, you should always square up your blocks before assembling them in your quilt top.
Some quilt patterns will remind you to square up your blocks, but most of the time this is something you’ll have to remember to do on your own. It’s a tedious step, but if you skip it your quilt top might not lay flat or measure correctly in the end. A rotating cutting mat is helpful when you have a lot of blocks that need to be squared up.
3. Not Using Enough Pins in the Right Places
It’s so disappointing when your points get buried in a seam or float near adjacent points. This can happen when you make the mistake of not using enough pins. I love sewing clips, but when you’re going for perfect points in a quilt, sewing pins are better because they prevent any shifting from happening. In this blog about pinning you’ll learn more about how to use pins correctly.
To keep intersections in your quilts lined up perfectly, place a pin on both sides of the point. Then, don’t remove the pin until right before your needle would hit it. This ensures that your points and intersections will look perfect.
Basting your quilt layers with pins is also important. It helps you avoid puckered areas and accidental pleats when quilting. If you’re having any problems, baste more densely with curved pins and add in basting spray.
4. Not Measuring Before Sewing Sashing or Borders
When you need to add sashing or borders to a quilt, it’s tempting to just cut a long strip of fabric and start sewing it on with the plan of cutting it off at the right length once it is attached. This is a mistake that can lead to wavy borders because of excess fabric. The more accurate way to add borders to a quilt is to measure the side where you want to add the border and cut your fabric first. That way you can line up the ends and pin everything so that it is perfectly flat.
You should also cut your strips and borders on the straight grain, when possible, to reduce the small amount of stretching that can occur when they are cut on the cross grain.
5. Not Taking the Time to Press Your Blocks
There are tons of steps when you’re making a quilt... It’s easy to want to rush through some of the more tedious tasks, like pressing, and just keep sewing. However, it’s a mistake to only finger press your seams. They need to be pressed with an iron to be the most crisp and accurate. Spray starch can also help you get flatter seams that stay in place.
Along these same lines, it’s important to “press” your blocks; not “iron” them. Pressing is when you use your iron with up and down motions. You shouldn’t slide it from side to side on your quilting fabric because it can stretch out your pieces and lead to inaccurate piecing.
Read more about proper pressing and pressing principles in this blog that Carole wrote in 2022.
6. Not Buying Enough Fabric
One of the easiest mistakes to make as a beginner is not buying enough fabric for your quilt. You might think you can run back to the fabric store and buy more if you run out, but that’s a bad idea because the color on one bolt might be slightly different than the color on the next. Plus, you can never guarantee that you’ll be able to find the exact same fabric. To avoid this problem, it’s better to buy the right amount in the first place.
If you’re using a quilt pattern, it generally tells you how much fabric to buy for each color or print in your quilt. It’s usually a good idea to buy more than you need in case you make a mistake and need to redo a block. Buying extra fabric costs more, but it can save you some headache and you won’t have to be as careful.
Another way to avoid running out of fabric is to cut the largest pieces in your quilt first and then save the scraps for any smaller pieces you need to add.
Note: If you buy a lot of fabric and you’re not going to use it for a while, get some quilt storage bags so you don’t have to worry about dust, pests, and moisture ruining your fabric.
7. Not Prewashing and Starching Your Quilting Fabric
This one may or may not be a quilting mistake, depending on the way you want your finished quilt to look. However, it’s generally best to prewash your quilting fabric before cutting and sewing to prevent it from shrinking. Prewashing also minimizes the bleeding from dyes later and it removes chemical irritants that are added to fabric during the manufacturing process.
Therefore, I think it’s a mistake not to prewash your quilting fabric. Of course, there are some exceptions… Read my post on Should I Prewash My Quilting Fabric? to learn more. After prewashing, you can add starch to add back some of the stiffness that was removed when you washed the fabric so that your fabric is easier to handle.
8. Not Using High-Quality Thread for Piecing and Quilting
Did you know that you shouldn’t use standard, all-purpose thread for piecing? It’s better to use a thinner thread between 50wt and 90wt. The thinner the thread, the flatter your seams will lay. You should use the same weight in both the needle and the bobbin. If you don’t know what to get, Aurifil thread is a favorite amongst quilters because it is thin, strong, and leaves very little lint. Carole also wrote a helpful post on choosing the best quilting thread, if you want more information.
At the moment we don’t sell quilting thread at MadamSew.com but we are working on it, so keep an eye on our webstore to find good quality threads in the near future.
Have you been making any of these common quilting mistakes? I hope this post has been helpful, but don’t start thinking that your quilts must be perfect… That takes away some of the fun. Sometimes the little mistakes are what give your quilt character!
Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other quilting mistakes that should be added to this list. There’s always something new to learn, and we can help each other.
Cara loves sewing, quilting, and machine embroidery. Be sure to subscribe to see her future posts about sewing tips and fun, step-by-step projects.