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39. The Best Quilt Patterns for Beginners

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Hi there. I’m Nicole Gilbert and you’ve joined the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. Are you new to sewing and want to start quilting, but have no idea where to begin each Wednesday? Join me as I share the ins and outs of that quilt life. If you don’t have a sewing machine, have no idea how much fabric you need, or you’re just trying to figure out where the heck to stick that Bob in. This is the podcast for you. Hey folks, Nicole here. Welcome.

Welcome to episode 39 of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. I have been asked so many times what is the best quilt pattern for a beginner quilter, like first quilt you’re going to make, this is what we’re going to do. I get it. So today I’m going to chat a little bit about what’s typically done or traditionally done as a first quilt pattern. What you should look for in a pattern and some of the best patterns out there and why, but first, a quick reminder, every Thursday at 3:30 PM Eastern I’m hosting crafty hour, it is a private zoom call where I’ll be working on my latest projects and I invite you to join me. You can ask any questions you may have, I’ll assist you with what you’re working on, and we’ll just have a great time hanging out. Adult beverages, not required to register and receive the zoom link.

Visit the modern quilter Our this past week was our first one on January 28th, and I had a blast. I showed off my [inaudible] quilting studio broke down, kind of all the different tools that I’m using. I showed off my current English paper piecing obsession that I’m working on, um, and so much more. And I was able to answer so many questions. We had so much fun. So if you are interested in participating, please, please, please go ahead and slash crafty hour. And that will also be in the show notes of today’s episode, uh, which is the modern quilter nine. Okay, guys, let’s get sewing. So first let’s talk about what you’ll traditionally here for first patterns and spoiler it squares like all of the squares. Typically I’m seeing a lot of first patterns being some version of five inch squares, uh, also known as charm packs.

At this point, you can pretty much go to any quilt shop, any fabric store and find charm packs, which is the Moda name for the five inch square bundle. Typically all made of fabrics that coordinate either from a specific fabric line or they’re curated to go together. Um, I they’re simple, which is probably the number one thing is that like it’s super simple. You’re not piecing together blocks. You’re not managing organization. You’re just putting it together. Uh, cutting is minimal because again, you can buy a charm pack. Uh, so you actually have to do no cutting if you buy a charm pack, um, and it gives you a quick win. Like you’re just getting in you’re sewing and you’re done. Uh, and I did it. That was my first quote. My first quote was a quilt with five inch squares. Um, of course I am dating myself a little bit, but charm packs were not a thing.

So I cut my five inch squares myself and because it was my first quilt pattern and I had no idea what I was doing and I like quilt podcasts. Weren’t a thing yet. So I legitimately had no idea what I was doing. I hand drew with a ruler, a ruler, not like an acrylic ruler, quilting ruler kind of thing, like an actual from my binder in 11th grade ruler, uh, cut drew five inch squares on the back of fabric and then cut them out with kitchen chairs. Uh, there are so many things wrong with that statement. I can’t even begin, but that’s where I started, uh, which is part of the reason why I have this podcast because I don’t want anybody else doing what I did. It wasn’t smart. And it took way too long. And also it was a flipping disaster. Um, but that’s why a lot of people choose them.

Um, also mine was queen-sized, which I would never, ever suggest a beginner do a queen-size quilt as your first quilt. It’s one of those things that most do, uh, because they’re like, Oh, I’ll just make a bedspread for my bread. So queen-size, king-size, it is, it adds such a level of difficulty that you just really don’t need to deal with as a beginner. Um, and it’s one of those things that my students across the board, almost every single one of my students have said, I have tried and failed to make a quilt. It was queen-sized. And, Oh my gosh, because now we’re doing this ELAP size quilt, this crib size quilt, and like things that seem difficult and impossible are not difficult, impossible. So please, please, please don’t do a queen-size, but anyway, that’s where we start. I’m not really a big fan of that as a starting place for quilters.

Uh, now that I actually know what the heck I’m doing, um, for several reasons, one, the charm packs, the fact that charm packs exist, I would much prefer you to cut out your five inch squares, but because charm packs exist and it’s like, Oh my gosh, it’s so much easier. Yes. It’s so much easier. However, by buying the charm pack, you are failing to learn how to use your rotary cutter. And I know you’re like, uh, hello, it’s a ruler and a rotary cutter. You slide it along one edge and it’s cut. Um, yeah, that’s not actually the case. Not because it’s not the case because it is technically the case. Like there’s no other way to say it, but you really need to learn the grip. You need to learn how to inch your hand up the ruler. Um, you need to learn the angle that you should have your wrist at in order to get a smooth cut from your rotary cutter.

Um, you need to learn how to cut three or four layers at a time. Um, there’s like a lot of little things that you need to learn beyond like hold the rotary cutter, slide the cutter. Um, and by using charm packs, you lose that. So that’s a little bit of a bummer. Um, so I really want you to learn how to cut. Um, does it have to be on your first quilt? No, but considering how simple everything is with these charm pack square quilts, um, it’s like one more skill that you’re not learning. You’re not learning a lot of skills. The only skill you’re learning how to do is physically sandwich a quilt and finish it. You’re not which I know. You’re like, uh, that’s what I was planning on doing, learning how to quilt. And it’s like, yes, but there’s so many different skill sets that you do need in order to get there that you’re kind of skipping it’s, it’s kinda, it’s kinda like the no.

So throw like, yes, he made a blanket, but you didn’t do like a huge thing. And I feel like I’m going to get a million emails now about people who are so upset with me with everything I’m saying right now, but that’s okay because that’s my opinion. And I said what I said and don’t hate me. Um, so I would kind of steer you away from that, even though it is traditionally what you’re going to see out there now, before I get into my favorites and why let’s talk about what I want you to look for in your quote patterns. One is a well-written pattern and it, that doesn’t mean it has to be super in depth and crazy, uh, because most of these patterns are super straightforward. You’re making one very simple block and you’re repeating it. Uh, so it doesn’t have to be super long, but I want it to use some of the terminology that you’re going to, to get used to in quilting.

So you’re going to have to know what WL O F or WAF, or however you want to say it with a fatty brick, what it means you’re going to need to know, um, how a quilt pattern is generally laid out like supplies, cut lists, assembly, uh, block assembly, and then assembly of the quilt top itself. And I want you to really get familiar with how patterns are laid out, because once you get familiar with that pattern layout, um, you will, then the next time you go to Pinterest and you open something, you’re going to be like, Oh, this is that kind of a jenky pattern and finding jenky patterns and knowing when to walk away is really important because some of these patterns are for beautiful quilts, but if they’re not user-friendly or they skip steps or don’t fully explain things, um, you’re going to be really sad because you’re a beginner and you don’t know what you don’t know.

And so you’re going to get frustrated. You’re going to run into roadblocks and you’re not going to understand why. And it’s because the pattern maker is making assumptions. And that doesn’t mean they’re bad patterns. It just means that they’re patterns for people who understand how to fill in those blanks. And so you will, in your Pinterest journey, see a wide range of patterns, um, and they are not all created equal. So keep that in mind. I want you to look for a well written pattern. Um, I think this is personally so important that I actually have a whole section in the modern cultures. Yeah. Academy just for that, because I’m like you guys, like I can do like an anatomy of a quilt pattern and it’s like a whole thing that’s cause I really think you need to know that because it serves you not only in reading the pattern that you’re currently doing, but it also helps you to, I understand and make assumptions about future patterns that you look at before you leave and start quilting.

So it was really important. Uh, two, I want you to look for personal emotions. I’m going to get a little woo woo. Here. Okay. But I want you to look at the pattern and I want you to have confidence in making what you see, but I also want it to be a bit of a stretch. I want you to learn a new skill doing it, which is part of why I don’t like that five inch square. You’re not learning how to cut. You’re not learning how to assemble blocks. Um, and so it’s like, those are two really, really big portions. I’m not, I’m not expecting everybody to do a little Moines star, but I do want you to have some sort of a, even if it’s real, basic, some sort of assembly, um, I also want you to, uh, learn repetition because repetition is the mother of excellence.

Like just straight up anybody who has had a little kid in sports or who has been an athlete themselves like doing and doing and doing is how you get good at things. So I always suggest I actually, you know, I’ll, I’ll put a pin in that and I will talk about that when I get to, uh, what are my favorite quote patterns for new, for new quilters. Um, okay. And then my third thing, I want you to find support. So again, there are a million quilt makers on the internet, a lot of pattern designers, um, which is fantastic. I love the internet. I, Oh my gosh. I love it. Um, because it brings you so many awesome ideas, but what I don’t love about the internet is sometimes you can write a comment or ask a question and it doesn’t get answered. And so I want you to check if it’s like a YouTube video that you’re watching check when the most recent comment was and when the most recent reply was because people can be finding it and commenting on it.

I mean, you found it, but if nobody’s getting replies, that means if you run into a question, the person who wrote that is not going to be able to answer you, that’s a bummer. Uh, the same thing goes with blog posts. So really, really pay attention to that because I want you to get the answers you need. And also, unfortunately I love Facebook groups. I love them so much. I’m a part of so many quilting, Facebook groups. Um, but there’s kind of a difference. So I have a Facebook group that I run just for people that are in the modern quilters Academy. And then I also been part of like giant member led Facebook groups for quilting. Um, and they’re fantastic. You, you see so many cool projects and you get great ideas and you learn about different types of machines. So that’s great. However, if you ask a question in there you will receive a hundred answers, which sounds fantastic.

However, of those a hundred answers, you might have actually 25 different options because there’s different ways to do things. And there’s different ways that people like to do things. And a lot of times with our questions, we don’t give the whole picture. They don’t know what sewing machine you’re using. They don’t know what type of thread you’re using. They don’t know what type of needle you’re using. They don’t know what type of pattern you’re following. They don’t know the size of your cuts. They don’t know the size of your sewing studio. Like there’s so many different variant variables there that while you can get an answer, the answer you get might not the answer you need. So I want you to kind of see what kind of support there is out there. Um, again, I know this, you probably are like, let me guess the modern culture Academy.

I know, but with my students, I do a weekly shout out where I’m like, guys, ask me your questions. Let me answer them for you. And some weeks it’s crickets. No, one’s got questions. And I’m like, hallelujah, you guys are awesome. And other weeks it’s like, I have no idea what what’s going on, guys. What is this my mission? Jean’s making this weird noise. Every time I sew this, it gets sucked up. What’s happening and I’m there to help. And you don’t need to find help from me, but make sure that you can find help. That’s all I’m saying. Okay. Now on to what I think are some of the best quilts to do as a first time quilter or a beginning or quilter Chevron quilts. These are pretty cute. You’ll see them very often as baby quilts. And they’re adorable. You can, they’re usually constructed in two different ways, either via half square triangles.

Um, and then they’re, they’re placed in opposing positioning so that they create a Chevron or flying geese, which is, you know, visually very similar to two half square triangles together. Um, and the reason why I love this quilt is for several reasons, one you’re cutting. Whew, you’re cutting. You’re also learning how to either make half square triangles or flying geese. And I’m going to tell you right now, if you can master the half square triangle or flying geese, you can make some of the most beautiful locks out there, like straight up, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I, um, I did, uh, so along and we’re still kinda mid so along. We all kind of petered out over Christmas and I’m sure you guys have noticed, like I’ve skipped a couple episodes. It’s been real around here, but um, we’ve been doing this. So along with this quilt, that, um, is, uh, it’s the North star quilt.

It’s beautiful. Um, but I remember showing it to my graduate students and they were like, Oh my gosh, I’m so intimidated. Holy cow, I’m going to do this. And then I was like, no, no, no. I taught you how to make half square triangles. And I taught you how to make flying geese. And I guarantee you we’ll be able to make this block. And everybody who was participating when they made that first block, they said, Oh my gosh, I cannot believe I just made that it’s gorgeous. So if you can find a beginner pattern that teaches you how to do a half square or a flying geese, you will be so well-served. So that’s like my number one thing with the Chevron, uh, baby quilt, number two rail fence. And so this one can, I would suggest if you’re going to do a rail fence quilt, which actually I am in the process of making a rail fence quilt because I’m decorating my quilting studio and I wanted to do a beginner pattern because that’s the majority of the students that I work with are beginners.

And, um, it just felt right to decorate my studio with something a little bit more beginner friendly. Um, so if you want to check it out, go over to my Instagram, um, at Nicole Gilbert quilts and you can check it out. But what I love about the rail fence quilt is that it forces you a little bit to think about color and placement, um, which, uh, color theory is something that, uh, if you’re really going to get into quilting, I want you to really, really dive into color theory because somebody who has a really good handle on how colors play together, um, their quilting goes from good to fantastic, like same exact piecing methods, same exact quilting methods, but you have a better grasp on color theory. Oh my goodness. Your quilt will be so helpful. Um, what I would suggest for a beginner to buy your jelly roll to do it.

And I know, I know I just talked all about how I hate, how charm packs take away the cutting. You’re still going to do a lot of cutting because you have to cut your strip sets down into, um, it’s a blocks that you’re then going to turn and finagle to get the, uh, visual aesthetic that you like. Uh, so I’m okay with using pre cuts for this one. I would get a jelly roll for it or a honey bun, depending on if you’re going to do a, uh, how many stripes you want in it. And a given strip set, a honey bun is a one and a half inch strip and a jelly roll. Is it two and a half inch strip? And these are Moda terminologies. Uh, every co company refers to them a different way, but they’ve kind of, they’re kind of like the Kleenex of tissues, like you just know anyway.

Um, but I would definitely suggest doing a rail fence. I love them. I think my biggest love with it is you’re going to learn to quilt. You’re going to learn to cut. You are going to really dive in a little bit and not even dive deep, but you’re going to kind of, you’ll see what I’m talking about when you’re looking at a real fence quilt, but, um, color placement and design placement and scale of print placement is kind of everything for a real fence quilt. Um, and also those strip sets that you’re making you are going to be managing a 44 inch long seam when you’re creating those. And so it’s going to help you really get good at maintaining your quarter inch seam allowance. So these are skills that you’re going to need, and you’re going to use in every single quilt that you’re going to make after this.

And that’s what I want you to do. I want you to look for quilts that are going to help you master skills that you can use for every quilt you make moving forward. So, um, that is what I feel for the rail fence quilt. Uh, next is a herringbone quilt and herringbone quilts are typically made with half square triangles. Actually, they’re definitely, they’re made with half square triangles. I mean, I’ve seen them done with like Rambus, uh, thanks. But honestly that’s like English paper piecing is how I would do that or else you’re going to deal with like why seams and stuff. And like, ain’t nobody got time for, for that. Um, I mean, yeah, you could straight lines cause you could do long columns and then connect the columns together in order to do the quilt top. I take that back. You won’t have to do Y seams.

However, it’s still like upper-level cutting and I really don’t want you to do any upper level cutting. I want you to master the basics fundamentals. I can like hear the hi my high school coach, like in my head fundamentals. Um, that’s what we want to want to work on right now. Uh, so the herringbone, uh, there so many versions of it out there, you can find them everywhere. I will have, uh, links in the show notes for this episode too free. The patterns that you can download for each of these types of quilts that I’ve mentioned, the Chevron, the rail fence and the herringbone. Um, but again, the herringbone is great because you are most likely not going to learn half score trial angles, and I’ve already gotten on my soap box about how square triangles. So I’ll let that sit. Um, you’re also going to be doing color placement.

Um, so that is also huge. So that’s why like that herringbone. Um, and in case you were wondering like in the modern world, I think first of all, best way to learn how to quilt is not to sit and listen to all the techniques and attempt different methods and techniques over and over and over again. I think the best way to learn how to quilt is to make a flip and quilt, um, set it. So in the modern quilters Academy, my students make a quilt and they make a variation of the herring of a herringbone quilts. Um, that I personally designed, I call it the sassy pants quilt because I use really bright, fun colors to make mine. Um, but you were wondering, I do start with a herringbone quilt. Um, I might shift it up and switch over to a rail fence or a at some point.

Um, but I really, I think it’s really, really important that my students know how to maintain a quarter inch seam allowance and they know how to make a half square triangle and a flying geese block. Uh, so that is kind of where I’m coming from with that. Whew, you guys, I felt a little soapboxy during this episode. What are, what do you guys think? Um, please, I love your reviews. I love your comments, your emails. If you ever want to get ahold of me, Nicole, at the modern quilter, um, or you can leave me a comment on Facebook or Instagram. I love to see you there, but you guys have,

We just finished another episode of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. Thank you so much for hanging out with me to catch up on today’s episode and all past episodes, head on over to the modern quilter and make sure you never hit them episode. Never miss an episode by hitting subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Now, stop scrolling and start sewing.


Quilt Love

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and...

Noelani T.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and Nicole’s expertise was invaluable for this large project. Nicole is very patient and explained the different steps and their purposes clearly. She improved my original idea to better accomplish my overall goal. I highly recommend Nicole as an instructor and would personally have another session in a heartbeat!

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked...

Michelle L.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked me through everything step by step. And it was amazing. She taught me the ins and outs of my machine and how to add each basic concept together. It was invaluable, because now I can figure things out and get creative without fearing the dreaded unravel!
The Modern Quilters Circle