Julie’s Quilting Basics

Quilting Basics; From Julie Plotniko

To make quilting easy and accurate we must address the three basic steps to any quilt.


Safety First

A few simple rules will help keep you safe so that you can enjoy quilting for many years!

1) Hold your rotary cutter by the handle only and never put your fingers close to the blade.

2) Close your rotary cutter after each and every cut.

3) Never lay an open rotary cutter down on the table or hold one open in between cuts.

4) Keep the hand holding the ruler centered on the ruler with all fingers at least one inch away from the edge of the ruler.

5) Always cut away from yourself, never towards.

6) Remember, like the knives in your kitchen a sharp blade is safer to work than a dull blade. Change your blade after every full sized quilt or every third small project.


Step One: Accurate Cutting with A Rotary Cutter

AKA Preventing the Dreaded “V”s and “WOW”s

Working with the true straight grain of your fabric will make sewing your pieces together easier and more accurate. If you straighten an edge using only a single fold or the selvedge edge as your guide then you are more likely than not to get strips that have a “V” or “WOW” in them.

All sub cuts made from the resulting strips will be slightly off grain making them want to twist as you feed them through your sewing machine. To prevent this place the fold of your fabric towards the top of your cutting mat.

Fold the selvage edge towards but not all the way to the fold at the top of your fabric.

Measure from fold to fold with your quilting ruler.

Use an easy measurement to view on your ruler such as anything on the ½” or 1” line.

When you get the same measurement across the length of your fabric then you are “On Grain” and ready to straighten an edge. Don’t try to straighten more than between 25” to 30” at a time. It’s better to re-measure and re-straighten as required. Now…use one of the long horizontal lines on your ruler to line up to the bottom fold of your fabric. The other lines should be square to your top fold.

Trim a little bit of fabric off the side to “straighten an edge.

If you are right handed you will straighten from the right and cut your strips from the left.

If you are left handed you will straighten from the left and cut your strips from the right.

When cutting your strips be sure that the line you are measuring ON TOP of the straightened edge.

If your measurement line is on the outside of the cut edge you will ”lose” approximately 1/8” of fabric.

It doesn’t seem like much but by the time you have cut eight strips you have “lost” an inch in the accuracy of your measurements.

*Hot Tip: If you square your body to your ruler it won’t slide out of place and you will not need as much pressure to make your cuts. This is accomplished by simple physics in that all your weight is automatically transferred down into the table so that your ruler stays in place and your cutting hand has more power without more pressure. To be sure that you are square to your ruler stand with your feet flat and side by side and line your “Belly Button” up to the hole in your ruler. It’s easy to remember because it will make you laugh…and it works!


Step Two: Accurate Sewing

Use 50 weight cotton and a sharp needle when piecing cotton.

Good needle choices include size 75 / 11 Quilters, size 70 /10 Jeans Denim or size 80 / 12 Microtex Sharp.

If your fabric is a blend of cotton/poly use cotton/poly construction thread.

If quilting with polyester, piece with polyester thread.

Piece your quilts with a scant or “Quilters” ¼” seam allowance.

A measured ¼” is the measurement that is on a ruler.

We sew with “just under” a measured ¼” to allow for the width of our thread as well as the fold over of the fabric in our seam allowances.

You may need to adjust how scant your seam allowance is according to the thickness of both your fabric and thread as well as whether you are pressing your seam allowances open or to one side.


“Driving a Straight Road”

Look ahead to where you want to be sewing. Keep your eyes in front of the needle. If you look at the needle (it can’t jump out and get you) then you will drive a crooked line. Look to where you want to go and you will stay on the straight and narrow.


Step Three; Pressing Matters

It’s quite simple really.

Press, don’t iron. Let your iron do your work for you.

Set your seams from behind by putting heat and steam (if desired) on top of the seams before trying to press them open or to one side.

Use the weight of the iron to either push the seam to one side or press the seam open.

When pressing the seam to one side, have the fabric you want the seam to lay towards facing up and push the top fabric towards the seam allowance. For instance we normally press towards the darker of the two fabrics so we would have the dark fabric on top.

Your seam allowance will be pressed to the correct side with no little creases.

Now let’s start our “Mystery”!



  1. Cherryl Hossack says:

    Good tips, is there a way of receiving information that can be printed out to keep in a note book? Cherryl Hossack, cherryl@hossack-law.com

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