"I want to learn to quilt someday": Review of a Craftsy course for novice quilters

by Judy Tucker

It was pouring buckets this morning.  I'd donned foul weather gear and taken the dogs out in the rain for their morning walk.  I had a hot cup of coffee, now what to do?

I headed over to Craftsy.com on my computer to see what I could find.   And I found a gem: Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills.  This course is taught by Gail Kessler, a quilt shop owner and quilter, and it has 3 hours of video showing all the basic quilting skills you need to make an easy quilt.    And….the course is FREE!

This classes start with picking a pattern.  (The course materials include 3 free patterns. Two of the patterns are for large quilts and one is for a mug rug, about the size of a placemat).  Gail offers insight on how to pick colors, types of fabrics to use and how to best use designs on the fabrics.  She teaches the student how to do rotary cutting and chain piecing.  She goes on with how to assemble the blocks, how to add sashing, borders, bindings and finishes up with making a label.  Everything a novice quilter needs to get going on a first quilt is included the class.  Like all Craftsy classes, you can add notes to yourself  in each video and you can go back as often as needed to review a technique.   In most Craftsy classes, you can ask the instructor a question.  But because this course is free, that option is not available.   Gail does such a great job teaching and demonstrating the quilting process, the typical student should be able to do the lessons without added input.

I watched all 11 lessons today.  I've been quilting for a long time.  My mom had a bachelor's degree in Interior Design so I've been around fabric my entire life.  I thought I knew a lot.  But I learned a number of new things.  Here is a list of some of the great tips I picked up:

1.  Thread is wound by the manufacturer 2 different ways.
        Cross wound tread looks like it has a zig-zag pattern on the spool.  It is supposed to come off the top of the spool so works best if used on the horizontal spool holder on the sewing machine.

        Stacked thread is wound around the spoon in an even circle.  Thread is supposed to come off the spool from the side, to it works best when used on the vertical spool holder on the sewing machine.

2. The colored dots on the selvage of fabrics are called "gams." I think these are so cool.  Each gam indicates a different colored screen needed in the process of printing the fabric's pattern.   Here are the gams for "This and That" by Nancy Halvorson for Benartex LLC.   Gail commented that selvages cut off fabrics used in a quilt could be saved as 'library' for future reference or….used as tomato ties in the garden!  Yikes!   That will cause palpitations in the hearts of lots of folks who use selvages as design elements in their quilts and other sewing projects!

3. Pre-washing isn't necessary. Gail recommended that if you wanted to do it, you should just use plain water in the rinse cycle of the washing machine and NOT use any soap.  Put the material in the drier until the fabric is 80% dry, then take it out and iron it.

4.  The walking foot on the sewing machine effectively adds feed dogs on the top surface of what you are sewing.  Along with the feed dogs under the plate on the sewing machine, they work in tandem to help pull the quilt throughout the machine. I love my walking foot.  I use it for quilting and for sewing on bindings.  I knew it makes those projects much easier…I just never knew why!

5.  Sewing machine needles with higher numbers are larger.  HAND sewing needles with higher number are smaller.  Go figure!

6. While threading a needle for hand work,  put the newly cut end of the thread through the needle and pull it all the way out to the end and knot that.  Gail states that the twist on the thread will run through the fabric more easily and you'll get fewer thread tangles!   She also recommends that you not use a tread any longer than the distance from your hand to your elbow. This limits the wear on the thread as it goes through the fabric and the thread should last better and remain stronger over time.

If you want to start quilting, or if you have a friend who wants to learn to quilt, or if you have a rainy Spring day and want to watch some great free videos, head on over to Craftsy and sign up for "Piece, Patch,  Quilt!"  I highly recommend this class!