How to Make a Quilt in Six Steps

Making your own modern, unique piece of fabric art can be a reality just by following this simple tutorial.

| September 2014

  • Log cabin quilt
    This improv log cabin pattern would be a good project for a beginner to learn how to sew a quilt.
    Photo by John Polak
  • Batting
    Cut batting a few inches wider on every side than your quilt top.
    Photo by Keller + Keller Photography Inc.
  • Quilt sandwich
    Make a quilt sandwich with backing on the bottom, batting in the middle and quilt top on top.
    Photo by Keller + Keller Photography Inc.
  • Hand quilting
    Quilting by hand is one way to make a quilt.
    Photo by John Polak
  • Machine quilting
    Machine quilting can offer complicated design possibilities when making a quilt.
    Photo by Shades of Gray Photography
  • Quilting with a Modern Slant
    “Quilting with a Modern Slant” by Rachel May is full of quilting tips and tricks, as well as ideas on how to make a quilt that builds on the aesthetics of traditional and art quilts.
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Log cabin quilt
  • Batting
  • Quilt sandwich
  • Hand quilting
  • Machine quilting
  • Quilting with a Modern Slant

Quilting with a Modern Slant (Storey Publishing, 2014) offers a glimpse into dozens of unique visions, with profiles of quilters and artists who have developed their own aesthetic and quilting tips and patterns from author Rachel May. Modern quilting offers the freedom to play with fabrics, patterns, colors, stitching and the way in which they all connect. With photographs of finished quilts, quilting tips and tutorials on natural dyeing, machine quilting, appliqué, finishing, improvisational piecing and even starting a blog, this book is chock-full of ideas to inspire quilters of every level. This excerpt from the introduction offers tips on how to sew a quilt.

Six Steps to Make a Quilt

1. Piece the top. This can be done in any style, from improv to traditional pattern. A simple way to start making a quilt might be strip piecing: simply sew together long strips of fabric in rows until your quilt is long enough. Or try an easy improv log cabin (see gallery).

2. Make the backing. If you’re making a small quilt, you may be able to use a single piece of fabric, rather than sewing together two long strips. (You can piece more, of course: make the backing as fancy or as plain as you want.)

3. Cut the batting to size. The batting (a.k.a. wadding, filler, insulating material) should be a few inches wider on every side than your top. Lay out the batting underneath the top to make this easy.

4. Make a quilt sandwich in this order: backing on the bottom, batting in the middle, quilt top on the top (naturally).

• First, lay down your backing on the floor, right side facing down, and use painter's tape on the corners to keep it in place and wrinkle-free on the floor. It’s okay if your backing is bigger than your top.

• Lay down your batting (which should be a little bigger than your quilt top, remember) over the backing, and smooth it out with your hands.

• Lay your top piece right side up, lining it up with the backing underneath the oversized batting. Spread it smooth, and then start pinning the quilt from the center out, applying pins about 4 inches apart (the holes the pins make will disappear with quilting and washing).

5. Quilt it. This could be as basic as tying the quilt, or anything from a simple to complicated machine-quilting design, or hand-quilting.

6. Bind it. Use bias binding to finish the edges of your quilt neatly and securely.

Tips for Basting Your Quilt


Curved pins made just for basting will make your life easier, allowing you to push the pin down through every layer of the sandwich and then back up to the surface. If you don’t like pins, you can also stitch-baste, or spray baste. Once your quilt is basted, you’ll be able to move it through the machine (rolling it up to fit through the throat, if the quilt is large) without fear of wrinkles or shifting.


For some, spray baste makes life a lot easier, saving you from long pinning or stitch-basting sessions hunched over a quilt on the floor. You’ll need to use spray baste in a well-ventilated area, simply applying it to both sides of the batting. If you want your quilt to last as an heirloom, though, there’s research showing that spray baste will break down fabric over time.


You can also stitch-baste your quilt sandwich. This involves making long stitches across the quilt (with unknotted thread), starting in the middle and working your way out. Use a different colored thread that you’ll spot easily after quilting. If you have a pattern you want to stitch into the quilt, baste just inside or outside of the pattern. Use an upholstery needle, and make your stitches long to save time and cut out easily after quilting.

One Last Quilting Tip…

Attend a sew-in. A sew-in is when you meet with friends to sew by hand or machine. More often than not, when members of our guild have sew-ins, we chat and eat together; our projects never make it out of the bag. Fun — no matter how you do it.

Quilting Instructions from Quilting with a Modern Slant

How to Make a T-Shirt Quilt
How to Quilt by Hand

Reprinted with permission from Quilting with a Modern Slant by Rachel May and published by Storey Publishing. Buy this book from our store: Quilting with a Modern Slant.

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