Education Sampler Sew-A-Long

Beginner Sampler Quilt – Getting Ready – Going Shopping

Well, it is time to get ready for the sampler block quilt sessions to start for beginners!   Are you anxious to get started?  I’ll be posting late each Sunday starting TODAY!

First item is getting the fabric you will need.  Take advantage of any Memorial Day sales and coupons at your local fabric stores to purchase fabric for this sampler!

You will make only one of each block starting off with simple pieced blocks, two a week, and each week you will build on skills learned the previous week.   Wait until I show you how I dissect a block to use shapes you are familiar with making and the end result looks like the original block!

I will try to not overwhelm you each week.  If you do two blocks a week for six weeks, a week to add sashings and a week to add borders, the week of November 5th when I instruct on how to make a quilt sandwich, all you will have left is to quilt and bind the masterpiece in time for the holidays.  I will give you information regarding the choices you have to finish your quilt, resources you can consider, and a reminder you can do anything a stitch at a time!

So, let’s get to gettin’ ready!


100% cotton fabrics are recommended.  You will be purchasing 5 different fabrics.

Note – all 100% cotton fabric is NOT created equal.  You will learn to rely on your sense of touch to help select quilt quality fabric.  Steer away from loose weave fabrics and on the opposite end, tightly woven fabrics like bed sheets.  Shop around, compare prices, use coupons, buy online.

Fabric #1:  1/2yd  dark fabric – print, batik,  small geometric design (in blocks)

Fabric #2:  1/4 yd medium dark fabric – small non-directional design, tone on tone, batik (in blocks)

Fabric #3:  1 yd light fabric – tone on tone, solid, non-busy pattern  (blocks and inner border)

Fabric #4:  1/2 yd light to medium fabric – non-directional design print, batik,  geometric (blocks, cornerstones)

Fabric #5:  1 yd solid will be sashings and outer border, color should compliment other fabrics, but not match.  Purpose of this fabric as sashing is to show off blocks, not distract from them.  As the outer border, it will act as a frame of everything and should not demand attention, but help focus on blocks.

Choosing fabrics can often be the most difficult part for many quilters.  One approach is to find a fabric you really like.  Next pick 8 to 10 other fabrics you think will all go together.  Don’t worry about the sashing and outer borders at this time.   Stack your choice bolts on top of one another dark to light.  I make the stack on top of bolts standing upright.  Step back several feet, take a color picture of them and then switch to a gray scale and take a picture.  Gray scale will clearly show lights and darks and mediums! Restack per the gray scale photo.  In this quilt top, all fabrics will be right next to each other in at least one or more blocks. Start eliminating those you decide really don’t work that well until you end up with 4 fabrics to represent fabrics 1-4 above.  Now go to the solids with the bolts you picked and audition potential solids.  Generally, one will stand out as being the one for the sashing and outer border.

Samples of my selections – color and gray scale – and some potential sashes and outer borders.

Fabrics dark to light.  Gray scale will show clearly the differences.






I also wanted to audition sashing and outer border fabric.  Which would you pick?  The right one will be subtle, enhance the block fabrics, and frame each block so that block stands on its own.  Keep in mind the inner border will be the light background floral.












My second fabric choices for a fun, less sophisticated look than the one above, gives you another look at mixing prints, dots, and a mottled fabric.  You will notice in the gray scale there is not a great contrast in the two middle fabrics.  The reason they will work is the color AND one reads solid, the other dotted.  I love working with dots, especially when the size of the dots give character and that fun spark to the quilt.  I did not audition for the borders and sashing since I am going to make this one without them unless when I lay out the blocks they scream for separation.  I think I will lean toward dark teal/green solid seen in the floral print.









44-45″ wide fabric 2 2/3 yd OR 58-60″ wide fabric 1 1/3 yd  A busy pattern/print on backing fabric hides any less than perfect quilting.   The quilting on a solid fabric is all there is for the eye to see.  Backing fabric does not have to be purchased at the same time you purchase the piecing fabrics.  How you choose to finish your quilt may be a deciding factor for you if you want a solid or a distracting print.  Sometimes if I am particularly in love with a fabric I am using in the blocks, I will buy extra for the back. Or, I’ve gone completely opposite from what is on the pieced side giving the quilt potential for two “right” sides!

Batting:   minimum 48″ x 58″  cotton or cotton/poly 80/20

Binding:  There should be sufficient fabric left from yardage for a scrappy binding or perhaps from the backing.

Finished quilt approx. 42×52


Should you?  I don’t.  Many quilters do.  Some do sometimes.  I like the body of fabric before it is washed.  It is easier to get crisp cuts, therefore more accurate piecing.  If you prewash, you should wash all fabric going into the quilt, including the backing.  I recommend you use spray starch when ironing to put the body back into the fabric before cutting.  Fabric should always be ironed to remove wrinkles before cutting to not get any distortion in the pieces.  To keep your ironed fabric from getting fold creases, roll your fabric lightly.  I’ve heard if you have a pool noodle they are great to roll the fabric around.  I just roll them loosely without a center.

Cotton batting will shrink so you also need to prewash it if you prewash the fabric.  If you don’t, the batting will shrink and the outer fabrics will be “wrinkled” in the process, more so than the non-prewashed fabrics that will be shrinking at the same time as the batting.


There are as many types of thread as their are opinions on what brand/weight/content of thread you should use.   All purpose thread is fine, especially for your first quilts.   Neutral thread color works well regardless the color of the fabric when piecing.  Neutral colors are whites, off whites, cream, light grays, ecru.

See Tools of a Quilter for the basic equipment you will need.  It is possible to cut accurate pieces without a rotary cutter/mat/ruler.  If you will be cutting your fabric with scissors, please let me know so I can email you templates.