Do you read your recipes before your start making a new dish? If you do, do you read just the ingredient list just to make sure you have what you need? Or do you read it through to ensure you have the right tools or have enough time? If you don’t read them in advance, have you ever had to use an emergency substitution for an ingredient, or made do with a tool, tried to figure out a technique, or found you didn’t have enough time?

I can tell you that I have, and the recipe never turns out quite right…I have looked up emergency substitutions, like vinegar and milk when I can’t get buttermilk. I have found that using the wrong pan, may cause baking times to vary… Apparently, caramelizing sugar takes a little more stirring and a little less heat than I initially thought. That discovery also helped me learn that lots of boiling water and soaking removes charred sugar from the bottom of a pan. I think you get this picture.

Read Me

Making a quilt is much following a recipe. The first step is to read it from beginning to end. Ensure it makes sense and that all the pages are there. If you have questions about the pattern, reach out to the designer and ask questions. It is better to ask before you start! Your questions may not only help you, but others as well! As a designer, I am always glad for questions, it helps me write more clearly the next time.

Make notes on your patterns. Ensure you know where the pieces go, and which fabrics go where.

Decide how you want to work. Do you want to do all your cutting up front or just cut enough for a block? Do you want to make one test block to ensure you are comfortable with the instructions before you cut into your beautiful fabric? Do you just plan to dive in. If you are testing, make notes on what worked well so you can do it again. Also job down what didn’t work so you don’t try that again!  If you still have questions after your trial run, ask more questions.


Take an inventory of the materials needed. If you are missing some, leave yourself time to pick the missing ones up or have them delivered. If you can’t find enough of a fabric, find something close and use it INSTEAD of the shorted fabric! That will provide more consistency to your quilt. This evaluation also includes your notions. Don’t forget the basics like thread, batting, stabilizer or fusible, and bling (my favorite part).

Maybe you like the pattern, but not necessarily the colors. Audition new ones. If the pattern has a coloring page, that is a good way to start. Changing color schemes is not hard, if you understand a few simple rules. Stayed tuned in 2023 for a class on this!

Tools and Techniques

We already covered tuning up your tools. But you may have need of a new ruler or other tools. Not only will you need time to procure that tool, but time to experiment with it. Books, instruction manuals and how-to videos are great, but nothing compares to the test drive. My test blocks from new rulers often become pillows, mug rugs or mini quilts. They are places to practice free motion quilting or test out a new bling technique.

Trust me when I say this is the perfect opportunity to experiment. I was testing a new quilt as you go technique with fusible, which was supposed to imitate trapunto. My first try was an utter failure…. I used poly batting, which doesn’t hold up so well under the heat of an iron. That should have been common sense, but I was trying to “fix a fusible foible.” Needless to say, the trial fell flat.

Taking the extra step and doing your homework, will help your project more smoothly, look better in the end and cause you much less stress in the long run,