Thursday, June 20, 2024

Decoding Quilt Patterns: Essential Tips for Beginners

 Reading quilt patterns can be a new skill for some. Today, I'm sharing my best tips for reading quilt patterns so that you can avoid some frustrations and enjoy the process.

Starting out on a new quilt pattern venture should be fun, but sometimes it can be frustrating. The instructions are confusing, there are skills you haven't yet mastered, and what in the world does HST or SIS mean?? I'm sharing how I read quilt patterns with you today. This is how I read my own patterns when I'm testing them. P.S. HST means Half Square Triangle and SIS means Square In a Square. 💜

The first thing I do is plan *when* I'm going to read through the instructions. For me it's usually in the morning, when the house is quietish (there are two golden retrievers and two cats living here after all) and my brain is fresh. The fresh brain part is the most important.

I sit down with the instructions, a cup of coffee and a highlighter (or pencil if I know I'm going to make this pattern in different sizes).

Friends. We say this all of the time, and we mean it. READ through all of the instructions first. Don't do this as you are starting the pattern, or after you have got yourself all turned around and frustrated. Do it first. Then, read them again. They may not all make sense, especially if you are like me and you do better reading and doing at the same time. It will make a difference, though, when you get to a set of instructions and you can remember what is coming up soon and *that's* why the designer has you doing this step now.

I like to read through all of the instructions and then go back and start highlighting or circling the size I am going to make. I use pencil if I know I'm going to make multiple sizes (like when I'm testing a pattern).

I'll use a highlighter if I think I'm going to just make this pattern once.

I do this for the assembly instructions as well, not just the cutting.

I also like to underline or highlight important pieces, like what units I am supposed to use, and trimming sizes.

Reading through the instructions first also gives you a chance to see what skills you may need. What are the units being made, do you know what the designer means when they say "cut twice on the diagonal" or once? Double checking that you know how the designer is using the terminology now will keep things running as smooth as possible as you work your way through the pattern.

At the top of my patterns I add the acronyms that will be used throughout the pattern. When reading through a pattern check to see if a designer has added any helpful tips or hints for you. Reading them now will be so helpful.

I think these steps are even more important if you are stretching your comfort zone and trying a new skill. Reading through once or twice (third times the charm?) can help prepare your quilting brain for what is coming up.

Now go grab that pattern, your favorite way to hydrate and a writing utensil and,

Go make something Extraordinary.

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  1. I appreciated this reminder to read through ALL the instructions before starting the cutting. Sometimes, I read through them many times over several days to make sure I understand what I'm doing before I even start the cutting process. I will often make a copy of my pattern and put the original away so I can mark up the copy and still have the original if I want to make it again. I also will look to see if I can find shortcuts for myself. Sometimes they can save fabric as well as time.

    1. These are such great tips Rochelle! Thank you for sharing.


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