I made so many rookie mistakes when I started quilting. Most people would probably agree that you never stop learning, no matter how long you've been doing it. This is certainly true when it comes to quilting - but that is what makes it fun, right? You will inevitably become better at it every single time, so go for it!
1. Not paying enough attention to accuracy when cutting pieces
When I started quilting I thought that cutting my pieces would be the smallest of my problems. I had a standard long ruler that is usually used for paper-crafting and I had a pair of relatively short scissors not made for cutting fabrics - but I thought that would be okay, since they were really sharp.
In my very first project I wanted to piece together 5 inch squares and long strips. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, since my cutting was not very straight, all my pieces were kinda off, which made it extremely difficult to put the squares together and still maintain a straight line throughout the quilt. So the most important thing was getting a bigger ruler - 5 by 16 inches should suffice - even better if it's a non-slip ruler.
Protip: If you don't like cutting yardage, you can by precuts in different sizes at many fabric stores.
2. Not marking my 1/4 inch line
It is very common for quilters to have a 1/4 inch seam allowance when they sew together their pieces. Now I know why! Before I started quilting I read about it on internet blogs and because I was so excited to start sewing my own quilt, I did not pay enough attention to this detail. I put my pieces together with what I thought was the same seam allowance, but when I tried putting together my rows almost none of my corners matched.
Most quilters use the 1/4 inch, because it is easy to calculate with and many machines have a 1/4 mark that you can follow when sewing. It gives you just enough seam allowance to make the pressing of the seams easier and to not waste any fabric. If your machine does not have a mark, you can mark it yourself. If you feel uncomfortable drawing directly on your machine you can place a piece of tape where you need to set your mark and draw on the tape. Simply measure a 1/4 inch from the needle and set your mark.
Protip: You can get presser feet for most machines that have a 1/4 inch "guide".
3. Not pressing my seams
When I started quilting I did not even own an iron. Honestly, I hate ironing and always make sure that my new clothing does not require this kind of care. I created my first project completely without setting or pressing my seams. That was definitely a mistake. My fabric was bulking up everywhere.
If you want to keep your seams straight and make it easier to join them accurately with other seams later on, it is important to press them. The buzzword here is PRESSING - not ironing! If you go back and forth while pressing on your freshly joined pieces, your fabric might stretch and make it impossible to created exact squares afterward.
When pressing your seams, apply a slight pressure with your iron and only move it back and forth a bit if absolutely necessary.
Protip: Pressing your seams in opposite directions will make nesting easier and create perfect intersections. Let all seams on a joined stripe go in the same direction and all seams of the stripe that you want to join it with in the other direction. When you put the stripes right sides together you will feel the seams locking really nicely against each other.
4. Not pinning enough
If you are all new to the whole quilting thing, pinning can be a lifesaver. Better safe than sorry, right?
I did not use enough pins when I started, which led to me using the seam ripper a quadrillion times before I got things right. Once you get a feeling for quilting and piecing you won't need the pins anymore.
Protip: If you do not like pinning, you can use fabric glue, which will wash out, or sewing clips.
5. Choosing a very thick batting
We love my first quilt here at home, because it is nice and warm. It is actually more like a duvet, which is great. However, when I quilted it, the fact that I used a very thick batting for my first project did make it somewhat more complicated. First of all my sewing machine had to go through a very thick layer, so I had to use a stronger needle, which I figured out after struggling with it for quite a while.
My first quilt was quite large and it was a hassle to move this monster through the sewing machine. I had to baste my layers much more than I have to with thinner batting, unfortunately I figured that out after I was done. I pin-basted it every 10 inches, but it should have been every 5. When the batting is very thick the fabric can easily pull in awkward directions while moving through the machine, which is why the basting is so important.
So to make your first project a little easier to deal with, do yourself a favor and choose a thinner batting.