Quilting 101: Common Problems and Quick Fixes


Not all quilters are created equally. Everyone has their own unique personality and style, and this shines through with every quilted creation. There are however some common problems all quilters face at one point or another. If you are a beginner quilter, or even a more experienced quilter looking for a handy tip or two, read on to learn about some of the common problems quilters may face and the quick and easy ways to fix them.

This is often a problem that many people make when they first start quilting. It might seem like you have enough fabric on hand for all components when you first start a project, but then you inevitably run out at some point. This is a serious problem especially if you have special ordered your fabric and you can’t just run out and grab some more.

Technology to the rescue here. There are some great quilting apps that can help you measure correctly. QuiltingCalc by Robert Kaufman Fabrics is a neat one to try. It’s free to download to your Apple or Android device. You could also use Quilt Wizard, which even has a part of the app that will allow you to download your fabric pattern to better map out your finished quilt. The cost of this app is $4.99, and is only available for Apple devices.

Checking your measurements multiple times will help you once you get started, but having extra fabric on hand at all times will help. You can always use the extra for future projects, or share it with your quilting friends.

Related video: Tips for Determining Quilt Measurements

One of the more annoying aspects of quilt making is uneven lines. This common problem is mainly due to the fact that some fabrics tend to stretch and pull, so while you think you are sewing in straight lines, you really aren’t. You might even have to go back, rip out some stitches, and start over. This can be very frustrating.

A walking foot on your sewing machine is a good solution here. While it’s not completely necessary that you have one, it will definitely help move all those layers of fabric smoothly and evenly through the feed dogs of your machine. Also known as a quilting foot, this type of attachment is often used for straight line quilting and will sometimes have a channel guide that you can attach to ensure parallel quilting is evenly spaced.

Another simple solution is painters tape. All you do is tape your lines to give you a better guideline on where to sew in straight rows. Plus, it’s easy to remove, and won’t hurt your fabric or leave sticky marks on it.

Related blog: An Ode to Blue Haired Quilters

You don’t want to be in the middle of a quilting session only to have your thread run out. The easy solution here is to always remind yourself to check your bobbin before sitting down to the machine and replace if getting low. If you do happen to run out though, or your thread snaps while quilting, here is what you can do: undo just enough of the stitches so that you can knot it, and then tuck it into your batting. That way when you start up again, it won’t be noticeable.

But how to prevent your thread from snapping in the first place? If you live in a very dry environment, you will be especially prone to breakage because the air makes your thread dry and brittle. To infuse some moisture back into your dry thread, simply place it in a plastic baggie with a damp paper towel and put the baggie in the fridge or freezer for a few hours to help the thread absorb the moisture faster and more evenly.

Related blog: Keep Your Thread Long and Strong

A quilt that’s too puffy can sometimes take on more of a pillow look than the blanket or showpiece look that you’re going for. If this is the case, there’s an easy fix. If your batting is too fluffy, just pick up a product called Best Press by Mary Ellen Products, and gently spray it over the entire quilt. Then on low heat, iron the quilt so that the heat gently presses it down to be flatter for you. That way it’s easier to hang if you choose to showcase the quilt in that manner. This is especially helpful if you are going to be exhibiting your quilt in a show.

Related video: How to Hang a Quilt on a Wall

If your stitches on the top of your quilt start to look irregular, it could be the type of thread you’re using. It’s always a good idea to use 100 percent cotton thread for your bobbin, even if your top thread is more decorative and not as heavy or durable. Those gorgeous metallic threads can sometimes be difficult to stitch with. Using the right kind of thread to begin with can be immensely helpful. A 50 weight cotton thread is usually a good choice, because it won’t pull or lint up. For hand quilting you are going to want an even heavier thread, usually around a 28 weight count. Remember the lower you go in number, the stronger the thread will be!

Related video: Choosing the Right Quilting Thread

Armed with a few quick fixes, you’ll be well on your way to tackling those annoying and sometimes frustrating problems that quilters often face. We want to hear from you now – what are your best tips for quilting fixes?

Have something to add? Leave a comment or email editor@nationalquilterscircle.com.

  • (will not be published)

27 Responses to “Quilting 101: Common Problems and Quick Fixes”

  1. Mari

    I have had every single mistake here. Number 2 is especially frustrating and happens a lot… I guess it needs practice…

  2. Debbie

    I need help with the binding of my quilt. I am very confused on how to make my own and how to sew it on my finish quilt!. Please help!

  3. Penny Reid
    Penny Reid

    In terms of measuring, I have often wondered whether the line on a ruler should sit ON the edge or BESIDE the edge of the fabric? I know it might only be a whisker difference but should I only see fabric beneath the measurement line?

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi, Penny. I prefer to have my ruler sit directly ON the edge of the fabric as opposed to beside it. You are correct that it would only be a tiny difference if any at all, so I would just recommend consistency. However you choose to line up your ruler, do so the same every time.

  4. Wanda

    Thank you for the tips … Especially the one about keeping your thread moisturized ?

  5. Diana Ingersoll
    Diana Ingersoll

    I sew a lot of baby quilts. I find that using a low or med weight batting is best. Also, I don’t like to do all the fancy tight, close together quilting. I find a quilt is warmer if there is air between the stitches of quilting.

  6. Jackie Hegle
    Jackie Hegle

    I am having a problem with getting the block size 12 1/2 x 12 1/2 squares are accurate and seams are accurate but I am always off on completed square H E L P

  7. Debbie moten
    Debbie moten

    I am quilting a queen size quilting a Juki 2010 q machine my thread is breaking and bobbin thread is knotting up what am I doing wrong?

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Debbie,

      There could be several issues- first, insure that your machine is threaded correctly. Even if you think it is, it’s always a good idea to re-thread it to check. Next, change to a new sharp needle. If neither of these solutions fix the problem, check to see that your needle tension is in the right place and did not get bumped and is too tight or too loose.

      Hope this helps!

      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.

  8. Cindy

    I found you need to use the same ruler for cutting everything of the same project. Each ruler, including the cutting mat is slightly different, enough to make your block off in size when putting it together. There are several interesting rulers out there to square up the blocks and to cut strips evenly for a project. There are sewing guides to attach to the machine for long lengths of stitching evenly. Much more accurate than the blue painters tape as it doesn’t allow the fabric to slide past the measured scant ¼ inch. Also CLEAN your feed dogs and bobbin case between each bobbin replacement. 50w cotton quilting thread does leave lint as well as certain fabric. Adjust your needle position within the presser foot you are using to get the perfect scant ¼ inch seam. Change your needle often as they dull quickly. This will keep your stitches even. Change your rotary blade for even cutting.

  9. connie

    I really hate it when I’m piecing and the ends always get pulled down into the bobbin casing. I hate jumpers leaders and enders and I have seen where a lot of videos they don’t even back-tack when piecing but that makes me nervous. when I don’t back tack at least the ends don’t get chewed up. any ideas or helpful hints out there for me? I’ve been quilting for many years and this is the one big issue I have repeatedly

    • Ginger Metcalf
      Ginger Metcalf

      Holding your threads behind the foot will help. The bit of fabric used as a leader holds your threads so they do not rotate down into the bobbin case thereby pulling your fabric into the case.

  10. Mickie

    What can I do when machine quilting and the machine does not always pickup the bobbin thread. I sew several stitches before I realize it did not pick up. It does pick up after 3-4 stitches.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Mickie,

      Skipped stitches are generally caused by a dull needle. I would recommend changing the needle and see if this fixes the issue. Also, I would recommend going back and stitching over the areas where there are skipped stitches and then removing this bits of unstitched thread.


      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

  11. Paula

    I have a problem with my stiches on the reverse of the quilt looping not sure why this is happening

  12. Susan Hughes
    Susan Hughes

    I used a jelly roll to make a Ribbon Candy Quilt by Doug Leko. I pinned the strips, measured carefully but the rows ended up wonky. Curved upward and the quilt top is not square. What did I do wrong? Is there any way to avoid this again?

  13. Margaret

    I’m building a Dresden Plate quilt out of my son’s baby clothes. The problem is that many of the pieces for the plates had to be cut on the bias (or any way I could capture them). This has resulted in some of my 30 plates (queen size quilt) being too full and I won’t be able to sew regular circles out of them because they’re large and stretchy-like, even though I ironed interfacing onto the backs of all stretchy/thin pieces beforehand. It’s like I could make some of the plates with 16 panels instead of 18 (is that kosher?). I’ve tried Best Press to no avail. I’m not the first person who has ever made a traditional quilt with baby clothes, right? Some of the plates are perfect, no problem. The ladies at the quilt shop are no help. What do I do?

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Carol,

      Thank you for being here! By becoming a member, you will have access to our expert’s knowledge. With your membership you will also receive discounts on products and hundreds of hours of Premium content.

      If you are interested in becoming a member, please click on the offer below:


  14. Alex

    I’m more of hand quilting, but I want to give a try to free motion quilting, thanks so much for sharing this post, it helps me to know what to do to avoid these quilting mistakes, hopes it goes well.