My BFF came over the other day for some help with her first quilt. She had taken a beginning quilting class and had finished her quilt top and was ready to put it all together and quilt it. Her blocks were beautiful - points matched, seams were straight, she obviously had a good instructor and she is a fast learner. Unfortunately the class didn't really cover sandwiching, quilting and binding. The instructor just sort of said do this, then this, and then do this and you're done. Well, not quite. A perfectly stitched quilt, whether your first or your 51st, can be ruined by poor sandwiching and quilting.
So we spent a couple hours on putting together the sandwich, which thanks to Mary Honas (of Harper's) I had learned the right way after doing it wrong for several years. Once the layers were together and smoothed out as flat as possible we began to pin. Every 2 inches on this wall-size quilt. Why pin every 2"? Well, if you don't want puckers and pleats you're going to have to place the pins close together and because of the construction of the blocks, 2" was what was called for. Whenever I'm teaching or showing a new quilter how to do this I always stress pinning close together. I understand it seems like a bit of overload, but the end results are worth it. I always show them quilts I've made where I pinned every 12 inches thinking that was enough. The mess, especially on the back of the quilt, usually convinces them.
We ended the afternoon talking about my favorite books for beginning quilters. I have two: the Basics by Kathy Delaney (Kansas City Star Quilts; pickledish.com) and Your First Quilt Book (or it should be) by Carol Doak (That Patchwork Place). I am constantly referring back to these books to remind me how to do something, or to make sure I'm doing it "right". What are your favorite beginning quilting or how-to-quilt books? I'd love to hear from you.