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Quilting Essentials: From Design to Color and Beyond

Discover a new approach to an old craft with expert textile designer and quilt artist Heather Thomas from National Quilters Circle.
Quilting Essentials: From Design to Color and Beyond is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 22.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Information, But... This course is obviously compilation of 4-5 smaller courses and would benefit greatly from a thorough edit to eliminate repeated material and reorganization to improve flow of information. For example, the color wheel is talked about at least 5 times. Lesson 20: New Alternatives to Free Machine Quilting begins with a lecture on types af batting. That should be incorporated into the lecture on types of thread and needles, which one would expect to see in products & tools, but its not. The second half of the course is great, but again, the first half needs a serious redo.
Date published: 2023-04-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from For the Advanced Quilter I would rate Quilting Essentials just average because it really does not give the basics of quilting. It emphasizes great artistic things you can do with quilting, but not simple basic steps in quilting. There are several sessions on color. It seemed too much emphasis to me and was repetitive. I ended up skipping a couple of the sessions because they seemed repetitive.
Date published: 2022-12-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Lacks Flow There is an abundance of good information, but sections are disjointed and the same quilts samples are shown repeatedly. I wanted to see hands-on assembly rather than theory.
Date published: 2022-05-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Confused but willing to try This is a review of the reviews so I doubt this will be published. I am torn as to whether or not I will purchase this course, likely will, as regardless of the negatives, I believe I can still learn much. Perhaps it won't answer all my questions, but will provide sufficient information, skills and guidance to support my willingness to purchase "Quilting Essentials".
Date published: 2022-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning new things as I read I bought this because I wanted expert advice on quilting. Earlier in my quilting experience I made mistakes. Being older and wanting to get back into Quilting, I want to make better decisions about my future products. I've just started reading and collecting quilting items. The price for the Quilting Essentials is very good. I wish I'd had this years ago!
Date published: 2022-03-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Purchased for a gift This quilting course is a gift for my daughter in July and it remains unopened so I have no comment to offer.
Date published: 2022-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have only watched 3 DC's, but found them very good. I have made quilts and art quilts for years and bought a copy for a beginner. It has great information for both of us.
Date published: 2022-02-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Some useful information, but... Too much talking, not enough substance. While some of the lectures do contain good, useful information, many of them would be better in an autobiography. The instructor is an expert, and teaches well when instructing, but the course should have been much shorter, without all the talking.
Date published: 2022-01-24
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Quilting Essentials is designed with quilters and crafters of all levels in mind, from those just starting out to longtime quilters who can sew a quarter inch seam with their eyes closed. With this in mind, to better navigate your way through the variety of topics and demonstrations throughout the course, the lessons have been divided into five modules built around important themes. Each design principle is further divided into many individual forms that can be applied to any quilt, whether traditional, experimental, or something in-between. Whether you are creating a practical item for home use, an heirloom that you hope to pass down through the generations, or artwork to hang on the wall, the construction and design skills you will learn in Quilting Essentials will give you a new appreciation for crafts, as well as supply you with a versatile set of tools and techniques you can apply to artistic projects of all kinds.


Heather Thomas

There’s a system behind building a quilt and I want you to learn that system so that you can make anything you want to make anytime that you want to make it.


National Sewing Circle

Heather Thomas is a fiber artist, writer, instructor, and surface designer with a career spanning 30 years. She has developed and taught over 100 different classes on quilting, fabric embellishment, and surface design, and has completed more than 3,000 quilts and quilted artworks. She is the author of A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color and Design, and the coauthor of Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond. She currently teaches online classes for

Quilting Essentials: From Design to Color and Beyond


Introduction & Block Basics

01: Introduction & Block Basics

Begin your journey into quilting by looking at a series of finished quilted works and gaining an understanding of how they were designed and what makes them work. Then get an overview of basic design principles, followed by an introduction to the basics of block construction, including measuring, cutting, and piecing, as well as a few tricks that will help with complex designs.

57 min
Quilt Settings

02: Quilt Settings

In this lesson, learn some of the basic setting options including straight set, diagonal set, medallion set, horizontal set, and off set. As you gain an understanding of each type of setting, you will also be introduced to the special math principles that are the foundation of each type and how to use them in your work.

30 min
Sashing, Coping Strips & Borders

03: Sashing, Coping Strips & Borders

See how coping strips can be used to stop action and help fit a pieced border to a pieced body of a quilt. You will also examine assorted styles of sashing and follow along as Heather demonstrates a simple stitch-and-slash technique. Close this lesson with great information on how borders work and which are ideal for bed quilts versus hanging quilts.

34 min
Designing Your Own Unique Quilts

04: Designing Your Own Unique Quilts

Many quilters begin with commercial quilt patterns, but in this lesson, you will learn how to take your work from the craft level to that of an artist by understanding how to design and create your own original work. Get a feel for the depth and breadth of the skills you will add to your toolbox as you plan, experiment, create—and learn from missteps along the way.

40 min
Becoming an Artist

05: Becoming an Artist

Heather uses her 30 years of personal experience and many of her original works to illustrate her journey to becoming an artist. Learn how a better understanding of each step of your own work will improve it over time, as well as the value of acquiring new skills through trial and error rather than simply through books and patterns.

24 min
Color Theory & Elements of Design

06: Color Theory & Elements of Design

Dip into the basics of color theory, which will help you understand how colors work together and how to integrate them successfully into your work, including the benefits of having a color wheel for reference. Then, follow Heather as she walks you through the elements of design and shows you the many ways you can begin to put those elements into play.

41 min
Technique, Visual Language & Working in a Series

07: Technique, Visual Language & Working in a Series

Every technique you learn adds another tool to your tool box, opening the possibilities for your work and giving you the confidence to try new things. Learn how to apply the techniques you have learned to develop your own visual language and make each new quilt unique. One way to improve both your technique and visual language over time is by working in series, a method Heather demonstrates through several of her own pieces.

40 min
Freestyle Piecing: Beyond the Block

08: Freestyle Piecing: Beyond the Block

If you are hoping to take your work beyond the traditional look of blocks, here is where to begin. Explore the possibilities of freestyle techniques by looking at successful freestyle works, while also getting an introduction to the elements of composition and technique that makes freestyle so flexible.

81 min
Guide to Composition & Freestyle Piecing

09: Guide to Composition & Freestyle Piecing

Explore the unlimited possibilities of quilting by taking what you have learned about traditional techniques and applying them to freestyle work. Learn how to place quilt block freestyle by using drawings and a design wall to create a template for your work. Finally, see how you can bring it all together through your color choices and arrangement.

28 min
The Color Wheel & Color Scale

10: The Color Wheel & Color Scale

Return to the brief introduction you received in color theory and dive deeper into the use of color wheels and the color scale when choosing fabrics and creating patterns for your work. Gain a more thorough understanding of color through an exploration of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as pure hue, tints, tones, and shades for every segment of the color wheel.

46 min
Value, Texture & the 12 Colors

11: Value, Texture & the 12 Colors

Learn how the inherent value of a color affects how it works in combination with other colors by painting or creating value scales with cloth. Move from value to texture, looking at the many ways textures and patterns can be used to create movement, rhythm, and more. Close this lesson with a look at the twelve colors of the color wheel and create your own color wheels and scales for future reference.

39 min
Interaction of Color & Principles of Design

12: Interaction of Color & Principles of Design

Follow Heather through a series of guided exercises to help illustrate how colors interact, including working with neutrals, exploring direct complements, and playing with triads and tetrads. Combine this exploration of color with another look at the three principles of design by applying color theory to create balance, unity, and variety.

34 min
Color: It’s All about the Contrast

13: Color: It’s All about the Contrast

Contrast can create dynamism in a piece, making it one of the most crucial elements of design in quilting. Compare multiple finished pieces to see how contrast works, beginning with a black and white piece and moving into subtler works utilizing tones, tints, and shades. Also see how other forms of contrast can be used when the colors for a chosen piece are very similar.

21 min
Color Expanded: Bold Personalities

14: Color Expanded: Bold Personalities

Better understand color by looking at visual temperature and what makes a color warm, cool, or temperature neutral, as well as what temperature can do to the overall impact of your work. Heather walks you through the many ways color can be used to create unity and variety in your quilting projects and offers a detailed workshop on the process of creating a colorful whole cloth quilt.

30 min
Broadening Your Experience and Practicing

15: Broadening Your Experience and Practicing

The number one tool you will bring to every quilting or crafting project will be your own practice and experience. One of the best ways to refine your own skills and design knowledge is by working in a series, which Heather demonstrates though several of her own projects. As you go, learn how to examine and critique work (your own and that of others), and close with a look at how color brings certain real-world associations to your art.

30 min
Products & Tools

16: Products & Tools

Machine quilting involves many decisions about what tools and products to use—find out which are necessary and which are a matter of marketing. From thread weights and needles to presser feet, Heather will help you understand how every decision you make will affect the outcome of your quilts and how to create work that will last.

43 min
Design, Ergonomics, Basting & Doodling

17: Design, Ergonomics, Basting & Doodling

This lesson begins by introducing you to many design options, breaking down the benefits of each. Then, learn how to improve your experience by approaching your sewing machine from a new angle, lessening the physical strain that can interfere with your work, as well as a new way of basting that will give you more freedom of movement. End by experimenting with free-motion doodling on your sewing machine.

47 min
Nine Basic Stitch-Outs

18: Nine Basic Stitch-Outs

Learn everything you need to know about fills and motifs you can use in your work, from curvy or angled lines to stippling and flowers. Get all of techniques you need to keep your work neat and tidy while you master nine basic stitch outs that can take your project to the next level.

62 min
Machine Quilting Design Basics

19: Machine Quilting Design Basics

Look at machine quilting in a new way by understanding the ways you can use your machine as a valuable design tool and to extend the life of your fabric and stitch-based work. Along the way, Heather helps dispel many myths that surround machine quilting and will introduce you to a valuable set of skills that require no additional tools or specialized machines.

38 min
New Alternatives to Free-Motion Stitching

20: New Alternatives to Free-Motion Stitching

Complex designs can require an immense amount of hand stitching, but this lesson shows you how to create an applique look without any hand stitching by combining machine doodling and fabric paints and inks. Discover the tools and techniques you can use to create amazing designs with shading and color by introducing alternative methods into your skill set.

37 min
Creating Your Design & Tracing Your Motif

21: Creating Your Design & Tracing Your Motif

Create an original design by mixing and matching motifs, or even creating one from scratch. As you learn to select and arrange the elements you want, Heather helps you bring them together using the principles of design. She also demonstrates her methods for transferring designs to the fabric surface, as well as her preferred batting choices and basting technique.

21 min
Free-Motion Stitching Your Design

22: Free-Motion Stitching Your Design

Begin your foray into free-motion stitching your own design by approaching your machine from an ergonomic standpoint for comfort and efficiency. Then, follow along as Heather demonstrates how to stitch traced lines and how to choose the perfect stitch out to fill negative space. Also, learn a valuable technique to hide less-than-perfect stitching!

48 min
Adding Color

23: Adding Color

Enhance your stitched design with color, starting with a look at how distinct color mediums like ink, paint, or fabric markers move on a fabric surface, and how different kinds of markers and brushes can be used. Heather then colors a stitched piece, demonstrating multiple wet and dry shading techniques and discussing how to choose colors to best enhance your designs.

43 min
Final Shading, Squaring Up & Binding

24: Final Shading, Squaring Up & Binding

Once you have finished stitching and coloring your quilt, Heather shows you how to square up your piece and bind it using fabric that is the same color as your thread. She will then show you how to look over your finished piece from several different angles to determine where to add highlights and lowlights to enhance or downplay specific areas.

14 min
Paper Clay, Hot Fixed Metal & Embellishments

25: Paper Clay, Hot Fixed Metal & Embellishments

Discover the possibilities of unexpected elements, like paper clay, iron-on hot fixed metals, and other embellishments that create interest without weighing your quilt down. You may be surprised at how much can be changed in the composition of a quilt by simply adding a few unconventional details, and how easily they can be incorporated with a little practice.

49 min
Basting, Quilting & the Finishing Touches

26: Basting, Quilting & the Finishing Touches

Finishing a project that makes use of embellishments can be tricky, so this lesson walks you through the process of quilting your piece without damaging the surface elements or disrupting your design. Finally, follow step-by-step instructions on binding your piece, with an emphasis on how to keep hanging pieces flat.

43 min
Unique Embellishments, Surfaces & Stitching

27: Unique Embellishments, Surfaces & Stitching

From “schnibbles” (many little bits of cloth) to metal leaf, from personalized hand stitching to ribbon quilting, get a sampling of the many ways you can bring interest and excitement to simple designs and motifs. Heather goes over the important tools you will need for each surface treatment, demonstrates over half a dozen decorative hand stitches, and walks you through several tucks and trims.

46 min
Playing with Beads, Bling & Sheer Fabrics

28: Playing with Beads, Bling & Sheer Fabrics

Hand-beading and sheer fabrics open brand new possibilities for the surface of a piece. In the spirit of exploration, Heather walks you through hands-on demonstrations of hand-beading and creating a piece with layered sheer fabrics. Gain valuable insight into how embellishments interact with other fabrics and design choices throughout every step of every project.

34 min
Exploring Edges & Finishes

29: Exploring Edges & Finishes

While much of a designer's energy will go into the motifs, colors, layout, and patterns of a piece, the edges and finishes of your quilt are just as important to a complete and harmonized design. Go over some of the many ways you can edge and finish assorted designs, keeping in mind the three design principles of balance, unity, and variety.

24 min
Displaying Your Quilts like a Pro

30: Displaying Your Quilts like a Pro

In this final lesson, get an overview of methods you can use to display your work, including creating your own hand-twisted wire frames with simple tools, and stretching your quilt like a traditional painted canvas. Look at multiple ways to hang your pieces, going beyond traditional methods and giving each project the treatment that displays it at its absolute best.

25 min