Quilting Advice From a Seasoned Pro: Latifah Saafir Shares Her Best Beginner Secrets

Latifah Saafir

If you’re a beginner quilter, terms like bias tape appliqué and curved piecing can sound mighty intimidating. But they don’t have to be! Quilting pro Latifah Saafir — who teaches two gorgeous quilting projects in her Modern Quilts With Bias Tape Appliqué class — is convinced that newbies can tackle anything they put their minds to, especially if they aren’t afraid to make mistakes. She gave us her best tips for those just getting started, along with the one technique that’s been a total game-changer for her quilting.

How would you describe your quilting style and aesthetic?

I’ve been referred to as a modern quilter, but I like to say I’m a quilter and I quilt what I love. So whatever calls to me at the time is what I work on. Right now I’m putting together a log cabin quilt, which is very traditional, but of course I’m putting my own spin on it!

What’s your favorite kind of quilt to make?

I don’t choose them deliberately, but for some reason I’m attracted to curves! Pieced, appliquéd, bias tape appliqué — any type of curve is good with me.

What is your favorite part of the quilting process?

The dream and design part. And making that last stitch on the binding. The middle part — actually making the quilt — is just making the dream come to life.

That’s such a fun way of thinking about it. Since you love designing, tell us: what goes into your decision-making process when choosing a final look?

I let the quilt talk to me. Both of the quilt designs in my rainbow quilt are different, but they each reference clouds in the sky and that’s where you find rainbows. One is straight clouds, and the other is called Van Gogh, mimicking the swirly clouds in some of Van Gogh’s paintings.

We read your blog post about all the stressful conundrums you faced while making the rainbow quilt. How do you cope with those high-stress situations?

I try not to get stressed out when quilting. After all, this is our hobby and it’s supposed to be fun! But if I do get frustrated with something, I’ll often put it down and work on something else. If the frustration comes from lack of skills and knowledge, then I try to figure out a way to develop that skill. Craftsy classes are great for this!

Latifah Saafir portrait

You also relied heavily on the quilting community — what does the community mean to you, and how do you recommend newbie quilters get involved in one?

Community is everything! And quilting is one hobby that has always been centered around having one. Check out your local quilt guilds and see if you find one that feels like home — you can find them in cities and towns, large and small. And if you can’t find your “people” in person, don’t be afraid to create your own group like I did when I co-founded the Modern Quilt Guild.

That’s great advice. What other tips do you have for beginner quilters?

Embrace being a beginner. Make as many mistakes as you can early on, because this is how you learn. Remember that sometimes done is better than perfect. Pick a design that you love and dive in. Take classes. Learn tips and techniques. And most of all, commit to finishing. Then start the next one.

As you’ve advanced your quilting, is there one tip, tool or technique that’s been a game-changer for you?

Glue basting on a wall! I hated pin basting and it would stop me from finishing my quilts. Glue basting allowed me to finish my quilts. The lesson there: if there’s something that you don’t love, see if you can find a more pleasurable way of doing it. There is usually more than one way to do anything!

We’ve also heard that sometimes you like to put on some ‘90s R&B music and sing while you sew. Is that your ideal creative environment?

I normally put on an audiobook; I love mysteries and comedies. If I’m in the mood for music, then you’ll find me listening to old school hip hop, ’90s R&B or early ’90s country music.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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