I know a few people who are wading deeper into quilting waters, so I thought I'd put together a couple tips for them. Not so much a life preserver as just a pair of water wings.
Other folks like Ashley and Oh, Fransson! have put together some great starter points for the new quilter, so I'm not going to dive into that. I just wanted to share one or two of my faves for piecing. Like always, it all comes back to pressing. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the difference between homemade and handmade is pressing properly. You're going to have to love your iron.
Once you've chain pieced together your squares (or whatever,) head over to the ironing board. Snip apart the chains and lay everything out flat just the way you sewed it.
Here's the most important part. Press those seams flat. Don't open them up or press them to one side yet, just press them flat. This will set the stitches, removing any wonkiness left in the thread from the sewing process. If you want a clean line afterward, do this first. Do not wiggle the iron back and forth. Just set it down, let the heat and the weight of the iron do the work. Wiggling the iron can distort the stitches and the fabric which leads to off-kilter blocks.
There's plenty of debate about pressing seams open or to one side and using steam vs no steam. I'm not fussed about how you decide to do it, but once you make a decision, stay with it for the entire quilt. Here I'm pressing them open, finger pressing first. (Which is exactly what is sounds like. Just use your fingers as the iron.)
Then once the seam is open bring the iron in and press the backside and then the frontside. Again, no wiggling! Just press.
Quilting can be all about precision since you're building a block to be joined to other blocks. You want your seam allowances the same so that everything is the same size. This means you'll also want your points to line up. Take time to do it right the first time or the mistake will get exponentially bigger down the road.
See how the points line up? Nice!
From the back:
And in the finished block: