I'm going to share my personal preferences for tools and supplies for quilting. We'll go into more detail about some fun rulers later. One thing I want you to know is that you'll find your own preferences for your tools and supplies by trying out different threads, rulers, marking tools, and scissors. If you are just getting started quilting and know a quilter, ask. Try. Find out what YOU like.
Personally, I have multiples of many of my tools and supplies, so I've never minded sending someone home with a few things to get them started. I've done this many, many times, and still I have all the tools and supplies I need to carry me over to the apocalypse. (Now that doesn't mean I don't buy more when I find something fun.) But I've also had to make changes in my tools to continue quilting despite multiple sclerosis. That means a lot of my supplies were sitting unused, waiting to help make quilts.
Let's go over some of the items I recommend to the ladies in my beginning quilt class.
**Note: I may include affiliate links for reputable sources of supplies that I personally use. If so, it only means that clicking on the link and making a purchase gives me a small commission to help with the operating costs of this website and my current project: To Honor & Comfort. You don't pay a penny more. BUT if you have a local quilt shop, please shop there first. Support your local business men and women.
Tools and Supplies
Make sure that you service your sewing machine regularly. Read the manual that comes with your machine (or find it as a download online). Servicing your machine will ensure that you both have a long and productive life of quilting. Oh, and try to get in the habit of regularly removing the lint from your machine, maybe every other time you change a bobbin. I promise you that you'll forget sometimes. I promise you that once you remember and remove the giant gob of lint, you and your machine will both be stitching better. Ask me how I know!
Sewing Machine Needles
You'll find your preference (and your machine's preference) for needles. However, my choice of needles for piecing is a size 80/12. I use a different size needle for quilting, but we'll go into that in more detail later. Choose a needle that says 80/12 Sharp or Universal for getting started.
Buy a seam ripper (or two or three). They don't cost very much. YOU WILL USE IT. There is nothing wrong with unpicking stitches. This is probably the #1 quilting skill you will become proficient at first. I don't have much in the way of fine jewelry, but I tell my kids my seam ripper should be gold or silver and have gems or Swarovski crystals. I use it every day. It gets A LOT of use. If you find a beautiful one (I've seen lathe-turned wood or resin handled seam rippers), buy it and enjoy it.
You will find many, many choices for scissors. I won't get on my soap box and tell you to use the right pair of scissors for what you are working on. I'm sure you'll figure that out! Here are my must haves for scissors:
- Sewing Shears (to use on fabric only)
- Thread Snips (these don't cost too much, buy a couple and maybe keep one on the side of your sewing machine with a 3M Command Hook)
- 4" Curved Tip Scissors-My favorite brand of curved tip scissors is Kai. These are fantastic so that you can cut threads without injuring your quilt and all your hard work.
- 4" Craft/Sharp Scissors-These are perfect for applique. My favorite pair is also from Kai. You will find yourself grabbing these little scissors often.
- A pair of scissors for cutting paper/patterns (don't use your sewing shears!!)
Rotary Cutter & Mat
A rotary cutter is designed to be used with a self-healing mat. You can find rotary cutters in a variety of sizes and you might want to keep a couple on hand. You can often find rotary cutters packaged with a self-healing mat at some retailers.
- 45mm rotary cutter: this is your go-to tool. Make sure you buy one (and some replacement blades). Because of MS, my favorite rotary cutter is from Martelli and is an ergonomic model that allows me to have a bit more control.
- 60mm rotary cutter: this cutter is optional and is good for cutting a lot of yardage. I prefer to use a 45mm cutter and cut less fabric at a time, just to avoid wonky strips when multiple layers of fabric get shuffled. But it is an option.
- 28mm rotary cutter: I keep this rotary cutter on the small mat next to my machine. The small cutting mat is on a turntable. This makes paper-piecing more convenient. It's a great little rotary cutter for details, curves, and teeny-tiny bits. (And if you don't know what paper-piecing is, stay tuned. We'll be talking about it later this month.)
Now I'll get on my soap box, only because I've seen it all in a beginning quilt class. Y'all know who you are if you're reading this. CLOSE the blade on your rotary cutter before you set it down. MAKE IT A HABIT. You will inevitably have strips, strings, crumbs, and probably a glass of whiskey, wine, or coffee on your work space and it might get covered up. The last thing you want is to reach in and find your rotary cutter blade with your hand. Ouch!
My next gentle reminder is to not use a rotary cutter all willy-nilly. Pick up the correct tool and use it. Don't try to use your rotary cutter in lieu of a seam ripper, or a pair of scissors, when the job is NOT for a rotary cutter. The blades are sharp and running it all over in every direction is bound to be a disaster. If this is something you might do, I also suggest adding a first-aid kit to your basic sewing tools & supplies. You have been warned.
We'll talk about some great rulers later, but to get started with quilting, let's just cover the basics. You are going to want a couple of different rulers. You WILL buy more rulers. You WILL have to figure out how to store them. Oh, but you WILL have sew much fun. But let's just start with two rulers.
- 6 x 24" ruler: This is your go-to ruler for cutting strips and I recommend it as your first ruler.
- 12.5" square ruler: This ruler is going to be helpful for squaring up your blocks.
Iron & Ironing Board
You have one, I'm sure. Pull it out of the closet. Dust it off. You will be pressing your blocks and fabric. I prefer to use a steam iron.
Spray Starch & Pressing Spray
I bet you have a can of spray starch tucked away somewhere. We'll chat about how spray starch can add some stability to your fabric, as well as when to use it and when not to use it. I've got a little recipe I'll share soon for pressing spray, but no doubt you'll become addicted to Mary Ellen's Best Press. It's okay. There are a lot of us. We won't tell. Buy some. Buy a lot. You will not be disappointed.
We're going to be working with scraps, so choose a neutral color, such as ecru, tan, or a light grey. It will blend in better with a variety of fabrics. Choose high-quality cotton thread for piecing your projects.
Glass head pins that have a very thin shaft are perfect for quilting. Pins with a plastic head are also available, but you have to be careful when ironing. NEVER, EVER, EVER sew over a pin. NEVER. Not once. Don't do it.
FriXion pens or a mechanical pencil are helpful, or just a plain old every day biro (fancy way to say ballpoint pen). Keep them near your machine. You'll use them to mark sewing lines.
Supplies we are going to use later this month include painter's tap, a measuring tape, a walking foot and a darning foot (check your local sewing machine dealer for ones that fits your machine).
I know that's a very long list. Quilting supplies can be an investment, but using the proper tools and supplies will make your life so much easier. Quilting is no longer the days of cutting out cardboard templates from a cereal box and cutting each piece with scissors. That's how I learned, and I'm much happier to choose the right tool for the right job.
I'll upload a shopping list of the supplies in the next couple of days so you can mark off what you have or need to get started quilting.