I am excited to share some very beginner-level steps to making a quilt. We’re going to move slow and simply through the quilt-making process from beginning to end. There will be a 10 week series, dissecting how to make a simple patchwork quilt. We’ll start today by talking about basic quilting supplies.
This is part 1 in a 10 part Beginning Quilting Series.
One look at the quilting aisle in any of the big fabric stores and it would be easy to feel overwhelmed. You don’t need every tool on the market for a successful quilt-making experience, but there are a few that will make a significant difference. (some of these include affiliate links to Amazon where you can buy the item directly.)
- Rotary Cutter – this tool is like a pizza cutter for fabric. The blades are very sharp and cut fabric quickly and accurately. There are many different sizes. I use the medium-sized cutter most and recommend this one for any beginners. My favorite is the Olfa Splash.
- A Self-healing Cutting Mat – allows you to use the rotary cutter for cutting fabric. A printed ruler-grid can also help with measuring fabric pieces. Mats come in many different sizes, but an 18″ x 24″ mat is a good size to start with.
- Scissors – sharp sewing scissors are helpful however, most quilt projects are cut mostly with a rotary cutter so fancy, expensive scissors aren’t necessary. (I love these Elan scissors – inexpensive, but stay sharp.) Do try to keep a pair of scissors purely for cutting fabric/thread so they won’t dull as quickly cutting paper.
- Seam Ripper – no shame here! Even the best of quilters/seamstresses stand by their seam ripper. I have at least 4 located strategically throughout the house because I use them so often. Any seam ripper will work, but my favorite is this Clover seam ripper.
- Fabric – we’ll talk about this more in the future, but 100% Cotton is best. If you’re looking for a variety of good places to start – any of the sponsor buttons on my right sidebar are links to great online shops. I’d recommend any of them.
- Thread – again, use 100% Cotton thread for quilting. Some thread is better than others. Cheaper thread will break easier and could create a lint farm in your machine. I don’t buy the most expensive thread, but I don’t buy the cheapest either. Because I use so much thread, I started buying in bulk – hence the big cone in the top of the picture. (My favorite is Aurifil 50 wt.) One neutral color works well on most piecing projects – cream, tan or gray.
- Pins – I like the longer straight pins with plastic heads, or even better, glass heads. They’re much easier to grab while working and to find when I drop them into the carpet. Safety pins (not pictured) also come in handy in the finishing stages later on.
- Rulers – Quilting rulers are an important part of the quilting process. They help cut pieces quickly and accurately. I suggest starting with a longer ruler 5″ or 6″ x 24″. This allows you to cut efficiently across the width of the fabric. I also recommend a smaller ruler (5″ or 6″ x 12″) to make it easier to cut smaller pieces. As far as brands, I have a lot of Omnigrid rulers, but I like Creative Grids and Olfa Frosted because they grip the fabric better and are less likely to slide.
Now, I know you are thinking that this is going to add up fast, and it definitely can. I suggest using those 40-50% off coupons for the larger chain fabric or craft stores to get your supplies. That can save you a ton of money. And remember that these tools are investments you will use over and over again. (I have had my rulers for almost 20 years and have used them almost every day. I even use them for paper crafts – including one of my old rotary cutters!) If you’re not sure you want to invest in something until you know you enjoy the task they’re for, ask a friend if you can borrow theirs to try them first.
Finally, a word about irons and sewing machines. Neither of these need to be fancy or expensive. Almost any iron will do, but one that gets hot is important. Steam is an extra feature to have. Some of my favorite irons are one’s that I’ve found at thrift stores for very cheap.
If you have a sewing machine that will sew a good, straight line, you are ready to go! The machine pictured above is almost as old as I am and I love it. If your machine is giving you trouble, take it in to get serviced. It’s like a car – a little maintenance and some oil will keep it running well for a long time. If you are looking for advice on buying a sewing machine I have a post with lots of great input from other sewers in the comments. Melissa Mortenson also has an excellent post on how to pick a sewing machine.
You can buy sewing machine needles specifically for quilting, but don’t have to. Most of the time I use Universals. Changing the needle regularly makes a big difference. In fact, if your machine is skipping stitches or not sewing well, try changing the needle before you do anything else. It’s often a simple, and cheap, solution.
Lesson 2: Choosing Fabric