What Tools Do You Need to Start Quilting?

Quilting is one of my all time favourite crafty activities.  I’m always trying to get my friends started on quilting (with a few successful recruits, hooray!).

What do you need to get started quilting?

You don’t really need much to get started. People have been quilting long before fancy sewing machines have existed.  You can cut patches out of fabric with a standard pair of scissors, and sew together by hand with a needle and thread.  So the bare-bones list would be: fabric, scissors, needle, thread, and batting.

But I’ll be honest: I hate hand sewing, and cutting out fabric patches with scissors would drive me crazy because it is time consuming to cut accurately with scissors and frustrating if your points don’t match up due to inaccurate seams.

I’ve put together a list of tools I recommend to kick-start your adventures in quilting.  You can buy these at your local quilt shop or fabric store, but I’ve included links to Amazon for your convenience as well.  This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a little commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase.  I didn’t include fabric or other perishable supplies since your quilting pattern will itemize out those specific requirements.

First, The Must-Have Quilting Tools

  • Sewing Machine
    • For piecing quilts together, all you need is a sewing machine that can sew a straight line.  You don’t need anything fancy.  For the bulk of my sewing, I use inexpensive vintage sewing machines that have no functions other than straight stitching.  However, if you’re buying a new machine outright, it may be handy to get one that has a quilting table option like this CS6000i from Brother, but I’ve never personally had one with a quilting table and I’ve survived just fine.
    • It’s not necessary to buy a machine with a ton of fancy stitches unless you know that you’ll be doing sewing with embellishment stitches for other projects.
      What Tools Do You Need To Start Quilting? Fabrics
  • Iron and Ironing Board
    • Pressing is important for making sure that your seams nest nicely.  When I first started quilting, I didn’t iron my seams out of laziness, and that was a big mistake!  Any iron will do the trick.  I do recommend one with an automatic shut-off timer for safety like this one made by Singer.  You may take longer at your sewing machine than you think and forget about your iron.  And then one of your cats knocks over your iron when you’re not in the room.  And then you have a big scorch mark on your iron board.  Not that that has happened to me when I was using an iron without an auto shut-off.  *cough*
    • A standard 15″x54″ ironing board  works fine, but I have two ironing boards that I use often.  One is a small table top one which is useful for pressing small blocks right beside the sewing machine.  The other board is a slightly wider model at 18″ wide.  Those extra few inches make it faster when pressing large pieces of fabric but are certainly not necessary.
  • Rotary Cutter, Cutting Mat, and Acrylic Ruler
    • Cutting out your fabric patches is painless when you use a rotary cutter instead of scissors!  This allows you to easily cut strips across the width of your fabric and then sub cut them down into smaller patches.
    • Mats come in a variety of sizes, but I recommend purchasing the 24″x36″ size rather than anything any smaller.  I started out with an 18″x24″ model, but it’s too small for many tasks.
    • I recommend both OLFA and Fiskars cutting mats and rotary cutters. Fiskars sells a convenient package including the ruler, the mat, and a rotary cutter at a great price.  I do love the feeling of the OLFA rotary cutter in my hand compared to my Fiskars one, but it’s a little more expensive.
    • There are many great acrylic quilting rulers out there, but my favourite is the 6″x24″ size because it’s very versatile.  I do nearly all my cuts with that ruler.What Do You Need to Start Quilting? Cutting Tools like Scissors and Rotary Cutters.
  • Scissors
    • Keep a pair of scissors that are sharp for cutting fabric.  Don’t cut paper with it or it will become dull.  I use ones from Fiskars.
  • Thread
    • Historically, quilters are told to use cotton thread to match the cotton fibres of the material.  Gutterman thread is my favourite.  I don’t recommend using vintage thread or thread from dollar stores because the thread’s integrity might be questionable.  The last thing you want is your project to fall apart at the seams.
      What Tools Do You Need To Start Quilting? Thread
  • Seam Ripper
    • Mistakes are inevitable, so you’ll want a handy seam ripper to pull out your stitches when necessary.
  • Straight Pins
    • I recommend splurging on the glass head style straight pins.  Plastic heads can melt under your iron mistakenly leading to ruined fabric.  Glass head straight pins are resistant to heat.
      What Do You Need to Start Quilting? Straight Pins. I recommend the glass head variety for heat resistance. No melted pin heads!
  • Safety Pins
    • You’ll need safety pins to sandwich the layers of your quilt before quilting. I like to use curved safety pins because it’s easier to penetrate the quilt layers without the layers shifting.

Second, The Nice-to-Haves

  • Quarter Inch Foot
    • Quilt patterns typically use a quarter inch seam allowance unless otherwise specified.  However, the default foot is not a quarter inch.  Some people mark the quarter inch allowance using tape or marker on their sewing machine’s bed.  I invested in a quarter inch seam foot which improved my piecing so much.  I wish I had purchased one earlier!
    • When shopping for a quarter inch foot, make sure you check your machine’s manual to see if your machine takes low shank attachments, high shank attachments, or slant shank attachments.
  • Walking Foot
    • A walking foot helps keep all of your quilt layers moving at the same pace underneath your presser foot.  Normally there are only feed dogs below the fabric moving the fabric along, but when a walking foot is attached, it acts as if there are feed dogs above as well.  The walking foot will help prevent shifting and wrinkling of your fabric.
      What Do You Need to Start Quilting? Nice to Have: Walking Foot Sewing Machine Attachment
  • Wonder Clips
    • Wonder Clips are, well, wonderful.  You can use these in place of straight pins in a variety of scenarios.  I love using these clips when attaching binding.
      What Tools Do You Need To Start Quilting? Nice to have: Wonderclips!
  • Disappearing Ink Fabric Pen
    • Disappearing ink is useful to mark out cutting lines or quilting guidelines.  Always test on a scrap piece of material to make sure it will disappear as expected.

Can We Dream?

How about adding a long arm sewing machine to your shopping list? Just kidding, you definitely don’t need a $10,000 sewing machine to start (I’m exaggerating a little on the price, but not by much!).  I certainly don’t have one, but I can dream about a mid arm or long arm sewing machine for when I retire, right?!

What Would You Add?

Did I miss anything?  Let other readers know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “What Tools Do You Need to Start Quilting?

  • November 23, 2016 at 3:44 am
    Permalink

    When you mentioned disappearing ink pen, did you mean the Frixion Pens? You forgot bobbins, and plenty of them, the same for threads of different colors and a pair of small good scissors. Add also the material of good cotton, i108″ batting an the same size for the backing so you won’t be short of material Thank you.

    Reply
    • November 25, 2016 at 3:22 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Janil95! For the disappearing ink pen, I’ve used Dritz brand. My local shop doesn’t carry Frixion so I can’t comment on those.

      Love your recommendations! I didn’t even think to mention the bobbins since machines come with one at the very least. One is enough to get started for a beginner since you can rewind it often. I’ve heard some people winding multiple bobbins of the same thread colour to save time. I don’t personally do that in case I don’t end up using the bobbin for that project since I switch between Featherweight bobbins, class 66 bobbins, and Husqvarna bobbins.

      Reply

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