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Quilting Tools: Beginners Guide to What You Absolutely Have to Have to Start!

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Today we will discuss in depth just exactly what you have to have to start quilting. In this post Quilting Tools: Beginners Guide I will cover what quilting tools are very necessary for a beginner quilter. And believe me, the queen of tools here, there are so many more you can use! But that can prove very overwhelming for newbies. So lets dive right in and break it down a little!

Sewing Machine

You will need a sewing machine, because this girl right here, she doesn’t do hand sewing! There are some amazing sewists out there that do, but it isn’t me! I am all about the machine. There is such a wide variety of machines to choose from. From the box store basic model to one that is priced the same as a small car! The most important thing is that it sews a straight line and you can adjust the stitch length to about 2.5. That is the most commonly used stitch setting used when quilting! I would also try to get a foot for your machine that is a quarter inch foot. For example on my Bernina machine this is called a 97D. This will help you to maintain the all important 1/4” seam allowance while also giving you great visual reference.

Needles

You will need quilting needles for your machine. I prefer Microtex 90 / 14 size. You can buy them in packs of 5 and Schmetz is a very popular brand. Not a whole lot to say here. There are of course other sizes, and uses, but lets just keep it simple.

Cutting Tools

Cutting your fabric pieces for your quilt will require a rotary cutter. There are several brands and styles to choose from and sizes as well. I would stick with a Fiskars or Olfa brand. These come in sizes 45mm or 60mm. I used the 45mm size for many years. Recently, I purchased a rotary cutter with a 60mm blade and have found it to be my go to. It’s purpose is to cut through more layers more easily than the 45mm size. Now at first you will be like me and won’t really require the 60mm size, because its main purpose is cutting through lots of layers. In the beginning you wont’ be doing that quite as much as when you advance. 45mm is definitely the most widely used size. Quilting is usually pretty addicting – so I know there are more in your future besides just the first one – but neither the 45mm or the 60mm will be a waste of money. My cutter of choice landed on my Top 5 Favorite Quilting Tools freebie! Be sure and check it out!

cutting fabric with rotary cutter on a self healing cutting mat

Now theoretically you can use scissors to cut your fabric, but I would not recommend it. Scissors are very difficult to get precise cuts that are super straight. Once you begin cutting quilts you will understand a bit more as to how scissors impact the cut in quilting that aren’t ideal. But for now just trust me when I say don’t use scissors. It could create more frustration for your first go around than you would want!

Of course the moment I say no scissors and yes of course you do need a small pair of scissors to trim threads here and there! I have a small pair that hang from a command hook I added to the face of my sewing machine. Always handy!

Cutting Mat

Naturally if you choose to go the rotary cutter route that I have suggested in this Quilting Tools: Beginners guide to what you absolutely have to have to start quilting, you’ll need a mat. Mats are designed with several features. The main purpose of a mat is to protect your surface from your rotary blade and to provide a surface where your blade will last as long as possible. Another great feature is the gridded surface. The ruler on the mat can be a great help and provides you with guidelines to follow.

Purchase this depending on the surface you have to cut on, but do keep in mind larger is better. A pretty standard sized mat is 24” x 36”. You don’t necessarily need to go larger than this, but if I had dedicated space, I likely would. This is the largest and most used size mat I have. When we are cutting our fabric we’ve purchased off the bolt – it is generally 22”-ish wide. We often are cutting the length of this to begin cutting our pieces for quilt tops.

Seam Ripper

Yup. You’ll need one or two or three! Unless you are some magical form of human that never makes mistakes and never misplaces their tools. I’ve yet to meet one! These are an inexpensive but valuable tool that you will love to hate! They are pretty standard and you can grab one in any sewing section. There has been a newer trend of blade style seam rippers and I do think I prefer them over the standard ones. But you’ll need the plain ole tried and true no matter, so grab you one next time you are out. I love mine so much it also ended up on my Top 5 Favorite Quilting Tools freebie as well. Hint: it’s a bladed one, by a famous fabric designer, and is pretty too!

Top 5 Favorite Quilting Tools
Top 5 Favorite Quilting Tools

Acrylic Ruler

You will need at least 1 basic acrylic ruler for quilting. I would suggest my tried and true Omnigrid 6.5” x 24” Ruler. It’s a staple item for sure. I also get a great deal of use from the Omnigrid 15” x 15” Square Ruler. These square ones are great for squaring up your blocks and just trimming in general. You can definitely go down to a 12.5” x 12.5” if the 15” seems a little large and I would recommend it honestly. Another wildly popular brand is Creative Grids. I do like both, but lean towards Omnigrid. I think I learned with them, and am used to the colors and markings, so I tend to stick with them. Creative Grids does offer a slightly larger 8.5” x 24.5” Ruler which I have found more useful sometimes than my 6.5” wide Omni, but for just starting out – either will work and a square one is just a bonus!

Pins

You will need some pins to hold things together as you sew! I don’t care for the standard quilting pins. You’ll recognize these by their large size and large head that is yellow plastic. I avoid these. You need something a little more fine to hold your pieces together without causing some holes in your fabric.

Now the one that I have linked to the right here I don’t actually have, but when I was searching for a good pin to recommend, I love the look of this item! I have a very similar magnetic dish, and it is so handy. This stores the pins for you as well, and the pins have glass tops. This means if you need to iron something, your pins won’t melt if you touch it with your iron.

I’d say this combo is worth a try at least! If you do decide to grab it, be sure to let me know what you think!

Iron

Next up in Quilting Tools: Beginners guide to what you absolutely have to have to start is irons! Not nearly as painful as ironing your difficult clothing, but quilting does require lots of ironing. Most quilters use a dry iron, so no steam or water necessary. I have an iron that has never had water in it, so I can’t really speak to piecing with steam. I’ve done just fine without! Just a standard iron will do. If you don’t have an ironing board a towel or two on a flat counter top will work as well. Just be careful not to do this on finished wood. It can damage it for sure! I used just a cheap Black n Decker iron for quite a while but it wasn’t in the best shape. So a few years a go I upgraded to an iron built for quilters and you can find out what that is if you want right here ———> Top 5 Favorite Quilting Tools

I am really excited about your interest in quilting! It’s such a fulfilling hobby and can be very relaxing while also challenging your mind. It’s fun to watch your skills build as you learn. I hope this Quilting Tools: Beginners Guide to what you absolutely have to have to start will give you the confidence to know what to start with!

Where to buy your tools?

Obviously I have shared some Amazon links that you are welcome to purchase from. I will receive a small commission from Amazon if you purchase via these links and it won’t cost you any extra! I just really think it helps to see the products I am talking about too. Besides Amazon there are some really amazing quilt shops all over the country. Both brick and mortar and online. Give google a search to find one near you! One of my favorite shops is The Fat Quarter Shop. Click the image below to check them out!

Fat Quarter Shop Quilting Fabrics and Supplies

I highly recommend locating a local shop because many times they offer one on one help and classes that are super fun! You can always be inspired when going to a store viewing sample quilts and all the latest and most beautiful fabrics on display. Check out my recent blog post on Advice to Quilt Shops: Quilters Have Their Say.

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4 Comments

  1. Enjoyed reading your information to help us get started. Looking for a list of materials I need also.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope to have some beginners quilting information or even classes or tutorials up by this Fall/Winter. I do have a list of my favorite products in my Resource Library if that helps you at all, and I’m working on a beginners guide to quilting to be more of a reference guide to help with learning everything.

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