This post has been edited on 10/12/17 for a video of the essentials needed for basic patchwork + a little bit about purchasing fabric.
In this post we will discuss tools that us quilt makers require, covet, and just really, really wish we had. I will start with the basic supplies to get started quilting, and then move on to some specialty supplies that will help making a quilt easier.
Let’s talk essentials, the “good luck making a quilt without them” tools. The tools you MUST have.
- a sewing machine – I guess technically you don’t HAVE to have this, you could stitch everything by hand, but maybe you are like me and consider this a necessity. Here is the one I use. And I also own this one. And this one was the one I started it all with. You could even find one for less than a hundred dollars, see this Singer. You could make a quilt on any sewing machine. Buy something cheap to get you started, fall in love with quilting then buy yourself a better sewing machine.
- Thread – truly needed. I use 50 wt. thread for everything. If you are super fancy, you might try Aurifil, it’s lent free, so it will go a long way to keeping your sewing machine cleaner.
- Scissors – These are the only scissors I use. I particularly like them because I do not have to put my fingers inside them. I get cramps in my hands.
- an iron – how else will we press our seams? They do make super fancy irons especially for us sewists, but I’ve never tried them.
- Pins – We use these to pin fabric together so that it doesn’t move before we sew it. I really like this kind and this size. I’ve also been known to glue them to the back of pretty buttons and beads to make them even prettier. You can technically do without this tool too, but not if you want good seams.
- a cutting mat – A cutting mat is what you cut fabric on. I’d recommend buying the biggest one that your space and budget can handle. The bigger, the easier on you when cutting fabric. I own this one. I have it on top of an old dining room table I purchased at an estate sale. I also have a very small cutting mat that I use at my desk for paper piecing and I use it in my lap a lot when I’m drawing lines on squares on the sofa. It’s handy to have and portable.
- a Ruler– we will discuss rulers in great detail, but this ruler is the one you should buy first. You will use it more than any other ruler. Plus, the Omnigrid brand has something on the back of all their rulers that keep it from slipping.
- a rotary cutter – This is what you cut fabric with. My grandmother thought this was the coolest thing, that I didn’t use scissors to cut fabric. It’s quick, easy and won’t make your hands cramp.
The single best thing about quilting is choosing fabrics. I looooove it. And don’t argue! FABRIC. IS. THE. WHOLE. THING. It’s all the reasons why. Yes, I like stitching pieces together, yes, I like sitting for hours doing the same task over and over, and yes, I like snuggling under a quilt, but fabric………. Just gimme stacks of it all day!
Now that my obsessive rant is over (please overlook any hoarding tendencies!), I’m gonna tell you where to go and buy it at.
Here are some of my fave fabric shops:
- Ava and Neve – They sell Liberty fabric only. I talk about this fabric once a month. I love the owner, Martina, over there! She’s crazy sweet (you may notice when one is obsessed with fabric, one knows online fabric shop owners on a first name basis).
- Fat Quarter Shop – This fabric shop has everything you need, and it doesn’t matter if you are modern or traditional. They’ve got you covered. Kimberly and her staff are super involved in the quilting community.
- The Confident Stitch – This shop caters a little more to garment sewists, but they DO have quilting cotton too.
- Connecting Threads – This is a big shop. Click the link, you’ll see.
- Sew Stitching Happy – I really, really love this shop. I also love her IG feed.
- Material Girl Chic – this is a great shop, particularly if you like buying your fabric in bundles.
- Stitchery Sewist Shop – This shop is owned by one of my sweet friends, Violet. I did a whole post on her and her shop here.
- Southern Charm Quilts – Yes, this is my own shop. I don’t sell lots of fabric, but usually have some available by collection or bundle, or even scrap bundles.
I am one of those people who go into a restaurant and order the same thing every single time. It’s different at each restaurant, but I rarely stray. I like what I like and I hate being disappointed after paying for.
And I have tried MANY different battings, but for the past 3-4 years I have not strayed. Not once.
And here’s why:
It does not have saggy spots. Every other single batting I have tried had saggy spots. I don’t know why those are there, how they get there, but they are a basting nightmare. And basting nightmares almost always turn into quilting nightmares.
It feels better. Seriously, have you touched it? It’s needle punched and just feels so well made. It is a dream to quilt on.
A vast variety is available. They have 100% cotton, cotton with scrim, wool, poly, cotton / poly. You name it.
I have only tried the 100% cotton. I never needed to stray. Never needed to try another. It was perfect for what I needed.
Rulers are expensive. They just are. If you are new to quilting, this might be a surprise. Do not ever, ever buy a ruler that only does one thing. If you are going to invest in a ruler, make sure you can do multiple things with it OR you can buy multiple quilt patterns to use it for.
With that said, rulers can MAKE the quilting experience. They can make something complicated incredibly easy, so I am a big supporter of them. Just be particular, do your homework, unless of course you are sitting on a mountain of funds to spend on your quilting hobby.
Here are the rulers I own, why I like them or why I don’t:
A dresden ruler. I have used it sooooo many times. See all my dresden quilts here. There are 8 different sizes that this ruler can make. It can be used for a dresden quilt, a tumbler quilt, fans, and cones. All of these are great scrap quilts. I have a tutorial for using this ruler right here.
A Hex N More ruler. I have talked about this ruler MANY times, but it’s one of my favorites. This ruler makes different sizes of hexagons, equilateral triangles and jewels. It’s easy to use. Has the notches that make piecing points a breeze. I have a free tutorial and quilt pattern for how to use this ruler here.
Fussy Cut rulers. I bought these early on in my quilting life and have used them extensively. I like to fussy cut and these rulers make it easy. There are 3 different sizes: 3.5, 4.5, and 6.5″.
12.5″ Square Up Ruler. I bought this ruler early on and just never really used it. I understand what it’s for, but it just doesn’t come in handy for me. If I was making gigantic half square triangles I think I might use it. If you are using this ruler and find it useful, drop me a line and let me know what you are doing with it.
HST ruler. Now this ruler is one that I could not live without. This ruler squares up half square triangles in sizes 1″ to 6.5″. It does whole numbers and the half numbers. This is the way I currently work all my HSTs. Also, it can double as a fussy cut 6.5″ ruler. I have a tutorial for using this ruler right here.
Hexagons Ruler set. I only recently purchased this set of rulers. I used it to cut whole hexies out on paper for an applique quilt I’m working on. They are 5-8″ hexagons. They include those little circles at the corners for easy machine piecing. I haven’t used them enough yet to go into more detail.
Quick Curve Ruler. I bought this ruler several years ago, along with double wedding ring quilt pattern and never used either. It’s slotted in the center for your rotary cutter. I feel like this was a waste for me. Maybe I’ll use it in the future? I have thought about trying it out to cut my orange peel quilts instead of my current template. We shall see.
Equilateral Triangle ruler. This ruler doesn’t have those easy sew notches, so I feel like that makes it obsolete for me. If I was going to make a triangle quilt, I’d do it with my Hex N More ruler instead. Rulers with the points are easy to cut with, but not sew with (for me).
So we have covered all the rulers I have, now let me show you the rulers that I want. Rulers that are in my Amazon shopping cart that I am excited about. Keep in mind I’ve not tried these rulers out, but I’ve heard good things and I’d like to own them.
I used to use safety pins. If you choose to pin baste, be sure to purchase the curved safety pins. They are easier to get into your quilt when it’s on a hard surface.
I currently spray baste and probably always will. I do this on a wall (I have a tutorial on wall basting here).
When I started using this product everything turned upside down. The time it saves! The ease of not having to pin and especially not having to remove those pins!
The spray isn’t toxic smelling. It doesn’t get on my machine needle. And it lasts for days. So I could baste a quilt on Monday and not quilt it til Wednesday. Or longer. Though I haven’t tried longer.
There are some cons though, as there is with everything. It got all over my floor and left a residue. I solved that by laying an old sheet out up under the spot where I always baste. Problem solved.
Obviously, you don’t need all of this to get you started, just ‘the basics’ at the top of this post and more importantly, all you need is the desire to quilt and the patience to get it done.