Basic Quilting Supplies – for beginners

Everything You Need

Today we will get into the nitty gritty of what you need to get started.

There are only a few basic supplies you need to get started, but these supplies have a way of lasting for the ages. So think of the majority of these supplies as items that rarely need replacing.  Most should carry you through your journey of quilt making to the end.

There’s affiliate links throughout this post.

The necessities:

  • Sewing Machine – I’ve written an entire post dedicated to finding a sewing machine here.
  • Rotary cutter – Let me just tell you that you can’t go wrong with any rotary cutter you choose. I’ve never used a “bad” one. I use this one 90% of the time. But this one is also really common. I just prefer to use the bigger one because it means I can cut more fabric as I cut.
  • Rotary cutting mat – I have this one.  Purchase the largest cutting mat that your budget allows and that you have space for. The bigger, the easier. It’s okay to have a little cut mat, I have several, but when I’m cutting fabric from yardage, half yards, or fat quarters, I need that 24″x36″ size. I save my little mats for trimming or travel.
  • A basic 24″ ruler for cutting fabric – I use this one, it doesn’t slide much. This is used to help you cut a straight line of fabric with your rotary cutter.  For that reason, you want it to span at least a half yard of fabric to be the most versatile.  6.5″×24″ is in my opinion the most perfect size on most of your cutting when using a rotary cutter. If you’ve watched any of my videos or taken my classes, you know I like to subcut with a smaller ruler, but that’s just a preference. The 6.5″x24″ is necessity.
  • Scissors – I use scissors mostly for cutting threads at my sewing machine.  I like Havel’s cutting products, because I feel they are sharper than other’s. I have a lot of different scissors for many different tasks, but here’s three I wouldn’t be happy without. I use these for chain piecing, these for pretty much any other thread cutting, and then these when I need to cut fabric with a pair of scissors.
  • Thread – My favorite piecing thread is So Fine 50wt by Superior. I like to quilt with a variety.
  • A 12.5″ square rulerHere’s a good one. You need this for trimming down certain patchwork pieces and units. I like having the 6.5″ size too, but if you can only buy one of them, get the 12.5″.

All About Fabric

So fabric.  Fabric!  In my opinion fabric is the most important, most exciting, most gushable part of quilt making.  I could go on for days, but let’s skip squealing and hand clapping and get to what you really need to know.

Where do you get it

If you live in an area where there is a proper quilt shop that sales fabric, you should definitely go and have a look around.  All quilt shops are not created exactly the same.  Some quilt shops lean towards traditional fabric, some are more modern.  The choosing of fabric in person is not something that can be overestimated.  It’s almost magical, plus there are people that work there that will know a thing or two about the quilting world.  If you find a quilt shop you like, support it.

Small note here:  The fabric that you can buy in big box stores like Hobby Lobby, Walmart, etc. is not the same caliber of fabric from designer fabric manufacturers.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve bought it, I’ve used it, I’ve even enjoyed it, but when you hold one in one hand and a designer fabric in the other, you WILL notice the difference.  Occasionally, I know Hobby Lobby has had designer fabrics among its own brands as well.  This is not meant to discourage you from these fabrics.  If you love them, use them.

I  have my very own fabric shop here.  It’s called Meander + Make.  I’ve curated my whole shop based on my own tastes.  I buy what I like.  We specialize in two things:  Custom bundles for my own quilt patterns and having an extensive collection of low volume fabrics.

Every Monday, I chat about fabric on the blog.   Find all of those posts here.

Cuts & Sizes of Fabric

Fabric is sold in several different ways.  Before we go through them in detail, let’s get a few things straight.

  1. Quilting cotton fabric is MOSTLY created with a width of about 42-44″.
  2. When cut from the bolt it is always folded in half.  So if you purchase one yard of fabric, your fabric is cut 36″ long and when you unfold it, it will measure 42/44″ by 36″.
  3. Fabric is sold in yards (in US).  You can buy a yard, a half yard, a quarter yard.  You can also buy these pieces broken up even smaller.

Fabrics are designed by collections.  Collections can have anywhere from 8-20 fabrics within them and then they will break them up into color palettes.  These collections are a group of fabrics made to belong together.  You could purchase a half yard bundle of a whole collection and receive enough fabric for multiple quilts.

Let’s discuss breaking down fabrics even more.  These are called “pre-cuts”.  A pre-cut is any fabric that is not cut by the whole width (that 42/44″ number).  This means you could get a bigger variety of fabric for the money, though it does mean less of each print.  Let’s take a look at some popular pre-cuts.

Here’s a list of what you could purchase:

  1. Fat Quarters – A fat quarter is a half yard of fabric cut in half.  It’s measurement is 18×22″.  It is probably the most popular of the pre-cuts.  You will find a lot of patterns that are friendly toward fat quarter cuts of fabric.  
  2. Fat Eighths – A fat eighth is a fat quarter cut in half.  It’s measurement is 9×21″.  By purchasing a fat eighth bundle you could receive an entire collection of fabrics.  This makes buying a whole collection that you love even easier.  
  3. Jelly Rolls – A jelly roll is a strip of fabric measuring 2.5×42/44″ taken from every fabric in a collection and rolled up together.  If you know you are making a strip quilt or need a bunch of 2.5″ squares then this might be a good option for you.  Half the work is already done for you.  
  4. Layer Cakes – A layer cake is every fabric within a collection cut into a 10″ square.  A layer cake will usually contain about 40ish 10″ squares, one from each fabric in the collection.  
  5. Charm Packs – A charm pack is the same thing as a layer cake except the fabric is cut into a 5″ square. 
  6. Mini Charm Packs – A mini charm pack is the same thing as a layer cake except the fabric is cut into a 2.5″ square.  

I’ve never purchased fabric in any cut except fat quarters and half yards, but there’s many quilters who do.

Styles, Types of Fabric and other details

When quilt maker’s are talking about fabric and patterns there are lots of words that are getting thrown out there that you might not know if you are just starting your journey into quilt making.  Here are a few words that describe specific types of fabrics:

  • Solids – A solid fabric is a fabric that has no design on it.  It’s just one single color.  Find solid fabrics here.
  • Prints – A print fabric is a fabric that has a design on it.  Florals and geometric are just some of the types of print fabric.  Find print fabrics here.
  • Low Volume – A low volume is a type of print fabric that reads as very light or white.  I wrote a post about low volume prints here.  You can find low volumes to purchase here.
  • Tonals/Blenders – A tonal is a type of print fabric that is one color on color or almost one color.  For example, the background of the print is orange, and the design is a different shade of orange or having just a smidgen of a different color.  Find tonals/blenders here.
  • Novelty – A novelty print is a print fabric that has theme to it or a conversation starter.  They are sometimes cutsie or quirky.  Find novelty prints here.

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  1. Do you have a tutorial on joining a piece of batting to a larger piece of batting? I tried (twice) using a zigzag stitch and it ended up lumpy.

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