Interested in getting “in” on the quilting trend but not sure where to start? Start HERE with a list of the ESSENTIAL supplies to get you started. This post is geared mostly at beginners, though everybody can try a new tool or technique too! Check out my advanced supplies page if you’ve already started quilting and want to “up your game.” Please note that there are lots of brands and choices out there. I ONLY list what I’ve personally used and tested.
Step 1: Cutting
Once you have the perfect fabric, you want to cut it accurately and safely. Olfa to the rescue! (NOT sponsored, I just LOVE their products for durability and price). You’ll need a good mat, rotary cutter, and ruler. Seriously, how on earth did ANYONE make quilts before these cutting mats????
My advice: get a good 18″x 24″ mat even though everyone will tell you to get a huge one. Get one that you can keep out all the time. And with the half-inch grid, I use it to square things us without additional rulers. If you’re like me and surface area is precious, you’ll make plenty of use from this size. I also like the versatility and ease of a rotating mat for squaring up blocks or making small cuts.
Then the rulers. For the last 10 years I have consistently used exactly 2 rulers. I own more than that, but I honestly don’t find them nearly useful enough to use regularly. A good lip edge ruler that lines up well and holds fast, and an add-a-quarter ruler for hand sewing, fussy cutting, and applique. Yep, just 2! If you want to do a specialized pattern there are a million additional options, but seriously don’t stress about having the latest and greatest ruler.
Step 2: Piecing
In the market for a sewing machine? SO many options here. Don’t stress about spending a fortune for all the bells and whistles. But as the biggest investment of all the tools on this list, don’t skimp either! This is my machine for the past 10 years. I like the extension table, the auto thread cutter, the drop-in bobbin case, and auto needle-down function. For under $300 I think it’s worth every penny! If you want a more basic, introductory model, I recommend Janome or Singer machines. I’ve had bad experiences with Brother though I know they are popular.
Get some nice sharp pins and a magnetic pin holder. I like the long ones and don’t ever sew over my pins so I like the pretty pearlized heads. I hate wearing pins on my wrist or losing them inside a pin cushion!
And, for the inevitable mistake, make sure to have a seam ripper handy!
Pressing is KEY! I don’t have a lot of counter space, so I don’t even use a full-size ironing board. I love a table-top version next to sewing machine for easy reach. I recently got an Oliso Smart Iron and my goodness what a difference it makes! I get flatter seams, quicker steam, and less time spent pressing. For a more moderately-priced alternative, I like the Sunbeam Steammaster (I had one for 10 years!) The cord is retractable for easy storage and I found the steam more consistent and hotter than other options.
The latest trend in pressing is using wool felt mats. If you do a lot of small piecing, they can be great for flattening individual blocks, but can’t fully replace a regular ironing board for using starch, ironing full lengths of fabric, etc. Try a smaller size before committing to a large mat! Brand makes a HUGE difference with these as the wool quality, mat thickness, potential odor issues etc. vary a lot by brand. I recommend the Nido brand which comes in a handy 13.5″ square size. For larger sizes, Coobe has a 17″ square, 18″ x 14″ rectangle, 17″ x 24″ rectangle, and gift set with a combo 17″ x 24″ and 10″ square.
Spray baste. Don’t mess with the safety pins unless your fabric doesn’t test well with the spray baste. I have NEVER gotten completely flat with safety pins and find more puckers and issues.
Use the good batting! For years, I settled for the cheaper puffy polyester batting out of financial necessity. And now all the quilts I made with it are bunchy, lumpy disasters. I repeat: Use the good batting! I love HOBBS batting. The cotton/poly blend is good value but a little stiffer and doesn’t hold up as well to multiple washes. I like wool for its durability and texture but cotton is also great.
WONDER CLIPS are wonderful! I’ve tried other brands and they don’t grip nearly as well. Get the Clover brand. These hold tight without poking holes in your fabric and deal much better with the bulk of multiple layers.
There’s a lot of variations here, but not a lot of tools necessary.
Anything you think I’ve missed? What tools can you not quilt without???