Updated: Oct 23, 2020
My official entry into quilting was a bit accidental. So to steer you from entering your first project unprepared, here are the tools you need to start your first quilting project!
***Some of the products listed in this article contain affiliate links***
1.A Sewing Machine...duh right?
Don't invest in an expensive machine as a beginner or you will end up paying for a lot of features you don't need. Some machines have you buying a case of fancy feet you will never make use of. Does your friend or mother have a machine you can try out and see what you like? Local quilt shops are a great place to try out machines and see what features are important to you.
If you have a machine and you get quality, consistent stitches from it then you are good to go.
If you have a machine but don't know how to use it properly you are going to get frustrated and quit. It's never been easier to find online instruction for your brand of machine. Watch some videos or contact you local fabric shop to see if there are classes near you. Maybe your machine needs a cleaning to get it ready for new projects. The sewing machine's manual is also an essential resource to threading and tension issues that might come up. Most manuals can be found online as a PDF that can be printed.
You don't need top of the line to get good results and quality stitches. You will find solid machines in many price ranges. Used machines that have been well cared for can be a real gem. Whatever you pick out make sure you have a patchwork foot to go with it. This foot is needed to get accurate 1/4" seams as you piece your blocks.
Doesn't really need it's own number right? A standard universal 90/14 needle is easy to find in any store that has a sewing section. It will work fine. Some sewists use a machine needle just for quilting that has a specially tapered and extra sharp point. Not necessary in my experience but use what you find and make up your own mind.
I use a white 50 weight cotton thread for all my piecing. A cotton covered polyester thread will also work. If you find yourself using darker colors in your projects you might be happier with a medium grey color as your go to. Piecing thread goes unseen and so I keep it simple. Make sure to get a spool for your top thread and one spool for refilling your bobbin. The threads need to match. When you find a brand you like you can buy it on larger spools so your machine is always ready to piece when you are. Aurafil is a popular brand for quilters. Do not use old thread or pick up thread second hand(no matter how much that aunt insists it's still good). It's likely to break and be more annoying than actually save you money.
2. Quilting Rulers
No matter the pattern, you will need at least some type of quilting ruler. I have this 6.5" x 24" EZ Rule II https://amzn.to/370zFvM for all initial cuts and these 9" square and 4.5" square rulers https://amzn.to/2FtPxf6 made by Fiskars for sub cuts and trimming blocks. I use all three like they are going out of style. There are many brands and I just happen to like the markings on these best. You could borrow some from a friend and try them out to see what YOU like. Look for something that has 1/8" markings and 30, 60, and 45 dgr lines.
3. Rotary Cutter + Cutting Mat
Oddly enough I rarely use my fabric scissors while quilting. Crazy right!? While sharp scissors should be on hand, rotary cutters are quick and accurate when making fabric strips or trimming blocks. This really is essential. I don't think that the brand matters. I happen to use the Olfa brand https://amzn.to/2IhGtLd but you might have a design preference so, again, try out a friend's or just pick them all up in the store to see how the handle feels. I first used a 60mm size blade and thought that was great. I later bought a smaller 45mm size and I like that size better and use it the most. In hindsight I would just buy the 45mm and that should work for anything you need quilting wise.
A self healing cutting mat needs to accompany your rotary cutting. 18"x24" is a good standard size that you will get plenty of use out of.
4. An iron + ironing board or wool mat
Maybe you cringe at the thought of ironing like I do. In all honesty, I keep my ironing board and iron in my quilting space and have only used it for clothing maybe twice. I hate ironing clothes. You MUST iron when you quilt. After using my large regular iron for years I finally got a small one just for pressing blocks. https://amzn.to/2SP3ze7. No getting around this one. Fabric needs to be wrinkle free before it is cut to ensure accurate blocks. Seams and blocks are also pressed as the quilt top is constructed. A dry iron is best. Steam warps your seams and can shrink your fabrics unevenly.
If you have only a small space for your new hobby I suggest a wool pressing mat instead of an ironing board. There are many to choose from but make sure it is large enough to press a 12x 12 block https://amzn.to/3jUz3LS.
5. A seam ripper+snips
A seam ripper is something you forget you need until you NEED it. Any kind will do, just keep it in a place you can always find it because they are small. I know some sewists who wear them around their neck on a chain or in a magnetized dish near their machine. Oh and I have 3, because when you need one you need one NOW.
What are snips? Well it's just a cute little name for those tiny scissors used to snip small threads here and there. Many kinds to choose from. Some are more about utility and others are made in fun fun designs. Another item to keep close at hand by that seam ripper.
6. Clips-or pins...but really CLIPS
Not sure you got the memo, but clips are the new pins. I use these https://amzn.to/33VeQ3a Clover clips but I know there are some off brands that will serve you just as well. I see older sewists using pins and I really think it is just habit more than functionality. No need to get stuck with a pin and put holes in your projects. If you love pins then keep on doing it but clips are quick and easy, give them a go and you will have so much to love.
7. Fabric +Pattern
I made some major mistakes when I dove into quilt making with no experience. I picked up a pattern book that I liked the look of, walked through the fabric section and picked out the number of fabrics I needed and got the cuts indicated by the pattern to make a queen size quilt. Yes, my first project was a QUEEN sized quilt. The fabrics were color coordinated and looked fine but they were not what I should have used. 100% cotton...say it with me. Cotton.
Your pattern should indicate the level of experience necessary to easily navigate the steps. Look for a beginner pattern with clear directions. It should also have a list of the fabrics and quantities needed for different sizes.The best beginner patterns have all sorts of tips that are not put in patterns for more experienced quilters. You can find pattern books at your local library, many free projects online, and you can even simply make a block or strip quilt. Whatever you choose, start with a small project like a wall hanging, pillow cover or baby quilt. Not QUEEN size! This will increase the odds you have the steam to finish the project and feel encouraged to try something in the future.
Once you have the tools, you can tackle the fun of a new project. Happy Crafting!
Did I miss your favorite quilting tool? Let me know what you can't quilt without in the comments below!