What Tools Do I Need to Start Quilting – Quilting Supplies for Beginners

New to quilting? We’ve made a list of all essential quilting supplies for beginners. Learn what tools you need to start quilting, so you’re ready for your next (or first) project!

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Are you new to the quilting world? You’re probably wondering where to begin, what tools you actually need to start quilting, what are the essential quilting supplies for beginners… Soooo many questions!

I know exactly how you feel. When I first started quilting, I was completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t familiar with all the tools and notions, their names, and their purposes. So I decided to make a list of quilting tools to hopefully help you out.

Below you will find useful quilting tools, organized into three categories, from quilting basics to more specific quilting tools. 

In the first category, you will find quilting supplies you will need pretty much for every quilt you’ll ever make. The second category includes quilting supplies that are nice to have (even for a beginner). They can be super helpful but are not essential. And in the last category you will find tools that are an upgrade, so to speak.

So, let’s put together your very first quilting toolkit!

Essential Quilting Supplies for Beginners – Must Haves

When you first start quilting, these are the quilting tools I think you absolutely must have. These are the supplies I’ve found I need for all of my quilting projects.

1. Sewing Machine

Since you are looking for quilting supplies I assume you already have a sewing machine. I won’t go into too much detail about the sewing machine itself. I just started with what I had (which was actually my friend’s hobby sewing machine). 

If you’re new to sewing machines, don’t worry. I know it can be a bit intimidating at first, but beginner projects can be made with basic stitches and skills. And you’ll learn more about your sewing machine with every project you make.

I do suggest you keep the manual close. Sometimes just to double-check the settings and always when you’re stuck with an error. Helps A LOT!

2. Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter is a cutting knife with a circular cutting blade that rotates while cutting. I was really blown away by how accurately you can cut with it, and how simple it is to use. 

Rotary cutters come in different sizes and handle designs. Before you buy one, try a few different ones in your hand and choose the one that feels best. 

For a beginner quilting kit, I suggest you get one with a 45 mm blade. It is easy to handle and can cut from 4 to 6 layers of fabric.

3. Self-healing Cutting Mat

A cutting mat is a large surface that you’ll be using to protect your workspace when you cut. It’s basically a large surface made of self-healing material that allows you to cut on it over and over again (without damaging the surface underneath).  

The material also helps you keep the rotary cutting blade in line and enables you to cut accurately. 

Cutting mats come in different sizes. The size you choose depends on the size of your cutting surface. I have an 18×24” and so far it’s served me well.

4. Acrylic Guide Ruler

An acrylic guide ruler may look like a super-advanced ruler (and it kind of is), but it’s an essential tool for quilt making. Once you get one of these, you won’t know how you could ever cut without it.

 It is wider than usual rulers which helps you be more precise when measuring, marking, and cutting. There is a system of grids, marks, and angles printed on the ruler. This helps tremendously when you’re cutting numerous small pieces of fabric (as one does when they’re making a quilt). I find it also speeds up the cutting process quite a bit.

When choosing a ruler make sure it fits on your cutting mat. If you’re just buying your first one, something like 6×24” is a good size to start with. But you’ll probably soon be adding more rulers to your collection so you have a variety to choose from, depending on what you’re cutting.

5. A Good Pair of Fabric Cutting Shears

All sewers will agree that a good pair of fabric cutting shears is one of the most precious sewing tools in the sewing kit. What I’ve learned in my short quilting career is that I end up using the rotary cutter much more than the shears, but I still recommend getting a quality pair for your quilting kit.

Fabric cutting shears are usually 8″ long or longer. Their special feature is a bent handle which allows the bottom blade to slide along the cutting surface. When cutting fabric it is important that you cut with long cuts, with the whole length of the shears’ blades, and to keep the shears in contact with the cutting surface. Choose shears with longer blades, the ones that fit your hands best.

I won’t go into too much detail here, because Ula has written a whole article about sewing shears. So if you’re looking to add new shears to your toolkit, make sure you read that, too!

6. Thread

There are tons of different types of threads out there. They differ depending on the type of material you’re sewing with (cotton, jersey, jeans, silk…) and the sewing techniques you’re using (quilting, embroidery, upholstery…).  Based on this, you can choose from different thread materials (polyester thread, linen thread, silk thread, jeans thread…). But don’t get overwhelmed!

I suggest you start with a basic 100% polyester thread, which is great for hand sewing and machine sewing alike. 

I use Gutterman thread, which is available pretty much in all sewing shops around here. There are of course many other quality brands,  for example, Mettler, Madeira, Saba, Starlite, Hemline, DMC.

As far as your color choices go, they are pretty much endless. I suggest you get a few basic colors to begin with. This probably means black and white and maybe a few others you see yourself sewing with. Otherwise, I suggest you get more colors as you buy your fabric. This way you can choose the thread that goes best with the fabric.

7. Hand Sewing Needles

I know what you’re thinking, you have a sewing machine, why do you need hand-sewing needles?

Actually, you will need them pretty often. You’ll use them to make fine details or small corrections. And for hand quilting, of course. (I only say that, because it’s pretty obvious – I haven’t mustered up the courage to try hand quilting myself. Will do, promise!)

Similar to threads there is a wide range of needles. They are marked with a number, which defines their size. The bigger the number the thinner and finer the needle is (and yes, I wrote that correctly). 

For your first toolkit, I suggest you get some general-purpose sewing needles (also known as sharps). For quilting cotton and similar materials, go for no. 7 or something around that mark. 

Needles also come in sets, so you can start with a needle set like this and test which suits you best.

8. Seam Ripper

Good news! There IS an undo button in the quilting world – it is called a seam ripper. ☺

Not to be negative, but this might become one of your favorite quilting supplies for beginners. There’s just a lot of trial and error as you learn how to sew and the seam ripper is there to help!

A seam ripper is a small, cheap, and super useful sewing tool because it literally allows you to redo every stitch.

The top of the seam ripper is U-shaped with two different length tips. The longer tip is sharp and enables you to get close to the stitch you want to rip. The shorter tip has a (usually red) head that protects the upper fabric while ripping. 

When you want to rip the stitch, just carefully slide the sharp tip into the stitch and carefully pull along the fabric. And that’s it.

9. Iron + Ironing Board

Ironing has an important role in the sewing process. It removes creases and makes a smooth fabric surface. 

For a beginner, use the iron you have at home. I use a basic domestic iron and it works just fine for now.

You can use an ironing board or, what I’ve seen other quilters do, is place a heat-resistant ironing mat onto a large surface. This way you’ll have an even bigger surface to work with, which comes in handy when working with large quilts.

Creases can be stubborn, so it is handy to have a spray bottle with distilled water nearby. Spraying some water onto a crease can help iron it out.

10. Sewing Pins + Pincushion

Sewing pins, also known as hemming pins or basting pins, are another must-have sewing supply for both machine sewing and hand sewing. 

Pins are used in the pre-sewing stage to temporarily hold the fabric together. And also while sewing to help you hold the fabric in place.

They come in different shapes, sizes, and types:

  1. Type of head: flat, plastic, glass, metal

Pins come in an array of colors and shapes. I mostly use round-headed pins with larger heads that are easier to grab. Glass head sewing pins are perfect for a beginner because of their resistance to heat – you can safely iron with the pins in place and they won’t melt.

  1. Thickness

Pins can be thinner or thicker, depending on the weight of the chosen fabric (ex. for sewing jeans you will need thicker pins).

  1. Type of tips: pointed or rounded (ballpoint tip)

Most of the pins have pointed tips, which is also what you’ll be using for quilting cotton. When working with knits (like jersey, for example), however,  use ball-pointed pins to prevent catching threads.

For a beginner, I suggest you get a set of straight glass head sewing pins. They come in average length, have a sharp tip, and work well for most types of fabrics.

11. Clips

Clips are a great alternative to pins, especially when working with multiple layers (which is what you do all the time as a quilter). They don’t distort your fabric (like pins do in some cases), so they are great when working with thicker layers.

I use plastic clips in two different sizes and different colors. I actually use them to color code the fabric pieces that I’ve already cut out. This way I can have everything organized and get the pieces I need when I actually start putting them together.

Quilting Supplies for Beginners That Are Nice to Have

As you will soon learn, there is a whole world of quilting supplies out there. As a beginner, you definitely don’t need all of them. But perhaps you have the basic tools already and want to add to your collection. I’ve gathered a list of quilting tools that are useful and can make your quilting process easier.

12. Rotary Cutting Mat

As the name suggests, a rotary cutting mat is a cutting mat that rotates around its middle point. It enables you to easily cut your fabric pieces without moving the fabric, the mat (or yourself, for that matter).

It’s a useful quilting tool that can speed up your cutting process.

13. Fabric Marking Tools

To tell you the truth, I don’t often use fabric marking tools, but sometimes they come in handy when you’re putting together something a bit more complex.

What I use the most is a water-soluble marking pencil. You can get them in different colors. Get a darker one for light fabrics and a lighter one for dark fabrics.

There are also other fabric marking tools, like chalks and pens, and most of them are pretty inexpensive, so you can test them out to see which suits you most.

Whatever you go for, I suggest you test it out on a small piece of fabric to see if it comes off easily before using it on your project. It will save you the unpleasant surprise of marks that won’t come off when your project is finished.

14. Embroidery Scissors

Embroidery scissors are a handy cutting tool for smaller sewing tasks. They have long pointy blades that enable you to come close to whatever you’re trying to cut. 

They are perfect for cutting the threads in tight areas, for cutting stitches, opening buttonholes, and other sewing details. 

Ula explains a little bit more about them in her article about scissors.

15. Machine Needles

When I first learned about machine sewing, I would just use whatever needle was in the machine that I was using. And that worked fine for a while.

As you go along, you’ll learn that it’s a good idea to actually choose the right kind of needle based on the type of fabric you are working with.

The needles also break occasionally, so it’s a good idea to have a few extra needles at hand.

When you’re choosing sewing machine needles, you’ll see there are two numbers that define their size (i.e. 12/80). Basically, the first number is American, and the second is the European needle size. The numbers range from 8 to 21 in the American system, and from 60 to 130 in the European system. The higher the number, the thicker the needle. The length of the needle is standardized, so no need to worry about that.

As a beginner, you will probably sew with a 12/80 needle, which is a general-purpose needle and will work for most of your beginner projects.

16. Seam Gauge

This sewing ruler is used for measuring seams and other short lengths. Usually, it is a 6″ long metal scale with a sliding pointer. 

It’s useful for measuring and marking accurate seam allowance on the quilting blocks, for marking the distance to know where to start and stop sewing, for making pleats …

Advanced Quilting Tools for Easier Sewing

The following quilting supplies could also go into a wishlist category. They are a bit more specific, so you definitely don’t need them for your first projects. But they could prove helpful further on in your quilting journey.

17. Masking Tape

Masking tape can be very helpful when you’re making your quilt sandwich. You can use it to tape each of the individual layers on the floor to keep them in place before you pin them together. 

You can also use them as a guide for quilting. Tape the masking tape on top of your quilt top and use it to guide your stitching. Once you’re done, the masking tape can be easily removed, without leaving any marks on your fabric.

18. Flexible Tape Measure

A flexible tape measure is a 60” long soft band with metal endings. It usually has a metric measuring scale on one side and an imperial scale on the other. 

It will come in handy for measuring longer lengths and especially for measuring curves. I also use the end of it to measure smaller distances sometimes.

19. Needle Threader

A needle threader is a handy sewing tool when trying to thread a needle with a smaller eye.

There are many shapes and sizes of needle threaders, but they all work the same. They have a small pointed wire hook, which you slip through the needle’s eye. Then slip the thread through the hook and gently pull the thread through the needle.

20. Thimble

A thimble is a small metal protector for your middle finger and is very useful when hand sewing. It’s especially handy when you’re sewing with thicker fabric as it protects your finger when you’re pushing the needle through.

21. Magnetic Pin Holder

A magnetic pin holder is an upgrade to your ordinary pin cushion. The magnet inside the cushion or at the bottom of a tray holds the pins together, so they are safely stored and easier to grab and put back while sewing.

22. Fray Check

The no. 1 solution for fraying threads! Fray check is a liquid that you apply to your fabric edges and pretty much anywhere else you want to prevent fraying. You can use fabric, but also ribbons, etc. to prevent them from fraying.

So, this is it! You are ready to start gathering your very first quilting tools. 

For those of you who already have some quilting experience, what do you think? What are some quilting tools you can’t go without? Are there any other quilting supplies you are using and are not listed above? Let us know in the comments below.

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