Quilter’s Tool Belt: Just the Basics!

by Lorie on March 4, 2009

So, you want to quilt, but don’t know where to start? Basic sewing tools you probably already have will work just fine, plus just a few specialized items that make things easier for quilters.  We’ve developed the guide below to help you know which tools we think are essentials.


Rotary Cutter, Cutting Mat, and Ruler


Essential?  Well, quilters quilted without rotary cutters for years, but we think rotary cutting makes your quilting life a whole lot easier.  If you quilt, you will undoubtedly be cutting lots of blocks and strips, and there is no better, more accurate way to do this than with rotary tools.  A 45mm rotary cutter is the standard size and works well for multiple layers.  We recommend getting one that has a lock on the blade—and get accustomed to using it.  Don’t leave a rotary cutter open on your work table. Next, a 6” x 24” ruler and a self-healing cutting mat that’s larger than 24” works for most quilt cuts.  Hint:  Cutting mats don’t last forever, so get the best one you can afford and use those coupons!  Double-sided mats extend the cutting life even more. 


Quilting Pins & Safety Pins


Quilter’s pins are generally flat-headed and longer than typical pins.   The flat heads are easier to see on quilting fabrics, and some come in different shapes and colors to help you remember where the rows go.  The longer shaft allows you to pin layers of batting and fabric together securely.


Safety pins are used to hold together the layers of the quilt as you quilt it, so that you don’t end up with puckers and ripples, and to keep the layers stable.  Get good quality, non-rusting safety pins.  You can find safety pins in the quilting notions that have a bend in them, making it easier to pin a quilt that’s lying on a flat surface. 


A Good Iron


We know you have an iron—but does it have a good steam function and heat up quickly?  You’ll be ironing much more during the process of quilting because seams have to be pressed certain directions just after sewing them to ensure they lock together properly as you add more pieces to the quilt.  Never fear—a good iron doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  Look at online reviews to find the best value.


Quilting Thread


Most standard sewing thread is polyester or rayon, while quilting thread is generally 100% cotton and very strong.  Cotton thread moves better with cotton fabrics during washing and wear, and since your quilts will get a workout, it’s best to have the strongest thread available.  Purchase neutral colors, and be sure to wind bobbins with the same thread.


A Quilt Pattern


Start with something basic, simple and small, like a wall hanging or a table runner. Smaller scale projects will help you to understand common quilting processes such as piecing and binding, without the expense or complexity of a large quilt.   


A Quilt-Basics e-Book


Many quilt patterns do not give you information on how to block, bind, and actually quilt your project, so you need a basic guide on how to perform these tasks on your quilt. 


Sewing Machine, ¼” Presser Foot & a Walking Foot


A standard sewing machine is fine for most machine piecing, quilting and appliqué.  Since ¼” seams are standard in quilting (and critically important to achieve straight piecing), it is helpful to have a presser foot with ¼” markings on it.  Even if you plan to do some piecing by hand, a machine can make routine tasks go more quickly.


A walking foot is specially designed to assist your sewing machine to handle the extra layers in your quilt as you move it through your sewing machine.  It helps to prevent puckering and distortion on the front and back of the quilt.   


Low-Loft Batting


Take some time to study batting packages to determine what type of batting to use for a specific project.  Many quilters start off using a fluffy batting, believing that the quilt should be puffy and warm.  However, low loft batting is easier to quilt, produces a flatter, more vintage look to the end product, and can be just as warm as the fluffy stuff. 


Depending upon what type of quilting you do, there are other essential supplies you may need for quilting, but this list will get you started.  The key to successful quilting is straight cuts and perfect ¼” seams.  If you can find tools to help you get those two things down—you have a great start!


Sew Now!  Quilt Now!



1 Courtney @ Sister To Sister 03.05.09 at 7:44 am

Wonderful, wonderful tips Lorie!

Thank you!

Makes me want to go work on my quilt right NOW! (wish I could!)

2 Shelli 03.05.09 at 8:17 am

Fabulous info, Lorie! Thanks for reminding us of the basics for successful quilting!

3 Kris 03.05.09 at 9:04 am

Fabulous and detailed list- something I’m going to print out! Thanks Lorie!

4 Joyce 03.05.09 at 3:24 pm

Thanks so much. I needed that list. Thanks again.

5 Rachel 03.27.09 at 5:49 am

Thanks Lorie! I am almost completely new to this whole quilting thing, but I think I am going to give it a wurl now that I know just what I need to begin! Thanks for sharing your tips (especially about how to get good deals!). =:) I am so excited about this new blog you all are doing! I have wanted to quilt for years but never was able to find just what I needed to help me begin. I can’t wait to get started!

~Miss Rachel~

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