Quilting Tools for Beginners: Your Essential Guide

Quilting tools for beginners - featured image with rotary cutter

Quilting has seen a remarkable resurgence in popularity across the UK, captivating a new generation of enthusiasts. There’s something incredibly satisfying about piecing together beautiful fabrics to create a cozy quilt.

However, starting out can feel overwhelming without the right tools. This guide aims to simplify that process, helping you understand the essential quilting tools for beginners and how to use them effectively. With the right equipment and a bit of practice, you’ll be well on your way to creating stunning quilts that showcase your creativity and craftsmanship.

Essential Quilting Tools

Rotary Cutter

rotary cutter being used with quilting ruler

A rotary cutter is a must-have tool for quilters. It consists of a handle with a circular blade that rotates as you cut, making it perfect for slicing through multiple layers of fabric quickly and accurately.

A well-known brand is Olfa, and you can’t go wrong with their products. I also enjoy using my Trucut rotary cutter. This cutter has a groove which pairs with a special edged ruler, ensuring accurate straight cuts and preventing you from nicking the ruler.

You’ll find various sizes available. For beginners, a 45mm cutter is ideal. It’s versatile enough for most cutting tasks, although smaller versions are available for more intricate work such as cutting out applique shapes.

To use a rotary cutter safely, always cut away from your body, use a self-healing cutting mat to protect your surfaces, and keep the blade sharp by replacing it when it requires extra pressure to cut.

Cutting Mat

rotary cutter on a cutting mat

A self-healing cutting mat is essential for protecting your work surface and prolonging the life of your rotary cutter blade. These mats come in various sizes, but for beginners, an 18×24 inch mat is a great start.

Look for a mat with a grid layout for accurate cutting and measurement guides. Some also have angles, which you can use to check the accuracy of your cutting.

Quilting Ruler

quilting ruler and scissors on a piece of quilt

Quilting rulers are crucial for cutting fabric accurately. They come in various shapes and sizes, but for beginners, a rectangular 24×6.5 inch ruler is an ideal starter. This size is versatile enough for most straight cutting tasks.

As you advance, a 12×12 inch ruler can be incredibly useful for squaring up blocks and cutting larger pieces. There are also smaller square sizes and triangular rulers, that you can explore – great if somebody asks “What do you want for Christmas?”.

When using a quilting ruler, align the ruler’s grid lines with your fabric’s edges to ensure straight cuts. Hold the ruler firmly with the flat of your  hand and apply even pressure with your rotary cutter to prevent the ruler from slipping.

Seam Ripper

seam ripper next to pin cushion

Every quilter makes mistakes, and a seam ripper is your best friend for undoing them. It’s a must-have tool for correcting errors without damaging your fabric. A good seam ripper will have a sharp blade and a comfortable handle.

To use it effectively, gently slide the small blade under the stitches and pull up to cut them. Use the ball end to avoid snagging the fabric, which can lead to tears and holes.

Iron and Ironing Board

mini iron in use on a piece of fabric

Pressing is a critical step in quilting to ensure seams lay flat and pieces align correctly. Using an iron and ironing board effectively can greatly improve the appearance of your quilt.

You can use a regular iron and I often do this. But I also love using my mini-iron for its precision and ease of handling. Mine is made by ‘Sew Easy’ but you can also get mini-irons from other brands such as Prym.

When choosing an iron, look for adjustable heat settings, a steam function, and a lightweight design. A sturdy and stable ironing board with an adjustable height and spacious surface is also useful for comfortable and efficient pressing.

Sewing Clips / Wonder Clips

sewing clips holding the binding of a quilt

Sewing clips (often called by the brand name Wonder Clips), offer several advantages over traditional pins, especially when working with thick layers of fabric. They’re particularly useful for holding binding in place or securing multiple layers without distortion.

Clips don’t leave pin holes in your fabric, provide a secure hold, and are quick to attach and remove, saving time during your quilting process.

Fabric Scissors

sewing scissors and snippers

Investing in a good pair of fabric scissors is essential. Unlike regular scissors, fabric scissors are designed to cut through fabric smoothly without fraying. A good brand to look for is Fiskars, known for their durability and sharpness.

To maintain their sharpness, use them exclusively for fabric, and avoid using them for papercrafts, cutting cardboard or general household use. Hide them away from other members of the family who may be tempted to use them!

Regularly sharpen them or have them professionally sharpened, and store them properly in a case or a designated spot to protect the blades.

Fabric Markers

fabric marker pens

Fabric markers are invaluable for marking cutting lines, quilting designs, and other important points on your fabric. They come in various types, such as water-soluble and air-erasable.

Water-soluble markers can be removed with a damp cloth, while air-erasable markers disappear after a certain amount of time. Always test the marker on a scrap piece of fabric first to ensure it doesn’t leave a permanent mark, and choose a marker based on your project’s needs.

Basting Spray

basting spray being used on waddng

Basting spray helps temporarily adhere fabric layers together, making quilting easier. It’s especially useful for holding the quilt sandwich (top, batting, and backing) in place.

To use basting spray effectively, apply it in a well-ventilated area, spray lightly and evenly to avoid clumping, and smooth out any wrinkles as you assemble the quilt sandwich for a smooth, finished quilt.

Having trouble finding this item? It is sometimes called 505 spray, which may help you when searching for it.

Sewing Machine

sewing machine used in quilting

Choosing the right sewing machine is crucial for quilting. For beginners, essential features include a variable stitch speed, a variety of stitch options, and ease of use.

While you don’t necessarily need a specialized quilting sewing machine, one with quilting capabilities can be beneficial. A quilting extension table provides a larger workspace, making it easier to handle larger projects. Mine came with the Janome sewing machine from new and I love the extra space it provides.

Sewing Machine Feet

various sewing machine feet

Different sewing machine feet can greatly enhance your quilting experience. Here are some of my favourites that’ll help you with quilting:

  • Walking foot –  Helps feed multiple layers of fabric evenly, preventing shifting
  • Quarter-inch foot – Ensures precise  ¼ inch seams, which are standard in quilting
  • Free-motion foot – Allows for free-motion quilting designs, giving you the freedom to create intricate patterns.

Understanding how each foot works can be a real help for beginners. I can’t believe I waited so long to fully appreciate them. Read through our blog article on sewing machine feet, for more information.

Choosing the Right Quilting Tools for Beginners

If you’re just starting out, you might be thinking, “That’s a lot of tools to buy!” Don’t worry—it’s perfectly fine to begin with just the essentials and build up from there. When I first started quilting, all I had was a sewing machine, a rotary cutter, mat, a ruler, and a seam ripper. It was enough to get me started and producing my first few projects.

There’s always a balance between investing in high-quality products that last a long time and opting for cheaper alternatives. To save money, you can begin with less expensive tools and see how much you enjoy quilting. Once you’ve completed a few small projects, you can gradually upgrade to better quality tools.

For instance, my Trucut rotary cutter isn’t the cheapest option, but it’s a real workhorse. I use it every day, and the ergonomic design is incredibly helpful. But when I was just getting started, I used a much cheaper rotary cutter, and it still got the job done.

The key is to start with what you can afford and upgrade as you grow more confident and passionate about quilting.

Where to Buy Quilting Tools

Finding the right place to buy your quilting tools can make a significant difference. Local quilt shops and sewing stores offer personalized service and the chance to see and feel the products before buying.

Online retailers like Amazon and specialized quilting sites offer a wide variety of tools and often have customer reviews to help guide your choices.

Sewing and quilting shows are great for larger purchases like sewing machines, where you can try out different models and brands, often with show discounts and expert advice available.

What’s Next?

Now that you have the essential tools, it’s time to gather the fabric and materials you need to start quilting. This is the fun bit! The fabric you choose will significantly impact the final look of your quilt.

We only supply 100% cotton fabric suitable for quilting, available in versatile fat quarter bundles or by the metre. When choosing fabric, consider the design and colour scheme to ensure the fabrics you choose complement each other, and opt for high-quality cotton fabric that is easier to work with and will last longer.

Wadding (also called batting), is used to make the quilt sandwich. We supply a lovely 100% cotton wadding that provides warmth and structure to your quilt. Types of wadding include cotton, which is natural, breathable, and easy to work with; polyester, which is lightweight and less expensive but can be harder to quilt; and blends, which offer the benefits of both materials.

Choosing the right thread is crucial for a durable quilt. I love using Gutermann thread, which is strong and I’ve found to be less prone to snapping compared to other brands. Match your thread colour to your fabric for a coordinated look, and invest in high-quality thread to avoid the frustration of thread breaks.

Final Thoughts

Starting your quilting journey with the right tools can make all the difference. There’s something magical about seeing a finished piece and being able to say “I made that!” The right tools will not only make your projects easier but will help you enjoy the quilting experience, allowing you to focus on creativity rather than struggling with subpar equipment.

Are there any other quilting tools for beginners that you think should be included in this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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