The 14 Most Important Quilting Supplies for Beginners
Knowing the basic quilting supplies for beginners helps you hit the ground running with your new hobby. While you may already have many of the things you need — especially if you already sew — complete newbies may need to build their quilting supplies list for beginners from scratch. For this reason, we've listed the most commonly needed quilting supplies for beginners so you have a starting point and will have everything you need on hand when it's time to create your first quilt project.
Quilting Supplies for Beginners
You've done all your research, picked out your quilt pattern and quilt fabric, and now you're ready to try your hand at the craft. Before you begin, however, you need to gather items on this “Quilting Supplies for Beginners” list to complete your first quilt. You probably don't need every single item listed for beginner quilting projects, but if you plan on continuing in the hobby, you should plan on completing this shopping list early in your quilting journey.
While it's entirely possible to complete projects via hand quilting, it's much faster and more effective to use a sewing machine, especially on larger pieces. The good news is that you don't need a specialty quilting sewing machine to get started, nor do you need to know more than how to sew a straight line if you choose basic patterns. A secondhand sewing machine usually fills the bill regardless of skill level, or you can purchase an entry-level model and build your skill set as you go.
If you fall into the category of beginning quilters who are experienced sewers, you can typically get away with just adding a couple of specialty tools to your existing sewing machine. For machine quilting, a quarter-inch foot and walking foot for your sewing machine come in handy. The former ensures consistent, precision seams on your quilting fabric, while the latter helps immensely when you're binding a quilt sandwich or sewing curved stitches.
A self-healing cutting mat goes a long way in protecting your work area when you're using a rotary cutter. These cutting mats come in a vast array of sizes, and they typically have ruler grids with standard measurements noted to help you maintain straight edges and ensure you don't cut fabric quilt blocks down too much to fit your quilting pattern.
A good size to start out with is an 18" x 24" cutting mat because it provides you with ample space for continuous cuts of larger fabric pieces. If you plan on working on larger project piecing, however, you may want something in the 22" x 34" range. Some options even have squared marks in the center or creative grids, helping you easily cut out perfectly sized squares and unique shapes.
To get clean, crisp piecing for your quilting project, use a rotary cutter on your self-healing cutting mat. These special tools are also known as cutting wheels because you roll them to cut rather than opening and closing them like scissors or snips. Most quilting beginners start out with a 45-millimeter rotary cutter from a quality brand like Olfa for fabric, as they usually cut two to three layers of fabric with ease. Many quilters, however, move up to a 60-millimeter option when they start cutting batting, four or more layers of fabric and thicker materials.
Another advantage of rotary cutters is that they're easier to use if you have mobility issues and work great with quilting templates. Where scissors may be difficult for those with arthritis to use, rotary cutters simply glide across your mat easily, and when the blade dulls, you just replace it with compatible rotary cutter blades rather than sharpening it. To save your hands even more strain, consider a rotary cutter designed with ergonomics in mind for less stressful cutting.
Scissors and Snips
Since you're dealing with fabric, you need a good pair of fabric shears for your quilting projects. A rotary cutter is usually enough to handle more contentious cuts, but fabric shears work great when you need to trim off excess batting or trim down fabric while adding binding to your quilt. You also need a separate pair of scissors for cutting paper so you don't dull your fabric scissors, and a small pair of scissors or snips helps you trim off loose threads in a flash.
A seam ripper does just what its name implies — it rips out seams. This small yet indispensable quilting tool lets you remove stitches quickly and start over when you make mistakes, helping you make the most of the fabric you have on hand, whether you're making your first quilt or your fifth. These tools typically have an easy-grip handle and a rounded ball beside the ripper portion, ensuring finite control during use and preventing fabric damage while you pick out stitches and clear them away.
Acrylic rulers designed specifically for quilting rank high on the quilting supplies list for beginners. Quilting rulers are typically clear so you can easily see the fabric beneath them and how it aligns with the marks, and some of the larger ones even have angled guides that serve as templates when you're cutting complex patterns. Also handy are gripper add-on tools that fit on the back of quilting rulers and help stabilize them when you're making marks or cutting.
When filling a “Quilting supplies for beginners list, start out with the most commonly used quilting rulers. The sizes most often needed for your first quilt project are 6" x 24" and 6" x 12" quilting rulers. If you want to use quilting rulers for squaring up layers of fabric, however, choose options like a 6.5" or 12.5" square. Since quilting requires precision measurements, be sure to get quilting rulers that note the smallest fractions of an inch to ensure accuracy.
Since quilting rulers are already on the basic quilting supplies for beginners list, you may wonder why you also need a measuring tape. The answer is that while quilting rulers work great for taking larger measurements and making big cuts, they're typically not flexible enough to handle on-the-fly tasks where you just need small measurements. For that reason, be sure to get a measuring tape designed specifically for quilting that has as many small increments as possible to ensure precision in your projects.
Marking pens and tools are important for beginning quilters and more experienced hobbyists alike. Water-soluble pencils let you easily mark fabric for cutting or sewing; the marks then wash away when you wet them, so it's like they were never there. You can also find quilting tools like heat-erasable pens that make marks that disappear when you iron over them. Keep in mind that some marking pens designed for quilting that say they're washable or erasable sometimes aren’t, and be sure to test them out on scrap pieces of fabric before you use them on your project.
Fabric and Batting
The main elements you need for quilting projects are fabric and batting, and most beginning quilters go with cotton fabric due to its ease of use and care. While you can cut quilt squares yourself, many different brands of fabric offer precut piecing to simplify the creation of your first quilt — and beyond!
From 42-piece charm packs for patchwork designs and 40-piece jelly roll packs for strip quilt projects to 42-piece layer cakes for bigger patterns and fat quarter bundles filled with large rectangular fabric cuts for bed-size quilts, precut packs come in a range of shapes and sizes that work for most projects. Choose smaller or larger pieces of fabric to get exactly what you need for your pattern, or cut quality fabric yardage yourself with a rotary cutter and cutting mat.
Batting — the padding for your quilts — also proves very important on the quilting supplies list for beginners. Typically made from wool or cotton, this material comes in rolls and sheets, and sometimes you can even find it with fabric already attached to it when you want to save time. Quilt batting comes in various thicknesses, usually between 1/4 and 1 inch thick, and you can purchase it with special options like resistance to heat or mildew, depending on where you plan to use the quilt.
Pins and Pincushion
Pins help you keep pieces or layers of fabric securely together as you're prepping them for sewing, and storing them inside a pincushion provides easy access as you work while keeping you safe from pricks. Though you can use any straight pin for securing quilt pieces, options with decorative tips such as vibrantly colored glass balls are easier to see, especially when you're working with fabric that makes basic silver pins nearly invisible.
For a broader range of uses, add curved pins and safety pins to your basic quilting supplies for beginners list. Curved pins make it easier to join oddly shaped pieces of fabric together, while safety pins ensure layers of fabric don't come apart while you're marking patterns or sewing other pieces. Remember when you finish with each pin to return it to the pincushion to keep your work area tidy and prevent accidents.
Needles and Thread
Whether you are hand quilting or machine quilting, you need good needles and thread to get the job done right. Beginning quilters usually appreciate the sharpness and durability of titanium-coated needles, and though sizing often depends on the fabric you're using, 80/12 sewing machine needles designed specifically for quilting usually work best. Since needles frequently break during the quilting process, be sure to keep a large supply handy so you don't have to run to the store in the middle of your project.
Quilting cotton thread in neutral colors works well for your beginners quilting supplies list, though polyester and cotton-polyester blend options make good choices, too. Medium-weight spools of thread usually work well for most projects, and some brands have specialty products designed to resist breakage that can reduce frustration for beginners. Also, you may want to expand your color selection if you want to ensure your stitches complement or contrast with your quilt top. Some quality thread brands to look for include Aurifil, Sulky and Mettler.
Iron and Ironing Board
When you measure wrinkled fabric, you don't typically get accurate results. For that reason, having an iron and ironing board handy when making your first quilt helps things go more smoothly. You don't typically need a specialty iron for quilting, just something that presses well and lets you steam away wrinkles. Additionally, having a hot iron handy lets you press newly sewn materials to keep them straight and ready to piece together with other quilt elements. If you don't have room to set up an ironing board, consider using a heat-resistant ironing mat instead when you need to press layers of fabric for your quilting pattern.
If you want to get the crispest seams possible, you need to add spray starch to your basic quilting supplies for beginners list. Keep in mind that some starches leave behind white marks, so test them on fabric scraps first if you haven't used the brand before. Alternatively, make your own spray starch by mixing together 2.5 cups of tap water with 1.5 tablespoon of cornstarch in a saucepan, boiling the mixture for 1 minute, letting it cool to room temperature and pouring it into a glass spray bottle.
Though not an essential part of a quilting supplies for beginners list, Fusible Web fills the bill when you want to add decorative appliques to your projects. This product lets you fuse together layers of work by using your iron and ironing board, and it comes in many different thickness levels, depending on the strength of the bond you desire. Extra-fine options usually secure appliques easily without adding bulk to your work, making it a great choice for beginners.
Now that you've filled your quilting supplies list for beginners, you're ready to get started on the fun part — making your first quilt! As you boost your skill set and become more experienced, you may find yourself adding and subtracting items into a core quilting toolkit that helps you complete your projects quickly and efficiently every time.