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Quilt Along Series: Basic Quilting Supplies

Hi, I’m Amy Smart from Diary of a Quilter, and I am excited to share some very beginner-level steps to making a quilt. We’re going to move slow and simply through the quilt-making process from beginning to end. There will be a 10 week series, dissecting how to make a simple patchwork quilt. We’ll start today by talking about basic supplies.

One look at the quilting aisle in any of the big fabric stores and it would be easy to feel overwhelmed.  You don’t need every tool on the market for a successful quilt-making experience, but there are a few that will make a significant difference.

  • Rotary Cutter –  this tool is like a pizza cutter for fabric. The blades are very sharp and cut fabric quickly and accurately. There are many different sizes.  I use the medium-sized cutter most and recommend this one for any beginners.
  • A Self-healing Cutting Mat – allows you to use the rotary cutter for cutting fabric.  A printed ruler-grid can also help with measuring fabric pieces. Mats come in many different sizes, but an 18″ x 24″ mat is a good size to start with.
  • Scissors – sharp sewing scissors are helpful however, most quilt projects are cut mostly with a rotary cutter so fancy, expensive scissors aren’t necessary.  Do try to keep a pair of scissors purely for cutting fabric/thread so they won’t dull as quickly cutting paper.
  • Seam Ripper – no shame here!  Even the best of quilters/seamstresses stand by their seam ripper. I have at least 4 located strategically throughout the house because I use them so often.
  • Fabric – we’ll talk about this more in the future, but 100% Cotton is best.
  • Thread – again, use 100% Cotton thread for quilting.  Some thread is better than others.  Cheaper thread will break easier and could create a lint farm in your machine.  I don’t buy the most expensive thread, but I don’t buy the cheapest either.  Because I use so much thread, I started buying in bulk – hence the big cone in the top of the picture. One neutral color works well on most piecing projects – cream, tan or gray.
  • Pins – I like the longer straight pins with plastic heads. They’re much easier to grab while working and to find when I drop them into the carpet. Safety pins (not pictured) also come in handy in the finishing stages later on.

  • Rulers – These are an important part of the quilting process.  They help cut pieces quickly and accurately. I suggest starting with a longer ruler 5″ or 6″ x 24″.  This allows you to cut efficiently across the width of the fabric.  I also recommend a smaller ruler (5″ or 6″ x 12″) to make it easier to cut smaller pieces.

Now, I know you are thinking that this is going to add up fast, and it definitely can.  I suggest using those 40-50% off coupons for the larger chain fabric or craft stores to get your supplies. That can save you a ton of money.  And remember that these tools are investments you will use over and over again.  (I have had my rulers for almost 10 years and have used them almost every day. I even use them for paper crafts – my rotary cutter too!)  If you’re not sure you want to invest in something until you know you enjoy the task they’re for, ask a friend if you can borrow theirs to try them first.

Finally, a word about irons and sewing machines. Neither of these need to be fancy or expensive. Almost any iron will do, but one with steam is an extra nice feature to have.  Some of my favorite irons are one’s that I’ve found at thrift stores for very cheap.

If you have a sewing machine that will sew a good, straight line, you are ready to go!  My machine is almost as old as I am and I love it.  If your machine is giving you trouble, take it in to get serviced. It’s like a car – a little maintenance  and some oil will keep it running well for a long time.

You can buy sewing machine needles specifically for quilting, but don’t have to. Most of the time I use Universals. Changing the needle regularly makes a big difference.  In fact, if your machine is skipping stitches or not sewing well, try changing the needle before you do anything else.  It’s often a simple, and cheap, solution.

Up next Tuesday in our Quilt Along Series: Choosing Fabric

Amy Smart is a wife and mom.  During her spare time she likes to cut up fabric into small pieces and sew them back together.  She blogs about her fabric addiction at Diary of a Quilter.  She also likes to do lots of other things that she doesn’t blog about like: watch Masterpiece Theater, eat homegrown tomatoes, and wear flip-flops.



  1. would love to start quilting, been thinking about it for a while :) I have two year old twins wich makes me really busy, but that also means I need a creative outlet!




    ((( Acquainted With Islam )))

  3. Veronica,

    Yes you can used 100% Flannel. (They make cozy quilts!) I would pre-wash flannels just because they are more likely to shrink. Enjoy!

  4. Great list! I was just thinking today of how handy my magnetic pin “cushion” is, and how much I love my flower head pins when piecing. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  5. Yvette,

    Yes! You have great eyes. I just inherited mine from my mom so I couldn’t even tell you where it came from, but that listing looks identical to the one I have. I love it.

  6. In your last picture, what is that snazzy-looking device holding up the thread cone? I’ve never seen one before, it looks like something I need to invest in.

  7. Thank you so much for the informative breakdown of the most important tools….I am a tool hoarder in scrapbooking and many of them fall flat so I promised my husband, myself and my pocketbook that I was not going to be like that in sewing/quilting…I would only buy the things that I REALLY need….of course that could all change in weak moment of shopping by myself without his evil glares :o)

  8. YEAH!!!! Thank you!!! I have wanted to learn the basics of quilting for about 18 years. My best friend married a Canadian and moved to Canada the year she was going to start teaching me to quilt . . 18 years ago. So I am excited seeing as I have two adorable grandchildre now. I am running to Michaels tomorrow. I have two 40% off coupons.

  9. I’ve recently started quilting and have a lot to learn, so I’m going to enjoy this series. Thank you for taking the time to help us newbies!

  10. Amy, I’m so excited to see this series – I’m a fairly experienced quilter, but I’m trying to teach several young women the art; it’s wonderful to see everything I need to teach them all organized and in one place! I haven’t had time to do it myself, so I’ve been winging it – but now I’ll be directing each of them to your series for reference! Woohoo!!

  11. O.k I’m officially a fan of your blog! I’ve been wanting to start quilting…I have the tutorial, all I need now is a sewing machine!

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