Part One – What Do I Need to Start Quilting

Basic Quilting Equipment and Supplies

Yippee! Yahoo! Hurray! You’ve decided to learn to quilt.   You are going to need a few tools. There are hundreds of tools on the market and  it’s easy to become overwhelmed when you are at the fabric store or quilt shop, trying to decide which tools you need. To help clear the confusion, I have prepared a basic list of  tools and supplies you will need to begin. I realize to purchase all the tools an on this list would cost a small fortune. I’m hoping you have sewn in the past and already have some of the tools listed below. But if you are starting from scratch that’s ok, make use of the national fabric stores 40 – 50 % off coupons. These stores also have regular sales with 30 to 40% off the price of quilting tools. When I started, I received some tools as gifts, others I collected one or two at a time.

quilt tools png 

This picture shows many the tools described in this presentation.

Scissors– you need a pair of fabric shears for fabric and thread only. Cutting anything else will dull the scissors making it difficult to cut fabric.

Snips- these are a small pair of scissors used to cut thread. They are similar to embroidery scissors. I wear my snips on a lanyard with a retractable leash, so they are always at hand.

Quilting Pins– these are longer then dress making pins and are designed to hold several layers of fabric. They come with plastic heads, usually yellow and are easy to see if you drop them. But if you iron over them, the heads will melt. Quilting Pins also come in glass heads. You can iron over these without any melting. They, however, are more expensive then the plastic headed pins.

  • There are also flat- headed pins in various shapes, such as flowers, stars, triangles etc… They cost about the same as the glass headed pins.
  • While on the topic of pins, there Basting Safety Pins, but you won’t need to purchase them right now, but if you decide to quilt your own quilt then you will need them.


* Sewing machine needles: There are sewing machine needles made for quilting, but you can do just as well with universal needles. You need needles that are meant for sewing mid-weight woven fabrics. You can choose sizes 70/10 or 80/12. I use 80/12 in my machine.

  • Hand Sewing Needles for sewing the binding and if you are going to hand quilt your quilt you will need a quilting needle called a Between. Betweens come in sizes #7, #8, #9, #10 and #11. The higher the number the smaller and sharper the needle.

Hand Sewing Needles

Measuring tape: One that measures 120 inch is recommended. This size will measure all quilt sizes including the  king sized quilt top.        If you are going to buy a measuring tape, buy this one and you won’t need to buy another one for a long while.

Seam Ripper: It’s a good idea to have a couple of these. They are an inexpensive tool. Purchase the medium to large ones, the smaller ones are harder to hang onto.

Thread: Choices of threads seems endless. There are many varieties and choosing which color to use maybe the easiest to make. There are threads for specific tasks such as; for machine embroidery,  for sergers,  for embellishments and the list go on. Thread for machine quilting and one for hand quilting. A word of caution: Hand quilting thread is treated with a glaze and should never be used in the sewing machine as the glaze will gum up your machine.

It seems the easiest choice is what color of thread to use.  Although there are many brands to choose from there really are only a few types of types of threads; cotton, polyester, silk and rayon. Rayon and silk threads are usually used for embellishments such as embroidery.  The most commonly used are the cotton and polyester threads.

  • Cotton Thread is made of cotton fibers which are spun together, then pulled and twisted into a strand called a yarn, each yarn is called a ply. Several plies are twisted together to create a stronger thread. It goes through a process called mercerization to make the thread stronger.
  • Polyester is a synthetic product. It can be spun together like cotton thread, to create threads that look like cotton. Polyester threads are a bit stretchy. However, when polyester threads are sewn into cotton fabric, there is friction between them, from use. Over time this friction can cut and cause damage to the cotton fabric, creating a need for repair. Most quilters prefer cotton threads for its longevity. Thread choice is really up to the quilter to decide which thread will give their quilt the desired feel and look.

♦A Word about Thread Size – The most common size of thread quilters seem to prefer is the 50 weight. Here is a short list of current popular threads brands and weights and where you can find them for purchase.

Auriful – 50 weight thread, sold in quilt shops

YLI Select – 40 weight thread, sold in quilt shops

Gutermann Cotton 50 weight, sold in national fabric stores and quilt shops

Essential by Connecting Threads – 50 weight (Kathy’s Pick), sold online from Connecting Threads

♦One guideline with quilting and thread: Choose a thread that is only as strong as the fabric it will be sewn into. It is also a good idea to stay with like fibers. For example, for cotton fabric use cotton thread. Likewise, polyester fabric use polyester thread

  • Choosing which brand of thread to use, comes down to personal preference. I really like Connecting Threads, “Essential” Cotton Thread; it uses long staple cotton fibers and is double mercerized for added strength. It has a satin finish and comes in a wide variety of colors. Each spool has 1200 yards of 100% cotton thread and cost only $2.79 each. I‘ve found it to be a low lint thread. The only drawback is it has to be ordered by phone or on-line.

Thread Color: Before we move on to another topic I need to answer a frequent question, “What color of thread should I use? Answer:  Use a medium gray for dark fabrics and cream, or ivory or beige for – fabrics, when sewing the pieces of a quilt together. I can hear you ask “What do I use if I’m sewing together a light and a dark fabric?”  Answer: use a medium gray colored thread. The only times you’ll want to match the thread to the fabric is when you are sewing the binding onto the quilt. Also, when you do applique, you will need to match the color of thread to the fabric you are working with.

 Rotary Cutters come in sizes 18mm, 28mm, 35mm, and 60mm. The medium size and large cutters enable you to cut fabric into strips and other pieces, without templates, quickly. This cutter needs a sharp circular blade. You will need extra blades on hand in case of running over a pin or metal staple, these will nick the blade and cause it to skip when cutting the fabric or if the blade is dull  it doesn’t cut all the way through the fabric and leaves threads uncut. You can choose from a straight handle or one that is curved to be more ergonomically correct for the hand.

A Note of Caution: This tool will cut anything it comes in contact with so, Please, keep it locked when not in use. There is a button you can push to lock it. It must be kept out of the reach of children. Last, please use with extreme care. I have cut myself twice and had to visit the emergency room to get stitches.

Cutting Mat: Get a Self-Healing Cutting Mat. This mat has a slightly rough finish which helps hold the fabric in place. The mat protects both the cutting blade and the table on which you are cutting. A 18” x 24” mat is ideal; it allows you to cut strips of fabric, either cross grain or on the bias. A smaller mat is great for cutting and working with scraps.

Acrylic Rulers: You will need a ruler for measuring and guiding the rotary cutter. Rulers come in many shapes and sizes. You will need          the  6” x 24” ruler for cutting strips the width of your fabric and the 6” x 12”, will make it easier to cutting the long strips into smaller pieces.

  • Over time, you can build your set of rulers to include the square rulers. The square rulers come in a variety of sizes; the 4” square,    6″” square, 9 ½” square, 12” square and the 15” square. The last three are especially good for squaring up your blocks before sewing them into a quilt top.  I have presented just a few of the rulers available,  there are many specialty rulers on the market.

I will also mention cutting systems such as the Altos Cutting System. I have never used one and can’t offer any advice other than to say they are on the expensive side. But I mention it to let you know it is available.

Iron: An iron is needed for frequent and careful pressing to ensure a smooth, flat, and accurately stitched quilt top. An iron with an adjustable dial to turn steam off and on is recommended.

Ironing Board: Whether you use a table top or a full sized ironing board, place it, the iron and a spray bottle of water, close to your sewing machine.

Marking Pen and Pencils: I’ve tried a number of marking pencils and pens. I’ve found Frixion Pens to do the job extremely well. To use them you mark on the fabric where you need to, then to remove the marking you simply iron over the markings and it disappears. Their only drawback is they don’t show up on dark fabrics. You can find the Frixion pens at most office supply stores and drug stores like RiteAid and Walgreens carry them. For marking on dark fabric, I like the Bohin Mechanical Chalk Pencil. It is very effective and easy to see. It uses a ceramic chalk that stays on the fabric until you brush it off. I purchased mine online at

Pincushions: You can start with one pincushion, but I suggest you have two, one at your sewing machine and one at the ironing board. These can be easily made easily made. I am including a link to a free owl pincushion pattern. This little guy was made using scraps. They are so cute! I’m going to make one.

  Owl Pincushin from DIY Dish                                                              owl pinchusionsDIYdishS2_E1_6b

 Kris and Kim of the DIY designed this pincushion. In case the link didn’t work, the web addresses are written below. The first one take you to a segment of the show where they talk about the owl and how to make it.

You should be able to click on the links and go to each.  Here is the link to the DIY Dish program: 

Here is the link to a video and the Tutorial on You Tube

This is the link for the pattern for this little owl

On with the Quilting Tools:

Stiletto: (Optional) This is a pointy tool, used to help move the fabric along when it occasionally gets hung up between the pressure foot and the feed-dogs. This tool should also be kept out of the reach of children.

Sewing Machine: A machine in good working order is necessary. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive or the newest model. It does need to work smoothly. Make sure the tension is adjusted so that it is producing a smooth straight stitch and even seams. A seam that is puckered causes curves and distorts the size of your fabric pieces.

  • Use a new needle, if the needle you are using is making a popping sound when it enters the fabric, it is dull and needs to be replaced.
  • If you have an older machine which has sat or been stored for a while, it’s wise to take it to a reputable sewing machine repair shop and  have it serviced. This good advice for all sewing machine owners, to keep your machine in good working condition, take it in to the repair shop for regular cleaning and service, this will extend the life of your sewing machine.

Fabric} I will address this topic in Part 2 of the Basic Quilting Lessons

Quilt Pattern} and this topic in Part 3 of the Basic Quilting Lessons

Since the 1970’s and its revival, quilting has become a billion-dollar industry. There are hundreds of tools on the market, all with the purpose to help make quilting easier. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you are at the fabric store or quilt shop, trying to decide which tools you need.  I hope this basic list will help clear away some of the confusion. My goal is to help you work smart. This list does not contain every tool on the market; it does list the ones I use every time I quilt.

Below is a check list you can copy and paste into a word document.  ♥(I’m still learning and I’ve made a goal to learn how to make a “Press Here Button” to have a PDF file pop up, so you can print it. But until then you will need to do the “copy and paste” thing.  Thank you for your patience with me.)

Check List for Basic Quilting Equipment and Supplies

By Dragonfly Patch

Here is a simplified  list of the tools and supplies from the presentation above.

Remember to use the 40 – 50 % off coupons from the national fabric stores to purchase

your quilting tools and watch for the 30 to 40% off quilting tool sales from these stores.



Quilting Pins

Pincushion 1 or 2


-Sewing Machine Needles 80/12

-Hand sewing Needles

-Sharps       -Betweens#7-#11

Stiletto (Optional)

Measuring Tape- 120 inches

Seam Ripper- get two if possible

Thread – Colors: Light Gray and Cream, ivory or beige

Rotary Cutter- 35mm

Extra blade for rotary cutter same size as Rotary Cutter

Mat 18” x 24”

Acrylic Rulers :  one  6” x 24″ and one 6” x 12”


Ironing Board

Sewing machine

Next time, I will talk about fabric and how to choose it and how much you need for your quilting project.

Until next time,

Happy Shopping,



I grew up in Yakima, which is located in Central Eastern Washington. I am married and have four adult children, nine grandchildren. I graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in Education. I currently live in the Tahuya Forest on the Kitsap Peninsulan in Western Washington. I learned to quilt in high school. My grandmother taught me to crochet and embroidery. I am passing this knowledge along to my daughters, granddaughters and anyone else who wants to learn these arts.

2 thoughts on “Part One – What Do I Need to Start Quilting

  1. Jennifer

    You forgot to include pay close attention when using a rotary cutter any distractions can have sever consequences. Lol. No TV!

    • Jennifer, you are absolutely correct, when using the rotary cutter you need to keep your eyes and mind on the cutting and not the TV or conversation. Otherwise you may end up visiting the ER to get stitches, as was the case for me. I was cutting and trying to watch Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. I had to visit the ER and get several stiches to mend my sliced left thumb.

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