On a recent trip to the fabric store, I overheard two women discussing what might be needed to try out rag quilting. Since I can rarely pass up an opportunity to talk quilting, I soon found myself playing “quilting tour guide”, showing them the supplies they’d need in order to give it a try. This made me realize that there’s likely plenty of would- be quilters who’d like some pointers to help them get started. In the interest of being helpful, and another fun opportunity to talk quilting - here’s a supply list of the top 12 things I couldn’t do without (printable list below!):
1. Sewing Machine
You don’t need a fancy machine to make a quilt. My first machine was a 20 year old hand-me-down Kenmore that my mom gave me and I’ve sewed many beautiful things on it. Old or new, as long as you can sew a straight line with it, you are golden.
2. Universal Needles
Universal needles (size 80/12) work great for piecing a quilt top, and can be used for quilting as well. Make sure you replace your needle for each project, or after eight hours of sewing. Don’t forget quilting needles if you plan to hand stitch your binding on.
3. Seam Ripper
Sadly, every quilter will need a seam ripper at some point. I have several! There’s a fancy ergonomic type that I bought my Mom last Christmas and she swears by it, but the standard seam ripper does the job just fine too.
Not all thread is created equal! If you want your quilt to last, don’t skimp on thread. I like to quilt with Gutermann or Mettler. A small quilt may require a 250m to 500m spool from start to finish. To begin, you’ll do well to stock your sewing box with just a few neutral colors.
5. Straight Pins
Straight pins come in several sizes and shapes. After trying out a few different kinds, I prefer to use long pins that have a flat head. They’ll help keep everything flat while joining your pieces of fabric. My mom bought me some pins that have a flower on top. They cost a little more than round topped pins, but I really love them.
6. Rotary Cutter
A rotary cutter is a cutting tool with a plastic handle and circular blade that comes in a variety of brands and sizes. To start, you’ll want a 45mm or 60mm blade. This needs to be changed periodically, but one blade will certainly get you through a quilt project.
7. Cutting Mat
The longest lasting, and most useful mat I’ve had is the 24”x36” Olfa mat. Cutting large pieces of fabric on a smaller mat can be challenging. This particular brand offers a double-sided cutting surface and is self-healing. A less expensive brand will certainly work since it’s the size of the mat that’s most important for quilt making.
8. Acrylic Ruler
If you start out with just one ruler, it should be the 6”x24” ruler. This size is universal for cutting strips or squares. You can use it to cut your quilt pieces, the binding, and your backing. A good second would be the Shape Cut ruler, which gives you an option to make cuts half inch intervals. When shopping for rulers, one with 45 degree lines will be helpful in more complex quilt designs. Purchasing one with the lines now will save you some moolah in the future.
9. Iron and Ironing Board
Pressing your seams to the dark side is an important step in quilting. It helps everything lay flat and helps you match up seams and corners. If you’re tight on space, craft stores sell a small tabletop ironing mat that has a cutting mat on the other side. The brand of iron isn’t important here. A more deluxe model often gets hotter than the standard models, but either one will work.
10. Starch or Magic Sizing
Spraying your block or fabric strip with starch will give it a crispness that makes it easier to work with. Your local fabric shop may carry a spray advertised specifically for sewing/quilting, but an inexpensive spray starch works just as well. Whatever you choose, a little spray goes a long way.
11. Basting Spray, Basting Gun, or Curved Safety Pins
Whichever method you use to join the quilt top, batting, and backing is up to you. The first several quilts I made were joined together with the tacking gun. It applies the little plastic tacks that hold price tags on clothing, but in this case, it holds your “sandwich” of quilt top, batting, and backing fabric together. I’ve also tried the curved safety pins. I felt like my material shifted more than I would have liked during the quilting process with these. On my last few quilts I’ve used basting spray to join the three layers. It’s much faster than the other two methods. The downside is that the spray smells bad and it’s easy to get sticky areas on your floor from overspray. Decide what works best for you.
Sharp scissors are so important for cutting fabric and will make your life so much easier. Use your fabric scissors for fabric only! I write “sewing” on mine with a permanent ink marker to remind everyone what they’re for. Sister in law, Carli and I both have the same plastic handled Gingher scissors. We think they cut fabric wonderfully.
If you plan on purchasing these items from a large chain fabric store, make sure you bring your coupons with you. Sometimes you can print a coupon from their website. I have a Joann’s fabric store near my home and they have an app for my smartphone that supplies me with multiple coupons and discounts. I never pay full price!
Assuming you already have a sewing machine, you can get your must-have list for approximately $120 if you use coupons. I hope this handy checklist will save you some time at the craft store and some energy you can put toward this new crafting adventure.
I’ll be sharing some easy beginner quilting projects in the coming weeks. Come quilt along with me!