Start quilting in no time with this essential list of quilting tools. Learn about the different types of tools used for the art of quilting by quilters of different levels and discover which ones you'll be most comfortable to use.
European pilgrims introduced the art of quilting in America, but the craft itself was borne out of necessity when Colonial women during tough financial times had to find ways to keep their family warm during the winter season. For this reason, the early quilts were chiefly utilitarian and it was not until the 19th century when fabrics became more affordable that women could afford to be more creative with their quilts.
Just like any craft, you’ll need tools for undertaking the art of quilting. The variety of quilting tools to choose from can be quite tremendous but they would depend on how experienced you are as a quilter. Check out the list below for a comprehensive guide of quilting tools.
Table of Contents
This machine is necessary if you do not want to quilt by hand. It is a compact device that is able to stitch together materials. Newer models are generally electric, though, in the past, they were often operated by the person’s foot. They make it significantly faster and easier to make clothing, quilts, or other items.
It’s important that before you pay for a new sewing machine, you make sure that it will meet your needs. Pay attention to the number and types of different stitches that the machine can make, as well as whether or not you will be able to adjust the length of the stitches. Some sewing machines come with different attachments that will make them easier to use, such as a larger selection of different presser feet.
Although traditionally sewing machines were mechanical, computerized sewing machines are becoming very popular. However, they are more expensive. Computerized sewing machines are generally heavier, offer the ability to program stitch sequences, and can perform large numbers of embroidery and decorative stitches quickly and easily.
A rotary cutter is a simple tool that allows you to quickly cut straight lines when you are cutting out pieces of your quilt. While there are many different rotary cutters available for purchase on the market, they all have the same essential design, which is a round, sharp blade and a handle. While they look like pizza cutters, they can quickly cut through a few layers of fabric to speed up your preparation before you start quilting. When buying a rotary cutter, it’s important to remember that larger blades will allow you to cut more fabric and to cut faster. Very small blades, such as 18mm, are great for slowing cutting curves, while 60mm blades are ideal for regular use.
Rotary Cutting Mat
A rotary cutting mat is important to have if you are going to be using a rotary cutter. Otherwise, you will not be able to use your cutter without seriously damaging the surface on which you’re working. These mats are self-healing, which means that they are made out of a substance that won’t cut wide open and create a gash when you use a rotary to cut on it. Although they are available in a number of sizes, remember that larger is better, as it will allow you to cut a large piece of fabric without any problems. Having a smaller cutting mat for traveling is a good idea, as well. Choose a rotary cutting mat that has measurements marked on it so that you can make sure that you are cutting straight lines and that your fabric pieces will all be the right size.
In addition to a cutting mat, when you are going to use a rotary cutter you will also need a non-slip ruler that you can use to steady your cutter and press against when you are cutting. Using a regular ruler or yardstick is a recipe for disaster and can result in your accidentally cutting yourself or making a mistake when cutting your fabric. Non-slip rotary rulers will stay in place when you are cutting so that you don’t make a painful or expensive mistake.
Some rulers have a bit of grit on the underside to keep them in place on your fabric, while others have a gripping lip that will hang over the edge of your mat. These rulers are going to be marked with measurements so that you can easily measure to the 1/8 of an inch without problems. Larger rulers make cutting big pieces of fabric fast and easy, but smaller square rotary rulers are also handy if you have the room for them.
Without a sharp blade, you will find that using your rotary cutter is difficult, at best. As your blades naturally dull from use, you will want to replace them quickly so that you don’t risk making a mistake when cutting. Since many quilters like to stack layers of fabric to cut multiple pieces at once, having a sharp rotary blade is imperative, or you won’t be able to do this easily. Additionally, dropping your rotary cutter by accident or banging it on a hard surface can cause your blade to become damaged or to get a nick in the edge. These tiny nicks may be too small for you to see when looking at the blade, but they can prevent your rotary cutter from being able to cut cleanly and neatly through the fabric. As a result, you may have to go back and finish the job with a pair of fabric scissors.
To ensure that your fabric is prepared for quilting, you will first want to wash it, and then, you will need to iron it to completely remove any wrinkles that are in the fabric. The problem with wrinkles is that they will cause you to make mistakes when you are measuring, cutting, pinning, and sewing. It’s best to avoid these problems by taking the time necessary to iron your fabric before you start.
While some people have plenty of room in their homes for a full-size ironing board, others don’t. If you do need to opt for a smaller or portable ironing board, then make sure that it is still large enough for you to easily iron big pieces of fabric. When you are working with multiple yards of fabric, then being able to drape the excess over a full-size ironing board will make the ironing process go a lot faster.
No matter what kind of fabric you are going to be quilting, you have to make sure that you have ironed it to prepare it for your use. While a basic iron will work for most of your needs, especially if you are going to be mainly working with cotton, if you want to be able to work with other types of fabric, then you will need an iron that has different heat settings so that you don’t accidentally scorch and ruin your new fabric.
In addition, look for one that can steam, as this is a great way to make sure that you are able to quickly and easily remove any wrinkles that may be in your fabric. Because you will also need your iron to press your seams flat, you need to choose one that has a smaller tip on the top that will be able to get into your seams without a lot of hassle. Doing this will ensure that your quilt looks neat and finished and doesn’t have lumps left behind by seams.
Specially designed scissors known as “fabric scissors” are necessary if you are going to be cutting any fabric by hand and want to make sure that you get a clean edge without fraying or damaging the fibers. They are specially designed to cut straight and long cuts that leave a smooth edge along any kind of cloth that you choose for quilting.
When choosing fabric scissors you will want to make sure that you opt for ones that have a finely pointed tip, as this will make it very easy to get the tip of the scissors into small areas. It’s important to only use fabric scissors, as opposed to paper scissors, to cut fabric, and do not use them on paper because it will quickly dull the blades. Since fabric scissors are traditionally more expensive than regular paper scissors are, having separate pairs for your use while quilting is a good idea.
These are scissors whose blades are not straight, but rather are sawtoothed in design. This means that they will leave a zigzag, not a straight edge, along with the edge of the fabric where you cut. It’s important to have pinking shears to cut cloth if you are at all worried about it fraying along the cut edge. When fabric frays, the weave of the cloth itself will slowly become undone, and threads will pull out from the fabric. Using pinking shears decreases the possibility of this occurring and minimizes damage to your fabric if there is any fraying. While some people want to use their pinking shears to cut designs and patterns out of paper, doing so will quickly dull their edge.
Unlike fabric scissors and pinking shears, which are only to be used when cutting fabric, paper scissors are ideal for quilters to use when cutting out a pattern. They are standard scissors, and, while their edges are sharp enough to easily cut through paper or an errant thread, they will not leave a fine edge on fabric. Additionally, using these scissors to cut thread while threading your sewing machine or your needle can make it very difficult to get the fiber through the eye, so that is generally to be avoided, as well. The important thing to remember when choosing paper scissors is that you need to buy a pair that will be comfortable for you to use. Since you won’t rely on them for perfect fabric edges, they just need to be durable and comfortable enough to use when cutting out a pattern.
Quilt Design Wall
A quilt design wall is a great way for quilters to visualize the quilts that they are working on and make sure that all of the patterns and blocks that they have selected work well with each other. This is also a great way for quilters to stay organized and make sure that they do not accidentally sew the wrong blocks together. It’s important to make sure that when you select a quilt design wall that it is large enough to hold multiple blocks so that you can really see how the pattern and the design of your quilt is coming together. Look for one that will allow your quilt blocks to stick to the surface without being damaged so that you can easily move them around while planning your quilt. Make sure that the quilt design wall you choose is a neutral color so that it doesn’t clash or interfere with your perception of your blocks.
While there are a few different types of seam rippers, they all have the same use. Most commonly, seam rippers are designed with a blade shaped like a “U” attached to a handle. One side of the “U” is longer and is pointed, and the other side generally has a small ball on the end. The inner curve of the blade is sharp and ideal for cutting through the thread quickly.
The main differences you will have to choose from when selecting a seam ripper is the size and design of the handle, as well as how thick the blade is. Some seam rippers come with additional features to make them easier to use. If you need to remove embroidery stitches, then you will want to find a seam ripper that has a blade in the shape of a “C”. These are generally incredibly sharp and make it easy to remove a lot of stitches at once, but they can also tear through your fabric if you aren’t careful.
An ergonomic seam ripper will have a thicker handle that has been designed to improve the comfort of the person using it. If you have pain or arthritis in your hands, then you will likely benefit from an ergonomic seam ripper, as they are easy to hold for longer periods of time. Seam rippers with a light on the end make it easy to see where you are working so that you don’t make a mistake.
Pins are imperative, no matter whether you are going to be quilting by hand or with a machine, as they will hold together your pieces of fabric and ensure that you are able to get a straight edge when you are sewing. It’s a good idea to look for sewing pins that are long and very thin, as you do not want to leave big holes in the fabric, and they are easy to insert and to remove. Make sure that you choose pins that are non-corrosive so that they will not rust and damage your fabric over time. This is especially important if you live in an area that stays humid all year long.
Hand Quilting Needles
Depending on whether you are going to be quilting on a machine or by hand, there are a few different types of needles that you will need to buy. They can easily be purchased in packages with a number of different sizes so that you have every kind you need, or you can buy packages that are made up of all one sized needles. They are available in sizes between 1 and 12 and can be “sharps” or “betweens”. “Sharps” are needles that are used for piecing and applique and are considered all-purpose needles, while “betweens” are used for quilting. Higher number needles are going to be shorter and finer, and for quilting, it is recommended that you use between a size 7 and a size 12.
Sewing Machine Needles
Sewing machine needles are available in a number of sizes as well, but the size needle that you need will be determined by what type of stitch you are going to do, what type of thread you will use, and what kind of fabric you will be sewing together. Generally, your sewing machine manual will offer you information on what type of needle to use for each type of material or purpose.
This is a type of tape that was developed primarily for use by quilters, although it does have other applications as well. However, it is best suited for holding together fabrics. This tape does a great job keeping projects and fabrics stable and secure when they are being worked on so that the quilter can concentrate on even and tight stitches. The main benefit of using quilter’s tape over other types of tape is that it will generally not leave a sticky residue when it is removed.
This tape is one-sided and comes in a number of colors so that it is easy to see against even bright fabric. The common width is just ¼ inch. In addition to keeping projects stable, quilter’s tape can act as a guide to help quilter’s keep their stitches in a straight line, and, since it can be reused a number of times before losing adhesive, you won’t waste a lot of tapes when working on a project.
A thimble is useful if you are going to be doing any hand quilting and want to make sure that you can easily control your needle without accidentally poking yourself. It allows you a lot more speed, precision, and control when you are quilting. However, finding the right one to use can be a little tricky. There are a number of different sizes, and it’s important that the thimble you choose not only fits snugly on your finger but also is not uncomfortably tight. While metal thimbles are very traditional, other materials are available, including leather and plastic.
Adding binding to a quilt will not only make the entire piece look finished and professional, but it will also ensure that the batting does not come out. Binding can be difficult, but using a binding tool will speed up the process and make it much easier. Because you want the binding to be tight against the quilt and free of any puckers or bubbles, using this tool to ensure a snug fit is ideal and removes much of the guesswork that many quilters feel when binding.
Bias Tape Maker Tool
Bias tape is the narrow strip of fabric that is used to bind the edge of a quilt and has to be cut on the bias to ensure that it is stretchy and will have some give when used to finish a quilt. If you are unhappy with the colors and selection of bias tape at the store, then you will want to be able to make it on your own. This is a long and difficult process that many quilters struggle with, but using this tool simplifies the process and ensures that you have the bias tape that you need for your project.
A measuring gauge is a small yet handy tool that makes it very easy to double-check your measurements when you are quilting. It’s a good idea to opt for one that has a lot of different measurements included on the tool so that you can easily measure and move on without trying to find a measuring tape to use.
It can be very difficult for new quilters to sew in a straight line with their new sewing machine. For this reason, using a seam guide is a good idea. This tool is placed under the foot of the sewing machine and provides an even edge along which your fabric should run when you are stitching. Keeping all of your material up against the edge of the seam guide ensures that you will not have to deal with uneven seams and will leave you with a professional look.
Any type of hand quilting is best done using an embroidery hoop, which will help to hold part of your quilt tight and steady so that you can stitch without worrying about your fabric moving. When attaching the front, batting, and back of a quilt, it’s important to make sure that everything is held in place or you will end up with a quilt that is uneven. Using a hoop to keep your fabric snug and in place is the best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen, and these hoops are easy to loosen and move to a new area of your quilt when you are ready. There are a number of different size hoops available, and you will choose one depending on the size of the area where you will be quilting.