8 Basic Quilting Tools For Beginners
No one knows when quilting became an art form.
Historians say the earliest quilted garment was part of a statue representing an Egyptian pharaoh who was doing what pharaoh’s do around 3400 B.C.
The Crusaders brought the quilting art form to Europe in the 11th century. The knights wore quilted garments the way folks wear Under Armour today.
The earliest known surviving quilt is Sicilian. That quilt is a 14th-century deteriorating masterpiece.
New world settlers brought the art of quilting with them, but the only surviving quilt from that era is the 1704 Saltonstall quilt. (The age of this quilt was determined by the template cut from a Harvard College newspaper dated 1701.)
During the 19th century quilting spread across America. There are quilts in museums across the country, but most quilt-makers don’t quilt for professional recognition.
They quilt because they love the art and take pride in the quilt blocks they create.
Beginners always want to know how they can create a Nine-Patch, Shoo Fly, Churn Dash or Prairie Queen quilt block pattern like seasoned quilters. And the answer is pretty simple.
The right quilting tools and supplies, a little research, and the conviction to create a quilt that expresses the innate beauty of quilting is what any beginning quilter needs to get started.
Starting with the right supplies, and knowing what each tool does, is one of the first steps to quilting success.
Here is a list of the needed quilting supplies for beginners:
The Rotary Cutter
Rotary cutters come in different sizes, but the two most popular sizes are the 45-millimeter blade and the 60-millimeter blade. The expert quilters usually tell beginners to choose an ergonomic cutter if they have wrist issues.
Good quality rotary cutters are more precise, especially when the fabric has a high thread count. They produce quilt blocks with clean edges, and the size of the blocks are more uniform.
Straight Pins And Needles
Sharp and sturdy pins, pin cushions, or a magnetic pin bowl, are a quilter's best friends once the block cutting is complete. The pins hold the components together as the piecing process takes shape.
You’ll need straight pins for the handwork and needles to do the legwork on your sewing machine. Invest in some extra-long quilter's pins with multi-colored heads so you can easily see them as you work. (It’s a good idea to have several pin varieties available for different jobs.)
A Rotary Cutting Mat And Rotary Rulers
A rotary cutting mat serves two purposes. It protects the cutting surface, and it also keeps the cutter blade sharp. A slightly rough mat will help keep the fabric stable; and it’s self-healing, so the blade nicks disappear. Good cutting mats are also reversible.
A see-through rotary ruler allows you to hold the fabric to the mat firmly. A ruler with very thin lines helps align the edge of fabrics better. There are hundreds of rotary rulers, but start with a basic 6” x 24” ruler—you can add others as you need them.
There are all sorts of quilting scissors on the market. Beginners need two types to get started. The first is a pair of lightweight fabric scissors that feel good when you hold them. Use these to only cut fabric.
You’ll also need a pair that can cut plastic, paper, and the other materials you need to cut to do the job. Heritage rag quilt scissors are popular because your fingers rest outside the handles instead of being caught inside the handle holes.
A seam ripper with a fine head usually does the trick when you need to rip out a seam that doesn’t belong in the quilt.
There are plenty of seam rippers on the market, so find one that feels comfortable in your hand and has a hard cap to protect the blade when not in use.
Quality fabrics are essential to well-crafted quilts. Tightly woven cotton will extend the life of your quilt, and vibrant colors will give your quilt the pop you desire.
Most beginners start with a variety of multi-colored cotton fabrics, but some choose tone-on-tone coordinated quilting fabrics.
Most beginners use a lint-free 50 weight cotton thread for basic stitching. But you can use other weight cotton thread for fancy and decorative stitching as well.
Cotton is the thread of choice for most quilters since their fabric is cotton also. Matching cotton with cotton keeps your quilt soft and consistent to the touch.
Ironing Board And An Iron
There’s no need to reinvent the ironing board or the iron to quilt. Any well-constructed, full-size, ironing board will work. And any iron that heats high enough to press the fabric is acceptable.
Some quilters use a portable ironing board, so they can go from one room to another, while other quilters use a four-feet-long by 12- or 18-inch-wide ironing board that is part of a kit that attaches to a door.
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These are the basic quilting tools beginners need to join the growing crowd of energetic quilters. With these tools, you can create quilts which will provide protection from the elements and keep your friends and family warm at night.
But remember: quilts also have an artistic side. That’s the side that most quilters like to show off. Quilts are unique works of art, and every one of them has a story woven into each block.
Once you learn to use these tools, you can tell those stories in a way that expresses your individuality and creative expression.
What are some of your favorite quilting supplies? Let us know what you would add to this list for beginners!