Monday, February 4, 2013

Start At The Beginning: What Do I Need To Make Quilts?

I figured that it might be a good idea for the first post on this blog to be about what you need to start quilting.

There are a lot of tools that we, as quilters, feel we "need" to make a quilt.  When I started I had a ruler, pencil, scissors, needles, thread, fabric and a sewing machine.  Our quilty foremothers/fathers (yes, even in olden times men made or helped make quilts/bed coverings) didn't have the sewing machine for the most part but they somehow created not only usable, but often beautiful quilts.

As I finished my first two or three 'adult' quilts, that is quilts I made when I came back to quilting after I was married and we had our first two children, my husband as he was watching me painstakingly use a ruler, pencil and scissors to cut blocks and strips said "There has to be an easier way."

Little did I know that within the next couple of days he would go to JoAnne's on his way home from work and tell one of the ladies there that I made quilts and how I was going about it.  At this point I mostly only made Log Cabin (still my favorite), 9-patch, Trip Around the World and larger hexie quilts.  She immediately took him over to the cutting mats, rotary cutters and rulers and made an easy sale.

He brought them home, told me what they were for and changed my quilt fabric cutting life forever! 

My list of must haves:

  1. Cutting mat, self healing. (I recently bought the biggest one I've owned yet, 36"x36")
  2. Rotary cutter (these come in many shapes and sizes I'll post a picture of the one I have that I have determined is best for me) Dritz Omnigrid 45mm.  It is the cheapest one I've ever bought and it is the one that I use almost exclusively. 
  3. Sewing machine, preferably one where it is easy to set the needle for 1/4" seam or you can get a 1/4" foot for.  Plenty of extra bobbins.
  4. Acrylic ruler.  They come in different shapes and sizes, mine is 24 inches long and 7 inches wide.
  5. A good supply of different hand sewing needles and straight pins.
  6. A good supply of sewing machine needles.  They say change your needle after every 8 hours of sewing time.  I usually just change mine once a week and before I start quilting a project.
  7. If you plan to "finish" your own quilts with quilting you'll need to decide whether to pin baste or spray baste.  I pin baste big things with med safety pins and spray baste small things just because that is the way I like to do it.
  8. Also if you are going to Free Motion Quilt your quilts you will need a "darning" foot or a free motion foot for your machine.  Also a "walking" foot is a very handy thing to have.  Quilting gloves are also a great thing to get if you plan to quilt your own quilts.  Quilting gloves changed my life! :D
  9. A good pair of fabric scissors that are only for fabric and a good pair of small trimming scissors for cutting thread.
  10. A seam ripper because no one is perfect.  I also have a small manual eyebrow trimmer that is great to unstitch long seams.
  11. Non-permanent way of marking fabric.
  12. Iron  A lot of people spend a mint on their iron, I buy $10 irons because my cats have a tendency to knock them off my ironing board ALL the time.  One day I might shell out a lot for a really good iron but the $10 variety work just fine for me.
  13. Ironing board or "pressing" table.  Many DIY tutorials online to make your own pressing table out there.
Cutting mat:
Rotary cutter:
Acrylic ruller:

Some of these things you don't HAVE to have but I've found that all of them are very nice to have.  I started with a hand me down sewing machine and then I sewed on $180 machine from Walmart for nearly 10 years making quilts.  Recently I upgraded to a machine with an 8.5 inch "harp" space to make quilting my own quilts easier.

This is a basic overview of the tools that I think you need the most.  I'm sure there are other things that I have left out that make quilting much easier and I hope other quilters will chime in in the comments section if they notice something I've missed.  Also I would love for other quilters to guest post on this blog.

My next post will deal with how to use your acrylic ruler, rotary cutter and cutting mat.  Also a brief overview of strip quilting and why I wish someone had told me about it much sooner!  

Friday, November 30, 2012


I've had many friends from childhood on up who have asked me "What do I need to do to start quilting?"  I hope with this blog to be able to answer that question and many others that beginning quilters have.

I hope other quilters will follow this blog and help answer questions posed by those who are new to our stitchery passion and if I forget tips and hints that should be included in certain topical posts I hope y'all will jump in and add your tips and tricks too.  The goal is to help new quilters feel more confident about this craft that we all love.

I plan to post simple tutorials for beginning quilt projects, posts about what you need to start, advice about sewing machines, basically all of the little and big things that I've learned over my 30+ years of sewing and making quilts.