Quilting 101: Supplies

Let’s go back, I mean way back, and start at the beginning.

We’re going to start with the basics.

What do you need to start quilting?

As a young college student, who lived in a one bedroom apartment, I didn’t have a lot of room, but I was determined to make a quilt.

See, my new sister-in-law was about to have a baby, and I knew my new nephew wanted a quilt- though he didn’t quite know that yet.

Right before that, I had been working for a place that repaired and altered fire fighter uniforms. I did the office work, but it gave me a sewing itch and I was determined to try.

That was a long time ago, and I’ve learned so much since then, but my point of the story was, anyone can start, even if you have just a kitchen table and a small budget…. And of course a sewing machines.


Today we’re going to go over the basics you need to get started. And then I will also have a few extra things that I like to use to make life easier. (Above is my YouTube video that explains all these same things, if you’d rather just watch that.)

The Basics

1- Sewing Machine: It doesn’t have to be fancy. With quilting you need just a straight stitch. You could pick one up at your favorite craft store, buy something fancy, or find one at the garage sale. Make sure you know how to use it, clean it, change the needle and bobbin, and if it needs oiling. (YouTube has all kinds of good videos on how to use almost any machine.)

2- Thread: If you have a sewing machine… you need thread. Most of my quilts I sew with white, but if it’s a dark background, you may want a dark grey. Also, threads have different qualities. Some threads will leave a lot of lint that could gum up your sewing machine and mess up your feed dogs.

3- Extra Needles: Sometimes you break a needle, sometimes they get dull. If your machine is skipping stitches, your needle is too dull. You should be changing your needles regularly to avoid any mishaps. An all-purpose needles should be fine for cotton fabric.

4- Cutting Mat: This is something you’ll put on a table in which you cut your fabric on. I started off with a 12” x 18” in my little apartment, but now I have a big one: 24” x 32”. A Big one is nice, but not essential.

5- Rotary Cutter and Blades: This is how you cut your fabric. And again.. extra blades! Some quilters will change your blade after each quilt made. I wait until it feels like it’s getting hard to cut through.

6- Cutting Rulers: A basic long rectangular ruler is great for starters, mine is 6.5” x 24”. A square ruler is also nice to have. If you can, get both.

7- Fabric: Fabric comes in all kinds of different qualities. If you don’t have a big budget, shop the sales at Joann’s or if you want beginner fabric, try Walmart. Your quilt stores are going to have better fabric, but with better quality, comes higher the price. Find what’s good for you and your budget. Remember: if you buy the lower quality fabric, it will be fine, but your quilt might get worn through a lot quicker than if you went with a higher quality fabric.

8- Scissors: Two kinds: one that is a nice pair that ONLY cut fabric with (paper will dull fabric cutting scissors) and a small pair to clip threads with.

9- Seam Ripper: Because there’s going to come a time that you’re going to have to take something out.

10- Pins: Pins will help you line up your seams better.

11- Iron and ironing board: The biggest thing I learned in my quilting journey is to press, press, press. Sew and press, sew and press. You need a hot iron with a steam option and something to use your iron on. When I started I had a table ironing board. Now I use a wool mat (below) and a full size ironing board (this is great when you’re at the end of the quilt.

These are the basics. Most of them are essential to getting started quilting.

A Few Extras That Makes Things Nice

1- A Quarter Inch Sewing Foot: I have two different ones: one that gives me an edge guide so I slide the edge of my fabric right along it and one that will let me run it along a line on my fabric. Both are great and come in handy

2- Extra Bobbin Spools: When you start a quilt, wind 4-5 bobbins at the beginning, so you don’t have to stop a wind more bobbins in the middle.

3- Extra Rulers: All kind of different rulers are made for quilting. Some of my favorites are: Different size squares (4 1/2”, 6 1/2”, 9 1/2”, 12 1/2”), Clearly slotted perfect trimmer (mine came in a 2-pack half sizes and whole sizes) these are to trim half square triangles. A few others I have: flying geese ruler, 60 degree ruler, pineapple ruler, and Dresden plate ruler.

4- Cut-n-Press mat: This is a really cool mat that I wished I had when I was starting out in my small space. One side is a cutting mat and the other side is a pressing mat.

5- Wool pressing mat: Wool is supposed to make your blocks flatter, it goes nice on my table.

That’s all I can think of right now. Hope this helps you get started quilting.

It’s time for you to go gather your supplies and get started.

Next week in Quilting 101 we’re going to tackle how to square up and cut fabric.

Until then, go make something beautiful.