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Quilting can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. If you are new to quilting, you don’t need a lot. A few tools will get you through that first initial quilt. However, if you decide to come over to the dark side, like yours truly, and become a crazed quilt-osaurus, the amount of gadgets, notions, tools and whatchamathingies is pretty endless. How exciting!!!
I’m going to make a few lists for you. The first list will be the essentials. If you have those, you’re sit’n pretty and on your way to making rock’n quilts. The second list will be for those who have a few quilts under their belt, have decided to up their game a bit and are starting to feel the itch...the quilting itch. The third list...well, the third list is for people who wander around with stray threads plastered to their pants, usually have a minimum of 3 quilts in various stages of completion and, let’s face it, may have a fabric hoarding problem. Should I say problem? Maybe let’s use the word talent. A fabric hoarding talent. (You know who you are.)
The fourth and final list will be a simple glossary of quilting terms. Also, if you have any terms or tools you like to use or would like to see added to the list, just let me know!
Basic Tools For Making A Quilt
- Sewing Machine - don’t spend a lot until you know you love sewing. A very basic sewing machine will suffice if you only plan on making a few quilts a year for special occasions.
- Sewing Machine Needles - 70/10 needles are thin and best for piecing. 90/14 are thicker and are best for machine quilting.
- Thread - A poly-cotton blend or 100% cotton both work fine. Try to avoid 100% polyester. It may produce less lint than cotton, but will not hold up as well.
- Ruler - if you only ever get one ruler, get a 6” x 24” clear Omnigrip. It’s the most versatile and I promise you will reach for it the most often.
- Rotary Cutter
- Self-Healing Cutting Mat
- Ironing Board
- Quilting Weight 100% Cotton
- Safety Pins
- Fabric Scissors
- Seam Ripper
- Batting - I recommend using either 100% cotton or an 80/20 cotton-poly blend.
- Embroidery needles - for hand-sewing binding
- Walking Foot - I debated whether or not to put this on the essentials list, but finally decided to do it. To tell you the truth, I never take mine off. Even though that is not necessary, it is necessary to use one when quilting and sewing binding. Will your quilt be ruined if you use the presser foot that came with your machine? No. But your quilt will lay flatter, have less distortion and be much easier to work with if you use a walking foot. Note: Every sewing machine brand will have its own walking foot – so match brands if you want them to fit together 🙂
If you are brand new to quilting and looking for a place to start, check out my Quilting 101 video tutorials on YouTube! Below if a quick little vid on how to chain piece quilt blocks.
Advanced Tools For Making A Quilt
You have finished a few projects and officially have the quilting bug. Yippy! Now is the time to think about some upgrades that will make your life a bit easier and help some quilting techniques work more successfully. These items below are in addition or are replacing what is listed above.
- More Rulers! - As you make blocks in various shapes and sizes, you will find that different-sized rulers help when trimming blocks and cutting smaller sizes of fabric. A few sizes I really like are:
- Glasshead Pins - sharper, smoother and glide in and out of fabric the best
- Magnetic Pin Holder - soooo helpful if you happen to be a bit clumsy. If you drop pins, just wave this magnet above them and woosh! They are sucked up and back at home.
- Grips For Rulers - no more slippery rulers
- Gingher Shears
- Embroidery Scissors - for snipping those little threads
- Measuring Tape - the official roll a construction worker would carry. Goes up to 16’
- Aurifil Thread
- Extra-Padded Ironing Board Cover
- Netflix - if you don’t have a membership, you should seriously consider it.
- Plastic Template Sheets - these are only needed if you are cutting out templates
- Temporary Marker/Pencil - I like this the best, but even a simple lead pencil works too.
- Thread Conditioner - this is used to condition cotton thread so it glides through fabric better. I only use this when hand-sewing binding.
- Fabric Starch - Best Press is aaaaamazing. AND it comes in different scents. mmmmmm….Check out this blog post for more info on fabric starch.
- Shout Color Catchers - whether you are a pre-washer or not, it’s not a bad idea to throw one of these sheets in the washing machine when it’s time to wash your quilt for the first time.
- Thread Rack
- Fusible Web - Keeps small applique pieces in place while you stitch them down
- Basting Spray
Veeeeery Nonessential But Super Fun Quilting Tools
Where ma quilters aaaaaat?!! Those of you reading this third list are MY PEOPLE. I love you and I don’t know you. I want to know what crazy gadgets you’re using, so please share in the comments, I’ll try to keep this list updated.
- LARGE sewing surface (mine is 11” wide from the right of the needle.) This makes sewing larger quilts managable.
- Automatic thread tension control
- Automatic thread cutter
- Locking stitch button
- 1,000 spm sewing speed
- Convertible free motion quilting foot
What was that? You want to buy the rad Quilter for Life shirt I'm wearing? 😉 I don't blame you. I designed it am selling it in my shop!
Appliqué - A piecing process, done either by hand or by machine, using small pieces of fabric which are then sewn onto a background fabric in a decorative design.
Aurifil - An Italian company that produces high-quality cotton thread
Backing - the back layer of a quilt
Basting - used to hold the three layers of a quilt together while it is being quilted. Basting options include: long stitches sewn around the quilt meant to be temporary and then removed after quilting, safety pins, adhesive basting spray and fusible batting
Batting - the thick layer in the middle of a quilt sandwich between the top and backing.
Bearding - the migration of fibers from the batting through the quilt top; most often associated with cheap polyester batting
Bias - the diagonal direction across the surface of a woven fabric at a 45° angle; fabric cut on the bias stretches easily and must be handled with care
Binding - strips of fabric sewn together, folded in half and sewn to cover the raw edges of a quilt
Bobbin - a small spool of either plastic or metal wound with thread; fits in the base of a sewing machine and produces thread for the bottom stitch – this links to the top stitch allowing a seam to be sewn
Buttonhole Stitch - looped stitches used for edging buttonholes or appliqué
Chain Piecing - sewing blocks together one right after the other without snipping the thread in between; this allows you to sew many pieces without stopping each time
Charm Pack - a bundle of 5” pre-cut squares of fabric
Corner Setting Triangles - half square triangles placed in the corners of a quilt that has blocks on point (see On Point)
Cutting Mat - a self-healing surface used to protect a work surface while using a rotary cutter (see Rotary Cutter)
English Paper Piecing (EPP) - a method of hand piecing which uses paper templates inside the block elements to guide where the edges are turned under; the paper templates are later removed
Fabric Grain - the lengthwise and crosswise threads of a fabric; the lengthwise grain parallel to the selvage stretches the least (see Selvage)
Fat Eighth - pre-cut fabric measuring 9” x 18”; half of a Fat Quarter
Fat Quarter (FQ) - pre-cut fabric measuring approximately 18” x 21”; this allows for cutting larger pieces than a regular quarter yard which is 9” x 42”
Feed Dogs - the teeth below the needle plate of a sewing machine that pull fabric through (see Needle Plate)
Finger Pressing - using your fingers instead of an iron to press a seam
Finished Size - the final size of a completed quilt block without seam allowances
Foundation Piecing - assembling a block by sewing pieces to a foundation of muslin or plain fabric, also adding strength and stability to delicate or stretchy fabrics
Flannel - a soft fabric that can be made from cotton, wool or synthetic fibers; is usually loosely woven, slightly fuzzy and is very soft; the looseness of the weave causes flannel to shrink more than regular quilt-weight cotton (see Quilt Weight Cotton)
Free Motion Quilting - a type of machine quilting in which the feed dogs are lowered so they no longer pull fabric through the machine during the quilting process – the quilter must create the quilting pattern by move the quilt sandwich under the needle
Fusibles - webbing or interfacing that can be fused to the back of fabric through heat for easier appliqué or to support delicate fabric
Fussy Cut - cutting out a specific area of fabric rather than laying out the fabric and slicing it with a ruler and rotary cutter
Hand Quilting - using a needle and thread to stitch the quilt sandwich together by hand; a quilting hoop is typically used to hold the quilt in place
Hanging Sleeve - A sleeve sewn to the back of a finished quilt; the standard size for quilt contests and shows is 4” wide
HST - Half Square Triangle
Improv Piecing - cutting fabric as you sew it together; no defined pattern or plan for the quilt blocks; made popular by the quilters of Gee’s Bend
Jelly Roll - a bundle of pre-cut fabric strips measuring 2 ½” x WOF (see WOF)
Layer Cake - a bundle of pre-cut 10” fabric squares
Loft - the thickness, height and weight of batting; high-loft batting is thick, fluffy and usually made of polyester; low-loft batting is thinner, denser and usually made from cotton
Long Arm - quilting using a very long bed (often as long as 12’) commercial quilting machine to do the overall quilting
Mitered Corner - joining corners at a 45° angle
Muslin - an inexpensive, medium weight, plain weave, low count (less than 160 threads per square inch) cotton sheeting fabric
Needle Plate - the metal or plastic plate at the base of a sewing machine; typically has guide marks and is on top of the feed dogs (See Feed Dogs)
On Point - a square block that is set on edge like a diamond with the corners running vertically
Paper Piecing - a method of piecing small pieces of fabric together using a block drawn or printed and sewn on paper for highly accurate details
Patchwork - the basic method of making a quilt by sewing pieces of fabric together
Piecing - sewing together cut pieces of fabric to make a quilt
Presser Foot - the basic foot that comes standard on most sewing machines; its function is to hold the fabric in place against the feed dogs and guide it as you sew
Quilt Weight Cotton - lightweight, 100% cotton used most often in quilting
Quilting Foot - a sewing machine foot that measures ¼” from the needle point to make sewing a ¼” seam easier
Quilting Hoop - a small circular or oval apparatus that is used to hold the layers of a quilt together during hand quilting (see Hand Quilting)
Raw Edge - the unsewn edge of fabric; will fray if not stabilized with stitching or a seam
Rotary Cutter - a fabric cutting tool with a circular blade that cuts through several layers of fabric at a time
Ruler - a heavy plastic measuring guide
Sampler - a quilt made of different block patterns
Sashing - strips of fabric that separate blocks, framing them to create added negative space
Seam - joining two fabrics together with stitches; in quilting, the standard seam is a ¼”
Seam Allowance - the width of fabric to the right of a sewn seam; in quilting the standard seam is a ¼”; for sewing garments, it is ⅝”
Seam Ripper - a small tool used for unpicking stitches; commonly consists of a handle, shaft and forked head
Selvage - The outer edge of the length of a fabric which is usually more tightly woven and is normally cut off and not used in a quilt; the manufacturer’s information can usually be found here
Side Setting Triangles - triangles added to the sides of a quilt on point to keep it square (see On Point)
Stash - a supply of fabric and notions
Starch - a spray used before ironing to stiffen fabric
Stitch In The Ditch - quilting in the seams or “ditch” of the quilt top
Template - a shape cut from either cardboard or plastic and used as a pattern for tracing shapes
Thimble - a metal or plastic cap with a closed end, worn to protect the finger and push the needle in sewing
Thread Conditioner - a wax substance that can be applied to thread to prevent tangling and fraying during hand sewing
Tied Quilt - a quilt that uses knotted strings or ties spaced evenly over the quilt to hold the three layers together; used as an alternative to stitching the layers together
Walking Foot - a special foot that can be attached to a sewing machine to help feed thick layers of fabric evenly through the machine
Whip Stitch - a hand stitching technique that “whips” the thread through one layer of fabric and back through the other; used during the final stage of hand sewing binding (see Binding)
WIP - Work In Progress
WOF - Width Of Fabric