13 of the Essential Tools and Materials Necessary to Start Quilting

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quilting tools and materials
Johnny Miller

Ready to learn the art of quilting? It starts with a few steps. First: You'll need an introductory lesson in quilting. Second: Seek out an idea to inspire your own project. And last: Be sure you have all the tools and materials needed to complete your chosen project from first stitch to finish.

Some of the essentials are a given: Even a beginner knows that you need a needle, thread, and your choice of fabric, but what about the other accessories particular to this technique? Here, we explain their practical purpose in this guide. Take, for example, the difference between a pair of embroidery scissors and dressmaker's shears: One is meant for snipping small threads while the other is for cutting large swatches of fabric down to size. A rotary cutter is another essential that comes in handy, but what makes a good one? And how do you choose the right amount of fabric—and, in quilting specifically, why does it come in a fat quarters bundle?

Over the years, crafters have developed their own unique ways of sewing together layers of fabric and you'll do the same: hand-quilt your own pillow cases, jewelry roll, or homespun baby blanket in a style that's all your own. This technique is a lifelong skill: Quilted items make lovely handmade gifts as well as family heirlooms for passing down to the next generation. As you develop your set of skills, consider adding to your stockpile of supplies as needed. But first, start with these essentials, master your sewing stitches, and soon you'll be turning fabric into something new, beautiful, and meaningful.

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Liberty of London fabric
Courtesy of Purl Soho

Of all fabric crafts, quilting and patchwork projects offer some of the best opportunities for experimenting with color, pattern, and texture. One hundred percent cotton is typically used for quilts, you can find fabric labeled "quilter's cotton" at most fabric stores and online.

Shop Now: Liberty Mini Rainbow Fat Sixteenth Bundle, $55, purlsoho.com.

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quilters pure cotton batting package
Courtesy of Missouri Star Quilt Company

When choosing batting for a quilt, consider its loft (thickness). It's often easier to quilt by hand and machine with a thinner batting, but quilts that are merely tufted (tied with yarn or embroidery thread) look better when made with a higher loft.

Shop Now: Quilter's Dream Select White Cotton Twin Cotton Batting, $26.95, missouriquiltco.com.

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Quilter's Ruler

yellow and white rectangle quilters ruler

This clear acrylic ruler allows you to mark placement accurately due to multiple measuring indicators that run both horizontally and vertically. Use it with a rotary cutter.

Shop Now: Omnigrid Quilter's Ruler, $13.82, amazon.com.

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Rotary Cutter

white and orange rotary cutter
Courtesy of Hobby Lobby

Fitted with a rotary blade, this sharp tool can slice through several layers of fabric at once. Look for one with a retractable blade, and lock it in the safety position when not using. Always cut away from yourself on a self-healing mat, and replace blades as soon as they are dull.

Shop Now: Fiskars Classic Loop Rotary Cutter, $19.99, hobbylobby.com.

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Embroidery Yarn and Floss

white embroidery yarn floss
Courtesy of Michaels

Use either to tuft—or secure—layers of fabric and batting to one another. The variety pictured here is comprised of six size-25 strands that can be easily separated, allowing you to adjust the thickness of your stitching thread.

Shop Now: DMC Six-Strand Embroidery Floss, in Ecru, 62¢ each, michaels.com.

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Quilting Thread

teal spool of quilting thread
Courtesy of Gutermann

Stronger than all-purpose thread, this type is best for hand- and machine-quilting through fabric and batting.

Shop Now: Gutermann Quilting Thread, in Peacock Teal, $6.89, amazon.com.

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Self-Healing Mat

grey martha stewart cutting mat
Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Its soft surface and durable core will withstand repeated cutting from a rotary blade or craft knife.

Shop Now: Martha Stewart 12-by-12 Cutting Mat, $19.99, amazon.com.

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Small Pointed Scissors

small pointed scissors on pink background
Courtesy of Studio Carta

For snipping small threads, keep a pair of embroidery scissors on hand. These little shears are made of hard tempered steel and extremely sharp—perfect for cutting the ribbon and other textiles, without becoming dull.

Shop Now: Studio Carta Ribbon Scissors, $34, studiocartashop.com.

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Fabric Shears

metal fabric sheers on light pink background
Courtesy of Gingher

These make it easy to quickly and accurately cut patchwork pieces and bindings. Gingher offers a pair in double-plated chrome-over-nickel blade finish that's known for its craftsmanship.

Shop Now: Gingher 8" Knife Edge Dressmaker's Shears, $22.33, amazon.com.

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Safety Pins

grouping of metal safety pins

To keep fabric and batting from shifting, bind with safety pins before quilting. This set of 200 comes in an assortment of sizes.

Shop Now: Singer Safety Pins, $3.11 for 200, target.com.

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Bias Tape

package of wrights brand single fold bias tape
Courtesy of Wrights

Use 100 percent cotton tape to bind edges, or as trim. Bias tape conforms to curves on rounded corners. (Seam binding may cause the edges of your quilt to pucker.)

Shop Now: Wrights Single Fold Bias Tape, 1/2", in Aquamarine, $1.74 for 4 yds., joann.com.

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Glass-Head Pins

assortment of glass head quilter pins
Courtesy of Dritz

These pins are so thin that they usually won't leave marks in fabric, and their glass heads won't melt under a hot iron.

Shop Now: Dritz Quilting Crystal Glass Head Pins, $9.16 for 100, amazon.com.

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Hand Needles

yellow package of john james quilting needles
Courtesy of John James

Keep a variety of sizes of needles on hand for different needs: sharps for general sewing; shorter needles for small appliqué stitches; and a tapestry needle with a large eye for tufting.

Shop Now: John James Gold'n Glide Quilting "Betweens" Needles, $5.25 for 12, amazon.com.

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