What's In Your Quilting Toolkit? Our Top 10 Must-Have Tools


Ready to quilt, but wondering which tools you really need to get started? After all, there are hundreds and hundreds of gadgets out there for quilters.

We’ve rounded up the 10 must-have quilting notions that are essential.

With these tools in hand, you can take your quilts from the beginning to the finishing stages without a hitch.

1. Scissors

The first item on our list? Scissors! You'll want at least one good pair of full-size fabric shears and another smaller pair of scissors for quilting.

Large fabric shears

High-quality scissors that you use only for fabric are a must. A good pair will come in handy for cutting around templates and getting into areas that a rotary cutter can't reach.

Using fabric shears for paper crafts and other household uses will quickly dull the blades and make it difficult to cut fabric and thread. Keep your quality fabric scissors dedicated to cutting fabric only.

Choose a lightweight pair that fits comfortably in your hand with long enough shears to cut through fabric comfortably. There are many brands and types of fabric shears, so choose whatever suits your taste.

We recommend the Gingher Knife Edge Dressmaker Shears .

Small scissors

Along with a good pair of fabric scissors, a small pair of scissors are also nice to have when working on handwork and other small projects. Not only are smaller scissors portable, but they can also come in handy for clipping threads and snipping small bits of fabric. Look for a pair with a comfortable handle and a pointy tip to get into tight spaces.

We recommend the 4" Karen Kay Buckley Perfect Scissors .

2. Rotary cutters and replacement blades

As with other sewing and quilting notions, choices abound in the field of rotary cutters.

The two most common sizes of rotary cutters for general quilting are cutters with 45mm and 60mm blades. Try out both sizes by visiting a quilt shop. One might feel more comfortable in your hand than the other.

Some quilters consider the larger 60mm size more useful when cutting through several layers at once. On the other hand, others find the smaller 45mm size more comfortable.There are also mini sizes (18mm and 28mm) that are useful when cutting appliqué shapes.

Don't forget to buy a pack of extra rotary cutter blades! This will extend the life of your cutting mat and help fabric to cut smoother. A variety of decorative blades are available for fun fabric finishes like pinked edges.

We recommend starting with an  Olfa Straight Handle Rotary Cutter

Related:  Learn 13 tips for using your rotary cutter here!

3. Self-healing cutting mats

A cutting mat protects the surfaces you’re working on when you use your rotary cutter. Self-healing cutting mats will give you years and years of service because your cuts won't leave indentations on the surface.

Choose the largest cutting mat you have space for, as it will make it much easier to spread out your fabric without worrying about damaging your counter or table.

  • A 24" x 36" cutting mat is a popular size because it fits comfortably on a small work table and gives you lots of room for cutting fabric.
  • If you need something smaller, look for an 18" x 24" mat.
  • There are also smaller sizes, rotating cutting mats and cutting mats with an ironing board on the back , which are great if you do a lot of paper piecing or need something portable.

We recommend the Olfa Gridded Cutting Mats .

Related: 7 Tricks for Extending the Life of Your Quilting Cutting Mat

4. Seam rippers

A seam ripper a basic tool that can undo your stitches — we guarantee you'll reach for over and over again! You might already have a small seam ripper that came with your machine, and that's a great place to start.

But did you know you can also find larger seam rippers with ergonomic handles for a comfortable grip and others with fancy wooden handles and metal accents? Many are even retractable, so you can safely stow the point inside the handle when not using it.

Whichever kind you choose, we recommend having more than one seam ripper in case you misplace it in your sewing stash.

We recommend the Clover Plastic Seam Ripper .

5. Acrylic rulers

Today’s acrylic rulers have great features. Look for clear markings that are easy to read. Make sure you understand the lines and measurements on the ruler you purchase so you can accurately cut your fabrics.

  • If you only buy one ruler, you will want a 24"-long ruler in either the 6" or 8" width, which lets you accurately cut from yardage. Look for one with a 45-degree angle line for cutting angled pieces. 
  • The next ruler on your list should be a 12" ruler in either the 6″ or 8″ width, which can be easier to manipulate when cutting smaller cuts of fabric like fat quarters and pre-cuts.
  • As you grown in your quilting, square rulers in a variety of sizes such as 12½" and 6½" can come in handy for squaring up blocks
  • Specialty rulers for half-square triangles , flying geese , hexagons , log cabin blocks  and pineapple blocks can make even difficult designs as easy as pie.

We recommend starting with one of the Creative Grids Rulers .

Related: The 5 Rulers Every Quilter Needs

6. Basic sewing machine

While today’s sewing machines are loaded with time-saving and decorative features and stitches, you only need very basic stitches to start quilting. Choose a high-quality, reliable sewing machine that fits your budget and you’ll be happy.

The most important thing about your sewing machine is that you quickly learn to sew an accurate ¼" seam allowance with it. Don’t be afraid to practice with scrap fabrics until you can sew that seam. Many machines come with a special ¼" foot to help you along in this process.

If you plan to quilt and bind your own quilts, a walking foot will be a good addition to your supplies. The walking foot keeps the fabric from shifting when you quilt through many layers and when you apply binding. A free-motion or darning foot is useful for sewing freehand designs onto a quilt. This post on machine feet for quilting will help you decide which feet to add to your collection of basic sewing tools.

7. Thread

High-quality thread is also a must! Many quilters sew with 50-weight cotton or poly-cotton blend of thread for basic piecing. Other weights of thread can be used for decorative stitches, appliqué and binding.

The best way to choose? Purchase a few different types of thread to see which you like best with your particular machine. Also check the lint around and under your bobbin case while using each thread. You may be surprised to see that there's a big difference in the amount of lint produced by different thread (and less lint is better for your machine).

We recommend  Bluprint Pima Thread 50wt Spools .

Related: The Complete Guide to Sewing & Quilting Threads

8. Pins and a pincushion

Choose sharp, sturdy sewing pins, and use either a pin cushion or magnetic pin bowl to make it easy to store and use them.

Pins help quilters achieve accuracy in their piecing by keeping fabrics securely together for sewing. The most important feature in a pin for quilters is that the pin is sharp and thus able to glide smoothly through the fabric. If your pins catch or snag the fabrics, they should be replaced. Bent pins should also be replaced.

  • If you plan to iron your projects while pinned, look for glass head pins since the heat from an iron can melt the tips of plastic head pins.
  • Many quilters and quilters also prefer silk pins for their ability to easily glide through most fabrics.
  • Appliqué pins help quilters secure fabric pieces for appliqué . Because they are shorter than traditional pins, you can easily place them in small areas prepared for hand-stitching and appliqué.
  • If you choose to pin baste your quilts, you’ll want to have some safety pins. Look for safety pins with a curved edge that are especially helpful for basting, though regular safety pins will work in a pinch.

9. Clips

Not only are these little clips they amazingly helpful for securing your binding while finishing your quilt, but they're also a great alternative to pins when working with several layers of fabric.

If you make bags or home accessories, these clips will be lifesavers. These clips are also effective for holding several thick layers together when quilting accessories and home decor. They can also be used to hold blocks and block pieces together so they don’t get misplaced or out of order. Look for a set of strong plastic clips or bendable metal clips (similar to hair barrettes) for your quilting kit.

We recommend Clover Wonder Clips .

10. Needles for hand and machine sewing

There are two kinds of needles you'll want to have at your disposal: sewing machine needles and hand-sewing needles.

Sewing machine needles

The needles that come with your machine won’t last forever. If you make it through your first quilting project without breaking a needle, congratulations! You should still change over to a fresh needle before starting your next project. Quilters should stock up on a few packs of universal sewing machine needles that are compatible with their machine.

We recommend Schmetz Universal Machine Needles .

Hand-sewing needles

Needles for hand sewing are also an essential for hand-quilting , attaching bindings , appliqué and hand piecing .

Hand sewing needles are sized by numbers, with higher numbers indicating a shorter and finer (thinner) needle. Work with the highest number you can while maintaining control over the needle. It’s also easier to quilt smaller stitches with a shorter needle. You also need to think about threading the needle — the smaller the needle, the smaller the eye, which makes it more difficult to thread.

  • The most common needles for hand quilting are “betweens” needles, which come in a variety of sizes. These needles are short but strong, giving quilters the ability to sew through the quilt top, batting and backing. Betweens are sharp and easy to manipulate.
  • Straw needles are longer and more flexible than betweens, but they're still sharp and easy to manipulate. Straw needles are great choices for appliqué and attaching binding to quilt edges .
  • Sharps — long, thin needles — are best for handwork and needlework. They're most often used by quilters who prefer to piece their blocks by hand.

We recommend the John James Millennium Needle Collection .

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What's In Your Quilting Toolkit? Our Top 10 Must-Have Tools