Saturday, January 6, 2018

Basic Quilting Tools and Sewing Supplies

We see these words included all the time on quilting patterns and frequently wonder what exactly do they mean by Basic Quilting Tools and Sewing Supplies. 

Here is a quick run down of what I consider to be the basic tools and supplies list.

1. Sewing Machine with Sewing Machine Needles

Your sewing doesn't have to be glamorous but it does need to be able to stitch a straight stitch where you can adjust the stitch length.  For quilting we will primarily be stitching a 1/4" seam.  Some machines have a needle positioning option which allows the needle to be moved sideways to different positions. If your machine has a 1/4" foot available for it, I find it to be a good investment if you are planning on doing a lot of quilting.  I prefer the 1/4" foot with a blade attachment.   Here is a photo of my 1/4" foot with blade attachment.

And sewing machine needles - don't forget to change your needle after approximately 8-10 hours of sewing.   

2. Rotary Cutter

Rotary cutters have replaced scissors for cutting out quilt fabrics.  These handy gadgets come in a variety of styles and both left / right handed options as well as blade sizes.  A few key features to look for include a safety latch, especially if small children might come in contact with it.  Also a retractable blade cover is essential to prevent accidently cutting yourself or your fabric.  Try out several different styles to find the handle that works best for you. I prefer a 45 mm blade size. This is one of my favorite rotary cutters - I love the stripes :) 

 Also, don't forget to purchase extra blades for your cutter as they become dull with use. 

3. Self-Healing Cutting Mat

A cutting mat is essential if you are using a rotary cutter.  Self-healing means that the rotary cutter won't cut thru the mat, however after repeated use it does develop grooves in areas where you cut repeatedly.  Cutting mats come in a variety of sizes.  I would recommend the 24" x 36" size.  It should easily meet all your cutting needs and is the size that I use daily.  

4. Cutting Grid

Cutting grids are clear plastic grids which guide the rotary cutter on the cutting mat.  You will want to have cutting grids in two sizes - either a 6-1/2" x 24-1/2" or 2-1/2" x 36" grid for cutting width of fabric strips and a smaller grid for subcuts such as a 6-1/2" x 12-1/2" grid.  There are a variety of brands with subtle differences between them, primarily in the markings.   Here is a photo of my 6-1/2" x 12-1/2" grid that I use pretty much daily. 

Cutting grids also do double-duty for measuring blocks and many times replace the need for a tape measure. 

5. Scissors 

I recommend having 2 types of scissors.  One larger pair for fabric cutting and a smaller pair of scissors or thread snips for thread cutting.  For some projects you might need "non-fabric" scissors for paper cutting, but I'm presuming you have those some where in the house. 

I am a huge fan of Fiskars Razor Edge Scissors (and no I'm not getting paid to write that) and my thread scissors are an inexpensive trendy looking pair. 

6. Thread - 50 wt.

For general piecing, I prefer a 50 weight thread.  There are a variety of brands available with some subtle differences between them.  Some are cotton, some are polyester and some are cotton / poly blend.  Most importantly you will want a thread that matches or coordinates nicely with the fabric you are sewing.  Many times a neutral thread such as beige or gray is best when a project has a variety of fabric colors and prints. 

7. Pins, Pincushions & Needles

Sharp pins are a necessity for quilting.  The length and style are personal preferences.  I like the flower head pins personally since they are easier to grab but my pincushion contains a very diverse mix of pins!  You will want a pincushion, tray or some type of "pin pan" to hold your pins.  And you will want a few needles for hand sewing.  Pincushions have become fashionable lately and here is one that I made using leftover fabric. 

8. Seam Ripper 

While none of us like unstitching, it is unfortunately part of the process.  Invest in a good ergonomic ripper as it makes the job a little less dreadful if your hand isn't cramping while you are ripping. 

9. Iron

Any type of basic iron will work for your quilting projects.  I use a dry iron because, to be quite honest, steam irons scare me! I always end up with burnt fingers when I use one.  I still have flashbacks to the behemoth iron my Grandma Scott used to press clothing and how it belched steam and boiling hot water on a regular basis.  I do like to use a starch alternative while I press quilt blocks and I always have a bottle of Best Press on hand.  For stubborn bolt wrinkles in fabric, I spritz it with water to help press them out before cutting. 

10. Ironing Board

A traditional ironing board for clothing will work but I prefer a flat rectangular ironing board that can be laid on top of your ironing board for a larger pressing surface.  I also like to use an ironing mat that can be placed on a table or counter top for pressing. 

I hope this quick rundown of Basic Quilting Tools and Sewing Supplies helps take the mystery out of the items that you need and that you find the "notions aisle" less confusing.  Many times you can purchase items in bundles, such as a cutting mat, rotary cutter and grid together at a cost savings.  

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