Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Beginners Unite! Quilting Supplies

Let's get this party started! First up in the Beginners Unite! A beginner's quilting series, is "Quilting Supplies - what makes the process easier."

I'm going to try and link up the supplies I use, just a reminder that there is no affiliation to any of these and while most of the links will go to Amazon, please support your local quilt shop as much as possible. 

This is what I use and what I know works. There are a lot of gadgets out there, so experienced quilters, please share your must haves in the comments.

Prep and cutting supplies first. You've chosen your pattern and your fabrics, it's time to start! I always get so excited to start a new pattern. I love those first cuts when the fabric is straight and perfect... and I haven't messed it up with my stitching. 


I like to use baggies or paper plates (usually paper plate, but they didn't really work with the white background) to keep my pieces organized. I don't know about you, but I get distracted easily (kids, cats, dog, husband, sleep) and I need to keep it all marked and organized.


Best Press Spray Starch is my go to. There are recipes out there to make your own and there are cheaper versions, too. However, for me, it's worth it to just go buy it and use it. It's quicker, and that makes it worth it. I use it on every piece of fabric and I do feel it makes a difference in my accuracy.
** A note about the scented options: I am very sensitive to aromas and have found the best option for me is the Unscented Best Press. If you are sensitive like I am you might want to keep that in mind.


I have a couple of rotary cutters. 1) I lose misplace them momentarily (see list of distractions under organization). 2) I'm a lazy quilter. The longer I can put off changing to a new blade the happier I am. A sharp blade in your rotary cutter makes your life so much easier, though, so when you start needing to go over the cut twice, do yourself a favor and change the blade. 
 3) I like that smaller size for cutting patterns out, like the stockings I made last year or some clothing pieces.

A self healing mat is pretty much essential when using rotary cutters. I currently have a large mat, but you can make a small one work, too. 

I really like Creative Grids rulers. They don't slip and they are easy to read. There are different brands of rulers and rotary cutters. I think it's perfectly fine to use what you like and what you can afford. However, it is important to use the same brand ruler. It effects the accuracy of your pieces.

If I am cutting a lot of the same strips (something like forty 2 1/2" x width of fabric) I will mark the 2 1/2" line on the ruler with some tape. I don't tape over the line, but next to it, to bring my eye to it and make sure I'm using the right measurement.


Once you start this awesome craft, you will be told to mark something. Usually it's the diagonal on the back of a cut pieces. I prefer mechanical pencils. The line is easy to see and nice and thin. I think a thicker line messes with the seam allowance. In the case of having to mark something on dark fabric, I currently use a chalk line, simply because it's what I was told to use back when I first started. I keep thinking I need to look into something that will give me a thinner line, but this works just fine.

It's important to get to know your machine, whether it has all the bells and whistles, or is a good ol fashioned workhorse. When you know how it runs, what thread it likes (some are picky, who knew) and how fast you can accurately sew, you will enjoy the experience more. *Side note* Slow down! My machine has 3 speeds, though I can also slow down with the amount of pressure I put on the foot, but I always have it at the medium speed. 


Good needles are a must. There are choices, of course. I started using Universal and have recently switched to Quilting. In all honesty, I don't notice a difference, unless I am working with batiks, then you want a finer needle. I usually do 70/10 for batiks. The larger number is the European size, the smaller is American.


You will want to have a scissors next to your machine. For some reason I put the picture of my little one in the photo with the quilting/basting items.  Apparently I got distracted. A regular scissors is fine, but when you are able to get a smaller one, you will enjoy how much easier it is to use around the sewing machine.

One thing I don't have, but really want to try is the Gypsy Cutting Gizmo. I've heard good things about this little tool, and because I am a fan of chain piecing I really should try it.


Pins are one of the most important tools I use. Many don't like to pin, some like the clips. When I am piecing though, I prefer pins to keep my pieces together and for accurate stitching and seams. The sharper the better.

See that prescription bottle marked SHARP? That is where I put any bent/broken/old needs and pins.

Presser foot

If you have a 1/4" foot, use it. If not, there are many tutorials out there to help you find an accurate 1/4" seam allowance. This is so important in your piecing. It is worth the time it takes to figure it out. Then, mark it. Use tape, use a marker, whatever it is, mark it. Eventually you will know exactly where the fabric needs to line up, but to start with, to keep the frustration level down, mark it. 


Thread could probably use it's own post. Just like the "wash or don't wash fabric" question, the thread question can bring strong opinions. I use Gutermann for piecing and quilting. Simply because that is what my local quilt shop (LQS) has on hand and I want to support them as much as possible. 

My go to piecing color is grey. It shows up on light fabrics and dark fabrics for easy ripping should I make a mistake (which I do fairly often), but is a neutral enough color that it blends well with them, too. When quilting or appliqueing, I tend to match the color of the thread with the colors of the fabric, because I am not very proficient at either, and matching hides that... to a point. This is another reason I use what my LQS has on hand, because I can match it easily. 

For piecing I use polyester, for quilting/appliqueing I use either polyester or cotton, it depends on which one has the color I need. I have not found that either is better or worse than the other.


I love Bobbin Buddies for keeping my bobbins with their matching thread spool. I think it's important for two reasons. 1) Sometimes colors are close and I like my colors to match, not be close. I'm anal that way. 2) I use both cotton and polyester and I want to make sure I'm not mixing those up. I don't have any reason, it's just what I do.

To keep those bobbins from unraveling, I like the Tulip Bobbin Clamps. I use them for the bobbins that go on spools, as well as the bobbins I wind for piecing. Since I piece everything with the same color I can wind a bunch of bobbins and not have to stop to wind a bobbin all the time. I usually wind 8 bobbins, secure them with the Tulip Bobbin Clamps and stitch away. 

I love a good thread catcher, you can see the one I made here. Having something to put my threads and little pieces in, right next to my sewing machine, is handy and keeps my sewing area clear for creating.

I swear I had a picture of my seam rippers. Yes, that is plural. You will find they tend to run away right when you need them. I have a Clover brand and a Seam Fix. You will eventually have to replace your seam ripper, as they do dull over time. To remove those little threads left after ripping use an eraser or the rubber end on the Seam Fix.

Time for basting, quilting and binding. You're almost there! P.S. However long you think a project will take you, double it. It always takes longer than planned. Always.


If you are quilting your own top you will need to baste it to the batting and quilt back. You can use pins or basting spray. I am not a fan of the spray, that's just personal, but I know others love it. I use pins, and you definitely want the curved quilting pins. I also highly recommend the Kwik Klip when using pins. It saves your fingers/nails and makes the work go quickly.


When you are ready to quilt, you are going to want a pair of quilting gloves. There are many out there, and I have some that are made for quilting, but then I also use the pink ones pictured. They are simple gardening gloves with rubber fingers. 

I use either my walking foot (pictured) or a free motion quilting foot to quilt my pieces. When quilting, slower is better, but we'll touch on that more in another post. 


I hand bind, meaning I sew the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, then flip and hand stitch the binding to the back. I struggle with machine binding, so when we reach this subject I will be showing you how to hand bind.

A good, sharp needle is important for this part as well as a thimble. I use a metal thimble, but there are many different thimbles out there, and there are different sizes, so take some time to look into them. I have multiples, one that sits with my machine's presser feet and one that is in my take along. 

Whew! That is a lot of information!!  Please ask questions if you have them, please share your favorites if you didn't see it here. 

Happy Stitching!

Up next: Choosing fabrics and color (this has been added to the original plan).

1) Intro - May 2 
2) Quilting supplies ~ What makes the process easier - (You are here)
2a) Side Trip ~ Maintenance - May 11
3) Choosing fabrics and color - May 16
7) HST - Half Square Triangles (My one true love) - June 13
8) Flying Geese - June 20
12) Adding Borders - July 18
13) Sandwich that top - July 25
14) Quilting - August 1
15) Binding - August 8
16) Labels  - August 15


  1. Great post Jen! I think you covered most of the basics.
    I have issues with changing my rotary blades too and then when I finally do, I think to myself, "why didn't I do this earlier?" haha. I am the same with my machine needles. Change those needles!
    I would maybe add a decent iron (one without scorch marks on it) and board. And I have spring loaded snippers next to my machine instead of scissors. Just a preference I think.

    1. Yes! A good iron is a must, and doesn't have to be expensive. I love my Hamilton Beach from Walmart. I also think a good HOT iron makes a difference. I think I will have to touch on this at some point.

      I'm pretty good about needles, but every now and then I forget, because I'm excited to start something and I hear that thud, thud, thud that says the needle is punching through the fabric, not gliding through it. Really good tip!

  2. Thank you for sharing the Gypsy Cutting Gizmo and the Bobbin Buddies links - both items look like they'll be very useful.


I love to get your comments and hear your ideas. I always respond to comments (though it may take me a few days), if you haven't heard from me it might mean you are a no reply commenter. If you haven't heard back from me, check back here, because I will reply to the comment.